My Separation Part 2– What I learned (and how).

 

For those who have read the stories of how my separation started, you will know that Dr. Laura Schlessinger was key in getting me on a more productive path of healing and growing. Some time later, her show was picked up by the radio station I listened to the most, and they carried it for many years. I love Dr. Laura deeply in my heart, for the help she was to me both in my call to her, and over the years on her show and in her books. I learned from her the importance of prioritizing my children’s needs over my own, and the importance of respecting marriage, and preparing to be in a marriage before trying to be in one again. Her butt-kicking style was very comforting to me (after the call). Sometimes people in a bad space need to be reminded of their own power and their own contribution in getting into that bad space, so they can get themselves out permanently. It’s surprising how often the commonality between all of our lives problems is that we are right there making the choices that create those problems.

ACT:

Abuse Control Training was the place where I was taught new approaches to relationships based on equality and respect, rather than power and control. I learned about how gender-role expectations that I had never thought about had guided my belief system, and, subsequently, my thoughts and actions in ways that had been unfair and hurtful to Faith, and to me. I took responsibility for my belief system and made some adjustments to it that made it more comfortable for me. And I learned how to let go of my marriage and Faith, because nothing I could do or say at that point would undo what I’d already done. I created my abuse website around this time as a way of sharing links to useful resources I’d found online in those early days of the WWW. I also generated some questions people could use to assess if they were involved in abusive relationships, and some resources that could be useful to them if they saw that they were. And I spent time online in spaces frequented by survivors of all kinds of abuse, including Child Sexual Assault. After completing the year-long ACT program, I was asked to come back to the program to help co-facilitate the groups, which I did for several years. This continued my learning quite a lot. I found I had useful things to say to men and women who had been abusive in their relationships. And I got involved with the local DV community, making friends and sharing my perspective with leaders in it and with the community.

Early in my time at ACT, I noticed that I was getting lots of information about how to work better with my wife, who I rarely even spoke with, but I needed to learn more about how to deal better with my children. So I looked around and found Parents Anonymous, through which I was able to learn the 1-2-3 Magic program developed by Dr. Thomas Phelan, which was very helpful to me with them, and has proven quite applicable to my work with children since.

Kids:

And then I took my perspective and experience to the Human Services field, through employment in the Child Welfare System, where I’ve been working now for 13 years. I was working with children from homes like the guys from group – in one case, I worked with the child of someone I knew from group. There were new things to learn, but this kept my head in the realities of family dysfunctions, their causes and consequences.

Divorce lists:

A year or two into this, I discovered some mail-lists for LDS people experiencing divorce. I subscribed to one, and found the interactions there quite useful. A while later, I was contacted by some of the list members who decided to leave that list because they didn’t care for the style of the list-owner so they could form a new one that they wanted me to participate in. I was invited in as a co-owner of the list, and that grew to a group of four lists, three that I co-own, and one that I took over after a list-member was encouraging others to treat their ex-wives abusively and potentially murderously. I did my best to report his information to law enforcement, as it sounded like he was planning to kill his ex-wife, quite confident that he could get away with it. I did a lot of listening to the mostly women on these groups, and added their input to my healing/growing process. I developed a much richer and more realistic model for understanding the world and relationships and marriage due to them. And made some life-long friends in the process.

My Separation Part 1 — Overview

Recently, I’ve had a number of people ask me about my separation, particularly why it was so long before it became a divorce. When talking about something that lasted more than 20 years, there’s a lot to say about that. So I’m going to write about it in some useful detail which, I hope, will answer all the concerns about it.

The tldr; version:

I was separated for 20 years for a variety of reasons. One was to have my kids all grown and gone so I would be as available for them as possible. Possibly the most complete answer is that I had to have the time, money and emotional energy necessary to push it through at the same time, and at least one of those was insufficient until the end. During that time, I did a lot of healing, processing and growing, developing a new set of skills with which I could avoid the failures of my first marriage.
Continue reading My Separation Part 1 — Overview

Comment Spammers: Look elsewhere

You keep on trying to spam here, and it keeps on not working.  It took me a while to figure out what you were doing, but no spammy comment has been approved here in over 5 years.  My settings require approval of comments by new people, and between that and the built-in filtering done by Kashimet (sp?), your spammy comment is never going to be seen by anybody but me, and I”m just going to delete it and add it to the Kashimet database, so it’ll be less likely to get approved anywhere else.

