May 28, 2009
Story, Wikipedia, Story
Eight or nine years ago I submitted an essay to Sunstone that began "One day my companion Sister Knight and I met a 'weird funky lady,' as I described her in my journal, who tried to explain to me her adoration of some reincarnated Buddhist monk." It did not begin "One day when I was a Mormon missionary, my assigned working partner or companion (to use the term we employed for said assigned working partners) Sister Knight and I met a 'weird funky lady,' as I described her in my journal (which I kept because doing so was a religious commandment I was obligated to obey because angels might some day quote from my journal if I said something inspiring), who tried to explain to me her adoration of some reincarnated Buddhist monk, a conversations many Mormon missionaries wouldn't have had because they generally talked to rather than listened to other people about religion."
It's a good thing the essay didn't begin with the second sentence I offer above, because that sentence sucks. But if I had submitted that particularly essay to a mainstream secular journal whose readers weren't necessarily familiar with Mormonism, I would have felt obligated to provide lots of background and context--maybe not in the first sentence, but certainly SOMEWHERE in the essay. Whereas I knew that as soon as a Mormon audience was informed that I had a companion named Sister Knight, readers would assume, correctly, that I was a woman somewhere in my 20s who had elected to serve a mission.
Despite or perhaps because of their self-proclaimed and cherished status as a peculiar people, Mormons hate to be misunderstood. As a result, when they talk about their religion, they explain A LOT. Sometimes--perhaps usually--they explain TO EXCESS.
Two groups especially prone to excessive explanations are missionaries and Mormon writers.
Missionaries indulge in excessive explanations 'cause it's sorta their job. The missionary discussions are rudimentary introductions designed to make people see the church the way it sees itself. The goal is not to intrigue or excite, but to inform, and to do so in a way that is dignified without being pompous (though an individual missionary can certainly make the message pompous with very little effort).
Mormon writers who take Mormonism as their subject matter indulge in excessive explanation because they want readers to understand not only Mormonism, but what Mormonism means to the people they're writing about. They believe--with some validity--that readers won't understand their work if they don't understand certain things about Mormonism. But I have come to believe that while some explanation is order, Mormon writers should strive always for the barest, skinniest minimum.
And then there is a third group of excessive explainers: Mormon writers who write about missions. They over explain more than anyone else I have encountered. They 'splain, and then they 'splain, and then they 'SPLAIN SOME MORE, JUST FOR FUN. Except by that point, it has stopped being fun--for the reader, at least.
Several years ago another Mormon writer and I thought it would be cool to put together an anthology of personal essays about missions. We put out a call for submissions and got LOADS of essays in response. A few were phenomenonally good; several were pretty great; most were mediocre; a few more were egregiously bad. But with very few exceptions, all of them contained too much exposition, too many foreign words or terms unique to Mormonism followed by parenthetical translations or glosses, and little wikipedia entries about Mormon doctrine, practice or culture.
It was PAINFUL to read essay after essay with the same problem. It was also very educational, because I suddenly realized how annoying it was when I did precisely those things in my own work.
I thought that including Chinese terms throughout my text gave it color, flavor. It might--but it's also precious and pretentious unless a term is actually relevant to the narrative or argument. In order to keep my eyes from glazing over, I started skipping over all foreign terms in the essays I read, whether they were Spanish, French, Chinese, Korean. And when I finished, I went through my own work and started getting rid of any foreign terms, unless I felt they were absolutely necessary to the intrinsic meaning of the text. I would never again throw one in just for "flavor."
And the mini wikipedia entries, the three paragraphs complete with footnotes--about baptism for the dead, or the MTC, how you fill out your papers before going on a mission, what happens when you get your call.... I mean, yes, it all really MATTERS--to us. It really, really, really MATTERS. A LOT. I want the people who read my work to understood, fully, why a call is called a call. But maybe they can sorta get it on their own. Maybe even though I care, they don't. Maybe if they have to wade through my explanation of what happens when someone, anyone gets a call, they'll lose interest in the still more important details of what happened when I got my call.
Certainly that happened with the essays I read: I became impatient with long passages about baptism in general and so didn't care as much when I got to the account of an individual baptism. It's true that I already knew all about the stuff being explained, which might have made me more impatient. But it's also true that I had an investment in the subject matter and a reason to continue reading that many readers don't. I really want to know how other people talk about their missions. I would LOVE an anthology full of thoughtful, interesting essays about the good, the bad, the ugly, the miraculous, the tedious, the heartbreak, of a mission. So if I gave up on work that tried to provide that, well, it means something.
My co-editor and I didn't abandon the project in that we both still think, theoretically, that it's a great idea for an anthology. But we just didn't get enough truly strong work to fill it. We could have devoted huge chunks of our life into reshaping the mediocre essays into pretty good ones, and at one point we actually intended to, but it didn't happen.
Shortly before Christmas I read a really great blog entry by Stephen Carter, the editor of Sunstone, at the Red Brick Store, about the myth of the writer genius (later revised into a piece about the author bunny). Stephen claimed that he learned all sorts of important things about story craft from reading one single book on screenwriting, a claim that intrigued me, so I put the title on my amazon.com wishlist, and someone bought it for me for Christmas.
And then it sat on my shelf, for almost six months. Last weekend I read it. And I'm here to agree with Stephen: Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee is a freaking great book, one I wish I had read not just when the postman dropped it off in January, but years ago. It's very wise, and I will reread it before very long, I think. A bit of advice that particular resonated with me is this:
Never include anything the audience can reasonably and easily assume has happened. Never pass on exposition unless the missing fact would cause confusion. You do not keep the audience's interest by giving it information, but by withholding information, except that which is absolutely necessary for comprehension.... Reveal only that exposition the audience absolutely needs and wants to know and no more. (335-337, emphasis in original)
That is one thing we'll have to achieve in order for Mormon literature to grow up: we'll have to stop EXPLAINING and EXPOSING and DEFINING to excess. Yes, we'll have to do some a little explaining, a tiny bit of exposing, and of course we have to acknowledge how weird it is that "elder" means someone who is very, very young instead of really old. But I sincerely hope that eventually I will stop reading works that go "story, definition, story, wikipedia entry, story, wikipedia entry, different wikipedia entry, story."
I especially hope I'll stop writing work like that. It won't be easy. But I'm determined to try.
