Sunday, September 16, 2012

On Feeling Directionless and Trying to Let My Child Direct Herself

Ada asked me to take her to church today.  Deep breath.  "Okay."

We had not been to our new congregation (ward) in Redlands yet, but I knew the time and place. The bishop of Redlands 1st Ward called me a few days ago.  "We just received your records." (When you're Mormon and you move, your former bishop sees to it that your membership records are transferred to your new ward.  It's all very official.)

He was very sweet.  I explained where I'm at with the church and why, and his tone changed from chit-chatty to a sad understanding.  I mean, he lives in California.  No matter where he stands on the issue of homosexuality, he gets the Mormon/Gay dilemma.  I sensed that he didn't judge.  Just understood.

He told me that he and his family live on the next street over.  He also said, "Regardless of church and being your bishop, me and my family are here for you as neighbors and, hopefully, as friends."

I was very touched.

I mean, I want friends.  I want someone to go to the movies with and stuff.  Who doesn't want that?

Then, a few days later, on the phone with my mom, I told her about the bishop calling.  "I was hoping to come out here and have nothing to do with anything or anyone having to do with the church.  At least for a while. But I forgot it doesn't work that way when you're Mormon."

My mom's response, "Hello!"

Ada wants to get baptized.

When you're 8 years old in the Mormon church, you are officially old enough to be baptized. Whether or not the child really comprehends the commitment they are making, it's a rite of passage that kids are very excited about from the time they learned the word 'baptism'.  All their friends at church do it.  All of their siblings do it.

When Timothy wanted to get baptized last year, Matt and I decided that if that's what he wants to do, even if he doesn't really understand the entirety of it, we should support that.

Let him go on his own journey.  And, now, Ada.

Before church, Matt and I left to go have some breakfast somewhere.

"Where do you want to go?" he asked.  "Wanna go to that place in Mentone?"

Last week, I had a champagne breakfast in this little town called Mentone with a new friend.

"Matt!  I can't be drunk when I take Ada to the new ward today!"

Matt's replied, "Yeah, you'll walk in and everyone will be like, 'It's the blog girl!'"

Later, when I was getting Ada ready to leave, Matt commented in passing, "I don't know how you can do it.  I couldn't"
So Ada and I went to church.  We skipped the first meeting (called sacrament meeting- everyone in the ward attends, and 2 or 3 members of the ward are assigned to speak).  I found out where Ada's class met and took her there.

I sat in the foyer messing around on my Android.

Forty minutes passed.  It would be another hour and ten minutes before Ada's 2nd class got out and church was over.  It wasn't a question at that moment that I couldn't stay there and wait anymore.  It also wasn't a question that I could not go to any of the adult classes.  I just couldn't.

I mean, back in April, I was in downtown Salt Lake with Jeremy.  I entertained the thought of going to temple square to walk around and see how I felt.  Like an experiment.  We were less than a block away when I felt ill.  Sick to my stomach.  "Jeremy, I've changed my mind. I think I'm gonna throw up."  We turned and went the other way, and I was struggling to breathe.

And even just being in the foyer of the church today was anxiety on toast.

I went to Barnes & Noble.  I just walked around.  Nothing more.  And I looked at all the people in the store and thought, "Look at all these heathens at Barnes & Noble instead of being at the Mormon church."

Jeremy called, and I asked him, "Why the hell did I think that?!" He assured me it's normal.

I told him, "Jeremy, my life used to have such direction.  Granted, it was of a spiritual nature, but even so, that aspect of myself was huge.  It was everything! And now that's gone.  This huge chunk of me is missing.  I need something to replace it! I'm directionless.  I'm floating around in the ether."

I went back to the church to pick up Ada where she was chatting with one of the children's leaders. The woman introduced herself and visa versa.  Very nice and simple.

When we left, Ada said, "So how was your day?"

"Um...well, I want to know about your day?"

"But, I want to know about your day first."

Sigh. "Well, Ada, I was stressed.  But I'm okay. Now tell me about your classes."

As my anxiety waned, I decided to tell Ada that I was proud of her.

"You know, a lot of kids are only concerned about getting candy or their next toy or watching the Disney channel. I know you think about those things, too, but you wanting to go to church and get baptized shows that you are also thinking about things that are a lot bigger and deeper.  That's pretty amazing for a 7 year old."


  1. I am a survivor/graduate/whatever of a MOR in a fundamentalist church. Like you, the death of my MOR was the death blow of my membership for many of the same reasons. Like you, I did not actually leave for a year or two. It was a looong time ago now, but I went through those same full body panic attacks when i was around churches for a few years. I was still in my 20s so I missed a lot of my friends wedding. I I guess we do a lot of things for our children. I did not have children then but I'd have written this post if I had. Well, I couldn't have done, because it was so long ago the Internet wasn't available, but maybe I'd have hand printed and faxed it or something. Or painted on my cave wall?

    1. Anon #2, I think it says a lot that it it's not just Mormons who go through this anxiety! Thank you for sharing this. It makes my perspective on this particular dilemma much broader and gives it new meaning!