Monday, November 21, 2016

What It's Like To Not Be LDS (it means Mormon) In Utah or Oh, Snap

If you are a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) and you want to know what it's like to not be a member of the LDS church living in Utah, I suggest a classic behavior psychology exercise. (Let me be clear, because it's so classic, someone else may have blogged about this idea before. I don't know. I didn't do any research. It's just the best way I know to communicate in a very tangible way what it's like to not be LDS in Utah.)

Find a rubber band. It may be harder than you think, especially if you have a cat or dog or toddler who chews on everything, but be as persistent as LDS pioneers and find a rubber band. Next, put it on your wrist. Now have a conversation with someone. (You might want to explain what you're doing ahead of time or this could be awkward.)

Every time you mention something that relates to the LDS church, snap the rubber band. Possible topics include the obvious--like your church job or the fact that you're going to the temple tomorrow--and the not-so-obvious.

Here are a few to watch out for:

your son's boy scout troop
paying your tithing
needing an idea for Family Home Evening
waiting for an email from a loved one serving a mission
genealogy (I know. That's not strictly Mormon territory these days, but still.)
picking your kids up from a basketball game at a ward
the ward's camping trip next week
choir practice
the casserole you need to make because someone in the ward died
the novel you just got at Deseret Book

After a while, you're going to notice two things:

that rubber band hurts
you talk about church more than you thought you did
yes (but some of us could have told you that.)

As far as the pain goes, once you get sick of it, you'll find yourself trying to think of things to talk about that have nothing to do with the church. You don't want to snap that rubber band, so what's a safe topic? That apprehension you feel right then? That's what we, who are not LDS, feel when we want to tell you something about your life, but we are afraid we will be judged. 


Avoid the pain. Think of as many things as you can to talk about that don't involve the LDS church. If your memory is as bad as mine, write a few of them down. 

Next time you're having a conversation with someone who is not LDS, talk only about those non-snap-worthy topics. Trust me. The non-LDS person will appreciate it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Mother's Day

I don't believe in coincidences, at least not as a rule.

Today, while I was in my therapist's waiting room, a woman entered. She carried a small pet carrier. Within it, a small black and white dog whimpered, and the woman tried to shush her. 

"It's okay," I said. "She's not bothering me." And then I looked at the woman and said, "One of those days?" I thought maybe she'd taken the dog to the vet and that appointment went long and she didn't have time to take the dog home before her own appointment. 

The woman said, "She's my mother's dog. My mother just died two weeks ago and the dog can't be left alone. All I could think was to bring her with me."

I met her gaze and said, "I understand. Soon it will be six years since my mother's death." I added, "It sucks, doesn't it?"

And she said softly, "Yes, it really does suck."

Before we could talk any longer, the woman's therapist came out and seemed delighted to see the dog was with her and ushered them both into her office. Meanwhile, I started rooting around in my purse for a tissue.

As I did, I remembered an appointment I had a few months after my mom died. (No, I did not have a dog--or a cat--with me.) My mom and I lived together and her bedroom was by the back door. As I walked past her room, a wave of grief washed over me. My whole life, when I would leave the house, my mom would tell me I looked pretty. When she and I would laugh about her ardent feminism and how maybe she should have told me I looked smart or brave or confident, she would shrug. When she left the house, it was her mom's custom to tell her she looked pretty. Some things just get handed down.  

That day, I realized that I would never, in this life, hear my mom tell me I looked pretty. The thought almost made me double over in pain. Next I realized that if I did something crazy, like got married, she wouldn't be there to zip up my dress, smooth my hair, and tell me, before I walked towards the aisle, that I looked pretty. 

Already running late, I bit my lip, pulled myself together, and headed out to the car. 

When I arrived at the doctor's office, the elevator door opened and a young woman, maybe in her 20s, with Down's Syndrome* and accompanied by her mother, looked me straight in the eye and said, "You look so pretty today." 

I smiled, thanked her, and assured her that she, too, looked so pretty. I stepped into the elevator and, as the doors closed, I half-laughed and half-cried. It was just like my mom to find a way to tell me that and remind me that she wasn't as far away as she seemed.

During a recent trip to San Diego, I kept noticing dandelions. It surprised me that they'd escaped the hotel's gardeners. Something about those dandelions made me smile. I liked their wild determination. Today, I noticed some again, and scribbled a potential line for a poem: my path is strewn with dandelions. 

Tonight, I glanced at the note and remembered. My mom once wrote a poem about my brother, aged two or three, bringing her a bouquet of dandelions. I've looked everywhere for the poem and I can't find it. But I know she wrote something like this "Even though it was early March, not May, it was in fact Mother's Day."

I miss my mom, but my path is strewn with dandelions. 