Please stop wasting both of our time, and find another way to try to make a living.

Attraction

Attraction
Why is being attracted to someone treated like an act of violence?

Being back in the singles world has brought the topic of attraction into my mind a lot. During my limbo time, I spent a lot of time thinking about it as well. There is an aspect of attraction that’s based primarily in visual appearance. This aspect is very large. Our culture places a lot of value in visual appearance. We’re fed a steady stream of images of beautiful bodies and faces to try to sell us products or influence our choices in any number of ways. This builds in us expectations about what our romantic potentials can be, and those expectations can be problematic. Not everyone can match these ideals, especially because the images we are shown are retouched, to take the individuals at the 99th percentile of physical attractiveness beyond the realm of the possible. They don’t even look like the images of them that we see, not even after professionals dress them and do their hair and make-up. These images of women seem to be based in a model of beauty most closely associated with women 20-25 – prime child-bearing years. Girls as young as 12 and 13 and older women are using make-up and other appearance-altering technologies to try to match that model. Which only serves to validate that this is what beauty is supposed to look like, and that this is what men should expect from women they are going to pursue romantically.

I have learned that there are a number of basic looks that I find attractive. Frequently, when I see someone in the wild and find them attractive, there is someone else I’ve known or known of with a similar look that I already liked looking at.  And I’ve analyzed some of those looks to see what about them I like, and what that says about me. Those who’ve known me for long know about the short, blond, cute combination that’s a particular favorite of mine. For me, short is easy to come by, since women taller than my shoulders are few and far between. But very short – under 5’4”, for instance – has a particular appeal, and I think it has to do with the implication of physical vulnerability that I want to protect. Experience doesn’t teach me this – I’ve found short women to be frequently quite feisty and tough, and I respect that. And like it.

In my interactions with the Mormon Single Adult world, even before I joined it, the complaint I’ve heard the most frequently has to do with older men attracted to and pursuing younger women. The Middle Singles program is for those 30ish – 45ish, and this means that the younger women are in their 30s, and the older men are, perhaps, in their 50s. Those familiar with my dating rules will know that I think a decade is plenty enough age difference for most folks, as too much age difference can bring generational differences in cultural and life experiences, making it more difficult to relate to each other. I know of couples who demonstrate that this rule is not absolute, but I do understand the principle behind the complaint. However, I want to point out that 30 isn’t 13, and being attracted to a 30 year old woman isn’t a sign of pedophilia. One of reasons for the subtitle of this article.
I’ve come to the conclusion that pretty girls are always going to catch my eye, because they always have. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Being pretty doesn’t mean that they are better, smarter, whatever-er than anybody else. I’ve decided that, for me, the thing to do with pretty people is to look at them, and enjoy that feeling that comes from looking at them. It’s kinda like the feeling I get when holding a baby. But that feeling doesn’t mean anything about what I should do with the future regarding that person.

Dancing Partners

Most of my dancing experience has been in the world of Country Dance (not in any way to be confused with dance styles linked to Country/Western Music, like Country Line Dance aka Cowboy Disco, which I do not do). Scottish Country Dance, English Country Dance, and Contradance. In these styles of dance, your partner is your ticket to dance, as they are danced as couples, in sets of two to four couples, arranged in squares or long-lines. One can not line up until one has a partner, so the selection of a partner is something to be done quickly, and need not imply any kind of romantic interest. When attending with a date/spouse, it is customary to dance with that person as a partner for the first and last dance of the evening. and the waltzs that may end each half of the dance, and then to dance with other partners the remainder of the night (exchange of kisses for those in a kissing relationship when passing by each other is not uncommon). My former (male) roommate, found that the best partners in contradance were the older women, because they really knew what they were doing. I agree. Some families dance together in any of these forms, and so there can be young girls dancing as well. When selecting a partner among them, I’ve found that there is a minimum height below which it is quite awkward to try to dance with them, as certain figures nearly require picking them up, but, otherwise, I have found no minimum age for a partner.
When I was 13, asking a girl to dance felt’ like declaring undying love and asking for marriage and babies. It’s not. It’s just asking for a dance, and keeping closish company for up to five minutes.