March 23, 2008
Pagan Moon Stuff
Happy Easter, I guess. Not that I much care about the resurrection of Jesus these days, and I can't say I ever much believed in it, really. Easter just seemed such a second-rate holiday. It's supposed to be the holiest day in the Christian calendar, but it never felt convincing: Thanksgiving and Christmas were obviously so much more important, even though Thanksgiving was supposed to be secular and national rather than religious.
There were two things I always liked about Easter: getting a pretty new spring dress, and the way it moved around. Ever wonder how Easter is reckoned? Well, I learned long ago in a class on medieval literature. Easter follows the lunar rather than the date calendar, because people went on pilgrimage at Easter time, and they needed light to travel by, and the sun and the full moon were really the only things that provided much light long about the sixth century. So Easter is always the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox--the vernal equinox bit being important because Easter supplanted all sorts of pagan spring festivals--hence the bunnies and eggs and such.
Easter this year is about as early as it can be. The equinox was Thursday; the full moon was Friday. The earliest it could possibly be is the equinox itself, if that were also a full moon falling on a Sunday.
On my mission I went to church one Sunday morning in March and wished the elders "Happy Easter," because it was Easter. They told me it wasn't Easter, couldn't be Easter, because Easter was always the first Sunday in April. I explained about the equinox-full moon thing, adding, "Go home and ask your families when Easter is this year. They'll tell you I'm right," but the elders informed me--foolish, misinformed girl that I was--that there was no way determining the date of a holiday could be so silly or arbitrary. They were ADAMANT, and of course I had no evidence to support my claim, because there wasn't a single mention of Easter in any of the lessons or talks that day. The country as a whole didn't pay attention to Easter (and why should a non-Christian country bother with it?) and no one but me cared about observing the progress of the calendar, so no one but me knew it was Easter--even though, as I say, it was supposed to be our holiest day, the day on which the miracle that justified our entire religion occurred, some two thousand years before.
Yeah. If I ever forget why I found my mission frustrating or why I gave up on Christianity, thinking about that always helps me remember.
Anyway, if you celebrate and enjoy the holiday, I hope it rocks for you.
February 28, 2008
Even If Prozac Doesn't Work for Everyone, I Still Think It Helped Us All
Continued from my post yesterday.
With the clarity of educated hindsight, I can look back at my life and see that I suffered my first serious bout of depression as a young teenager--serious enough that I ended up in the hospital, though not for depression. No, I was hospitalized because of the effects depression and sadness had on my body: I lost six pints of blood--half the blood in my body--through intestinal hemorrhaging, which the doctors, after conducting a slew of tests and subjecting me to unnecessary exploratory surgery, attributed to "stress."
This being 1978, I was told I had made myself ill, and that I better make myself well, or else next time, I'd probably die. No one offered me any counseling or therapy; and so I dealt with the whole thing the only way I could, which was to become anorexic and even more obsessive and weird about religion than I'd previously been.
Somehow or another, I did get better, mostly because the hospital scared the shit out of me: I didn't want to go back there, EVER, if I could help it. If staying out of the hospital required arriving at a sounder state of mind, well, then I damn well was going to do it.
Flash-forward to my mission, where I developed what a doctor would call a case of severe depression but which I prefer to call "religious despair" or plain old heartbreak, and which, when I came home and tried to discuss, pretty much everyone dismissed.
I got my first prescription for anti-depressants on my mission, and I had to be dragged kicking and screaming to get it. (Metaphorically speaking, that is. No one dragged me to the hospital; I took the train, quite decorously. I just was coerced and cajoled into doing it even though I really didn't want to.) I didn't want medication for SO MANY REASONS, one being that I really didn't trust doctors. Another was that I felt very strongly the spiritual aspect of my despair and heartbreak; I didn't see how medication could treat the pain in my soul--and truth be told, it never did; the one drug that worked only made it able for me to sleep and stop crying long enough that *I* could do something about the pain in my soul. But at least as important as all that was that in 1986, when I got that prescription, the Prozac revolution had not occurred and depression was seen not as an illness but as a sign of moral weakness.
So there's a way in which, even if Prozac doesn't work, I feel it has been a beneficial medication for the entire planet, in that the stigma of depression and of seeking help for depression has been so profoundly lessened.
Speaking personally, and in language I know is religiously loaded, for me Prozac was a godsend and I think it may have very well saved my life. By the time I finally went on it in 1990, I'd tried about half a dozen anti-depressants, not because I wanted them but because my therapist kept insisting I needed them. They were, invariably, AWFUL--most of them exacerbated rather than mitigated the effects of depression. Good lord.... I remember one made me feel all giddy and drunk during the day but gave me the most garish, horrible nightmares.... Another gave me cotton-mouth so terrible I could scarcely teach a 50-minute class unless I drank so much liquid during it I nearly wet my pants before it ended. And the ones that helped me sleep--because insomnia is a life-long affliction of mine that is always worse when I'm depressed--made me not only drowsy, but almost unable to get out of bed, which really upset me, because one of the ways I kept even a shred of self-esteem during the whole business was to make sure I got up every morning and did what I needed to do, every single day, no matter how miserable I was.
So anyway, I'd try these anti-depressants for six weeks or so, realize I'd rather be plain old miserable than miserable AND suffering the side effects of these medications, and quit them. Until one day, my therapist told me that if I didn't go on Prozac, she'd have me hospitalized whether I liked it or not. I couldn't afford to spend a week doing nothing in the hospital, either in terms of my schedule or my wallet--I was a grad student, for christsake--so I went on Prozac.
And my god, did it help me. I can't believe there was a placebo effect, because if there were, I would have seen it with the other drugs. But it restored my sleep, almost by magic.... and it just gave me this small island of physical calm barely big enough that I could feel ever so slightly protected from some of the turmoil of my life, but oh, that was enough.
But the thing was, I didn't want to be on it. First of all, it was FREAKIN' EXPENSIVE: in 1990, it cost $2 a pill, and it WAS NOT COVERED BY MY LOUSY GRAD STUDENT INSURANCE. Sixty bucks a month or $720 a year is a hell of a lot to spend on medication when you earn only $9,000 a year. Secondly, I knew the drug was new enough that no one knew its long-term side effects, and I didn't want to find out the hard way that they blew. And finally, I didn't want a crutch. The point of all my searching and work, including all the therapy I had, all the painful decisions I arrived at and the drastic changes I made in my life (like leaving the church), was never merely to stop being depressed; it was to get as close as I could to enlightenment, to seeing the world and myself as cleared-eyed and accurately as possible, and to make my way through the world as effectively as I could.
