On Christmas Music, a Church Addiction, and Love and Peace

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I was listening to Glee’s Christmas playlist on Spotify while putting on my makeup today. Why? Because I’m a 20-something female and 20-something females love Glee, Christmas music, makeup, and any app that can turn music into a social media experience.

“O Holy Night” came on. My favorite Christmas song. I remember attempting to belt out Celine Dion’s version as a child mostly because I felt that it was hauntingly beautiful, also because I prayed every day that God would turn me into Celine Dion. All this to say, “O Holy Night” is not new to me. But something new caught my attention while listening to Lea Michele carol: “His Law is Love and His Gospel is Peace.”

His Law is Love and His Gospel is Peace.

I grew up deeply involved in the church. I was the epitome of a “church girl.” When the doors were open, I was there. I was a Bible-memorizing, worship-leading, prayer-meeting-going child and teen with the best of intentions. But I too often confused devotion with plain bitchiness.

See, I got the whole show up to church, don’t mess around with boys, or drugs, or alcohol, cuss words, or R-rated movies. But I didn’t get the whole “His Law is Love and His Gospel is Peace” thing.   I was too busy being religious and dogmatic, to be kind or to be funny or to be peaceful. I was the Queen of the Culture War.

Then, at 16, my world dramatically crumbled at my feet and I had a faith crisis. I saw good people being spit out of the church. I saw women being treated more poorly than men. I saw disgusting church politics and super holy clergy being super unholy when the spotlight went away. Instead of stepping aside and figuring it out for a minute, I threw myself more deeply into church culture without allowing any question to be answered or any wound to be healed. I made myself physically ill in attempt to save the church from fundamentalism.

I ventured from one unhealthy extreme to the other. I was the unloving fundamentalist, and then I wanted to crucify unloving fundamentalists. Then I broke down. Because duh. Of course I broke down. But breaking down was the best thing that has ever happened to me.

I stepped away from church completely. In fact, I haven’t been to church in 15 months. I was a church addict, and I needed to find my sobriety. I couldn’t be obsessed with Church (which is entirely different than being obsessed with God, mind you) and I couldn’t be obsessed with saving the Church from itself (which was entirely prideful on my part to think I could/should/would).

But I didn’t step away from God or my faith. I just needed to just be me for a while, figure out who I actually was outside of the walls of a church. And I’ve done just that. At first it was hard, and then it was still hard, and now it is still hard too. But it’s not been a bad hard, it’s been a good hard. It’s been freeing.

Still, I have often wondered where it leaves me with God. Doubting His existence has never once been an issue for me. I unswervingly believe in the existence of God. But I can’t be the Super-Christian, holier-than-thou either. I’m caught in the middle, with questions still unanswered.

However, in that middle space there is a truth that I can embrace: “His Law is Love and His Gospel is Peace.” God is love. The Good News is Peace. That which is unloving or lacking in peace need not concern me. I don’t need to have it all figured out when it comes to God. I don’t need to tell you if I will ever be a regular churchgoer again. I don’t know these things right now. But I do know this:

His Law is Love and His Gospel is Peace.

Love and Peace. Those are good enough answers for me during this Christmas season. I have this crazy feeling that Love and Peace may be the only answers I ever receive. Because when you boil it down…what else is there really?

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Image via Flickr

 

When in New England: New Hampshire and Vermont

Vegas girls get used to showing up to Thanksgiving festivities in t-shirts.  And “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” is extremely relatable because desert rats are only ever dreaming of a White Christmas.  Except there are no “ones I used to know” like Sinatra croons about.  No snow.  No sledding.  No snowballs.  Just dust.  (enter melodramatic woe-is-me music)

So when I had the opportunity to spend my Thanksgiving holiday in New Hampshire, I knew I was in for a new experience.  And God really delivered in the snow department.  He knew this girl needed some white fluffiness in her life.  So he sent the Epic Snowstorm a few days into my trip.  I’m sure you can imagine that the first thing I did was Instagram the glory for all my fellow desert-dwellers to receive some education on foreign forms of precipitation:

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And then – you all – I went sledding for the first time.  Like a child.  I didn’t take any pictures because I was too busy experiencing it and capturing it in my head.  But I’m sure you can envision a mightily bundled up She-Woman with sled in hand prepared to explore the frozen tundra for the first time.  This was all done at night, mind you, which made it ten times more fierce and thrilling.

