About my serious side

Not to break the spell or spoil the fun, but you've probably figured out my real name isn't Dummy.

The CTD Diaries is my playground. No one tells the truth in their diaries anyway so I figured I should find another place to get real, where the head lights aren't so bright. I originally thought this would be a good place to post my creative writing, but I think this is just a good place to tell the truth.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Room Where We Belong

I have to do this--seize this moment, capture it, even though I don't want to. I would rather laugh and hide and play than face pain, but when I face it I must record it or else I know I'll have to face it again and again until I record it properly.

I've been working on a response to my brother's comments about my truth post, but I need to interupt myself to write about the room where we belong.

This weekend I attended the funeral for a little 3 year old boy who died last Friday night after getting a piece of plastic lodged in his throat.

I have dreaded this funeral all week even though I generally enjoy funerals more than weddings. It's an oddity, I know, but I can't help it. I blame it on the fact that I'm a photographer and long to capture emotional truth. Weddings are just the beginning of a long hard struggle. Funerals are the end (before the page turns and a new struggle begins). At weddings love is bliss, but it's also ignorant. At funerals love is refined. It has already endured and solidified. Each embrace is filled, not with passion and excitement, but with compassion and reverance.

A child's funeral though . . . an unlived life . . . how do you offer condolences for that? How do you console the inconsolable?

That's not my gift.

All I can do is capture it. So capture it I must.

Thomas Jefferson, who lived a long and full life, lost nearly everyone he whole heartedly loved by the time he was 40 years old, but when asked if he would live life over again he said, YES! He loved life. But he said there was one thing he couldn't figure out about life--the meaning of grief.

It's an age old question/problem. The best and worst minds and hearts have grappled endlessly over it.

I keep a little book in my nightstand by C.S. Lewis called A Grief Observed. It's a candid journal of his reflections immediately after his wife died. The whole book is a desperate attempt to make sense of his grief, but waxing philosophical about pain doesn't ease it.

He says, "there is nothing we can do with suffering except to suffer it. It doesn't really matter whether you grip the arms of the dentist's chair or let your hands lie in your lap. The drill drills on."

He says, "Reality, looked at steadily, is unbearable." But he also says, "You can't see anything properly while your eyes are blurred with tears."

It's impossible to make sense of our sorrows while we're sorrowing.

But those who have transcended their sorrows can crack a door for us or strike a match.

I wish Thomas Jefferson could have read some of the beautiful comforting words published about why we suffer, including this excerpt from a James E. Faust conference address:

“Here then is a great truth. In the pain, the agony, and the heroic endeavors of life, we pass through a refiner’s fire, and the insignificant and the unimportant in our lives can melt away like dross and make our faith bright, intact and strong. In this way the divine image can be mirrored from the soul. It is a part of the purging toll exacted of some to become acquainted with God. In the agonies of life, we seem to listen better to the faint, godly whisperings of the Divine Shepherd.”

One of the speakers at the funeral talked about getting and keeping a firm grip on the eternal truths and perspective we've been given and then shared a story about a little boy who was about to die. He asked his parents what it would feel like to die and his mother thought for minute before answering him like this:

"You know how you fall asleep on the couch sometimes and then you wake up the next morning in your own room? That's because your father scoops you up in his arms and carries you to your room. That's what dying will be like. You'll fall asleep with us and then your Heavenly Father will come and scoop you up in his arms and take you back to the room where you belong."

Friday, November 14, 2008

Nylons and a quick truth goose . . .

This past summer I got into a heated discussion with a few of my siblings over following counsel from the Stake President to wear nylons to church. I was really dumbfounded by it. And a little peeved. Thinking back, it's likely I'm a bit tainted, even cynical about religious power and authority because my husband and I have been working for the church for the past 12 years.

