The Bad Bag

Over the Christmas break my kids found a sack on our front porch. They brought it in and handed it to me and instantly I was thrown back to when I was about 7 and the neighbor boys had left a piece of paper on our grass. When my sister and I unfolded the paper, we discovered to our utter horror, that there was poop inside of it. The boys (who had been hiding and watching us unfold the paper) started laughing and saying things like “you guys are so dumb, I can’t believe you opened that!” It was disgusting and rude and did I mention disgusting!? But worst of all, was that dumb feeling. The feeling that I actually should have known better than to pick up that suspiciously placed paper and look at it. The feeling that a smart person would have already known what was inside. You know…that feeling.

Well, when my kids handed me the bag I had that feeling. It was an ordinary white grocery sack, but it had things written all over it in black magic marker. One said “you didn’t go to church” another said “you didn’t pay your tithing” another “you lied.” There were probably 10 phrases on the bag. My mind was reeling, why did someone put this on my porch? How could someone be so cruel…why wasn’t I smart enough to know that there would be “poop” in the bag? Was someone sitting outside laughing at me?

It took a few minutes of complete and utter confusion before I opened the bag and looked inside.

It was another bag. A brown paper lunch sack, and inside of it was a CD with all of the Church primary songs burned on it, with a cute little note that said “Merry Christmas from the Primary Presidency”

I was so confused. The bag on the outside was so hurtful…the bag on the inside obviously intended to be given with love.

After a few minutes of thinking about it, I realized that the bag must have been part of some primary lesson. When the presidency had gone out to put the paper bags out on everybody’s porch…they realized that they might get wet and ruined in the snow and so they had put all the paper bags in the grocery bags. I asked my kids if they recognized the sack from church, and indeed they did. It had been used as an object lesson. The kids were handed pieces of paper with different scenarios on them such as “you hit your sister” and they were instructed to determine where they should put it…either in the good bag or the bad bag. It made sense, and yet my heart sunk as I realized that my kids were going to church and learning that their own mother belonged in the bad bag. After all…she didn’t go to church, she didn’t pay her tithing…

Anne … hmm. Lets think about that one. Yup. She definitely belongs in the BAD BAG! 

I in no way think that that bag was placed on my porch on purpose, but I do kind of think it’s interesting that it found it’s way to my home, after all there are probably over 100 kids in our primary. Maybe I needed to see it, to reconcile myself to it. I don’t know.

I think sometimes the LDS church makes things seem so black and white. Everything is either good or bad, right or wrong…and then of course within those good things are the good, better, best things and if you aren’t doing the things that are the best we still aren’t doing things quite right. And so I guess that even while you are doing things that are good you are still in a way potentially being bad.

When I was a true believing member I believed very much in black and whites. Even now sometimes I find myself judging. And yet the further away I get from the church the more clear it is to me that black and whites don’t exist. The more I have thought about it, the more true it feels.

Maybe I’m addicted to some horrible substance, but you don’t know why. You don’t know my story, you don’t know what I’ve been through, you don’t even know how many years I’ve tried to stop, but it has been scientifically proven that if you walk up to me and tell me I’m bad for doing it…that that is not going to help me quit. Judgement doesn’t help people heal. Love does. And how can we love when all we see is rights and wrongs instead of people. How can we even learn to love ourselves when everything we do must be carefully categorized into the right bag. When we must prove to other’s that we are right, because Heaven forbid the consequences if we are wrong. We then run into problems when we are trying our hardest, and yet not living up to some unattainable standard of say…perfection. And so instead of realizing there are things about us that we would like to improve, we determine that there is something about us that is fundamentally flawed. That instead of doing something wrong…we become what is wrong.

Maybe I’m not bad because I don’t go to church. Maybe I am home trying my hardest to find truth, to find peace, and joy and happiness…to heal what the LDS church broke in me. My heart says I am honestly striving to do my best, to be my best. To put me in the bad bag is too simplistic.

Maybe I’m not bad because I don’t pay my tithing. Maybe I have questions about what the church does with my tithing. Maybe I’m confused about multi million dollar shopping malls…and maybe I’m simply tired of walking away from the people around me who really need my help because I’ve already given every penny I have to give to the church. Maybe I want giving to be real for my kids. With real people. Instead of an online transaction that is automatically withdrawn from my checking account without me being a part of it. Maybe I want to be attached to it, to feel the life in it, to give it with love. Is that bad?

