Thursday, June 26, 2014

Confessions of a Hypocrite

So...remember this?

Remember this comment I made in reference to above post?:

Yeah, so it turns out, I'm wrong. Well, there's a pretty good chance I am, anyway.  I was definitely taught a lesson in forming an opinion based on a few things I'd read and heard before learning all the facts. 

So here's my shameful secret that only a few people know: Within days of sharing that link on Facebook, I went gluten-free.

I know what you're thinking: What?! Hypocrite much?! Why yes, yes I am.  And I've never been happier to be proven wrong.  So here's the story:

The above-referenced post led to a heated debate (which I knew it would) and friends and family were quick to argue with me and tell why going GF had changed their lives.  One friend in particular, who is very passionate about this topic, ended up messaging me privately to apologize for her heated comment (which was completely unnecessary, but appreciated) and it started a discussion about GF.  I asked some questions, told more of my skepticism, and for days we went back and forth about the subject, with her sending me links and enlightening me more and more.  (She has done a TON of research on the topic so the girl definitely knows what she's talking about.) I looked up the links, read up on it, did my research (which is what I should have done before sharing the link above).  Normally I wouldn't have spent the time to do so, except for one thing: As I stated in one of my comments in that thread, I actually tested positive for Celiac Disease several years ago.  The blood test said I had it, the biopsy and endoscopy said I did not.  Well, here's the thing: I now know, through my research, that one must have gluten in their diet for the endoscopy to show the damage the gluten is causing to their stomach (if they do indeed have Celiac) and my doctor, who will remain nameless, told me to go off of gluten for a month and then have the endoscopy done.  The gastroenterologist who did my endoscopy knew I had been off gluten for a month and didn't say anything about it.  Long story short, I now know the test results were screwed up and I am not about to pay the money to go through it all again.

So my friend suggested going off of gluten one more time.  This would be my third time in about six years.  The first time was per my doctor's questionable orders, the second time was a year and a half ago when I was having crazy digestive issues.  Each time was for a month, and each time I didn't notice a difference.  My friend said a month wasn't enough, and I probably wasn't being careful enough with making sure everything I was eating was, in fact, gluten free.  Which was probably true.  So I decided to try it one last time, for at least three months, being super diligent about checking labels and not cheating, and see once and for all if gluten was causing my lifelong headaches and more recent digestive issues, which were worse than they'd ever been. 

It's been a month now, and I feel amazing.  My headaches have almost completely disappeared and my digestive issues are GONE.  But, I still wasn't convinced it was for sure the gluten.  After all, I was eating healthier and avoiding sugar for the most part.  (But not completely.) After a while I started feeling deprived as I watched everyone around me eat hamburgers and cake and all kinds of gluten-laden goodness so I started eating sugar if there was no gluten in it; you know, to make up for what I was missing out on.  (Hello, milkshakes.)  And I still felt great, so I knew it wasn't the sugar.  I was eating plenty of dairy, so I knew it wasn't that, either.  Still, I was not going to know for sure until my 3 months were up and I introduced gluten back into my diet.

And then last night happened.  I was sleeping restlessly so I got up to have some milk, which always helps, but I can't just drink plain milk without anything with it, because...gross.  And sitting in my fridge, staring back at me, screaming at me to eat them, were these amazing looking gourmet cupcakes the devil my friend had brought us.  Don't do it, Alicia, the voice in my head said.  Don't throw away the last month, you've worked too hard.  You'll regret it.  But then another voice said CUPCAKE and before I knew it I was sinking my teeth into the most delicious caramel, peanut butter-filled cupcake with caramel frosting.  Oh. My. Gosh, it was a-MAZING.  As I ate it, I knew one of two things would happen: nothing, which would make me question the no gluten thing but not give up on it since I've felt so good, or something, which would prove to me that my body hates it. 

I went back to bed and fell asleep.  Four hours later I woke up with what felt like a butcher knife in the side of my head.  I have not had that kind of headache in, well, a month.  Especially waking me up in the middle of the night.  And I knew there was no way it could be a coincidence.  And I knew it couldn't be the sugar, or any other ingredient in the cupcake, because the only thing in that cupcake that my body has not had in a month was gluten.  So there you have it.  My answer.  Which is incredibly bittersweet because on the one hand, I FINALLY know, after all these years, what has been causing my headaches and stomach issues.  But on the other hand....NO GLUTEN!!!! No cupcakes, donuts, cake, cookies, bread, pasta, and a million bajillion other things that have made up my diet my entire life and make me oh so happy.  It will be hard, I'm not gonna lie.  But it will be worth it.  I finally feel like a normal, healthy person.

