Saturday, March 3, 2018

I Found Peace

For months now, I have wondered, what will happen on the day I set foot in Memorial Stadium again? Will I cry? Will I be sad? Will the magic be gone, and in its place only the ache and longing for 'the good old days?'

Today was that day. I am shocked it came so soon. It shouldn't have. The first home game that the Reign have in Memorial Stadium is March 24th. Their first game, technically, is a pre-season opener against UW , at UW soccer stadium this Thursday. 

So last night when one of my friends DM'ed  me on Twitter and asked if I wanted to go to a closed scrimmage between the Reign and Washington State University, I decided to make this happen. To have my moment with memorial, and not have it in the middle of a crowd sounded ideal, heaven sent. All my fears, all the emotions and the chance to confront them, and sit with them rested upon me all morning.

When I woke up, I felt like I have been too lucky, the universe has thrown too much good my way, and it scared me. I seriously thought for a moment, that with this much good happening in my life, surely it means something terrible is coming and im going to die in the next year of cancer or something, because this much good just cant happen to me.  And  the  I did my Align With Joy gratitude journal.

By the end of the journal I felt like I had been wrong. Good things are happening because I am inviting them to happen, and I am open to opportunities that present themselves. I met my friend that invited me today through my time volunteering with the reign last season. If I hadn't put myself out there, today wouldn't have happened.  If I hadn't taken the chance, and made the effort of saying yes to my friend and orchestrating last minute arrangements last night, it still wouldn't have happened.

When I finished my journal I decided to get up, take a shower, do my make up and hair, put in contacts, and wear clothes that make me feel confident. I prepared to have a magical experience, and I fully expected on. So it happened. But it almost didn't happen.

At 8:25 my friend dropped me off the ferry. At 8:35 they announced that sailing was cancled. It would be cutting it close to drive to the other ferry, and driving around was cutting it close as well. I felt hopeless for a minute, like everything I had worked for had just been shut down by fate.

But I had to get there, and I had to have this moment. When my friend came back to get me, I asked if it would be possible to drive me to the bainbridge ferry, if we went straight there, we could probably make it in time. I was fortunate, and he could, and was willing. I could not have done this today without him. I think that's an important lesson, always ask for help when you need it. Always.

I made the bainbridge ferry with about 10 minutes before they started loading walk-ons. I put in my music, and started to do my reading for psychology class. In it I read that music, and hugs can increase dopamine in a similar way to certain drugs. I decided then that I should listen to the latest macklemore album while at the game.

Memorial Stadium being my church, Gemini is my Hymns. 

I had to take a Lyft to get to the stadium on time, but I did it. I sat with friends and we talked through some of our pain and sadness, and we experienced a renewal of the magic. I will still be fine in Memorial this year. What I found, sitting there watching  the very new Reign team and being in Memorial Stadium was peace with what had happened and what was before me.

And that may have been influenced by the music I chose. The first song I played there was 'Excavate'  and one of the lyrics in the chorus is "I found peace".

At the end of the game we had a chance to chat with two of the players that I met at the Ride with the Reign event. I was surprised that they seemed to remeber me and our hour or so chatting as well as I did. And that was pretty cool.

So, I think, even though there will always be things about this off season that make me a little sad, things and people I will always miss, I am at peace now. I am ready to create the things I have been asked to, and to help bring the magic in every way I can, not only for myself, but for as many as come to memorial stadium.

I'm already signed up for another year of volunteer set up before the games, and I am excited for the season that is ahead of  me at last.

One final note on players today, it was incredible to watch Jasmine Spencer play in person. She is one of our trade ins  from Orlando, and she was a joy to watch.

And now I will leave you with the words to another maclemore song on the album Gemini, 'Ain't Gonna Die Tonight':

"I ain't gonna die tonight
You can't kill me, not my spirit
History is ours tonight
The people are chanting, can't you hear it?
Whoa-oh-oh, whoa-oh-oh

Open up the doors on 'em, we playing tonight
Bring on the marching band and turn on the stadium lights
They gonna learn from me, this is our church to be
Life of a champion, ugh, so Freddy Mercury"

Thursday, February 1, 2018

La Petite Mandi: Risking Tears, The Price of The Color of Wheat

Last night I didn't think I was feeling up to a movie with my movie HusFriend (this is our new made up name for our movie watching buddyship) but I really did want to see 'Call Me By Your Name' So I went any way.  I've been a super on the sad side of things since Monday when a whole bunch of my favorite soccer players got traded. I was sad they were going, but even more than that, as it reached the point nearly half our team were gone, and our old coach, it felt like everything I had grown to love and become familiar with with the Reign was being mercilessly torn from me at once.  I had decided to sit with those feelings and just let them be, but I also was feeling a little bit of shame for feeling that torn up over soccer players, and a soccer team.

I am incredibly glad that I went to 'Call Me By Your Name.' At the end of the film the dad gives this epic speech that was so validating and life changing for me. 

He said   "In your place, if there is pain, nurse it, and if there is a flame, don't snuff it out, don't be brutal with it. Withdrawal can be a terrible thing when it keeps us awake at night, and watching others forget us sooner than we'd want to be forgotten is no better. We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster than we should that we go bankrupt by the age of thirty and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to feel nothing so as not to feel anything—what a waste!"

I don't remember anyone every giving me permission to feel things like that before. I sat in that movie theater and grabbed my friend Rick's hand and just cried. It resonated so deeply with me, having a moment to just sit and remember life defining experiences and people that have helped shape and change you, giving them a proper place, so that you are prepared and able to properly let in new people and new experiences. 