So much exploring the snowy woods in wide-eyed wonder.  Heschel, the Jewish scholar, once wrote: “I did not ask for success.  I asked for wonder.”  I can’t blame him.  Success feels good, but wonder – wonder is a whole new level.  I don’t want to lose ‘wonder’ simply because I am no longer a child…

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…so I ventured then to Vermont which is apparently the Land of the Subarus.  And, let me tell you, all those hippie cars are quite the sight to behold and wonder at.  But then this too:

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Was I freezing in New England, you ask?  Yes.  Of course my thin-skin froze half to death.  I had to resort to fashion suicide in order to survive.  Nobody should ever wrap their scarf around their head like this and think any boy would want to kiss them.  But the subzero temperatures prevailed (it was like 40 degrees):

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My little getaway was filled with newness, joy, and yes – a whole lot of wonder.  I entered Thanksgiving thankful, and left with my cup overflowing.

P.S.

Prior to the Epic Snowfall, I saw turkeys which was the cherry on the icing of the cake.

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Along with this of course:

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In Which I Become an Essential Oils Enthusiast + A Giveaway

I know I’m not alone.  You go to the doctor and they “fix you right up” by giving you medications that cause side effects that are more uncomfortable than your original problem? Welcome to my summer!  I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.

It seems like most people have one or two or ten friends always talking about their Essential Oils and how you can basically cure all-that-ails with two drops of this and five drops of that.  It seemed too good to be true.  But I pride myself on the hippy/crunchy/hug trees side of my personality.  And I was desperate.  So I emailed a sweet oil-using friend with an “SOS Save My Miserable Life” message.  And she did.  She introduced me to Young Living Essential Oils.  Saved my life?  I don’t know. Dramatically improved my life? Definitely. And when I find something that makes life better – I must share!

I received Young Living Essential Oils Starter Kit.  It came with 11 Essential Oils and a diffuser to start me on my way.  Eleven felt like the perfect amount: I was never too intimidated by all the options, yet I had a good group to get me started.  Each oil has many uses and I’m just starting to learn how versatile they really are!  In my Starter Kit, I received the following:

  • Lavender
  • Peppermint
  • Lemon
  • Thieves
  • Valor
  • Di-Gize (Typically the kits come with Purification instead of Di-Gize)
  • Frankincense
  • Peace & Calming
  • PanAway
  • Joy
  • Stress Away

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The first oil I went to was PanAway.  I had just recently started lifting heavy weights when I received my starter kit, and I was constantly sore and achey.  While I was still skeptical, I rubbed it on my sore muscles only to find that minutes later the pain had greatly lessened.  Now, I know what you’re thinking: Placebo Effect.  I thought so too.  But I have consistently received nearly immediate relief time and time again.  That goes down as successful in my book!

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Thieves and Valor are each blends and were my next two tries.  Thieves I rubbed on the bottom of my feet at night to keep the cold/flu away.  Seriously y’all – it smells like Christmas!  So delicious. AND!  I typically get a cold/laryngitis every couple months . . . knock on some wood for me . . . but I haven’t been sick since I started using it regularly (and I have been around extremely sick people many times!)  Bonus: I’ve used Thieves directly on canker sores (and I can get me some serious canker sores!) and they’ve healed in half the time.

Valor has been fantastic.  I have clenched my teeth at night for years.  It has gotten so bad that my gums have started receding and a nasty un-sexy mouthguard was in my future.  That is until I started rubbing Valor on my jaw before bed.  I wake up without my tight jaw and without pain.  I also have the authority to suggest that this oil blend seriously helps out with snoring!!

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Lavender has been great for my insomnia.  I have never had trouble sleeping until this summer.  I normally was out two minutes after my head hit the pillow.  But I had been having trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep.  I either diffuse the Lavender or put it on my pillow.  My sleep has improved dramatically. (My mother has been using Peace & Calming for sleep with the same great results.)

