bad TV, good tv, LDS, religion, YouTube

A non-Mormon looks at the LDS film, “Saturday’s Warrior”, and has a good cringe…

I have been hanging out on the Recovery from Mormonism messageboard for about twenty years now, and I’ve been exposed to a lot of LDS stuff over the years. However, somehow I completely missed out on Saturday’s Warrior, which started out as a “humble drama project” in California back in 1973, was turned into a Brigham Young University stage production in 1974, and then in 1989, became this musical monstrosity weirdly reminiscent of Saved By The Bell.

Because I had nothing better to do yesterday, I watched this whole film, and started a thread about it on RfM. On the surface, this show is pretty laughable and silly, but digging deeper, there’s actually kind of some disturbing stuff here. And since I haven’t upbraided the Mormons in a good, long, while, I thought today might be a good day for doing that. Germany is very stormy and windy today, and my dogs are too scared to go out and pee without strong encouragement from me. They probably won’t want a walk until things settle down.

This time of year is always difficult for me, especially in Germany, where the weather generally sucks for weeks on end. The past two years have sucked more than usual, mainly due to the pandemic, and the fact that it’s a good excuse for me to be reclusive. I have a tendency to hole up when there isn’t a deadly plague, but this virus just gives me a reason to hunker down more, which is actually not that great for my mental health. For one thing, I tend to drink more when I’m holed up at home. For another, I find myself watching bizarre videos on YouTube. Well… Saturday’s Warrior definitely fits the bill as “bizarre”, at least for the uninitiated. I can’t believe I watched the whole thing. And, well, afterwards, I was left a bit flabbergasted. More on that later.

Apparently, this film, aimed at the youth of my day, was quite the LDS cultural icon to teens of the 90s.

Some background for those who don’t “know” me…

I grew up a Protestant (Presbyterian) in southeastern Virginia. Back in my kid days, there weren’t a whole lot of Mormons in Virginia, at least not in the area where I was coming of age. Now, of course, many LDS church members have descended on my mother’s hometown of Buena Vista and the surrounding areas, and I know there are a number of LDS folks in northern Virginia and other urban areas, particularly around Washington, DC. In 1996, church members bought my mom’s alma mater, the former Southern Seminary Junior College (Sem), in Buena Vista, and turned it into LDS influenced Southern Virginia University. I call the school “LDS influenced”, because the school is not owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but was purchased by several LDS businessmen.

I almost decided to go to Southern Sem when I was finishing high school in 1990, because I was really into horses and Sem had a great riding program. Six years later, the school had completely changed. What used to be a barn is now a basketball court, and what was once a tiny, private, women’s college is now a religious co-ed school. My mom was a day student at Sem; she got a full scholarship in exchange for playing piano for the glee club.

The funny thing is, one of the men who became a bigwig at SVU used to work in Farmville, Virginia, where I attended Longwood University in the early 1990s. I knew his wife, because she joined the auditioned choir, The Camerata Singers, of which I was also a member. She was probably the first Mormon I ever met– a mother of five, a graduate of BYU, and frankly, a little bit annoying (but in fairness, so was I). At the time, I had no way of knowing that one day, I would one day serve in the Peace Corps and meet a LDS couple, and then marry a Mormon convert a few years after that.

This may be a little “woo” of me, but I have always felt that the universe has a tendency to prepare you for things, if you’re paying attention. I think that LDS couple I knew in Armenia helped prepare me for meeting Bill, who is no longer Mormon, but totally could have been a stereotypical representative of the faith. He looks and acts the part, minus the fakeness/assigned friend tendency. You know how some people have a very convincing and superficially “nice” exterior? Well, Bill really is a very nice and extremely kind person. He is the kind of person who would take to heart the feel good, warm and fuzzy, teachings of the church. But he’s genuine, whereas I think some of the others in the faith, aren’t so much. But then, one could probably find that dynamic in most groups. It just seems more obvious to me in the LDS church.

My husband’s now adult daughters were raised LDS by their convert mother, who used the church as one of the many tools in her parental alienation arsenal. My husband’s younger daughter is a “returned missionary”, and is still an active member of the LDS church, but I think the others have mostly fallen away, except for when they need money or support of some kind. Bill was effectively estranged from both daughters for about 13 years, and only managed to see one of them in 2020, fifteen years after their last in person meeting. He now talks to his younger daughter regularly. The other daughter is still completely estranged and still lives with her mother. One of the many reasons they were estranged had to do with the LDS church and the way members are encouraged to guilt and manipulate people who choose to leave the religion.

