Tuesday, July 21, 2015

I Wear Mine On the Outside

Eight months ago, I dropped a sleeping Coco off with T at his school and drove myself over to The Skin Factory on Sunset Road in Vegas. There, I met a man who had piercings I had no idea were even possible. I divulged that I was nervous, but his professional demeanor and careful, meticulous cleanliness immediately put me at ease. He took his time, making sure that everything was just right and even took a picture of the solitary gem in my ear at the end. He obviously took pride in his work.

Four days ago, T and Coco came with me, to a different place in a different city. This time I got a tiny hole in my nostril and filled it with a tiny stud. As we walked out, I giggled with adrenaline. "I did it!" I said to my husband. I'd finally done it and it felt a little like getting away with murder.

If you are a stranger on the internet who has randomly stumbled on this post, you probably wonder what the big deal is.

If you've known me for a really long time, maybe you are shocked. Maybe you think I'm stupid or silly. Or worse: "a sinner." Maybe you don't understand why anyone, least of all I, would think this was attractive. Maybe, if you are Mormon like me, you think what I did flies in the face of prophetic advice given by President Hinckley in conference a decade and a half ago. Maybe you remember that I had multiple piercings back then, and that peer pressure coupled with a teenage compulsion to "fit in at all costs" in a predominantly Mormon community finally got me to take out those extra earrings. Maybe you didn't know this, but I still resent that...

It's not about earrings. It was never about earrings.

It's about being asked to "fit in." It's about conforming to certain cultural standards that don't have anything to do with the content of my character. As I've gotten older, I've struggled with my Mormon community. I still desperately want to fit in--but on my OWN terms. I want to be embraced by my community with all my flaws and my doubts and my imperfections and deviations from "the norm" fully disclosed. I'm not brave enough to verbally communicate these concerns with just anyone. Because I come from such a solidly believing background and household--because I have pioneer ancestry on both sides--it is very difficult to tell people, "I don't know if I believe this, but I'm here because I think it might be true. And I need this community, regardless of my faith." For so long, I've lived with the fear that something I say or do will "out" me as a questioner, as a doubter, as my true, edgy self, and that it will drive people away.

I'm done with that now. Here I am. This is who I am. This is, on a fundamental level, who I have always been. Even as a missionary in Brazil, I never could wrap my head around "obedience for obedience sake." I have questions. I have doubts. (And for what it's worth, I've always kind of liked piercings!) I like to peek into the dark corners of this world--not to stay, but just to see what's there so that I know. So that I know for sure that I want to stand in the Light.

For most people, a nose ring is a simple piece of jewelry: an aesthetic choice. For me, it is that, but it is also a signal to people in my Mormon community: That I do not want to be taken for granted. It's a question, and maybe a little bit of a dare: Will you turn away from me because of this? Or will you still embrace me as a sister and a follower of the man who broke bread with sinners and publicans?

Some people wear their questions on the inside...

Friday, July 10, 2015

On Turning 30 and Not Giving a Sh*t (in a good way!)

I turn 30 in less than a month.

Here is how I feel I am different from when I was 20:

1) Music: I no longer exert too much time and energy trying to find new music. Don't get me wrong, I still love music, and I do seek it out, but I am quite passive about finding music and Shazam is my friend. What I listen to has stopped being a status symbol for me. I'll listen to Taylor Swift alongside Fleet Foxes or Radiohead or the BeeGees. I like what I like, and I really don't care who it impresses (or doesn't.)

2) Style: Five years ago, if you'd asked me what I thought about tattoos I would have immediately spouted off some self-righteous indictment against tattoos and those who got them--especially about "those who knew better" than to get one. I would get borderline angry about them. I now find that attitude completely ridiculous. I am also never interested in having any conversation about tattoos, piercings, clothing or the like unless it is to talk about how something looks awesome or bad in a strictly artistic sense. I absolutely believe my body is a temple, but I am more interested in purifying my character than making sure I "look right" on the outside. I also find people's attitudes about these outward things to be a good bellwether of how well I will get along with them. For example, if you express disgust for people who make certain aesthetic choices that you or I wouldn't necessarily make, then the chances are good that we won't be friends. Now the $5 million question: do I personally have a tattoo? No. But I likely will at some point, and it's also likely that you will never see it.

3) Faith: I have experienced and weathered several crises of faith, and my conclusion is that it doesn't stop from here on out. The ups and downs of faith are a pattern that will be experienced from now on. I'm an older and deeper thinker now. I've learned things and I've seen things that do not allow me to take my faith for granted anymore. Faith is hard work--which, I believe, is as it should be.

4) Philosophy: I don't believe in absolutes anymore. Very, very few of them at least. I am impatient with people who tend to see everything in black and white. I don't understand how you can be so sure about something to the point where you are unwilling to concede ANY doubt whatsoever. That, to me, is not a show of faith but a lack of humility. I don't believe in imposing my philosophy on other people. I live the way I live, and if someone else wants to live that way (or not) that is cool. In most things, I am deeply uninterested in trying to convince you that my way of doing things is the right way. I believe in spreading the Good News almost strictly through example.

5) Friendship:  I've had to learn to just let some things go and move on, but to always leave the door open, because it is important being open to friendship, new and old, and to let people choose YOU sometimes.

6) Love: I now know love. I've met and married my best friend. I have given birth to and fallen in love with my firstborn child. My heart is full, full, FULL of love for that friend and for that child. And oh, what a child! To have such purity in my home... it is priceless. To feel a sliver of what God must feel... It is a speechless gift.

I could never have understood any of these things 10 years ago. In fact, I heard 30-year-olds express some of these things and i thought, "That'll never be me." Well here I am, and I'm ok with it.