Tag: Humor

I’m Not Trying to Convert Anyone Anymore

I’ve been thinking a lot about argument, discussion, debate and discourse lately. For obvious reasons. When I argue these days, it’s to stand up for a point I think is important or advocate for a value I believe in. But I no longer really try to convince other people that they’re wrong and I’m right. In many cases I’ve simply lost faith that it has much of an effect, but at a deeper level this is yet another callback to my Mormon upbringing and worldview.

Mormonism is a missionary faith – as is pretty well known. Most everyone has seen or had an interaction with the official missionaries out and about, or is familiar with them as a concept through pop culture. Missionary service is an expectation of young men, and increasingly encouraged for young women (which didn’t use to be the case compared to encouraging them to prioritize marriage). Not only that, there is a perpetual mission effort within the culture and structure of congregations, supported by messages and guidance encouraging all adherents to proselytize. “Every member a missionary,” as the slogan goes.

This attitude towards conversion comes from a place of genuine love and caring. The underlying premise is that if you have found Truth, you have an obligation to lead others to that truth. If knowledge of this truth is necessary to salvation, you do not have a right to keep it to yourself and deny others the opportunity. If you love something, if you believe it: you share it. Complacency about other people’s understanding is not allowed.

My observation is that this attitude remains intact even if one leaves the faith. I’ve written before how my Mormon-ness doesn’t “wash off,” even if I no longer believe in it. The cultural conditioning and in-built heritage remains. I don’t think I’m alone in this. I’ve noticed that a lot of people who leave the church seem to go through a period where they seem to try to replicate missionary work in reverse – having become convinced of the “truth” (in this case, the falseness of the faith), they want to “open other people’s eyes” to it. Whether knowingly or otherwise, I witness a lot of people try to use the same tools of conversion for deconversion. And for the same reasons! If you care about someone, you want the best for them. Ergo, if you think a belief system is bad, you are unable to be complacent about it and feel a responsibility for their welfare.

Here’s the thing: I don’t think it works.

No one “deconverted” me from my faith. It was the result of over a decade of intense internal debate and inquiry. Topic after topic was picked up, examine, interrogated, debated, researched, and – yes – prayed over. Gradually ideas, realizations, perceptions, and information combined and coalesced into something I could no longer deny: I did not believe the same things that the organization taught. I thought it was wrong, I didn’t trust or believe several of its key truth claims, I could not participate in the community and remain true to the things I did believe, and there was no successful path for a cultural participation in the heritage of the faith without also a full throated and genuine adherence to its beliefs structures.

And every time I have tried to explain this process to a believer – a misguided attempt to do “missionary work” for my experience and perspective – I have failed to do it justice. I have failed to explain it in a way that makes sense to them, or they have failed to listen. We are operating from two fundamentally different perspectives of Capital T Truth.

I was having a vigorous (but respectful) political discussion with a loved one the other day that centered on the protests against police brutality in the States. We do not agree politically, but are able to argue and debate fairly successfully. I love this person, and they love me and while our differences have caused friction, they have not caused rift. In this I am so much more lucky than many people I know and I’m grateful beyond words for it.

The most significant aspect of this conversation for me happened towards the end of the discussion. After debating philosophical differences between sides of the political spectrum, trading thoughts on what the manifestations of those differences are, and talking Big Picture concepts, I referred to my own (admittedly anecdotal) experience of working for a police department myself for five years and what I witnessed there. (For those who don’t know, this police department was affiliated with my alma mater and a religious institution.)

This person’s reaction was along the lines of, “That experience really ruined a lot of things for you.” The implication being, that my political and religious views were fundamentally changed during this period of my life – and not for the better.

My immediate reaction was a flash of white hot anger. It felt really belittling to be told, in effect, “Your reaction to your own personal experience and observations are wrong,” by a person who was not there, was not privy to my thought process, and in spite of these gaps, does not see some of the choices I’ve made as valid or correct.

