I am going to talk about this blog, my worldview, and wearing pants to the temple.
Writing for a nebulous audience has become a particular chore for me, especially since the Coscto Incident of 2017 and the related Internet Skewering Incident (of me) which followed. I used to say that I didn’t care about people’s responses to my writing. If they were shocked or appalled by the Code Brown stories or the aggressive behavior stories, that was their problem, not mine.
My tune, as it were, has changed. I don’t want to talk about my most vulnerable challenges to a hostile audience. Isn’t sharing one’s most sacred experiences with uncaring individuals figuratively known as casting pearls before swine? I am less and less comfortable with writing about my most personal struggles and epiphanies for an internet audience that I can’t even really define.
And yet, this blog is still here. The Holy Spirit urged me to start it and has pressed me to continue it. So I write about things that happen to me. I talk about faith and Jesus, mostly (I suspect) to people who already have faith and who already love Jesus.
Since Jack left for residential care, I do not yearn to write. I still write when I feel there is something I am meant to say, or I write for myself when I’m not trying to craft my words into anything other than basic sentences to convey information I want to remember. I don’t aspire to write books. I truly do not care about publication or notoriety. This may be the result of my own evolution. Perhaps it’s the Holy Spirit confirming to me that my work lies elsewhere. I am completely fine with this.
I currently spend most of my time parenting people on the spectrum (plus one non-spectrum-y teen), teaching writing to the most delightful undergraduates, going to the temple, doing everyone’s laundry, keeping food in the house, and spending time with my widowed mom. I feel confident that this is where my energies are best spent at this moment in time. Specifically, when I ask my Mother and Father in Heaven to tell me how I can serve, these are the answers I get (see above list).
Blogs, you may have noticed, are out of fashion. Even bloggers (those whose blogs are monetized and who sell a lifestyle) do most of their heavy lifting on Instagram, in the form of posts with lengthy captions. The heyday of blogs ended a good eight years ago. But here I am. Begrudgingly maintaining a blog which used to be about raising Jack, but which has evolved into a venue for writing about faith and my perspective on life. Which leads me, Reader, to:
My worldview! I don’t talk about politics here, because it’s so divisive, and Jesus is my focus, yo. But I would like to expound for a moment on how we see each other both because of and in spite of our individualized perspectives on the world.
I had a student last semester who, in the voluntary Student Response to Instruction (an evaluation of my teaching) wrote that something the course should change is “less liberal agenda.”
This response both puzzled and intrigued me. While I know that all of my students do not like me or my teaching style which emphasizes forced interaction and spastic tweets, I mulled over this response for a few days. The student was reacting to my use of topics such as refugees, sexual harassment, poverty, racial inequality, and mental health concerns as a starting point to our discussions which are designed to foster critical thinking, which is one of the university-stipulated course outcomes for the argumentative writing classes I teach.
While I obviously have opinions about all these subjects, I am clear with my students that the point of rhetoric is to see issues from multiple perspectives, in order to better understand the issues and to better convince an audience of your stance.
I am literally a married, straight, white, Christian mother of four whose open-minded, people-first perspective on world issues was too much for at least one of my students.
It made me think of the people online who lost their minds over the Costco Incident. It was as though the slightest bit of discomfort with their challenged perceptions led to an all-out rejection of the messenger.
Being Jack’s mother has taught me to see people as people, rather than as their issues, their labels, or their outward trappings. I’m baffled by the unyielding and rigid perceptions of those who seem to be completely locked in and essentially blinded by all of these peripheral things. Why is this? And why is it so disheartening to me?
This leads to me to my final point, which is to tell you about when I wear pants to the temple.
Reader, I go to the temple a lot, and I almost always go right after teaching. I refuse to teach every day in dresses at 7:00 am when the air is arctic (not that it’s anyone’s business), so sometimes when I go to the temple, I wear dress pants, a blouse, and dress shoes.
The first time I went to the temple in this ensemble, I wondered if people’s heads would explode. I do happen to live in the heart of cultural Mormondom, where folks are less apt to be familiar with any sort of visible variance from cultural norms (read: women going to the temple in skirts/dresses, period). Doing things differently just isn’t done, guys.
What happened was this: no one said anything. The temple worker at the desk looked at my pants, scanned my recommend, and welcomed me to the temple.
When I walked into the women’s dressing room, when I left the dressing room after my temple session, and when I walked through the parking lot, this is also what happened: around a dozen older women stared at my pants. It wasn’t just a double-take. It was a stare, where they stopped walking and cocked their heads to the side. I told myself they were either a) wondering why they haven’t done it yet, or b) thinking I’m a heretic. Bordering on witchcraft, possibly. Because pants, yikes. How dare I.
I asked myself later if fitting into this deeply entrenched cultural norm was so vital that I would be willing to change in a bathroom stall at the university into a dress before leaving work to go to the temple. And I decided that I’m already dressed professionally. I’m wearing nice clothing and my heart is ready to serve in the temple. My Heavenly Parents know this. I am 100% temple-ready.
I am growing so much in my individual ability to access spiritual receptivity. Part of the reason this is happening, I am convinced, is because special-needs parenting has taught me to see beyond what is “normal.” Beyond the culture. Beyond the outward appearance. Beyond the exterior.
Because of my parenting struggles, I am better able to look at people and see what’s inside. I am humbler and able to listen. I’m ready to be taught.
What’s inside people who look or act differently are people who can’t truly be defined as “other,” because they’re all our brothers and sisters.
What’s inside the temple is not a fashion show where pants on ladies are horrifying, but a holy place of spiritual instruction.
What’s inside me is a sloughing off of judgment and resistance to pigeon-holing ideas, groups, or individuals. There’s also a spirit hungry to learn what my Heavenly Father and Mother are ready to teach me.
I learned this, from Jack, and from Charlie, and from Truman.
Reader, I would not trade this education.