It was something that I had been trying to put words to and explain to another friend, that was concerned about new soccer players coming in not getting the welcome they deserve because everyone was so heartbroken about those leaving.  But to give the new ones a proper place, we must also give the old ones a proper moment. As I have looked at threads of Orlando fans and seen some express such sorrow and rage about their old players going, what I see are people who have created ties, who care, and who have invested. I have no doubt that they will take care of my players I care about because they invest and they care. 

This morning, When I went to work, I was determined to do what the dad said in the movie. To feel my pain, my anger, my sadness, to remember the joy, and experiences that brought me that pain, to face it down and not be afraid of what I might find. So I started the day listening to a lot of Green Day, because that is where I was angry, sad and alone.  By lunch time  I realized that I needed to go outside and I needed to go for a walk. At this point, I was starting to remember the words of the wisest book I have ever read, The Little Prince, By Antoine De Saint-Exupery.  

"And when you are consoled (everyone eventually is consoled), you'll be glad you've known me. You'll always be my friend. You'll feel like laughing with me. And you'll open your window sometimes just for the fun of it... and your friends will be amazed to see you laughing while you're looking up at the sky. Then you'll tell them, 'Yes, it's the stars; they always make me laugh!' And they'll think you're crazy. It'll be a nasty trick I played on you...  And it'll be as if I had given you, instead of stars, a lot of tiny bells that know how to laugh..."   

And the I thought of when the Little Prince was about to leave his friend the fox.  How when it was time for the Little Prince, to leave  he said "I shall weep."  and the Little Prince told him, basically that he never meant to bring him sorrow. But the fox told him it was worth it "because of the color of the wheat." which was the color of the Little Princes hair, and would always remind the fox of his friend. 

Thinking of this, I knew that I had to take a very deliberate walk in my own 'wheat field'. Haley Kopmeyer (Reign goalie) left me a gift that I will never cease to treasure. When I first heard word of the transfer, I thought this was a curse, that it would just remind me of how sad I was, until today. You see, two Stops With Kops episode were filmed right by my work.  In fact, in one of my most sacred places on the earth, and has been since I moved here nearly a decade ago.  Stops With Kops were some short YouTube videos that helped introduce the world to some of the soccer team in a non-soccer setting. I highly recommend watching them if you haven't, even my non-soccer friends adore them. 

So this wheat field I had to walk in was metaphorical. It was to go take a walk to these two stops, very intentionally and deliberately, feeling my feelings as deeply vulnerably as I possibly could, remembering that this would be my 'field of wheat'.  As I walked I felt such deep peace and connection to my surroundings. It shocked me, because I didn't feel sad or angry any more. I began to be consoled, and it began to be a gift. I had a few tears build up in my eyes, but for the first time in days they weren't angry or hurt, or afraid tears, they were peaceful tears, and I laughed a time or two, and people may or may not have thought I was strange or crazy. 

But as I walked a new question began to pop into my head.  How did these soccer players come to matter so much to me? Its not like we were friends. They didn't really know me, I didn't really know them. How did this happen?   In the Little Prince it talks about creating ties. In the original it was said "You risk tears if you let yourself be tamed"  tamed meaning 'to create/establish ties'.  The fox also teaches the prince that it was the time he spent on his friend(the rose)that made his friend meaningful and important to him. 

I thought about this, and I had to wonder how I had managed to create ties deep enough to care this much. It wouldn't come from no where. I thought about my first time at a game, I wasn't invested at all. I sat in the supporters section and I felt lost, I didn't know who anyone was on the field or in the bleachers, but they seemed to know. by the end of the game it started to mater to me. There was some person named "Fishlock"  that was the first name that stuck, easy to remember. She seemed important to them.  I loved being there, so I came back for more. I went for about 4 games and then decided I needed to get season tickets for the next season. 

The next season I saw a request looking for volunteers to help set up the stadiums on game days. by this point, I just wanted to do anything I could to help this league survive. They were really amazingly talented players, and this thing needed to be seen and respected by more people. So I volunteered. I mostly worked up in the retail area, setting up the clothes. I got to know the people there, I started to make friends. I became more invested. A time or two I helped set up the field. I learned about the effort it took to put out the goals, and to unfurl the advertising tarps.  The volunteer coordinator left at the end of that year, and I was as sad for her to go as I was anyone that retired or was traded at the end of the season. 

 I also had made a friend from Kuwait that year. The entire season I sat with her in our spot. It was an amazing spot. She always went to the fan zone after the game. I had no desire to go there, I didn't want to be  some uncool adult waiting around for autographs from soccer players, and I also just didn't feel comfortable taking up these players time or chatting with them. My friend from Kuwait did though. So after every game she drug me down there, and I stood back while she shared laughs with these people as they signed her shirt, or her flag.  I was impressed at how down to earth they were, how willing to engage and connect with the fans. I started to let the players into my heart a bit. It started to become personal. And I started to bring more people with me to games. We grew to a group. and then my friend went back to Kuwait, and my girlfriend and I broke up. The season ended and I found myself very alone going into the next one. 

I bought season tickets again, and hoped it would be as magical as the first full season. I no longer had friends to go with me, but once again opportunities to volunteer came, and I took my season ticket and gave it to different friends so I would hopefully not have to sit alone. I found that some of the retail people I knew the year before were around again. I also found I that the new match day experience coordinator was actually pretty awesome. I quickly started to make more friends among the volunteers as we worked side by side on game days, moving heavy things, and setting up the field. 

We would pass the coach or some of the players on the field or in the locker room as we went about our day. I always just tried to keep my head down and do my job, and stay out of their way. Every so often I would be completely disarmed with a hello, or a wave. I started to care even more. Stops with Kop came out, and through it the community started to know who these players were. It connected us, I think in a way that hadn't happened before. It was easier to get friends to come to games, and when they did I remembered how going to the fan zone with my Kuwaiti friend had "created ties" and made it a very personally invested experience for me.  I decided even though that still wasn't really my thing, that I would copy her example and try to share that special experience with people I brought to the game.  

