A series of small failures


endings and beginnings

 

Looking forward to the future

Looking forward to the future

I am so glad to say goodbye to 2008. I want to kick its ass on its way out the door!  

 

But first, I want to take an inventory of sorts. Here’s what happened, and what I learned.

The year started in Puerto Rico, and centered around work. My restaurant, Natural High, was doing okay, but we had the worst tourist season since before 9/11 and it was clear to me that the restaurant couldn’t survive another dead summer. Even the supposed busy time  — which normally lasted until April — wasn’t busy enough. I stopped teaching yoga so that I could devote all my time to the restaurant, but nothing I did was enough. I had already decided to leave in April… I had wanted to leave the previous September, after a visit home during which I accepted that as much as I loved Puerto Rico and the restaurant, I needed to get a job that actually paid enough to get me out of debt, but I let Tom and his mom talk me into seeing the season through. After all we had invested, we needed to follow through, they said.  I knew I was leaving in April, and I brought Pooka to Utah in January and had an awesome week watching Ted and Sharon’s boys with my mom. I got to bond with Cooper — a priceless experience that is the main thing that has given me some comfort since his death.

The last three months in Puerto Rico were difficult, full of long hours, contention (I learned this lesson — never go into business with your ex!), and stress, and yet, I accomplished something important — I supported the struggling organic farmers on the island by buying everything we could from them, and connected up the locals who cared about organic produce with the farmers before I left. Natural High was more a crusade than a business, and I will always treasure it, despite the way it turned out. And honestly, I wish Tom the best. I hope that re-opening the restaurant inside Freshmart will be well-received and I really hope he will be successful. I have to acknowledge that the restaurant’s debt that I put on my credit cards is the reason I came to Utah, and because of that simple act, I got to be here with my family when Cooper died. 

It was so hard to leave Puerto Rico. I missed four planes before I finally got home. I spent the last week wandering around barefoot (I had sold my car) and sleeping at random friends’ houses. People kept saying I wasn’t meant to leave, but I knew I was.

One of my greatest struggles is learning to live my life without letting it live me. Another way to put it is to choose my path rather than to follow someone else’s.  Staying in Puerto Rico was following Tom’s dream. Leaving was choosing my path.

In May, I reconnected with a close friend in Moab and spent a few days hiking and rafting and starting to love Utah.

In June, I went to my ex’s wedding in San Francisco and witnessed a gorgeous celebration of love between two women, who were supported by both their families. And I was there at just the right burning man moment (they met at burning man), with two fake fur coats for them, just as the weather started to turn cold and the wedding was shifting into the reception. It was unexpectedly heart-breaking being there, as I still love Heather, but it was also beautiful and joyful. I’m grateful that we’re still such close friends and that she wanted me to be there.  Five months later, however, Californians voted to pass proposition 8, threatening Heather and Stacey’s marriage. I will do everything I can to help people see that Proposition 8 is misguided and wrong. I can’t wait until people lose their prejudice. Love more, and fear less!

When I got to Utah, I didn’t feel ready to fall in love, but I wanted to. I missed being in love — it had been about a decade. The first step was distancing myself from Tom so that I could be free to find love.  And I did!  And it’s absolutely amazing!  When I moved to Utah, I asked the universe to bring me someone positive, kind, smart, hot (can’t help but ask!), funny, who was either divorced or widowed with children. And it happened… within two and a half months. I tried the match.com thing, which was appalling. So depressing!  And craigslist… holy hell. But then I got on Facebook and Twitter. And along comes Tyler, the sweetest, kindest, most positive and loving person. The energy was — and is — cosmic. He became my best friend almost instantaneously. It’s the kind of relationship where we want to be our best selves when we’re around each other. I’m so happy to be part of his life.  Meeting Tyler was possibly the best thing that’s happened all year. Thank you universe!  (You just have to ask.)

Another big event was resigning from the Mormon church. What a burden lifted! Though I hadn’t been a practicing Mormon in decades, I was still feeling stifled by them. And when they inspired millions of their members to promote bigotry by campaigning for proposition 8, I had to take the formal step. I feel so much less anger in my life. I don’t think of myself as a mormon anymore. If anyone asks, I say I’m not. I don’t say I’m an ex-mormon. I’m just not mormon. Yeah! I am letting go of that story, all the conflict and shame and frustration associated with it.