So the reason I say there's a pretty good chance I'm wrong about my previous opinion, and not a definite one, is because there's still a chance I actually do have Celiac Disease, which would mean my self-discovery about gluten wouldn't prove anything about people who don't have Celiac responding to a GF diet.  But oh well.  Who cares?  Not me.  If all those people have found something that makes them feel better, then I'm happy for them, and who the heck am I to say anything about it?? 

So, add me to the list of "annoying" people asking "what's in that?" and requesting the allergy menu at restaurants.  I'm proud to join the club.

Monday, June 23, 2014


Sometimes in my life there are things that I have a really hard time staying silent about.  I feel things so strongly, so passionately, that often I feel like if I can't get my feelings out there I'll explode.  Lately it seems like there are so many hot button topics flying around that have me feeling this way, and they all revolve around one thing: my religion.

I am Mormon.  I have been since the day I was born, but I like to think I was even before that.  I have never not been Mormon, and I know that because of this people think I am biased and unable to see outside of my little cushioned Mormon bubble.  And maybe this is true to some extent.  Obviously I only know what my life experiences have given me and allowed me to see and learn, including the things I have been taught every Sunday for 35 years, and every day in between those Sundays in my home.

But I am not an easy person to convince.  I am not a mindless, impressionable creature that just does something because I am told.  Sometimes I wish I was, because it would show great faith.  But I have always needed to know why, and how, and what will happen if I do, or don't.  I have always questioned everything, my entire life, and I don't just mean my religion.  When I was very young my mom was ironing clothes.  She told me not to touch the iron because it was hot and I would burn my finger.  I had absolutely no reason not to take her word for it, but a few minutes later the doorbell rang and my mom went to answer it.  The minute she was out of sight, I couldn't reach my little hand out fast enough to touch that iron.  I couldn't just take her word for it, I had to learn for myself.  And she was right.  It was hot.  And I burned my finger.

In high school some of my best friends were Catholic and we'd get into (mostly) friendly religious debates.  During one of these debates one friend I was particularly close to accused me and my Mormon friends of only believing what we believed because we'd been brainwashed our entire lives.  As I argued with him and demanded to know how it was any different with him and his religion, his words echoed in my brain, and stuck with me for a long time after, even now that he is no longer with us.  And I've never stopped pondering it.  It really got to me.  Was there truth to his words?  Do we all only believe what we believe because we've been told it by our parents and the people closest to us our entire lives?  If I'd been born into a Catholic family would I have been on the other side of those classroom arguments, calling out the Mormon kids on their "bizarre" beliefs?  I couldn't handle the thought.  I needed to believe I believe what I believe because I believe it, not just because I've never been told different.

My point is, I've always stepped back and taken a look at my beliefs from the outside.  I know how they appear to the world, now more than ever, with the Mormon religion under the microscope getting rotten tomatoes thrown at it day after day, so to speak.  Do you know how it feels to be a part of something that so much of the world hates?  Something that is so much a part of you you feel that you wouldn't be you without it?  Something you hold so dear to your heart that every time someone speaks ill of it you feel like a tiny part of your soul dies?  Well I do.  And for someone who cares so very, very much what people think of her, it's not easy, let me tell you.  So often I ask myself, "Can you do this?  When people start really, truly hating you for being who you are and believing what you do, can you stick it out?  Do you believe enough to stand by your church and not go running for the hills when the angry pitchfork-wielding mob comes?"  I want to believe I can, and I do, and I will.  Because I'm not stupid.  I know that day will come.  I know the day will come that even my belief in God will condemn me, and I want to be ready for that.

But mostly, I just want to be heard.  I want my weak little Mormon voice to be heard among all these other voices that are screaming and shouting and being heard 'round the world.  Because all anyone is hearing right now are those voices, Mormon and non-Mormon alike.  All they're hearing is "Mormon church is kicking out their own for wanting equal rights for women" and "Mormon church opposes gay marriage so obviously they hate gay people and don't want them to be happy" and every other possible negative thing that can be said about the Mormon church.  But what about what we have to say?  The scale is being tipped so far in the other direction, I think it's only fair that we be allowed to add a little weight to the side that's hanging high in the air.  Because what no one seems to be seeing is the inequality that is coming to pass in this fight for equality.  Am I really the only one who sees it?  Sometimes I feel like I am.

I got used to being in the minority for my beliefs a long time ago.  I've watched as the world shifted from accepting and loving of those with different lifestyles (a good thing) to taking it a step further and despising, judging, and condemning those of us who don't agree with certain aspects of those lifestyles (not a good thing).  I've watched as anger, hatred, and disgust became the common feeling amongst those fighting for equal rights, all in the the name  Seem backwards to you?  Because it sure does to me.  Fight for equal rights, sure.  Fight for everyone to be happy and loved and not judged.  I want all those things too, whether you believe me or not.  But please, please don't become a hypocrite by treating a group of people differently for their beliefs.  Because it won't be long (I promise you this) before we--those of us fighting for what we believe in, no matter how unpopular it is--will be the ones being treated as lesser people who don't deserve to be happy.  We will be the ones fighting for OUR rights to be equal.  And who will stand for us then?  Who will fight for OUR group that is being condemned for OUR beliefs?  It's a very thin line between fighting against someone for quote unquote "not loving" and becoming that person.  In the very, very near future, that line will no longer exist.  It's already beginning to disappear.