The strange thing was that it usually made it more special for me doing it that way, and it continued to create and deepen ties to the team, to the stadium and surprisingly to other fans. I had some amazing conversations with complete strangers down there "fan girling" it out together.  I also had a few moments from a new volunteer roll. Hesitatingly I agreed to help out with will call a few times this year.  I met some of the players family and friends this way. One of my volunteer friends was always chatting and friendly with some Australian that knew one of the players. At first, this was a player I really didn't even care remotely about. 

I remember thinking Who is that? and why should I care? but every week as my friend got excited to talk to this woman about their Finding Euphoria shirts, it just made me curious. I would think "Who is this 'Nairn'?  If He thinks these people and their shirts are so great, maybe I should also get to know more about this. So I did. I started to follow people more on social media. Some of the players were very interactive. I eventually bought a Finding Euphoria shirt, and then I started to learn the meaning behind it.  

As I walked around today and realized that the reason I have been sad, and scared and crying  over some soccer players, a coach, a team, a stadium, who should probably be nothing and no one to me, it was because of the time I spent on those players, that coach, that team, that stadium. 

 Game by game,  heavy gate by heavy gate, smile by smile, Stop w Kop by Stop, every goal, every game won, every game lost, every tweet read, and every tweet they replied to, every smoke bomb, every taco I ate, every chant I tried to join in with I "spent time on (my) rose"  and it became important to me. They became important to me. 

In the off season, I finally broke down my resistance and through twitter had become friends with the Royal Guard, the supporters group. That started to happen as I helped one of my volunteer friends hang Tifos before games, but twitter sealed the deal. I don't remember how it happened, but there was talk of needing/ wanting more player specific chants. So I invested some more of my time and my heart and I wrote a bunch.  Perhaps part of why I cried is that now we don't get to use most of those (if any of them were even good enough to use) because the players are gone. 

When it came down to it today, I found peace in my walk because I realized that the reason I couldn't yet support the new incoming players in the way I wanted, was because I know that to do that is to create ties.  And to create ties is to risk tears. In the midst of those tears, I was afraid to take that risk again, because I am in the middle of pain,and tears, and it scares me to put that much heart into it again. 

But as I walked in my "field of wheat" over to the Top Pot, and over to the water front and the aquarium, I heard what the Little Prince would have called the singing of the desert pulley. I saw the wheat of the Little Princes hair, I remembered, that you are forever responsible for the things your create ties to.  And I remembered that the Little Prince left in the end, but that it was OK because of the gifts he had left behind for the aviator. I saw those gifts, in my most sacred Seattle spot.  

As I hit the water front, it was no longer just the Stops with Kops moments I saw around me there, I saw my ex-fiancee and the night we had got back together after our first break up, the moment she held my hand, and the many beautiful moments me and her daughter spent on that waterfront. I looked over to the Seattle Aquarium, and I remembered Corsie and Kop's episode there, then I remembered my own friends there. My friend Amanda having lunch with me, my friend Jon and I in the little touching tide pool area. My parents, on one of their visits.  All people I rarely see, but always I have these little things with me.

 I realized that moments of deep joy were etched in this area. And moments of deep pain. Months and months of coming to the water, just trying to learn to breath again after Brandi and I broke up, both the first time, and the second time.  All those days struggling with my religion and my sexual orientation, painful faith crisis that I sorted through on that dock. It was all there, all at once, and it was exquisitely beautiful and mine. 

In that second, a question was answered that I have been asking myself for the past months. Do I really want to volunteer again? Do I really want to go to these games any more? Do I want to be in that stadium again? It might be painful, it might be sad. It may remind me of happy days past, and it might not live up to that nostalgia. What if I go again and its all ruined and tears? 

In that moment on the waterfront, one of two sacred spaces I hold in Seattle, I realized that all I have to do when I get to Memorial Stadium this season is walk in that wheat field again. Let myself connect to it, both the joy, and the pain, and the sadness. In doing that, Memorial Stadium will always live in my heart, and in being in and connecting to those moments, my whole history with it, every tie created, every drop of sweat I gave it, its beauty can only grow.  And when it is gone, it will be a piece of my soul. 

As I was walking I thought of one more thing about the Little Prince. When he talked to the fox about HIS flower, the fox had him go meet with a whole bush of rose. I always thought perhaps he was a little unfair to them. Yes, he realized his flower was special in that moment, because he had spent time with that flower. But he was horribly rude to the other flowers and told them they weren't special or important at all. But they were. They were to someone, just not him. Why? because he was hurting so much over his own rose, which they reminded him of, that he refused to create ties with them. 

I have gained friends wide and far that are fans of NWSL teams (that's the professional Women's soccer league that the Reign are in.)  A lot of my friends didn't just have their favorite players transferred this season, they had their whole team transferred, and some (Boston) lost their team and all their players, staff, everything completely.  We now have some of their players on our team here in  Seattle. That is their 'roses' that they spent their time on, that they created ties to. They are important people to someone, even if they are not yet important to me.  They are probably amazing people.  So I am going to do what I hope others will do for those that became important to me. I'm going to open my heart again, I'm going to follow the rituals, and I'm going to create the ties.  

Game by game, heavy object by heavy object, tarp by tarp, chant by chant, goal by goal, loss by loss, win by win, fan zone by fan zone. I'm going to take a chance on a new coach, on some new players in an old stadium that means everything to me.  And I don't even have to question what it will be like to risk those tears, because I am still crying them for the ones I risked before. 

