who made the world?

              A few weeks ago I went with some friends to see The Righteous and Very Real Housewives of Utah County up at the Blessed U. I liked some parts of it, and not other parts of it. It is still very hard for me to watch people, even fictional people, wrestle with a faith transition. I felt like I was looking at myself in a mirror after a sleepless night. Puffy eyes and smeared mascara: me, before I've put my "people face" on.All the raw energy and feelings, love and pain mixing together in ways I'm too familiar with recently.

            After the play we chatted with some of the cast a bit, and we discussed faith transitions, and the happiness that comes from living an honest and authentic life. Someone (and I'm sad to say I don't remember who,) reminded me "You only live once. It would be a shame to live that one life unhappy."

         Recently, I've described the reaction from people who knew me when I was active with the old cliche "death by a thousand paper cuts." When you live your faith very publicly, as I have, you are often blessed with an amazing support system. But it is also inevitable that everyone who knew your old self, and who continue to believe the things you no longer believe, will hurt you. Often unintentionally. Small comments that you recognize because you used to say them yourself. Veiled judgement and blame that hurts, but is justified as "bearing testimony" and speaking the "truth."

  A few months ago, I wrote a sort of flippant post on what not to say to your Apostate friend, and if I ever wrote that again, I'd probably just say: "Nothing. Say nothing. Unless it is really nice. Because a questioning Mormon has 99 problems but a bitchy comment from your old Young Women's leader (or your grandma, or your friend from college, or your ex boyfriend, or......) ain't one."

But I only live once, and it would be a shame to live that one life unhappy. And while I'll openly admit that I'm probably at capacity for paper cuts, I'm not dead yet. Which allows me to decide how to live this one life. I can live being hurt by the comment made by a relative at my sister's wedding. I can berate myself for the mistakes I've made as I've lived my one life. I can focus on the tiny injustices brought against me, or I can just live.

A few years ago my sister read this Mary Oliver poem at her high school graduation. And I've been thinking of the closing lines recently, as a reminder to keep living this life happy. Because it really is beautiful, faith transitions, smeared mascara faces, weddings, family, all of it is beautiful, and all of it is part of my one life.

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to knell down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

To be honest, I don't know how to pay attention, or how to fall down in the grass. What is it like to be idle and blessed? I still don't know how to stroll through the fields.

But I would like to learn.

That's what I plan to do with my one wild and precious life.

PS: Sometimes I get emails asking me where I find my poems. This one is an old favorite, but I found the text on the Poetry 180 website.  Poetry 180 provides "a poem a day for American high schools," and is a cool resource for teachers and poetry enthusiasts alike.


simplysarah said...

I discovered that poem after leaving the church and it is absolutely one of my favorites. I know something of the pain you feel. Faith transitions are really bittersweet, and rich. Thanks for your voice.

Claire McKinnis said...

totally unrelated to this post...but do you still watch bachelor/bachelorette? you should do re-cap posts...your post about bentley once upon a time is one of my all-time favorites

Stephanie said...

@ Claire

I do! I love the Bachelor/Bachelorette. I feel like my recaps would be lame though, for some reason. I don't know if I can top Reality Steve. :)

klynne1 said...

Wow, I loved that poem! As always, your posts on faith transitions hit home for me. It's hard to maintain positive relationships with people who see you as "broken" and feel that it must be their mission in life to "fix" you. I almost feel like I need to be doing something extraordinary to prove to these people that I am still a good person, more whole than I have ever been. But ultimately, we just have to shrug it off, and realize that our own personal happiness doesn't need to be proved to, or validated by someone else. Sometimes a lonely journey indeed. Always wonderful to converse with those who get it!

ChristyLove said...

The last two lines sum up everything I have been thinking for the last ten years.

Sarah Zabel said...

I'm new to your blog and I'm loving it so far. Thanks for writing. Especially this stuff.