Phone Calls & Cigarettes

Tuesday, February 4, 2020


A few weeks ago, a woman I follow on Instagram asked a question on one of her posts and encouraged everyone to write their response in the comments. Her question? "What is the one thing you would say or ask Heavenly Mother right now?"

The responses were equally eye-opening and heartbreaking. "I would ask her to tell me the story of how my spirit was born," one woman wrote. "I'd ask her to squeeze me tighter." "I want to know her favorite thing about me." "I would ask her if she would take extra special care of my boy 'til I get there." "I'd ask, 'Where are you?'"

My one ask was this: "Show me what it means to love myself."

No "please." No "If I could, I would ask..." I didn't realize this until later, but there was no separation between the possibility of or appropriateness of asking and the actual asking itself. Just my request, hanging out right there in the middle of Insta-land. Consciously, I wrote it as a question. Subconsciously, I already knew I'd get my answer soon.

So imagine my surprise as one day, right in the middle of an EMDR therapy session, Heavenly Mother reveals herself to me. For those of you who are unfamiliar with EMDR, it is a kind of therapy technique that accesses the subconscious mind. The mental state I am working in during these sessions is very similar to that of a dream. That's my most relatable way to describe it.

It was in an office setting. Heavenly Father sat behind a secretary's desk, shuffling through papers and licking his fingers occasionally as he sorted through the stacks. I walked up to him and said, "I want to see Heavenly Mother." He paused his work and looked up at me, smiling. "You know you don't have to ask. You know where she is. Just go in and see her," he said. As if all these years of being told by prophets, bishops, and Young Women and Relief Society presidents that talking to my big-M Mother was a huge no-no meant as much to him as the stack of papers in the "To Be Filed" folder on the corner of his desk. Alrighty then, I thought. I guess I will go and do.

As I walked to the door that I knew Heavenly Mother was waiting behind, I felt a rise of anticipation. Here was the moment I'd waited for for years. Of course I had ideas of what Heavenly Mother was like - or at least what I'd hoped and thought she was like. Over the last two years I have seen a handful of amateur and professional LDS artists paint her likeness. Among my favorites are those in the After Our Likeness collection by J. Kirk Richards and the works of Ettakay, but my assumption of Heavenly Mother as either a motherly or grandmotherly figure has gone quite unchallenged by every artistic representations of her I've come across. The moment I pushed open the door, I honestly expected to see an elderly face wrinkled with kind and twinkling eyes, and a woman with a heavy-set, long-ago postpartum, post-menopausal body draped in flowing white robes.

Instead, I found myself in a softly-lit room. Sensuous burgundy velvet drapes framed large windows, and the walls were the same shade of red, accented with a glinting gold pattern. Large paintings of still-life floral arrangements hung on the walls in gilded frames, and resting on an over-sized chaise lounge was a woman laying with her back turned to me, smoking a cigarette in a long, sheer, white lingerie robe. She took a moment to take another long inhale of her long lady's cigarette before puffing it out and turning towards me. I could hardly believe it when I realized I was looking into the eyes of Rizzo from the 70s film "Grease".

I panicked for a moment. This was Heavenly Mother? Holding a cigarette between rouged lips, dressed in a black nightie with a white silk robe and raising an eyebrow at me? What the heck was happening?
Before I had too much time to think about it, Rizzo put out her cigarette and pointed to a vintage pink rotary telephone on her nightstand. "You see that?" she asked me. I nodded. I knew exactly what it was. Over the last few weeks, the same image has been popping up on my Pinterest boards, social media pages, and in real (not EMDR) dreams. "We gonna start the revolution," she said.
Whatever this project was that Heavenly Rizzo was cooking up, I knew I wanted in. But something kept holding me back from a "yes." She must have seen these emotions play out on my face, because she asked me, "What's up?"

"I... I'm not ready," I said. "A revolution? How much more upheaval can I handle? I want a simple life. I want to garden, decorate my house, and write. I want to be a good mom. I want to love my hubs and I want to keep him around. I'm not sure how much more of feminism my marriage can handle. Not only that, but I am still of healing childhood trauma and now is the moment  you want to talk to me about revolution?"

"Its your choice, babe. Garden, grow one hundred zuchinni a summer. Mother, kiss those skinned knees and boil a thousand pots of water. No one here is stopping you from loving your man. He's a good one, and you ought to keep him. Give him time. All good things in time. But here's what you need to consider. Garden, mother, wife, full stop. Are you happy there? Is that really what you want? 'Cause you are the one who came barging into my bedroom mid-smoke with your big, heavy questions, and that doesn't sound to me like a woman content with the simple life. You can stop and turn around, back out anytime you like. But is what what you want?"
"Fine." I said. "You want me to say it out loud, right? Okay. I want more. I want a big-a** piece of your revolution cake. But a change on that scale needs power, and I don't think I have enough. Show me how..." my voice trailed off as I remembered the "ask" I had written on the Instagram post. Show me how to love myself. A lyric from Frozen II's "Show Yourself" came to me in that moment. Step into your power... 

"But I don't know how!" I said, tears of frustration welling in my eyes. Rizzo walked over to me, put her arm around my shoulder. From the pocket of her robe she pulled what looked like a business card and handed it to me. I read the writing on the front. "Get Out Of Jail Free" was printed in metallic rose gold ink.

"This is what I want you to do. For three days I want you to do nothing except listen to your body and do exactly what it tells you to in the moment. After three days, call me. If anyone judges you or tells you what you're doing is wrong, give them the card and tell them to come talk to me. I'll handle it." I agreed with a quick nod of my head as I wiped away my tears. At that moment, Secretary Heavenly Father walked in and poured himself a cup of coffee. 

"What are you girls up to?" he asked. 
"We're starting the revolution," Rizzo said.
"I expected nothing less," he said, pausing to smile gently at me wrapped beneath Rizzo's arm before taking a huge swig of his cuppa.

"Three days," Rizzo said as she turned to me. "If you don't call me, I'll call you. I know how much you hate the phone." I laughed. Suddenly I realized the phone on the nightstand was ringing, and I woke up, or "came to" my real life again, sitting on my therapist's white leather couch. I told her everything, questioning the validity of what just played out in my mind. "What's the harm in trying it out for a few days?" she asked mischievously.
Three days later, a phone rang. I answered.
"The revolution is already here," I said, a hint of girlish glee in my voice.
"Do your thing, girl," she said.
I smiled into the phone speaker and answered,
"With relish."

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