I have taken many people with me, to this sacred space Memorial Stadium. I plan to do so again. It was my dream, before all my favorite players were transferred, to fill my section at memorial stadium with my friends. It is still my dream. If you do not like soccer, come with me any way. JUST one game. Do it for the sake of human connection. I have brought many people that didn't like soccer. I have never had any of them leave the game not wanting to come again. Come with me. Just one game. I promise you, there will be a piece of magic for you if you will risk the tears. By the way, Fishlock is still there, and we all still think she's pretty amazing.

For my friends that already have risked tears, that have invested deeply in the this league, in this team, in players that are now scattered far and near, I say to you, lets do this again. Lets create some ties. The most important things are invisible to the eyes. They can be seen only with the heart. Lets bring our hearts, lets risk it. Slowly, game by game, we will gain the color of the wheat.  These humans are talented, and they are worth that risk. 

If you live in Utah, please go take a chance and go see Laura Harvey, and her team. They are other peoples 'Roses'  and since we are now far away, it would do us good to know they are being appreciated. If you live by any NWSL team, go to one game. Its the same thing. If you don't live by any check out one game of the week on Lifetime, or any games on when the season starts. If you live outside the US, watch on  See if for just one moment, its not worth the risk that investing a little bit of your time can have. 

If you don't like soccer, and you really don't want to do any of this, I hope that you will get just one thing from this post. In life, change happens, and sometimes that is very hard. To have the things that we have created ties to feel distant from us can be painful. To have things change, can be painful. Let yourself feel it, and then when you are consoled, go take a walk in your field of wheat and remember. 

One last thing before I end this incredibly long post. As I walked today, I also thought of Phoenix Festival. This last season it didn't really connect for me, because I wasn't in a state of "Ashes" but this past week, I watched my team that meant so much to me basically finish burning to the ground. I sat in the ashes, and I lived there for a moment. Today I felt myself start to rise from that. I thought of Harry Potter, and that Phoenix tears have healing powers.  I realized that each time in life, when our everything burns to the ground, when change happens and we have to leave the past behind, when we rise again, we rise stronger because those past ties we created live in us and create those healing tears. 

Ever since my lunch walk, my tears have changed from angry, sad, painful tears, to healing tears. I feel that it was because of the process I went through to feel everything I felt completely and intensely, to let things burn and rage, and walk in that moment, connected and unafraid to face all the things, beautiful and painful as they were.

"In your place, if there is pain, nurse it, and if there is a flame, don't snuff it out, don't be brutal with it. Withdrawal can be a terrible thing when it keeps us awake at night, and watching others forget us sooner than we'd want to be forgotten is no better. We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster than we should that we go bankrupt by the age of thirty and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to feel nothing so as not to feel anything—what a waste!"

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Mandi's Wild Week

Hello dear readers.  I know I haven't been writing as steadily lately. The truth is I only ever say something when I have something to say, and I didn't have a lot to say, until this week hit. And then I had too much to ever possibly say. But I have taken a lot of time to process, and I'm ready for the word vomit portion of sitting with my discomfort on a couple of things. So hold onto your hat, its gonna be a long one.

Last Thursday, I believe It was the end of the day and I was just sitting in my office working. I went to go take a walk break and take a look at my phone. A friend had sent  a message asking if I had seen Josh weed's post about getting divorced, and what my feelings were on it.  Quite honestly in that moment it felt like the world stopped and the floor dropped right out from underneath me. It was just hard to breath or concentrate, and I will get to why eventually.

Fast forward to yesterday. I had had plenty of conversations about the weeds, and I was over it. I had also had plenty of conversations about the Boston Breakers soccer team folding in the NWSL, and though upset, it felt beyond me so I was also over that. Finally announcements had been made and reality could be dealt with. I settled into a peaceful place of thinking most of the tumultuous NWSL off season was over, and I was ready to breathe a sigh of relief because even though Carson Pickett still hadn't signed, and that was odd, I felt mostly like things had settled and I could go back to having some comfort and security in my little soccer community.  Then I went for my lunch walk and checked my phone (I need to stop doing this? maybe? probably not.) and  not only was my favorite player being traded  two others that I also really liked were being traded. There was no amount of emotional preparation that could have made that moment any easier. The floor dropped out from under me once again, and my world was in chaos right when I needed it to be calm and stable.

The first thing I noticed was that these players were going to Orlando, which is my second favorite team, and if they had to be traded, the place I would most want them to go. I had feared they would go to Utah, which was probably my greatest fear of all. and this is where things will start to tie together.  I love my family in friends in Utah. I do. I am happy that you got a team. I was not happy that you got Laura Harvey from us. I was fine that you got Matheson, because very funny twitter banter came of it.  But I have a lot of feelings around Utah, and I would prefer that some of my favorite soccer players never ever get traded there, I don't care how great your facilities are.  I have a lot of reasons for that, most of them are personal, and there is every chance that without that personal history, my favorite players would be just fine there.  But I don't think I would be fine watching them be there, so selfishly I wish them to stay in Seattle or go to Orlando.  and I guess, even though I'm sad this off season has panned out as it has, and its not what I wanted, I'm glad Kop and Nairn are going to Orlando. that at least gives me peace. I can support that, and support them there, where as Utah would have been too big of a blazing dumpster fire of emotion for me to even think about.

This isn't a post about soccer, so I guess I better move back to the hard stuff.  Josh Weed. I love Josh and Lolly. I felt probably eventually they would come to this point and end up getting divorced, but I wasn't expecting it now, just like I wasn't expecting those trades to happen now. Did I ever mention  that I hate surprises?  yeah. I super do.

The first thing I felt reading Joshes post, was that he had nailed the pain and cognitive dissonance that comes with being queer and being Mormon. And I think when you are born into a religion there are always going to be things that you can't get rid of.  I will never be able to rid myself of Mormonism its woven into the tapestry of my being, even if I no longer believe the religious parts of it. There are things I just do, and ways I just react because of the Mormon within.  I am coming to appreciate the good and the bad of that.

