Temerarious

 

I spent the last weekend bedridden with a horrible flu.

The flu can be detrimental to one’s health in a number of ways- there’s the physical component of the illness, of course, in which the immune system is insufficient for fighting off pathogens, but there’s a physiological component that, in my experience, is far more harmful than any fever, bout of chills, or stuffy nose.

When you’re as sick as I was last weekend, you have no other option but to slow down-your body insists. But your brain is not forcibly stagnated to the extent that your limbs might be. What I’m saying in way more words than are necessary is that I had far too much time for thinking over the past couple of days for my own good.

In a desperate attempt to occupy my mind and focus my racing, unorganized thoughts, I began (and finished) the Netflix original series Thirteen Reasons Why. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, I suggest that you set apart the next 13 hours and binge the entire series. If you don’t have the time for that, I’ll provide a brief synopsis.

The story centers around Hannah, a high schooler who takes her own life, but not before explaining her reasons for doing so via 13 audio tape recordings. The topic of each tape is one of her classmates who has contributed to her ultimate decision to commit suicide. Among those reasons are betrayal, rape, objectification, and harassment. Ironically, all things that I have experienced, as well.

This powerful series was profound and resonated deeply with me, and unfortunately, has forced me to face some things that I’ve never truly allowed myself to process. Ever since my body was invaded, it’s felt as though it no longer belongs to me. And sometimes I feel that all I am is a body, and maybe that’s why I haven’t been handled with care-by men since him, or by me. The most practical remedy is to enclose oneself in a pod of isolation-just big enough for one. Because the illusion of control is much more satisfying there.

I’ve been played with, used, ridiculed, and objectified. I am left weak, afraid, and tired.

I’d like to think that I’d never engage in self-harm, but this sudden flooding of relived past experiences has forced me to feel things that I’ve suppressed for far too long, and I’m paying for it now. How does one who’s deceived herself into strength cope with the fact that she’s been wounded the whole time?

I think that the biggest take-away message I got from viewing Thirteen Reasons was that we are reckless. Humans are reckless people with little to no awareness on how significant our actions can be in the grand scheme of things. Our actions have the power to significantly alter another’s perception of self, and the consequences of a poor self-perception can, as in Hannah’s case, be fatal.

Human interaction is a complex phenomenon, and everyone experiences his or her own truth. If you claim that I hurt you, I don’t get to decide that I didn’t. So it’s best to err on the side of safety, right?

Unfortunately, unless you’re Ghandi or Mother Teresa, you will inevitably hurt those you interact with, intentionally or not. But we don’t walk around with a gauge pinned to our shirts, notifying those around us how close we are to our breaking points.

It’d be extremely difficult, and frankly boring (not to mention unrealistic) to treat everyone as if they are fragile as fine China, all of the time for the rest of our lives. That’s where I think that a little self-awareness could go a long way. And believe me, my hands are definitely not clean here.

Watching the way Hannah was treated by her classmates in Thirteen Reasons was piercingly painful for me to watch. I could feel her solitude through my computer screen, and it transported me back to my own lonely years as a high school student. (Which was much more difficult in some ways than my desolate college years now.) Each episode’s conclusion catalyzed another stream of tears from my eyes, and I found myself in bouts of severe regret for the way my life has been going so far.

People can cause a lot of harm, but they can also do a lot of good. The only problem is, once you’ve experienced enough harm, you find that it’d be foolish to put yourself out there in pursuit of some good, because that would leave you vulnerable to even more harm.

So, you withdraw further.

And what’s so noble about being fine all the time, anyway? Why does being able to be okay with people treating you like shit make you strong? Resilient, maybe. But I’d argue that strength is found by allowing yourself to feel real pain-to hurt to the extent that it hurts, and to heal in your own time, and your own way.

That’s what I feel like my experience from this weekend is forcing me to do-to allow myself to not be fine anymore. Because the last thing I am is okay. I am weak, wounded and alone. And if I don’t accept that now and deal with it, the next time I get hurt might pull me completely under water, and I’ll drown.

I fully admit that I’ve done more than my fair share of harm to other people. My hands are far from clean. But I’ve gained a heightened awareness of my deeds and their potential for harm or help to my fellow man.

But why are we so reckless with each others’ lives? Should it not be more of a priority to minimize the pain we inflict? Or are we simply just not aware?

M.

 

 

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Progression

According to WordPress, I’ve been at this blogging thing for 3 years now.

But the “I” who started this blog hardly even remotely resembles the “I” who sits behind the keyboard now.

DownWithTheNorm was founded by an 18-year-old girl during the spark of her *formal* feminist awakening. That girl was fiery, angry, confused, and determined to fix the world. Misogyny was her only foe, and she was vigilant and determined to take him down, and took every opportunity to bare her teeth in the face of opposition.

