On Becoming: Ex-Mormon Girl Part 3 : PR Child Soldier

Warning. This is going to be meandering both through time and in topic. It seems that I was pretty triggered by the last couple of installments and I have been working on this one in fits and starts. It's not cohesive and if I try to make it that way it's never going to see the light of day so...yeah.

Before I continue I should note something.  What I'm doing right now will be considered by many people as participating in "Anti-Mormon rhetoric". Growing up I was taught to fear and shun and flee from any hint of anti-Mormon rhetoric.  It was literally the worst thing a person could do. Worse than "fornication" or murder in my mind. IT WAS TERRIBLE. **P.S: when I, as a totally "good Mormon" came out on this blog as being a Democrat years ago, I was accused as being a "wolf in sheep's clothing" so yeah, there are a ton of Mormons for whom what I am doing right now is the ultimate in rebellious sinfulness. They aren't even praying for a person like me at this point. I deserve whatever I get. That's the mentality. Carry on....:)

When I was still in first or second grade I think I was dimly aware of a lot of angst of the anti-Mormon movie "The God Makers" and I remember my aunt coming over to watch something on TV and being super stressed out about what people would say about it. I was warned never ever to watch anything like that. Don't read it, don't listen to people who say they know bad stuff about the church. They will only lead you astray.

I was obsessively obedient to this instruction until one day around 17, I remember coming across a pamphlet in our kitchen, Somebody must have come over and wanted to discuss it with my parents. I think it was an anti-Mormon pamphlet and it was about the sketchy past Mormons have had in terms of race. There were some deeply disturbing quotes in there by names I recognized as esteemed past (and possibly present) leaders of our church.   At the time I was living in Swaziland, I was a definite minority as a white person and I was dating a really great Black South African guy. What's more, I was attending a school which had specifically been built as an educational shelter outside of Apartheid South Africa. I was attending it with Nelson Mandela's grandson and his stepdaughter.  We had always been a really liberal family, racism was not considered in any way acceptable in our home.  I remember my hand shaking violently as I read the pamphlet. I could not believe it. I knew that the church had not allowed Blacks to have the Priesthood until the late 70's and when I had asked why I had received vague answers about it being illegal or something. Seriously. I had heard all sorts of airy explanations which sounded plausible to my naive (brainwashed) childhood mind but this seemed extremely wrong, there was more to it than just not allowing Blacks to have the Priesthood, way more. I confronted my parents. I don't remember their explanations but it was tense and I remember feeling as though I was in the wrong somehow for questioning and asking I was on the defense here, not the Church.

This is how it always went when I brought up major concerns. When I brought up polygamy (which I was deeply, deeply troubled by) I was told to just relax, have faith, God would work it out.  The doctrine I had learned implied that polygamy would actually be required in Heaven but lots of people assured me that only the most worthy people would be required to do that and they would be happy to do so. (Implying of course that either I wouldn't make it to that state or when I did I would be cool with it.) The inherent inequality of polygamy struck such a nerve with me, but I would swallow the apologists explanations of why it had happened too. So noble of those men to take in all those aging widows in the early church. There was never any discussion on why Joseph Smith saw fit to marry a 14 year old child. Which he did.

Back to the present time. When I began voicing public criticism of the church in the last couple of years (really gingerly at first, super vanilla stuff for the most part) I was unfriended on facebook in droves. I would go to see how this person or that person was doing, people who had been marvelously supportive and kind to me over the years, and find that we we weren't friends anymore. There usually hadn't been a big deal made of it, (Mormons aren't really ones for confrontation) and in fairness, when I first officially "outed" myself on Face-book in December last year,  I had invited people who felt as if this gave them the obligation to gallop in and white-knight for the church to relieve themselves of that obligation by unfriending me. And many did. I get it. Completely. The shunning from most people didn't bother me at all, but the lack of acceptance from others was devastating. It hurt like hell, but I understood it.  It is exhausting to feel that sense of obligation. To constantly be on the defensive. I know because that state of being pretty much defined my childhood and teenagehood as a Mormon. I was a soldier for the church. A PR soldier. If people say bad stuff, stand firm, deny, reframe it, shine it up, make it pretty, normalize. The Church is always right. The Church Leaders are ALWAYS ALWAYS right. And it is your sacred responsibility to not just believe that but make others believe it too.

