the sometimes people.

Here are some things I've been thinking about:

Since ____________ (departing, going inactive, moving on?) from Mormonism, it's been very hard  to accept that there will always be people in my life who think I made a mistake. In the past few years, loved ones have taken time to let me know how much their relationship with the church means to them, and how desperately they need me to know it is "True" in the same way they believe the church is true. They know, without any doubts or reservations that they are living their lives in the correct way, and they know I ought to be doing the same thing.

Sometimes I think their motives are less than pure. It can be very threatening when someone rejects previously shared values. Sometimes friends tell me we can't be friends anymore because I cause them to question what they believe, and they don't like it.

Sometimes their motives are very pure, and I remember the zeal and confidence that comes from knowing something. It makes it so easy to assume that if someone just prayed harder, or exercised more faith, or somehow became more like you, they would change their hearts and come back to the fold. If it worked for you, it should work for anyone, since that is how Truth works in Mormonism.

Sometimes people need to know something because they based every decision in their life, from who they married, to their careers, to how they raise their children, on their notion of truth being True. To question that, or allow someone else to, would cause them to not only question their faith, but their entire sense of being. I don't expect anyone to do that for me.

So it really isn't the knowing friends that bother me, at least not anymore. I know I can't ever change their mind, and trying would only cause significant conflict, and I'm not in the business of hurting people just to prove a point.

Instead, it's the friends that see just enough nuance in my situation to come very close to accepting me for who I am, only to fall back on their belief in universal Truth to avoid the abyss of pluralism and dichotomy and gray.

Sometimes they agree that maybe the church isn't the best place for me right now, they agree that God might tell someone it was okay to leave, as a trial and test of faith. Strong people like me who leave the faith are just "a sign of the times" a sign that even though Satan might get a few "good ones," it just means Jesus is coming soon, so everything will work out. Whatever the reason, I am a problem that eventually will be solved. This is the charitable view, the Christ-like view, the one people like me are expected to respond to with gratitude.

Sometimes, people try and be empathetic by telling me how sad my situation is. In many ways, loss of  faith is sad, but their misplaced empathy  creates a "deficit" view of my life: my life is "sad" because it isn't the same as their life, not because faith transitions are frequently painful and challenging.

 Overcoming this internalized deficit thinking is very difficult for me, mostly because I didn't realize how much I let this type of thinking influence my perception of self.  Learning how abandon the  deficit mentality model: the idea that because I'm no longer a believing Mormon, my life is somehow less happy, less good, less honorable, less everything, will probably take me a very long time. That's okay.

Part of overcoming deficit thinking is accepting that some people will always believe I've made a mistake. If I can accept their Truth as right for them, (I believe Mormonism is true for people who need it to be true, because their reality belongs to them,) I need to actively believe my Truth is true for me, even if no one else agrees with me.

That  seems obvious, but I was raised in an environment that praises conformity with ritual and ceremony. When I was baptized, friends and family celebrated with me. People traveled long distances to honor my temple wedding. Every week, people praised and supported me and my fellow Mormons for our lessons, our talks, our tangible manifestations of faith. People frequently told me how proud they were of me, how happy the felt when I made the same choices they did, the choices deemed acceptable by a God who grew increasingly unfamiliar in the months leading up to my initial crisis of faith.

When I left, no one was proud. There was no ceremony celebrating my decision, a decision I believe represents my integrity and honesty. There are no medallions for young women who leave.

Unless we make them ourselves.

I'm learning to view my life outside a deficit model. To stop seeing my new faith as a lesser equivalent to Mormonism, as a sad and deficient outcome of spiritual failure.

My life is no less honorable or holy because I left the church. When I think of all the opportunities my choice grants me, I am filled with joy. I am filled with joy every time I recognize myself in my thoughts and my actions, a self I abandoned for years as I tried to fit a mold that did not accommodate a very big soul. I am happy when I realize that my relationship with divinity and spirituality is mine alone, and my many mistakes are not sins, but chances to grow and thrive. There are no limits to my potential.

The most transcendent and spiritual experience of my life occurred the moment I realized my past life was over without feeling sad. When I let go of my grief, and my anger, and my sadness, I saw my world explode with possibility and wonder. The air filled with light, and I physically felt my soul re-enter my body, and felt the world turn technicolor after months of black and white.

So where is my deficit? The negative space supposedly left in my heart when I abandoned someone else's notion of Truth?

When I stop letting the Sometimes people dictate my worth, I move one step further away from the deficit model of spirituality, and one step closer to the world I created when I let my soul crash back into my body. That's where I am now, and where I want to stay.

That's what I've been thinking about lately.


Camile said...

Love you always.

Libby said...

Love this.

Julie said...

Beautifully written!

Lauren said...

"When I let go of my grief, and my anger, and my sadness, I saw my world explode with possibility and wonder."

I think this is true whether one decides to leave or believe. Good luck on your journey.

Mary said...