I know it’s easy to say things like “that person is bad because he smokes” or “that girl doesn’t care about her body because she’s immodest”  or “that mom is going to hell because she doesn’t take her kids to church” but maybe it’s not true. In fact…I know it’s not true. I believe we are all doing the very best we can with what we’ve been given. I mean have you ever woke up and said “I’m going to try my very hardest to do my very worst today!” no. We all try to do our best even when we don’t do it. And why is there something wrong with trying our best? there’s not.

Maybe good bags and bad bags are just made up. Silly object lessons that teach us to judge instead of love. Maybe instead of saying “your sister lied so what bag should you put her in?” we could teach our children to ask questions. “your sister lied…what might have happened to her to make her feel like she had to do that? Was she scared? Was she embarrassed? Maybe we should give her a hug and tell her we love her no matter what she did.”

So the moral is…

Bags: Use them for trash not for people.

Happy in Hell

I just got done doing some Kundalini yoga. I know…I know…perhaps a little bit odd. And yet, I found this online instructor named Kia Miller (her classes can be found on an awesome yoga website called yogaglo), anyhow, these classes have really been an amazing thing for me. For one, they help with my digestion which has been a problem for me for years (and years and years) and for two, for the first time in my life I have been able to feel my “energy” or what the yogi’s call my “life force.” Sounds a little bit like Star Wars I guess, but it has been really neat for me.

Today I sat down to practice and I could feel myself (my energy) going off in a zillion directions. Everything about me was in chaos. I’ve been feeling that way lately too…emotionally, so I found it especially interesting that physically, “energetically” I was also feeling it. Anyhow, after each portion of my practice I could feel my energy getting more calm, more aligned, more on the same page, instead of being random lines going in a million direction, there were just a few lines…mostly going the same way. Maybe it’s weird. But it is amazing to me. Amazing that there is so much more to our physical bodies than meets the eye. It’s comforting to know that I am more…

As I was lying down after my practice I had the following thought. The idea that yoga helps me feel better. Happier. And then I had a silly thought, that if God is going to be sending me to hell (ha ha…I don’t really believe that anymore, although growing up in the LDS church I sure thought that I was going there for most of my life, and now that I am what many may term an apostate, it is taught that I will be going there as well)…but my funny thought was that if He is going to be sending me to hell, then I might as well start learning to be happy there. Earlier today I was listening to a podcast on SoundsTrue where one of the women being interviewed said “When I die, nobody can send me anywhere I won’t be happy”. What a thought! What a glorious thought! To be able to always choose our happiness. If we are happy now, why wouldn’t we be happy then? If we are daily striving to please a God who can never be pleased by us…why would we be happy living with him? And so I choose to believe in a God who is always pleased with my daily effort to do my best (after all isn’t that what we are all doing every day?) and if there is no such God, I am now determined to practice daily to find joy…so that I can be happy in Hell :)

Lamenting

Over the Christmas break it was brought to my attention that my head has been shaking. My sister mentioned it to me about a month ago “Anne why is your head shaking?” but I hadn’t noticed anything and so I shrugged it off…maybe it was the chills or a shiver…I don’t know. I was almost offended by the way she looked at me. Then about 4 days ago my husband said “I didn’t want to tell you because I didn’t want to worry you…but your head has been shaking…it’s really weird.” I’m not going to lie. I’ve been pretty devastated about it. Worried. Just one more thing to pile onto the plate of all the things that are wrong with me. My head shakes…I notice it now, and when I catch myself doing it, I have to try not to cry…to not let myself get sucked off into some horrible panic.

I have had unexplainable medical problems for years. About 9 years that I can remember. I’m used to living with stuff, and I’m used to going to doctors and not finding any answers. I have also come to the conclusion that much (if not all) of my symptoms are just that. Not really illnesses, but a symptom of something bigger. Maybe even one main thing…that someday will all connect and I will finally understand and I will be able to heal.

I read somewhere that we are made up of energy…and that actually we are a very very VERY small amount of matter. Science has proven that things like walls are actually about 95% open space…that has also proven that to be true about humans. Some weird Quantum physics fact that absolutely amazed me when I read about it. Anyhow, I had the idea that perhaps illness does not really have much to do with our physical body…but more about all that left over space. I mean…they’ve looked for years at my physical body and they haven’t been able to tell me anything except “it all looks normal to us” but energetically…well…they can’t even see that.