But after a beat, calm reasserted itself because the truth is, this person is right. Working for a police department for five years did change my view of policing. Which is a perfectly rational progression of events. Most people with opinion on policing have never worked for PD! And working at an institution controlled and managed by a religious organization also informed my view of that organization. Which again, feels like a pretty sensible way to form a point of view. I know a lot of people with views on religion who have never stepped foot in a place of worship. Now, we can debate the rightness or wrongness of my opinions, but at least they are informed by years worth of first hand investigation and inquiry!

This person is at some level unhappy at how I went through certain experiences and I didn’t come away from them with the conclusions (politically or theologically) that I am “supposed to.”

And I was unhappy that my practical and personal experience seem to be so easily dismissed when I feel both have given me specific insights that should carry some weight.

We are operating from totally different perspectives on Capital T Truth. (Seems relevant to the protest situation of people of color and their experiences…and any other number of divides.)

We’re at an impasse of beliefs. I don’t think we’re ever going to get over it. That’s okay.

The best we can do is practice empathy and kindness, and stop trying to change the other person, or hoping they’ll “come around” to a more palatable (to us) way of thinking. I’m not going to convert this person to my way of thinking, they are not going to convert me back to their faith. We have to learn to find other ways forward.

I’m delighted to say that where once a conversation like this may have ended in tears, this one ended in jokes, story swaps, and expressions of love. We’ve had to practice kindness and respect for one another in new ways. We have to learn how to make our case and then move on, not get stuck in arguments as if life were a perpetual YouTube comment section or subreddit – what a ghastly thought!

I’m no longer trying to change minds. I don’t think I can. One has to convert, or deconvert oneself. Missionaries of all stripes may serve as catalysts to change, but all true change comes from within.

I’m not a missionary of any kind anymore, and I’m not really attempting to be. I’m simply doing what I think is right, and standing up for what I believe. I’m doing it with my voice, my vote, my money, my time, my attention, and my platforms. Perhaps it will serve as a catalyst for someone else’s introspection process, but if not, it doesn’t matter. I’ve done the internal work, and I am still doing it, and that is ultimately the only thing I am or can be responsible for. In a weird way, this is also a legacy of my Mormonism because of a bunch of other slogans and messages I picked up. Anyone who grew up in the faith will recognize perhaps the most famous,”Choose the right,” supplemented by a popular hymn called “Do What is Right.

Black lives matter.

Systemic disadvantage exists, as does systemic privilege.

LGBT+ lives matter.

Trans women are women.

Trans men are men.

Nonbinary people are real.

Patriarchy is wrong.

Separate but equal is inherently unequal, no matter how to try and swing it.

Racism, sexism and homophobia are not “mean-ness,’ they are a collective system of traditions and institutions (many of them intentional, many of them not) that cause disproportionate harm and allocate disproportionate privilege.

Kind words and actions are welcome in overcoming overt hostilities, but do not make one any less racist, sexist, or phobic if your actions and beliefs continue uphold systems and structures that continue this disproportionate harm.

And everyone needs to do the work and learn the difference between being “nice” and “good.”

Do what is right, let the consequence follow.

 

Sunday Check In

A little while ago a tweet ran across my timeline that I have not been able to stop thinking about:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

This one hit so deep my bones felt bruised. It was just so accurate.

2019 was probably one of the most substantive years of my career, and it turned out to be one of the most important of my marriage/family and friend relationships. It was a tough year in many ways, and a really rewarding one in others. Most of all, it felt progressive in the sense that I was able to actually feel and see my own progress. Money and career felt steadier than they had for the entire decade prior, my mental and emotional health felt more under my own command than any time I could remember – life felt like something I was living and moving through intentionally rather than something that was buffeting me along.

I don’t have a single friend who wasn’t experiencing some version of hard work paying off in a significant sphere of their lives. It didn’t diminish the very real, grown up challenges many of us were managing…but we were managing them.

And now, we’re looking at our third full month of some kind of lockdown, side eyeing the people who are acting as if government official guidance has changed (it hasn’t, substantively), and honestly debating what our summer will look or feel like. Everything – from the economy to social life to a sense of “normal” – has just stopped.