My poor brothers were somewhat aghast by my somewhat passionate stance against blindly obeying a stake presidents counsel about foot wear. I guess I just don't see what foot wear has to do with spirituality. Please don't try to explain it to me either because I've heard it all before, and I even slightly understand it, yet it still gets my knickers in a knot. See I'm one who sees our church and the Gospel as two different ball games being played against each other sometimes even though they're on the same team.

On the night I told my brother and several other family members I thought it was a misuse of authority for a stake president to set forth a proclamation calling all women to wear nylons to church I encountered an awkward silence. And then with wide eyes, one brother told me that he was worried about me. Worried that I might leave the church.

I was extremely surprised. I had never had anyone worry about me leaving the church before (except my husband when I almost left the church during my mid-life crisis 10 years ago.)

As I thought about it I realized that after living away from my siblings for nearly 20 years they really don't know me that well or what makes me tick. My brother wasn't insulting me, he was simply reacting to what he was seeing and hearing at that moment.

He has no idea how much I love the gospel principals, despite my irritations with the way it's imposed and implemented sometimes by members fumbling along trying to understand all the deep mysteries. Or worse yet, not trying to understand all the deep mysteries.

I think this is true of you, my readers, as well. You don't know me very well. When I poke fun at things--my husband, my mother-in-law, my friends, my kids, stake conference, relief society, Mormon mommies--some of you may not be sure how to take it or where it's coming from. When I tease you and then tell you I'm a liar, some of you may not know whether to believe me or not.

I thought it might be helpful if I cleared a few things up on this backstage blog. For those of you who are interested anyway. My hope is that it doesn't confuse you more.

I'm actually a truth stalker. I've been addicted to the search for truth and pinning down a definition of truth for several years now.

My class themes revolve around simple truths and complex ethics. We talk about morality and ethical dilemmas and layers of truth--relative truth, emotional truth, moral truth, happening truth, story truth. We often discuss things like whether it's ever okay to lie.

It's an extremely complex search. But one thing I've discovered is the way you tell the truth is almost as important as the truth itself. Form/style is as important as substance. I think of truth as a gift, and half the fun and excitement of receiving a gift is the pretty wrapping and the curly ribbons.

For instance, in the letter to my husband from jail a few of you noted, correctly, that I started off serious and then retreated back to my funny playful Crash self. But notice I got humorous, but I didn't get silly. Crash's diary is my silly place, where I can tease the truth. But here I will only humor the truth, humorously maybe, but only because sometimes the truth is funny.
But mostly it's not.

Often humor can reveal truth more quickly than coming directly to the point. Plus, I like to make my readers think. I hate to be handed anything on a silver platter and I want readers who hate it too.

Two reasons I used humor when writing that love letter:

1.) Love letters can sound trite. Love is so deep and complex and double sided. It's exhilarating, yet disappointing and disillusioning. It's never ending. In love it's hard to tell where emotional needs and ego are getting in the way of real intimacy. Love goes on and on and on, ever changing, yet ever persisting. Love never dies. It's like an idea. You can't kill an idea. You can kill love, but it's never fully dead. Love is a constant process of small and simple realizations. 

I wanted to express that side of love because that is the truth (for me). But it's hard to avoid generalizing with cliched phrases or passionate exclamations.

2.) Love is private.  And deeply personal.  It touches so deep that even if it were possible to come up with the precise words to describe it, it may not be appropriate to share in public.   I wasn't really writing a love letter as much as I was making a point about the nature of love/marriage.  Love is beautiful. But love is a lot of hard work. Love is serious business. But love is funny too.

There's nothing more pleasantly painful than love. Or truth.  But we just can't handle all that pleasant pain at once.

So why not soften it up a bit with some pretty paper and a nice curly bow?

It mattereth not, as long as the truth is inside, the gift is always worth opening.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Letter to my husband from jail. I mean from Relief Society

Sometimes I wish I was in jail. Not because I want to be a lawbreaker, but because the best letters are written from jail.