*I mention the Down's Syndrome because people with Down's Syndrome frequently play the role of messenger in after-death communications. Some think it's that they are closer to the spirit world; some think it's because they are less inhibited. I think it might be both.

Friday, June 19, 2015

I Have A Mental Illness

Prequel: I'm not interested in hearing about other people's meds or holistic treatments for depression. Save your time and energy. Also, I am not truly suicidal and already have an excellent support team, so don't feel you need to offer your support.

Ok, writing that title freaks me out. I said it a few times and thought "I am ready" and then I typed it
and thought "Shit."

For years I've felt it important to be honest with my struggles with depression and anxiety (does that give me one mental illness or two? I'll ask my therapist next month.) I hate the shame and silence that surrounds mental illness. And I decided if I was going to be honest about the symptoms of my chronic illnesses: Crohn's Disease and Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease, (which is what we now call Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I know. It's a small step forward and yet it took thirty years to get there, but I digress) why should I be ashamed to mention a panic attack? I was going to take a stand and, while I took it, I stayed in denial about that mental illness term.

Today, after reading this blog:

And thought, it's time for me to be more honest.

In 2009, my cousin, Matthew committed suicide. For a variety of reasons, I never got to really know Matthew. My loss. Watching my aunt and uncle and Matthew's four siblings grieve was agony. I kept wishing that Matthew had reached out to me--which is unlikely since we barely knew each other--but I could have talked to him about wanting to die. I've spent a lot of my life in that place.

As I've switched from one med to another and than back again at a different dosage, all the while weepy, panicked, anxiety to the point of terror, and pretty irrational thoughts (made worse by the fact that when my meds are off, I don't get enough sleep, so then I'm more irrational.)

Actually, as I described the latest flare with my therapist, she asked where I was on wanting to die thoughts and I said "Way more than usual." She replied," so, when the meds are working...." and I said, "Yep. When the meds are working the best, I still have my wanting to die moments, though I'm trying to rephrase those: "I'm exhausted,' 'I need help' 'I'm overwhelmed.' But almost every day I have a moment when I think longingly of death."

When the meds aren't working, I want to die violently. (Not by coincidence, we don't own any guns or sharp knives.) I not only want to die, but I want my blood and guts and brain spattered all over the floor and walls and ceiling as finally the tangible proof of my pain. Because often that's what depression is. It's just unrelenting pain to the point it incapacitates you and yet, unlike an arm chewed up by a lawn mower, I can't offer a doctor a glimpse of what part of me hurts so much.

And then there are the almost daily moments when I yearn for a gentler death. I imagine a moment when my work on this beautiful, but so crazed world is done and I will just let go. I imagine that, like Frodo in Lord of the Rings, someone will offer me a hand and I will take it with a sigh, look back at those I love and will miss but, knowing it is time, I will step out of this life, leaving behind me the illness and pain and find a place where I can rest for awhile..

Sunday, December 7, 2014

A Poem For Emma Lou

 A Poem For Emma Lou

It was always going to be
 impossible to lose you.
Nine decades in this life
more than you had asked,
more than most receive,
and yet my heart pleads
not yet, oh, not yet.

You spread your light
and warmth over so many,
telling us we were marvelous
and strong,
extraordinary and brave,
and we believed you.

And now, set free,
to run and dance
and ride at a gallop,
I hear you laugh
and know you are not lost,
not far, not gone,
just a little bit ahead,
slightly out of sight.

–Cynthia Sillitoe, December 2014

Thursday, October 2, 2014

An Apple A Day Really Bites

So this story begins with me and and iPod and a computer. We all got along great. Whatever song I downloaded from iTunes showed up on my computer and then I'd pug in my iPod and it showed up there, too. I could even make playlists on the computer, synch my iPod, and there they were. It was fabulous.

But my humble little iPod didn't have a lot of space on it and filled up, so I got a new one. I don't know which iPod it is. It's black and silver and says iPod on the back. And it has white earbuds and lots of memory. When I got the new iPod, I had one problem. My computer didn't have as much memory as the iPod, so I got around that by unchecking a box or something, and the computer, new iPod and I got along synching problems. I'd download music, it would be on my computer, I plugged in the iPod, and it was now on the iPod. We were so happy.

I finally upgraded my PC and that's when the trouble started. Not right away, of course. Right away, everything was fine. The iPod synched with iTunes on my computer (which is also black and runs some kind of Windows software) and I thought cool. Until I tried to buy new songs or U2 gave me a free album (which was sweet of them) showed up on my computer, and on my iPad, but not on my iPod. Now, why this music will show up on my iPad, which I have not synched with my new computer....I don't know. I mean, I figure it's that it has the same Apple log-in and password, so it's kind of automatic. It would be kind of nice if it would show up on my iPod, especially as I prefer to play music from my iPod, which is why I got the damn thing.