Sadly, on top of all that crazy pressure, even the idea of  the church just never was for me. It always felt wrong. From my youngest memories, the term, "The Only True Church" (often followed up with "on the face of the Earth, Mormons freaking love that expression) gave me the cringiest feeling.  So exclusive. It was embarrassing to me in its hypocrisy. Here I was, a little girl, maybe 5 or 6 or 7 and I'm singing, "Jesus says love everyone" and being told about the Only True Church and referring to myself as a member (and others as "non-members"). And how about all the people all over the world who had no idea about this true church? Or who really believed in THEIR true church? And why did God even need people to be in churches, couldn't they just be nice to other people and love him?

Later, people would come at me with accusations of wanting to fit in, or be cool and politically correct. Please. I was freaking 5 years old and it wasn't adding up. What's more I felt like an outsider in my own community when I even thought this stuff. Like I'm some kind of cool 5 year old rebel without a cause? Don't be crazy.

Straight up hellion right there.

Easter. I was probably eleven I remember sitting on my bed after eating way too much sugar on a day that should be joyful and carefree for kids but I was feverishly writing in my journal. Goals and gratitude. I was trying to pretend to be so spiritual and good. I had talked myself into believing that somehow Jesus was going to read this journal and totally forget my sinning ways. SPOILER ALERT: THERE WERE NO SINNING WAYS. I was a good kid. Like, a really good kid but I felt bad, dirty, sinful, unworthy and ashamed constantly. I own that this was partly because of my personality and partly because of the fact that I was sexually abused just as I entered puberty until I left home. That certainly didn't help, but I didn't ever factor that into the equation. I just knew that I was the worst, and I was frantic and scared about it.  It just now struck me that if you read the early years of my blog you will see more of the same. Except by that point I wasn't aware that I was doing it to persuade God and myself, by then I had pushed that shit way down deep and I thought I was being 100% sincere in my gushings about the church and its teachings. I might be saddest about that stage of my life. I don't know.

Being 13 or so. A friend of mine teasing me in French class about the temple and how a "naked Mormon Priest jumps into a jacuzzi with some dead bodies and baptizes them". Ok THIS DOES NOT HAPPEN and he knew that too. He was being a 13 year old asshole and we are still friends and I think he still thinks its really funny but that was hella traumatic for me. The whole class laughing. Me trying to do damage control, trying to repair the church's image, wanting to die instead. I was 13 man. It sucks to be 13 without all the other shit I had to deal with. God. I could go back and slap him now and I probably should have, and told all those other laughing idiots where to get off too.  Better yet I should have joined in and said, "well not quite but yeah, it's nucking futs can you even believe my life?!" Amazing how much clarity one has for one's 13 year old self at age 40. ;)

My parents wouldn't let me date until I was 18. This was 2 years ahead of the official Mormon dating age but they had read it differently. It was ridiculous. Ultimately I had plenty of boyfriends before age 18 and my parents were pretty lenient about it and boys were always welcome to chill at our house, But the whole not being officially allowed to date thing was awkward and embarrassing and weird as hell and there were plenty of times I just pretended not to like the guy rather than have to come clean with the real reason why he and I couldn't go to the movies alone together. The same issue arose with "modesty". Again my parents ended up being quite lenient in later years but god forbid I ever consider a bikini or a sleeveless formal dress. Oh hell to the no, man.  All the same, none of this was terrible. Just stressful and like I said, being a teenager is just stressful as it is. Throw in being regularly abused and then being some kind of crazy Mormon freak who actually wasn't crazy or a freak and was trying to successfully straddle both worlds. It's a nightmare.

When we lived in Swaziland the teasing and scrutiny regarding the church got even worse. There were a bunch of Evangelical missionaries in the area and those guys are VICIOUS man. Turf War! My friends soon became aware of the fact that I was Mormon and some of them nudged me relentlessly about it. I don't remember them being overtly mean or disrespectful but I do remember every goddamn thing being attributed to our Mormon-ness and it made me mental. Once a national magazine came out with a cover story something along the lines of "A Mormon Temple Bride Tells All". Holy shit-balls. Panic Stations! This was BAD.

