So, yesterday, I went to church for the first time in a very long time.
I even ironed my skirt in the morning. It reminded me of countless other Sundays I have experienced, getting my Sunday clothes in order so I could look like I respected the Lord and his fellow followers on the Sabbath.
Except today was different than all those other Sundays. Today I wasn't going to passively participate in the minutia of ceremony.
I was going to resign.
This decision wasn't planned very far in advance. Sure, there were other times I came close to resigning. But this event was predicated by the fact that my husband's father, who was here last week, told Marcus that he was going to contact our bishop to get us in touch with our ward. My husband asked my father-in-law to please not do this, that it wasn't a good idea, but my father in law said he was going to do it anyways.
I was furious when I found out. Marcus only told me after his parents had left, so I felt impotent with my rage. There would be no opportunities to bring up the subject with them still here. It was wrong. It was invasive. It was crossing a lot of boundaries.
We had specifically not contacted the local ward after we moved, so we would not be bothered by local Mormons in the area. We have long since put the beliefs and practices of Mormonism behind us, and yet this event was proving to show how we were still connected to this organization.
Why couldn't it just leave us alone?
At first, I just cried and told Marcus that if any Mormons showed up at our door that I would resign. I said his parents should probably know that. But Marcus told me the last thing he wanted to do was speak to his parents, about anything. So I asked him if we could just resign as a family, to untie the tether that our membership to the church was.
He agreed. For the first time, he agreed to resign with me.
The funny thing about all of it was how my expectations did not match up with reality at all. Before I left the house, and while I was getting ready to go to the stake center, I pictured that I would walk into a familiar old hall, and that the nostalgia of childhood would overcome me. I would see the half carpeted walls and the commotion around the nursery room and think of all the memories of seeing countless other ward houses and stake centers in all of my days. All the youth activities and Christmas parties, all the potlucks and family events, I would remember all of that warmly. And then with a moment of adult clarity of mind, I would see that I was putting my childhood behind me.
The reality was far different. After mailing the letter to the Member Records office in Salt Lake, my husband drove us up to the stake house. He was casually dressed in a polo shirt and jeans to contrast my Sunday attire.
"Do you want to go in with me?" I asked, my nerves suddenly flaring.
"I'm not going in there," he laughed at the question.
Looking at the stake center with the backdrop of a gray sky did a lot to mess with my resolve. It was rather intimidating and the grotesque steeple looked like it marked the villain's lair out of some kind of science fiction movie.
I pulled myself together, and left the car. My mission: To grab a tithing slip envelope with the bishop's address, and drop off the copy of the letter designated to the stake president.
When I say my expectation did not match reality I mean my expectations were the exact OPPOSITE of reality. Upon crossing the threshold of the entry way, I saw the sacrament meeting room to my left, and heard someone half heartedly playing a hymn on the other side. A suited, balding man stood near the door and looked at me.
My heart beat a billion times faster. I knew adrenaline was now rushing through my veins. My instincts told me to go right back out those doors and run back to the car.
I told myself, Just look like you know where you're going. No one will say anything to you.
I looked to the right, and did not see any tithing slip envelopes.
My spirits dampened. I would have to do some hunting. Prior experience with church buildings told me they were just on the other side of the sacrament meeting room, in the opposite foyer. But the choir was in there, and that suited man stood by the door. . .
I would have to go around. I walked briskly through the hall, coming across Mormons meeting from the other ward. On the way, quite a few smiled at me. I made the concentrated effort to smile back. I wondered if they had any idea how much I felt like my chest was going to explode. Wondered if they had any inkling as to what I was about to do.
I was going to be sick.
I made it to the opposite foyer, and there, lined along the wall of the sacrament meeting room, was the envelope holder of all the tithing slips for all the bishops in the stake. I smiled and thought of how ironic that these envelopes were intended to give the church money, when I was going to use them to send a veritable "fuck you."
I grabbed the appropriate envelope, having researched what ward boundary I lived in before-hand, and made my way around the building. As I did, I passed by that familiar painting of Jesus beckoning Peter and the other fishermen with overladen nets.