Throughout the 1990s I'd go on it when I got desperate (for whatever reason: grad school, love gone awry, brain chemical whatever), then go off it when things got better. But I got tired of the cycle and decided I'd pursue any alternative treatment I could, including things like yoga and acupuncture and massage, all of which worked wonders for me, and seeing psychics and astrologers, which didn't always produce such great results. I was also lucky enough to find a terrific therapist who worked every bit as hard with me as I wanted to work, who supported my agenda for self exploration--she was great. I also read every last self-help book I thought would help me; some really did. After about five years of all that, I really did feel better.
So long about 1998 I swore anti-depressants off for good. And one thing that surprised me after that was how readily a doctor--a general practitioner, not even a psychiatrist, who specializes in mental health--would throw a prescription for Prozac at me anyway when I went to be treated for something other than depression. In 2000 I started having all these weird food sensitivities and allergies; one particularly bumbling fellow suggested I go back on Prozac, just in case it might help, but I said, "I'm not depressed; I'm allergic to something. Do you really think ingesting something else is going to help that?" Long about 2001 I saw a doctor who didn't want to give me a prescription for sleeping pills; he said he'd rather give me Prozac. I protested that I wasn't depressed; I was just having trouble sleeping. Finally he convinced me; I took the prescription and filled it--but it had lost its efficacy. It not only didn't work; it made me anxious and weird. At that point, I knew I'd never take it again.
So I feel simultaneously that Prozac is seriously over-prescribed, that it shouldn't be dispensed like aspirin, that it can only do so much, but that one of the things it can do is save lives--as I said, I think it saved mine. These studies I mentioned yesterday all stress that anti-depressants often work quite well for people who are profoundly depressed, and I don't want to forget that, or deprive those people (having been one myself) of what is potentially a very real source of very real relief. And I really do think the world is a better place since the invention of Prozac--as I say, it has revolutionized the way we see depression. But I think like anything it can be abused. And if studies like these are correctives to that abuse, well, it's a good thing they're being conducted.
January 21, 2008
Why I Need Glasses, At Least Tonight
A million years ago--OK, 16 or so months ago--I posted a picture of the reading glasses I finally had to get, because right on schedule, I began developing mild presbyopia in my early 40s. I like my glasses OK and wear them when I remember to put them on, which isn't that often. I keep them by my bed, so about the only time I remember to wear them is when I read before I (try to) go to sleep.
But tonight I tried to read something and there was just no freakin' way I could do it without glasses. Here's a photo of what I was trying to read:
My fingers mark the particular character I was looking for. Just for the sake of scale, here's another photo, including not only the book but my cat, so you can see how tiny the text actually is:
Looking up a character in an Chinese-English dictionary was always a challenge, particularly with older dictionaries in Taiwan, because to use them you had to know one of three things: 1) what the character's radical is (sometimes hard to determine even if you're thoroughly literate, and I never was--I was merely fluent), or 2) how to "spell" it with bo-po-mo-fo, a system I never mastered, or 3) how it is romanized in the wacky Wade-Giles system of romanization (which I didn't learn--at the MTC, we only learned Yale, which, despite being the easiest system for actually learning to pronounce Mandarin, is not the most popular system).
It was always an adventure to find a character even when I could read the tiny print of the dictionary, but now, well, it's quite the challenge. I finally found the character I needed, using a bo-po-mo-fo chart to help me sound out the phonetics of the character. It's this, ku, meaning suffering, bitterness, pain, a word I know well from my mission, because we were always being admonished to be "sying ku," to "toil bitterly."
Just thought I'd share.
September 16, 2007
This Wasn't Going to Be About Cheese
A sweet tooth is not the easiest thing to satisfy in China. I had to work very hard in both Taiwan and Shanghai to assuage my sugar cravings. I couldn’t find any decent Chinese sweets in Mainland China; I had to content myself with buying a bag or two of Skittles or M&Ms (both of which were imported and therefore very expensive) each week. Things had been markedly better in Taiwan, though I still had to make some accommodations. I ate a lot of chocolate O’Smiles, this sandwich cookie with a truly great name; there was also this flavored powdered milk drink I thought was OK. And then there were bings, these concoctions of fruit, shaved ice and sweetened condensed milk--they were pretty lovely, especially on a very hot day. And there was passion fruit juice--I’ve never tasted anything quite like fresh passion fruit juice, which was sold in baggies with a straw dropped into them, around which a string was tied so you could dangle the bag from the handlebars of your bicycle. There were also these sticky rice things that I found revolting if they had red bean in them--they were so very vile--but quite liked if they contained a paste of sweetened black sesame. But ain’t none of it the same as a really moist chocolate chip cookie or a nice big square of fudge so rich and sweet it makes your teeth hurt.
If you’ve ever looked at the “Desserts” section of a Chinese cookbook, you might have noticed that there’s usually not much there, and what is there doesn’t quite live up to our standards of an impressive finale to a good meal: you won’t find the Asian equivalent of a dense chocolate cake or a caramel souffle. That’s because something like chocolate cake--particularly if it’s frosted and accompanied by a dollop of ice cream--is cloyingly, unappetizingly sweet to the traditional Chinese palate. When I’d been on my mission about a year, a Dairy Queen opened in Taichung, the city I was stationed in. Of course I went to the grand opening.... and then I went back the next day. At one point I ended up talking to one of the western managers, who told me that all the recipes had to be revised to accommodate Chinese tastes. Otherwise, the local population might try a hot fudge sundae once, just for novelty’s sake, but it would be so unpleasantly sweet they’d never come back, and you couldn’t turn a profit someplace like Taichung catering only to expatriates.
Now, I’m not saying there’s anything genetic going on, that the Chinese have different taste buds than people with ancestors from Europe. No. I mean, I guess there might be, but I think it more likely that it’s a matter of what tastes are reinforced by the culture, what people are trained from infancy to think is delicious. As someone pointed out to me, many tastes are acquired, and historically the Chinese found it silly that westerners spend so much time acquiring a taste for things that are really bad for them--diabetes isn’t nearly the problem in China that it is in the US--or else bad for them AND thoroughly gross if you stop to think about it, i.e., the fetishized, manipulated, clotted old baby food of other species, known to us as cheese.