Lemon oil is a great immunity booster.  I’ve been putting two drops in a glass cup of water as a detox and drinking it to help keep me healthy.  The added bonus is that I’m not drinking plain, boring water.  It tastes great.

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Additionally I’ve been enjoying Peace & Calming as well as Stress Away to help with the stress of being a full-time student. But let’s be honest, sometimes just being a full-time human being is stressful, so these oils help the relaxation process.

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Please realize each of these oils has many more uses: headaches, digestive issues, allergies, inflammation, stress/depression, ADHD, skin issues, odors – on and on the list goes.  This all is just the very beginning for me.  I look forward to spending 2015 learning even more.  I have had many people asking how I’m liking the oils, so I wanted to give a quick run through of my thoughts over the first couple months.  I couldn’t be happier and healthier!

If you are interested in trying the oils for yourself and/or you are interested in getting a Starter Kit like I did, please email me at taylorduvall1@gmail.com, comment below, or message me on Facebook.

Giveaway

Since I have been so fortunate to start using Young Living Essential Oils, I want to share the joy with you!  I will be purchasing and gifting one 15ml Lavender oil from Young Living.  Below is a Giveaway generator.  You can enter to win by subscribing to my blog, following me on Twitter, commenting on this post, and tweeting the link to this post.  Make sure you do it all through the Giveaway Generator so you can have multiple chances to enter.  The contest will be closing January 1st at 12 AM.

 

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When Thankfulness Looks More Like Battle Scars than Counted Blessings

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Confession:  I get really annoyed with the chronically over-happy people who remind me to “count my blessings” all the time.  I know, I know.  They’re right; I should count them.

1. I have legs that walk

2. I have clean water

3. Adam Levine exists on this planet

I digress…

We are often reminded to be thankful, to be grateful for what we have. For the good things. People chime in and tell us to look at all the loveliness we have around us and to appreciate it.  Then, somehow, all the crap, the garbage, and the pain are supposed to look smaller.

Sometimes that is all great, because life is going well.  But what if, sometimes, there is a lot more hard than there is good?

Last Thanksgiving I didn’t feel thankful for anything. My world was crushed around my feet in a million sharp little pieces.  The only thing I felt was bad for myself.  I was confused, depressed, embarrassed.  Thanksgiving was the moment of climax in my life.  All the bad, the disappointment, the dreams that turned into nightmares came together in their heightened power that day and left me with two choices:  I either change it all or I stay in the thankless misery.

We go through seasons in our lives, I like to think of them as chapters in our stories.  And some of them simply suck.  Anybody who tells you otherwise is lying.  Life is hard sometimes – from small stresses to devastating heartbreak.  What do we do then?  How do we become grateful when hard things tend to be blinding and good things tend to be subtle?

We fight for it, battle it out.  Kick and scream and flail until we find a way to be thankful and bow our heads in gratitude.  It’s not about pretending that everything is ok.  Because a lot of the time, we are not ok.  It’s about holding on to the fact that life circumstances do not have to define our levels of gratitude. Thankfulness is bigger than a list of counted blessings, and it’s also bigger than a life broken into a million sharp little pieces.  Thankfulness is a state of being, very similar to hope.

I woke up the morning after Thanksgiving with those million sharp little pieces still crushed around my feet.  My circumstance hadn’t changed overnight. But I had chosen to change my life, and my resolve to hold on to hope had grown.  I felt thankful for that.  It wasn’t about being happy-clappy, it wasn’t about feeling all warm and cozy inside.  I still had puffy eyes from tears. I still had a pull in my chest from anxiety. I still had a broken life situation. But I was thankful for a second chance to create a mosaic out of my million sharp little pieces.

Maybe thankfulness doesn’t always look like counted blessings, a list of lovely things to be grateful for.  Maybe thankfulness sometimes looks like battles scars – wounds we have acquired because we refused to be taken down by the weight of the pain and devastation.  Because we fought to find something to be thankful for: maybe something as small as (or, arguably, as big as) “I survived another day!”