Recently I started the process of dealing with abuse from my childhood. I think that being in a loving relationship and being free from the mormon church made this crucial step possible. Telling my family was horrific, but I’m glad that they know and that I have their support. I just realized that healing from this is necessary, because I’m developing a relationship with two young children who deserve for me to be loving, healed, free of anger, and aware of how everything that happens to them as they grow up influences their future.

There have been some painful events — losing Cooper, and giving up Gogo (thank you, dear Bethany for rescuing him and training him to be a happy, well adjusted dog!), and dealing with my debt, karmic and financial, but I’m so grateful to be here, to get a chance to start over (thank you, Mom and Dad, for the beautiful home!), to meet new friends (Tyler, David, nakedJen!), and to reconnect with family, even though it has been tough at times. 

I started writing again, most notably for yoga journal, which makes me happy. And starting to blog again in October changed everything.

Things are lining up to make 2009 happy, prosperous, and promising. So glad to be alive and in it.



on dog bites and trauma

 

Pooka

Pooka

 

 

Pooka, my dear possibly-dalmatian-mix rescue from Puerto Rico, was attacked by a friend’s Akita a week ago today.  Knowing from past experience not to get in between fighting dogs (Gogo bit me twice when i was trying to break up his fights), i found i didn’t know what *to* do. I tried to separate them with my backpack, then my foot. I don’t know how long it went on… probably about 30 seconds, until the owner came out and spanked the akita and got her to stop. My memory is fuzzy. 

It was a traumatic experience. And it parallels another situation in my life, so I am using Pooka’s attack as a lens through which to get insight on learned and instinctive behavior.   My first reaction was, “it’s ok.” 

It was so not OK.

First, it was scary. The sound of dogs fighting —  the gnashing, or the crushing of flesh, the salivating, the gutteral sounds they make, all combine into a nightmarish noise i hope i never hear again.  I brought Pooka to the car and left her there while Tyler got his hair cut and bleached. I went out a few times, brought her water and a blanket, and petted her. My first reaction was “it’s ok. it’s going to be ok.”  it really didn’t look that bad. There was no blood. Looking back, I realize i was doing something I often do — I went into denial.

Back inside, I didn’t think I was mad, though Tyler said later that I was acting tense and upset. I totally don’t remember. I just remember sitting there waiting, checking Facebook, talking, getting some pink extensions (which I washed out later that night). Howevver, looking at a photo he uploaded to Facebook of me sitting in the chair getting my extensions, i look blank, checked out.

So first, denial. “Oh, it’s not that bad.” Second, check out, or disassociate. “maybe if i ignore it, it will go away?” 

When we got back to Tyler’s I decided to wash her wounds, which were barely noticeable, let her sleep, and see how things were the next day. 

The next day, she was in a lot of pain. I took her to the vet. He shaved her in a couple of places to check out the wounds. He said that the problem with bites is not so much the punctures themselves, but the crushing. Dogs can grab on and keep gnawing. The vet said to watch out for hardness — that the skin, muscles, and tissue can be damaged and die from the crushing, and that she might need to have some of it cut out if that happened.  He gave me antibiotics and pain pills to give her twice a day. 

Despite the antibiotics, she swelled up — just a little. I kept massaging her back and applying warm compresses. On Christmas Eve, however, the swelling ballooned. It felt squishy, like it was full of liquid.  And it looked bad. I took her to the emergency vet around 3:00, because it obviously wasn’t going away or getting better.

This is a different vet — the one that charges more because they’re open on Christmas Eve. They shaved more fur so that they could get a better look at the wounds. They had to sedate her so they could open her up. Apparently, there were several deep abcesses. They put in drains, which look like pieces of uncooked ziti poking out of her back. 

She’s miserable. That cone on her head is disorienting. I had to hold her head up and point it forward so that she could see where she was going when we got home. She was too disoriented to go to the bathroom in the snow.  It was slow, awkward going down the stairs. She went to sleep by the fire. And I started thinking.

Sometimes wounds close up and fester, and they need to be opened to drain and heal. Even though I washed the wounds with warm compresses and cleaned them with hydrogen peroxide and neosporin a couple of times a day, they closed up.  