 Look, let me explain something here. I didn't even know what went on for a Mormon Temple Bride. All I knew was the temple was awesome, I was going to have to be squeaky clean to go there, it was super risky dating non-Mormon dudes because there was every possibility that I would want to marry one and he wouldn't want to convert and then No temple marriage for ME and well then....it was an unthinkable tragedy. No eternal marriage, no eternal family. Generations would be lost to non-belief. It was UNTHINKABLE.  All my non-Mormon boyfriends were immediately made aware that this thing would never go anywhere unless they converted. I'm sure they were all,..."haha, FINE WITH ME, escape route included!'' Anyway I remember hustling to the magazine stands at the store and hiding all the copies of that magazine. (Averting my eyes lest I inadvertently see some of the "SACRED NOT SECRET"  (another one for the Mormon Phrase Manual), information included in this fallen girl's account.   When you go to the Temple you make solemn convenants never reveal what you have seen or heard in there. Like on penalty of eternal damnation. Up until not long before I first went to the Temple you even had to mime slitting your own throat and disembowling yourself should you ever do such a thing. Holy shit.  DOES THIS SOUND OK TO YOU?  In fairness, apparently it didn't sit well with a lot of people 'cos they dropped that.

And then came the Gay issue. But that's for next installment because this one is already long and crazy enough and I gotta post this thing already. And here I go...editing be damned as I'm sure you have discovered by now ;)

On Becoming Ex-Mormon Girl. Part 2 :"Born Into the Church"

I was as it is referred to in Mormon lingo, "born into the church" but not born "under the covenant" as my parents were not "sealed in the temple" for "time and all eternity". I'm giving you a crash course in Mormon lingo right there. You are welcome.

 My newly divorced mother was raising me and my six year old sister alone and she maintained her stalwart activity in the church as she does to this day. I have never seen her doubt or falter. Never. She had converted to the church as an adult. I'm hazy on the details but I think my father joined shortly after her.  I've heard he was pretty into it for a while but at some point he left. I have no idea why. Given the transgressions leading up to the divorce I would imagine that perhaps he was excommunicated unless he left of his own accord. I don't know, I'm sure I have heard the story but I forget the details. I never knew my father.

My mother remarried when I was 18 months old and my sister and I were adopted by my step-father. My stepfather sold his beloved car so that we could travel from South Africa to London, England. This was where the closest LDS (Mormon) temple was at the time.  We went to the temple to be sealed to him and my mom and any subsequent children they might have together later (they would be "born under the covenant"). That was when I was about 2.5.  I would never see my biological dad again. I have no memories of him in my life growing up except going through a phase of obsessively wondering about him and if I would know if he died. I had no idea what he looked like although sometimes my mom said that certain expressions I pulled reminded her of him. I was getting to know him over email as an adult when he died suddenly. But that's another story.

As a newborn infant, instead of being Christened, I was given what is known in the church as "a Name and a Blessing". A group of men, "Priesthood holders" from the family's inner circle, (other family members and close friends), come together into a circle. They each place their hands on the left shoulder of the man beside them, their right hand cradles the baby who they tend to bounce gently up and down. Usually the baby's father or grandfather offers the blessing on the infant and announces the name "by which they will be known on the records of the church". In my case, there was no suitable candidate. I was blessed by a family friend. My mom would often recount two things from the baby blessing which stood out to her. I would be "beautiful to behold" and "I would live to my full stature".

I would ask my mom what these things meant. "You will be pretty to look at and you will rise to your full height in life...".  As a child who was terrified of pretty much everything many things including a pathological fear of dying I took comfort in these things. I took them totally literally. Ok! Check!
I wasn't going to die as a child. I at least had a reprieve until I reached my full height. I hoped that wouldn't be too soon because death was beyond terrifying.  And here's why. I knew I wasn't going to make it to the Celestial Kingdom. The Celestial Kingdom is the top tier of the three-tiered Mormon heaven, reserved for the people who did all the right things and got to be with their families and Jesus and God. First prize. I was failing dismally already even as a little girl. (Hold the phone for later when I would discover that the top tier was even further divided into three tiers of it's own....spoiler alert: there's not enough xanax in all of Beverly Hills for that discovery.)

Problem was, the assurance of not dying early got a little bit fuzzy for me when I didn't determine myself to be particularly beautiful (the other part of the blessing my mom had remembered). I didn't even think I was particularly pretty (inspection of childhood pics this afternoon confirms dark childhood suspicions). My mom  had often explained (in line with the churches doctrine) that all blessings offered were contingent on the faith and righteousness of the recipient. So if I wasn't pretty then it must be because I wasn't living righteously enough which meant..dun...dun...dunnnnnnnn......

