Saturday, November 20, 2004

It is now Saturday afternoon, and as usual for a Saturday, I am sitting here wondering how that happened. I feel like I have only been awake for five minutes, and though I did sleep in, I’ve been awake now for hours, talked on the phone several times, took the dog for an extra long walk, but I am still only on my second cup of coffee. I stayed over at Liza's last night until after 2:00 a.m., talking, after making her watch Before Sunrise AND Before Sunset. Sorry to miss Happy Ass, Robbie, but last night, I needed to stay in and watch the flicks.

I just put in the Garden State soundtrack, because I finally remembered to bring it home from the office, and I am still obsessed with it. One of the clocks in my house reads 12:45, another 12:39, and regardless of which one is correct, it is clearly getting time to think about lunch. Just now, when I got half and half out of the fridge, I saw that there are leftovers: pork chop; bbq ribs; Dereck’s taco from lunch the other day. None of these appeals, and I think about the cans of tomato soup I bought for my retreat, grated cheese, tortillas, and the semblances of a lunch start to come together.

I have been reading Karl’s blog and thinking about the religious conversations he has been having, and the ones that I have constantly, even when I am not talking to anyone at all. It does not seem odd to me that Karl and I, both in our thirties now, are engaging in conversations with other people about how to live this life, how to view the world. There seems to be some drive, some need for us to either find a community or to find some kind of soul-satisfying mysticism and spirituality, or possibly the drive to fulfill a duty, an obligation long felt.

In my case, and I suspect Karl’s (based on conversations I have had with him) the urge is mostly spiritual, and neither of us have much use for religious communities, having very satisfying secular ones. Karl said, “I don’t want the fellowship, thank you very much,” which echoed what I told Father Dean last Saturday: I just want to come to the liturgy and then leave, and I don’t want to shake anyone’s hand, nor have anyone tell me they are happy to see me. And Father Dean wondered about my resistance to community. And I am slowly coming to realize that if I want a close relationship with God, I cannot divorce myself from community. Helping other people brings me so much joy—I sit and fantasize about how I can help everyone with their problems. I am out walking my dog and thinking about friends who are trying to sell their house, and thinking, “Is there anyway I could buy it and then turn it into a rental?” Which is sheer madness, and I am not actually considering it, but these are how my thought patterns go.

And I have been thinking a lot lately about my religious past, in Mormonism. Lately I have been back in touch with old friends from my BYU days, and we have had the inevitable conversation you have with someone if you are interested in honesty: I have left the church. I have rejected everything you have embraced. Sorry.

But at some point, you have to cast off the old. I have already changed my life in such significant ways: Divorce. That is huge. Custody battle. Huge. Making the change from stay-at-home Mommy for seven years to sole breadwinner (the child support I receive barely covers groceries). It was harder than hell, but now it is very liberating, because I see the world as full of possibilities, and so my spiritual journey is my own. I truly had to lose my life to find it.

To fully embrace a religion also means that you have to cast off one life and fully embrace another. And this can be as terrifying as a divorce, because it affects families, marriages, how children are raised, whether or not children are conceived, whether or not pregnancies are terminated—people’s entire lives can hinge upon membership in certain communities, and beliefs in certain theologies, and so to cast off the old is often not worth the trauma, the losses, the grief.

But I did try to make the best use of what I had: We are encouraged that it is important to honor our commitments, that duty is important, and that selfishness is wrong. I stayed in my marriage three years longer than I should have because it was more important to me to stay home with my children to leave an abusive relationship. I stayed in my church eight years longer than I should have because I did not want to disappoint friends, family, my mother in particular. So often it seems that we would rather go ahead with the wedding than disappoint the guests.

And it seems that I tried for so long and so hard to do something with the beliefs of my childhood, my youth. I tried in some way to be able to move forward in life with some of the old tenets of Mormonism, but it didn’t work, and they all had to fall away. We are taught that we shouldn’t reject old values, traditions, ways of life, because if we can do this, if we can give up our old religions, our old gods, our old beliefs, then somehow we will also be able to shed our marriages, turn our backs on our aging parents, neglect our children. And so in order to honor what we love, we sometimes forget that leaving a religion and getting a divorce do not necessarily mean that you are immoral or incapable of love, duty, responsibility, or a deep spiritualism.

Perhaps, instead, it means that at some point, you stand staring the refrigerator of your life and you think, “There is nothing more I can make with these leftovers.” This means not that you have decided not to eat, and not that you are leaving the table, but that you are going to throw away the old and stagnant food that is no longer good for you and start with something fresh.

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