It’s hard to realize just how revolting cheese is in the ideology of Chinese cuisine. (And yes, Chinese cuisine does have an ideology about the proper way to eat, just as we have a food pyramid and notions about what you need to eat each day to be healthy.) In that philosophy, only babies and barbarians consume dairy products, and at least babies consume it while it’s still fresh, instead of letting it get curdled, hard, and in some cases, moldy. Worst of all, this is done with something intended only for the young of other species--it’s not like we make cheese from human milk. (Think how you’d react if someone served you cottage cheese made from the milk of cocker spaniels. That’s getting to the visceral revulsion cheese in general often arouses.) The average Chinese person is as grossed out by the sight, smell and taste of blue cheese as the average American is by something called chou dofu, which literally means “stinky tofu,” and which you could buy in Taiwan as easily as you can buy a Starbucks mocha in the US. I never tried chou dofu myself; watching one of my friends take a bite and then retch violently into the sewer at the side of the road was enough to convince me I wouldn’t like the taste any better than the smell.
I didn’t really like cheese when I was a little kid. I would eat it when it was served to me, provided it was melted (it had to be melted), but I didn’t really enjoy it and I couldn’t see why people always put it in things when most foods were just as good without it. But at some point I learned to love cheese, except for American cheese, which I won’t even go near. I also don’t care for blue cheese and the other really stinky, moldy ones. I’ve tried--I tried for the better part of two decades, in fact, to acquire a taste for those weird moldy cheeses grownups are supposed to enjoy. Starting in my teens, when I was served something with Gorgonzola or Roquefort, I’d tell myself that the reason it didn’t taste good was because I just wasn’t in the mood for a stinky moldy cheese on that particular day. But one day I realized that if I’d reached my mid thirties and didn’t really enjoy stinky, moldy cheeses, I probably wasn’t going to acquire a taste for them, ever. So now I just admit that I don’t like stinky, moldy cheese, the same way I don’t like raw tomatoes or organ meat, and I’m much happier.
I had this one boyfriend who once went off on this tirade about the inferiority of American culture. It’s not like that’s a topic I can’t get jazzed about discussing, but he had this particularly stupid way of demonstrating said inferiority. “It’s like this professor I had in college once told us,” the boyfriend said. “He said that a good gauge of a country’s maturity and its contributions to the rest of the world was the number of cheeses it had invented. And France has invented, like, five hundred or a thousand or something, and the United States has invented, like, three.”
“And then there’s China,” I replied. “It’s invented zero cheeses. The Chinese don’t even eat cheese. They just invented, oh, gun powder and paper money and toilet paper and porcelain and pasta and the printing press, like, a couple thousand years ago. But of course none of that stacks up to leaving sheep’s milk in a wooden bucket for long enough that it gets stinky, hard and moldy.”
Which pissed the boyfriend off. But he deserved it.
This wasn’t going to be about cheese, because after all, I posted something about cheese already this month. This was going to be a recipe for a peanut butter bar cookie. Oh well. This was another of those times when I got all caught up in my introduction. So I guess I’ll post the recipe tomorrow or the next day. Check back then if you want a really easy recipe for an ideal bar cookie to tote along to your next picnic.
September 11, 2007
Baring Their Chests and Testimonies
I got this link from my friend Troy, who sent it to me with the note "as if missionaries weren't gay enough...."
It's for Mormons Exposed: Men on a Mission, a retailing enterprise promoting a calendar featuring a buff, bare-chested RM (returned missionary) every month. The faq page (an acronym I always read "fag" unless it's capitalized) states that "the calendar celebrates these missionaries' great looks and beautiful bodies, as well as the amazing stories of service of these deeply spiritual men," adding that
Behind the eye-candy, this calendar has a deeper story - one that can reshape perceptions, heighten awareness, and perhaps encourage and inspire a broadened acceptance of human and religious diversity. The fact that twelve young returned missionaries are posing shirtless will certainly raise eyebrows, but may also help to sort out some common misconceptions about Mormons. The shock value of what these traditionally conservative young men have helped to create has the power to build a dialogue that encourages people across every belief system and walk of life to defy stereotypes, step out of judgment and embrace tolerance.
It also notes that the "This product may be the must-have stocking stuffer of the year, or even be the gag gift of 2008"--or do they mean the "gay gift" of 2008?
You'll see what I mean if you go to the "meet the missionaries" page, click on the little photo of each missionary, then run your cursor over the larger photo that appears on the plaque on the right of the screen: each missionary appears in his shirtless pose! What cracks me up is that they simply removed their shirts and posed in their dress slacks, with their belts still on. But you must check out Matt, who holds is scriptures in his fully-dressed pose, but has his thumb tugging down the waistband of his pants (just a bit of his garments peek out) and his hair coyly disheveled in his shirtless pic.
I shouldn't be so snarky, I know: it's not like most Mormon men know much of anything at all about how to be sexy, since all they're taught for most of their lives is how to repress.
But they do know how to be pompous and white. I must point out that while the twelve young men who posed for the calendar served all over the world--Ukraine, Japan, Mozambique, Argentina, Las Vegas--they're fairly homogeneous in their origins: four are from Utah, two are named Brandon, one is a Matt and one is a Matthew, and they're all white, white, white! Not a Hispanic, Asian, Native American (or, in Mormon-speak, "Lamanite") or African-American (or, in Mormon-speak, "seed of Cain") in the mix. Not one.
If you ask me, that's a pretty serious lapse for an enterprise that claims it wants to "build a dialogue that encourages people across every belief system and walk of life to defy stereotypes, step out of judgment and embrace tolerance."
They're so entrenched in their own view of who they are that they can't even realize the extent to which WHITENESS is part of the stereotypical ideas about Mormons, and that seems to be one stereotype they have no wish to defy.
(And oh yeah. There's also the "deeply closeted" stereotype. They're not doing much to defy that one, either. Which is why you need to read Troy's essay on embracing queerness.)
June 18, 2007
Email from My Mission President
As I mentioned in an entry a few days ago, I'm going through files on an old computer and deleting or transferring everything on it. One of the things I found was a message from President Carlson, written eleven years after he finished his stint as mission president and almost eight years after I left the church, a fact he was very well aware of.
But it's a nice message--warm and honest and caring. I would never do what I'm about to do now with a message from someone whose privacy I might be betraying, but President Carlson is, unfortunately, dead, so I feel at liberty to copy his message here.