For many reasons, ex Mormons are some of my favorite people. A lot of them are genuinely really good folks, but they are also smart and courageous, and they often have great taste in books and music. I’ve also noticed that some of the more rebellious ones have wonderfully irreverent senses of humor. It makes sense, too, since one has to be kind of brave and rebellious to leave Mormonism, especially if one’s whole family is invested. In Bill’s case, he was the only one in his birth family who had joined the church, so his family was mostly delighted when he resigned. They all gave us coffee and booze gifts at our wedding in 2002.

Until recently, I took a very negative view of Mormonism. However, at this point, I’m somewhat less hostile toward the church, because some members very kindly helped Bill’s daughter when we could not. So, as you can see, while I was never a member of the LDS church, it’s definitely touched my life. Over the past 20 years, I have learned a LOT about the LDS church through meeting exmos and active members, reading many books (especially memoirs), and watching a lot of LDS inspired programming.

The Osmond connection…

As I mentioned before, I did not know this show existed until yesterday afternoon. If I didn’t know something about what Mormons believe, as a non Mormon, I think I would have been totally confused by it. The film begins with credits, and I immediately notice Brian Blosil’s name. Brian Blosil is Marie Osmond’s second ex husband, and the father to all but one of her children.

In 2011, Marie Osmond remarried her first husband, Stephen Craig, and they have a bio son together who was born before their divorce in 1985. In 1986, Marie and Brian Blosil wed at the Jordan River Temple. They had two bio children together, and adopted five more children. As Saturday’s Warrior was made in 1989, Marie and Blosil were early in their marriage at the time. Their marriage ended in 2007.

I read that Saturday’s Warrior was filmed at what used to be the Osmond Studios in Orem, Utah. The Osmonds sold the studios in 1989, and for some time, it was used by another outfit for television programs. Jimmy Osmond later repurchased the studios and refurbished them. At this writing, the buildings are being used by famed Utah rehab center for the stars, Cirque Lodge. Cirque Lodge is where Mary Kate Olsen went for rehab, allegedly for treatment of an eating disorder, when she was 18, but she went to the Sundance location. The Orem location is a newer facility for the luxury treatment center, which mostly treats drug and alcohol addiction (and that’s why I wrote that Mary Kate “allegedly” went there for her eating disorder).

I mention the Osmond connection, because as I was watching the video, I was reminded very much of Osmond family specials that aired when I was a child. I didn’t see a lot of LDS programming in those days, but even gentiles like me were exposed to the Osmonds. They were world famous and quite visible in the 70s and early 80s. Years later, as I was learning about Mormonism, I became a little fascinated by the Osmond family. Saturday’s Warrior really reminded me of the Osmonds’ variety shows and specials.

Now, on to my thoughts on the 1989 version of Saturday’s Warrior…

I mentioned up post that this show was originally a stage production performed in California in 1973. It was written by Douglass Stewart, a Latter-day Saint playwright, who is best known for writing Saturday’s Warrior. He has done other things, but this show is his most popular work. The video version I saw yesterday was based on a screenplay written by Bob Williams and his wife, Barbara.

The music was written by Alexis (Lex) de Azevedo, also a Latter-day Saint and father of ten. He’s a pianist, composer and actor, whose work is well-known on “beautiful music” radio stations. According to Wikipedia, de Azevedo’s music is popular on the Sirius station Escape, and at least one of his sanitized versions of popular songs is played every hour. As someone who loathes “Muzak/beautiful music”, I am a bit dismayed to read about this.

A lot of people who saw the original play criticized its story, and the doctrine upon which it was based. However, it proved to be very popular, and it was later produced at BYU. Evidently, the 1989 film was shown a lot in Mormon heavy areas, and a lot of 90s era LDS kids were raised on it. As I mentioned before, the production reminds me a little of Saved By The Bell, which was a popular Saturday morning television show back in the late 80s and early 90s. I’m sure the resemblance is coincidental, though.

The story begins with cheesy music and an obvious stage set, depicting a group of young, attractive, white people, mostly adolescents or children, in what looks like some kind of heavenly location. Pretty blonde Julie Flinders is fretting to her eternal love, Tod, that he’ll forget about her. She’ll be too “ugly” for him. Tod promises that he’ll find Julie, no matter what.

