Not at Church

Not at ChurchI recently wrote about why I don’t go to church every Sunday, even though I used to. That’s still true. I didn’t suddenly have a life-changing epiphany that led me to attend church this past weekend, but I did have a spiritual experience this past week. In all honesty, I probably had more than one spiritual experience, but the one I’m writing about was the most spiritual.

I went to see a concert. I went to see The Piano Guys. Call me a dork–I don’t care; those guys are wonderful.

Music is one of those things that just sort of lives inside of me(I know this sounds corny, but go with me). When I see someone else who clearly has the music in them as well, it’s highly spiritual for me. See, I think that God, Heavenly Father, knows each of us and gave us each talents and skills to use in our lives. By using those talents, and sharing them with other people, I feel it’s a way to express our faith in a higher power. It’s kind of like saying, “Hey, God, I know you know what you’re doing. I’m going to use this thing that you gave me and see where it takes me.” Then, by using our talents, others are inspired to use their talents and maybe even discover talents they didn’t know they had. Maybe a person isn’t inspired to go out and use their talent, but maybe you made them smile, or made them think, and that’s not a bad thing. If you can bring any happiness to the world, it’s a good thing. I tend to think that any time we make someone happy, we’re only furthering the mission of whatever higher power you believe in, unless your higher power wants to make people miserable, let’s hope that isn’t the case.

Getting back to the concert I went to–it was wonderful. My boyfriend, Grizzly Pirate Wynn, bought tickets for us to go see The Piano Guys for Valentine’s Day. I love music, and so does he, although, I am definitely the more musically inclined. He enjoyed himself. I enjoyed myself. Lots of people there enjoyed themselves.

I didn’t think I was in any way musically inclined until I was about fourteen years old. If you had asked me at ten if I thought I was going to be musical at all, I would have responded in a shy voice that I wasn’t. I discovered that I was musically talented though, which was a surprise. I started taking piano lessons and I was good. I also started singing. Who would have thought I could do that? I can sing. I don’t mean I can sing along with the radio or in the shower. I mean that I can sing hymns, pieces from musicals, and, yes, even some opera.

I have now played the piano for about eighteen years or so. I have also been classically trained to sing, meaning I can read music, sing scales, sight-read, and even do some singing back to you if you sang me a tune. I love singing. I love playing the piano. I can even do both at once.

I also have a guitar, although I haven’t been as successful with it. I am somewhat double-jointed, meaning my joints are bit more flexible than is normal. You know that top joint in your finger? The one that moves around the segment of your finger attached to your fingernail? That one? Yeah, well, most people’s joint only bends outward, out towards the top of your hand. Well, mine can bend both outward and inward, towards the palm-side of my hand. You may think this is awesome, but I have thus far not found many advantages besides the fact that I can easily bend just that joint in my finger and say “Redrum,” and other things, like in the movie The Shining.

What does any of this have to do with the fact that I have a guitar? For the guitar, and any stringed instrument actually, you use the very tip of your finger to place pressure on the string. The correct sound only comes out of the instrument if you press the string down firmly against the fret board. Most guitars are steel-stringed, which means the strings are extra strong. There has to be a lot of force on that string to make a good sound.

With one string, this is all find and dandy, but if I have to press more than one string at once with one finger my double-jointedness comes into play and I cannot put the force on those strings that I need to, because of that wonky joint. That means my chords, the F-chord for example, sound like someone is trying to strangle a guitar. Thus, I haven’t been as successful with other instruments.

Double-jointedness does come into play with the piano, just not as much. I play much differently than someone who isn’t double-jointed. I can still do all that cool stuff, but my hands and fingers are usually positioned a bit differently and I play thumb notes with the side of my thumb, not the finger pad itself, you know, just in case you were wondering about playing the piano and being double-jointed.

Getting back to the concert–Steven Sharp Nelson is amazing. He’s the guy that plays the cello. I know I should probably be a little biased towards the piano guy, Jon Schmidt, since I do actually play the piano, but I just can’t get over how amazing Steven is. He also really reminds me of Nathan Lane.

I just Googled Steven and found out that he is only thirty-nine years old. Steven, you’re making me feel really unaccomplished because you’re not even a decade older than me and you’ve accomplished a whole lot, not that Steven will ever read this, but if he does, he’ll know that he made me feel a little bad about myself.

Oh, who cares?! He’s still immensely talented and I would love to be able to play the cello like he does. FYI one of Steven’s cellos, the electric black cello, is named Bruce Lee. I would love to be able to play a stringed instrument. The cello has this particularly warm sound that I admire so much.

Back to the whole spiritual thing–when Steven plays, I can feel the presence of a higher power. I know that may sound corny, but I know, I just know that there is something greater than us out there when people like Steven share their talents with the world. Steven’s over there playing these beautiful songs on his cello and I’m sitting there thinking, “This is beautiful! Heavenly Father gave Steven this amazing talent!” It’s almost like listening to the divine.