This week I enter Thanksgiving with more good than hard in my life.  I couldn’t be more appreciative of that.  I have a long list of counted blessings this year.  But I know intimately not everyone is entering Thanksgiving the same way.  Some are showing up to the table in the depths of despair, some have no table to show up to.  I urge them to find something worthy of thankfulness, even one thing to hold onto with every ounce of might.  Allow yourself to show up battle scarred.  I say this not because I believe we should all behave as if everything were perfectly fine; I say this because hopefulness and thankfulness are sometimes the only things left to hold on to.  The rope at the edge of the cliff.  Use them to climb back up.  

Image via Flickr

Why I Don’t Want To Get Thicker Skin

BethanyPaigePhoto-1257As any guitar player will tell you, the first few weeks of learning how to play this six-stringed instrument are painful. Tender finger skin is being pressed firmly against metal strings. If the dedicated budding musician is willing to stick it out, eventually the skin on the fingertips hardens into calluses. As time moves on, the skin becomes rough, desensitized, thick. Thick skin.

I chose to be an opinion writer and with that pursuit comes the inevitable emails and comments from people really unhappy with what I have had to say. That’s part of the territory; I accept it. Most of the time negative comments cause laughter: often the person visits what I call “The Land of Missing the Point,” and some have valid points even if I disagree. But, honestly, sometimes negative feedback really gets to me. When it happens, it always stems from somebody I know choosing to attack me personally instead of my writing or my argument. If I have the “audacity” to confront this type of bully-like behavior I inevitably get this: “You’re a writer, get thicker skin” AKA “You’ve caught me and pointed out my mean-spirited attack on your personal life. Instead of apologizing, I’m going to make it your problem– you must just have thin skin.”

Then I doubt myself. Was I too thinned skin? Do I need to toughen up? But the last time this happened, it hit me – I don’t want to get thicker skin. With thicker skin comes hardness, lack of feeling, coarseness, and desensitization. This is a very useful tool against pain. Just like those guitar calluses. Without them, nobody could become a guitar guru. In the same way, this world is painful; people say mean things and tougher skin would be a good tool against pain. But what makes me human is my ability to feel emotion, even the difficult ones. Emotions are indicators that something isn’t right.   When people say unkind things about my personal life, something isn’t right and my emotions let me know that to be true.

Even more, if I become hardened, if I lose my sense of feeling, if my skin becomes too thick – how will I treat those around me? In pursuit of toughening up will I lose my humanity? Hardened people are not kind people. Instead, I can look around me and say “Oh you have scars? Guess what, I have them too.” I want to be compassionate, I want to be kind, and I want to be empathetic. I’m not willing to sacrifice that for thickened skin. If I close myself off to anything that may hurt me, I will have closed myself off from people.

Instead of thicker skin, maybe the better advice is one of my favorite quotations: “What other people think of you is none of your business.” If somebody says something hurtful, I can feel hurt. I’m a human; I want to feel. But I can acknowledge that their opinions of me have little to do with me and much to do with them. And then, I can let it go, and I can go about my real business. Which isn’t fretting over their opinions. My feelings are allowed to get hurt and the point isn’t to learn how to never feel hurt. My feelings just shouldn’t stay hurt. Not for that person’s sake, but for mine. I have other business to accomplish.

So when daggers are thrown my way, my skin will pierce. When fire is lit, my skin will burn. I won’t leave this life unscarred. But who, in the end, is the stronger person? The one who avoided pain entirely by thickening their skin, by bulldozing through life without feeling? Or the one who felt the pain, victoriously survived, and kept their compassion and humanity in tact?

Even though I haven’t played much guitar over the past year, the skin on my left hand fingertips are still thick and lacking in feeling.  My hope, my prayer for my life is those fingers remain the only desensitized, hardened part of me.  No more thick skin.

Photo by Bethany Paige Photography

On Getting My Badass Back

I used to be a really badass.

Brave.  Individual.  Unstoppable.  Unique.  Confident.  Driven.

Then something happened. In my late teens, my badass began to slip away.

I forgot who I was.  I forgot my passions, my talents, my dreams.

I want that badass back.

I’m busy creating the life I’ve always wanted, and I never again want to forget who I am and what I’m all about.

So my friend had this magnificent idea to create vision boards, and I adapted the idea to make my BADASS BOARD.