I remember vividly. having a quiet panic attack in the back of the dark car at the end of a long trip home from somewhere. I did the math. Yep. I was sure to die early. Damn. My poor mom, she had no idea her fond remembrances of my happy baby blessing day were going to be so twisted by the mind of her neurotic child.
Here I am, around aged 6 I'd guess.. probably pondering my eternal damnation down a couple of Heaven levels from my family with only the odd mercy visits from Jesus.. WHEN HE FELT LIKE IT.

I remember when I was baptized at age 8.  I determined ahead of time that this was it. I had heard often in church that everyone sins, but baptism washes our sins clean .No matter what we had done. Baptism meant it was all going to be gone. So this was IT. My second chance. I was going to NAIL THIS THING.  PLAN OF ACTION:
1. Get baptized. 2. Stay perfectly sinless unlike all the other losers I had heard about who messed this thing up after getting their second chance..wtf??? 3. GO TO CELESTIAL KINGDOM.
Whew. Reprieve.

Everything went according to plan. I remember dressing in my white baptism jump suit. I remember my stepfather saying the baptismal prayer, we practiced how I would plug my nose before he dipped me back and dunked me under the water, I remember an extra shove to make sure the job was done correctly. Baptism by immersion. If even a hair floated to the top it wouldn't take. I was super relieved when I felt that extra shove.  Whew.

I remember my mom helping to dress me in my little navy blue and white dress in the bathroom adjacent to the baptismal font. (I'm so mad I can't find pictures of that day, I looked so happy for a change!) We were in a hurry so we could rejoin the program which had been planned especially for my special day. There was no sharing of baptismal thunder in South Africa. I had heard rumours that in America, a bunch of 8 year olds would get baptized on the same day.  This did not appeal at all. Imagine sharing your BAPTISM DAY, in my mind it was akin to a Mass Wedding. Q'uelle Nightmare!

My mother was heavily pregnant with my little sister Thalia. My sodden wet jumpsuit which I had barely managed to drag out of the font behind my tiny self was now her problem to take care of. It was probably dripping everywhere, her back probably hurt as she bent over to help me fasten my buttons and tie my bow, with all the planning she was probably exhausted and over it. I remember looking up to her and saying with a radiant smile, "I feel something special mommy inside of me, it's warm, I think I feel the Spirit".  "Don't be silly" she snapped. Typing this I am laughing out loud.  That response is both so like and so unlike her, depending on the circumstances, and I am sure she would be mortified,  but I remember it clearly. I was deeply wounded and embarrassed at the time but now I find it hysterical with a slight twinge of sympathy for my silly little eight year old self. I wanted so badly to feel the right things. This was my big chance after all. Wipe everything clean. Get the golden ticket so to speak. And now I had it. I was as clean as a whistle. My freshly purged eight year old soul was a one way ticket straight to the Celestial Kingdom when the time came. I would be able to chill with my peeps. No more worries.

I hadn't even left the building when I sinned. I was irritated by my brother pushing past me to get to the car first. I said a quick prayer to repent. I put it out of my mind, hoping it was a minor enough sin. Maybe none of the "angels keeping records"  had caught that one.

The next morning my mom laid our cereal on a little table in the courtyard outside our kitchen for me and my brother.  We were running late. I remember digging in. "Wow Kirsty, you didn't bless the food! You just got baptized last night and here you are, already being a heathen" my mom commented.  She didn't make it into a huge deal but she wasn't kidding either. She was disappointed and I was devastated. I had blown my big chance. Now what. I was sunk. I was 8 years and one morning old and my eternal goose was cooked''.

To be continued.

Here's part 1 if you missed it.

Becoming: Ex-Mormon Girl Part 1.

The other day, I was regaling a friend with a story about an unfortunate family interaction with members of the church recently. (We had found it fairly amusing, given that we assumed they weren't trying to make sure that the family stayed away). After I wrapped it up I commented,  "you know what? These guys have no idea what they are even doing wrong.  Why people are leaving in droves. They put so much energy into getting them and then they lose them.  And they don't seem to get it at all. I almost want to help them. Like, as a consultant. You know like how security companies interview burglers to improve their systems?"  I warmed to my topic...

"I could be EX-Mormon Girl. I could go around the country training LDS leaders."

I was only half joking. "our stake president is actually a really cool guy, I bet he would let me get experience speaking to our stake for free".

"No" said my friend.  He knew I was mostly kidding but...."Don't do that. They are looking for a type. And you ain't it."

