Stranger number 1. “Mormons. Can’t live with ’em, can’t shoot ’em.”
Stranger number 2. “Pssshhhhh. Can’t live without ’em, either. They’re the first ones to show up when a disaster hits.”
Clinking of the mugs.
And on to the Broncos.
I overheard the comments at a diner and it got me thinking. And feeling. My thinking was, “Amen, brothahs!”, and my feeling was, “UHHH! Ruh-ooode!” Offended, yet understanding and agreeing. Both. How can that be? How? Easy. Life is not tidy.
I am a Mormon. And… I am also, not.
I am a Mormon because I have a name and a blessing, have been baptized, and have had church callings many many times. Actively participating or not, disciplined or not, it has been part of my culture. You could say I am a native. I am Mormon because I strive to be as Christ-like as I can be, choosing Mormonism as my vehicle of organized religion. Yet…I am not Mormon in this way. I am having a crisis of faith. In praying and seeking answers to questions, I have found that I currently do not agree with all views and policies in my religion. I feel very un-faith-like, in this faith-based religion, actually. In my mind, I have divided my faith into two distinct parts. The Church, and The Gospel. It’s how I justify putting up with one so I can enjoy the other.
OKKKKK. Let me stop you right there. This is not a pro- or anti- rant. There is no platform or soap box. So if you are looking for that, head right on back to Facebook. Ahem.
So the “yes I am” and the “no I’m not” kinda feels like… like this. Like dipping broccoli into Ranch dressing. I dig the Gospel principles of love and kindness, and turning the other cheek, and peace from a source who has a much bigger design than I can comprehend. I am good with that. That’s the Ranch. The Church part, the human part, the inconsistency part where there is paperwork and differing personalities clashing and keeping the bills paid… well… that is the iffy part for me. It’s the Broccoli. The have-to have to enjoy the get-to have.
Now, you won’t catch me with the fridge door open in the middle of the night, guzzling Ranch dressing from the bottle. Rest easy, Mom. But you won’t catch me ordering a vat of Cream of Broccoli soup, hold the soup, either. My religion has been my version of a healthy snack. Kind of a no-brainer snack. Only, I am tasting the Broccoli a lot more, lately, and it almost tastes like Brussel Sprouts.
So where does that leave me? How do I categorize myself? In limbo? On the fence? Is there a fence? Hmmmm. I guess there is. And I realize that there has been, for years.
This is an opportunity to look at the fence I am sitting on.
And I know fences.
I grew up in a small town in Utah. Many fences. Way more potholes than people. No stoplight, but lots of community involvement. I, like any other kiddo growing up, had many spoon-fed concepts, from many different sources. For instance:
1. (MOM) We have inside voices and outside voices. Please use them correctly. (ME) Ok.
2. (SESAME STREET) We say please and thank you. Always. (ME) Ok.
3. (DAD) We go to church and all church activities. Every time. (ME) Ok.
4. (NEIGHBORHOOD) Many hands make light work, so pitch in and watch out for ways to help. (ME) Ok.
5. (SUNDAY SCHOOL TEACHER) Be kind, always. (ME) Ok.
6. Change your underpants every day because you never know when you will get in an accident and have to go to the doctor. (ME) Uhhhhh. Okkkkkaayyy….(That came from Grandma, bless her soul. Sound advice.)
The natural assumption I took on was that a line of authority wasn’t questioned. It didn’t need to be. We all had roles, and mine was to grow up, be good, and have fun. That was as far as I looked. I naturally assumed that authority was there to protect and provide order to those with less experience and knowledge. It was a learning process, and a safeguard against being hurt. Moms and dads guided and protected us. Adults protected us. We kids respected and listened to them. It totally made sense and worked.
There really wasn’t anything to ponder about. Nothing I needed to change because everything ran smoothly. Not that I always followed them in real world applications. Ask anyone in my family. I was the middle child. Boo Hoo. It was HARRRRRDDDD to follow every assumed custom AND every rule EVERY time. So I messed up. Sometimes I tried really hard to keep it all together, and sometimes I got fed up and did what I wanted, knowing there would be consequences. My choices, my consequences. Pretty cut and dry, right?
You see what I’m saying.
Stay with me here. Many assumptions. My easiest assumption, by the way, was that because I learned these things in MY home and neighborhood, everyone learned those things in THEIR home and neighborhood. Everyone, everywhere. And, I lived a very cut-and-dry, right-or-wrong life. Simple. Until the ripe old age of Kindergarten.
When I was six, I went to elementary school and noticed that not everyone had the same experiences and opinions, or even habits that I did. It was just a quick adjustment, but by the end of the first day I had learned about Root Beer Bubble Gum, Puff The Magic Dragon, and just how many kids there were in my grade. I saw that manners were subjective. (Nose-picking was a lot more common than I thought.) I learned that some girls knew how to do back flips, and immediately wanted that in my life. (Gymnastics was a passion for me for the rest of the week.) I saw a 4-square game outlined in yellow paint on the black-top at recess and immediately needed the giant rubber bouncy ball in my collection of toys. (I didn’t get one.) There was a lot of cool stuff to take in, and I wanted to know about it all.
Well, almost all.
I experienced bullies at recess, right along with back flips and 4-square. They were different than the big-brother bullies, simply because they clashed with my sensibilities so much. (How dare they not be polite? They don’t even know me, yet! We are all supposed to be kind, except for big brothers!) Sometimes, as I went through the grades, bullies would be in packs, and other times they would be on their own. Now I wasn’t always subject to them, but all the classes knew them. We knew who they were, and unofficially formed plans to counter those attacks. Luck helped sometimes. Sometimes not. When a plan fell through, and we would see a victim come back with a story, we shared in that hurt. (Here. Have a piece of Root Beer bubble gum. It’s my last one, but you can have it.)
