Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Pretty crummy, geddit?

Lest you think our relationship is a little too idyllic right now, let me assure you that we have our struggles. One of our most significant has to do with these little guys:

I first discovered Jonathan's bizarro crumb aversion after he bought me a candy bar (from one of The People--not the Avatar "People")and I was eating it in the car. He became so neurotic about me dropping crumbs that at first I thought he was kidding...he's not kidding. He is so anal about crumbs that it defies credibility. I always tell Jon that Freud would just ADORE him as he single-handedly proves the reality of the psycho-sexual stages.

I couldn't care less about crumbs. In fact, sometimes I pretend I'm sprinkling them on the floor, on Jonathan's lap, or inside his shirt. He loses it every time. It's so cute and weird. He says I am the perfect foil for his obsessions--that I was genetically designed to destroy him. :)

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Open Carry Relationship Syndrome

I know there is a huge stigma attached to what I'm about to write about. But even if you don't agree with me, I hope that you can at least find some truth in the microcosm of interactions it represents.

I am a gun owner. This country won it's freedom largely because they owned and had guns. They knew this and thus the second amendment. Of course there are people who think that the right to bear arms is outdated and that our founding fathers wouldn't make the same amendment now. But if you read what they actually say in their personal comments you see that the reason they created the second amendment was that they believed that the final check and balance was us: the people. From personal experience, they knew how important it could be for the population to be armed. It speaks volumes that they would make sure that this was a part of the governments limitations.

Since then, things have changed drastically. People have relegated their personal safety more and more to the government. As a result, having a gun no longer feels like a necessity. People now cower in fear or awkwardness when they see a gun, even if it is worn by those who are payed to protect them. This reaction is, of course, irrational. Statistically speaking, we are all never in more danger than we are in a car. Imagine if people were as scared as they should be of cars! I could go on with this argument, but it is not the purpose of this post.

My friends and I have a tradition of going to Rancherito's for burritos after midnight on sunday...sort of an end of sabbath celebration! We often open carry our guns, as it is our right and privilege. As you can suppose, we get very interesting reactions. People usually gawk at us. They are usually a bit more apprehensive toward us than they would be an average group of men. Last night, we got more reactions than ever before. Some people behind us said, "What can you just carry guns around now?" Actually yes, it's never been illegal in the state of Utah. It's not just now, it's been since the first man who owned a gun settled here with is family and it hasn't changed. A girl said, "Oh...nevermind...thats a real gun! Now I'm scared..." Another group of guys whispered quietly to each other after pointing. Yet another raised his hands in mock fear.

All these interactions were quite amusing. They made me think of how fear works for us as people. People believe they're being rational when they are afraid. Unfortunately, these fearful states we find ourselves in often reek of ill-bred notions.
Neuroscience explains a lot of what we fear. Our brain is geared toward turning everyday things into things unnoticed. What has not harmed us in the past will not harm us in the future. So the more experience we have with things, the less we fear them, except in rare cases. This is the reason that so very few of us are more afraid of cars than guns. We drive on a daily basis while most of us might see a gun in real life once every two weeks and usually because we saw a policeman somewhere. As a result, we have a feeling of fear when we see a gun and don't even notice the precariousness of our situation as we drive on the two lane highway at 75 miles an hour. We are literally 4-6 feet from death. The process is desensitization. We are desensitized to cars and very sensitized to guns. Our brain does not find the ordinary interesting, thus our entertainment industry's need to continue their endless quest to push the limits of propriety.

This mechanism works awesomely for survival. If we merely want to survive then in a very real sense this animal instinct is the best suited instinct for our purpose. But to me we were never meant to solely survive; we were meant to flourish! And this instinct curtails flourishing. Flourishing is about learning the right lessons from the past, living in the present, and preparing for the future. When we allow our sensitization mechanism to rule what we are afraid of, we become slaves to our past. We don't see things as they are, we only see the reality that our mind has created for us. Flourishing is about seeing things as they really are, not as our warped experience here has defined them.

