Saturday, February 19, 2011

Putting My Brave Face On

About 2 weeks ago, in an attempt to regain some control over my life, I closed my facebook account and shut down this blog. I had reached a point where I greatly resented the public nature of my journey. If I could change the past I would go back and start this blog as an anonymous venture. The passive-aggressive nature of some facebook interactions and misunderstandings had accumulated and worn me down. And perhaps most of all this blog was beginning to shape me rather me shaping it.

(There was also a very specific catalyst for the shutdowns but I won’t discuss it here).

It is one thing when friends un-friend you on facebook, it is quite another when a family member does it. How on earth does religion trump family? It would seem as though the religion that most likes to present itself as family-friendly has a rather bad track record of keeping families together. All of the focus on the afterlife has blinded people to the needs and feelings of those right in front of them in the here and now! I watched an online friend go through the full gamut of emotions recently resulting in serious consideration of suicide. And we all know about the suicide attempts and actual suicides of LGBT Mormon youth in the States.

It saddens me to be experiencing rejection and unkindness from family. The loss of friendships has also been hard but there have been many beautiful people ready to pop up and take their place; do I have to replace family as well? I guess I am beginning to learn that family is not a right but a privilege and must be earned with love, respect and kindness.

I am blown away by the lack of compassion shown by Mormons. There are some that shine out and do what you’d expect any decent human to do but then there are a disturbing number who refuse to even try to understand an apostate’s pain. The horribly overused label stating that a person has “Left the church but won’t leave the church alone” is one that is sadly so entrenched in Mormon culture and yet it is so hurtful to anyone who is trying to process the enormous changes going on in their life. Think for just a moment of how you might feel if everything you thought was true was turned upside-down and it happened at whirlwind speed and then imagine that the people who you have been closest to for your whole life tell you that you must never speak about this to them, ever. For you to discuss your confusion, feelings of betrayal and hurt, your loss… all of these very real emotions and experiences are rejected by those whom you love and instead you are told that you are mistaken, lost and evil.

Instead of discussion there is ignorance. Instead of love, distance.

And so because I started this journey with my brave real face on I now have to choose whether to ‘disappear’ and regain some peace or move forward in the face of hypocrisy and unkindness and put my name to my thoughts and experiences. I know that by writing these things down I will help someone else who is right now being shunned by their Mormon family and friends. After all of the lessons I heard in church about writing a journal to help my progeny it turns out that the most useful thing I can do with my words is to help people survive the turmoil that can come in the first stages of post-Mormonism.


  1. Maureen, I can empathize with you so much. My parents don't want to discuss church issues with me anymore. We have a surface relationship with no depth. They moved and now I don't see them very often.

    Maureen, I wish we lived closer so that we could visit with you and have some great conversations. We're here for you. I don't understand choosing church over family either.

  2. I am lucky to have been brought up in an Atheist home and never had to deal with these particular problems.

    That said, there is nothing wrong with my hearing. i will listen to you. I may not understand, but I will listen.

    Glad you are back. I hope you stay :)

  3. Thank you for this beautiful post, Maureen. It helped me cope today. I'm sorry to hear you have been going through so much pain.

  4. Great to have you back!

    A relevant quote: "The division is entirely one-sided. I didn't end relationships when I became an atheist. Christians ended those relationships."

  5. @Bowie - I can't stand surface relationships! With friends it is bearable bcos you can choose to just not be around them much but when it is family the fakeness just hurts. Do I stay away and avoid the pain or do I try to maintain involvement (largely for the kids sake) and just realign my thinking so that I don't allow the poor behaviour of others to impact myself so negatively. Maybe a bit of both ;)

    @ TGIAA - I have to say thank god I have friends that are very good at listening to me bcos sometimes I have a lot to say!

    @Donnell - and that is exactly why I want to keep blogging. Reading other peoples posts helps me to cope and I am so happy to have added a little boost in energy for you today :)

    @Daniel - I have to remember that!

  6. Hi Maureen,
    I am sorry you have had this experience within the family, the only thing I can offer is that for your family member/s this is also painful from the other side of the equation, seeing a loved one leave the church is the worst thing that can happen other than losing them, (death), maybe some would say worse.
    Hence I can understand someone putting up a shield, I don't think it is the right way to go about it, but people deal with things in different ways.
    They may be able to handle it better if you were silent, but as you say this is your way of dealing with things.
    Love always
    Aunty Jan.

  7. I'll butt out if this is a family discussion, but I appreciate what you're saying, Aunty Jan. And I understand it too, because as a Formon (former Mormon), I felt the same thing for people who I'd seen leave the Church.