But it didn't just show up on my iPod and thus began my quest of synching and re-synching and swearing. And I exported and imported and I imported and exported and spent way too much time reading various "how do I make my Apple products all get along" forums. And I watched some videos.

One very bad day, I thought I'd figured out the secret and I checked (or unchecked) something and half my music went away. I said bad words and shrieked and ran around and found my old PC, lugged it upstairs, preformed electronic CPR on it and restored my iPod. Except, of course, for the new music.

Today, I thought I had it again. I would give up hope of getting iPod playlists to the computer and create new playlists on the computer and export them to the iPod. That didn't work, either.

Someone told me that what I really needed to do was buy a Macbook and everything would synch fine. And I said, "Uh, yeah, you want me to buy another piece of expensive Apple technology just so I can use the ones I have now? Do you have a bridge you want me to buy, too?"

I keep reminding myself that I can listen to all of my music somehow, just not all on the iPod. (And I haven't even tried adding my iPhone into the equation.) And I remind myself that this is a first world problem and that all suffering is transitory and maybe in my next life all my gadgets will work together. Or, maybe in my next life, I'll get to be the one who invents cool technology everyone wants to buy.....and then as they try to use it, I'll just laugh.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Four Years And Five Months

       Four Years And Five Months

Each year shapes me
like the wind against a cliff
taking with it what
I am done with and
what I long to keep.

but wide-awake,
you warn me
of unseen costs and
battles best not fought

(as if I learned
this rebelliousness
not from you.)

and, as I step
to the edge
of a darkness
you sought,
you tell me to find
my own abyss.

Of all the times
I thought you’d died,
the final time
surprised me most.
And yet, I wavered,
between knowing and numbness,
but never hope,
for it had flown.

Now, when I long to sleep,
I tally months and years.
I throw away the elixers
of the decades past
with a ruthlessness
I only now possess

and I ask you,
“what did you expect?”

–Cynthia Sillitoe, September 2014

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

You-See-Timmy....Never Trust A Church

When Bill Clinton ran for president the first time, his campaign strategist, James Carville, fell for his opponent's strategist, Mary Matalin. Naturally, Hollywood couldn't resist the story and put out a movie called "Speechless." Even though it starred Michael Keaton and Geena Davis, for me, it fell short of its mark and I would have forgotten it (and I had forgotten the title) if not for one memorable scene where Michael Keaton verbalized something I had witnessed, but never had a term for: the "You-See-Timmy" moment.

"You-See-Timmy" is the moment where a parent or other authority figure pulls aside a child on the show and explains to him or her the life lesson he/she--not to mention the kids watching--should have learned from that particular episode. Though it's a t.v. classic still used today, especially on shows deemed family-friendly, the actual Timmy character is from the show "Lassie." (Only when I did a little impromptu research did I realize that Timmy didn't join "Lassie" until the fourth season, which is amazing to me because every "Lassie" rerun I ever saw had Timmy in it. But I digress.) For those who have missed this classic series, Timmy was always doing stupid things like falling into wells and Lassie, an adorable collie, would then have to rescue him and/or bring help. At the end of every episode, a parent/cop/judge/minister/doctor would say something, "You see, Timmy, it's dangerous to play with dynamite." And Timmy's eyes would widen a bit as this bit of knowledge sank in and he'd say something like "Aw, shucks. Well, I'll never do it again" and everyone would smile (including Lassie, who might also bark for emphasis) and the theme music and credits would come on. And the world was safe again, at least until the next episode when you could count on Timmy to do something else stupid.

Tonight, I had a "You-See-Timmy" moment with my cat. Yeah, I know, sounds strange, but she's the closest thing I'll ever have to a daughter and it was time for me to impart a little wisdom I learned from my mother.

When the news came on, I discovered that a prominent Mormon feminist was now facing possible excommunication from the Mormon church--which is deja vu because it happened to another prominent Mormon feminist about thirty-five years ago--and as it has happened to other men and women before and since who have been brave enough to say something church officials didn't like. You can read more about this particular case here.

And I pulled my cat aside and said, "You see, Gabby, this is why I don't trust churches. I trust God. I'm fine with Jesus and Buddha. The Dalai Lama is delightful and the Catholics even have a damn-fine pope. But I still don't trust churches...not any in general and not this one in particular. Churches are places where a congregation of kind, friendly, generous, well-intended souls gather and they will welcome you in. Until you say something they don't like and they stab you in the back. They almost never stab you in the front because that wouldn't be nice."

And Gabby's eyes widened as she pondered this morsel of wisdom and then she said, "Aw, shucks. Ok, I'll trust God, but never a church."

And I felt that maybe I'd done my job as a mother for one day.

For the record, this post is satire. Mostly.