3/09/2009

question authority

This weekend I scraped off the tattered bumper stickers from our car (Another Family for Peace, Live Simply so Others May Simply Live, and Just Say YES to Equal Marriage Rights) and put on three new ones. One of them, "Question Authority," was John's first choice. The others: a large peace symbol and "Consume Less, Share More" were more of my choosing.

However I had a musing this morning that affirms the significance of the "Question Authority" slogan for me. As I was writing a comment on John's post about the temple ceremony portrayal on the HBO show "Big Love," I had a strong flashback of something that happened many years ago but almost made me cry as I recalled it today.

I'm not someone who has a strong tie to talismans, but I do find that certain items bring back a lot of memories. For example, I can tell you when and where I've acquired every item of furniture, or books, or the plants in my garden...I love the stories of "things" (which is probably why I love my chosen profession so much).

Many years ago John gave me a simple pair of earrings that had small white flowers dangling from them. I will emphasize the small part (I'd say there were about 4-5mm in diameter). Now those of you who've read my New Era story know that part of my affinity for flowers and gardens comes from a particular moment with my Dad when he gave me encouragement after my amputation surgery. So these small earrings that John gave me I wore to my Dad's funeral and then every time after that it was in some small way linking me to my Dad and to that special moment that we shared. I took to wearing these earrings to the temple, given that they matched my white clothing nicely and because they reminded me of how special my Dad was to me and they represented my carrying his memory with me in a symbolic way. It seems silly now as I write this, but it was important to me at that time--I'd grieved so deeply when he died.

So one day when I was stepping out of the dressing room at the temple and going to the area to wait for the next endowment session a female temple worker stopped me and told me that my earrings were inappropriate and I would have to remove them before I could pass into the ordinance areas of the temple. I questioned her lightly about why and explained that I'd worn them frequently in the temple before. "No dangly earrings are allowed," she said firmly.

I went back to my locker and curled up and cried as I took off the earrings. I don't know what has happened to them since then and I don't remember ever wearing them again.

So many things in my life have happened that are beyond my control...the loss of my leg, the loss of loved ones, and a lifetime of related health problems. And for much of my life I submitted the dictums of LDS authority, surrendering much of the control of my life to the sometimes-arbitrary though often-institutionalized leadership of the church. Perhaps this is why I have some 'control issues' now. There's a headiness to being able to chart my own course and decide what I will wear and when, or what I will drink, or where I will spend my Sunday mornings.

And today I put on these earrings before I even knew I'd be writing this post. They are reminding me of flowers, family, and how much some things change and how much some things stay the same.

UPDATE: As I was teasing back the layers of this memory while I ate lunch on my back porch (love the new table!!), I remembered one more very salient detail: the temple experience happened during a time when John did not hold a temple recommend (because of his loss of belief) and I was going to the temple alone. The earrings were a tie from me to him to my father (a man whom he had loved and respected so much). Again, such a small thing, but it's funny to remember how badly I was already wounded then and I was struggling to find comfort in the smallest of object and rituals. Of course I didn't stop being LDS because some stranger didn't like my earrings. But I was so fragile then and it couldn't help but contribute to my feelings of sorrow, of loss, of doubt, and of weariness with a tradition that no longer gave me the strength for my journey.

8 comments:

JohnR said...

Thank you for this affirmation, my love. You've always done a better job of marching to your own beat than I have. I'm still trying to find my music, and you're an inspiration. :)

susanhaywardphotography said...

Jana,
This is so weird. I have a watch that my mom gave me to wear to the temple, with pearly stuff on it, and no one has ever asked me to take it off. I do not think it strange to have an attachment to something as representative of a person. Each time I wear that watch I think of my mother, and how much I'd like to go to the temple with her. For now I have to pretend that my watch is my mother holding my hand.

I wonder what would have happened if you asked to see the "manager" at the temple before you took off your earrings? I remember going to the temple with you in Los Angeles to do initiatories, and wish we could go again. But I understand you are on a different journey now, and I respect that. Sometimes I really don't like it though. Sometimes it makes me really depressed.

However, I do not know your history completely. I do not know how many things or people have hurt you, though I'm aware of some. I do not know all of your reasons for leaving. But I do know this: you will always be my friend. I will always love how kind and generous you are, how amazingly smart and beautiful you are, how cosmopolitan and down-to-earth you are. How strong you are. I will always look up to you, no matter what your spiritual practice.

Alisa said...

I love your new earings, btw. It makes me really sad to imagine you alone in the locker room. Some people are such sticklers for rules, and at what cost!

I have never read your New Era story before, or your actual experience with cancer. I'm going to be thinking about this for a few days, and that's a good thing (to be thinking deeper thoughts). I have learned so much from all the unique spiritual experiences you've shared.

angryyoungwoman said...

You are such a lovely person. It breaks my heart that you were treated thoughtlessly when you needed to be treated well. I'd rather believe in no god than an unkind god or a god that makes up such silly rules.

Tess said...

Years ago I had a departure from my church, but not necessarily my religion. Being Catholic is like being Italian...you just are. But after being schooled by the good sisters, mass 3 times a week and living with a very devout grandmother, I decided that no other sinner had the right to judge me right from wrong. This sanctimonious earring patol woman has direct orders from God as to what is proper earring attire? Are we to believe that God cares more about what is hanging on our ears rather than the goodness in our souls? Not my God.

The Numismatist said...

My daughter carried a hankie with her into the temple when she got married and I waited outside. It had my tears on it. I believe she still carries it in her temple bag.

I enjoyed John's post on Big Love.

Elissa Minor Rust said...

This post has me in tears. Thanks for sharing this story.

I have had many moments similar to the one you describe. I have a hard time getting past my anger now that I am on this side of it looking back.

Janna said...

My strategy is to pretend that authority does not exist.