She couldn’t heal on her own. She needed professional help.

I don’t want to make light of Pooka’s situation. I am so concerned for her right now. She’s doing much better. It’s just that there are some weird parallels between her situation and mine.

I have a wound that I haven’t properly treated. Yesterday I told my dad something I didn’t want to admit, something that I’ve done my best to medicate away in various methods for the past few years. It was a deep, festering wound, becoming as obvious as Pooka’s — through my depression, darkness, and anger. 

My dad was really pushing my buttons. First, he didn’t want me to drive to the post office to mail a package i needed to send. There was snow on the ground. Not on the street, mind you, just on the ground. The car they’ve been letting me use is from 1989, but it has new tires.  I love that he’s so protective of me — sometimes. I asked if I could drive his car (with 4-wheel drive) instead, but he said no, he wanted to drive me. Maybe he wanted to talk. And I was a captive audience. 

He said that he doesn’t recognize me these days — what happened to the courageous woman who lived in san francisco, new york, and puerto rico?  I reminded him that I’d lived a bit too much in the moment, spending my retirement to open a restaurant and a yoga space.  I’m just a bit beaten down by my financial situation, my seeming inability to get a job even at a grocery store, and this gnawing depression. I asked if he thought that what i was writing was at all courageous. He thought it was just angry. 

A few more pokes and prods, and i started reacting,  “Do you want to know why I’m having such a hard time? Why I’m so angry and depressed? I can’t even tell you.”

He poked some more, and suddenly it just came out. In the car, in the snow, in our driveway. I don’t want to get more into it at the moment, but I found that the simple act of confession was so liberating. It was literally like opening up the wound so that it can heal. 

At first it was really messy, just like Pooka’s draining tubes. We went in and talked to my mom, whose said that what happened was in the past, and that it’s not healthy to relive it. That’s her chosen way of dealing with her past. That’s the way I’ve chosen to do things for years, and it hasn’t helped. I feel that I have to examine this old wound and understand it and see how it’s affected my reactions and behavior.

On Christmas Eve, I had to leave Pooka with the vet for a few hours. I sat in the car in the cold and talked for about an hour to a friend who has had a similar experience.  Then I went into the bookstore in Orem and found exactly what I need to read:  “Breaking Down the Wall of Silence,” by Alice Miller.

She talks about repressed memory. “The capacity of the human organism to bear pain is, for our own protection, limited.” So we bury things. I was in a serious car accident in college. The trauma was so severe that I bit all the way through my right cheek. I don’t remember it at all. I remember seeing the car pull out in front of me, slamming on the brakes, but I don’t remember the impact, my seizure, the ambulance, or the plastic surgery (seriously). I woke up in the hospital. There’s part of my life that my mind is protecting me from. it was too painful to survive consciously, so i passed out. 

Two years ago, I started remembering something traumatic from my childhood that I had buried. Instead of dealing with it, I started self-medicating again. It is so clear that part of moving home is about finally opening up the old wounds so that I can heal — which is so necessary to moving forward in the next stage of my life.

It’s only been three days since I began opening up the wound and letting it drain, but i already feel less heavy and dark. I’m starting to feel like myself again. I know it’s going to be a difficult process, but it’s exciting to think about getting back to who I was before the trauma, before I learned inappropriate ways of dealing with life.

Resigning from the Mormon church was one step that got me closer. I used to think that once I was officially not connected to that organization, that I could get back to my fearless, creative, thinking self.  It’s interesting that within a month of resigning from the church, I confessed that secret that I’ve been trying to avoid. Being in a loving relationship has somehow helped me to feel safe about starting to deal with my repressed memory.  And being home with my parents I think is also necessary. I’m so grateful that they didn’t question me when I told them. They were shaken, not sure what to do, but they were so loving and supportive.  I can’t imagine if they had reacted the way my ex did two years ago. When I told him, the first thing he said was, “are you sure?”

I think that if I hadn’t learned inappropriate ways of reacting to traumatic events — denying, or burying them, or checking out — that maybe I would have paused to think and respond rationally to Pooka’s attack. Maybe instead of automatically denying it, I would have thought, okay, what just happened? Do I know enough myself how to deal with this? Should I get professional help — now?  Instead of hoping it will go away, and putting it off until it got infected and more serious.