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How to Make a Badass Board

1. Spend some time in introspection.  What makes you feel badass?  When you’re cooking, writing, playing music, solving math problems, kicking a soccer ball, getting that promotion?  No need to rush all the thinking.  It’s important to know what your passions and pursuits are.  These passions and pursuits are your Badass Themes.

I chose to focus on 6 themes: Travel/Adventures, HEALTHY Spirituality, Writing/Reading, Friends/Fun, Workout/Yoga, and Music.

2. Decide how general or how specific you want to go.  I kept all my Themes very general.  Since I have been trying to “Dwell in Possiblility” (totally stole that from Emily Dickinson!), I wanted to keep these concepts open to interpretation and surprise.  But some people like to focus on really specific goals.  Either is great, just find what works for you.

3. Flip through magazines and browse Pinterest to find words and pictures that go along with your Badass Themes.  As if we don’t do these things already.  Now I just gave you a purpose to your late-night-insomnia-induced pinning.  You’re welcome.

4.  Find a friend and work on your Badass Boards together.  This is like Grown-Up Arts and Crafts time.  Glue and scissors for the win!  But unlike preschool, wine is encouraged.

5. Put your Badass board somewhere you can see it to remember Yo’ Badass Self. Mine happens to reside on my bedroom floor, because what is more badass than somebody who is too lazy buy push-pins to hang up her board?!  But you know what… I see it all the time and I remember.

And when we remember how awesomely badass we are, we won’t let anybody else tell us otherwise.

AND WE WON’T FORGET.

Cheers to you, my Badass friends!

Two Decades

Two Decades
By Taylor DuVall

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For the first two decades of my life
I knew the face of God.
It was quite easy to spot. Lucky me.
I saw him in the face of the Republicans.
I saw him in the eyes of the babies saved from their hastily abortive mothers.
I saw him in dresses with material enough to cover lust-inducing shoulders and breasts.

For the first two decades of my life
I heard the voice of God.
It was quite easy to spot. Lucky me.
I heard him in the sound of Traditional hymns
And the ever-edgy Contemporary Christian Music.
I heard him in the prayer meetings that so verbosely went on and on and on and on
Amen.

For the first two decades of my life
I felt the presence of God.
It was quite easy to spot. Lucky me.
I felt him in church camps.
I felt him while listening to the testimony of someone who used to be broken
But is NOW PERFECTLY FINE!
Lucky them.

For the first two decades of my life
I wasn’t necessarily wrong.
I just forgot to include the rest of the universe.
I forgot to include the “them” in with the “us”
I forgot to open my eyes and see that this world is Colorful, Interesting, and Diverse
And if I truly believe that God was the designer
Then how could I believe that he was not IN the Colorful, Interesting, and Diverse?

For the next two decades of my life
When I see, hear, and feel God
I have a feeling it will be in the unlikely.
Because infiniteness does not fit nicely and neatly into the typical.
It tends to seep out.
So I’ll keep my eyes, ears, and body ready for the unexpected and the unpredicted.
I don’t want to miss out on God, thinking I already knew exactly where He was.

What is “Real Life”?

Anybody who has followed my Facebook or Instagram over the summer knows I had the magnificent privilege of doing quite a bit of vacationing.  Lucky girl, I know. Planes, trains, and automobiles: the theme of May – August!

I started my summer in Santa Monica with my mom. We visited the beach and attended the first two tapings of The Rob Bell show that is to air on Oprah’s network.

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Then I road tripped with a precious friend from Vegas to Oregon and hung out in the Pacific Northwest for a while.

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The rest of the summer was comprised of Laguna, Newport, Huntington beaches in Cali.

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Puerto Rico.

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A mountain getaway to Duck Creek, Utah.

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And a short, but way too much fun cruise to Mexico.

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Oh the adventurous joy!

Then suddenly, I returned home and had 7 more days until my fall semester would begin.  I kept saying “I’m going back to real life now.”  No more fun in the sun, hard work was to begin once again. For me, “real life” this fall was to consist of focusing on my school work (6 classes this semester… ah!), making whatever money I could, writing for anybody who would publish my work, keeping up my blog, and trying to hold on to any semblance of a social life.  Real life.

But maybe I was wrong.  Maybe these day-to-day, sometimes difficult, sometimes boring, sometimes frustrating events are only a portion of “real life.”

