21 Nov

Amazement: Occasional Friends

Posted by Jenna, Under Uncategorized

Day 20 of NaBloPoMo 2014: Married to Amazement

Today goes to occasional friends. Not the lifelong friends I see occasionally, and not the core group of friends that live around me and feel essential to my sanity and happiness. 

Occasional friends are those like HH. She is a Bay Area reader of That Wife who made it onto a list I keep of people who have expressed interest in getting together on the weekends (a list I’ll be referring to once again now that TH is working just as much as he was before; new job is not quite what we thought it would be). HH had never met me before but because she is the sort of a person who is open to possibility she agreed to spend an hour driving in the car with me to a food festival. We clicked immediately.  She was also working to build up her friend base after a recent move to San Francisco, and we even got together one night for a kid-free double-date. 

We live an hour away from each other, and we’re both moms, so we don’t see each other very often. When we do I really enjoy reliving the recent past as we catch up with each other. She adds a slightly different perspective on things than what I get from the friends I see on a more regular basis, and I really like that. I think finding the line between self-care and friend-care can sometimes be difficult. Try as I might, there is only so much room for daily/weekly contact with non-familial relations and I’ve found that spreading myself too thin neglects both myself and the people who deserve something better. 

And so I’ve learned to create a new category, occasional friends. Maybe we live a bit farther away from each other, or maybe we lead drastically different lifestyles. Occasional friends meet me over a drink or at the park with our kids a few times a year, we swap stories, I listen to what they have to say and think “I hadn’t thought about it that way before,” and we part declaring that the exchange needs to happen again, soon. It never seems to happen quite as often as we promise each other it will, but that’s okay. We are occasional friends and we both know we’re good with what we’ve got.

20 Nov

Amazement: Ex-Mormon Friends

Posted by Jenna, Under Personal

Day 19 of NaBloPoMo: Married to Amazement

As I worked my way toward exiting Mormonism I tiptoed into the world of progress/ex/liberal Mormon Facebook groups. There are dozens, geared toward almost any audience you can imagined. I was posting frequently in the group created by the Feminist Mormon Housewives founder, and mentioned unhappiness with our new congregation in the Palo Alto area. A San Jose former-Mormon reached out to me and asked if I would like to be added to a small group for post-Mormon women in the Bay Area, and that is how I was introduced to a tiny troop of women who have become my replacement for the social structure I used to find through Mormonism. I didn’t realize until I left how much I depended on religion to meet my social needs.

This is a group where I can talk about anything related to religion or leaving religion or navigating the world of ex-Mormonism (what underwear are the ladies loving nowadays?) and the audience gets it. There are actually very few aspects of my life that weren’t affected by my decision to exit the faith of my childhood, and whatever I’m going through they are right there with me, 100% supportive. We talk about porn shoulders and cleavage, alcohol, drugs, tattoos, our children being exposed to Mormonism via our believing parents, sex, parenting, marriage, creating new traditions for religious holidays, frustrations, heartbreak, triumph, and everything in between. Today one of the women posted about sick kids and being overwhelmed and immediately there were a dozen responses offering childcare and babysitting and transportation. It feels just like the support found in the LDS church’s women’s organization, but without the guilt and religious overtones I felt oppressed by once I went through my faith transition.

We’re getting together for Thanksgiving, there are regular get-togethers for spouses and families, monthly ladies nights, park playdates, swimming parties, beach trips… Yeah, I know am damn lucky to be a part of a group like this.

I thought leaving my faith would be most difficult because of the ways my decision would intersect with the viewpoints of believing family and friends, but I think moving to a new place and learning how to form relationships outside of church has been even harder.  I also have a circle of never-mo friends who rock my socks (you know who you are!) but the post-Mormon crowd fills a special hole in my heart that needed stuffing. (Mmmmm, stuffing. We’re going to have a fabulous time together at Thanksgiving.)

18 Nov

Amazement: Empathetic Friends

Posted by Jenna, Under Personal

Day 18 of NaBloPoMo: Married to Amazement

Sometime around 2010 a commenter on That Wife challenged my assertion that anyone who can’t make Mormonism work just wasn’t trying hard enough. I called her a Cafeteria Mormon and told her she was a poor representation of the faith, and if she couldn’t do it “right” then she shouldn’t attend at all. Somehow I felt like she was ruining it for the rest of us.