But, as with all sparks, hers was extinguished.

Gradually, she let her inquiring mind guide her as she learned more and more about the world; how it probably works, and how it most likely doesn’t. She developed an air of cynicism, and became understandably tired of fighting the good fight. Others grew tired, bored, annoyed, or a combination of the three of her persistent, yet non-refreshing wordy posts on social media that accomplished nothing but a temporary emotional relief for our young author.

She did her best to keep her mind open, while simultaneously drawing her own independent conclusions. Especially in the context of her religion.

She spent a short duration as a walking contradiction; trying to force her newly acquired world views into a mold that simply would not fit. She wanted to be the change from within, but that resulted in her being pushed out.  She lost friends, but she gained an identity that she felt comfortable in. An authentic lifestyle was drawing nearer and nearer, but exponentially more solitary.

This girl was anxious-so much so that she couldn’t bare to even hold still even for a minute. Sleep was just a five-letter word. She had to be the fastest, the best, the smartest, and the skinniest always. And she was failing miserably at all of it.

But, breaking down turns into breaking through, if you let it.

The girl behind the keyboard is an enhanced version of the girl from 3 years ago.

I’ve had so many experiences that have shaped me into who I am now, whether that be for the better or not. I’m not the girl with the eating disorder anymore. I’m the girl who maybe spends too much time thinking about food and not enough time about breathing, and probably uses her bathroom scale more often than the average joe. And binges on breakfast cereal once in a blue moon. Oh, and HATES going to the gym.

I’m not the Mormon Feminist Anomaly anymore. I’m simply the feminist woman-person who believes that whether or not there is an afterlife is irrelevant. What really matters is that there are plenty of opportunities for me to develop and enhance as many interpersonal relationships as I possibly can during the time that I am allotted here. I believe that this life isn’t a test at all. Rather, it’s an opportunity to develop oneself to the fullest extent possible, and perhaps find an individualistic sense of happiness while we’re at it; whatever that looks like.

And for all of you looking to slap a label on me (because that’s what people do-no judgment), you can call me an Agnostic. Like I said, I’m not looking to shut out any possibilities completely.

I love tattoos, science, coffee, wine, and angry heathen misogyny-laden rap music. And I let myself love these things, because this is MY human experience. And what I choose to drink, put on my body, or listen to, does NOT make me a bad person, contrary to what I was led to believe growing up with religion

I’m not anxious anymore. Through the process of extensive trial and error, I’ve finally settled on a path that suits me. I got a job that makes me excited to wake up in the morning. I have a degree of self-sustainability that I never have had before. I feel liberated and powerful and in control. Rather than planning for my future, I’m actively taking steps toward living it, and I’m doing it calmly, mindfully, and relatively maturely.

As far as interpersonal relationships go, I’ve made strides toward getting out of my own way. I’m still a bit more self-isolating than I’d like to be, but baby steps are the name of the game. I can let loose now, and go out with friends once or twice a week. Hell, sometimes even on a school night! Because, as I mentioned beforehand, in the grand scheme of things, people are what matter. Yeah, going to bed early so I can bring my A game to school and work is important, but so is making time for those I care about. It’s all about balance.

I breathe easy, sleep easy, and am patient and engaged in every moment, which is much more than I could have ever said 3 years ago. I know I’m no sage of wisdom, and that I have much more developing, improvement, and revision to do, but I genuinely like the direction I’m heading.

Documenting my experiences over the past 3 years has been truly enriching for me, and hopefully at least mildly entertaining for you! I genuinely appreciate anyone who has ever and will ever take the time to read anything that I write.

Here’s to 3 more years!

M.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ubiety

Y’know how when you ask someone how they are doing, you expect them to say, “good, and you?” even if they don’t mean it?

Well, for the first time in as long as I can remember, I can provide that customary answer with genuineness.

How are you?

Good, and you?

I am good.

I am doing well.

I am doing well, despite the tragically disheartening election (that is as political as I am going to get on this post-no bad vibes here), rapidly decreasing temperatures, and hasty intensification of menstrual symptoms.

I am doing well, without SSRI’s or therapy sessions.

I am doing well, despite the fact that my diet has entirely derailed over the past week or so and I have only been able to make it to the gym once. I’ve tasted chocolate and bread and beer and allowed myself to be filled, where a few weeks ago, I’d eagerly and dedicatedly attempt to purge it all from my body.

I am doing so well that those around me are starting to notice. I’ve gone from enduring my daily obligations to truly experiencing even the most mundane of tasks. I’ve been spending less time maintaining my continual presence on social media or allowing my hair style to dictate my mood.