Yeah. Good point. Ok I guess I will have to come up with another brilliant plan. But I think this conveys how complicated leaving this faith can be. How conflicted it is. How confusing it is.

Here's the thing. The Mormons have been extraordinarily good to us.I have talked about it often on this very blog. Some of the people I most love in the world are active Mormons. They are good people. And there are some cool things about the Mormon church. I'm a confident public speaker in no small part due to them, I can conduct music in a rudimentary way. I've been in plenty of leadership positions even as a stay at home mom. When we moved to places where we knew nobody and had no family, we could always count on the church network. We always tended to gravitate to having more friends outside of the church than in it but everywhere we lived we have found a least one or two families to become close to and those relationships have been precious. Our children were given a great sense of intergenerational family thanks to the church, and the many kind and loving teachers and leaders they have had in it.  And the church has helped us out tremendously in financial ways over a long period of unemployment and at another time when we were struggling very badly.  In addition we have received a lot of service from members of the church.  We have been beneficiaries of great good from the Mormon church. There is no escaping  the truth of that and I would never want to downplay or deny those things which were absolutely saving graces at the time.

None of this is simple. Being a Mormon is difficult. Leaving the faith is very difficult. Life after leaving the faith is lonely and full of conflict. It's all just...difficult. But then it gets less and less so. In that regard anyway. Leaving the Mormon faith is a decision I am more grateful for every day.  The Mormons warned me it would be though. They covered this contingency. "Little by little the Spirit will cease to strive with you, your heart will be hardened, Satan will have you in his grasp." And so still. To this day. I find myself second guessing my decision. There is a little part of me which probably always will. And everyone will have their opinion on why that is. The Mormons will say that my soul knows the church to be true and the Spirit is striving with me. My brain will say that the Mormons are very sophisticated in their brainwashing. I really believe that to be true.

"People can leave the church but they can't leave it alone" One of those catch phrases much beloved of Mormons.  The truth is that they set it up that way.  From the earliest ages you are taught to doubt your instincts if they are "leading you astray" or "causing you to doubt what you know to be true." Doctrinally they talk a really good game about examining your faith. "search, ponder and pray" is preached and sung about and urged. But there's a catch. Search, ponder, pray..but if those measures turn up short, and you don't find yourself embracing the faith, that's on you.  You are wrong.You did it wrong. Keep trying.  Sort yourself out. Figure out why. That's the only option available to you.

There is this one "General Authority" (are you noting the weird lingo? This stuff never even struck me as off until very recently) who every Mormon I've ever talked to really digs. He's cool. He's chill. He's handsome. Ex-pilot. Cool accent. They call him  "The Silver Fox". As an aside, the bar is set suuuuuper low for these dudes in terms of charisma.  Poor sweet Mormons. Shit, that comes across so condescending and yeah, I guess it is. It's just that they ask for so little from these old guys. Everyone is so eager to laugh at the tiniest bit of levity. (That always did strike me as off. I remember rolling my eyes even as a young kid when one of the General Authorities would do something like pause, or raise eyebrows or make a vocal inflection that indicated he wasn't quite as serious as usual, and people would eagerly roar with laughter. It wasn't even funny you guys. And I found it sad. On that level I always knew what was up and I found it really demeaning.One could say it was a warning bell for me. When people are giving other people that much power that they will laugh at their unfunnies...something is off. I was growing up in an environment with an unhealthy power deferential and I was attuned to it.

 Anyway, so this guy is incredibly popular for the reasons I listed above but also because he generally preaches actual Christian tenets. Like loving and not judging and being accepting of where people are on their journey.  He might be the only reason some Mormons hang in there. He imparts many beautiful quotable quotes, Many gems. Yet still,  I would venture to say that his most pinterested quote is...waiiiit for it.

"Doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith."

How about this. How about faith and doubt coexisting?

I know some highly intellectual Mormons. People who are more brilliant and more intellectually curious and more logical than I am or can ever hope to be. They are Mormons on their own terms. They sort through all this shit and make it work for them. I don't know how they do it but I believe that they do and more power to them. I think most of them figure out a version of Mormonism that they can handle and stay "active" for the sake of family and community. I don't think there are a lot of people I describe who are highly intellectually curious and don't see some fatal flaws in the doctrine. But hell, what do I know.  I don't share my story for those folks. They will be just fine.