Date: Fri, 27 Jun 1997 11:05:02 -0600 From: Monte B. Carlson To: holly Subject: Goofing Off
It is Friday, and I am not motivated to work today. Nice to hear from you. I attended an eleven stake regional conference in Pocatello two weeks ago and bumped into a former missionary. He and his wife were headed to Taiwan and Hong Kong this Sunday, and were flying out of Boise, which put them on the Freeway right past Twin Falls. We sent a "care" package to [our second daughter] with them, and enclosed a copy of your E-Mail message. [She was ten or so when I knew her eleven years earlier, and I had been extremely fond of her, so I really wanted to know how and what she was doing. Turns out she was serving a mission in Taiwan.] She too has had some wild experiences in Taiwan---from having a girl attempt an actual suicide while on the phone with her, to having a two year old boy take a whizz in her purse while she was giving the mom a lesson. From bike wrecks to being flashed, her mission, like yours, has not been dull.
Things are going pretty much the same for us. I've been the stake president for eight and a half years. The practice of law has actually been fun and productive. While personal injury cases still take up the bulk of my time, I did handle a first degree murder case from start to finish last year, and then another one this year. I do the legal work for the regional newspaper and enjoy the first amendment issues they present. I did write a hunting book mingled with scriptures that no one will publish.
I have lost contact with many of our missionaries. The computer was a mystery to me until about a year and a half ago, and E-Mail is as recent as last week. Your's was the first message I received. If you have the E-Mail addresses for some of the other Taiwan crew, I would love to start building my own address book.
It is good to hear from you. You know I am your biggest poetry fan and would welcome any new additions to my collection of your work. Would you believe I have actually quoted you in some church talks? I don't expect you to give up dissertation time to communicate with us, but keep the door open for messages.
The fact that he was a fan of my poetry truly meant something, since, as his obituary mentions, he had a degree in English lit. And how many stake presidents would tell an "apostate" "that they quote her in church talks? My impulse upon finding that email was to write to him again, but unfortunately it was too late.
The friend who forwarded messages about President Carlson's death to me made a point of including the "to" headers, so that I could find email addresses for people I'd lost touch with but might want to contact again. I did write to one of my favorite elders, but it was awkward. There are so few Mormons who knew me when I was Mormon who still have anything to say to me--they just don't know how to talk to me about anything without bringing up the Church. Even President Carlson told me all about his calling and meetings he had attended, but, I don't know, the fact that he still thought enough of me and my ideas to use them when discussing his own faith means something. Somehow it's different from what I get from so many Mormons who used to know me. President Carlson might have been afraid for me, as he told me once, but he was never afraid of me, as so many Mormons have been. So I never had to be afraid back.
I know it sounds cliched, but I wish I had found the message a month ago and told him that.
June 6, 2007
Someone Who Was Really Good to Me
My mission, as anyone who has read my blog for very long knows, sucked for the most part.
But one part that didn't suck was my first mission president, who was as good a man as I ever knew. He was extremely kind to me, and I loved him and his family very much.
I found out last night that he died Sunday. I hadn't spoken to him in at least a decade (though he did stay in touch with me fof a good while after I left the church, just call me up every so often to see how I was doing, which tells you something about why I loved him), and I'm really bummed.
September 12, 2006
An Obvious Compound Word
Today one of my students gave me a poem built in part on questioning something I apparently said about heartbreak.
When I first got home from my mission I was suffering from what I would eventually come to call religious despair. On my mission I was suicidally depressed, though I lacked the initiative and the energy to do anything about my grief. I could not eat or sleep. I wept uncontrollably for nine weeks, so bereft that I could not stop my tears even in public.
And then I finished my mission, went home, and went back to work on my undergraduate degree. I was young and pretty and from a middle-class family. I liked wearing bright blue mascara and clean clothes. I still attended church. My suffering did not involve addiction or physical violence.
And so no one believed me when I talked about my unhappiness. God forbid I try to write a poem about the despair I had experienced! I remember a middle-aged gay male bartender responding with undisguised loathing to a poem I submitted in class attempting to describe the young, chaste, female trauma I'd endured. How dare I, he proclaimed! How dare I believe I knew anything of heartbreak!
And now that I am middle-aged, a young man is saying basically the same thing, because.... I can pay my own mortgage? Because there's still no addiction and physical violence in my life?
OK, I don't know a thing about heartbreak. I know nothing of it. I relinquish any claim to so dignified a word. What I know--all I know--is grief's assault on the rest of the body. If you want to talk about suffering rooted in and expressed through phlegm and bile and blood and bowels, then hey, I have something to say about that.
April 14, 2006
Today is the twentieth anniversary of the event I think of as the hinge of my life. Twenty years ago today, when I was 22, a great dark door swung ever so slightly ajar after I slammed against it so violently I cracked a rib and got a concussion. I knew instinctively that freedom lay beyond the door, but I was too frightened, too weak and muddled, to push it any further. Instead I retreated further into the claustrophobic darkness of the tiny, stifling room I inhabited, even though there was no place for me in it: it was agonizing to live there, but it was familiar, and it was also home to everyone I loved. How could I ever leave it?
That probably sounds histrionic and hyperbolic, but hey, there are times to say "today is the twentieth anniversary of something that really sucked" and then there are times to try to capture a certain profound, visceral distress accompanying an experience that can still quicken your pulse and bring bile to the back of your mouth, even after two decades.
Here's another way of saying it:
Because I wanted to discover the availability of grace and explore my own capacity for goodness, I decided to serve a mission. I volunteered to go wherever I was sent; I was sent to Taiwan. Each morning for a year and a half I pinned on my dress a piece of plastic on which someone had scratched thirteen Chinese characters, three of which were my name and ten of which were Jesus Christ End of the Earth Disciple Church, a fair enough translation for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The heart is silent, a fist-sized cone pointing down, forward and to the left, clenching and unclenching, inside a cage of cartilage and bone. The sound of the heartbeat is caused by turbulence in the blood as blood meets a closed valve, not by contractions of the heart itself.
The rib cage is shaped like a beehive, which the Mormon Church adopted as an icon, symbol of enterprise, harmony, sweetness. As a missionary I dropped through my neighbor's kitchen roof and snapped one of my ribs, one bar of the cage, right in two. Nothing escaped, nothing was freed. I only damaged my icon.
I converted people. I lost my faith. I wept. I understood nothing so well as the groanings of a body at prayer. I was told that what God wanted from me was a broken heart and a contrite spirit. I offered him both. He gave both back to me and that's what I was left with.