I’ve been spending less time on the scale and more time in the quality assurance department of my social sphere. I’ve been smiling more, and not for the sake of selfies or snapchat. I’m letting out deep-belly laughs until my abs feel sore. My tunnel vision has broadened, and I’m seeing more and more of the bigger picture, I think.

I’m sleeping longer and deeper, and I’m truly listening when you talk. The air I breathe fills my lungs to capacity and I can feel it energizing my cells before I release it in an exhale. The anxiety cloud still lingers over my shoulder, but it trails behind on a longer leash. I’m nervous and scared and excited, but have shrunken these legitimate emotions to a reasonable and respectable proportion.

I’m doing all that I can now to prepare for later without sacrificing all that right now has to offer me.

I’m no longer allowing external expectations to dictate my personal development, morality, appearance, or cognitions. I have removed the shackles of arbitrary guilt, and traded them for a personalized air of humanitarian passion.

I pride myself in being a life-long student, and I am learning more and more about what the point to this entire living thing could possibly be, and as much as I hate to admit, the clichés are probably right.

It’s about the journey, not the destination. Blah, blah, blah-I’m annoyed already. But in all sincerity, I truly believe that the whole point of experiencing a life worth living is to learn how to be truly happy, and maybe help one or two others find their own brand of happiness while I’m at it.

In order to do this, though, sometimes you have to let go of obstacles that restrict you from doing so. And for myself, that means I have to ease off the gas pedal.

Don’t get me wrong, I am still the overly ambitious, in-over-her-head, millennial perfectionist you all know and love, but my pace has been altered.

One day, I’ll have that perfect bikini body featured on all of my fitness Pins. But today, I will munch on crackers and sip diet soda to alleviate my unsettled stomach, and perhaps go for a jog later.

One day, I’ll be conducting pharmacological research, aiding in medicinal advances that can one day significantly improve the quality of life of another. But today, I am going to leisurely study for the GRE and beg around for research lab experience to add to my Curriculum Vitae.

One day, I will leave my residence and immerse myself in a plethora of other cultures, and allow myself to marvel at all that I see, without regard to what time or day it is. But today, I will take scenic drives up the canyon and gape at my own backyard with true appreciation.

I’ve wasted too great of a portion of the one life I’ve been given being anxious, sad, and suffocated by self-deprecation.

I hope all of you have already come to realize all of this.

Here’s to actualizing personal fulfillment.

M.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Post

I get it-you’re all sick of metaphorically hearing my whiny voice. So I’ve decided to start doing some research on others’ viewpoints on topics that interest me, and share their responses with you. I am fortunate enough to know many diverse people from various backgrounds, so finding content was a snitch.

My first guest author is a young woman whom I’ve come to know, respect, and love as we endured our teens and early adulthood together. Without further ado, I now present her take on the YW program. Take it away, Sam.

Cognitive Dissonance

How was my experience in the Mormon Young Women’s program? Thanks for asking.

To a budding pre-pubescent, the prospect of joining older girls in Young Women’s at the age of 12 made the misery of sharing Primary class with the 7-11 year olds…bearable. Once you reached that fortuitous age of 12, a few of the Young Women would sit in the back of Primary class until “announcements”, wherein the Primary leader would announce that this was, indeed, your time for that coveted rite of passage. BOOYAH.

I remember heaving nervous breaths through my A-cup chest (I’m still an A-cup, so that’s the only thing that never changed through puberty. Damn it.) I finally got to sit in the same room as 15, 16, even 17 year olds! My sister was already in the program, and I was more than ready to join the big leagues.

At the beginning of every Young Women’s meeting, we would simultaneously recite the Young Women’s Theme.

“WE ARE DAUGHTERS of our Heavenly Father, who loves us, and we love Him. WE WILL “STAND as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places” (Mosiah 18:9) as we strive to live the Young Women values, which are:

Faith • Divine Nature • Individual Worth • Knowledge • Choice and Accountability • Good Works • Integrity • and Virtue

WE BELIEVE as we come to accept and act upon these values, WE WILL BE PREPARED to strengthen home and family, make and keep sacred covenants, receive the ordinances of the temple, and enjoy the blessings of exaltation.”

(Virtue hadn’t been tacked on the end of the values until I was 14, so that was a pretty exciting change-up).

Basically, the first two or three years are bliss. You’re surrounded by peers, taught by beautiful women of God, and conditioned to giggle, flirt, and regurgitate sexist language verbatim. But then…the boys start getting cuter. You start your period. You are exposed to a greater pool of friends in school.

And…you start to pay attention to the words you are reciting.