The sudden, crashing halt from progress to stagnation is unsettling and vertigo inducing. We’re all just waiting to see what happens next, and planning for the future is so theoretical as to be useless.

My 34th birthday is coming up and I’ll be spending it in lockdown. We’ve been in it since mid March and we’re nearly at the halfway point of 2020. Who knows where Jeff’s birthday will find us in fall. We talk about it jokingly, and I try to keep a cosmic sense of humor about it overall, but what does it mean to “write off” several months if not a year of our lives? Not entirely of course, life goes on in lockdown but it’s not life as many of us know it – and has a heaping pile of anxiety and stress on top of it all as an added bonus.

Will we travel to see Jeff’s family as we planned? We haven’t seen family face-to-face in about two years. Will we go back to our offices in any way, or is our “work life” fundamentally and permanently altered? If the latter, even if you’re happy about it, how will we adjust to this? How long will it take? Will I have a job in two months? Boy I hope so. Will there be a recession (probably unless you think that we’re already in one, which is a compelling argument to me)? Another one?! Yes. How will we handle it? *Lol shrug.*

Sorry to be a bit of a downer this week – it’s mostly due to hormones, so don’t take it too seriously. But if you too are struggling with this feeling of “stuckness” please let me know, and how you’re dealing with it.

Off to perk myself up with a Bank Holiday weekend mimosa and some vitamin D through our open window.

 

Weekend Links – May Day, May Day!

Well, we made it, kittens. April is behind us and good riddance. Short and sweet today as we’re powering through the last few hours before the weekend…even though it won’t look massively different from our weekdays.

Nonetheless, this weekend I intend to enjoy the sunshine, cuddle effusively with my husband, and cook. Let me know your plans in the comments, and I promise to cheer them on whatever they are.

We elected our dumbest and worst person to be president. You cannot convince me otherwise at this point.

New single from The 1975, one of my favorite bands.

Culture matters in good times, but it matters desperately in rough ones. Take advantage of the artistic generosity swelling forth, but also donate if you can now and commit to funding it when you can later.

2020 is so wild that this barely broke into my awareness this week.

Shall we volunteer, Small Dog Nation?

As I spend more time cooking, I am thinking more about cookbooks (as opposed to family recipes, or what I find on pinterest or online). But I have read few as BOOKS, and plan to rectify this.

Andrew Yang was an unusual candidate in that he seemed fully focused on future problems and did not sugar coat the risks he saw. While he was never my preference, I’m pleased he advocated for certain issues and found this interview with him to be worth a read given the state of the world.

This may be the only time a mediocre book review compels me to read the book in question, because it so perfectly encapsulate a current moment that it might feel remiss not to. “As I read The End of October, I found myself resenting it. It was such a silly potboiler of a novel, with such unbelievable characters, such leaden sentences, such infuriatingly clumsy dialogue. How dare the world in which I am actually living so closely resemble a fucking airport thriller?

Yes, I have read “the nanny piece.” No, I have no further comments beyond “Eat the rich.”

The coming war between venues of all kinds, artists, distributors, and agents is going to be nuts. I don’t think movie theatres or theatrical venues are ever going to go away (if the last five thousand years of human history are anything to go by). But that doesn’t mean they won’t, or shouldn’t change. Concerts won’t stop, but I also hope artists will continue to stream straight to their fans when all this is over. I hope gyms will continue to provide online classes. I hope the ways in which we consume and enjoy all manner of things stays accessible and doesn’t just serve to make a few people rich.

Longtime readers will know that Small Dog Nation stans Yoga with Adrienne, so seeing her process and success detailed was both pleasurable and genuinely interesting. She’s a great exercise resource, especially right now.

Celebrating good spuds and good people.

Either we take sexual assault claims seriously or we don’t. Biden needs to provide answers to these accusations, the public needs to grapple with them and come to a consensus and partisanship won’t cut it. His statement today and call for transparency is the right first step, investigation must follow.

Death to FOMO.