Pooka’s attack has helped me explain to my parents why i need to open up the wound in order to heal.



“eternal consequences”
November 23, 2008, 7:07 pm
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As a reminder, I resigned from the Mormon church November 4, 2008. The last straw was their involvement in passing proposition 8 in California.  I sent the letter to the records department via priority mail.  (I’d heard that if you don’t use priority mail with tracking, they will often just return it, in other words, not accept it.)  I waited patiently for a response.  I asked to only be contacted via mail with confirmation that they had done what I asked.

It didn’t take that long. When I opened the letter yesterday (November 22) and found that they totally disregarded my request, I was bemused. Not angry, which is refreshing. Bemused — slightly amused; feeling wry or tolerant amusement. That word is perfect for this occasion.

I resigned. And, to make sure i wasn’t padding their numbers any further, I asked to have my name removed. Mistake? Perhaps alerting them that you have resigned is enough. Perhaps quoting the page of the church handbook that lists instructions on waiving the 30-day period is not necessary. Maybe mentioning the stake president’s role in the process wasn’t necessary. (I didn’t name him, because i didn’t even know who he was until I got their letter.)  

They don’t make this easy. The man who wrote the letter to me, Gregory Dodge, says that this matter has to be handled by local leaders before it can be processed by church employees. Why?  It’s reveals the patriarchal nature of the organization. “I’m sorry, little girl. You obviously must not be thinking clearly.  We’re tattling to your leader daddy, who is going to come give you a spanking.” I wonder what he will do. In Utah County, where there are so many members, the ward boundaries usually encompass your neighborhood. I realized when I heard his name that I know who my bishop is.  He seems cool. He spoke up at our Homeowner’s Association bi-annual meeting a couple of weeks ago, essentially lending a voice of sanity and defending the people who don’t consider our development a retirement community, and who don’t think parking on the street overnight is a vile affront to the other neighbors. I wonder how he will deal with this.  I didn’t include my phone number on the letter. I assume he will pay me a visit.

He may want to initiate a church court against me.  Since I’m no longer a member, it’s sort of weird and ridiculous, but at this point, i’m feeling like i might as well go along for the ride to see what it’s like.

The letter asks me to reconsider, in view of the “eternal consequences” of such an action. I wonder if when the bishop comes, he tells you what is going to happen to you. “You are going to outer darkness,” or “you will never get to have sex in the hereafter, because only those in the celestial kingdom get to do that,” or “you will never see your family again.” Or if they just leave it at that … threatening “eternal consequences.” 

They have produced a simple brochure for people like me. “An Invitation” from the first presidency. Inside, there’s a picture of them. Three white men with varying degrees of hair loss, wearing white shirts, ties, and dark suits. “Come back. Stand with us. Feast at the table laid before you in the church…and strive to follow the Good Shepherd.” They are reaching out to me, inviting me to return and “partake of the happiness you once knew,” promising outstretched arms to welcome, assist and give comfort. 

The church needs me! 

They reach out in a spirit of love and brotherhood inspired by Jesus. This paragraph is, i believe, the crux of the argument. “Our interest and concern are always with the individual man or woman, boy or girl. Our great responsibility is to see that each is ‘remembered and nourished by the good word of God.’ If any have been offended, we are sorry. Our only desire is to cultivate a spirit of mercy and kindness, of understanding and healing. We seek to follow the example of our Lord, who ‘went about doing good.'”

I see no good in the campaign against same sex marriage. Yes, I have been offended. The only way I know how to heal from the anger is to separate myself from the church. I don’t want to go back. I can’t go back and still be who I am. 

I can imagine how hard this must be for some people. To those who think we resigners are a bunch of whiners, I’m just gonna say this once: Leaving is a difficult, emotional process. It’s taken me about 20 years. I envy those who leave quickly without grief. But I can say it has gotten easier.