Showing Attraction:

The past 20 years, I’ve been separated, but still married, so I practiced making no external sign of attraction. Prior to marriage, I avoided making external signs of attraction, because, when people found out who I was attracted to, they would do their best to torture me about it, because they found that torture funny. If you’re one of those people who enjoys this, you are an ass-hole, and you deserve no friends. Now, stop doing it, and you might be redeemable. Maybe. Showing women signs of attraction toward them seems to be highly valued, but not so much when they don’t find you attractive back (in my experience). There’s a fine line between showing attraction and stalking and being creepy, and I want to stay on the right side of it, but it’s not always clear where that falls.

This is also where the attraction can be treated like an act of violence, thus the subtitle above.  To paraphrase an old advertising slogan, “Don’t hate me because you’re beautiful.”

I won’t be Tenchi

In recent conversations I’ve had about sex, particularly among Mormons, I’m reminded of a phenomenon I’ve noticed in some Japanese anime series, most particularly Tenchi Muyo. Tenchi Muyo tells the story of 20-something Tenchi Masaki, who lives with his grandfather and a group of extra-terrestrial women, all of whom pursue him romantically. That is, they fight over him, and who “gets” him, on an ongoing basis. However, if he ever gives any indication that, at any point in the future, in any kind of context (like, after marriage), he has any interest in having sex with any of them, he is declared to be a “pervert,” and, usually, slapped.

Now, I am not the object of romantic rivalry between any number of women, let alone extra-terrestrial women. But I do find myself being treated with suspicion and accusation for wanting to talk about sex. I’ve not yet been slapped for it, or openly called a pervert (which is good — I will not hesitate to refer anyone slapping me for assault charges), but I’m not willing to let this suspicion and accusation issue go unchallenged.

In a Mormon context, sex is a very important thing. Sex with anyone other than a heterosexually married spouse violates the Law of Chastity, which is seen as among the most serious of sins (sometimes, second only to murder in severity). I don’t disagree with the standards of the Law of Chastity, although I do think the ways in which the subject is treated among Mormons can become unhealthy. Laura Brotherson, a Mormon therapist, has written a book on the subject titled And They Were Not Ashamed — Strengthening Marriage through Sexual Fulfillment that discusses the importance of a healthy sexual relationship in marriage from a Mormon perspective. Interest in sex is normal, and a good thing. Discussion about it isn’t necessarily inappropriate. Sexual conversations, of course, can be inappropriate. But where the purpose of the conversation isn’t to encourage people to inappropriate sexual behavior, there is some room for conversation.

My positions on some Mormon questions.

It has occurred to me that some folks might be interested in/concerned about where I stand on some key questions about Mormonism, particularly when I’m speaking up for people who are being accused of apostasy. This will kinda be a wordy version of what could be nicely handled by a Mormon Geek Code if such a thing existed and was widely understood.

The Church is true?
Yes. But I’m not entirely certain what “true” means. But my Yes is solid and unequivocal.
The Book of Mormon is true?
Yes, solidly and unequivocally also. Again uncertain about “true” and reasonably certain that the explanation of who and where it describes that I was taught as a child is not literally true. I’m okay with the legendary descriptions of how it was translated not being literally true, and I’m also not bothered by horses, iron, swords, concrete, etc.
Prophets are fallible men inspired by God.
Yes. So stories about their frailties, mistakes and bad choices don’t blow me away – I’m interested in those stories, but they don’t impact the first question at all.
Plural marriage
Also doesn’t blow me away, even the post-Manifesto stuff. Don’t expect to practice it in my lifetime.
Book of Abraham
My position is a hybrid of the Catalyst Theory and the Missing Papyrus Theory. The papyri we have were not written by Abraham and do not contain the text of the BoA. However, there might be missing papyri which contain that text and could possibly have been written by Abraham (but I doubt that last part). The text is the word of God, and I’m not bothered if it is not literally connected to the Abraham Papyri.
Ordaining women
I don’t know. I’m not persuaded that this is necessary, or that it would be good. OTOH, I strongly support the ability to ask for this, on the grounds that it’s always okay to ask for what you want, as long as you will gracefully take “no” for an answer. I don’t accept that that answer has been given yet.

