Sunday, October 21, 2012

Who I am (part 1)

This ended up being a LONG I've decided to divide it up into three different posts. It incorporates many of the aspects of the experience that I've wanted to write, hence the divions into a verse 1, verse 2, etc...

A couple of months ago I went walking on a Sunday morning, as I had begun doing regularly this last year, to help prepare me to cope with a day of possible "mind games." I wrote a blog post about Sundays a little while back. While panic and fear about my doubts, and the information I was coming across, could surface any day of the week, Sunday was especially triggering. I found that I still wanted Sunday to be a day of contemplation. A moment to step out of the "drama" of the literal, day-to-day world, but this quieting of the mind could bring all sorts of strange fears & thoughts to the surface. I would often download podcasts from Mormon Stories and later from Mormon Expressions. It seemed they helped bring me back to the reality of my experiences and I found a sense of validation and okayness for what I was going through.

This is a side note, but it feels important to share: After I decided to stop attending church things were both good and bad. It really did feel like the right decision for me and so I felt strengthened by that, but when the confusion and fear would rise things would get so dark and overwhelming that I would sometimes feel panicky. It was like I was dying, and I feared falling into a blackhole and being swallowed up forever. One night when I was feeling particularly overwhelmed I ran into an acquaintance-friend at a dinner party. We got to talking about the church and I shared a little of the lonliness, confusion & overwhelm I was feeling. He mentioned "Mormon Stories" podcasts and that they might be somewhat helpful. I went home that night and looked them up, still feeling the fear of the blackhole, and of course feeling somewhat secretive as I was at that time internalizing shame for looking up information about the church outside of church sanctioned materials (this was before I had yet learned about the historical/doctrinal issues that later helped solidify my place "outside" the church). I don't remember the podcast I listened to that night, but I do remember laying there in bed, in the dark, and feeling my chest get lighter and lighter. I could relate to what was being talked about...and here they were talking about doubts and questions in the open. It felt so freeing to hear someone speaking honestly, without fear, the same words that were in my head. A few tears moved through as the tightness released from my body, and I felt I was cradled in a cacoon that night. Like a mother had lovingly wrapped a blanket around me, and knew what I was feeling, and was aware of what the whole picture was really about. In her cradling I knew I would be okay.

So...back to my walk. This particular day after listening to whatever podcast I had listened to I decided to pull up my music, and on came a song that I didn't know much about and I think had gotten on my playlist as a nice stretch song to play for a cycling class I'd been teaching. Ok...just one more side note...the same time I decided to leave the church I quite teaching my cycling class. Really, it's so strange to look back. But it was almost as if there was so much intensity happening in my mind and body day-to-day with the shifting, that to go teach a high energy cycling class, with high energy music was more than I could take. Just like I never thought I'd leave the church, I never thought I'd quit teaching, but one day I just knew I was done. I haven't been back since (it's been about a year). I found that more meditative exercise experiences were needed at this time, and so I focused on yoga and walking. Lots of tangents here, but I figure it may be helpful for anyone who wonders if going through this is supposed to feel so difficult in so many ways, even life shifting. May not be for everyone, but it was for me.

Ok, so truly...back to the walk and the song. This was the song I began listening to, and as I did it hit on so many things I was feeling. And so, I write it out here. First I list the lyrics, then I list the lyrics with the application to my own experience at the time. Before reading through the rest of the post, it may add to go look it up...even if you're not into popular mainstream music, it's a nice song...and you may get a feel for some of the emotion that was working its way through me at the it all felt so big and serious at this point

"Where I Stood" (by Missy Higgins)

I don't know what I've done
Or if I like what I've begun
But something told me to run
And honey you know me it's all or none

There were sounds in my head
Little voices whispering
That I should go and this should end
Oh and I found myself listening

Cause I dont know who I am, who I am without you
All I know is that I should
And I don't know if I could stand another hand upon you
All I know is that I should
'Cos she will love you more than I could
She who dares to stand where I stood

See I thought love was black and white
That it was wrong or it was right
But you ain't leaving without a fight
And I think I am just as torn inside

Cause I dont know who I am, who I am without you
All I know is that I should
And I don't know if I could stand another hand upon you
All I know is that I should
Cause she will love you more than I could
She who dares to stand where I stood

And I won't be far from where you are if ever you should call
You meant more to me than anyone I ever loved at all
But you taught me how to trust myself and so I say to you
This is what I have to do

Cause I dont know who I am, who I am without you
All I know is that I should
And I don't know if I could stand another hand upon you
All I know is that I should
Cause she will love you more than I could
She who dares to stand where I stood
Oh, she who dares to stand where I stood