Again, I know I sound kind of corny, especially to people who are not on the same spiritual level as I am. Maybe you’re not spiritual at all, maybe you  don’t believe in a higher power, maybe you are spiritual, but you don’t feel spiritual around music, maybe NASCAR makes you feel spiritual–I don’t know, but one of the things that makes me feel spiritual is music.

How this ties in with my post about not going to church is that I felt I was worshipping and experiencing a higher power while attending a concert, rather than sitting in a pew, listening to someone talk about Moses, or Nephi, or Adam, or Samuel, or Jacob, or the Tribes of Israel, or whomever. When Jon and Steven shared their music with the entire audience, I was worshipping; I was having a spiritual experience. You could even say I was attending a worship service, not to worship Jon and Steven, but to worship the power that gave them their talents and made each of them who they are.



My Mom has a Favorite; It’s not Me

My Mom has a Favorite; It's not meMy mother has a favorite child, but it’s not me. Yes, she has more than one. Yes, it’s pretty evident that there is a favorite. No, she’s not subtle about it. No, it’s not in my head. This is a for real thing. My mom has a favorite child.

I know they say that a parent should not have favorites, but I’ve read enough Dear Prudie articles to know that there are parents who certainly do have favorites. I’ve seen enough Whisper posts to know that there are parents who have favorites. I’ve had a favorite brother; why not have a favorite child?

Well, for starters, it’s not fair. All of you out there who also know that your mother has a favorite will also know that it feels awfully unfair. You don’t get the same type of treatment. You don’t get the same advantages. You don’t get the same help, the same encouragement, the same types of presents, or anything the same. How this usually goes is the favorite child gets away with a whole lot and gets a lot.

In my family, I am the oldest child, the most responsible, the only one with a college education, the most talented one, as of yet, but none of that makes me the favorite. I’m even the only female child in my family. Does it matter? Nope.

Now, out of my three younger brothers, you might imagine that the youngest was the favorite, or the next to youngest for being so smart. You would be wrong. The favorite child in my family is the trouble-maker, the one who does everything wrong, the one who has caused more crap than the three other children combined. That one–that child, is the favorite.

I’ve always known this. Ever since this kid was born, I have known he was the favorite. He got more than I did. He got more attention from my mother than I did. He got more of everything. He got to sit up front in the car, a practice which would be frowned upon these days. He got the bigger room. He got the more expensive presents. He got the more expensive clothes. He got away with everything. He was defended more times than I ever was. More excuses have been made for him than anyone else in the family. If I had a dollar for every time my mother made an excuse for my brother, I probably wouldn’t have to work right now, well, at least for a couple of weeks anyway.

What’s more, people can see that my mom prefers my brother, over anyone else in the family, anyone, that includes her other children, her husband, her siblings, and various pets. It’s obvious. As my boyfriend put it, “She talks about him like she’s talking about a high school crush.” Everything is always centered around him. She’s calling him. She’s waiting on him. She’s paying for something, for him. She’s buying something for him.

Now that he has a baby, it’s worse. The baby is going to be the most spoiled baby in existence.

I don’t understand why. I don’t get why he is the favorite. It’s not that I want to be the favorite, because I don’t, really, my mom puts way too much attention on my brother and I’m just not that into that much attention from my mother. I just think it’s unfair. I have three brothers who are all valuable and great in their own rights. It’s like my mom practically ignores my other two brothers. Sure, she still loves them and still does things for them, but her emphasis is not on them; it’s on our other brother.

I do want to be a bit selfish about it. If my mother had defended me like she defended my brother, how much more well-adjusted would I be now? How much further would I be in my life if I had had a mother who actively participated in protecting my mental health, or my physical health for that matter? If my desires had been listened to, where would I be now? How about that time I begged to go to boarding school, seriously, how much better of an education would I have gotten? How much better off would I be mentally had I not had to live in a house with constant fighting all of the time?

My mom was still my mother, still is. She still did things for me. She still made sure I had a roof over my head. Ultimately though, whatever my mother has done for me and my other brothers pales in comparison to what she has done for the other brother, the favorite.

So, yeah, my mom has a favorite kid. I have no idea why he’s the favorite because he’s certainly caused her the most trouble, but he’s the favorite none-the-less. I don’t love my mom or my brother any less because of it, but it hurts a bit knowing that your own mother just doesn’t care for you in the way she cares for one of your siblings.

Don’t Take me to Church

Don't Take me to ChurchI used to go to church, every Sunday, for three hours. Sometimes church started at nine in the morning and sometimes it started at noon, or one, or ten, or eleven. I’ve gone to church at all sorts of different times, for three hours, on lots of Sundays. In addition to Sunday, there were also occasionally Wednesday night meetings, Thursday activities, and various meetings for positions I volunteered for at church. There was a lot of church. Church used to be this big part of my life.

I say used to be because it no longer is. I didn’t stop believing. I didn’t convert to Buddhism, Satanism, or Pastafarianism. I didn’t even take a yoga class, that’s how not, not church I am. It’s not that I wouldn’t take a yoga class, or that I associate it with eastern philosophies. I think it’s a form of exercise, but some people certainly do associate it with other religious teachings. That comparison was just to show that I’m not even really flirting with other religions.