And here's yet another:
One muggy Monday afternoon I sat on my back balcony in central Taiwan, reading two aerograms from my friend Martha and talking into a tape recorder to her, morosely explaining my analogy of God as a bad basketball coach. I dropped one of Martha's letters; it landed on the roof of the neighbor's lean-to kitchen; I decided to try to retrieve it. Instead of regaining the letter I plummeted right through the roof. How foolish I felt, sitting cross-eyed and crying on my neighbor's kitchen floor amidst all the rubble I'd created, shouting "Hello, hello" while she stayed upstairs, shouting back at me in Chinese, "What is it? What do you want?" What I had wanted was a witness from God that he found me acceptable even with all my doubts and problems, but deep in my heart I suspected that falling through a roof was probably a sign of something else.
Here's the crux of one of two problems I was trying to work out on that tape to Martha:
Mormons believe that every last human being who has ever lived must be given the opportunity to accept the true church and be baptized, and that's why they aggressively pursue missionary work to convert the living, and do genealogy to find the names of everyone who was ever born so that baptisms can be performed for the dead, as the apostle Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 15. It's staggeringly ambitious and more generous than some plans of salvation, but still, the logic has always struck me as flawed. In Mormon scripture, God tells Moses, "For this is my work and my glory: to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39). In the Missionary Training Center we were shown a pie graph charting the number of adherents of all the world's religions. It was supposed to underscore how pressing it was that we get busy and convert the rest of the world, but I remember staring at it, thinking about the huge wedge of humanity on the chart that was Muslim, the huge wedge that was Hindu, the huge wedge that was Buddhist. Each of those religions has fewer adherents than Christianity--about a third of the world's population is Christian--but the Christian wedge seemed less substantial and imposing because it alone was fragmented into various denominations, in order to call our attention to the tiny, tiny wedge that was Mormon: in 1985, about 9 million of the earth's 5 billion inhabitants were Mormon. I considered that tiny fraction and thought, "For someone who is supposed to be omnipotent, God isn't meeting with much success in his work and his glory." Surely if it really mattered to him that the whole world hear the message of Mormonism, he'd work harder to get it out there. The Church had only been around for a little more than 150 years; if he were really anxious to offer the truth to every last human being who ever drew breath on this planet, why would he wait so long to reveal it? I felt there were several logical conclusions one could draw from this state of affairs: perhaps God wasn't omnipotent, or he didn't really care about us, or the Church wasn't as necessary to salvation as its adherents liked to claim--or perhaps all those things were true.
The crux of the other problem was this: what about art? Can God love someone who loves art and beauty and human endeavor at least as much as she loves God? And if not, why are those things so wonderful? Is creating and enjoying great art worth going to hell for?
Here's the upshot of the fall: No solutions to either problem, just more confusion. That led in turn to spiritual despair, a dark night of the soul that lasted a hell of a lot longer than a night and eventually required medical treatment. When I started crying a few weeks later and couldn't stop for hours or days at a time, I wasn't given any help or treatment, aside from the advice to work harder and thus offer my own suffering as a sacrifice to building the kingdom of the Lord; but when my body rebelled and made me so sick I could no longer sleep or digest food with any regularity, I was sent to a hospital for a barrage of tests, which eventually revealed that there was nothing whatsoever wrong with any of my organs or systems, at which point the doctor saw fit to ask me about my life, and figured out that I was depressed. (Keep in mind this was 1986, before the Prozac revolution.) I got my first prescription for anti-depressants from a trio of Freudian atheist psychiatrists who spoke to me in Mandarin while I answered in English. They could make absolutely no sense of the profound grief I felt whenever I thought about God or the Church.
The fall happened, by the way, in a particularly Edenic part of Taiwan: a small community with spacious streets and clean air (unlike the filthy cities Taipei or Kaohsiung), neatly cultivated banana fields, and a spectacular view of the marble mountain where Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan's most popular honeymoon destination, was located.
So that's right: I had a fall in an tropical edenic paradise, and I am a woman created out of a broken rib. A tidy metaphor, isn't it? I've written a book about it, trying to make it neat and comprehensible, but it's still all very messy, and I need to go be sick now.
November 15, 2005
Hopeless Cases and Lost Causes
This is something I wrote during the summer, about a relationship I knew was doomed but still wasn't ready to abandon--I was so not ready to abandon it that I couldn't even acknowledge the real subject matter in the piece. I read it now and its intensity strikes me as strange, but then again, although there are situtions in my life I wouldn't describe as optimal, right now there's nothing I feel I should quit. Anyway, I came upon this piece and thought it might be better to post it when I don't feel all overwrought than when I do.
How many times do I have to say "I give up" before I believe it and mean it?
Why do I say "I give up" before I believe it and mean it?
One of my lessons in this incarnation must certainly be how to give up. I SUCK at it. We had all these lessons and lectures at church on "Enduring to the End," but what I really needed was some training in the fine art of judicious giving up, knowing when to quit, cutting my losses, calling it a day.
I knew within ten minutes of saying good-bye to my parents at the Missionary Training Center that I had made the biggest mistake of my life by going on a mission. But did I call my parents at that point and say, "Uh, yeah, Mom and Dad, I was wondering if I could catch a ride back to Arizona with you?" NO! I not only endured all freakin' nine weeks of the MTC, that "saccharin-coated hell-hole," as I had the good sense to call it at the time; I stayed on a mission for 18 and a half goddamn months, becoming more and more miserable, more and more ill, more and more damaged--but hey, I endured to the end of my mission and got a freakin' honorable release. It took me another three years to admit that I could not remain a Mormon, three years of struggle and failure and despair.
So why didn't I give up?
Because I didn't want to seem like a quitter.
That's a big reason I stayed in grad school and finished my dissertation: I didn't know how not to endure to the end.
I admit I'm happier with the PhD than the certificate of release signed by my mission president.
A therapist once told me that in the case of most marriages that end within three years, the people involved know BEFORE the wedding that it's a mistake, but it takes them three years of suffering and misery to admit it.
Why is it so hard?
Supposedly Saint Jude, who was martyred along with Saint Simon by being clubbed to death in Persia, is the patron saint of Lost Causes and Hopeless Cases. My book on patron saints states that "Because his name--Judas--is identical to that of the infamous disciple who betrayed Christ, this Saint was long neglected by the Faithful as an object of veneration. Consequently, he was available to take interest in even the most impossible, hopeless, or desperate cases."
I think he must be mine.
But who, WHO is the patron saint of cutting your bleedin' losses?
