Sunday, November 16, 2008

Time to Say Goodnight

"I'm crying because out there he's gone, but he's not gone inside me." - Calvin, Calvin and Hobbes

Last night we finished my senior project, the supposed culmination of all my theatrical experiences here at BYU. It was a wonderful process, at times unbearably frustrating, that I got through only by the grace of God and one amazing cast, crew, and director. I don't think I ever wanted it to end. Now in the bittersweetness of the day after, I find there are a few little letters I didn't get to send.

To Agnes Mundy:

We built a bridge between our hearts, you and I, and pulled each other back and forth across it. It was a long and arduous process, one I was hopelessly intimidated to begin until I started to discover just how much we had in common. But surrounded by our family - those actors became a family for me just like their characters were supposed to be for you - we accomplished something wonderful. Last night when I walked out of the light and into that amber-lit hallway for the last time, I turned around to realize you were gone. All I had left was the oppressive grief I'd been staving off all night - the understanding that this whole experience was really over. I like to think that I left you somewhere in the imaginary greenery that existed just outside the set our wonderful designers created. Wherever you went, no one's ever going to see you again.

At first I cried when I realized you were gone, that it was just Alexis and me standing outside the doors to the Margetts Theater. But then I walked back in for curtain call, and then I was crying because it turned out it was Alexis and me (and Emily and Maggie and Becca and Rhett and Critter and Gary and Stephanie and David and everyone else) all along. And that's what made it all so beautiful.

The set may be gone, the performances may be over, the costumes may be back in storage. But you and the rest of this cast and crew will always be a reminder of what I can accomplish if I'm just willing to let it happen. I learned so much from all of you. Thank you.

Yourself in Another Life,


To The Cast and Crew of My Beautiful Senior Project:

What can I say that we haven't already tried our best to say to one another? You are amazing. You are beautiful. We've gotten through a lot, the little group of us that made our family, but we got through it together. I can do things now that I never knew I was capable of doing. I realized things I never knew I needed to know. I'm a better person than I've been. And that's because of you. In lieu of thinking of anything new or original to say, I dedicate to all of you the following poem by e.e. cummings:

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere

i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done

by only me is your doing,my darling)

i fear

no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want

no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)

and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant

and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud

and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows

higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)

and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
When I think that all I've been through in the past few years allowed me to end with this, it makes me grateful for everything. I've had other perfect shows before, but never one as special or as meaningful as this. Thank you.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Blogging about Blogging. Also, I Finally Say Something About Prop 8.

I've always been a "foot in both camps" type of person. When two friends are fighting, I'm usually the one who sees it from both sides. When two ideas conflict, I'm generally to be found sorting out the points they have in common. When given the choice between two differing options, I will find any way possible to choose both. I don't commit to one side particularly easily. So it shouldn't be all that surprising that the leadup and fallout from the Prop 8 campaigns in California have been difficult for me to handle. On the one hand, my religious leaders and many of the people around me came out very strongly in favor of a ban on gay marriage, and I respect that. On the other, all I want is for my friends to be happy - to feel embraced and accepted and empowered and loved. And that definitely includes my friends in the GLBTQ (that's Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning) community. And so here I was, once again caught in the middle of a conflict. How was I to remain neutral?

Faced with the possibility of no longer getting to play Switzerland in the Great Marriage War, I did the only thing I could think of at the time: I ran away. I avoided the conversation altogether. "I don't vote in California," I said, and decided that was that. But now that the GLBTQ community and its allies are howling with pain and perfectly understandable outrage, and extraordinarily well-meaning, faithful Latter-Day Saints are once again finding themselves the targets of persecution for merely doing what they believed to be right, I'm starting to recognize my silence for what it was all along: plain old ordinary cowardice. And in the face of a personal attempt to become a fully authentic, honest person, I think I might just have to face this thing head on. And guys, that has me seriously freaked out.