A few years later I had a close friend tell me the exact same thing. I was going through my faith transition, sharing my evolving viewpoints in the Awakening series*, and she didn’t like the way it was portraying Mormonism to the general public. She told me to stop talking about it, and eventually she stopped reading my blog altogether. I understood where she was coming from, acknowledging that I had done the same thing to someone else, but it was a bitter pill to swallow.

These two experiences, among several others over the last five years, have dramatically affected how I view the world and the people in it. I came out of my childhood with a bootstrap mentality (as in, pull yourself up by them) and don’t think I was someone who made much effort to listen to and validate the experiences of others. The change came from being exposed to the stories of other people, and really taking the time to think through how different my life experiences were than theirs and what it would be like for me if I walked in their shoes for a bit. Yet another way blogging has made me a better person.

I haven’t always been an empathetic friend, but I’m trying to act as one now. Life is hard, for all of us in different ways. I want those close to me to know that they can come to me when they need someone with an open mind and kind heart. So many things circle back to kindness.

*If you’re new, you can read why I left Mormonism entirely here.

17 Nov

Amazement: Feminist Friends

Posted by Jenna, Under Personal

Day 17 of NaBloPoMo: Married to Amazement

Becoming a feminist can be a little like giving birth to a new identity. The buildup to the pinnacle of the journey is long and uphill, and once the new feminist self is born the world feels like a different place. All of life’s experiences are altered slightly as they are processed through a new lens. Friends who knew you might not understand the new identity you’ve taken on.

I have a lot of relationships with people who have been very patient with me through my feminist. Some of them are feminists, taking the time to nurture me through my feminist-in-embryo period (I consider myself a sort of pre-teen right now). Some of them are not ready to classify themselves that way, but they still took the time to listen and reflect on my ideas and push me as I tested out my wings. Some of them are men who disagree with me but are willing to debate and challenge in a way that isn’t diminishing or defensive (to be honest, I’m the one that struggles with defensiveness).

My feminism has benefited greatly from multiple perspectives and I’m glad whenever people are willing to offer up their ideas when I voice my own. Well, initially I’m frustrated that everyone doesn’t agree with me. Then later I’m glad. (Sometimes much later, but just give it time.)

The conversation needs more contributions if the movement is going to progress! Join in, even if you don’t feel ready to claim that title yet. There’s more equality still to be found.

16 Nov

Amazement: Candid Friends

Posted by Jenna, Under Personal

Day 16 of NaBloPoMo: Married to Amazement

I walked into the kitchen and said “I’m happy. Really happy.” TH looked up from his lunch and said “Oh really? I wasn’t sure. I’m glad.

TH didn’t have any negative intentions when he responded this way, but his reply sent me off into an abrupt bout of confusion and sadness. In high school we did a word game where we turned each letter of our friend’s name into an adjective to describe them. My partner wrote “J – Jubilant.” Bubbly, extroverted, happy, full of life. Those are the ways other people described me, and it was something I really liked about myself. To hear the person who knows me best express that they didn’t know I was enjoying my life was largely what inspired this month of gratitude posting. I want to shift not only the way I perceive my life, but the way I express my feelings on a daily basis.

At first I thought I had morphed into a pessimist, but a candid (fairly recent) friend described me as “cynical.” She hasn’t known me any other way, and so I think it’s interesting to hear her description. I’m not thrilled with that either, but it does feel like the best way to describe how I was/am being perceived. I’m trying to combat this by taking more deep breaths, refocusing on what energizes me, vocalizing positive reactions and feelings more often, using NaBloPoMo as a writing exercise focused on gratitude, and enjoying the good moments as they are happening without any expectation about how many there will be or how long they will last.

“You can never know the good if you never know the bad, you can never be happy if you’ve never been sad.” – My Turn on Earth

This is why I’m grateful for frank friends, the kind who really know me, and are willing to push me to be better when I express a willingness to change. This week I had a close friend ask me for some honest feedback, and speaking candidly felt scary because I was worried that I might hurt her or damage our friendship with my opinions. I think friendships grow when they experience tension like that. I’m hoping that my friends will sense that they can be real with me, because I’ve got a lot of changes to make. Diminishing my cynicism was just the beginning.

      I'm a farm-raised almost-crunchy stroller-pushing picture-taking lifestyle-blog-writing gastronomy-obsessed divine-seeking thrift-store-combing cheese-inhaling pavement-pounding laughter-sprinkling lover of individuality and taking chances.
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