I like knowing. I think we all like knowing.
When someone asks me something and I know, I feel so useful, so helpful. ‘Oh I know!’
Other benefits of knowing is that we get to side-step the dreadful state of….not knowing. And most human beings don’t like that. They like to know what their plans are for the day, where the next paycheck is coming from, where have they been, where they are now, where they are going… Who they are?
Yes, even who they are, even though one’s state of being is as malleable as sands on the shores.
I thought I knew who I was, thought I knew what I’d left behind. But as I am being pulled inextricably into my past via a friend who is leaving Mormonism, I have found many things still open and unaddressed within myself. I left well over 11 years ago. I didn’t remember what it was like to be surrounded by true believers while leaving until recently.
I had forgotten the haranguing, the questions, the pop quizzes, the challenges, the hurt, the feelings of guilt and shame as my mother looked at me as though I had died. I remember being told that a ‘light had gone of me’–that still infuriates me to this day. People told me without reticence or propriety that I had a darkness about me, that my ‘countenance had dulled and darkened’. Well, no shit.
What did they expect when I was moving away from my religion of origin, my culture, my family, my friends and the world of the ‘I Know’. What else would they expect from me but uncertainty, confusion, fear; I was also in the process of divorcing LeGrand Richard’s grand-nephew, and his family was up in arms. I was called an unstable goat-belly-slitting-lesbian by that Christian clan. Which was silly. I don’t slit goat belly’s.
The point is, I am now remembering what a person, what I, had to go through–NO, what I CHOSE to go through when I left Mormonism. Many of us choose to be grilled, harangued, questioned etc. because our own guilt, uncertainty and fear disallows us the normal and healthy practice of setting boundaries. We get pulled into lengthy discussions, all with terrible ultimatums of “It’s either all true, or it isn’t”–pushing us back into the Mormon mind set of black and white thinking. Our values get questioned–“Oh, so you want to sin with impunity, so you’re leaving.” Well if the Church is true, then there’s no such thing as sinning with impunity, is there? “You must have never had a true testimony, then”–calling into question our faithfulness and stealing away our memories–our reality–of what we experienced in the past. And finally, the ultimate effrontery, “Read, fast and pray, see if the Lord doesn’t testify to you through the Holy Spirit that it’s true.” So, in other words, go back to the Mormon Conditioning for a spiritual confirmation of truth–the very same path, mind you, that led us to where we are RIGHT now, and try to discern the Truth using the Mormon litmus test. If our “feelings” don’t confirm to us that the Church is true, then they hit us with Doctrinal dogma, scriptural quotes, unsolicited testimony bearing (complete with tears) and anything else they can throw at us to shake our new faith. What a mind job.
But what is our new faith? Shakily, but with new found strength, our faith is in our ability to stand apart and question. Our faith is to extricate ourselves from the collective brain and wonder at the inconsistencies and utter bafflement regarding things we had heretofore swept under the rug and into the realm of the “I Don’t Know” category. We are thinking outside of the box that has been fortified by thousands of voices collectively pronouncing “All is well! All is well!” We awake each day with a pounding heart at the new possibilities, and also with the new uncertainty that grips us. Our faith consists of holding onto ourselves tightly and seeking a reconciliation between what we thought we knew, and what is now becoming excruciatingly clear to us. Our faith…is the Unknown. And there is no defending that.
The thing is, the people who try and bring us back know this and use it to their every advantage. With love, of course. Not with understanding, not with empathy, but mostly with love. Their kind of love; the kind that’s conditional based on where you spend your Sundays. Like the Mormon God’s love.
While in the Church, we focused on what we DO know. “I know President Whomever is a prophet of God. I know this Church is true. I KNOW Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God.” And then one day…we just don’t know anymore. And the terror sets in because all of your life, you have been reciting that you know, and now, you simply don’t. And nothing in your life will ever look the same.
We sometimes even wish we could “un-know” what we know. I wish I could “un-know” so many things. But no one seems to understand that. No one seems to understand that our new-found sensibilities are terrifying at first. There is no explaining it away because they KNOW, and you simply don’t. I found, however, that was the key to freedom from the pestering. I would look at them and say “I really don’t know.” They would respond with “Well this is pretty dern important; dontcha think you’d better find out?” My response? “Don’t need to. I trust my feelings, and my feelings tell me I no longer believe in it. That’s all I needed to be a member; that’s all I need to be a non-member.” And then I would take off, change the subject, exit stage left. Set a boundary that the conversation was over, and walk away. This was MY journey, MY discovery, not theirs.
I had to become comfortable with not knowing, but believing that I was going to be okay. And it got tough. After the sadness, people got angry. Resentful. Judgmental and bitter. My parents and in-laws and ex-spouse all became like rabid missionaries. And I don’t know why, but the metaphor of the crucifixion comes to mind.
We are alone, cast out. We ask the people whom we love, and who we know love us to stay with us. But ultimately we are alone when we realize our path will change forever. And the very people we had come to trust disavow, turn against, betray and eventually crucify us for our beliefs. And if we can just survive and hang upon our cross, there is, at the end of it all, an ascension; an ascension into something altogether different, something that brings that light into our lives again. Not another faith, necessarily, not another “I Know”; no, just another level of growth that is as unique to all of us as our spirits and minds are.
And if we can do all of that and still survive, we can hopefully one day say, “Forgive them; for they know not what they do.” We will rise and ascend beyond anything we could have possibly dreamed.
Then we can truly say, All Is Well.
*Addendum: I feel compelled to state that I am not advocating Christianity here; I am using the crucifixtion of Jesus purely metaphorically, which is how I take most, if not all, of the Bible.