Bear with me. This sensitization has a devastating affect on progress, essential to flourishing. We see new things as universally strange and dangerous. We are only comfortable with what is normal to our every day experience. So we see that in relationships, people who had bad parents can become bad parents. People who have bad relationships choose bad relationships. Many people do not want to have bad relationships; they don't want to choose abuse or neglect. But we simply do not understand the depth of the problem. MOST of our decisions are based on what we are comfortable with. If you are comfortable with dysfunction, which we all are, then in order to progress you must fight against the mechanism that ignores what is normal and is fearful of what is new. This mechanism paints our current experience in the light of the past and disregards the uniqueness of the situation we are currently experiencing.

I'm interested in this because it nearly made me avoid the love of my life. The second time I took Rachel out, we went to gurus. Per usual, we had an insanely stimulating conversation. As we walked back to my car, I opened the door for her as I usually do with girls. As I started to drive, Rachel asked me why I open doors for girls. I attempted to explain that for me it is a sign of respect, I do it so that the girl knows I'm thinking about her, etc. Rachel explained to me, very politely, that she didn't like it when guys opened doors for her and expressed that she would rather I didn't open doors for her. I had a reaction. This was very abnormal for me, and I started thinking to myself, "She's one of those radical feminists! Well I can't date her...she obviously doesn't trust men. No matter how trustworthy I may be, she'll never trust me. Also, she might be a bad mother and she probably doesn't want children at all. She'll resent being a mother etc etc" Pretty crazy, right? That's fear for you. My mind paired up previous experiences, the usual very limited experiences, and started making assumptions from there. What was different was dangerous.

Luckily, I asked her out again and we had such a great time. As a result of this date, we went to (ironically) a conference on same-sex attraction and there I became smitten with her. The way she responded to truth shattered any previous doubts. I remember thinking to myself, "I'm going to do everything I can to be with this girl." And I did.

There were so many things about Rachel that made me scared, that were different from my previous experiences and that screamed at my sensitization/desensitization mechanism to run away. Gratefully, I was blessed with the right lessons from previous relationships once I had decided to go for it. I had learned from previous relationships that I purposefully needed to do the things that made me afraid in relationships. The things that made me feel safe in previous relationships were dysfunctional. I always needed to be the one in control and because of this I believe I purposely cared less in my previous relationships. I had learned that I needed to make sure I cared more, if I could. I always waited for others to take risks before. Once I was sure of their feelings I would then voice mine. How selfish I was! So I purposefully took risks with Rachel, I tried to disclose when it was appropriate, despite my fear. I found all of this very hard and very scary. But it has been the most rewarding experience of my life! How much I've changed in so little time. I would face any fear for Rachel.

If my courage was strong, Rachel's was legendary. Her previous experiences had made her very afraid of relationships in general. She had every reason to pair me up with bad experiences and fly away. We had some very hard moments because of our fears. I'm so happy to say that she faced those fears and didn't run. I was far from perfect and I didn't make her feel as safe as I could have, but she stuck around anyway. I love her for the courage she has shown!

So much of life is about facing fears. Even if you disagree with gun rights, I hope you understand what I meant. We usually don't take the time to question our personal, familial, or societal fears, we merely react to them. Most importantly, this stops us from having empathy for our fellow creatures. This seriously hinders our ability to flourish in our lives. I will be eternally thankful to God that I was able to overcome some of my irrational fears and have found a part of happiness. Only Racher!!!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Creek drank the cradle you sang to

Concise? This time. Maybe. Perfect Sunday. Out came the sun! We go for a walk. Still gray but it will all wake up soon. He loves me! All the weird things I do. My thoughts. Exploring. We might get in trouble. I found a treehouse in the woods when I was 10. Today feels like then. No trespassing. The trail's shorter than we thought. Our kids will have great imaginations. They will maybe write backwards like he did. He says he wrote for the people inside the page. Am I inside the page? I could never read before now. He keeps spinning me around and into his arms. I want to cry. Such sweet words. No lies just love. There's a falcon in the tree. Murdered quail on the ground. Down the road to the river. The cars whirring by should be jealous. We are the happiest ones.

