Saturday, July 27, 2013

Musings on Anger

I'm angry at the Mormon church.

Most of the time, I'm okay with that.  I think it's a good thing.  It helps keep me wary so that I don't fall for similar traps and fictions.  It motivates me to spread the word--or the anti-word, I suppose.  It helps remind me of what my life used to be, what it is now, and what I want it to become.

But it would be nice, I think, to eventually have peace.  I don't want to be angry forever.

But I can't just stop being mad.  Every time I interact with my family, I'm reminded of the sources of my anger.  Every strained conversation, every time one of us inadvertently trips over the elephant in the room, every lie I tell to spare my mother the "horrible" truth, every time I bite my tongue to keep from screaming at them, from admonishing them to wake up and be reasonable...I remember my anger.  It's not something I can let go of.

It would be easier if my family were more willing to accept my lifestyle.  To be fair, I haven't given them much of a chance to.  As best I can gauge it, if I were to tell them that I live with my girlfriend, that I swear when I'm pissed (and even when I'm not), that I watch porn and listen to death metal and drink coffee, I'd face a variety of unpleasant circumstances.  My dad would be depressed but continue prodding me with unsolicited offers for counsel and advice.  My mom would be flat-out heartbroken and probably a little scared of me for a while.  My oldest sister would be angry--she'd express shock that I could act so foolishly and she'd lash out a little.  My middle sister would perhaps calmly bring the problem up once and never speak of it again.  And my youngest sister, with whom I used to share a close relationship, would leave me those horrible voicemails in her distant, plaintive and pitiable style telling me that she doesn't understand but that she misses her little brother.

And I'd feel so guilty.

And the guilt would make me angry all over again, because I shouldn't have to feel guilty. Leaving the church was the best decision I have ever made in my entire life--period.  I know it was the right thing to do--period.  I'm so much happier now than I was before--period.

But all the periods are becoming semicolons.  It was the best decision I have ever made in my entire life, semicolon, it's had some of the worst consequences of any decision I have ever made.  I know it was the right thing to do, semicolon, I can't convince my own family of that.  I'm so much happier now than I was before, semicolon, but so much still hurts because I had to take the journey alone.

I wish I could talk freely on any subject with my family.  I wish I could show my parents the apartment I've had for the last two years, since it's only ten minutes from their house.  But then they'd see all my girlfriend's stuff and the bed we share.  I wish I could discuss entertainment without constantly checking myself to make sure I'm not talking about something they'd disapprove of.  If I can't remember if a movie was rated R, I better not tell them about it.  Hell, I'd love to tell them about my novel and to hear what they think of it--if I knew they wouldn't be horrified by the language and the casual references to sex.  I can't even tell them half of the stupid stuff that happens at work without mentally combing through the stories first to make sure they're still amusing to a conservative Mormon audience.  It doesn't feel like a family when I feel the need to censor my own existence for their consumption.  I do it to avoid the confrontation, to avoid the judgment, to avoid the worry, and to avoid the frustratingly self-righteous pity.  What else am I supposed to do?

Yeah, all that makes me angry. The church, by its design, has manipulated my family into turning on me.  There's no sense of "well, Alex is happy, and he's still a good person, so we're happy for him" without the sense of loss and disapproval.  In his emails, my dad may tell me that he's proud of me, but it rings hollow when I consider the fact that he firmly believes that because of my choices I won't be with the rest of them in the afterlife.  You can't really be happy for someone if you're convinced he's destroying himself.  You can't be proud of someone for doing what, in your eyes, equates to burying his head in the sand.  You can't have a normal, healthy familial relationship with someone you think has squandered the gift of life and needs to be fixed.  You can't really be a family when differences of eternal gravitas have built walls between you.  Can you?

The situation sucks.  I know I'm not the only one in this situation.  And I know my case is far from the worst of its kind.  But there's plenty to be pissed about.

The only thing I can think of that could ever alleviate that anger is my family leaving the church.  At best, that's a long shot.  I'd like to make it happen--another long shot.  If I were ever successful, the shock would be pretty hard on some of them--my mom in particular.  I'd feel pretty guilty about that too.

I haven't tried to get any of them to leave, except for a few little jabs at my dad here and there.  I think overtly campaigning for their apostasy without provocation would make me just as self-righteous as some of my least favorite Mormons--it would be considering my own belief that no one should follow a false religion to be a higher cause than whatever my family wants for themselves.  If they find meaning in their existence, regardless of whether their faith is misplaced, who am I to discount that?

So I guess I'll have to wait patiently, always swarmed with reminders of my smoldering wrath, until one of them sends me an email asking to talk about the church.  Then maybe I'll start trying to tear down a faith that's already wavering.  Maybe.