September 7, 2005
Art That Fits in Envelopes
This post is dedicated to my new friend Tammy, whom I met through Friendster (yes, you really can meet interesting people that way) thanks to the suggestion of a mutual friend (SBJ, to be specific), who thought we'd get along. We've been corresponding for less than three months, and she has already written me several of the best letters I have ever received in my entire life.
I think one reason I like blogging so much is that it's the closest I can come to writing letters all the time. The letter is one of my favorite art forms and one I think I'm particularly good at. I have always placed a high premium on good mail, and while I've learned to appreciate the virtues of email--its immediacy, for one thing--still, in many ways it's a sorry substitute for a real, honest-to-goodness letter. Most people send such short, inconsequential notes over email, and I still miss opening my mailbox, finding an envelope bearing the return address of some cool person, and knowing that inside are a couple of pages that will entertain and delight me.
Email has also hurt another of my favorite art forms, the postcard. What a great thing to find in your mailbox: a few really witty statements on the back of an interesting photo! I love getting and sending postcards, and used to devote a lot of time and energy to building up an impressive postcard collection. But these days I have only one friend who sends me postcards: John C, who not only sends postcards, but sends them with postmarks from Thailand and South Africa and Austria and so forth. (I am chagrined to admit I send him, at best, one postcard for every four or five he sends me, and mine have BORING postmarks.)
In Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey, the heroine, Catherine Morland, is teased by the hero, Henry Tilney, when she suggests that she doesn't keep a journal. "Not keep a journal!" he exclaims, adding that
it is this delightful habit of journalizing which largely contributes to form the easy style of writing for which ladies are so generally celebrated. Everybody allows that the talent of writing agreeable letters is peculiarly female. Nature may have done something, but still I am sure it must essentially be assisted by the practice of keeping a journal.
The "usual style of letter-writing among ladies is faultless, except in three particulars," he assures Catherine, those three particulars being "a general deficiency of subject, a total inattention to stops, and a very frequent ignorance of grammar." Whether or not journalizing contributes to the art of writing agreeable letters, I do know that my journal and my correspondence often overlap. I'm serious about journal-keeping. I use three-ring binders, and thanks to my industrial-strength three-hole paper punch, pretty much anything can be included in my journal. I used to put the best letters I receive in my journal, and given that I wrote drafts of letters (I typed them out on a typewriter, because my handwriting is so hard to read--even I have trouble with it)--I would keep copies of the more important letters I wrote as well. These days it's even easier: I write my journal on my computer now, and I just cut and paste important letters I've written or received from my email program to my word processing program. (Though I did get a notebook to dedicate entirely to Tammy's letters, because they deserve that kind of special attention.)
Here, for instance, are the opening and closing paragraphs of a letter dated August 22, 1990, sent to my friend Hakim in Seattle:
With such pleasure did I receive your postcard! I always wanted a depiction of the burning fires of hell. But even more than that, I was glad to know that you are alive, working for an entity that values you enough to give you raises, promotions, etc, even if you hate your job....
Anyway that's my life. Thanks again for the postcard, and drop me another line some time if when you feel like entrusting your deepest thoughts and feelings to the US Postal Service. (Isn't dropping a letter into that abysmal void known as a mailbox a real act of faith? It almost feels like flinging a paper airplane off a cliff. You never really know if it will arrive, be read, understood or even appreciated.... The feeling is even worse when you submit your writing to some literary magazine, but enough musings on the mail.) Anyway, send me some details on your life!
Or a letter to my sister Kathy, who sent me a map of Utah I needed for a class, along with some other stuff, including a stupid chauvinist letter somebody sent to the editor of BYU's "alternative" student paper, prompting me to send this reply dated May 1, 1989:
I received your charming map/BYU folder/sexist letter and commentary ensemble. THANK YOU. The map is exactly what I needed, the folder fills fantasies I had never dared express, and the sexist letter and commentary confirmed my belief that BYU is the stupidest university in the western United States. Nothing else is going on here. I haven't cut my thumb on a cheese grater in three whole days.
Sometimes, in the midst of writing a letter, I'll feel an excitement, an adrenaline rush. It's two things: the joy of creation, and the pleasure of performance. A good letter is art that fits in an envelope and is certain of its audience, which is a very good kind of art--not lucrative but still rewarding to produce. I believe that a good letter--even on e-mail--is more of a performance than it is a conversation, about on an equivalent with stand-up comedy or a good lecture. In these cases, you know your audience is there and you can strike whatever tone you like: conversational, intimate, formal. But you know that while there might be some interaction, it's really just you talking; you have to come up with the energy and ideas to sustain the entire discourse. You might get a reply, but it's still not really a conversation, because of the difference in position or the lapse in time; someone's on a stage speaking to a group of people who can zone out or walk out; or someone is writing to someone else who must receive and read the letter, and you have to say something that makes him/her want to reply.
I firmly believe in the restorative power of a good letter, especially when you're away from home. But few people seem to share my passion for composing quirky letters, or else they just don't see the therapeutic value in the practice, or else they're busy and/or lazy. I hate it when people ask a lot of questions as a substitute for thinking of any real response to whatever is before them in a letter. I like people who are funny and I like people who send enclosures (something else that has fallen by the wayside, thanks to email), whether they're poems or bookmarks or refrigerator magnets. I hate writing to people who think that e-mail forwards or excuses for why I'm not getting a more substantial letter constitute a real correspondence.
Aside from the time when I was in love with and unofficially engaged to a guy who lived 6000 miles away, mail was never so important to me in my whole life as when I was a missionary. On my mission, letters from home were addressed (in English) to the mission office in Taichung; the mission secretary would then stamp a missionary's current address in Chinese on the envelope, and forward the letters on. A few times he mixed up the address stamps and we got all of someone else's mail and none of our own. Once two of my letters arrived, for some reason, stamped MISSENT TO SAKARTA SOEKARRO HATTA. As if I knew where that was.
Despite the fact that families with missionaries in the field are supposed to write letters on a regular basis, many weeks went by when I got no mail from anyone in my family, and it always upset me. Mom insists that I have misremembered, that she wrote to me regularly, but I recorded every letter from home in my journal, and I also saved all the mail I got from her, and there isn't that much. My father sent me fewer than 20 letters the entire 80 weeks I was away. I was always begging for more mail from my family, but the pleas never had much effect. Instead, my mom informed me that "We are aware of the great sacrifice and inconvenience you are going through, but you would make yourself happier if you would be happy with the things you do receive from us....and we do have to lead our regular lives." The fact that they had to lead their regular lives was one of the reasons I was so upset: I felt so disconnected. Mom usually sent brief notes and would drop, casually, the information that my youngest sister had been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, that my second sister had some new boyfriend. But rarely did anyone take time to write a letter and tell me what was going on. It was a sore spot my entire mission.
