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The Circle Unbroken

It isn’t going well. My heart and mind are full of thoughtful reflections about the past few weeks, but nothing is coming together on my laptop screen. All I get is this:

I never thought it was going to be a circle. Endless, recurring, eternal.
Now, I am quite satisfied that this is how it’s going to be.
Forever.

It’s the same thing. I keep revisiting the same sentiments in each piece I begin for the Peacewriter. Is there nothing original in the journey? Everything feels old and worn out, but also new. How can that be?

There are times of course when the circle widens and things aren’t so tough. That’s when my life drifts away from things that remind me of the Church. Of the past.
The good things. And the bad.
Inevitably the circle closes and everything comes back again.
The good things.
And the bad.

Maybe this is it. The circle does widen out sometimes. I get complacent, take for granted that life is hitting a normal rhythm and the journey will reach a destination. This chapter of my life will someday close, won’t it?

I hoped the journey would be linear. Milestones and landmarks should mark the progress for me, the progress away from those first few weeks and days.
But it doesn’t work that way. Instead, it feels like a ride on a Ferris wheel that never ends. The joke is on me.

Maybe not. Where is the reassurance that there even is an endpoint? I have yet to see one.

It takes only a gentle reminder to thrust me back into the mix. I see an old picture. Me, young and sunny, surrounded by friends at a stake youth fireside. Photos bring back the good memories; the warmth of the tribe, the extended had of belonging, the hope and promise of an LDS worldview.
Journal entries, wedding photos, patriarchal blessings, all of these things bring back the hurt. Not anger, no feelings of being duped, but regret. I see who I was in the eyes of those that used to love me. I see the smiles, pine for the embrace of the tribe. No animosity, only tears.

This time, it was uncovering my patriarchal blessing in an unexpected place. I hadn’t seen a copy of it for a couple of years. I pulled it out, and when it registered in my brain what I was holding in my hands, the tears began almost instantly. Where does that come from? How much longer will I be like this?

The tug at my heart can overwhelm me in a nanosecond. This self-described tough girl collapses into the couch, covers her face with her hands, and cries tears of hurt and regret.
I miss it. I miss them. I miss what I thought my life was. Not the doctrine, the dogma, or the part of my heart that was shattered… But, the smiles and the love, the surety and the direction, the hugs, and the open arms.

This. There it is, the whole thing in a nutshell. How is it that I can still miss so much a part of my life that has been out of my life for over three years? I don’t know how. But I do. I miss so much. The pangs in my heart take my breath from my chest. It hurts, deeply.

Life moves on. Feelings fade away again. My circle widens. I think for a while that I am safe.
I even begin to think that I have left much of it behind me. That time has begun to close the wounds. It begins to seem like a distant memory. A cup of coffee or a glass of iced tea becomes normal; the stigma diminishes. Life continues and I am happy. My wings spread just a bit; I relish in the new worldview and its accompanying freedoms.

Leaving it all behind is like trying to lose your shadow. For me, it is just not possible to let it all go. Like my shadow, it exists outside of me. It’s something I just can’t shake off completely.
I get the feeling that trying to come to peace with it is going to take me the rest of my life.

5 comments:

lifelongguy said...

This is so good. I mean it, this is so well written. Thanks for sharing it. Describing the day-to-day struggle as a circle is the perfect analogy. My circle is comprised of different elements of "old and worn out" and the things that cause my Mormon programming to resurface.

Thanks for sharing this. Just awesome! I am going to plug this on my own blog!!

Kiley said...

Wow. I love this. This describes perfectly the frustration and longing for the things that are lost. Beautiful.

I always laugh a little bit when people who have been out awhile say that things get better, that you quit missing parts of the past... I laugh because even if they are 8 or 10 or 12 years out of the church they care enough still to read blogs, and post on forums... They are invested enough to keep exposing themselves to it...

I don't think it ever goes away... I think these feelings just evolve and change. The church keeps shaping us even after we are out (that does not have to be a bad thing).

St.Jude said...

This was brilliant! I loved the honesty. It seems like so often when people leave the church they really don’t like to talk about how much they miss the tribe. It seems like we spend a lot of energy just trying to convince ourselves we don’t need the tribe. The fact is I think we all at times miss the community, and that childlike surety that we were the ones who knew why we were here…and as long as we followed the gospel life would somehow take care of us.
I found my own way of dealing with these feelings. For me it’s really not much different than losing someone you were once deeply in love with. At the time I thought that the love I felt was forever and that it would never be anything but the best thing in my life. When I looked into the future I couldn’t imagine it without that person being a part of it. And then what was once unimaginable becomes easy to imagine. The relationship for unexpected and unforeseen reasons became toxic and there was really no healthy choice but to leave.
When I stumble across an old photo, or a letter tucked into a book, there is that brief moment where time seems to freeze, and then an all too familiar pain rises in my chest. I don’t expect it will ever stop happening. But I have come to know that those moments are nothing more than that, just moments. And I allow myself to remember the good about the person, and all the qualities about them that made me fall in love with them in the first place. The laughter, tears, how good and safe it felt to be wrapped in the arms of someone I loved so deeply… and I fold up the letter, or tuck away the picture and remind myself that in its time and place, it was a great relationship, that made us both happy, and helped shape who I am today. And for that I am grateful for having been so blessed.
But just like with the church, all the good, won’t change the bad no matter how much I want it to. Like the words to so many love songs, sometimes love just isn’t enough. (Hope this isn’t too long for the comments section.)

Donnell Allan said...

Beautiful post, beautiful comments. Thanks to you all.

Ingrid said...

Steph,

This is a powerful piece - and definitely brings back the memories. My experience growing up in the Mormon church was so bad (and so extreme) that I left it as quickly as I could. But it took me a long time to get over the Mormon guilt. It's funny - I had my "P" blessing when I was 14...part of my mom's effort to keep me in the fold. When I got it back, it didn't say anything about marriage and I was so worried that this meant I was going to die young that the guy who gave me the blessing took it back and modified it.

Great post! thanks for introducing me to this site/community.

Best,
Ingrid Ricks

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Welcome to The Peacewriter.

We all want to belong somewhere, to someone. It is a basic human need.

If you have ever experienced a period of doubt or questioned your beliefs in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you know that this is not a minor thing. It is tantamount to a crisis, and one that can be life altering.

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