Joshes words, kind of hit the nail on the head for the struggles I once went through, the pain, the  just trying to survive on until you can be "fixed" that constant feeling of brokenness. I have never forgotten that feeling, but reading joshes posts brought it back to life in a way I haven't experienced for three years. When I look back at it now, it was that incredible thing I somehow survived and I'm just happy to be happy, and to not be there any more.  I struggled a bit with reading the religious beliefs still in his view of events transpiring. Not because of any particular problem with that, but just because it reminded me of when I was there, getting different answers from  God than I was supposed to, and accepting the fact that following that voice might cost me friends, family, and the only community I had ever known. Church.  My safety net.

Also, in reading Joshes words, I saw my self, as I was once one of his clients, sitting in his office, and having him help me to a point beyond where he himself was. I can remember the moment that everything kind of shifted, the point where things went from me feeling like he was understanding and helping, to a point where he was not going to be able to help me any further.  This tangles into another part of the story, so you will have to wait just a second for it.

Before I read his post I saw friends post of their anger and hurt at Josh. I only understood what they were talking about after I finally saw and read his blog post.  and this is where things get super complicated for me.

In 2012 when Josh and lolly wrote there original "Coming out post"  I was a re-closeted super hard core trying to be a good Mormon girl who started to have all her efforts crumble. Despite feeling "confused" from elementary school, all the way through college and a mission and college again, about why I would like women, when I knew I wasn't "supposed to" was mostly a frustrating and depressing experience that I was able to scapegoat off  on to grieving over  a string of friends dying in car accidents.  It wasn't until 2008 that I got smacked so hard in the face with my queerness that I had to just finally own it.  But I was a good Mormon girl, and it scared me, so I tried to process it and run away at the same time, because I was afraid what it would cost me. I thought it would cost me everything. dang. them were dark times.

In 2009, I had "repented" for  being me, and tried desperately hard once again to fit into them boxes that I was supposed to and didn't. I pulled it off  for about 2 years, blaming all my "gay thoughts" on the media.  Oh, Book of Mormon Musical.  Sorry. but the song "Turn it off" Wasn't lying.  and I tried that whole "take the box that's gay and crush it" approach.  Let me tell you, that doesn't work, and its deadly to try. Nothing made me feel more distant from myself , from my own person, from my own likes and dislikes, and interests than those two years.

Thankfully, we had some lovely gay ladies come join the singles ward when I was in the relief society presidency. and It was in watching, working with, and trying to keep them active in the church that I realized I was fighting a very losing battle in keeping this deep shame filled secret to myself. Eventually I came out to myself, to a hand full of friends, and then read Brene Brown and discovered the power of vulnerability that revolutionized my life and made me a bit more shame resilient.  It was right around this time that Josh Weed wrote his post. I know many of my friends got beat up by his post, and I am sorry for your pain, and for the family members that made things harder for you.

For me, that post possibly saved my life. It gave me enough hope, when I wasn't ready, and didn't have the support system even if I had been, to venture out away from the safety of "the gospel" and the LDS church.  Josh gave me hope. Hope enough to live, hope enough to open up, hope enough to start talking and stop hiding things inside and silently dying.  Since he was in my state, I went straight to him for counseling.  Some one once asked me if he did conversion therapy. Not at all. Everything he did was give me tools from a healthy clinical perspective to start to take ownership of my life, and even to love those parts of me that I had hated and  feared and buried so deep.  For the first time in my life, I started to feel like I could breathe a little, I could exist a little.  It was still hard, and not working at all for me to be dating guys at church.  Josh helped me realize that it was OK to not date them, and to not get married, but to listen to myself and what I knew I needed. It was particularly trying because I am bisexual, and I really wanted to force it to work so I could check all those important boxes and quite feeling like a broken second class citizen - by that point transitioning to a family ward.

Eventually, both josh and lolly, and myself separately participated in something called "The voices of hope project"  basically a testimonial of queer Mormons talking about how they were making it work. each of our stories came out painful and tragic, and were used often (though that wasn't my intent) to tell other gay Mormons that if they weren't sticking  with the church they were doing it wrong.  I still feel really bad about that. even though I pulled my video years ago.  I saw it being done even on some of the comment threads about my video and that hurt. I may never have reached the fame level of Josh Weed, nor did the damage he did, But I know there were at least a few people who got hit with my story and my "example"

I don't completely regret that though, because I did make friends with a wonderful and complete stranger from another country because of it, and I believe I remember her telling me it gave her hope. its a two edged sword, and really its just a part of my journey that I chose to share with the world. At the time I was as honest as I could be, with the world and with myself, just as josh was.

However that moment was the beginning of the end of that road for me.  I went home to film it at Christmas, and I have never forgotten my dad telling me as I was leaving for the airport to come back to Seattle, that I shouldn't air my dirty laundry, that I shouldn't talk to or associate with "Those people" (gay Mormons). Because I would become an apostate.  The thing that hurt the most about that, was that here I was just trying to stay a live, just trying to get my family, anyone to understand what I was going through, to be less lonely, to just as Josh  said in his post- SURVIVE. because that was all I could do. Survive. But my dad couldn't even take a second to try to understand because this was too scary for him. 

I didn't go home from that trip offended. I went home from that trip with a deepening understanding. I was sacrificing huge pieces of myself, barely staying alive trying to find a way to survive and still make God and my family happy, and pleased with me.  It wasn't working, my very best efforts had failed. And I realized I was coming to resent them. All of them, for making me feel trapped and suffocated in this little box that just was never going to fit me.

