A Moving Mormon Performance

Posted by on May 31, 2014 in Doubt, example, Gender roles, grief, Journeys, mental health, personal notes | 21 comments

I could not sleep. It was as though it was midday and had the energy of a racehorse about to take flight. empty houseBut it was really 2 AM, and I had been awake since 1AM. I had fallen asleep in utter exhaustion around 11PM, but woke at 1 …and there I remained, twitching.

 

The ghosts of the day were haunting me and tears filled my eyes. But I withheld any sound, silently weeping, trying to not wake my husband.

 

The day before had been traumatic. We had packed to move, and left our house in a state. It wasn’t untidy, but I had not the time to make all of the runs to the Salvation Army on that day, nor had I the time in the preceding days to list all that I had hoped on eBay. As a result, clusters of items I deemed valuable were in boxes, or loosely stacked piles, awaiting to be unceremoniously bagged and taken to the dump.

 

My husband had been speaking of this new job for nearly a year. The new job that would result in this epic move, but the “molasses in winter” speed of the job offer took me from interested and willing, to impatient, to apathetic. By the time the offer came, I had decided against it and had begun searching for other jobs for him to apply. I knew that looking for work for him was a fruitless exercise, but it had made me feel better. Like I had some control again. As he had negotiated, his excitement waned, but he still was anxious to go—and because the process had taken so long… he felt obligated. So with barely a blink’s notice, I supported my husband and we were moving overseas.

 

His work arranged for our transportation, which would come at the end of a 2 week break from school for our daughters, leaving me at odds as to how I was to sort and pack for myself and them, whilst entertaining and providing for them being at home all day. Some church members offered to help by watching them for an afternoon or two, and I took them up on it. Still. I was overwhelmed, and it seemed as though when they were out of the house, I ended up doing a variety of errands for the move, rather than any actual sorting or packing.

 

We became targets of fellow church goers. They knew we were leaving quick and fast, and although we offered lower the prices of the things we loved but could not take with us, with the idea of being additionally Christ-like to fellow church members, they bartered us down our already under-priced goods to a point where we ended up losing a significant amount of money. I had joked with a friend about the circling Mormon vultures, but that didn’t lessen my angst. I finally said no to one such offer, incensed that someone who I previously thought was a friend would feel so comfortable and immovable in telling me that two unused items she wanted for less than half the price of one was acceptable especially since she had priced them and been willing to buy them new from a shop. I eBayed these particular items out of spite—gaining a much fairer price than what had been offered, but still leaving me absent of the time it had taken before I gave up bartering with her.

 

And in these rushed and sleepless last few nights, I beat myself up for being “materialistic” and “worldly,” berating myself for not smiling as we gave things away for chump change to people who could not bother to say “thanks,” and instead laughed at their good fortune, thinking I would join in. And, being trained to as a good Mormon girl, I smiled. But I could still not laugh.

 

On the last day, church members did us “favours” by clearing out things I had clearly stated I wanted to take with us. I believe they sincerely meant to help, but in the discovery of things they wanted, they tuned me out, finding treasure upon treasure to loot. I was in a reckless mess of tears, so hid myself, fearing my now impatient husband would say out loud—again—menacingly — “it’s just material goods. We still have our family.” He made the choice to sell most everything, but in the rush, I had not sorted much what I would have preferred to take with us, and the window for shipping those items had closed. At night, my daughters cried to me about selling all their toys, and I lied to them as I assured them we would get replacements for everything.

 

On our last night, as we sat in our hotel, having left still unsorted remnants in our house to be cleared. The church members who were purchasing our cars at significantly lower than “blue book” value came to retrieve them. I had prepared myself for this moment by finally succumbing to a Rum and Coke at dinner, something I had only done once before in my life.

 

Even with the rum, the precious Rastafari hat that was a gift from a boy who proposed marriage to me a lifetime ago and still made me smile…. and that I had brought with me for 10 previous moves… had somehow succumbed to a stranger in this move. It was passed around, most people laughing and trying it on, like a gag gift. And I held onto to my secret Rum and Coke (disguised in children’s plastic cup) like a life jacket, sipping and trying to smile, feeling petty for wanting to speak up and take it back. Graciously, another person returned baby photos of me, but my gratitude had not been forthcoming, due to the shock that things this personal had somehow ended up outside of my control.

 

I feel asleep exhausted, probably with some help of the rum. But I woke at 1AM, and cried, silently. I considered, then plotted how to get therapy as soon as we moved, because I knew I was not okay. It was nearly 2:30AM when my husband spoke, asking me if I was awake. Within minutes, he arranged for a taxi to take me to the house- if only for a few minutes. I felt deeply relieved, grateful and loved him.