Maybe “real life” is a mixture of:

dedication and wild abandon

hard work and hard play

waking to the alarm and leisurely sleeping in

working diligently toward important goals and traveling the world

eggs for breakfast one day and a smorgasbord of gluten-free waffles the next

My fear is that when we only describe “real life” as the drudgery, the hard stuff, the less-than-exciting stuff – work, alarms, cleaning, errands, car problems, washing children’s puke out of our clothes, or going to the gym – we just might be missing out on the whole picture. We might forget that fun, thrill, newness, and things that make our eyes light up are all “real life” too!  I don’t want to be so busy pursuing my “real life” that I forget that “real life” is all-inclusive.

On the flip side, by downgrading all these everyday activities, we miss out on the joy and sparkle that can pop up all the time. School will be hard for me this semester, I undoubtedly will be busy and overwhelmed at some points. But I’m doing EXACTLY what I’ve always wanted to do. I might not be flying in an airplane to an exotic land, but I’m educating myself in a subject I desperately want to know.

What “real life” actually is can be debated. What cannot be debated is the fact that I have one life. So I plan on filling it with a mixture of this and that and everything. Maybe there is no “real life” or “fake life” — maybe it’s all just LIFE.

Why Fifty Shades of Grey Is Not My Thing (Hint: It’s not the sex)

Let me begin by stating: I have read the book Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James in its entirety. I have seen far too many “reviews” or opinion pieces from bloggers who refused to “touch that filth, much less read it” and still proceeded to discuss it. I decided to be responsible and read it for myself before I condemned or supported a viewpoint, and especially before I made one of my own. My opinion – if you don’t read it, you have no authority and no business reviewing it. In other words, if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the “Red Room of Pain”!

Fifty Shades of Grey, the #1 New York Times Bestseller and raging (no pun intended) phenomenon, has managed to reignite the fervor of Americans’ gossip with the release (alright, ALL my puns are intended!) of the highly anticipated movie trailer. I won’t keep you in suspense, so here it is if you have somehow managed to escape the frenzy thus far:

People are in a hullabaloo over this trailer from one side of the spectrum to the other. Some are over the moon and cannot wait until their fantasy plays out on the big screen. Some are upset over the choice in casting. Others are distressed because they viewed this book as disastrous, threatening pornography for women, and the movie will be no less menacing to female society.

Well let me tell you, I am in a hullabaloo myself! I have two major issues with Fifty Shades of Grey and don’t know if they can be resolved in the film adaptation. Surprisingly, neither of them has to do with the overt sexual content. It always surprises me that sex is handled with two extremes. It is either bad, evil, should be hidden. Or it is beyond great, euphoric, should be everywhere. One of the best explanations I’ve found of this phenomenon comes from the interesting indie flick Daydream Nation:

“You’ve been brainwashed by puritanical a**holes who think sex is a sin. But then again, your little gerbil-sized brain has been reprogrammed by the media to believe that sex is the be-all, end-all. So now you’re stuck, right? ‘Cause on the one hand you love to f**k, but afterwards you feel overwhelmed by guilt & you’re not sure why. Maybe it’s because sex is neither as good or as evil as you’ve built it up to be.” (emphasis added)

Sex is neither as good or as evil as we have built it up to be. Nearly all of us have sex. Hopefully, nearly all of us enjoy sex. Some of us have sex frequently, some of us not so frequently. It is a thing we do. It feels good. Then we move on in our lives and cook and clean and work and raise children or write blogs.

Writing about sex is not new. As an English major, I would like to say my research for this article was more steamy than I’m used to, but sex permeates literature of all time periods. Even the Bible is full of sexual imagery and encounters (Hello, Sexy Song of Solomon!). I have no problem with those who write about or read about sex. Sex is a part of our lives, so it makes sense that sex is a part of our art forms. Therefore, when I see conservative bloggers throw out Bible verses about how we should protect ourselves from being “like the world, and not like Christ,” I must wonder if they don’t have sex. Why must this one common facet of human life be left out of art or literature? I watch movies and read books containing drug use and don’t scurry over to the nearest street corner to buy crack. I watch movies and read books that contain theft, yet I don’t steal. Just because I read a book that has alternative sexual behaviors, does not mean I must engage in bondage with a rich, powerful CEO named Christian Grey.