Then I had a dream one night. At the time I considered it a vision from God. I would still say it was one of my deepest connections with self and the universe. It was a dream that gave me permission to start dating women. To face whatever consequences came with that, but a clear message "from God" that it was OK for me to do so. It changed my life, and that was about the moment where I had to take the bag of tools that Josh had given me, and start to face things on my own. I was done with counseling. I felt I had got all the help I could from it.  That moment was a spark that empowered me to own my own life, to make my own decisions. It was the beginning of true happiness and much less pain.

I still feel a lot of pain in Utah, because I know how I make my family feel. I know I can never do what they need me to do to make them feel at peace with their God and our family status. I know I can never be  the "good daughter" again, and I loved being the good daughter. I will always be some form of rainbow sheep. I know that when I find another girlfriend, they probably will once again find little ways to shut her out and myself when I try to bring her in. I know that battle isn't going away, and  I feel that if it does it will be because my family and I walk away from each other, because I'm not having someone I loved treated as non-existent ever again, but they are always going to feel obligated to let me know they don't approve (with a few people as exceptions).  I'm not being relegated to separate spaces and rules "for the sake of the children" or whatever the hell.  I'm nervous for that day and that show down and I have no doubt it will come, as much as my family love me and have tried to be inclusive, its really hard to find ways forward when that battle is between you and their god.

The last part of this, I talked about when I explained my tattoo. I found a vibrant post Mormon group as a support community on my way out of the church. But the first non-Mormon community I found that gave me that sense of purpose and belonging  that I found at church, but actually much deeper than that, was through volunteering and going to Seattle Reign games, and some of those players that were traded, were a big part of making that team feel like that kind of a home to me. 

But here is the deal, and I know this. I am just taking a day to allow myself to sit with my sadness and pain at their going, and my sadness and pain at all the gay Mormon Josh Weed stuff. Change has to happen to grow.  Its scary, its hard, in the process it hurts. Other people going through it can drudge it up again, even after you think you are well over it. But, it usually gets worse before it gets better. And getting better for me is now recognizing that I don't get to try to control the universe with my thoughts and wishes and prayers. The story I get isn't ever completely written by me. I have somethings I can control, but most things I just have to accept and  find a way to work with or through them.  I no longer give unquestioning loyalty to leaders. So I'm gonna question the hell out of these trades. Its my job to do so.  But I also support women's soccer and the NWSL, so at the end of the day, I'm gonna support the players that are here, and still love the ones that have left, and made such a difference.

I have no idea where this all will go, the soccer, the weeds, my life. I'm kind of happy to not have to know and have that detailed of a plan any more. I'm excited to be in for the ride, but also a little scared.  Its weird because I own more of my own life, my own decisions, my own happiness, my own person than ever before. Yet I have given up on trying to control it. its a very subtle difference between the two. 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

When Being Amazing Isn't Enough

I'm unable to sleep tonight, because I got lost in what one of my best friends calls the Forest of Feelings (it's from the Carebares Movie).

Right now I just have to sit here and be amazed at how human I am and appreciate how beautiful that is, because if I don't I'll just get really upset again.

I've had a lot of insights over the past few weeks about how far I've come in my life, how much I've over come in my life, and how much I am currently  thriving.

And I know I come from a really privileged place, and I have had support and communities making all this possible for me all along. So I'm also super greatful for that. 

Part of it is that I am taking yet another psychology class right now. And as I do my reading assignments and homework, it's forcing me to look back at where I was even two years ago, or a year ago. Religious beliefs that I feel, and I know some of you will disagree, massively held me back from being happy and thriving in life. And, relationships, that though I wouldn't trade them in my past, would be toxic in my present and future.

I'm doing all these amazing things right now, in my mid thirties. And I only plan to keep getting more amazing, and I have no doubt I can do it.

So when I think about that, on days like today, where it's still not enough. Where something just exists that makes me feel like that shy girl that never fit in anywhere, and was too afraid of her own shadow to do things, or to talk to the cool kids, it's just super weird to me.

It's weird to me how simultaneously I can channel my inner most awesome confident, happy person, who knows who she is, and what she's about, and at the same exact time im feeling amazing, also feel like the shy weird kid that doesn't fit anywhere and for whom nothing I do is ever good enough.

And I think that mix of emotions is probably why I couldn't sleep tonight. I talked to one of my friends about it, and he told me something he said to his boyfriend earlier.  "Sometimes I find myselfself in quicksand again and feel frightened and lost again, but I know it, and I see that I am getting out of it quicker and on my own more."

And hearing that, it just hit  me. Growing up that shy weird closeted queer kid in Utah, and into my early 30s even. I've spent my whole life getting out of quicksand too. And I'm pretty new to bring not in quicksand most the time. So if I feel it, even a little bit, I do get frightened, and panicked and scared that i'm  gonna have to be in that place again. That I will always end up back in that place. But then I know what quicksand feels like now, and I have the tools and support system to help me escape it quickly, and more independently than in the past. And that's pretty cool.

Anyway, I just had to share that. Even I, the currently confident and badass wonder I am have days I fall into emotional quicksand. But I'm not alone, and neither are you. And when we stay connected with humanity, and present, and reach out for help and love, it makes a huge difference.

I've noticed these times hit when I am vulnerable, when I've really opened myself up to new experiences and put myself out there. And I've been doing a lot of that lately. So I also have to remeber to pause and give myself time to come through that vulnerability hangover.

I am awesome, it is enough. I'm doing new things. It's ok to be a little frightened by it. And it's ok for you too.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Intuition, Instinct, and Meta Permenant Ink

My friend Rick has often told me, and teased me a bit, for my lack of ability to be spontaneous and impulsive.