You are fantastic! I sometimes fantasize about how I would handle myself if I were in your shoes. Is it envy? --maybe just a little... =)
I count myself lucky to know you.
I have been (un)fortunate enough in my life to have experienced the wierd vibe that emanates from those who disagree with my choices. It is certainly a stark contrast from the sweet joy I feel as I go about purposely trying to follow God's promptings and at the same time have love and charity for all.
It is a funny sort of feeling to love the person pitying me more than they are loving me and to be accomplishing said act of love by just keeping my mouth shut because God knows, nothing I might say can open their eyes while they are on their mission to save me. In the end, I just wonder if they will ever be enlightened about the glorious truth of agency our if they will soldier on believing that the "truth"they have is king.

Accidentalwriter said...

"If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things". Rene Descartes

Bryan and Sarah said...

That was beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing and writing. You have put into words what I have experienced and continue to experience these last six months since I've left.

Kayla FrecklesinApril said...

There are still tons of people who think I am a total spiritual screw-up for leaving but it was such a HUGE relief. I'll take that over a medallion any day.

I think people find it confusing when they think my life is "so sad" and then we hang out and I'm...not sad. I'm actually doing really well. I hope that people will see that leaving is not the worst thing ever when they realize there are good people who leave and then they go on to have a perfectly lovely life.

wendipooh13 said...

thank you for this post!!! I am not quite where you are yet but not sure where I sit in church now. it's hard, it's scary, it's frustrating. esp when your mother in law shoves Dessert Book presents down your throat at Christmas. Its hard when your family doesn't understand.

Thank you for your words and your strength.

Breanne said...

Wow. I am still in the grey. I'm still afraid to let go because I'm afraid of so many things. I'm really glad that you shared this. I hope I can get to Technicolor someday, too. It's good to know there's light at the end of the tunnel.

jen said...

You are awesome! I would love to have your gift of writing. Thank you for your post. I can totally relate.

Alison Longstaff said...

Dear Stephanie,
I just caught the podcast of Tapestry and I cried with you. I am your sister on a similar journey from a different denomination. I resonated with the pain in your voice. It was so painful to hear your story and to understand so deeply and to have been unable to spare you this pin as a woman who has been walking this longer than you. I have managed to spare my daughters this pain. They live free from any religious authority. I have had to learn to speak "rest of the world" spiritual language, but it will never, ever stop hurting. I know you feel alone, but when you can, remember you are surrounded by amazing women on the same path. Big hugs. Alison Longstaff

Stephanie said...

Alison Longstaff- Thank you for your very kind comment. It brightened my day, which is always my favorite kind of miracle: sharing someone else's pain makes us feel a little happier and less alone. Thanks again.

Marci Crane said...

You know, one of the most interesting things about leaving organized Mormonism is that in the process of doing so I began to find out what Mormon principles (i.e, principles of spiritual power that apply to everyone) was all about in the first place.

For example, about five years ago, I was in a Relief Society presidency visiting the inactives and honestly believing that what I was doing was the right thing. I remember thinking that the people I was visiting were really truly lost and that they just didn't get it! A few years later I had the opportunity to be the inactive and feel how sorry the well-meaning member felt for me ("the lost one") even though s/he did not know me at all! At first I was angry because I didn't like that feeling (yuck!) but the experience from a wider view was so beautiful, so ironic and even so hilarious that I couldn't help but wonder at the gift of seeing this experience from both sides and with equal honesty! And perhaps most importantly, having that experience made me realize that having a true change of heart (as is often discussed in the BoM or in church discussions) really can happen! It just happened for me in a really unexpected way! (Who would have thought my change of heart would lead me AWAY from organized Mormonism? Wow!)

And although the concept of divinity and miracles have become less defined for me since I left the organization, I believe they have become far more powerful as actors in my life. I'm not exactly sure why this is but I think that perhaps it's because I'm open to anything now in terms of divinity. I believe that anything is possible and within any context and that anything can be made for the good of man/life.....it all just depends on how you look at it and on what you are working to create in your life (principle: divine creation)!

I've also learned not to be shy about demanding the BIG miracles and a dramatic God. I love that kind of a God. A God who never plays small no matter how quiet s/he may become. There is always this tremendous power there. I no longer accept the small "tender mercies" as the only manifestation of divinity (though they may be small and they may certainly be tender) or as the type of manifestation of this day and age. I just want what I want and I believe that whoever/whatever God is s/he is going to work with me to get there!

Also, exerting what I believe is my own personal revelation is the epitome of Mormon principle to me because it demonstrates not only free agency, but personal revelation (as I believe I've had my own) and courage! Seriously....I ask myself now....why did I ever let anybody or any organization get between me and divinity? What an insane and destructive thing to do! Yikes!

Anyway, I guess what I'm trying to say with all of this is that the whole process of leaving is so ironic that it is inevitably tremendously beautiful.....if you appreciate irony which Stephanie you seem to do. ;) Plus, the more I celebrate my new beliefs and new friends the more joy I find in the contrast of it all.

Gretchen M said...

Thank you!

I am a Mormon Child Bride too.(Barely 19)

I put my career and education off and I am about to go back to school and then pursue graduate school.

Oh, and I'm an atheist now too, so...

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