After a few minutes, it becomes clear that these attractive young people are waiting to be born. Mormons believe in a pre-mortal existence, and that children choose their parents. There’s an “angel”– a motherly looking woman with a clipboard– who keeps hoarding the kids to their destinies. A group of eight children of varying ages, destined to be siblings in the large Flinders family, talk about Earth and what they will do “down there”. The angel prods the young people to keep the schedule, lest they end up in Siberia or Madagascar instead of Utah. I mentioned this on RfM, and one poster pointed me to some of the more racist beliefs promoted in the church back in the 1950s and 60s. Given that this was written in the 70s, I can see how those attitudes might have snuck into the script. They seem a little tone deaf in 2022.

Below is what one poster wrote when I brought up the disparaging of other locations:

Believe it or not, this was a significant influence on mormon culture and reinforced mormon beliefs. It also allowed abusive parents to absolve themselves and turn the blame back on their children because “you chose us as parents in the premortal existence, you knew what you were getting into.”

As for “disparaging other places, like Siberia and Madagascar,” standard official mormon doctrine. I give you the incomparable Mark E. Petersen, from “Race Problems – As They Affect the Church,” 8/27/1954:

“[C]an we account in any other way for the birth of some of the children of God in darkest Africa, or in flood-ridden China or among the starving hordes of India, while some of the rest of us are born here in the United States? We cannot escape the conclusion that because of performance in our pre-existence, some of us are born as Chinese, some as Japanese, some as Indians, some as Negroes, some as Americans, some as Latter-day Saints.”

And let’s not forget Alvin Dyer’s “For What Purpose,” delivered in 1961:

“Why is it that you are white and not colored? Have you ever asked yourselves that question? Who had anything to do with your being born into the Church and not born a Chinese or a Hindu or a Negro? Is God such an unjust person that He would make you white and free and make a Negro cursed under the cursing of Cain that he could not hold the Priesthood of God? Who do you think decided and what is the reason behind it?”

As the kids are born, after a dance routine, Jimmy turns out to be rebellious. He’s been hanging out with worldly “atheists”, who see children as a burden and cheer for birth control and abortion. They sing a scandalous number about how “zero population” is the answer. Meanwhile, Jimmy’s parents keep having more kids, which really pisses off Jimmy. His family worries about him. He’s forgotten about his promise to Emily, to make sure that she’s not forgotten and is born.

The youngest of the kids, a little girl named Emily, begs the second eldest, a boy named Jimmy, to make sure he keeps his promise to her to see to it that she’s not “forgotten”, as the youngest of eight. Jimmy, played by Erik Hickenlooper, bears a passing resemblance to Donny Osmond. His “twin”, Pam (played by Marianne Thompson), looks a lot like Marie. Jimmy even sounds a bit like Donny as he acts conceited, just like Donny used to on the old Donny & Marie shows. And Pam worries that she’ll be a “sweet spirit” (not such a pretty girl), but all she wants to do is dance. Pam turns out to be wheelchair bound and sickly.

A subplot involves Julie Flinders, who is engaged to a missionary named Wally (Bart Hickenlooper), who also looks like an Osmond and is just as conceited. Wally is shown at the airport with Julie, who is distraught that he’s leaving for his mission and making an embarrassing scene. It’s at this point that I see parallels to the Book of Mormon Musical, which I saw on stage in San Antonio, Texas. I’ll bet this movie was one of the influences for that show. I totally see “Elder Cunningham” in Wally’s mission companion, and “Elder Price” in Wally. Of course, they aren’t as funny as the Book of Mormon Musical characters are.

Saturday’s Warrior is all about how rebellious Jimmy eventually sees the light and realizes how important it is to bring souls from the pre-mortal existence down to Earth. Meanwhile, Wally and his companion manage to fix things so that Julie eventually meets her eternal mate, Tod, who had promised that he would find her on Earth, no matter what. And then, perhaps the most criticized aspect of this film happens, when Pam, who is sickly and can’t walk, dies and somehow ends up back in the pre-existence (which apparently isn’t doctrinal). She sees Emily, and reassures her that she will be born. As the movie ends, Emily is being born, and Jimmy is happy about it.