He was not the first person to note this quality. When I was in my college days, I had this white board I kept in my room. It was actually not white, it was a blueish grey sky landscape with a rainbow on it. But every day I would write my schedule on it. Every second of the day planned out, even down to 5 mins of free time that I would put between 1 hr of French, 1 hr of German, 1 hr of ESL lesson planning, 45 mins of political science, 2 hrs of FHE (family home evening) or whatever else was happening on the day.

My roommates gently teased me a bit for actually writing and scheduling in free time. Free time, they said, shouldn't be scheduled. But if it hadn't been, I wouldn't have had any. In that moment of teasing, I decided I needed to find a way to be a bit more spontaneous. Now it was a goal, and planned, so that made it something I could focus on and do. See where I'm going here?

As I've aged, I've gained the ability to appear less structured and ridged, and I guess to a degree to actually be so.  Something happened that year that gave me the template I needed to make that change happen.

A few weeks after the 'scheduling free time' comments, with my new goal in mind, conditions were perfect for spontaneity. I came home from my last class, all my homework was done, and I had nothing solid on my schedule. I had things I could do to get a bit ahead in class, but nothing pressing.
I walked in and it was just my roommate Kim there, and she needed to do something spontaneous and adventurous. I was free, so I decided to join her on an impromptu road trip about an hour or so north to Provo. We could  just to go drive around and see what we would see, maybe get pizza.

I don't remember many details, it was nearly 2 decades ago, but I know we got lost. Wenever made it to Provo, and I think we ended up in Springville before we decided we'd had our fun and it was time to head back home and go to sleep.

I also remember that I never regretted that trip. I got to know Kim better on that trip and feel much closer to her. She died ten years ago, and it's one of my most treasured memories, even though it's mostly a vague impression of an evening now. It changed my life.  And that's now how I roll. Adventures, "spontaneity", sometimes even dating relationships have started on what appears to be the on the fly, and in the heat of the moment.

But that would be counter my nature. So what usually actually happens is that my conditions have been met, and all that is required for long thought out and desired goals and moments have the pieces fall together to fit into my plan in that moment. I can do a "spontaneous" road  trip, if I have beginning and ending dates, known sleep conditions for the trip, and the right person and enough money.  There are always conditions and parameters.

I also being and INFJ, will just use my magic intuition powers if a decision has to be made quickly without a lot of time for processing and pondering every angle. I've learned from some books I've read, that that probably all comes from my brain using what it knows to make an educated guess off of  actual facts, experience and that sort.

What exactly then, is this ramble  down memory lane, and who cares any way? And what does that have to do with "meta" permanent ink?

Ha ha, well, you should know that my profile picture on Facebook  (until today, when I changed it for one week), and on Twitter is of my actual permanent, not temporary in any way, etched deeply into my layers of skin with needles, tattoo. And today I'm gonna tell you what and why it is.

When I was telling my good friend Zoe about my desired design, she told me it was "very meta". She then had to explain to me what "meta" meant.  Basically, its just  that it's got lots of layers of meaning. Anything permanent I would do, would have to.

I thought for a long time about getting a tattoo. I didn't think I could because it would hurt, and because since I transitioned away from religion, I couldn't trust anything to stay of permanent value in my life enough to want to have it there forever. Even the Olympic Games have let me down at times.

Also, I knew I would be facing some harsh judgment for it, and if I was going to face harsh judgment, it had damn well better be something super meaningful and worth it. That's a lot of pressure to put on a little tattoo design, but I've met lots of people that regretted their tattoos so I really wanted to make sure this was what I wanted to do, and whatever I chose would be something I could always appreciate.

I considered this not over the course of months, but years.  And after one ex-mo friend went and got a tattoo and reported that it hurt, A LOT, I was thinking I would change my mind to a no on the tattoo thing.

And then one day I heard one of my favorite soccer players talk about her tattoos. I wont try to quote her, but I will share with you what I remember feeling that she said.  She talked about how life is a painful thing, it leaves scars on our hearts as we go through our journeys. Even the happy things in life change us, and leave a mark on our souls. Tattoos, to her (according to me), were just a way of taking those internal scars and marking them externally so the inside matched the outside. Then you could turn it from something ugly and painful into a beautiful part of your story.  People get tattoos for happy reasons too, and really its the same thing. Something happens in life, it changes you, and you mark it. A tattoo, is literally a scar. its a beautiful scar. 

Her words, whatever they actually were, changed my perspective. I always thought people got tattoos to be cool, or to be rebellious. But after that, I felt they were there to mark your journey, to create harmony between body and spirit, and to help you find healing in the things that you had been through in life.  I'm sure not everyone sees it that way, but seeing it that way made me decide I wanted to do this.  It was no longer something disrespectful and dishonorable to my body. It was about internal and external harmony.

 After her words, I also decided my first tattoo needed to mark the part of my journey that had changed me, and scarred me internally the deepest.  My journey in, through, and out of the LDS religion. Initially my thoughts were pretty in your face. I thought about how for decades of my life I wore a CTR ring (Choose the Right) reminding me of what was expected of me to do in life.  For months I tried to come up with some play on that, mostly changing it to a CTL and putting a tattoo of a ring on that right ring finger.  CTL could have stood for so many things- Choose to Love, Choose to Live, Choose the Left, being among some of the more obvious meanings-  but something about this always felt off and I could never find a design that felt right. It was too bitter.

As the months passed, I realized, that some of my hurt and anger had subsided and that's why it didn't feel right to do something so counter. What I wanted to get both needed to represent the empowerment my journey out, while still honoring the wonderful things I had gained from my heritage and years in. 

During this time, I spent a lot of my time at Seattle Reign games because we were in the middle of  the NWSL season, and I had found a new community there. Some might even say I'm religious about it,  and some have said that I am still a total missionary at getting people to come to games and be excited about it with me. 