So here’s the thing. I went out into the wider world, but when I came home, there was a sense of safety and peace. It was a familiar place where I belonged. I could tell my family about the good and the bad, or come back with scrapes and cuts, and my mom and dad would make things right. They never went after those bullies, but made the place where I lived a safe haven. Yep, there were arguments and things I didn’t want to do. Yes, I felt very picked on sometimes. But overall, it was an assumption that when I was home, I was safe. So when certain people were invited into our home, people who were assumed to be safe, but weren’t, it rocked my world.
It didn’t make sense.
How could people so deceitful and sneaky and terrible be allowed in my home? I had no answer that made sense, and at six or seven, I needed a simple answer. Nothing made sense, so I went with the logic that was available at my young age. I simply understood from that time on that because they were in our home, the logical conclusion was that my parents were somehow fine with it in our home. Ergo, they were fine with something terrible existing right along with the safe environment, even scolding me when I didn’t want to be around those guests. That was something that did not make sense, but nevertheless WAS happening in reality. The REAL WORLD stuff was not in alignment with the SHOULD-BE’s. That’s how I knew that life wasn’t black or white.
The reality is that my parents did not know. They were unaware that a terrible thing was happening. In fact, it simply was not a possibility to them that someone would take advantage of the love and kindness that they showed. And because they did not think of that possibility, they came to their own conclusions about my lack of civility to these guests. It became apparent to them that I was moody and over-dramatic and prone to over-exaggeration or fibs, even. My truth became that my mom was cruel on the inside and kind on the outside, and dad trusted mom’s judgement. We all formed our opinions, and life went on. That became the reality.
I bring this up, not to bring you down, but to look at something. I experienced something completely different than my parents did. In our safe haven. In our same family. At the same time. Simple as that. Our experiences led to assumptions about ourselves and each other and that became our reality. Were we both right? In a way, yes. We acted from interactions that actually happened. The actions were obviously right there. And yet…in another way, a resounding NO! I had only one view of an event.
So did they.
The events in their entirety did not just reveal themselves to me, on their own, by the way. Nobody came to me to clarify what was going on at all. It took me actively questioning my side of the past events over years, as an adult. It took talking several times with people about uncomfortable things. It took me allowing myself to follow my gut feelings as well as my head. It took getting out of my comfort zone. And I became the target of some pretty unpleasant words from those completely outside of the situation. What I found, over years of digging, was an opportunity for information to be shared, for relationships to be strengthened, and for my angst to be laid to rest.
So back to the diner. And my fence.
My relationship with my faith has been complicated. Am I Mormon? Yep. I was born and raised in the faith and know how to do all that is asked of me. I have felt love and peace many times over the years, through my faith. Do I feel Mormon? Not exactly, simply because I am questioning the reasoning and accountability of certain parts of my religion. And feeling uncomfortable doing it. My logic says that it should be cut and dry. There is a natural line of authority, put in place to lead, guide, and love a group of people who want peace and joy and love in their lives. The same goes for a natural line of authority in government, companies, and any other leadership organization. It is trust. It is there to give direction to those who do not have all the answers or experience in an area and are wanting that safeguard.
I am having an event, which is a part of a series of events, that I have felt is the whole event. Until now. Now, I feel there is a major lack in the whole picture that I am experiencing.
So do I rock the boat? The Church boat? We-heh-heh-hellll. Let me tell you, rocking the boat is… exhausting. Fighting for answers takes time and commitment. Going up the chain of command is frustrating to me when answers aren’t easy to explain or find. I hear it is the same in the military, the education system, and in corporate life. So the big question for myself is, “Do I want to go here?” I have kids, exercise, work, bills, husband, sleep, fun, reading, living of life to do. Do I really want to move that stuff around? Hey. It’s only my spiritual, eternal self I’m talking about.
Sitting on this fence is starting to get mighty uncomfortable.
Now, my experiences and assumptions are mine. Only mine. Some may have similar stories, and others may not relate at all. A few may even doubt my honesty about my stories. Some have. But worrying about someone else’s opinion is not my business. What I do with my experiences and assumptions, are. So this is what I choose.
1. I choose to use information and facts over opinion and assumptions. It’s certainly interesting to get everyone’s input on a subject, but it is subjective, in the end.
2. I choose to listen to my gut feelings, and temper them with my logic. Because if I don’t, then there isn’t a complete picture.
3. I choose to have a line. I am allowed to form a line of safety. My safety and moral compass is on one side of the line, and on the other side is the stuff that I don’t want in my space. Not for manners sake. Not for comfort sake. Not for other people’s comfort sake. It is a line.
4. I choose to question things so I know how I feel. I am ok with going on faith in some instances, and questioning in others. BOTH.
The diner experience leads me to realize that it is time to search for the questions about certain policies that I have just been waiting for others to answer. It is time to be proactive. Right or wrong? For or against? Yes or no? Puh-leez! Those are about as polarizing as it gets. And that just doesn’t work for me.
There is more to it than either/or. Life is not tidy. My grief is about my conflict. I am grieving the simplicity that I so want in my life. I am grieving my former reality. I am conflicted because I know that I am coming down off the fence. Not only coming down off my perch, but I will be pulling up the fence and seeing what leaves my space, and what stays.
I know I want love and light and peace in my life. I know that duplicity and deceitfulness and looking the other way have no part in my space. Not from myself, and not from others. Even when it would be simpler/easier/nicer to just do nothing. Am I Mormon? Am I not? Do I believe?
How bout…. I am… Hungry. It’s time to hit the fridge and browse. Ranch can go on many things. Not just broccoli. Who knows? In my search for the perfect snack, I just may create a fantastic meal.