Things I didn’t mind…

Saturday’s Warrior has sort of a “feel good” theme to it. If you like “happy” endings, and you’re LDS and think that conversions and births into the covenant are “happy endings”, this movie will probably make you warm and fuzzy. Of course, as someone who is not LDS, the plot made me cringe a bit. The overall message seems to be that the purpose of life is to become LDS, find your special someone, get married, and have lots of babies that are waiting in the spirit world, hoping to come down to Earth. Also, it seems to help if you’re white (and delightsome). The story is only about the importance of family and converting people to the religion, then bringing more souls to the religion. I think think there’s more to living than religious beliefs and pumping out kids who are waiting to be born. Especially given the state of our climate these days. I can see why believers would like the message, though.

I do genuinely believe that the cast is legitimately talented. One of the cast members went on to be in the country group, SHeDAISY. Erik Hickenlooper co-wrote the song, “Buy Me A Rose”, which was a huge hit for Kenny Rogers (with help from Billy Dean and Alison Krauss) in 1999. I know the song, and now that I read the lyrics, it doesn’t surprise me that it was composed by a Mormon. But as a fan of Kenny’s and Alison’s, I admit to liking “Buy Me A Rose”. If you look up Erik Hickenlooper, you’ll see that he’s now a real estate agent, but he’s quite proud of his hit song. He sings a LOT like Donny Osmond.

There are some beautiful dancers in this film, reminding me that the LDS church puts a high premium on the performing arts. Everyone mostly sings well, too, which is a blessing. Some of the singing is a bit trilly and seems not to fit with the pop music style used in most of the film. I would expect to hear it in a more classical composition. But nobody really hits any “clunkers”. The lyrics are very LDS, though. I hear the phrase, “on their merry way”, which I’ve noticed is used a lot by Mormons. I’ve heard the Osmonds use it more than a few times.

The little girl who plays Emily reminds me of a girl I knew in high school. She could be her daughter.

Co-written by one of the stars of Saturday’s Warrior, Erik Hickenlooper. It does have LDS vibes. My exmo husband has bought me roses on two occasions in 2022.

What I didn’t like as much…

I have a pretty high tolerance for cheese, but Saturday’s Warrior is really cheesy. Some of the dance numbers are downright hysterical. Like, for instance, when Julie sings to Wally in the airport, she and a couple of other LDS dancers do a true song and dance, complete with high kicks and high soprano screeching.

Then, there are nonsense songs like “Daddy’s Nose”, which is a cornball number about how all the kids got daddy’s big schnozz. Pam, sitting in her wheelchair, looking very lovely and Marie Osmond like, sings about how her nose ruined her chances of going far with her face. She compares it to Jimmy Durante, complete with his “hach cha cha cha”. Egad. When Pam dies, there’s not a lot of grief. That’s when Jimmy comes back to the fold.

There’s a lot of trite stuff. Some of it is just really silly… very much like some of the less cleverly written sit-coms back in the 70s and 80s. If you don’t know anything about LDS beliefs, you might be very confused by the story. It’s also very whitewashed– I think I saw one token Black guy in the cast. I’m reminded very much of how old I am. The fashions and hairstyles are a real time warp. And again, the storyline, which to me, is kind of ridiculous and insulting, especially to those who can’t have babies. But then, I am not LDS.

Here are many screenshots from the film, but to really get what I mean, you may want to watch it yourself. Or maybe not…

I feel like I’ve really stumbled across an element of LDS culture now. I don’t believe in Mormonism, of course, and having done some reading about this show and the story behind it, I think the story is genuinely ridiculous. But I can see why it appealed to some people and, again, I am truly impressed by the talented cast. There are some legitimately gifted people in this production– good actors, singers, and dancers who are also physically attractive. Given what they had to work with, I think they did okay. But the material is very corny and… “Osmond-esque”.

I have read that this show was redone in 2016, with a couple of new musical numbers added. There were also a couple of sequels done at BYU. It might be interesting to see the remake, but I probably won’t. Maybe if the opportunity arises somehow. I doubt I’ll go looking for it.

Anyway… I’ve prattled on long enough. Got some things to do, like the dreaded vacuuming chore and guitar practice. Maybe I’ll stumble on another “Hard to Find Mormon” video, which is the channel on YouTube where I tend to find these cultural “gems” from the Mormon world. See you tomorrow.