Confession time: I cheated on this blog this week. In a flurry of pain and anxiety Sunday night, I wrote a post on the Feministing Community site. I'm not totally comfortable recommending that you read it (though you can if you want to). I chickened out at the last moment and instead of writing a clear statement of my ideas and the conflict I'm facing, I think I accidentally spit out a lot of passive aggressive whining about my fears with only a little substance behind it. If you're reading this post here right now, I think you've got the gist of what I said. I wrote it in a state of some duress, hit "submit", immediately regretted sending out something before thinking it through first, and then assumed that a few people might look at it and then the whole thing would just blow over.

WRONG. The post went up on the site the next morning. By the time I got home from classes around noon, the comments were climbing and it was being called a "Community Fave" (meaning it's recommended on the Feministing main page). Within hours, it was reposted in full on the main page at Feministing - a very high traffic area, Feministing being one of the major feminist blogs out there (note: I love Feministing, but strong language and content warnings apply). The post topped 150 comments by the end of the day and let me tell you, it was a mixed bag. Several Christian feminists popped out of the woodwork to offer support (some in comments, some via email, one fantastic lady even ventured over to this blog, of all places). Others told me the anxiety I felt was due to cognitive dissonance, since Mormonism and feminism can never be compatible in any way, and I was going to have to leave one community or the other. I was challenged to change things within my faith - I countered by saying I'm perfectly happy to do so within my community. That was good enough for some people. And there were some straight-up anti-religious types who told me to get out while the getting was good. A surprising number of ex-Mormons popped out to offer empathy and their own stories about how this sort of conflict is what led to their leaving the Church. I was asked many, many times to clarify some fairly complex doctrines and comment on the usual skeletons in the Mormon closet (racism, sexism, etc.). Though uncomfortable filling the role of spokesperson for a whole religion - a fact I stated pretty openly - I did the best I could. Some of my words and beliefs may have been distorted by those reading, but that's to be expected. Others were overwhelmingly supportive in their attempts to engage with me, which I ought to have expected even though I didn't. I tried to stick by my convictions but my opinions tend to run toward the fluid end of things, and that made it hard. It was an intense experience to say the least, one that's certain to lead to a lot of intellectual/ideological growth for me. But I can't say as I'd ever like to go through it again.

So in the aftermath of a somewhat battle-weary Monday, I find myself still here. Caught. Still unsure, and still ashamed of that fact. But I'm determined to abandon cowardice and try to make sense of things, even if I can only do so after the time for action has mostly passed. So for the record, here are some of the things I DO personally believe about this issue:
  • I believe that Christlike love and Charity is the greatest force for good on earth, the quickest and most effective route to true equality and empathy for all living beings. That sounds cheesy, but it's true. It may be that, as Ivan Karamazov states so succinctly, "Christ's love for people is...a miracle impossible on earth" (BK, p. 237), but I still think that if we all work all our lives to exemplify the traits attributed to real charity, then justice, equality, and compassion for all must naturally follow. Just ponder the attributes listed here and in the highlighted passages here and you'll probably see what I mean. Even if you don't believe in Christ, or God, or any kind of deity or afterlife or whatever, maintaining charitable attributes is still the best thing for a harmonious society.
  • If feminism is really about making sure that both genders are equal in every way, that everyone is loved and cared for and accepted, that everyone has equal opportunities for success, happiness, and personal fulfillment, then all Mormons should be feminists. We may not fit as a whole into the feminist political movement as it is currently defined, but feminists we are nonetheless.
  • A civil union is not the same thing as a marriage. Everyone knows that or we wouldn't be arguing about it so much. I'm not saying that that's necessarily a bad or a good thing because sadly I'm just not there yet; I just wish everyone would stop talking around this point and start saying what they really think and believe. It would certainly help me figure out what I think and believe. Right now I'm sensing that there's something underneath a lot of the flawed rhetoric coming from both sides but I just can't figure out what it is.
  • No one is a label or even a collection of labels - including me. No two people are alike, even if they have enough in common to justify a person categorizing them together. And that's a beautiful thing.
  • I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty they possess inside. Give them a sense of pride to make it easier. Let the children's laughter remind us how we used to be!
  • Oh wait, that's what Whitney Houston believes.
  • Thomas S. Monson is an actual, literal prophet of God. That's one I actually believe.
  • Proponents of gay marriage are generally good people who are fighting for what they honestly believe to be right and just. So are opponents of gay marriage.
  • Religious persecution is very, very scary. So is constantly being targeted, called out, threatened, and "othered" because of feelings of attraction over which you have no control.
  • There might not be any way to easily sort all this out.
That's all I've got to say for the middle of a Wednesday night. Hopefully that's enough for a while. It's just that I'm starting to realize that silence about important things is almost always harmful, while honest, open communication, when reciprocated accordingly, is always helpful. So before my unfortunately short attention span finds something else on which to fixate, I thought I'd try a little honesty.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Quick Post for an Exhausted Day

funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals

Someday soon I will complete a project of any kind. I will work effectively and efficiently and consistently over a long period of time. I will throw tremendous amounts of time and effort and passion into it. I will sacrifice my social life and little pieces of my sanity because I will believe that creating something beautiful is worth pretty much whatever it takes to get there. I will have stress dreams, I will exhaust myself, I will experience more frustration than I'll know what to do with at times. And then when it's all over, do you know what I'll do then? I'll just start over. I'll do it all again. And that, I think, is more or less how I'd like to live my life.

Does that sound like a crazy person to you? Because I'm pretty sure that's how crazy people live.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

My Election Night Joy

What a day, what a day, what a night! I cannot tell you how happy I am. Check out the NY Times election day word train they've had going all day. The word that keeps popping up - the word that I used myself after watching Obama's amazing victory speech - is "elated". And baby, yes we are.

I was optimistic at the outset today, maybe a little nervous. I told myself it was too early to worry about it anyway, and besides that I voted like 3 weeks ago so tonight there was nothing for me to do but wait for the results to come in. I told myself things could go either way and that I had to be OK with that. That worked for most of the day, though it didn't stop me checking out my favorite Obama videos one last time. Around 5:00 PM I sat down to work on my new play; by 5:30 PM I was not so much writing as pacing around my room. At 6, I started stress eating. I stumbled onto the first reliable election results site I could find and told myself not to pay attention to the numbers now since very few of the polling places would be closed yet. I finished off Season 4 of The Office. I listened to the Obama playlist on imeem. Finally I stumbled out to the kitchen, grabbed all the brownies I had left from the batch I made last night, and plonked myself in front of the TV. I caught the end of Indecision 2008 on Comedy Central and watched Jon Stewart announce my candidate as the newest President-Elect. I flipped channels. I flipped out.

I was unprepared for the feeling of joy that came over me when I knew that Barack Obama was going to be president. Maybe it was the sense of participation; this is the first presidential vote I've ever cast that actually counted (my 2004 absentee ballot got sent back too late) and the person I chose made it. Maybe it's just that I've been with this guy since January, inspired by him for so long. Part of it might've been relief - no more election fatigue (and no more hating Sarah Palin, which was tiring all by itself). Maybe it was just that feeling of history actually being made right at this moment - and my being a part of it. All of that and more than that all at once.

We live in a cynical society - often with good reason - and I've tried very hard to make my choices in this election on as non-emotional a basis as possible. I've looked at issues. I've researched policy proposals. I've read things. Old patterns dying hard (and then dying harder, and eventually living free or dying hard), I at first tried to maintain my cool tonight. But you know what? The race is over; why not bask in the glow? So I cheered. And I danced. And I'll admit to getting a little choked up when Obama spoke at Grant Park, even as goose bumps spread over me again and again. Because it's true that you need to use your head as well as your heart. And it's true that people who make big promises only rarely seem capable of keeping them. But tonight? Tonight I feel like believing in something. And tonight I really believe that We Can.

UPDATE! A video and the full text of Barack Obama's acceptance speech is now available here. Please, please, please if you missed it the first time, check it out now.

It's Election Day!

Whatever happens tonight, I love you guys.