I share for the ones like me. Smart, aware, tuned in to reality and themselves enough to question. Intellectually curious enough to say, "heeyyyy what about..."  but for whatever reason not able to break free. Guilt, fear, self doubt. I don't know. But something is tying them down and if they are like me, they often aren't even able to articulate their truth and why this is not working for them. I listened to a podcast last week, Jordan Peterson was speaking and one phrase resonated so hard. I scribbled it on my kitchen blackboard. I'm in the zone now so I'm going to  have to paraphrase but it was something like, "The ability to speak your truth will be a bulwark between you and hell".

Over the years I flirted with leaving the church. I had a handful of periods of inactivity. Once I remember being in the kitchen of friends and just freaking out. "How can you believe this shit?" I raged.  "How can you believe in a God who is a literal terrorist? Who insists that you jump through a thousand hoops, that you participate in all sorts of crazy rituals, that you go to the temple, that you dress in weird clothes and memorize rhymes and riddles and secret handshakes to come into his presence?! And if you can't keep up, if you can't do "all that you can do" or hell maybe you just don't want to...he will take everything you hold most dear and separate you from it? Are you kidding me? He dangles your family, being with your family for eternity in front of you.  THAT. IS. TERRORISM. Do what I say or risk losing your husband and children forever. Does THIS NOT STRIKE YOU PEOPLE AS MESSED UP?"

Everyone in the room told me that I needed to be on meds. They literally did. And I literally got on meds. And stayed on them for years.  I did not need the meds. I needed the ability to speak my truth. Until I did, I was in hell.

And yet. Even after articulating this rage, this fear, this rage from living with this fear, from never being able to keep up, from being so completely exhausted by the cognitive dissonance required for all of it,  I took the dry blue pills. I went back. I kept going back. Even though I couldn't cut it. I couldn't do what I was supposed to do. I couldn't believe what I was supposed to believe. I was always so angry. But I went. Even though I would come home from church every.single.sunday seething. Even though every time my husband and I piled our 5 tired, disgruntled hungry children who had been made to to sit still and "be reverent" for 3 hours while dressed in their sunday best in the van and we drove home screeching at each other every Sunday. Miserable. Resentful. Drained. Even though with the barest examination this clearly wasn't bring my family closer to each other or to God. I went back. And I took my kids with me.

Ok so here is what. Since  I was a little girl, I sensed I had a specific purpose. It was very clear that I was to help people. To comfort them in some way.  I was so excited to discover that way was. Would I be a Dr? A psychologist? A lawyer fighting for their rights? Over the years I have been a doula, a personal trainer, a motivator...but still I waited for my real purpose so that I could settle into it and give it my all.

Yesterday I went for a really long run and as I ran and thought about conversations I have been having with people who have been reaching out to me lately, it finally became clear. It's not a big revelation, friends have been trying to tell me this. Family have assured me of it. Here's what is is. That mission? The purpose?
You've been doing it.
You. have. been. doing. it. for years.
I'm a truth teller. I'm an oversharer. This is my job here. We all have a job. Mine is to tell my truth. Nobody else's.  I speak from my soul, the truth of my experience. I speak to my tribe.

I don't think of myself as remarkable or unique. There are many of us with this purpose and I might not have anything new to say. I probably don't. But somebody reading this, might find something that they haven't read anywhere else which resonates with them. Something which makes them feel understood. Less alone. Less Other. Less of a failure, less of a freak. More emboldened to speak their own truth. To trust their doubts. To trust their faith. To trust their feelings.

Yesterday we were driving to a party. Ella told me about a boy who had pointed out once that he could see her underwear when she was wearing a dress without leggings underneath.
 "It hurt my feelings mommy, and now I don't like to wear dresses anymore without pants."
We talked about it.  About other words for hurt feelings. Expanded her vocabularly into words like "embarrassed" and "self conscious" or "uncomfortable" or "defensive" or "exposed."

 As the conversation wound down I said to her, "the important part is that you always listen to your feelings. Your feelings are real. Your feelings are smart. They might not always be telling you what they seem to be telling you right at first but it's important to pay attention to them. We can always look at them and try to figure out what they are saying and what to do with them but remember that you have smart feelings."

I'm going to post this before it gets too long and I overanalyse it to death. It's going to have typos, the editing has been minimal. I wrote it on a picnic table in the woods fresh from a run before the battery on my ancient laptop ran out. I have so much more to say but I'm starting here.  I feel like I need to post this today and I have smart feelings.