We Never Walk Alone — Sacrament Meeting Talk

We Never Walk Alone

12 Jan 2014

Arlington Third Ward.

There is nothing in this world quite like a simple, clear, obvious, undeniably true statement with which no reasonable person can disagree. I have become convinced that there is absolutely nothing like it – there is no such thing. Through my life, I have come to see that there is much truth to be found in challenging what seems to be obviously true. One of the first times I remember noticing that phenomenon was the first time I read the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus taught that we should reward those who take from us by giving more, those who strike us by giving them a chance to strike us again, and that we should actually love our enemies. It seems obviously true that we should punish those who take from us, defend ourselves from those who hit is, and hate our enemies. Left to ourselves, we do such things, in point of fact. But the Savior challenges us to return good for evil. To do something that, at first blush, seems to contradict reason.

There is a term for a situation where two things seem to be mutually exclusive, but are both true, and that is a dialectic. Where simple logic seems to dictate black and white, either/or thinking, dialectic describes shades of gray and yes/and thinking. Rather than good people on one side and bad people on the other, dialectic shows us just people, children of God, our brothers and sisters who are and do both good and bad on all sides of a question – and there are usually more than two sides to any story. Where simple logic seems to dictate that good people receive good things that make them happy, and bad people receive bad things that make them unhappy, dialectic, life and the gospel show us that people can receive bad things in their lives despite making good choices, and can receive pleasant things in their lives despite making bad choices. I believe that dialectics exist due to reality being more complex than our language and minds can totally comprehend. Continue reading We Never Walk Alone — Sacrament Meeting Talk

Some More Thoughts on Gun Control and Mass Shootings

Another excerpt of comments from a conversation.

I’ve got no particular problem with the kinds of things Will was talking about (background checks, mental health requirements, and license requirements), but I return to my previous point, and will add another — they aren’t going to work until their enforcement is funded, and they’re not going to really stop horrible things from happening. There are enough guns in circulation that nothing is going to stop someone who really wants a gun from getting it. If we can’t keep weapons and drugs out of prisons, we’re not going to be able to keep them from people outside prisons.

But passing laws to attempt to change the behavior of people who won’t obey laws is ridiculous on its face. It’s like trying to stop people from speeding by reducing the speed limit.

To the notion of strengthening regulation, and reducing the number of guns:

Reduce the numbers how? There are about 300 million guns in the country. If you got rid of 90% of them, there’d still be 30 million — enough to have a reenactment of WWII. And there’s no way you’ll get more than 10% of that in real terms in an environment where you can’t pass a ban on assault-styled hunting rifles.

And how are you going to strengthen those regulations without *funding their enforcement?* That’s the Achilles’ Heel of nearly every gun control scheme floating around — no one has made any serious effort to fund the existing laws. Without that, regulations have no strength at all — they are virtually meaningless.

I think the best idea is to pay attention to the realities of the situation. School and other mass shootings scare the hell out of us and piss us off, but they’re exceptionally rare events, and reducing their frequency by any kind of government effort is extremely unlikely — they tend to happen in gun-free zones, for one thing. Accidental shootings are more dangerous and quite preventable with gun safety education. The NRA has Eddie Eagle curriculum for gun safety classes for pre-schoolers that they make available for free to anybody who wants to use it. That doesn’t take any change in law — just people willing to stand up and do it. Why every school in the country isn’t doing this is beyond me. Well, except the part about how folks hate the NRA, and assume the curriculum would be brainwashing kids about how cool guns are. Which it doesn’t: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wIEBrb_wRYc. That’s not sexy, but it could really be effective.

Pants Day is Coming!

