December 3, 2006

He'll shit a ring around himself for sure

The portrait is proceeding nicely. I worked on it most of the day with sporadic breaks here and know, the kind of breaks that sustain life like lunch and dinner. I got one of the two faces done. I always like to wait overnight and look at it again the next morning with fresh eyes ~ sometimes it reveals mistakes that I didn't see as I was drawing. You know I'll post it on here when it's finished. What artist doesn't love to blatantly beg for praise?

Have I mentioned lately how much I love not having to cram church into my Sundays? I have had so much less stress without the weekly primary presidency meetings, sharing time preparation, phone calls from the primary president (who loved to re-hash decisions we'd made over and over and over). I'm just so glad that I don't have to do it all anymore. Not that I resented it before, just that now I can see how much of my life was sucked away into it, and it's a real relief not having it to do anymore.

I found out my dad is coming up from Utah for Christmas. I know Christmas is on Monday this year, so he'll for sure be here Sunday, and expecting us to attend church. He needs to find out that I don't believe anymore. The only way we communicate is through e-mail, and it feels weird to consider sending shocking news like that via e-mail to a parent.

A few things that could happen:

1. If I do e-mail it, there is a strong possibility that he will mass forward my explanation to every single family member I have, plus all the extended family on his e-mail list. Cousins I haven't talked to or seen in 20 years. He will most likely request that each of them put me and my family in their prayers, since our eternal souls are at stake. I can also imagine he'd do this with a regular letter scanned into the computer. He will find the most God-awful picture he has of me in his vast arsenal and will attach it to said e-mail.

2. He will come armed with as much information, books, pamphlets, and persuasion as he can to try to lead me back into the fold. I think my sister and I (who are the only ones out of his 7 children who still attend church) were his only hope. His shining stars. I'm not sure if this is presumptuous to say, but I think he felt that. Last time he came to visit, he went to church and sat in Primary with me to watch me teach sharing time. He had that same proud father look he used to get when we'd give youth talks in Sacrament Meeting.

His method will be to try to corner me and keep me in the conversation until I capitulate. He has tried doing this numerous times with talking about my mom, his ex. Like the time this spring when he found out that she was living with a boyfriend (a month after it had been going on) and he pulled my sister and me into my bedroom and said, in a hushed voice as if there were a dead body before us, "Did you know your mother has MOVED IN with a man?" My sis and I looked at each other and it was all I could do not to roll my eyes. Um, yeah, we knew it a month ago. I was good at shooting down any talking about her. I think I said something like, "I've never seen her more happy and that is the most important thing to me. I only want her happy." He tried a couple times to get us to say something and finally I just said, "This life is all about free agency, right? She needs to be allowed to choose her own life for herself." Don't make me say it, Dad. You could have kept her, but you blew it. BOTH times you were married to her.

3. He will wield his well-honed control freak nature and tell my kids to go get ready for church. Now. Then we will have a big fight. Of course, if he's a good LDS priesthood holding man, when my husband interjects and says HIS KIDS are not going, then he'll probably back down without a fight. Maybe.

4. He will leave sticky notes all over my house with reminders to choose the right. Once when I was 16, a friend came over and saw the notes. I had become used to them (translate: had ignored them for years). She and I went through the upstairs alone, and found 34. "Lint causes house fires" written directly on the dryer in permanent ink. "Lock door at all times" on the front door. "Hang Towels Up." "Turn off lights" by every light switch. "Keep fridge door closed." "Re-line garbage can." "Flush the toilet." "Wash your hands." Actually, the first four are the only ones I remember for certain. I do remember the number correctly, though. How embarrassing. And no, I'm amazed to report he never thought of writing one that said "Breathe in, breathe out."

5. He will most likely stay with my sister, and I worry that he will not talk about it at all with me (once he tries and I tell him I have nothing to discuss), but will keep my sister up every night until 2 a.m. trying to come up with reasons for how I could have had this horrible tragedy happen to me. Poor Tony. I suggest you say like I do. "I'm not discussing this. If you want to discuss it, please discuss it with Lisa." Then when he tries again, I will tell him there's nothing to discuss. I've done it and I know I'm doing what's right for me and my kids. No offense to you personally, Dad.

My sister still goes to church, even though she says she may believe the things that led me to leave it. So she'll be the one to take Dad to church on Christmas Eve, I guess.

6. He will blame my apostasy on the fact that my mother is OPENLY LIVING WITH ANOTHER MAN. Wouldn't he shit if he knew that the guy my mom lives with IS MARRIED???

Wish me luck, I'm going to need it. Just another fun thing to add to the holidays.


Cele said...

I believe life test our faith everyday. Sometimes don't ya just wish it was a written exam, instead of an oral test?

Good luck, I know you will pass with flying colours.

Jazzy said...

I wish you luck, although I don't really think that you need it. All you need is the faith that you have made the right decision for yourself. This will be one of the hardest things that you will have to do in this journey. I know telling my parents anything major is nearly impossible for me. You can do it!