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Trump

“Shut up, Pee Wee. Let the adults talk.”

After being kind of downtrodden over the past few days, I was in a playful mood last night. Bill and I had dinner, and we were drinking wine and talking about the day’s events. I spotted an article on the Army Times’ Facebook page about retired Admiral William McRaven’s recent op-ed piece for the New York Times. I will admit that I haven’t read the op-ed or even the story the Army Times shared. I only read the headline. A lot of people do this, including me. I don’t like to encourage people to make comments about an article they haven’t read, although I did notice this quote, which is what made me take interest in the first place:

“As I stood on the parade field at Fort Bragg, one retired four-star general, grabbed my arm, shook me and shouted, ‘I don’t like the Democrats, but Trump is destroying the Republic!’” McRaven wrote in a New York Times opinion piece.

I felt like Bender last night.

Instead of reading the article, I felt compelled to read some of the Facebook comments in response to the story about Admiral McRaven. I’m not even sure why that was. There are times when I can’t resist reading the comments posted on the military news sites. Sometimes, they’re hilarious. Sometimes, they’re infuriating and borderline moronic. I can think of other subjects that I’d definitely be more excited about than McRaven’s op-ed, yet I still felt like seeing what the military masses had to say about this. Sure enough, some guy last night, obviously a person who also never bothered to read the article, made some comment about how he didn’t like McRaven because McRaven didn’t think he should be allowed to own an AR 15.

An AR 15 is, of course, a weapon expressly designed for killing people. And, in case you haven’t noticed, we have a huge problem with gun violence in the United States. Lots and lots of people have died– many of them children and teenagers– because of the obsession some people have with owning firearms. The AR 15 is a prominent culprit in a lot of those mass shooting deaths. And yet, many people– typically southern, “God fearing” white men with Trump proclivities– feel they must own one of these weapons.

If I had been in a more serious and contemplative mood, I might have tried to have a reasonable discussion with the guy who is annoyed with McRaven for wanting to take away his big gun. But instead, I was just really bored by his attitude, which is shared by so many people who claim to be Christians, yet enjoy destroying people and things with their macho guns. I suggested that he go play with his (preferably loaded) AR 15 and let the adults talk.

Just as I expected, the guy came back and immediately accused me of being a Clinton loving “lefty” who watches The View. Rather than trying to correct this guy– because obviously he doesn’t know me or care about my opinions, and has drawn his own wrong conclusions– I wrote that he was a “load that should have been swallowed” and that must be hard. In fact, it’s probably the “hardest” thing about him. Yeah, I know. Not very nice. Not kind or respectful. Kind of a cheap shot.

I don’t know what got into me, really. I don’t often respond so disrespectfully, even to people who clearly deserve it. But as I was typing my rather nasty and déclassé response, and before he’d even had a chance to see it, the guy posted that he went to my Facebook page (creepy)… and I skipped over the rest of his long-winded comment until I got to his last sentence… which read “And I hope that pisses you off.” Then, after he read my gross comment about how he should have been swallowed, he made a comment about how I lack “class”.

Well, okay… I’ll own that. It’s not “classy” to tell someone they are a “load that should have been swallowed”, although I’ll bet a lot of military men have no issues whatsoever saying stuff like that to each other– it’s only nasty when a woman says or writes it, right? Then Bill jumped in and wrote that I’m not a Trump or Clinton fan– which is the truth. I’m also quite centrist in my political leanings. Meanwhile, I was wondering what information that man might have gleaned from my Facebook page, given that most of it is pretty well locked down. He might have seen the name of my blog, which probably really disgusted him, since he likely believes education is wasted on women. He probably saw a lot of pictures of my dogs, too. From that, he’s incorrectly gleaned that I’m a clueless bimbo who watches morning TV and aligns my views with women on a talk show.

Bill said he went on the guy’s page and noticed there were a lot of pictures of sunrises in Florida, along with weepy comments wondering how anyone could doubt there is a God in the face of such natural beauty. I wonder how this man could profess to be a God loving person who cherishes all of the things God made, yet he wants to own a weapon expressly made for killing human beings. Didn’t God create man? Doesn’t this God loving “load that should have been swallowed” value the God-created beauty in his fellow man? Does he only love the scenery God made? Or just people who look, think, and believe the same way he does?