My plan is doomed to failure.  I may always be angry.  But at least I'll feel like I'm doing the right thing.


  1. Wow. Did this post ever provoke a lot of thoughts in me! I don't want to be, but I am very angry too. I am trying not to be angry, but I was taught a huge pile of crap and followed it faithfully for decades. It was taught to me by my family, and learning for myself that the church isn't true has changed the way I feel toward them, my mom in particular. I can't talk with her about it, because she would be absolutely crushed. She's an old woman. The church is her entire life. She has sacrificed a tremendous amount for it, and I believe she will never be happy because of it. She is giving up happiness in this life for a perfect future celestial life that she will never know, because it doesn't exist.

    The church's machine is set up in such a way that it can turn parent against child, friend against friend, and neighbor against neighbor for something as honest and human as following your personal beliefs and the dictates of your own conscience (thinking for yourself). The use of guilt is tremendous.

    I don't know how I will ever tell anyone, other than my wife, how I feel, but fortunately, she is in the same place I am. If she weren't, I would never be able to be honest with her about it for fear of her leaving me for someone who could take her to the celestial kingdom. The only person she has told is her inactive, apostate sister. I hope to one day get to the point where I can tell everyone.

    You said, "it's had some of the worst consequences of any decision I have ever made." From what I can tell, and I've read every post of your blog and your book, the main consequence is losing the relationship with your family. You can't be yourself around them or be completely honest with them for fear of them judging you, bugging you, preaching to you, fasting and praying for you, trying to love you back in, etc. You can't talk about your life, share your book, introduce them to the woman you love, etc, because you know they will criticize you. I think that is true, but it is also really, really sad. All of that come from a church that is supposed to unite families.

    I learned from my mom that the stories we make up in our heads are pretty much always worse than how things eventually turn out. I hope that is the case for you. You obviously dearly love your family and want a strong relationship with them again.

    I wish you all the best in whatever you decide to do.

    1. It is sad.

      You haven't told any of your family? I guess that's easier to pull of when you have your own family and stuff. I was living at home when I left so I couldn't just stop going to church without anyone noticing. Do you prefer it this way? Does it give you more time to figure out how to break the news to them? Or does it make it worse?

      You (and your mom) are right about the reality not being as bad as what we fear. But in this case, not being as bad as what I fear still gives it plenty of room to be pretty bad! Hence my hesitation. I hope it can be the kind of thing I can look back on later and say how silly I was being. But you can't really know how it'll turn out until you set things in motion.

      I wonder how much different--and hopefully, how much better--our lives would be if we'd grown up in a world without Mormonism. Because there are tons of people going through this kind of crap, and it's not fair to any of us.

  2. I haven't told anyone, because the final decision has been more recent, even though it has been moving that direction for a long time. Your blog has helped me a lot to get my thoughts together. As strange as it may seem, I agree with pretty much everything you've said. We still go to church a little bit, though I haven't been to all 3 meetings in years. We live in Utah, and it's really hard to figure out how to extract my kids from it, though we don't pray, read scriptures or hold spiritual family home evenings. We finally got new underwear, and it's a joy to no longer have a constant Melvin reminding me of my religion. We have no callings, except for an easy, meaningless one I have, which requires nothing of me, and we stopped paying tithing. Oh, I quit home teaching too. Yay! I don't know what our next move will be, but I'll continue to have long discussions with my wife about how much we dislike the church and want all out.

    In your case, your family members probably all think they know (there's nothing like the Mormon grapevine), and they probably think things for you are worse than they probably are. Oh wait, you live with your girlfriend, watch porn, listen to heavy metal music, published a book with lots of swearing and sex, and write a really cool anti-mormon blog. They probably do have it about right. You'll just be confirming it. Hang in there man. Things will all work out for you in the end.

    1. I'm sure you already know this, but you are darn lucky that your wife is sharing your path out. If I'd managed to stick it out as a believer for a few more years, I'd be married with a kid or two by now...and if I had doubts then, what would I do?

      I'm like 98.4% sure my dad knows that I'm am currently violating the law of chastity, but I don't know that he's shared his knowledge with anyone--he is good at keeping confidences. I'm betting the rest of my family only hold strong suspicions.

      You (and your family), hang in there too. What I've loved about being a part of the ex-Mormon blogosphere, the ex-Mormon reddit, and a few ex-Mormon message boards is how much easier it makes things seem when you know that other people are hanging on for the same reasons you are. I'm not an internet dinosaur, but I've been active online for more than ten years now and feeling this kind of comradeship from any kind of online community is rare. It's nice to see how freely ex-Mormons are extending advice and support to others in similar situations.

      I guess that's my impromptu ex-Mormon internet testimony. In the name of reason, amen?