Anonymous said...

Or you could just email him the link to your blog... :) I should really do stand-up! Seriously, it sucks having to explain. Most of my friends on my Christmas card list are LDS. This year, I insinuated that Nick lived with us (ie: his name at the end of the letter), but he wasn't part of the family photo. I decided it was time to stop sending the letters my former mission president. His wife was once the Gen. Primary President. They would not be impressed. They don't know. They can't possibly understand. So why bother? I've learned to drop the people who love me conditionally anyway. I'm done apologizing for being me. You shouldn't have to apologize, either.

P.S. Thanks for stopping by my blog. :)

Sideon said...

You and your hubby are adults. Regardless of the fact he's your father, there are rules of hospitality that should be observed:

- your house, your rules.

If he somehow assumes that he's above those rules, then perhaps he'd be more comfortable in a hotel. If he's desperate for a Mormon "fix," send him to your ex-bishop.

Best of luck, SML. Keep us posted.

Maryam in Marrakesh said...

Dear SML-
Congrats on having made such great progress with your commission.
As for your Dad, sounds very stressful and I am sure that you are not looking forward to the conflict. But think how much better you will feel when it is over. If out of your family 5 brothers and sisters and a Mom are not practicing, the feelings he will experience will be familiar ones. At this point, one would think that maybe he would ask himself a few questions, so as to just understand why it is that so many family members have chosen another path.

Janet M. Kincaid said...

My only piece of advice would be this: do not email or write to him about your disaffection/disaffiliation. Your worst nightmares will come true.

I agree with Sideon, as well. You can be respectful, but firm. Your father is a guest in your home, which means there are rules of respect for him, too. If, on Sunday morning, he gives you flack about not going to church, tell him it's not open for discussion and you'd be happy to give him a ride to church. End of story.

Freckle Face Girl said...

Your dad sounds a LOT like mine. :) Perhaps, you should start of easy, by saing "inactive" rather than non-believer. I know he'll still freak out & probably all of the things on our list will happen. That might just ease him into this a bit more. Maybe???? No matter what happens, he'll still pray for you & do what he can to bring you back. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Just wish him a Merry Smithmas!! love the link provided by Bull!! I would tell him BEFORE the holiday him some time to digest the news before the holidays!!

Sister Mary Lisa said...

Cele, thanks for your words. I do enjoy tests, apparently.

Jazzy, sometimes it's just time to let the parents know you are an adult now and it's time to let you fly.

Pokerspice, I think you should have included Nick in the photo too. He should be more important to you than your family's tender sensibilities and rash judgements. I hate having to tiptoe around the worry of being judged or confronted.

Sideon, good advice. I hope he takes it well and calmly, as I only have my years growing up to use as reference. If it goes down like it would have when I was 17, it's gonna be UGLY.

Maryam, if you are not LDS you will not fully understand what my dad will be thinking or feeling. He feels like my mom and siblings are just inactive members who choose to sin because they've forgotten. For me to tell him that I plain don't believe any of it anymore will be a serious blow to him. He has big hopes of us living together as a sealed-together eternal family, and the one thing we must do to attain it is to choose the right and follow God's plan to reach exaltation. Apostasy is the worst thing you can do to this dream.

Janet, I'm afraid if I wait to do it in person, it will ruin the whole visit and holiday. I'm guessing it'd be easier to break it to him before. It just sucks that he's impossible to reach by phone. He has no cell, no long distance. He likes his hermit life. E-mail may be the only way I can reach him.

Freckle Face Girl, I'm going to tell him my reasons when I tell him. He'll know I'm not inactive. And I feel no pressure to soften blows for him. That comes from crappy childhood memories that won't die.

JOOM, I loved Bull's post about Merry Smithmas! Those songs were too damn funny!

Melliferous Pants said...

I hope the talk went (goes?) okay. My parents found out I no longer believe in The Church eleven years ago, in a less than desirable way...but it was an enormous relief just to have it done and over with. I'm thinking good thoughts for you.

I had an aunt with a "Lint causes house fires" sticky over her dryer, too!

Gluby said...


Sorry this is so long.

You know, my wife and I, both of whom are on the way out (I have been ready to be out for YEARS, and she is just coming around this last six months -- we've survived the worst), are facing a situation similar in a few important ways.

What I mean is, we don't have the same family dynamic, but we are facing having to go back to Idaho for Christmas, as she has (I've gotten out of it a few Christmases thanks to law school) been there every Christmas for the past thirty years except when she was on her mission.

Except this year we don't even want to put on an act. We've discussed "the letter" -- to Membership Records, that is -- and are on the cusp of writing it, but she is still fighting years of guilt-training and embedded cognitive dissonance and isn't quite ready to commit.

Anyway, that's all just a rough sketch of our background. The fact is that we no longer have the willingness to "play Mormon," and so face either (1) telling them BEFOREHAND via phone or e-mail a few weeks before Christmas, (2) telling them THERE, or (3) just not going.