So if it’s not sex, what then is my Fifty Shades of Frenzied Blogging really about, you ask.  I’ll tell you.

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1. Is this actually a book? A book people read? 

Anybody else who has read the book now knows that my poor eyes have viewed the phrases “yes, sir,” “holy crap,” “holy cow,” “my inner goddess,” and “stop biting your lip” approximately 52,384 times. Or was it 52,385 times? I don’t know. It was hard to keep track. Yes, you’ve heard it from me. The author of this wild hit managed to create all this fuss and STILL regurgitate the same five or six phrases throughout twenty-six chapters. It is stunning, truly, just how often “holy cow” can be used in and outside of the bedroom.

I am saddened that a poorly written, poorly constructed book with immature character development and little to no description (beyond the size of Christian Grey’s…bank account) has stayed on top of charts for so long. By no means am I a girl all about hoity-toity literature. I love young adult novels, literary fiction, modern short stories, etc. However, this book is nothing more than a glorified erotic story fit for an amateur forum board on a porn site. It’s trash. And I don’t mean hot “trashy.” I mean the writing and storyline are subpar at best.

Read better art, please. Read better fiction. Sex is beautiful and it can be written about beautifully. This is not beautiful, it’s inadequate.

2. I personally cannot and will not accept man’s domination of women.

The fair Miss Anastasia Steele and I have much in common: we are English majors, we love the American Northwest, and we are quite skeptical of domination. Sorrowfully, we must separate over the mere fact that a man ordering my meal and demanding that I eat all of it is a deal breaker for me. As is stalking. As is flogging. Girlfriend can order her own dinner, and girlfriend can be entertained in the bedroom sans flogging – and please don’t have me followed! Christian Grey’s domination over Anastasia Steele OUTSIDE of the bedroom, or “The Red Room of Pain,” leaves my stomach in knots:

Christian is still nowhere to be seen, and Mrs. Jones is checking the contents of the pantry.

“Tea now, Miss Steele?” she asks.

“Please.” I smile at her. I feel slightly more confident now that I’m dressed.

“Would you like something to eat?”

“No, thank you.”

“Of course you’ll have something to eat,” Christian snaps, glowering. “She likes pancakes, bacon, and eggs, Mrs. Jones.”

“Yes, Mr. Grey. What would you like, sir?”

“Omelet, please, and some fruit.” He doesn’t take his eyes off me, his expression unfathomable. “Sit,” he orders, pointing to one of the barstools. (1)

I will be the first to admit that I know little about the culture of sadomasochism. I always try to be very open minded to different people, tastes, and lifestyles. However, I have a hard time wrapping my brain around the concept of a man telling a woman that she cannot look him in the eye, that she must go to sleep, that she cannot touch him, that she must finish food she does not want to consume, that she cannot masturbate and that she cannot roll her eyes – ESPECIALLY when he does not have to abide by the same rules. Women (and men!) have fought for centuries to give women equality and the right not to be dominated or treated like scum. Still, writing like this is a sensation:

“How did you feel while I was hitting you and after?”

“I didn’t like it. I’d rather you didn’t do it again.”

“You weren’t meant to like it.”

“Why do you like it?” I stare up at him.

My question surprises him.

“You really want to know?”

Oh, trust me, I’m fascinated.” And I can’t quite keep the sarcasm out of my voice.

He narrows his eyes again.

“Careful,” he warns.

I blanch. “Are you going to hit me again?”

“No, not tonight.”

Phew … my subconscious and I both breathe a silent sigh of relief.

“So,” I prompt.