Sunday Check In

I’m not going to lie, piglets, this week was probably the roughest yet. This was the week that tempers frayed, that the tension between old and new work challenges clashed, that the reduced paycheck landed. Thank goodness for the latter, but a grim sort of victory as it compels one to think of colleagues on furlough and how grateful we all are to have a job and something of a social safety net. I also heard from friends and loved ones who are staring down the barrel of unemployment.

Conversation after conversation has the same theme: any sense of adventure is more or less gone, we’re now in the slog, and some of that slog is increasingly scary. The stores are no longer completely bare but we’re still shopping strategically.

This week finally broke me a bit, when it comes to news. My work days have been labor-intensive still so any news breaking through to me is usually related to organizations or clients we work with or industry effects that are rippling outward. When I’d log off from my professional life and into my personal one, the sheer inanity vexed me and I’d log straight back off again. When I saw there was “a conversation” about whether or not people should inject or ingest disinfectants to kill COVID-19, in response to the daily bullshittery of the DC pressers, I nearly threw my laptop across the room. I wisely decided to focus on catching up on podcasts or books instead.

In short, I’m a bit glum. And so to counter the despondency, I’ve scheduled some premium friend time throughout this weekend and upcoming week. Calls and impromptu virtual book clubs, all the better to share and laugh, my dears.

What are you over this past week, what are you doing to care for yourself and other this coming one?

Sunday Check In

Hi ducklings, how are we all doing this week?

This week an additional group of colleagues was furloughed, one that contained many of my favorite coworkers and work friends. I know it’s temporary but I’m going to miss hanging out with these people (at least digitally) until they are back. We have awesome group chats!

Other than that, this was also a week where I’ve had some uncomfortable exchanges with people, personally and professionally. Stress is getting to lots of people, myself included, and our experiences are all individual and personal. It can make common ground harder to establish. I’m trying to remember my own calls for kindness while also speaking up when I feel is necessary. It’s a balancing act – some days I nail it, other days I get it wrong.

How about you? How was this week? What are your personal circumstances? What would you like people to better appreciate about your experience or point of view right now?

What I know for sure…

I’ve blogged everyday for a month, one of my goals, and while I don’t think I’ll keep up the same pace, it’s been really useful to help process the first four weird weeks of lockdown. I’m sure weirder is to come but in the meantime, a few things I’m positive about:

Showering and putting on clothes even when you don’t “have” to is important.

I appreciate walks a lot more now.

Lipstick covers a multitude of video conferencing aesthetic ills.

Community is vital.

Rich friendships are worth their weight in gold.

Takeaway is a treat not a way of life.

Work and life are not, and should not be, the same thing.

Doing nothing is okay, and we’re not supposed to be productivity machines.

Twitter is not real life.

You can’t control everything about your mental space but you can probably control more than you think (and if you can’t, you are deserving of kindness and help to do so).

Taking care of and responsibility for our fellow man is non-negotiable.

Nobody is really in charge and we’re all just trying to do the best we can with the information we’ve got.

Scene of the crime.

The Year in Baking Thus Far

Kittens, I’m calling it. I’m a third of the way through this challenge to bake weekly for a year, having begun it over the 2019 Christmas holidays, but I need to press pause. I enjoy baking and I think it’s better to make your own sweets than buy them, but this is a pace I cannot continue without more exercise than quarantine measures allow. I know vanity isn’t the highest motive to claim, but as a person who requires effort to keep her weight level to say nothing of dropping, this is not conducive to my long term happiness.

But I’d be remiss in my duties if I didn’t celebrate and share the sugar goods which have gotten me through 2020 so far. I’m pivoting to healthier cooking for the time being, but I’d be delighted to live vicariously through any of you who care to try the below and share your efforts!

Gingerbread cookies

Banana bread

Cheese scones

Olive Oil and Rosemary Cake 

Midnight Mocha Cheesecake

Savory Oatmeal Cookies

Classic chocolate chip cookies

Classic chocolate chip cookies again, because Jeff ate all of them!

Classic chocolate chip cookies AGAIN by request. Why mess with a good thing?