I was not, originally, a fan of Pants Day last year.  I was thinking “Oh, those wacky Mormon feminists (that I love — let’s be clear) are just picking a fight they don’t need to pick, and this is a bad idea.”  But I love Mormon feminists, so I paid attention to what they were saying, and I found they weren’t being as wacky as I originally thought.  Things I learned by listening:

  • This wasn’t a protest.
  • This wasn’t violating policy — pants have been approved for women to wear to Church for decades.
  • The point was to help Mormon feminists (and fellow travelers, like me) to identify each other, and to provide a time when those who haven’t had as much contact with the Church of late could come and find people who might be able to help them find a place within the Church.
  • Wearing of pants wasn’t required to participate.  Wearing purple would do.

So, nobody was being disobedient or rebellious, and people were coming to Church who hadn’t in a long time.  Looked like all up-side to me.

And then I went to the Salt Lake Tribune’s website, and looked at the discussion on an article about the event, and was, frankly, disgusted.  Not by the rebellious, garment-burning feminists, but by the out-of-control reaction of their opponents.  Threats of violence and death — this is not an exaggeration.  Ugliness and verbal abuse all over the place by people who clearly prided themselves on being “good” Mormons, but who clearly had a shaky grip on the notion of how a Christian is supposed to behave.

That was when I decided I was going to participate and support this.  Not because I think women wearing pants to Church is very important — I don’t.  But because I wanted to do what I could to show that the hateful and disgusting rhetoric of those idiots on the discussion board do not represent all Mormons.

I wore a purple shirt and a tie with purple in it that day.  I didn’t see any women in my ward in pants, but I did see a sister wearing purple and her husband said to me “Oh, yeah.  We were supposed to wear purple today!”  He was wearing a white shirt, which he usually didn’t.  But the mission was accomplished — I had identified myself as a participant to those in the know, and had connected with folks who were open to things on the less-than-orthodox side of Mormonism, like me.

I’m going to do the same thing this year.  I’m no more feminist than I was last year (and no less, either).  I don’t think I’m going to be any more “out” because of it.  But I want to join with my feminist friends in making a space within the Church where those who feel like they don’t fit in can feel welcome.  The Church needs Mormons of all kinds, with all kinds of labels and perspectives and relationships with the institutional Church, until we all come in the unity of faith.  Not unity of opinion — unity of faith.  Those who are more drawn to notions of social justice, equality, and voting for Democrats are necessary to the Church reaching its potential, just as those drawn to notions of traditional values, hard work and voting for Republicans are.  Like 1 Cor 12 says, all kinds are needed — a body needs eyes, feet, hands, and a spleen. Even a butt-hole (try running a body without one for a while and see how that works for you), so there’s room for me.

I invite others to join me in this.  Be you eye, hand, or NOM or ex-Mo or non-Mo.  Put on some pants or trousers or purple and show up and you may find yourself in the presence of brothers and sisters you never knew you had.  I am surrounded by brothers and sisters that I see as such, who don’t see anything like that in me.  15 Dec.  LDS.org can help you find a meetinghouse close to you, or the congregation that you live within.

Getting stuff done.

As my vacation winds to a close (with a little bump yesterday — 7 hours on the floor), I am pleased with what I got done.  Not everything I intended to, but a bunch of important things.

With the help of the girls (and the boy-in-law), we finished processing four baskets, three produce bags, and a box of apples into pie filling, applesauce (spiced and strawberry) and apple butter (with only the first batch overdone) and canned them, with only two jars not sealing.  Many of the jars were popping within minutes of being taken out of the canner, and I had several popping while still in the canner (I think that means that they were boiled longer than they needed to be).

I went to two medical appointments, and have three appointments scheduled for follow-up.  These are resulting in better management of my depression (steady as she goes with the Zoloft for another month, with the option of upping the dose at any time), diabetes (I can has fast insulin and test strips?  I can!), and whatever the firetruck is wrong with my shoulders (including x-rays on the left shoulder, which is a lot worse).

The diabetes management is throwing complications into my day (I remembered to take fast insulin before breakfast, but, fifteen minutes later, was busy doing something else and didn’t get any breakfast, so I’m feeling a little hypo right now), but I’m rolling with it, and I’m promising to test way more often (before each meal) and to take the fast insulin before each meal and slow insulin at night, before bed.  I think I’m enough in the world of day-time people that I can possibly make that routine work when I’m getting up for work, too.  It’s going to take a while to make it routine.