“I like the control it gives me, Anastasia. I want you to behave in a particular way, and if you don’t, I shall punish you, and you will learn to behave the way I desire. I enjoy punishing you. I’ve wanted to spank you since you asked me if I was gay.” (2)

(Sidenote: Hopefully this passage kills two birds with one stone and proves the woeful state of writing quality)

Call me old-fashioned (if you did, you’d make my family and friends laugh hysterically!), but this dialogue does not turn me on, it makes me angry. I’m not talking about a spank on the butt during a rowdy sex session or fuzzy handcuffs. I’m talking about Mr. Grey’s loves: flogging, caning, painful beating. Men still punish women all over this globe. Pictures of battered women still flood the news. Men rape women and then lock away or kill them. And the whole “Wounded Bird,” damaged man storyline is a sad attempt to turn Christian Grey into a hero, and Anastasia Steele into his dutiful caretaker who nurses him back to his humanity. This is not a novel concept, it is a common one, especially in abusive/codependent relationships.

Now, I do realize this is a fictional book. Just as I mentioned before, I don’t need to become a crack addict after reading a book about crack. Likewise, if women enjoy this book, I know fully it does not mean they want to be abused or support abuse of any kind. Simply, it is a story, a poorly written story, but a story nonetheless. If somebody finds it interesting or entertaining, have at it! Equality has allowed women sexual freedom as well. I could almost go as far as saying that part of me is happy the economy is being boosted by the sale of sexual product marketed toward women for a change. But I can’t quite say that. Why? Because an impressionable, young, pretty virgin is seduced by a powerful, sadistic man who likes to use her inside and outside of the bedroom for his pleasure. Sounds to me like a typical fantasy geared toward men.

Fifty Shades of Grey did not do it for me. It was not sexually stimulating, and it was certainly not mentally stimulating. It was a waste of $4.99 for the Kindle edition. With an overflowing abundance of literature at my fingertips, I would rather spend my time reading something else. Something well-written and creative. Some story in which beautiful love and even wild sex is mutually respectful and beneficial. Some story in which a woman is strong, interesting, sexual and not swayed by the obsessive desires of man, because I’ve heard that story too many times. I’ve seen that story in the lives of too many women. It’s old news.

 

What are your thoughts on Fifty Shades? Please leave a comment below.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

(1)James, E L (2011-05-25). Fifty Shades of Grey: Book One of the Fifty Shades Trilogy (p. 375). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

(2) James, E L (2011-05-25). Fifty Shades of Grey: Book One of the Fifty Shades Trilogy (p. 287). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

 

Making the Whole Beautiful, Lessons from Puerto Rico

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The incredible thing about going through a divorce is that the world knows that every detail of your life isn’t pretty.

Now, this was always true.  Since the day I exited the womb.  But as human beings we are really good at trying to make it look like every detail is pretty.  That’s why we post vacation pictures like this on Instagram:

10488187_10152576451058210_8237613880924243066_nAnd not pictures like this:

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Pretty.  We want everything to be pretty.

However, once the world knows it is not all pretty, there is no real need to keep up the act.

It is as if a sign is on my forehead reading:

“Here stands a girl with ugly life details”

Thank goodness.  It is so less exhausting to have people know it’s not all pretty.  Now I can focus on making the whole beautiful.

Pretty Details vs. Beautiful Whole

- It means that I do not look physically perfect all the time.  It’s much better to jump into ocean waves and mess up your hair than it is to sit on the sidelines with perfect curls.

Hint:  You can always throw on a hat, ladies.

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- It means I don’t make the conventionally “right” decisions all the time.  It’s much better to reschedule a college class and go on a vacation to another country than it is to miss out on exceptional experiences.

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- It means I am less concerned with the opinions of others.  Other people’s opinions of me are none of my business.  You know what is my business?  What I do with the time I’m given.  

That’s why when I’m in Puerto Rico, I drink Puerto Rican rum and stuff my face with fried plantains:

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It’s also the same reason why I come back home and hit the gym and eat eggs and spinach for breakfast.

Because my body mirrors my quest for a beautiful whole.  Sometimes it indulges, sometimes it works hard.  It’s not always pretty, but it’s always beautiful.

The truth is I can’t go back and fix up the details to look pretty.

The truth is it is absolutely in my power to make the whole beautiful.

So here is to My Not So Pretty Details: bad hair days, broken relationships, dwindling bank accounts, bug bites

And here is to My Beautiful Whole: summer vacations, trying new things, eating, drinking, being afraid and doing it anyway

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P.S.  Look at that Puerto Rican sunset.

The Beautiful Whole is so much more photogenic than pretty details.