The bottom line is, I love my religion deeply.  Not just because it's all I've ever known, or because it's what my parents taught me or what I've been brainwashed to believe.  Because I look around at what else is out there, or I think about just not having it in my life at all, about what would happen if I walked away, and I feel sick.  I can't imagine the emptiness I would feel inside.  The happiness that would undoubtedly be sucked from my life, the uncertainty that would plague my very soul about so many things.  My religion is part of my chemical makeup, part of what makes me who I am.  I couldn't walk away from it any more than I could walk away from my heart, or my brain.  And the more people judge me, and push me, and argue with me for my beliefs, the harder my body wants to fight back.  Because that's what I do when something I love is attacked.  I fight back.  I defend.  I am fiercely loyal to the things in this life that I love.  And that will never change.

So now you've heard it, one little voice against a whole lot of big ones.  Maybe it will be heard, maybe it won't.  But at least I've said it.  And to answer the question of a recent attacker of my beliefs, THAT is how I sleep at night.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Transformation In A Move Theater

WARNING: It's about to get all sappy up in herrr.  Also, spoilers.

Today I went with some friends to see The Fault in Our Stars, a movie made from an amazing book about two teens dying of cancer who fall in love.  I know, sounds horribly depressing, but it's really not.  Sad, yes.  But the good kind of sad, where you sigh at the end and walk away feeling good because you truly felt.

But here's the thing: halfway through the movie I had a weird sort of revelation.  About myself.  You see, I am a self-proclaimed romantiholic.  A romance junkie.  I fiend for a good love story.  I always have, and I hope I always will.  I am a romantic through and through and nothing gets my heart pounding and my insides all crazy like a good love story.  Which is exactly what happened when I read The Fault in Our Stars.  I was all about Hazel Grace's and Augustus Waters's relationship.  I couldn't get enough of them falling in love, their ironic wit and cheese-less romance.  I pined through the entire thing and was all warm and fuzzy by the end.  Romantically fulfilled in every way.  And *SPOILER ALERT* when Gus dies, my heart broke because I was reading through Hazel's eyes; that was me reading his eulogy, knowing I'd lost the love of my life.

The movie was different.  Well, actually, the movie was pretty much exactly the same as the book, they mercifully stayed incredibly true to it which is so rare and so fantastic.  But it was different for me to watch it than to read it.  Why?  Because of Hazel's parents.  The book portrayed them as loving parents trying to cope with the inevitable death of their only child while simultaneously trying to take the best possible care of her while still encouraging her to get out there and life life while she still can.  They were good parents who obviously loved their daughter.

But in the movie, her parents (played by Laura Dern of Jurassic Park fame and some guy I'd never seen before who looked to be at least 10 years younger) were, well, amazing.  What didn't come across on page came across powerfully on screen and I ached for them.  I could feel every single emotion they felt dealing with this horrible, emotional roller coaster ride that could come crashing to an halt at any time.  As I watched them stand over their not-so-little girl anymore, trying to hide their tears but obviously falling apart on the inside, I found myself completely overcome with emotion, fighting back tears and swallowing a serious lump in my throat.  And that's when it hit me: I have transformed.  I didn't get choked up when Gus died, or when he told Hazel he loved her, or when they cried together after he told her he was dying.  No, I got choked up when Hazel's mom couldn't handle the fact that she couldn't afford to give her daughter her one dying wish.  When her dad carried her like a baby in his arms into the ER one night when she couldn't breathe and felt like her head was going to explode.  When it flashed back to a 13 year old Hazel in the hospital taking what they thought were her last breaths and they stood over her sobbing, telling her it was okay to let go.  I almost couldn't handle it, because I was them, and that 13 year old girl could have been my own sweet, precious, amazing 13 year old girl.

And that realization, that suddenly I was relating to the parents of the teen instead of the teen in love was kind of shocking.  When did that happen??  I'm not gonna lie, it was a little disconcerting.  Am I like, grown up now?  Or just...a parent of a teenager?  It's so bizarre, I still don't know what to make of it.  But it was eye-opening.  And so, so powerful.  And weird.

Anyway, my point is...I don't really know what my point is.  I guess one is that there are certain things that just cannot be portrayed on page like they can onscreen.  Another is that the actors were amazing and the filmmakers did a bang-up job of transforming the book to film.  And a third is that self-realization can hit you anywhere, even in a dark theater surrounded by your friends who are all crying except for you.  Because that, at least, is something about me that will probably never change.