Green and blue. Setting an example for the weather. Love me! scribbled on the wall. Etna D D ante. I want to live in a trailer park. Divey, not bourgeois. The park is littered with couples. But none of them know. Secret rock wall. River kisses. I love water folding around a log. Can we be happy forever plx? Kissing pictures. My roots are growing out. My roots will be where you are. Laughing in the D.I parking lot. Spanish market! Toreados no hay. Lastima. The tamale lady isn't there either. I read the signs out loud. Mexican. He squeezes my hand so hard. I want to sit and let the Spanish float around me. I loved you today more than ever. Do you have any idea? I'm ready for the island.

On our way home the sky is an Easter egg. Purple and pink. Oh, so happy!

Trying to be artsy (where is Katie Loveless when you need her??). He had to take it b/c I have no spatial reasoning.

Quiero vivir pegado a ti, pegado aqui contigo

Not ready for this one. So I love it
Heart of a tree

This face! I love best in the world.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Mother don't worry, I killed the last snake that lived in the creek bed

I'm always a little nervous when I introduce new people to my family.

I understand that it must be a little unnerving to meet 90+ people at once; it probably feels like being the new kid in a classroom or walking out onstage during a concert. I also know that in addition to being enormous, loud, and chaotic, my family exhibits medium-to-high levels of angst, shame, dogmatism, communally accepted self-loathing and musical/literature snobbery, in addition to bizarre word associations and not being good at sports (save Bill, and John-Mark and Aya, who are grafts, anyway). Despite all of this, I always hope wildly that whoever I'm bringing over will somehow be able to see the humor in all of the idiosyncrasy and enjoy us! Don't we all want people to love the people who are dear to us, and to love us for the place we come from? That's the ideal, but family cultures can be difficult to integrate, and sometimes the best you can expect is that the new person escapes the social engagements with minimal awkwardness.

That's why it's so amazing when someone does more than you could ever have expected, dreamed or hoped for.

Jonathan's associations with my family have been kind of like this:

Alma 18:9 And they said unto him: Behold, he is feeding thy horses. Now the king had commanded his servants, previous to the time of the watering of their flocks, that they should prepare his horses and chariots, and conduct him forth to the land of Nephi...
10 Now when king Lamoni heard that Ammon was preparing his horses...he was more astonished, because of the faithfulness of Ammon, saying: Surely there has not been any servant among all my servants that has been so faithful as this man!

Since I have been dating Jonathan "Jason" Strange I have been astonished at his faithfulness. I could write for hours about what he has done for ME--what doors and windows have opened, what brokenness has been restored and made beautiful, what vindicative Lamanites he has cut off the arms of--but in addition to all that he's been out feeding my horses. He is so tenderly, consciously, intrepidly good to my family.
I thought it sweet how interested he was in them before meeting any of them--he remembered their names and their stories, made connections and mourned or rejoiced with me with the things I carried and told him--but his interactions with my parents and siblings have shown me his sincerity. He made all of them, one by one, a friend.

Jonathan makes a conscious effort to have one-on-one time with everyone and is everlastingly helpful and patient. He plays video games once a week with my brother, helps me plan family nights and makes everyone feel so welcome, drives up to Ogden just for Sunday dinner, helped my father rake and bag leaves out in the yard, brought hemp to make jewelry with Mary and Tanny, rescued Cow the day she ran out of gas, went on Christmas errands with my mother, helps me with the construction and delivery of birthday surprises, gets down on the floor to play games with the Smalls, taught Tanner the right way to hold a cat, brought Aya peach tea when she was having a hard day, sacrificed himself for Beaven during Murder in the Dark. He remembers our inside jokes and builds on them. He is always ready to listen or counsel, whichever is needed. He will often notice when someone is struggling and tell me, "We need to spend more time with/do something nice for [whoever]." He finds a way to connect with everyone, even the slow-to-warm up ones. I love watching him do that; I appreciate it so deeply I feel like my heart will burst.

