10/14/2018 – On Knowing Truth

T1 was telling me about a bully he faced down at summer camp. The bully was harassing another boy for picking his nose and proclaimed that the boy would never find love because of his 8-year-old hygiene habits.

As he was retelling the story T1 told me “I couldn’t think of anything to say that would make the bully stop, but now I would tell him that he’s wrong. It isn’t true that you won’t find love if you pick your nose because when we were in California I picked my nose and Mia loved me. Mia loved me and so I know that isn’t true.”

What a moment to be able to witness in my child! That mindset will serve him his entire life if he can hold on to it. The first of Byron Katie’s Four Questions is “Is It True?” Is it true that I will never find love if I pick my nose and eat it when I’m 6-years-old? Of course not! Is it true that my husband “never” or that my mother “always”? No! Right Now hasn’t done anything to deserve a promotion to Always or Forever.

When I am struggling it is often because I have flattened down the moment. I’m not living in the present, I’m living without depth. Yet when I remember to ask “Is it True?” the answer almost always is a firm “No!” It might feel true, I might want it to be true to fit a certain worldview, someone might want me to think it’s true for their own purposes, but none of these things are immutable and often they aren’t very dependable or reliable either.

I hope T1 will continue to ask himself this question over the years, it’s a very powerful tool. And when he’s kicking around those dark depths that makes us humans question what we know to be true, there is one Is It True that can act as his anchor. “Is It True that I have people in my life who want me to find peace and fulfillment and joy, who see me for everything that I am and love me truly?” The answer to Is It True is often a no, but in this case, T1, I want you to know the answer is a resounding, immutable, yes. I love you, I see you, I believe in you. <3

10/5/2018 – On Reframing After #METOO

During summer break in 2005 I worked as a volunteer coordinator for the Stadium of Fire concert, a 4th of July celebration that takes place in the football stadium at BYU. I had been organizing university-wide events for the student body, dances and awards ceremonies and a baby pageant (it is BYU after all), and I wanted to learn more about the behind-the-scenes that went into organizing larger events.

I spent a week in the underbelly of the football stadium, buying towels and toiletries for the talent trailers of Mandy Moore and Lonestar, doing the sort of fetching tasks and menial work one does when they are young and energetic and eager to prove what a great employee they would be. My supervisor didn’t need very much from me until later in the week and so she told me to help the talent manager with his tasks as well. He was somewhere around 50 years old, a solid 25+ years older than me. I had gained a lot of weight since graduating from high school and no guys my age were expressing interest in me and so I was flattered when this older man paid me a little extra attention.

He asked me to come with him to get something and he was one of the people in charge of my volunteer efforts so I went. I can’t remember what it was we were getting, but we took a golf cart to a deserted locker room. He kissed me and I didn’t tell him to stop, maybe I kissed him back. He reached to fondle my breasts, but I insisted that I didn’t do that kind of thing and he stopped. We drove back and I thought over and over “I kissed an old man. What just happened? Why did I do that?” Looking back now I am fairly certain that we didn’t retrieve anything from the locker room and the whole thing was a ruse to be alone with me.

We had a second encounter, in Mandy Moore’s trailer when I was dropping off soap or snacks or something else they had asked me to purchase for her. He kissed me again, but I don’t remember him pushing for anything more than that. I never saw or heard from him again after the concert. I have no idea if anyone else working that week knew what was happening and I’ve only told this story to a very small number of people because for a long time I was very ashamed or embarrassed or guilty or confused about the whole thing.

I don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed or guilty anymore and that has opened up my ability to re-examine this experience in the wake of #metoo. I initially felt guilt or shame because I didn’t know how to categorize such actions within my Mormon framework. Kissing was a way to express affection or desire for someone who you wanted to marry, and that was the point of all of it, to get married. I wondered if I was supposed to confess a sin to my bishop because he had touched my breast.

It’s only recently that I’ve been revisiting that experience and realizing that I missed something very important. He should have known better. He was in a position of power over me, and I was very willing to do what he asked of me because I wondered if he might be someone who could connect me with opportunities in the future. My Mormon beliefs provided the gumption I needed to stand up for myself and cut him off in the locker room, but I was very lucky that I was having an encounter with someone who didn’t feel entitled to my body. This story easily could have gone the other way entirely.

I can’t describe how I provided consent, but I also can’t say this was done without my consent. This isn’t a story about assault. I wanted to write it out because if what it taught me about the tangled relationship between context and consent. He should have known better. He used his power to set up situations where he could corner me. This wasn’t anything like enthusiastic consent, it was something on the fringes of coercion.

If I saw him on the street I’m not sure I would recognize him. Maybe this thing I’ve thought a lot about has never crossed his mind again. Somehow I get to think of myself as lucky because he didn’t assault me, because he’s one of the #notallmen who knows to stop when a woman says no. Whoop-di-doo, that’s a pathetic bar to be able to clear. He really should have known better.

9/10/2018 – On Living Absolutely

When I chose this new title for my web presence I was asking a question. I naively thought I would find the answer written down somewhere. Like the kid who works up the courage to climb the stairs into the attic, and waiting at the top of those stairs is a treasure map with a giant X marking the spot. Fame! Fortune! Wildest dreams achieved!

There is no map. More like a jigsaw puzzle with the pieces scattered across literature, lived experiences, and snippets of wisdom gleaned from opening the mind and listening to what others have to offer.

Here’s what I’ve figured out thus far: Living Absolutely is living out your own life. Living for yourself. Making the most of what’s available to you. Making peace with what’s not.