    What I hope the believing family members will someday understand is how the pain you're describing appears to someone who doesn't believe.

    I see how my believing and loving family members hurt for me, and they imagine me going through all kinds of torment/separation from God or family, and so on. But this would only be the case if it all were true, and I don't think it is. So the impression I'm left with is how unnecessary their hurting is, and how much happier they'd feel if they just enjoyed our time together instead of putting up walls.

    I also feel pretty angry at the Church (uh-oh, I said it) for putting them through this torment during the only existence we're certain of having, and for creating a conflict that serves no other purpose than protecting the belief system and enforcing mental conformity. My believing family members are the casualties of this doctrine.

    Of course, if I'm wrong and they're right, then I'm hosed. I accept that. But even if that's true, I don't think I would want to have anything to do with a god that would impose eternal exclusion or isolation on someone for wrong belief. Not wrong actions; wrong belief.

    It's coercive. It's emotional hostage-taking. And I wish the cost of my own freedom of conscience didn't impose emotional pain on my family. But it's not up to me. I don't need to have unanimity of opinion. They do.

  8. Maureen, I'm so glad to see you back. I worried when you went dark. I don't know about what, but it seemed ominous. I don't really know you and certainly don't know your family but you have my good wishes as you try to navigate those relationships.

  9. Thanks Retief, I think I still feel a bit unsteady on my feet regarding my thoughts/feelings about leaving the church and so I still need this place to process all of that. I used to feel pretty stable when I was LDS but I have been feeling quite unhinged lately and although I love my new life it sure does contain a whole bunch of uncertainty which I am very unused to. I know that this will take time. If I had grown up in a secular home then I think i would have had more practice at embracing the unknown but hey, I'm trying.

    Hey Jan, thanks for caring enough to engage w/me here! I am all too aware of the suffering of some of my extended family members. Like Daniel says though it is self-imposed suffering. Rather than embrace my newfound freedom and zest for life, as well as my choice to grab life by the reigns and go for it, some of my family have been very negative about MY life choices.

    I compare this to my dad who as much as he would love for me to come back to church understands that life is not like that and that we all need to forge our own paths. I know he wants his family to make it to the celestial kingdom w/him but he cares about us enough to respect our individuality/freedom etc and converse w/us in an adult manner, never placing HIS wishes upon me as some kind of guilt trip or whatever. I used to have issues w/ my dad about being overbearing etc (from childhood) but as an adult he lets me make my own decisions and I am so glad that I left the church and discovered this about him. He's actually pretty cool, who knew!

    Then I have had someone say to me that they are so depressed as a reult of T and I leaving the church that they just can't stand it and that their doctor is very worried about them. This is highly inappropriate! This same person also refuses to talk about our departure. They instead choose to make thoughtless comments. I know they are hurting but I think they may have forgotten about our feelings.

  10. @Daniel - very well put. I find it odd how many of my church friends think everyone else is living a miserable existence.

    Maureen, one of the few reasons I'm glad for my FB stint was friending you. You have been brave and strong and had to deal with a lot of assclowns. I don't know what it is w/Mormons sometimes. It seems there are far too many that put their religion before their family. Maybe I'm just missing something, but I've always thought it was about creating and maintaining loving relationships. I've always thought it was about choice.

    I won't go on about that, I think you know where I stand. I would love to come over and bake for you and then coerce you into a fashion show from your closet. I feel like busting out into a round of "Lean on Me" but I am a horrible singer. I got nothing but love for ya baby.

  11. assclowns! awesome, a new word for the day.

    I think that the members who get 'IT' do remain open to the experiences, thoughts and feelings of others and manage to maintain relationships. If I were to ever join a church again it would be this one
    and I'm pretty sure I'd see you there!

    I'm all for the fashion show so long as I can do it BEFORE the eating of baked goods!! Oh, and give me a few more months/years; my wardrobe is still a little drab from not caring about fashion for 30 years. Now when I want to get my fashion on I have to deal w/a budget!!! I gobble up your threads posts, filing it all away in my head for when I go shopping. Love back at ya!

    Oh and Daniel - I have probably covered this before but you reminded me of how I gave up on God before leaving the church. I still thought he existed, I even thought the church was true, I just got to a point where I thought God was a complete and utter douche and I told him that he could very well get on with it and destroy me then if that was what he wanted. So for me even IF the church is true it doesn't change where I stand, I'd still be telling him to piss off. Harsh but real for me.