No word, yet
November 10, 2008, 10:31 pm
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There was a long line at the post office in Pleasant Grove on Saturday. Having to wait made the event seem more dramatic. I didn’t have anything else to do (besides trying to not listen to the woman behind me barking into her cell phone). I looked at my letter. It’s dry. It feels emotionless. Emotionlessness is huge. The first two times I seriously considered resigning from the Mormon church, writing the letter was an angst-filled process. I didn’t send it, either time. I’m not sure why. At first, I know I thought, “but what if they’re right?” Abandoning what you’re grown up believing is frightening, especially when it has to do with your entire life’s purpose. Where you came from, why you are here, and where you are going (as they put it). I was so into it that I devoted 18 months to being a Mormon missionary, wearing one of those black name tags (Hermana Mardesich), knocking on doors (or clapping outside non-existent doors in the countryside of Uruguay), looking for people who were “ripe and ready to harvest.” 35 of my investigators joined the church. I took time off of college and spent my own money (and some from an anonymous donor). Not trying to brag. Just explaining how significant it was.

But even though I stopped believing, it was still in me. 

Around 2000, I wanted to write a book on my experiences in the church. Word got back to my mother. She called me one night, in tears, and told me that I really didn’t grow up Mormon, so how could I write a book about it? “Your father never joined the church, so we didn’t have the priesthood in our home,” she said. “So you really didn’t grow up Mormon.”  I asked her what all those hours of church meant then? It seemed that every day was consumed by meetings. Three hours of services on Sunday, extra time to prepare for my calling (I played the piano for the kids’ services, so my piano lessons, taught by an enthusiastic, ancient woman in our ward, who had survived polio, centered around mormon songs, though I did get to practice the occasional Scott Joplin ragtime). Monday nights were for Family Home Evening. Tuesday or Wednesday the “youth” had meetings of their own, where learning about chastity seemed to be the focus. Fridays there were usually some sort of social event. Saturdays we had outings, things like visits to the cannery — where we helped can peaches, which were distributed to the people on church welfare, or visits to to the temple — where we offered up our bodies as proxies for dead people the church wanted to baptize and save (like those holocaust survivors that absolutely are not being baptized these days). Oh, and every day before school –BEFORE SCHOOL! we’re talking early– we had to go to Institute (the Institute of Religion) for an hour-long discourse on mormon topics. It felt like I’d sacrificed all my free time for this organization. And I didn’t grow up Mormon? 

After my monologue, she came back with the only thing she could — she simply asked me to not make fun of something that is so important to her and my brothers.

Honestly, that virtually stopped me. I still wrote bits and pieces, in between long bouts of self-medicating, but she got her way. 

So why start writing about it now?  And why now, finally, am I resigning from the church?  I can’t sit back and do nothing after what they did in California. And Arizona. And Hawaii. And Florida. Next stop? your state. 

The heart of this whole issue, to me, is that they believe gay marriage is wrong because being gay is wrong. It’s not. It’s natural. People who are gay don’t choose to be gay. They just are. What’s wrong with that?  Why do we have to fear something we don’t understand? And more than fear, hate it. And campaign to strip people of their fundamental rights.

It’s time for people to get over their prejudice. The gay civil rights movement is the last great civil rights conflict of our time. What other disenfranchised group is left?

I finally got to the counter at the post office. I handed the postal worker guy my priority mail envelope. He looked at it. Then he looked at me, straight into my eyes. In the past, I would have felt some sort of shame or judgment, even if he wasn’t intending that. This time, I looked right back at him, not feeling shame, but liberation. I smiled at him. I thanked him. 

As I was walking out of the post office, I felt light, free, and completely joyous. I wasn’t prepared for how it was going to feel. It felt like the best part of meditation, that spaciousness and openness, energy rising up through my third eye and out of the crown. That feeling of being connected to all. 

That huge burden of shame and guilt was gone. I thought of myself as the creative seven-year-old girl I was before being introduced to the mormon church, finally free and able to move on beyond the roadblocks, and beyond the damage, the guilt, the fear, and the self-loathing. I am free.

I don’t know what they will do with my letter. But as of the date I wrote it, I resigned. It really doesn’t matter.

If anyone is thinking of doing the same and needs encouragement, please write to me. There’s also a website, http://www.signingforsomething.org, that is posting letters of people who have resigned. There are also sites, like http://www.exmormon.org, or http://www.mormonnomore.com, or mormonresignation.com, that have sample letters and instructions.

namaste,

jodi