I have this hope that I can heal…somehow. That my stomach aches, and headaches, and exhaustion, and fibromyalgia, and now head tremors will heal. Part of that healing, I think comes through needing to learn how to not be afraid of dying…and conversely not being afraid to live. I know I have been deeply afraid of both.

I once listened to a podcast by sounds true where they interviewed a man named Dr. Mario Martinez. His book The Mind Body Code was fascinating to me. Anyhow, in the podcast he mentioned how he could help people overcome their fear of death. Just yesterday I remembered him talking about it, and looked up online what he taught about it. He said that humans are not afraid of dying. Just like we are not afraid of being born. Those are natural things…things we are meant to do. But what we are afraid of is lamenting. I guess we are afraid of  coming to our end, and mourning all of the things we wanted to do, but didn’t. He said that we should ask ourselves everyday “What am I lamenting today” and then we should go off and do those things.  I laid down last night wondering about what on earth I was lamenting. And I realized that for weeks, months, maybe even years…I would often lament that I had not sat down to write. That I had had some amazing idea that day, and an amazing one the day before and I had written key words down on a paper, or maybe just tried to keep them filed away somewhere in my mind. And then day after day, nothing. Until the paper got lost, and the idea flittered away out of my brain to perhaps visit someone else who would take it seriously.

This is my year to heal. To live. To learn to be unafraid. To be accepting. To write.

I’m going to write, even if nobody in the entire world reads what I have to say…

This entry was posted in Journal.

Why I Don’t Believe Anymore

A few months ago I decided to sit down and write this letter. I shared it individually with some of my family members…but thought this might be a good place to put it. It’s so hard to explain all I have gone through in such a short post. I feel like I have left so much out, so much unexplained. But it’s a start I suppose, and here it is…my letter telling my friends and my family that I no longer believe in the LDS church…

~~~

This may very well be the hardest thing I have ever had to sit down and write. Some of you, but not all of you know that I am no longer a believing member of the LDS church. For those of you who didn’t already know, I realize that this statement may come as somewhat of a shock. This has been an incredibly difficult transition for me, a transition I never thought I would in a million zillion years have to make, a decision that I literally made kicking and screaming. I wanted to keep believing more than anything in the world. But sometimes life has a plan different than the plan we wanted.

I guess a part of me wants this letter to make it ok. I know that some people may think I am a bad person for leaving, that I must have done something wrong, that I must have sinned, that I must not have prayed hard enough, or that Satan somehow deceived me without me even knowing. The truth is that I have spent much of the last year, thinking those same things about myself…spending days crying not able to get out of bed. Wondering how Satan had deceived me, wondering how I was supposedly so evil when inside I felt like an honest seeker of truth. Wondering what mistake I must have made, what sin I must have committed, wondering how much harder I should have tried, even though it seemed I had tried as hard as I possibly could. Wondering what was wrong with me, wondering why I was being punished, wondering why my testimony was being torn from my fingers, even though I was desperately clinging to it. I understand why people think the things they think, because I once thought them too. Until one day I didn’t, and I felt peace like I have never felt before. A freedom to believe what my heart already knew: I wasn’t bad, or deceived, or sinning, or lazy…and if Satan could deceive me without me even knowing, that would have to be one powerful Satan, and one awfully weak God…

The truth is that I didn’t leave the church because I had some weird desire to sin, I was not offended, I know the church is made of imperfect people. I did not leave because I didn’t have enough faith, or because I wasn’t praying hard enough…believe me I prayed harder than I have ever prayed in my life. The fact is that I left because of church history, because it is messy and confusing and not what I thought it was…not what I was taught it was. I left because of things I read in the church history essays on LDS.org, which led me to things I read in the footnotes, which led me to books by active members of the LDS church, which led me to apologetics that tried to explain and reconcile what I had read, which led me to blogs written by people like me, with questions that no one could seem to answer. Which, ultimately led me to my own heart…and whether I trusted it enough to follow it. For the first time in my life, I do trust it, I trust myself, I trust that I will go where I am meant to go, and be who I am meant to be.

So here I am, no longer believing in Mormonism, feeling a little out of place, no longer knowing quite how I fit in. I realize now how much mystery there is in the world, how much I just don’t know, and I am beginning to see how much faith it takes to just look up at the sky with wonder. I don’t have any concrete answers…it’s scary and yet awe inspiring all in the same moment. There is a scripture in Romans 14: 8-10 that says “…for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not bear false witness, thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” That’s what I believe…

I believe in love.

It’s not a lot. But I think it’s an ok start.