If I was in jail I wouldn't have to cook or clean or hold Relief Society Presidency meetings and I could spend all that extra time writing beautiful letters.

Martin Luther King, Jr wrote an astonishingly beautiful letter from Birmingham City Jail.

I think it's all that time, mixed with all that separation that creates all that astonishing beauty.

Joseph Smith wrote beautiful fervent longing letters while he was in jail too. On Sunday our Relief Society lesson was all about his tender letters to Emma.

The teacher gave us all a piece of paper and said "pretend you are in jail and you might not see your spouse again. Now write him a letter. GO!"

She gave us 3 minutes to complete this task. I put my nose right to the grindstone and tried to put myself in that fervent longing state of mind that I imagine comes from being in jail.

This is what I pumped out (unedited) in 3 minutes:

Dear Alan,

You have been the rock of my life. I am so lucky I have had you as my companion on earth because I needed you much more than I realized. For many reasons, but especially to teach me about forgiveness. You have taught me the true importance of marriage. Patience. Acceptance. Long Suffering. (On your part, not mine. Well, a little bit on mine too.) I have really seen my flaws and weaknesses through marriage and that made me angry at times. I blamed you for that--even accused you of not loving me enough. But I have realized that love has little to do with . . .

"Pencils down!" said the teacher.

If I was really in jail, I would have added that love has little to do with having your ego stroked and your emotional voids filled. I would have said, "thanks, hon for teaching me that love is a choice and not an instinct. It's caring about the personal growth and development of your lover."

Actually I think I learned that from The Five Love Languages. This one is a hard lesson because it's so fun to have your ego stroked and your emotional voids filled. But filling emotional voids can be like pouring water in a net and that can get a little futile and self-centered.

I would have told him I was just kidding when I said that God must have been drunk when he invented marriage--though that's not actually an insult if you think about it because all the founding father's were drunk when they divorced England and that turned out for the best. And if God was drunk, it was probably because he couldn't handle all the pain he was about to inflict on women, (for their own good, of course.)

I would have told him that I actually think marriage is an ingenious plan because it's a super-sonic refining process and we don't have much time here, and anyway I couldn't have asked for a finer super-sonic refiner.

I would have told him that I'm sorry about the years I was working through my trust and abandonment issues and that it's really unfortunate John Mayer wasn't a pop star when my dad was raising me.

I would have told him how thankful I am that his only obsession is with our kids (and Glenn Beck) and that I would never be able to read a map or shop at Walmart the day after Thanksgiving without him.

And then I would have told him that I love him deeply and I would have drawn a few hearts and added this P.S. which would have said, "I'm so glad I got to teach you that tone-of-voice should sometimes be the spoon full of sugar and not the medicine."

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The truth about the boring old boat man

The truth about the boring old boat man is he's not boring at all.  And neither are his boats.  I just said that to make him feel bad.  

Nah, you guys know my whole purpose in life is to make others feel good.  Or at least to make others feel.   

The truth about the old boat guy is he's incredible.  I'm not interested in boats, but I am interested in life lessons and there are so many life lessons to learn from boat restoration. 

I don't know why I like to curl up with my laptop and go to the old boat guy's blog and watch him take his old boat apart, then carefully put it back together.  There's something so soothing about it.  So soothing that I've actually cried a few times while reading it (metaphorical tears, of course--which means real tears over metaphoric truths.) 

Maybe because it took him so much time and effort and dedication and care and commitment and patience.  Who is that patient anymore?  

Or maybe because he had to be so precise.  Who is that patient AND precise anymore?  

Or maybe because every step of his restoration process is a perfect metaphor for what we are in our master's hands and how patiently our master toils over each one of us in order to restore us to our perfect state because we can't do it ourselves.   

Whatever it is, I'm thankful there are still people out there like the boring old boat guy.

Anyway, I just wanted to say that, in case you didn't get the hidden truths embedded in all the mysteries wrapped in riddles inside the enigmas in my diary.