Friday, December 31, 2010

I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking.

I'm not really sure how this post is going to turn out and I'm feeling rather passionate at the moment... so bear with me.
My best friend is a Christian.  There, I said it - and I'm not ashamed of it.  In the postmormon/atheist community a lot of people seem to have just as much problem with people accepting their atheism as they do accepting people's beliefs.  To this point, I haven't had much of a problem with that.  For my parents, for my Christian friend, for millions of people out there - a belief in God is what makes sense to them and until they learn differently nothing you and I say or do is going to change that for them as likewise, them ranting and raving about "just having faith" is going to do nothing for us... or specifically nothing for me.
So I accept it and for the most part try not to disturb it.  This is my choice - this may not be yours.
Having said all of that, recently, I went to lunch with my friend and naturally the topic came around to God.  In a lot of ways I've done a lot of changing since I last saw my friend - but most of those ways are external.  It took me a long time to break down the walls of Mormondom without even believing that those walls actually existed... to break down the walls of believing in God has been much faster in some ways, but is still a process.  (As a side note, I am not atheist, I am not theist, I am not deist, and I am not agnostic - I won't define myself to you because I don't have to, what matters is that I am me.)  In the last 6 months, I stopped being afraid of the idea of not outwardly being Mormon, outwardly being Christian, or outwardly being religious period.  She asked me what I was doing in regard to God.  I explained that I was doing nothing and that I wasn't quite sure what I believed as far as God goes and like I did just barely, I explained to her that I couldn't and wouldn't try to define myself to her as far as that went.   The subject got around to the new group of friends I've been hanging out with as well as talking about my boyfriend.  She seemed to take everything very well.
Today, I got a very thoughtful email from her expressing her concerns for where I was going and what I was doing with my life.  This wasn't a surprise and honestly, I love that she cares.  I would expect her to care.  The caring isn't the problem.
During my separation, I moved back in with my parents for 6 months.  In the beginning I was an emotional wreckage - to be honest I don't remember a lot of what happened during this period of my life.  I remember the first night sleeping in the spare bedroom on a blowup mattress and in the middle of the night the mattress deflated.  My mom heard me struggling with in and came into the room and took over.  From there on out, she babied me in a lot of ways, like I have been babied my whole life and in the beginning, I accepted it; however, I did not ask for it.  About a month before moving out, my mom was particularly upset at me for something (probably my lack of wanting to clean my room, but that is a post for another day...) and she told me that I needed to stop depending on her and my dad and that I needed to stand on my own 2 feet.
I accepted this - and have since made effort in every aspect of my life to be independent and on a lot of accounts my friends and family try to thwart my efforts.
The best real life example I can come up with is as I was moving out of my parents house I was carrying a dresser out to the moving van with a friend and upon the slightest sign of a struggle, my mom rushed in and took over - didn't help out, took over.  Story of my freakin life.
So in this email from my friend today what bothered me was that my friend made the assessment that my disbelief in God had everything to do with my new group of friends and while I love and respect her this fire in my chest just inflamed because she was doing to me EXACTLY what she was accusing of me doing to myself.
Trying to give  away my power, my ability to choose.
... and I made an interesting assessment today.
Everybody wants me to be independent, stand on my own 2 feet, but nobody believes that I have the ability to make decisions for myself.  I stopped believing in Mormonism because of my ex-husband.  I struggle with my belief in God because of my atheist friends.  I had sex with my boyfriend because of pressure from my atheist friends.
It's like I don't exist... but God certainly does.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

"I guess we thought you were stronger"

The last few days have been rough.  My mom seems to be taking a more upfront approach about my disbelief, and I think yesterday if I hadn't been working... I was about to have to go through an intervention.
So what some of you may not know about me is that I like to write poems.  Some of them are crap, some of them are juvenile, and some of them are too personal.  This is the first one I felt like I could publicly share... so love it or hate it, here it is.

Run down the stairs
into my dungeon
hating the disturbance, the sound
of the shackles
clanging about my wrists.
To me your sigh is much louder
banging on my heart like an explosion
engulfing me in this mist of your disapproval
So I'll breathe you in, fold myself tight
and stop making noise.

I might make some changes at some point, but there is my very rough draft.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Dear Santa (Dad)

Around Christmas time my parents always ask us kids to give them our lists of what we want for Christmas.  A couple of years ago, I decided that a list just wasn't going to cut it and I wrote out a letter to Santa.  I explained to Santa that even though I'd been a pain and caused my parents a little heartache (this was the year I met my ex) that I had tried to be a good girl and I thought I still deserved a little something for Christmas.  The letter was well received and it became a sort of tradition between my dad and I.

Here is one of his:
Dear Santa Claus,

I have been an extremely good boy this year. I helped my daughter have a great wedding and worked hard to help my son find and get into his very own home. I even buy my kids dinner most every Saturday night! What a great dad!

For these reasons I deserve everything on my Christmas List.

1)       A brand new Toyota Camry Hybrid (2008). Prefer a gray exterior with leather interiors. Must have Blue Tooth capabilities, a great stereo system, sun roof, and a GPS system.
2)       A new, top of the line Dell Laptop. The fastest, most fully loaded laptop you can find. I really only want this so that my dear sweet wife can have my laptop. She wants it so bad.
3)       A top of the line Garmin GPS unit.
4)       A finished bathroom and office in my basement. (Thanks for the flat screen last year)
5)       Covered patio on the back of the house.
6)       New furniture for my TV room.

