24 December 2012

The Summer of the Soul

2012 has been a somewhat hormonal year for me.

2010 was pretty much amazing.  I graduated from college officially (though I was done in 2009 - had to finish the internship).  I landed my biggest dream part in my very favorite musical.  I moved away from the bubble (well, at least to the edge of it) and bought my first new car.  I got a new job and made some incredible friends.  2010 rocked.

2011. . . not so much.  2011 was the year of depression and doubt and trouble.  I spent the majority of the year battling some hard core emotional trials and questioning virtually everything I thought I knew.  I came out of 2011 exhausted and with a very firm good riddance at the clock when the year switched over.

If 2010 and 2011 had a love child, it would be my 2012.  On the one hand, the year has been pretty stinking incredible.  I landed not one, but two of my dream roles.  One of those parts in particular changed my life forever and I will always, always be grateful beyond words to have been lucky enough to be part of that show with that cast.  I took an awesome trip to the south eastern section of the US with three of my favorite people.  I went through the temple for the first time, something I have been praying for since, oh, for as long as I can remember.  I was able to be with my brother when he got married to his sweet wife.  I came to terms with many of the struggles I had in 2011.  The first half of the year was basically perfect.

The second half was pretty close to hell.  Without going into details you don't need to know, work essentially took over my life in the worst way possible.  It left me emotionally beaten and drained.  Many of the things that were making my job so stressful are being resolved right now - I hope.  It's still a little uncertain.  But I can at least say that things are looking up, which is a relief.  But in the middle of it all, things were looking pretty bleak.  I considered leaving more than once.  Anything - anything - would be better than how things were.

There is a line in the song "Feels Like Christmas" from The Muppet Christmas Carol that I've always loved that carried me through this particular December.  Christmas and December are called the "summer of the soul".  What a beautiful image.  And it's true.  For me, right this moment, a thousand literal miles away from how hard things have been and surrounded by friends and family, I feel once again the magic of Christmas.  What a wonderful time of year this is!

I have nothing profound to say just now.  Mostly I want to read (it's not even for school!) and go to bed so that I can enjoy the day with my family tomorrow.  But on this Christmas Day to those of you who read my writing every now and then or regularly, I wish you the very happiest of Christmases and pray that you too will find summer for your soul, no matter your current (or future) circumstances.

As for me. . . well. . . there are some exciting things coming in the unlucky year of 2013 for this girl.  Stay tuned.

13 December 2012

The Sisterhood of the Pants

There's been a lot of uproar in my neck of the Facebook woods lately about an event taking place next Sunday encouraging women to wear pants to church.

For my non-Mormon friends out there who now think that we are even more puritanical than you had originally thought, it is the cultural tradition - particularly in America - for women to wear dresses or skirts to a Mormon church service.  It is a tradition passed down through our English ancestry that culturally promoted clothing in women as a sign of her marital status.  Women's clothing has always been subject to such ideas - you don't see it as much in the men.  The modern motto behind this tradition is that we wear other clothes throughout the week and that dressing up is a way to show respect to sacred meetings.  For women, this generally means a modest dress or skirt, for men it means dress slacks, a white shirt and tie.

Welcome to not the 1840s, girls.  
The issue then is coming from women who are hoping to change the cultural tradition of dresses and skirts being the only option for women.  The church itself has nothing that says it is required for women to wear them to church.  The exact wording in the handbook, in fact, makes a point of saying that "The Church has not attempted to indicate just how long women's or girls' dresses should be nor whether they should wear pant suits or other types of clothing."  But there are still some pretty violent cultural stigmas against the action - as seen in this particular article that highlights the arguments on both sides.

This is what they see in their heads.
Like the author of this article, I didn't really see what the big deal was.  Although I don't mind (and actually kind of enjoy) wearing skirts and dresses to church, I don't really care what other people around me wear on the whole.  I can think of many circumstances in which pants would be completely acceptable wear to church for practical reasons or otherwise.  A woman working in nursery, for example.  Or just because it's winter and the building is cold.  It makes sense.  And I think that, on the whole, most people agree with that fact.  Christianity is built on the foundation of loving (and not judging) your neighbor.

So why is it such a big deal?

I think it is because there is a bit of a conflict of standards.  We have days after major school dances where girls wear their prom dresses to church meetings and boys wear their tuxes.  Is that appropriate?  What about the boy passing the sacrament in an untucked and sloppy shirt?  Or super long hair?  Or the men or boys wearing sneakers?  Is it alright to pass the sacrament in a blue shirt instead of a white one?  What about those cheap Old Navy flip flops?  Are any of these alright?  I think most people would agree that they probably aren't the most respectful dress options in church - but do we accuse the girl showing up in her ball gown of going apostate or the boy with the long hair has going against his priesthood duties?