Shut up, peewee.
I am not ashamed to admit that I was channeling Mr. Vernon…

Anyway… he came back with another retort, but by that time, I was losing both my patience and interest in trolling him. I posted, “Shut up, Pee Wee. Let the adults talk.” And that was about the end of our enlightened chat, because it was getting late and Bill’s eyes were drooping.

Maybe I shouldn’t be proud of what I did last night. I don’t regularly bait people like that. It’s not often I engage people on Facebook anymore, because it’s usually a waste of time. I’ve found that most people are set in their opinions, and being behind a keyboard emboldens them to be disrespectful. Disrespectful people piss me off, so I don’t bother arguing on social media because I want to protect my peace. I’d rather rant about this stuff in my blog for those who actually want to read it. But last night, I was in a rare mood. It was all about fun and games. I was laughing maniacally as I insulted this poorly endowed Trumper who tried to appeal to my ego by accusing me of being a View watching “lefty” and lacking “class”.

Who gives a shit if he thinks I have no class? I think it’s far classier for a person to tell someone they are a “load that should have been swallowed” than it is to admire weapons that can kill dozens of people within seconds while simultaneously professing to love God. As Rhonda Vincent once sang, “You don’t love God if you don’t love your neighbor.” And I don’t think I need to waste time on diplomacy with such a person, particularly if I have a bee in my bonnet and a belly full of beer (or wine, as the case may be)!

I am not a particularly religious person, but I do admire great musicians. Rhonda Vincent and The Rage rock! And dammit, if you honestly profess to love God, you shouldn’t want to own weapons expressly designed for destroying God’s creations– especially your neighbors. On another note, this video makes me want to go home to America and listen to live bluegrass.

Although I don’t think being overtly rude is generally the right way to behave, there are times when it’s more productive to simply have fun with these types of people. I can’t change their minds with reason, so I might as well have a good laugh. I’ve found that one of the quickest and easiest ways to piss off a gun toting Trumper, particularly those with military ties, is to make fun of their sexual prowess, or lack thereof. Then, after I make a really nasty comment that would never disgust them if it came from a man, I simply ignore everything they say and accuse them of needing a big gun to compensate for their small dicks. They usually then try to retort, but I reiterate that they can’t satisfy anyone with their little peckers and that’s why they’re so mad at the world that they need a big gun that makes big explosions. If they had someone who would happily blow them, maybe they’d be less bitter about life and hell bent on blowing up stuff. Who knows?

An even better and potentially more effective way to piss off this type of person is to simply agree with all of their insults with just a hint of sass. I’ve seen many an insecure boy/man melt down into rage when they think I don’t take them or their insults seriously. However, I will admit that I have to be in a certain mood to do this. I do have a fragile ego myself and I’m a long way from saying “fuck it” to everything and everyone… But sometimes, it’s so much fun to fuck with Trump lovers! The trick is, just don’t respond to anything they say or write as if you take them seriously. Then sit back and watch the fallout. It’s hilarious! And before anyone reminds me of what Rhonda Vincent sings, let me remind you that unlike Mr. AR 15 God lover, I don’t profess to be particularly “Christian” myself. God doesn’t dip His pen of love in my heart that often… but when He does, it’s usually when I’m listening to bluegrass.

And I will admit, when I hear this, I love God, too.

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music, musings

My special brand of shitty sunshine…

I sort of casually follow the Confessions of a Funeral Director’s Facebook page. I’m not sure what got me turned on to it. I probably saw a post or two shared by someone else and it resonated. Maybe I just thought he was a cutie patootie. He is a good looking guy, not that I get a lot of crushes anymore.

Last night, I happened to read a post he– that is, Caleb– shared about why he writes. He started it off with this: “Speak and write about your scars, not your open wounds. That’s the axiom you’re supposed to follow as a writer.” Those two opening sentences really hit home for me, since I have occasionally gotten complaints from people that I “share TMI” in my blog. Some people have said I’m “inappropriate”, and have offered the unsolicited advice not to publish certain things, because it makes me look like an ass.

Well, folks, if the truth be told, sometimes I am an ass. However, I think most people are asses at some points in time. Nobody’s perfect. I used to try to be a certain way because I felt like it would make me more likable to other people. I was also encouraged and pressured to be that way by other people, namely my parents and sisters. But then I realized that being something or some way I’m not makes me less than authentic. It’s also exhausting and depressing.