Jonathan has truly blessed our family--my relationships with them are even better having him around--and I know he will continue to do so. His clarity and reason shatter our irrational fatalism. When he is around, all of us have more hope.

So I've been happy lately, thinking about the good things to come. Thank you Jonathan for being gentle with the treasure of my heart!

On a completely "unrelated" note (cause, get it? Un-related?) aren't these stunning?!:

Thursday, March 18, 2010

We're all interested in what hurts us-Bodas de Sangre

Rachel and I recently went to a play at BYU called Blood Weddings or Bodas de Sangre. It's a play by Federico Garcia Lorca. Supposedly it is the most famous Spanish play. The story is about a marriage between a man and a woman. On the wedding day, the bride runs away with her former boyfriend. I really loved the story, despite everyone's stupidity. Apparently, Lorca wrote it as a symbol of the old ways(the wedding) opposing the new ways(the runaway bride). A reoccurring theme throughout is blood and how it influences the characters and their decisions. It made me think about how that desire is in all of us. We all desire "freedom" at all costs at some point or various points in our lives. The fight of generations to hold onto the way things have been done before or embrace the new ways of doing things has always piqued my interest--the apparent wisdom of the old ways and the logic of the new ways.

I've always seen this struggle, even when I was young. People have ways of doing things...and they like how they do things. I would often to complain to my dad about this problem. He would quote Simon and Garfunkel to me, "Still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest." I have a wise father.

I've always looked to people's intentions for their choices. What I saw from a young age is that people aren't usually looking for the best way; they're looking to show others that their way is already the best. I'm not merely talking about old generations are just as guilty for this kind of thinking. We all are. Because even when we don't say or even feel that our way is best, we betray it all by still choosing it. If we weren't explicit in words about what we thought was best, we were explicit in our actions. Isn't that what really counts all along? What we choose rather than what we talked about choosing?

I'm wondering: what makes us not listen, not consider new things? When someone says something that doesn't jive with our own world/culture/family/personal view, why is it that something inside of us says "this guy doesn't know what hes talking about, this guy is an idiot."

If you know me, you know that I am guilty of this kind of thinking more than most. In my own life, the thing that causes me to shut down to new ideas most is mistrust of the person explaining them to me. When I cannot trust, due to previous experience, that the person talking to me is mostly trying to convey truth, I shut down. Changing my ideas is hard enough when it's someone I trust, but its almost impossible if its someone I mistrust. I've also noticed that when I've gone somewhere for the purpose of being instructed, such as a seminar, I'm also more open. I suppose my intention softens my heart to new ideas in these situations.

I'm reminded of how Truth is defined in the scriptures: Things as they really have been, are, and will be. I believe this is why I innately trust people I believe are on a continuum lurching toward seeing things as they truly have been, are, and will be. I feel as if we can transcend our narrow scope of time and thinking and truly see something greater than ourselves when we are working toward Truth. I want to be someone who is always striving to do this.

I started dating Rachel months ago now, and this is something that is true about her. She is constantly lurching toward seeing things as they truly are. She is so sweet to me. We've had struggles in our relationship and have overcome them with shining colors so far. As a result, I trust her with all of my heart. I really try to listen when she tells me things because I know that she is never trying to hurt me. People who have no malice, except(if it can even be called malice) an occasional short-lived anger in response to malice, like Rachel inspire me toward gaining a new heart. They make my soul long for a broken heart and a contrite spirit, which in the end is what makes us open to new ideas and new ways of life. Thank you, Rachel...and all the other malice-less people. Your examples are the new ideas I'm most open to.