(1) and (2) entail such nasty effects that my wife, Stacy, finds both completely intolerable. Fortunately for us, we have excuses for picking (3).

However, we thought a lot about the situation, and she had some good insights that I thought might (or might not) transfer to your situation.

First, she realized that one of the hardest things for her was feeling constant guilt that she couldn't turn me around, bring me back to the Church. Wasn't she faithful enough? A good enough wife? Didn't she pray enough? Didn't she love enough? Guilt, guilt, guilt. She knows that this will happen to her family too, if she lets them know during her putative decision-making process.

So, in order to preserve their sanity and feelings, she has decided to let them know in a way similar to the standard church resignation letter; we're leaving, we've made our minds, we know what you consider the consequences, and, most importantly, we won't be persuaded.

I think this is probably a pretty general feeling among Mormons "losing" family members to apostasy, and it may be helpful to short-circuit it as much as possible by giving them no chance to work on you and fail.

As to our avoidance of Christmas altogether (the BJ Who Stole Christmas is what we'll blame it on :) ), the most important rationale for Stacy is that she wants to have about a six-month period of no in-person contact after she tells them, to let her family's strongest feelings run their half-lives (you know, like radioactive isotopes). (And I'm particularly fine with that -- I am a freethinker type who converted to the church but was never really that comfortable in it, as I later allowed myself to realize, and they are going to blame me for poisoning their sweet daughter's mind.)

That option doesn't seem to be available to you, unless you want to find some strategem by which you can have your father not come. But if strategic avoidance isn't an option and you're forced to face him with this news, I think it would be important to let him know in a way that leaves him no room for convincing, persuading, or anything, to the point that he understands it's a deal-breaker for the holiday visit if he pushes the issue. In a way, putting him in the corner before he can even start it with you, thus placing bounds upon his expectations before he starts forming them.

Anyway, really, my best hopes to you. It's FT (tough being the second part of that acronym) to face this side of church indoctrination, being seen by your family as a "lost soul" and unworthy of trust from there on out. The uncomfortable silence with former "friends" (who were all, really, just comrades in disguise -- there is an important difference). It nearly destroyed so much in my wife's and my relationship.

But be strong and true! Bertrand Russell wrote that, while facing bullets and bombs in war takes great courage, the courage to face the social disapproval of the herd is a higher form of courage, far rarer, even among the most fearless of soldiers. I think he's definitely right. This takes the greatest courage of all. Or at least a shitload of it.

In solidarity,

Sister Mary Lisa said...

Hey Pants! I'm glad you stopped by. I'm thinking I'll probably let him know soon. It needs to happen beforehand so he can decide if he'd rather not come at all, or so that I don't let him endure the "high" of a holiday not alone, and then the sudden low of finding out about me and the kids.

Gluby, I liked what you shared here. Great advice. Do you have a blog I can read too? My husband was never LDS and so I can relate to both your wife's story and yours. It's tough to let go of the chains, to be sure. Hope to see you around here more.

Gluby said...


Thanks! (I was a bit worried it would come off as pushy advice-giving.)

I don't have a blog yet, but I have been thinking of doing one. I think I will. I've been having trouble creating and logging into a Google account -- it keeps shoving me over to "," and then the page just keeps loading, going blank, loading again, going blank, over and over. Nice. I think I've been caught in beta hell.

Anyway, nice blog! I'll keep up with it, and I'll certainly let you know when I defeat Google's defenses and get my own. I'd love to have you read it and let me know what you think.

Sister Mary Lisa said...

Gluby, I'm avoiding switching to Beta blogger because it seems problematic.

3 easy steps and you are off and running. Give it a whirl! Should be no problem. When you do, post a comment over here for me.

from the ashes said...

I was always put out by movies that showed families not getting along during the holidays. I always thought, "what is their problem? It's family!"

Now I know.

Anonymous said...

Hang in there, SML!

By the way, in our church (we're Lutherans), church lasts an hour.

Tack on 45 minutes if you take your kids to Sunday school.

Come visit some time.

Sister Mary Lisa said...

FTA, it's interesting how intense family functions can be, when you wish for only good times.

GF, thanks, I have been to a Lutheran service or two and they seemed very nice. I am, however, inclined to follow no religion at this point. Not to say I won't be open someday...

Anonymous said...

Honestly, SML, I think you became a heathen because your mother is living in sin.

Even before I got to that point in your post, as you were writing about, you know, the fraudulent bases of the church, I thought, "I'll bet her mother is divorced and living with another man without the state's sanction." I'll bet that's it.

C'mon, admit it. :)

Hey, wait a second. MY mother is divorced and living in sin with another man too! In IDAHO of all places! Hmm... maybe that's the hidden X factor behind all these people leaving the church...

Hmm. Maybe your father's on to something. ;)

In lieu of that, my blog is I didn't have an option NOT to go with the stupid beta version, so it appears I'm stuck with the thing. Anyway, all I've got up is one little post introducing myself.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to hearing how all this comes down! As everyone's saying, stay strong.