One day before a match, I was wondering around the concourse and a sponsor was putting temporary Reign FC tattoos on people.  In fact, I remember this horrible day very clearly. I had just strained my bicep, and had to back out of  volunteering.  I was in a lot of pain, and nearly fainted once or twice during the game. Some of my volunteer friends gave me some Tylenol or something, and some ice and helped me get through the day.  But before that happened, I stopped at this table and had them put this small temporary tattoo right on my left bicep,  because the right one was in such pain. 

I went and sat in the stands, and I think I was pretty out of it and wanted nothing more than to go home. But, it was the season ticket holders event after the match and I wasn't about to miss that. I  dug deep and found any way I could to tough it out and make it through. 

 That was the LONGEST soccer game I have ever sat through. But pain meds kicked in by the end, and I made it to the event after and eventually home.  But sitting there in the stands, half out of it, in pain surrounded by this new community of friends taking care of me when I needed it most. 

I looked at that tattoo and thought, wow, that looks good there, and its where my journey out has brought me. Memorial stadium had become like a temple to me.  And I thought... REIGN. REIGN. Choose to Reign. CTR.  oh my gosh! the letters. I can make this into a CTR.   Its full circle. It honors the good in CTR, while respecting my journey and that its not about doing what is "right" but owning my own damn life now!

And from that moment on, I had my design chosen. I had something that wasn't about a church that injured me, or a soccer team that might some day disappointed me, it was simply about my journey, and every aspect of it. Honoring the past- the joy, the pain. The present-the soccer the new community.  And the future- My life, where ever I chose to take it. 

The next part was the hardest part.  Finding an artist, and setting up an appointment. This part terrified me, because I didn't know even where to begin, and everyone  was recommending people that were booked up 6 months or more in advance.  So I did what I do best when I feel overwhelmed. I shut down, and just tried to avoid thinking about it.

October came. Soccer was over , and I really wanted to do this thing for Phoenix Festival. If possible on the Burning of the 5th (Nov. 5th) because that would be the most symbolic day to do a tattoo of this nature, the day that really kicked that journey into full gear, the anniversary of the LDS policy change.  I didn't want to wait a year, and I went into a panic. But at a  gathering of my former Mormon friends, on a night I was completely out of it and not listening or connecting to humans at all, the topic turned to tattoos and my best friend said "Mandi, I think you want to listen right now."

 I don't know how she knew, honestly. I hadn't said anything about it. But I listened. and I suddenly got very engaged in the conversation. And I walked out of there with a name, and a link to an Instagram account for Jen Martinez and Dermawerx in Silverdale.

There was no looking back after that.  I saw her work. I knew she was perfect for me. I contacted her and explained what I wanted, what I was trying to do. She got it. I paid a deposit and set up a time. Nov. 5th wasn't available, so I set it for after my trip to Canada, for Nov. 18th,  Two months before my birthday seemed like the perfect choice. As I set Phoenix Festival for this year, I marked that date as a "feast date"  called "Choose To Reign"  because I was about to own another piece of my life and mark it, with a  tattoo. 

The day came, and a sketch came. It was perfect.  It was what I wanted.  One of my volunteer friends drove over to be my moral support,  and then I got a text. The artist had a migraine, and we would have to reschedule. We were able to move it to the next day, and my friend came again to be moral support and photographer.

 It didn't hurt like I thought it would. It did hurt a little, especially after the first hour, when she switched from lines to shading.  My muscles were exhausted and the spot was tender half way through. But after 3 hrs sitting there, it was done, and it was perfect, and I didn't even flinch or cry.

I'm proud of my tattoo. I'm proud of what it symbolizes, all of the many things it symbolizes, and what it is there to remind me to do. The Seattle Reign and many other women soccer players have been a great inspiration to me. The fans and employees and volunteers have been a great new community for me. But ultimately the greatest gift that I gained from this is a respect for where I  came from and who it made me to become, and a deep love for who I am as a human even my weird geeky self.  Choosing my own life adventure, choosing what is right, for me, Choosing to Reign, to rule my own life- that's what its about.

And every time I see this tattoo I think of that. I think, don't do things because its what is expected, and what you are told you should do. Do them because you feel it is right, because it is in harmony with who you are, and what you believe in. Fight for yourself to be the best you. And the best you you can be is yourself. Be true to yourself.  Like a badass queen own your damn life.  the good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful.  The responsibility and consequences of it are yours. OWN IT. 

One of my favorite things about this tattoo, was something Jen Martinez decided to add at the last minute. She showed me it right as I came in and asked what I thought about the change. She added perfectly contoured cheekbones.  Just like the ones owned by some of my favorite tattooed  soccer players. One of whom was the player that said the very words that helped inspire me to get this tattoo.   The other change we made in the moment, was the size. I originally was going to go a lot smaller, but then I got there and she said, what do you think of this, and It was huge, but then I was like... yup! that's exactly the size this needs to be for a tattoo that is about owning it.  I had her put it on my left arm also symbolically, moving away from just "choosing the right" and doing what I'm expected to.

This thing is sacred to me.  I've waited a long time to share this story, because it is, and because I know there are some people in my life that just aren't going to get it.  And some people are going to look down on me for having got it.  Probably no one but me is going to get all the layers of this thing, because you haven't lived my journey.  But I hope that this has brought some understanding your way, I hope you can begin to get it. And I hope that you can love this thing, a small portion of how much I do.  A piece of my soul, my journey, has been symbolically illustrated and is now carried around with me so I can visually see it and remember every single day.  Just like that old CTR ring, a reminder to Choose The Right,  now rather,  to Choose To Reign.

I leave you with pictures of my tattoo experience.  It was super itchy while it healed for two weeks, and now its not red or itchy any more, so that was kind of the hardest part. So I don't have a current picture here, but picture it as not red.  enjoy.