If nothing else has peaked my interest, why not go?

There is nothing better than my church. I don’t have an alternative to go to. If I went anywhere, I would go to my church. I simply love some of the beautiful and very spiritual things about my church. I have not found religious teachings more beautiful anywhere else. I have not felt closer to the divine anywhere else, well, besides nature and when I see the beauty of human beings, not physical beauty, the beauty of things that people are capable of.

So why not go, if I have nothing better?

I’m tired. I’m worn out. I’m tired of church drama. I’m tired of following teachings and ending up in bad situations because I did. I’m tired of being told that God cares about sins more than he cares about me. I’m tired of being told that God cares more about men than he does about women. I’m tired of being expected to fulfill certain roles because I’m a woman in a religion. I’m tired of being looked down on because I don’t fit the cultural expectations of my church. If you don’t believe that your church has its own culture that goes above and beyond what your church teaches, you better think again, and think hard.

I’m also tired of not learning anything new. I am a spiritual person. I want to broaden myself spiritually through my worship experience, not hear the same thing over, and over, and over, and over again. Religion is not about repetition; it’s about growth and you only grow, or change, if you do something different. Sure, you could argue that you have to repeat the same action over and over again to form a habit, which could bring about a change, but you would have to make a decision to start the new thing in the first place, which is different from what you were normally doing.

I hated school. I heard the same thing, over and over again. I had already learned it, years previously, but, yet, I had to sit there and hear the same thing over and over again. It never did me any more good than the first time I heard it and it became frustrating. It was a chore. It was a chore to wake up five days a week and go listen to stuff I already knew, all while sitting in a hard chair, in a boring room.

My church attendance was no different. I went to church. I heard the same thing, over and over again. There were no revelations. The teachings I heard, over and over again, which I already practiced, didn’t really do me much good playing on repeat. I took to doodling in a sketchbook, while attending one hour, instead of three, on Sundays. I then took to not going at all. If I was going to take time out of my Sunday to get up early and go doodle in somewhere that wasn’t my house, to learn nothing, why should I go at all?

Moving forward, there were teachings and cultural things about my church that started to hurt. There were so many, “If you follow these teachings in your life, things will be ok,” statements. Yes, really? No, not really. I did a whole lot of following. That following got me a mentally abusive marriage, that not many people associated with the church would label as mentally abusive because of the lack of teachings about such things. Oh, but when other people heard, oh my. They couldn’t believe half of it. My own grandmother was the best voice of reason in the whole thing. She told me that it could be a greater sin to stay in a bad marriage than it was to keep it together. I prayed. I fought. I got out.

It’s so hard to split apart some beautiful gospel, from a culture that can be very flawed. If I adhered to all the things I used to adhere to, because of my church, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I’m in a much healthier place mentally. I am not miserable. I’m not depressed. I am in a great relationship, with a man I don’t fight with, with a man I can do things with, with a man who has shared interests. That man is not a member of my church. He even has qualities that members of my church would look down upon, heavily, but he is a wonderful person, who is very generous and responsible. I would not have this relationship had I adhered to the “only date members” repetition that many church members go about saying, on repeat. You know what I would have? Not much. I would be alone. I am in a relationship with a person I could actually raise a family with and he would be responsible about it. That means so much to me. You know what means more? The fact that he would be happy if we had children, or, heaven forbid, if we couldn’t. He values his relationship with me more than the prospect of passing on his genetic material, unlike the last guy.

I think part of what made my ex-husband so abusive was the fact that he felt entitled to treat me however he wanted because of how he twisted church teachings in his head. It’s not the church’s fault he did that; it’s his, but it doesn’t change the fact that it happened. He thought he could do whatever and I would take it, that I would have to take it, because of church teachings. He picked the wrong woman for that.

Through all of this, I’ve learned that a person’s own perspective about their belief is a lot more important than what that belief supposedly is on paper. Church teachings are wonderful and beautiful, but it’s what you do with those teachings that is either the wonderful thing or the terrible thing, after all, many people have done a great many terrible things in the name of God. I don’t want you to tell me that you are a Christian, or a Buddhist, or whatever, I want you to show me with your actions and who you are as a person. If you truly are whatever religion you claim to be, it will show in your actions with the world.

I’m not perfect, nobody is. Maybe I could benefit from going to church every once in a while, maybe someday. Right now, I’m assessing the good things about my beliefs. I’m tallying up the things I know to be true. I know Heavenly Father cares a whole lot about me as a person and would like to see me happy. I know he cares a whole lot about me becoming a better person through personal interactions, relationships, and knowledge. I know he gave me a brain and the ability to reason, so I could think about things and make my own darn decisions. I know he hopes those decisions will lead me back to the spirit kingdom to be with my family forever. I don’t have to go to church every Sunday to know those things. These are all things I’ve learned outside of church among other people, normal people, probably even some hipsters.

You want to know God? Go see what he created. See the mountains. See the sky. Look at the stars. See all the wonderful things people can do. Be amazed at the talent of others. Think about how photosynthesis works; it’s pretty important.