Pear tart with goat cheese and honey

Apple cinnamon tart

Classic chocolate chip cookies AGAIN because I had to get it done and was down to the wire this week

Coconut Thins

Salty Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Salty Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies again – because they are seriously addictive

Banana Bread

Salty Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies AGAIN

Earl Gray Yogurt Cake (a reader recommendation and SO GOOD)

 

Happy Freaking Easter…

Happy Easter from a former-mormon-currently-agnostic-humanist-stillmormonfeminist-effective-altruistic-mess. For those who believe and celebrate, I wish you a blessed day in unusual circumstances. For those who don’t, I hope the more general spirit of seasonal renewal and hope refreshes you. I particularly appreciated the sermon from the Archbishop of Canterbury, and some comments from one of my former religious community’s leaders at their semi-annual gathering last week.

Malignant radicalism has led to a lot, if not most, of our collective problems as a species over my lifetime. Tribalism, performative politics, terrorism, homophobia, cruelty, misogyny, inequality, racism, and destructive hubris all seem to require it.

Whether religiously motivated or not, I would like to see that same fervor turned towards radical kindness over spite, radical collective care rather than radical self interest. The radical dismissal of selfishness that most faiths, at their best and most appealing, call for and encourage.

What kind of world would it be where we stopped trying to legislate others’ morality and focused more on living our own? Where we stopped using contractualism as an excuse to deny care to one another? Where we felt a sense of obligation to one another simply because we’re all specks of dust together on a slightly larger speck of dust hurtling madly and briefly through the void, and not just animals doomed to hunt or be hunted? Where care and community, or in other parlance salvation, isn’t based on transaction or complicated formulas?

Might be nice.

 

COVID Hot Take: We Don’t Need Celebrities

Hear me out. We DO need artists. We also need entertainers. And we desperately need public figures (see also my hot take on how monarchy isn’t celebrity for other reading).

But those are people who make, do, engage, organize, communicate, and create.

Celebrity as an isolated concept – being famous – has never been more useless. Instagram influencers prompting us to buy things we can’t afford or enjoy lifestyles we don’t have – have never been less relevant.

To be clear some famous people are clearly adding value to other people’s lives right now and some of that value is purely frivolous. I’m all for it. Laughing, crying, thinking, or distraction absolutely have important roles to play, especially when for so many our inner lives have never been so important. There are many celebrities/famous people who offer this to us, but there are an awful lot who don’t.

I am all for Rhianna being more effective than whole governments in her philanthropy (see here, here and here for just a few examples) AND for Leslie Jordan twirling batons and humorously documenting his life. I delight in musicians streaming sets and impromptu concerts for their fans, I cringe at actors singing to us from their mansions.

Being famous is (finally) being revealed as fundamentally useless. Twitter followers and Instagram likes are not real people and are a trivial replacement for human interaction. What do you do with talent? How do you use your voice? How do you choose NOT to use it – which can be just as important. What purpose do you serve – no matter how grand or trivial?

Just existing isn’t enough.

Fight me. Or change my mind. Whatever. I just want to talk to people – beyond my husband who has heard all of my rants already.

A Few Things I’ve Learned About People Thus Far Thanks to Video Meetings and Social Media

The quality of their personal hygiene habits

Their natural hair color

Who has hair extensions

Their home decor tastes

Their stress habits

Not a few drug habits

Their preferred coffee/tea mugs

Which sweatshirts they wear for a week at a time

Their preferred stress snacks

Who is and is not properly adhering to social distancing (STAY HOME)

How many health/workout routines are utter lies

Everyone’s trashy TV faves

We’re all learning so much about one another kittens, and I’m personally delighting in it. I may be unusually fortunate but my work pals and I are chatting once a week at least on virtual hangouts, my brilliant team member threw a virtual pub quiz for our virtual cocktail hour yesterday, and everyone I know is trying deliberately to be kind and compassionate to colleagues. I’ve had long talks with my dad and sister, text chains with my brothers, and am even more involved with my extended family on social media and texts now.

If a bit more honesty, kindness, and generosity, and a little less performativity comes out of this mess, it would not be the worst outcome.