Strengthen home and family? Sacred covenants? What sacred covenants? What even is ‘divine nature’”?

Then, you hear the boys recite their theme:

The purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood: become converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ and live its teachings. Serve faithfully in priesthood callings and fulfill the responsibilities of priesthood offices. Givemeaningful service. Prepare and live worthy to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and temple ordinances. Prepare to serve an honorable full-time mission. Obtain as much education as possible. Prepare to become a worthy husband and father. Give proper respect to women, girls, and children.

It doesn’t take a genius to see the reinforcement of traditional gender roles here.

Women: be a shining beacon of virtue and divinity. Be the kind of woman who supports your man in the home!

Men: don’t be a dick to women. Take the role of leadership in the home (priesthood). Get an education.

I’m not opposed to gender roles, but the roles of each gender in the church should not be predetermined by a panel of older men (the General Authorities). They are between the two partners. Girls shouldn’t be taught at a young age that they are meant to be the family support. Men shouldn’t be taught that they are to be the provider of the home, regardless.

And that was my experience in Young Women’s. Constant reinforcement of gender roles. We would be decorating scripture bags while the boys would be playing basketball in the gym, or mowing people’s lawns. For summer camping, we would stay in a condo while the boys would embark on a 5 day high-adventure trip into the mountains.

What upset me is that most of the girls bought into it! When I would help put away tables, people would chastise me for doing “boys’ work”. The boys were always required to clean put away chairs while we had the first go at the dessert (which was awesome, but totally not fair to them). I always felt very isolated with my blunt, “masculine” personality. The things I was told…I couldn’t believe it. They told me it was okay to be educated, but I was ultimately to support my husband’s Priesthood authority. I was to raise the kids in the light of the Gospel and be an example of chastity and virtue.

My initial aversion to the church wasn’t even an aversion to the Gospel itself. It was an aversion to the attitude of the Young Women’s program, and the expectations to which I was held.

If any Young Women are reading this right now, I ask you this: are you completely satisfied with the role that is required of you in life by the Mormon Church?


Interested in becoming a guest author at DownWithTheNorm? Head on over to the Contact Me page and fill out the form with your article and a quick bio so the rest of us can absorb your wisdom and insight. 

M.

Inquest

I don’t know about you guys, but for me, learning and questions go hand-in-hand. The more I learn, the more questions I have, thus prompting me to search for a deeper understanding. This holds true for every opportunity I have to learn, which i’d like to think happens rather frequently.

The one aspect in my life in which I seem to have the most questions lately happens to be that of religion. As i’ve mentioned before, I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. As you can imagine, my progressive, feminist beliefs mix with my conservative, patriarchal religion like oil and water, leaving me with a constant state of intense internal battle, and a series of never-ending, snowballing questions.

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but the LDS church has been known to excommunicate those who vocalize their questions and personal belief systems if they do not comply with the Church’s teachings. To me, this is completely heart-breaking. This religion, in which we are taught that we have a loving set of spiritual parents, and that we are sent to this earth to figure out how to get ourselves back to them, does not seem to allow much wiggle room for personal inquiry.

We were given free-thinking minds to be able to learn for ourselves what we believe is true and good, and I intend to use mine. Like I said, when I learn new things, I don’t tend to just accept them the way they are without searching for a deeper understanding. In my opinion, it’s natural to have questions. As my philosophy teacher has made it abundantly clear, very few things in this life are certain, and we as humankind understand virtually none of it.

The understanding we do have, however, comes from inquiring minds who have a thirst to know more. Observations turn into questions, which turn into research, experiments, etc. I’m sure you all understand the Scientific Method. What i’m saying, is this method is wholly applicable not only to our physical world, but to our spirituality, as well.

There is an overwhelming emphasis for each member of the Church to develop his/her OWN testimony regarding the things of the Gospel. I don’t see how one can obtain such testimony without developing individual questions and searching for personal truth. Why, then, is there disciplinary action for doing so?

Not trying to be a problem-solver here, but I feel like the last thing people with doubts or questions need is isolation from their community. We all go through times where we’re not sure about what we believe, and have questioned things. Those of us with fragile testimonies need support and encouragement in finding peace and truth within our religious realms.

The God I believe in loves us each on an individual basis, regardless of our doubts or questions, and even though He does not give us all the answers we are looking for, I’d like to think that he supports our search for truth and knowledge.

These issues have been tearing me apart lately, and I have found myself more puzzled than ever. From the perspective of one who has doubts and questions, I empathize greatly with those who have received disciplinary action for voicing their questions and seeking more understanding.

I dunno, it’s hard not to get lost when you’re drowning in questions.

M.