Feminism itself is such a huge buzzword in this culture.  I suppose I can see why.  The word itself conjures up some rather violent images of bra burning and man-hating women.  In a church that promotes traditional family structures, this can be a little unnerving.  It leads to a culture full of women who cannot say anything related to typical "feminist" ideas without being labeled as an extremist who wants to be equal to a man in every way, when that isn't always the case.

This is more accurate.
What they are really looking for in this particular case isn't really the pants.  To me it goes deeper than that.  It's the same stigma that comes from people who rather violently oppose infant girls in spaghetti strap sundresses in the summer time (as if an infant's shoulders are already arousing.)  It's the attitude that comes when we teach our young women that they should dress dress modestly so that men don't think bad thoughts and turn to pornography.  It's what makes stuff like this happen.  Suddenly the girl herself can become worried that she's a walking sin waiting to happen if she happens to choose a shirt some guy doesn't like.  And then women who have perfectly legitimate reasons for working outside the home, or for pursuing higher education, or for not having a huge family suddenly feel the need to justify everything and fight for it.

I think back on my own experiences.  After college I was ready to move to Seattle.  A good portion of that reason, honestly, was that I was hoping to get married.  I had heard from friends that the wards there were good.  I was tired of BYU Student wards and how transient they always are.  People move from one ward to the next always looking for the bigger fish.  I was hoping for something more steady. But that's not what the Lord had in mind for me.  I was told pretty firmly to stay in Utah.  And now I'm living in a small town where the closest single's ward includes primarily 18 year old teens living at home with their parents (some of which are former students of mine.)  I don't know why I'm being taken down the particular path I'm on.  I do know that I've battled through feeling guilty over not being married (or not wanting a large family, or loving my job) because of those cultural pressures.

So what does this have to do with pants in church?  It has to do with women wanting not to be equal to men by robbing them of their priesthood.  These are not women going apostate from the church.  Trying to make a positive change is not equivalent with any of these things, particularly when the change seems to be primarily cultural and not doctrinal. Women should be able to ask questions about their divine role in the universe without feeling badly about it.  We should be able to talk about our Heavenly Mother without feeling awkward or wrong.  We should be able to discuss what we think our Celestial experiences will be.  And we should be able to discuss them without being given the toss-off answers so often used.  We may not have the answers - but fear is not a productive or constructive or even respectful response to a legitimate question.
Relief Society

I won't be participating on Sunday.  At least not directly.  I am afraid that some of these women will find that wearing pants to church is morphing into an act of "rebellion" in mindset, which distracts from the spirit of church.  That shouldn't be the goal.  They aren't "rebelling" against the church - just trying to influence the culture.  At the same time, I return to what I said before: it shouldn't be a problem in the first place.  Cultural expectations that become doctrine are scary to me - especially when they lead to this kind of terrified extremism in response.

The problem is that cultural change can't be mandated.  Not really.  And as one of my friends put it - it is really hard to walk the line between respect and change.  So to those who will be participating, you have my support.  As a woman living an unconventional path in the church, I appreciate you.

09 December 2012

Look at that face. . .

I have decided to embrace the inevitable and become a cat lady.

"Kitty. . . "
 Not an old one.  And not surrounded by too many, because that smells.  One is enough.  Maybe two.  And definitely hypoallergenic varieties or my dad will never come see me again, which would be sad because I love my dad.

"Rich kitty...?"
 (Dad, you'll know I'm mad at you if I ever get a non-hypoallergenic cat.  These lovely Balinese beauties are perfect for you.  Promise.)

"Hello!. . . Fluffy. . . "
 And, for the record, I would not be adverse to becoming a cat lady with a cat mister, but you can't buy them for a few hundred dollars.

"Kitty, kitty, kitty. . ."
 (At least not the breeds that clean up after their own poop.)

HOW could you resist that face?!!
. . . only I can't get one of them yet.  Not until I have my own place.  So I am feeding the cat hungry part of my soul by looking at pictures and it is. not. helping.  In the mean time, if you happen to come across any Balinese cat breeders looking to divest themselves of an adorable kitten in about two summers, then think to yourself "Self?  I know the perfect owner!" and give me a call.  Or a text.  Or a smoke signal.