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.

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Week of Secrets to A Better Life

This past week was the week of But We Lost It.  And I spent a lot of time processing the loss of a certain soccer coach in Seattle. It hit me very hard, and very deep to have Laura Harvey go to Salt Lake. It felt like a betrayal.

But we are entering The Week of  Secrets to A Better Life, and today I found one. For me. This week I played two indoor soccer games, one with the women's team on Monday, and tonight I played my first game with my over 30 coed team.  Something about having a second game this week made me feel something and realize something that just one game a week didn't completely, and that is that sports, me playing a sport, training in a sport, working intensely to improve in a sport is one of the things that is my oxygen in life.

As we were leaving the game, my friends husband and I were talking, and I was talking a lot about how excited I was at some small improvements I made, and how excited I was to improve more. He said, well, we're just here to have fun. And I said that getting better is what makes it fun for me.

I don't have to win. And I don't need my team to be perfect, but I love training for something, I love having rituals and routines. I love practicing a skill  over and over again. I love that moment when you break through the frustration and master some skill.

I missed spending hours at a cold ice rink practicing the same jump or footwork skill over and over again until I got it. Last Saturday I felt that same joy in the back yard shooting at a goal over and over again. Getting a correction to my technique and then struggling all over again to be anywhere near the net, and then suddenly finding my way with the improved technique and hitting the back of the net. Tonight during the soccer game I nutmeged  a defender, and it was so exciting I started playing better just for having done that small thing right.

I also love those moments of speed, or springiness. I remeber when I skated  I always loved two things, going really fast and jumping and feeling my legs spring my body into the air. With soccer I get that same amazing feeling when I break out in a sprint, and do all sorts of foot work and turns to keep pace with an opposing player that has the ball, or to get past an opposing player and get the ball to a teammate or take a shot on goal.

I love it when my body and mind are in harmony, and my instincts just kick in, and I just know where to be to get a ball back, or to pass a ball to a teamate. When I just sense what I should do, and do it without thinking about it.

I think sports is my meditation, and not just any sports but the sports that engage these things.  Running never really connected for me. Especially running of any distance. It just feels like a chore I dread. But then you put me on a field or a court and you put a ball and people and quick bursts  of speed with intention, followed by slow moments of thoughtfulness, and connection, the players, the ball.

Put me in an ice rink, with the music, and the skaters, jumping, and coordinating with eachother to share the ice in their individual pursuits.

For me there is a magic, a spirituality. There is something to this that makes me feel connected to the world, to humanity, to the deepest pieces of myself. Something that makes me feel whole, and complete, inspired and empowered, in a way that nothing else ever does.

I lost that for a long time. When I couldn't skate any more, I felt so lost. I couldn't figure out what to do. I tried so many things, and I found things I could do, and it helped, but it didn't make me feel whole. And then a month or so I just decided to make time for this, to take a chance on a thing I had never done before, with people I didn't know. I was scared, because it was new.  But I felt it was going to be so good for me to do it. And it was.

I'm the same weird, intense sports kid I've always been. I can be competitive, but I don't think it's ever been about that for me. I don't know that winning really matters so much for me. What matters is that I walk around in this mindset. Imagine I'm someone great, like Michael Phelps. My headphones in or my play list playing in my car on the way to the place, or during warm ups at the place. I have to do this, I have to walk around all week when I'm not there, just conscious of what I'm eating , and how I'm moving, and what I should do to recover, and what I should do to prepare.

It gives me a sense of direction, and a sense of purpose that nothing else can or does.

I think this is why I have never been able to miss the Olympics. Two weeks every two years, it renews me, to watch. It inspires me, it gives me the fuel and the vision to do my weird sports preparations. And all my trivial little sports playing and all my intense pretending I'm someone great in my beer leauge soccer, it gives me fuel for life, to dream and challenge myself in the other aspects of it.

I know not everyone is like this. I know some of my friends just want to show up and kick a ball around. And some want to stay as far away from the ball as possible and just stay home.  But me, I need this, and I think sometimes I forgot how much I needed it, and I forgot how to find it when I lost it.  And tonight driving home from the soccer complex, I just felt so greatful, and so connected to something deeply spiritual and integral to me, that I couldn't wait to get home, and run up to my friends and tell them I loved them, because I felt that thing that makes me mandi, and makes me able to connect.

Any way, this is long, and rambley, and I'm not sure it makes any sense to anyone else at all, but I had to try to put it in words. The thing. Because it's my secret to a better life. It's how I thrive. And it's pure magic, and oxegyn to my soul.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Phoenix Festival 2017: Week of Beautiful Trauma and Revenge

One of my favorite things about P!nks  'Revenge' is that it's a bit tongue in cheek, and light hearted and fun. That's unusual in a revenge song.

I just finished having coffee with an Twitter friend about an hour ago. We had never met in person before, and it was fun to talk about things that she had never heard of before. One of the things I mentioned was Tyler Glenn of Neon trees being a gay ex mormon, and imagine dragons Love Loud festival in Provo utah.

We mostly just talked about women's soccer, but talking about the push and pull in prodomenently conservative communities by queer communities and allies added to our conversation.

Realizing that Provo pride is growing and expanding and all the amazing positive changes that have come about in Utah post policy doesn't take away from the pain, and negative consequences for thousands of lives that that caused, but upon reflection, it's not just me that experienced this as a 'Beautiful Trauma'

Perhaps the best revenge of such inflicted pain is the number of people, like myself that are happier, free-er, and healthier in life inspite of the Trauma and pain of Nov 5th 2015.

And I guess that's my thoughts for this week.  I'm glad for the changes that happened in my life, even though it was a painful process, and sometimes still can be, to have gone through. And I don't regret any part of my life's journey.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Phoenix Festival 2017: A Lesson From Laura Harvey

It was only Sunday that this year's Phoenix Festival season kicked off. This year's Burining of the 5th started with incense in a fire pit rather than last year's angry, roaring pain filled bon fire. This year was more like a moment of  sending love into the universe, to those still suffering, and for all the pain of 2017.

Then yesterday, I got news that Laura Harvey was leaving my beloved Seattle Reign, and day 2 became surprisingly a day of mourning  again, though this time not for people hurt by a church policy, but because someone important, a stabilising factor in a soccer team, was taking a chance and moving forward in life. And it left me feeling destabilized by change.

Then someone on Twitter wrote some beautiful words about a beautiful bird not being trapped in a cage, and the importance of being free, even if we didn't get to see the bird as much any more. I have totally messed it up here, but this metaphor struck me deeply, because it was day 2 of Phoenix festival, and that person was right.

Today is New Ash Wednesday. I wasn't going to keep all the feasts and structures the same as last year, because Phoenix Festival is a holiday season that is about change, and adapting to your needs, but as I awoke this morning, I realized I needed it to be called New Ash Wednesday again.

Everything is ashes again. Yesterday's news  for my soccer team created a chaos in my mind, where I'm just not sure what the Reign are going to look like next season now. Things have changed. We are at a place where we start again. Not from scratch, the Phoenix ashes are a place of rebirth and creation that will always become a Phoenix again. The point is, that from big scary changes comes opportunities for growth that wouldn't be there if we didn't leave our comfort zone.

From all the words and statements I read from Laura Harvey yesterday, I gained one insight. If we wait to make big changes in our life until we are completely comfortable, and ready to make them, we have waited too long, and missed great opportunities. Changes that are meaningful, that move us forward, require a bit of discomfort and risk.

As we sit in the Ashes stage of Phoenix Festival, let us envision the future we desire, and embrace the changes, risk and hard work it will take to get there.

Happy Phoenix Fistival.