When I got back to the other side, I passed the bishop's office, and noticed a "do not disturb" light was on next to his door. I heard a female voice, explaining something I could not decipher on the other side. The clerk's office was next door and shut.
I still had a letter to the stake president under my arm. So I slid it under the door of the clerk's office. I was sure the letter would get to the stake president, the building being the stake center.
I noticed a group of men chatting in the hallway that held all the stake offices, beyond the bishop's and clerk's office. My heart beat quickly, and I second guessed my placement of the letter to the stake president. I even considered an attempt at retrieving the letter from beneath the door and handing it to one of the men in the hallway.
As I stared at those men I felt eyes were on me, so I turned around. I noticed the man near the sacrament door, the one from the beginning. He looked at me, half smiling, unsure.
I smiled at him and headed straight out the door.
The cool air outside was a welcome relief. My heart still pounded as though I had just run a marathon. Walking away, I did not look back. I saw my husband and daughter waiting for me in the car and I knew:
It is finished.
"Religion easily has the greatest bullshit story ever told. Think about it. Religion has actually convinced people that there's an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever 'til the end of time!
But He loves you. He loves you, and He needs money!"
Trying to find a living comedian like this man. I can't find one.
I just got an email from my mother that, was, well, unexpected. We've been communicating through email since the horrible episode a month ago, despite a few attempts to get me on the phone. Well, after a recent exchange of emails, I noticed a real shift in tone. My mother actually admitted to the abuse. She even used the word "abuse" and apologized. She acknowledged my need for space, and told me about her new medication and treatment she was receiving.
I'm scared. I know I shouldn't be. I should be happy there seems to be an improvement with her. The thing is I've never done this before. So I don't know what the right thing to do is. I want to have that sliver of hope that we could have a normal relationship, but I'm am scared to do that because I don't want to hurt again. This is the first time I've essentially "cut her off." I've read that I need to treat codependents like addicts; tell them to get help or limit the relationship. I finally did that and she seems to kind of "get it." She has never "got it" before.
I was very frank and honest with her the past two days, which is unexpected of me because when I have been honest in the past, she hasn't taken it well or just picked pieces of what I said or wrote and argued with me. So I was so surprised, when I explained to her that I just can't blame myself that the only relationship I can have with my mother is through email. I can't blame myself for the fact that I don't trust her. I was very honest and I got a very tempered and close to rational response from her. Which is kind of a big deal.
After some confusion, a funny email from my mother, and some introspective pondering after listening to Alan Watts lectures, I found myself changing my description of my religious leanings on facebook, yet again. Here it is:
Spirituality is something that I feel I've been needing. I don't mean spiritual in the religious, "ghostly," sense, but I mean it in feeling that connectedness that gives me a real high to be alive. Is it possible to experience it via some sort of mythos personifying nature or reality as it is? Is it possible to listen to music or read literature inspired by mythology that personifies nature? Not to be taken literally but to use as a tool for spiritual experience?
I remember once, when I was 16 or so, my mother sat me down at the kitchen table. With a very serious expression on her face, she asked, "Hypatia, are you using drugs?"
To any who may think, "oh Hypatia just wasn't faithful enough" or that "Hypatia just didn't surround herself with enough church things" I just want to say that you are an asshole who has no idea what you are talking about. It was my full immersion (wink wink) in mormony things that helped me to see it was not for me in the long run. Here are some of my mormon credentials (starting from when I was young):
I'm planning on posting a few things in the coming week. Recently, there have been a lot of changes in my life. I've decided to put a buffer on my toxic mother, and have had to stand up for that boundary on more than one occasion. My father, who has normalized the abuse, doesn't understand why I won't talk to my mother at all and yesterday asked, "So, what? You're just never going to talk to your mom again?" He tries to tell me how much she's improved, that the combination of psychiatrist, therapist, and new drugs that she's doing a lot better. Unlike her, I haven't had that luxury of getting the mental treatment I need. I'm currently waiting for insurance cards so I can see a goddamn therapist myself.