Thursday, August 12, 2010

Of Leaving My Tribe

I just now read a post from Urban Koda over at Koda Think Tank entitled "Looking Back." In the post, he speaks of not understanding fellow apostates (such as myself) who struggle with leaving because they feel that the church is and will always be their "tribe," that in some ways they don't foresee disassociating completely with the Mormon title.

I've written a lot about having those feelings lately. To be honest, a large part of me hopes that'll change. Another part of me doesn't want them to change. And I envy Koda's feelings of detachment to a degree.

The thing for me is, the church was the first place I ever felt truly and genuinely welcomed. Not by the leaders--they bugged me with their fawning--but by people my own age. I had friends who didn't grow up with me (small town, anyone?). It was amazing. And they were so nice. They didn't make fun of me for being so straightedge. I actually got out of the house for the first time ever. These were people I trusted, and I needed them to help me cut the cord from my mama, from my family.

In the church I was praised for being right. It appealed to my inner martyr. I found mother figures, father figures, sisters, brothers, etc. People who carved a place for themselves into my heart forever. People I am terrified of disappointing. People whose respect and love I am terrified of losing.

But so far so good. Eric's family has been pretty amazing. His father has been good, though he likes to make snide comments, once telling us that instead of shopping on a Sunday we should've been in church. And his father hates Eric's beard. Can't go without saying something derogatory. Eric laughs. He began this beard because he wasn't teaching, it was summer. Now he thinks he'll keep it, both to spite his father and to prove to his family that guys with beards aren't scary. Besides, he likes it.

His mother has hardly changed since our kids ratted us out. Even complimented my legs one day when I wore--gasp--shorts.

I felt like I found a home when I joined the church. I found a family in a few ways--literal and figurative. Leaving feels like I'm leaving them. A part of myself. I don't do well with leaving comfortable, familiar places. Places that comforted me and validated me. Tradition and structure.

It's hard to reject that totally. The church did a lot of good for me. It hindered me loads, but it did lots of good for me.

This place outside the church is unfamiliar (as an adult), lonely, and a little scary for me. So I waver. Even though I discovered after becoming a "young married" that I have nothing in common with 99% of the women in the church, I can't help but feel I'm losing something. Even though I guess I'm really not. Fake friendships, maybe? Obligatory people who are willing to "serve" because they feel they should? People so intent on looking perfect they seem inhuman?

I dunno.

When I joined the church, being Mormon became everything about me. And now I don't know how to be an adult who isn't Mormon. I didn't associate with non-members with, like, one exception. It was everything I was--and not to be overly dramatic, but how do you fully disassociate with your bones, you know? your blood?

Further I had people at my back when I joined and my family was fighting against it. I know I have Eric now, and you gotta know I'll take him without hesitation, but it's hard still. I don't know where I belong anymore. How to fit in. How to act.

So this shit is scary. And awkward.

But it should be good. Even if it is a bit of a trial by fire. I'm willing, just hesitant.


  1. I know what you mean about the "inner martyr." I totally tapped that when I was planning to marry in the temple with every intention of leaving my entire family and most of my friends on the outside. I'm an only child and I did that to my dad with few qualms. That he fed into my persecution complex by, like, wanting to come and not understanding why he couldn't, made me feel even more awesome about it. My Mormon friends and soon-to-be in-laws did everything short of take me out for a beer in congratulations for excluding my family.

    After leaving I felt mostly exhilarated, like everything was open to me and I could breathe again. But living in Utah as an ex-Mo was excruciating. Most of my friends were Mormon, very accepting, largely feminist, progressive Mormons. So I still felt included and present in that "tribe" of Sunstone Mormons or liberal Mormons or feminist Mormons or what-have-you... even though I definitively was NOT Mormon since I'd resigned. At the same time, I couldn't stand the Church during and after Prop. 8 - the bigotry was all I could talk about for a while. It was impossibly confusing for me.

    I feel much better about it since moving out of Utah into an area where it's such a bizarre anomaly to be Mormon that I've actually been asked if my marriage was arranged. Now I can just be myself, without ties one way or another. I can share how I've been affected by my Mormon past without it being meaningful to anyone else, which is its own sort of blessing.

    For a long time I did feel that I didn't belong anywhere. I just didn't seem to fit. But now I'm embracing so many new things and I feel more comfortable all the time. I think everyone goes through this.

  2. Isn't it weird, though, that we were totally willing to do this to our non-member families but the idea of putting our LDS family and friends through the same shit *petrifies* us?

    I don't get it.

    And yeah, short of a beer. For all the exclusionary stuff, including baptism.

    I wonder and worry sometimes about my inability to breathe yet. When I'm angry I'm self-righteous and feel no fear. But when I calm down or talk with a certain someone I freak out again.

    I am in a lot of ways saturated with the church here and wonder what would happen if we moved. I don't see it happening anytime soon, but still. Not sure it'd be any easier. It's not like we're an especially social people. We'd still be alone, but it'd be a real smack of alone. At least here I can hope someone in the church won't shun me completely because they've all I've got right now.

    And again...fuck. I just don't know. I think, even though I've some amazing LDS friends (two!), I feel like I can't be totally myself around them. I have to watch what I say, what I do, etc. Even if they are pretty lenient, you know? Don't want to offend them or give them reason to turn their backs (even though sometimes I wonder how hard I could push).

    Also, when the churchspeak comes out as it naturally does (i can't totally hold it against them), I want to scream. Non-members have lesser values? What? Apostates just can't hack the church because it's too hard?

    It sucks.

  3. This is an interesting perspective, one I'm sure many former members share. When I left the church I was expecting to feel all these things, because I'd been in the church since I was five. I was surprised by how UNguilty and generally carefree I felt. When I began doing things as I saw fit, I started to see just how shallowly rooted my "beliefs" had been to begin with--all the things that I had been forcing myself to do and believe just fell away. I lost contact with members I knew except for my mother and stepfather, and don't particularly miss most of them. My separation from the church has felt easy and natural.

    Lisa, your honesty in this post is really beautiful. Your journey so far has been amazing (I read through your old blog after finding this one), and I'm sure it will continue to be so.

  4. Thank you, Diana. I'm amazed at the number of people coming out of the shadows from my old blog to this one. It means a *lot*

    Sometimes--a lot of times--all i want is to just let it all go. It's harder than I like, but I don't know that I could in good conscience *make* it easier.

    Perhaps because I didn't feel like I belonged before, felt like I belonged in the church (at least as a YSA) and as an outsider now am back to square one.

    I'll be talking about it more for sure. I have to.


    Thank you so much.

  5. For me, it all comes down basically to this:

    how do you fully disassociate with your bones, you know? your blood?