I doubted very seriously that my family was aware of what I was going through. When my brother John went on his mission in 1991, my mother had learned her lesson and tried to send him two pieces of mail every single week, one a genuine letter and the other a postcard or a brief note. I wrote to him every other week, whether he had answered or not. But one week, about three months before he finished his mission, he wrote an irate letter home because he had received only two letters that week, and neither had been from anyone in his family. Even though I was 29, I couldn't help saying to my mother, "See? I told you missionaries need a lot of mail, and I wasn't just being nasty when I complained that you didn't write enough."
There are many ways in which I have shed my missionary zeal (and plenty of other ways in which I never had much to begin with) but I am still filled with evangelical enthusiasm when it comes to writing letters. I would love for any and everyone reading this blog to post a comment or write me a letter, but if you won't do that, write to someone else! Write a good, long, proper letter that will conjure delight and wonder and gratitude, and make someone feel that seeing your name in his/her inbox is one of the nicest moments a day can bring.
August 17, 2005
Madge and the Beast
I sometimes say that Madonna saved my life while I was a missionary in Taiwan, because it's really kind of true. I hadn't much cared for her before my mission--I loved the song "Material Girl," because it was so witty, but so much of her other stuff just seemed like the silliest, shallowest dance music, and I liked my dance music rife with complexity and angst. But as a clinically depressed missionary given to long bouts of crying, I guess I felt that since the whole God thing wasn't working for me, I might consider looking to other things to offer me happiness.
I got transferred to Taichung, one of the larger cities in my mission (which covered the lower half of the island) at the beginning of June. It was monstrously hot, and spending all day riding a bike when it's 100 degrees and 100% humidity really takes something out of you, even if you're not being treated for depression. To escape the heat, my companion (an assigned working partner, not my lover) and I would do something we called "shopping first-contacting," which meant that we would go to some department store with air-conditioning, then wander around passing out flyers advertising the church until we at least felt human again.
Our favorite department store was called LaiLai's. It offered many attractions, including a restaurant in the basement that served barely edible pizza (as opposed to the inedible kind of you found everywhere else--Pizza Hut had not made it to Taiwan in 1986) and an electronics department featuring a big-screen TV that constantly played Madonna videos. We would often position ourselves right at the top of the escalator, which was also midway between an air-conditioning vent and the television, thrusting flyers at people without saying a word as the escalator crested. They almost always took them, looked at them, looked at us, and shrugged.
OK, OK, it was a lousy way to do missionary work. In my defense I'll say that there were other ways in which I worked really hard. But missions don't cut you much slack--you're supposed to work 63 and a half hours every single week--and sometimes you had to find creative ways to survive.
Anyway, the point is, watching those videos over and over and over again, I began to appreciate Madonna's genius. It seemed clear to me that she respected her religion without feeling bound by it. She was able to incorporate accouterments and ideas from Christianity into her own creative vision. She demonstrated something I suspected: dance music could be as inspirational as religious liturgy. About that time her third album, True Blue, was released, and she changed her hairstyle from the golden ringlets she'd sported for her first two albums to a close-cropped platinum do. She provided me with an example I needed: a woman who could reinvent herself.
As a result I have always loved her, and always will, even if I don't care for some of the stuff she's done lately: I bought American Life but couldn't even finish listening to it. I put it in my cd player once, took it out before it ended, and have never tried listening to it again.
Yesterday was her 47th birthday. I thought about making yesterday's blog entry a happy birthday shout-out to her, but that just seemed silly. Instead, I sent this email message to my friend Wayne:
You have probably already baked a cake and bought the party favors, but in case you forget, thought I'd remind you that today is Madonna's 47th birthday. I realized that this day is more important to me and requires more recognition than something like the summer solstice. She's crazy now, isn't she, really truly crazy? But I still have to be grateful for what she has meant to me.
Last night we were talking on the phone and he suddenly interrupted me to say, "Holly, Holly-- Oh, oh my god. Oh my god." And then he read me a news story about the fact that she had celebrated her birthday by going riding on her country estate in England, fallen from a horse, broken her collar bone and three ribs, and fractured her hand.
That's some pretty heavy karmic shit. Madonna's whole kabbalah thing requires her to believe that everything happens for a reason, that we draw energy and events to ourselves, and drawing to you the kind of energy that makes you fall off a horse and sustain several fractures on your birthday, two months before your album comes out, so that you'll be laid up in bed and unable to film any dance videos any time soon, is serious stuff.
But I still hope she recovers quickly. I've never had a broken collar bone or a fractured hand, but I have had a broken rib--it happened on my mission--and I can say that ONE is excruciatingly painful, so having THREE has to really suck. I can only guess about how bad the other stuff feels.
This morning when I got up, turned on my computer, and checked my email, I found this message from Wayne:
Repeat after me: Today I am going to be a ray of fucking sunshine!
So be it.
I am so freaked out about Madge and the beast. I have never really liked horses that much. Some things should not be domesticated. And some people, I suppose. Madonna's self imposed "English country wife" thing makes we wonder if I am fulfilling my true purpose or just deluding myself? Am I supposed to be wild and free or good and trustworthy or dumb and f*ckable?
One thing I like about Wayne is that, aside from the two times he did something so awful to me that we didn't speak for months until he worked up the nerve to apologize, it's really easy to be his friend. He claims he is hard to be friends with. But I think it's not at all hard to be amused and enlightened and captivated by brilliance and inspired to be a better person, all of which are things that happen when being friends with Wayne.
Or at least, I guess it's not hard for people who want those things. For people who want to be bored most of the time, and stupid most of the time, and content with the drivel the world has to offer, and given permission never to learn or grow, well, yeah, it might be hard to be friends with him.
So today I will take his advice and be a fucking ray of sunshine–a ray of sunshine who is also thinking about Madge and the beast. Am I fulfilling my life's purpose? I don't know.
I am also a ray of sunshine with a very sore neck. I injured it somehow helped SBJ move. It hurts to look anywhere but straight ahead of me. Perhaps that is also a message from the universe? I don't know.