Caleb, the funeral director continues with this: “Burnout, secondary trauma, PTSD, depression, fear, disassociation, social anxiety . . . these are all a part of my concoction of diagnosed open wounds (more on the diagnosed part of things when I’m feeling up to talking about it). And these wounds rarely have time to heal when their source is your job. For some of us, like me, writing from our scars isn’t entirely possible because some wounds just remain . . . open.

Boy, oh boy, can I relate to that passage. I write about my pain. I’m not sure if it helps make the pain go away so much as it helps me to process it in some way. Some wounds are slow to heal. Some never completely heal. I would imagine that as a funeral director, Caleb gets a fairly regular shot of pain to the psyche and sees things that may make him think about his own mortality. Like me, he writes to process.

I thought Caleb was really profound with his comments about “scars” until I read what he wrote next: “…I love spreading my darkness and pain around the Internet. SEE MY PAIN AND WALLOW IN IT WITH ME!!! I’m basically becoming the Grumpy Cat (RIP, beloved feline patronus) of the funeral industry, here to give you the pleasure of seeing transparent online suffering.

Oh my God, YES! I totally relate. People have asked Caleb why he doesn’t just “quit”. I wonder if they mean caring for the dead, or writing about his experiences. In the next paragraph, Caleb sort of indicates that they mean “caring for the dead”, which can take a huge emotional toll on a person. He says he stays in his job because he’s good at it. He knows he can help people. And maybe, he says, he “might have a slight Messiah complex.”

I see this place as where I spread my special brand of shitty sunshine. I know I have written things that others have found entertaining, informative, or even thought provoking. I’ve also written offensive things that upset people. I own it. Some writers love to write only positive, uplifting, wise things. Me? Sometimes I feel kind of like Alison Krauss when I write. She sings a lot of sad songs and they really resonate with people. I once read that she likes to record songs that make people feel like crap. She even put it that way, although she was kind of joking. Alison Krauss, for all of her sad songs, has always struck me a bit as a frustrated comedienne.

Alison Krauss channels Michael McDonald in a tragic song that makes people feel like crap… and love it.

At a concert, Alison Krauss told a story about how she’d wandered into a used record store in Nashville and found an old song by Michael McDonald called “It Don’t Matter Now”. The prospect of recording it was exciting to her, because “we don’t want anybody listening to us feeling good!” I see from the link that the reviewer attended a 2005 Alison Krauss and Union Station (AKUS) show in Seattle. I remember that year, Bill and I also saw AKUS, only we caught it in Richmond, Virginia. I also remember her telling that story. We were in the nosebleed seats, because that was during our “poor days”. Alison doesn’t seem to be recording as much these days, but her comments about singing songs that make people feel like crap have always resonated with me. If you were to meet me in person, you may catch me on a day when I’m being hilarious and entertaining. Or you may catch me when I’m feeling depressed and mad at the world. Maybe I’m like this because I’m a Gemini… or maybe I’m simply nutty. So far, I haven’t actually hurt anyone by being who I am. Maybe I’ve hurt people’s feelings, but people have hurt my feelings, too. I think it’s very hard not to sometimes hurt people. As long as it’s unintentional, I don’t think it’s a problem.

For me, writing is kind of healing, even if I’m writing about an open psychic wound and express emotions like anger. Anger, by the way, is not a negative or toxic emotion in and of itself. Sometimes anger can be very empowering and motivating. If we were all peaceful and placid every day, why would we be motivated into taking action when action is warranted? If a person lets anger turn them into someone who does destructive things, like slashing tires, getting into fights, or drinking themselves to death, that would be negative. But writing about being angry or depressed– expressing anger on paper– is not, in and of itself a destructive action… even if someone reads the words and gets upset about it. Reading someone else’s words is always a choice, especially when you’re accessing their “place”. In my case, it’s my blogs. I can write things down, but I can’t control other people’s reactions. And, unless I make everything private, I can’t control whether or not they choose to read this stuff… my special brand of shitty sunshine, which is sometimes very hot and bright, but also stinks.

Maybe Joni Mitchell?

Anyway… reading Caleb the funeral director’s thoughts on his writing, which he admits is sometimes kind of depressing to read, really hit home for me. Some of us are just grumpy and we exorcise our crankiness by writing. It beats slashing tires or driving drunk, and it’s quieter than singing.

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