"I don't know what I've done"
- At this time it was still like a dream. I had been so solid in the church, I had loved the church, I had NEVER expected to leave, and so the experience was often as surreal as a dream. Sometimes I felt as though there was no longer any reality, and I really didn't know what had hit me, or what I'd done in deciding to step back...I didn't know how I'd gotten to where I was, and hadn't really been able to process my decision fully yet. It's also interesting to look back because I have more answers and clarity than I did at that time, but I knew it was time for me to be done. It was a similar feeling to certain aspects of my life I'd felt strongly to move on prior (sometimes quickly and without a lot of warning, such as leaving the therapy agency I'd been with to start my own practice, or the first condo I purchased). I had some reasoning, but for how strong I'd been in the church all my life, it didn't seem to make a lot of sense was just a knowing. And one thing I'd really built some experience with in the few years prior was that if there's that feeling...just move on it. The bits of information may not all be pieced together in a logical looking way yet, but they're there, encouraging the action, and so the message was to move. In a way, moments like this don't feel much like a decision in that something deep inside already knows it's moving, and in a way I felt like I was simply along for the ride.

It reminds me of Malcolm Gladwell's book, "Blink." He discusses how, depending on our experiences, or expertise, with certain areas of life we can know something before we know it. In some ways it felt like that. I remember having conversations with intution/ or "God" later on..."God if this is true, or if I experienced this or that spiritual experience in the church, why did it feel right to step back?" You may relate anytime you've made a decision you just knew deep inside that you needed to make for you, then without having all the answers, you go through the rough patches, and the grieving and confusion, and think..."why did I feel right about that?" So, again, I did have enough reasoning for the first move I made in stepping back, but just barely!

"Or if I like what I've begun"
- While I felt a freedom and peace like never before, I also felt waves of fear,anger, and confusion that I had never experienced. I was used to being a "happy person," and had prided myself on not being "too" emotional (when I
was young, my mom had mentioned she had been scared of having girls because they were so emotional. She reassured me, I was loved and wanted, and this had just been her experience as a young woman, but I remember thinking...I'll
never be too emotional, I don't want to be one of "those girls" that my mother wouldn't want). So, in some ways to be feeling anger was a new experience for me. Prior, I think if I felt anger about something I would just brush it under the rug so I wouldn't feel it, and I could put the perma- "happy" face back on...the emotion that I perceived was most acceptable.

I remember not too long before this experience I had just begun dating someone who was very active in the church. I'd been afraid to tell him where I was with things. We'd met the year prior at which time I was still fully active, and not anticipating otherwise (though frustrations and anxieties had been there for a couple of years). Before I decided to tell him I wasn't active anymore I thought, "maybe I can do this, maybe I can make the church work for me. It was a Sat. evening...the evening of Fall 2011 pristhood session. I was driving through the neighorhood, seeing men in suits and ties loading into cars, and feeling such a deep love for these men. They were like my dad and my brother...trying to do their best to love and serve & feel a connection with something more divine in this seemingly chaotic world. I longed to connect to the culture that had always felt so safe. I could do this, I could make this work. I really liked the man I'd started dating and thought about how I'd always wanted this. I remembered again the next morning why I couldn't make it work, and it was all so painful, so tough, that I often didn't like what I'd begun.

"But something told me to run
And honey you know me it's all or none"
- I remember the moment I was sitting in sacrament meeting. While there were moments of feeling "the Spirit," love and connection, there were also so many moments of grief and pain, which would bring up anger. "If it's true, why does the Church still see things this way (ways I knew from my psychological training, and then my own personal experiments with healing, were damaging to the psyche). I remembered what a mentor had said to me earlier in the week when I explained to him the anger that was rising towards the church ("Jenny, if you're angry with someone, it means you're blaming them for something you're not yet willing to do for yourself.") I thought about this, and realized I was expecting the Church to change, I was expecting the Church to take responsibility for my spirituality, and provide more "fitting" soil for my spiritual growth based on my current needs, but I wasn't willing to do that for myself. I wasn't willing to make a change, to step back from the church, and to go out and find more useful soil for what I was needing at the time. I wasn't willing to do for myself what I wanted the church to do for me, and so I realized that the fear and anger I was carrying was a sign that I wasn't moving forward with what I needed to for me. That I could love the church, and where it was, and all the experiences it had made space for in my life up to that point...I could love it if I left. If I did what I needed to do for me, I wouldn't need to be angry at the church for not doing it for me. And so I "ran," kind of slowly in my heart, though at that point I went from being a 100% attender since birth, to a 0% attender at 32. And yes, the all or nothing, black and white church teachings aided me in making it an all or none ;) I did have to be careful of this, and still do (on an emotional level), but I did feel it would be best to commit to not going back for 3 months and then I could reevaluate from there (it really was like my past relationship break-ups. Sometimes when you've been connected for a long time you have to make a clean break while some of the wounds heal, otherwise, it's easy to get back together just because it's habitual, and feels comfortable, even if it's not in your highest interest to stay in that relationship any longer.


No comments:

Post a Comment