You might consider some of these gifts to be unreasonably expensive. If so here are a few other options.

1)       “The Forgotten Carols” DVD.
2)       A BYU sweatshirt, large.
3)       The final season of “Star Trek Voyager” on DVD.
4)       The final season of “M*A*S*H” on DVD
5)       “Remington Steele” on DVD (second season or later)
6)       Earphones for my IPOD. The kind that are very soft in the ear.
7)       Good warm gloves.

For those things that won’t fit under my tree it is ok to have them in the driveway or attached to the back of the house.

Thanks so much Santa!

To me, it is readily apparent that my dad has a great sense of humor and is incredibly loving by this short, funny letter and just really shows the type of relationship I have with him.

This year I'd like to write a different type of letter to my parents, specifically my dad.
Dear Santa,
I know this past year has been a hard one.  A lot of things have changed and you have had to watch your little girl go through a lot.  Not to mention what you've had to go through as a direct result, but I need you to know I'm not the same little girl that used to crawl up on your lap and give you Eskimo kisses or the same girl that really only wanted rollerblades or a Pop Star Melody doll for Christmas.  I'm not even the same girl that let you follow her on her road trip this last year because you just couldn't let go.
I know it has been hard for you to watch me go through this, to see me making all of these changes and decisions that you don't agree with and decisions that you feel directly affect you.  You've done the possible best you could at teaching me how to be a good person and how to live a good life and I have all the respect for you in the world, but it is time now to make my own decisions and my own mistakes. 
I wish I could fully explain to you why I don't believe anymore and why I struggle with the idea that there is even a God.  In a lot of ways I feel like its me returning the favor and protecting you from things that I know will hurt you.  I don't know what is worse, letting you believe that I'm rebelliously throwing away your beliefs and our chance at a forever family - or having you find out that something you've devoted your entire life to is nothing but magical made up stories that cover up a lot of lies.  I do know that it is something you would only accept if you were ready for it.
I don't know that you'd believe me if  I told you I'd been a good girl this last year, but I have been.  I've finally been working on being true to who I am and I know that I've made mistakes, but I also know that I'm a better person because of them.  I'm still doing my best to be who you taught me to be and to make you proud.
For Christmas this year all I really want is for you to realize that my decisions and mistakes are not a result of "bad parenting" or any representation of you failing.  I would like you to be proud of me no longer being a little girl and taking my steps out into the real world.  I would like you to accept me for me and to no longer feel like I have to sensor myself to make you happy.  I want you to know that I love and respect you and that sometimes I wish I could make your beliefs fit in my head just so you didn't feel like you had somehow failed me, but I know that wouldn't be living up to who you've taught me to be.

I love you Santa (Daddy).
Your little Sunshine.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Santa is not real... and neither is religion

When I was a little girl and I stopped believing in Santa, I didn't want my parents to know.  I was afraid they would be upset with me that I no longer believed something that they had told me to be true since I could remember.  This resulted in me "believing" in Santa until I was 11 or 12 and going to much length to have them believe I believed.
One year, there were no presents from Santa.
I remember turning to my mom and asking, "Mom, why didn't Santa come?"  She got a panicked look on her face and told me that Santa had come, but he didn't want to take credit for the gifts this year and instead told them to say the gifts were from one of them.  I readily agreed, but still wondered why my mom couldn't tell me the truth.

I have struggled with Mormonism for a long time, but mostly lived it out before I went to college.  Once at college it was easier to fake.  Sure, I went home a lot on the weekends, but I always went back to my apartment "in time for church."  My parents never needed to know that I was no longer attending.  Later, there was another blip on the radar when I got engaged, but I had a ready made excuse that we weren't getting married in the temple and it wasn't of a "immoral" nature.  You see, my ex had been married before me and we would have to wait quite awhile for the temple divorce to go through so naturally a civil marriage only made sense and my parents were more than happy to oblige because we were already having a long engagement... and you know how long engagements lead to premarital sex... :-P  We said we'd be sealed later and maybe one day I would have faked it down that road.
The beginning of this year while going through my divorce I set out on a journey to find myself.  The problem?  I had moved back home and for a little while went to the family ward with my parents.  It quickly became apparent to me that this was not the life I wanted to live and that I could no longer fake it anymore.
One morning, I got up early, got dressed and started to head out the door to a Foursquare church in the area.  My dad happened to be sitting there on the couch by the door and asked me where I was going.  I legitimately needed to go deliver a present for a friend and used that as my excuse.  He asked me if I would be back in time for church and I felt the panic spread to my face when I said, "No, probably not."
The next couple of months were full of near misses and confrontations with my parents.  I ultimately admitted that I was going to the Foursquare church with my friend's mom, but it was a journey and I gave no solid indication that I wouldn't find my way back to Mormonism.
Once moving in with my brother, things got easier.  However, it also became clearer that religion just wasn't for me.  My mom asked me to take my brother with me to a single's ward.  My mom asked me to take my brother with me to my friend's married ward.  All these things I brushed off and instead went hiking on Sundays with my brother.  Our own kind of church where nobody asks for my money and nobody tells me how to live my life... and nobody tells me the way they think that I will be happy.

Finally, in October of this year before introducing my new boyfriend (who happens to have a tattoo. GASP!) to my parents my mom asked me just exactly what it was that I was doing, why I was dating a boy with a tattoo, why I was going away from the church, why I was ruining all chance for our "forever family."

... and I looked at her and said, "Mom, Santa Claus isn't real."

Finally some honesty.