 

The taxi arrived at 3AM and I directed the driver to the house. We chatted a little about why I was going to a house and back to a hotel at such a strange time of night. He was an immigrant from Afghanistan, and spoke warmly of the longing for home. He told me of his home, immigration issues and of leaving in a hurry. He told me not to shame me, but in expressing an empathy that was wholly absent from the church members I believed would be kind. Then he waited with the meter running as I stepped inside my home for the last time.

 

I released a flood of soulful emotions and tears. It was something I had not allowed myself to do openly in the month before as I had not had a moment of privacy in what felt like a very, very long time.

 

I went from room to room, saying goodbye to each room, including the garage. I boxed up the beloved, remaining children’s books that I had intended to put in suitcases, but in the last moment of packing, were discovered to add excess weight that would have made the suitcases too costly and cumbersome to bring. I selected a precious few books, including one about a small pig who becomes nervous in front of an audience, but conquers her fear and learns to sing in stadiums full of people. I thought this book would be good for my girls to help them not have a fear of public speaking—or in the case of the pig, singing on stage.

 

On top of the moving box that had served as my bedside table, I found my Ordain Women jewellery that I had been wearing for strength, but had taken off to have a quick shower three days earlier. I collected a few other items—all small enough to squeeze into my carry-on. I said goodbye to my plants, and trees in the backyard, and the spirit of my dog, who, prior to succumbing to cancer a few months before, had been my companion and confidant, and whom I sensed was staying to protect the house.

 

I climbed back in the cab, and directed the taxi driver to my daughter’s pre-school, where I deposited the beloved books that would not be taken on the flight. I had donated more books the week before, and planned to send an email explaining this particularly generous clandestine donation. I could not bear to think that those books would otherwise be thrown away, as per the policy of the company that would clean the house in the days following.

As we returned to the motel, my Afghan driver spoke. “You miss your house.”

“Yes,” I replied in whisper.

“It was not your choice to leave.”

“It happened very fast,” was all I could think to say.

 

“I understand.”

 

It felt like he did. This stranger understood me better than anyone in my company for that whole time. He offered to give me a lift to the airport for free, but I declined as we had arrangements. Back at the hotel, I fell into a restful sleep for a short time. It was still dark when my alarm went off, but I wanted to ensure I had a shower before we left for the airport. As I lathered my hair, I kept telling myself, “first world problems… this too shall pass….just material items…..” as a kind of mantra. But it was a mantra that did not heal, and only made me feel worse about myself.

 

As the sun came, I spoke with a smile in my voice to my daughters as we said goodbye to shops and birds and everything else we passed in the car on the way to the airport. And upon being seated comfortably on the plane, I refused the complimentary wine, because as a Mormon, I don’t drink.

 

After I arranged for the daughter sitting beside me to watch a cartoon movie, I sat silently, still sleepless. Pondering. Thinking. Deliberating. Mostly about the book I had chosen to keep — about the little pig who learned to not fear performing in public.

 

And I wondered if I had done a great disservice to my daughters in choosing to keep that book.

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21 Comments

  1. Moving is so hard. And leaving behind so many things you cared about hurts. Sending you a virtual hug.

    • Thanks, Caroline. The move was largely for good, it just had some unexpected growing pains. Writing this was very therapeutic.

  2. No words of wisdom, but I will confirm that this really sucks and lots of lurkers are wishing you the best. And because I’m a terrible person, I’m hoping that any particularly ill-gotten gains of ward members turn into cursed monkey paws that bring a week of gastrointestinal illness to the household.

    • Oh, Moniker Challenged! I love that short story! I confess I had some similar thoughts…. but I think there was a blessing in there, because I will not teach my daughters that it is okay to be treated like this by anyone, especially church members. Thank you for your kind words, it is very appreciated.

  3. You write so beautifully. I’m so sorry that you felt this way. I think talking about these situations is so important, in part because realizing the impact of our actions in that situation is something most people wouldn’t consider. There is a big difference between a garage sale being held of junk the person doesn’t want, and a sale of items that have to be sold but are still precious. In either case, though, making fun of items right there in front of the person is not okay. I am feeling relieved that when a friend moved recently my job was cleaning the fridge and cleaning the recyclable condiment containers. I am glad vulturing wasn’t even an option. I hope that things get better in your new land and you can heal from this awfulness.

    • Thank you so much, Em. Yes, there is a hug difference between moving on from things that matter little to parting items of value that you can’t take with you. I was shocked at how connected I felt (and still feel) to the Afghan taxi driver, though I suspect his eyes have seen much more than mine.

  4. I’m so sorry your ward members acted like that. I think Mormons are very good at helping each other out, but sometimes there’s also an element of expectation that hey you should cut me a break/do it for free because we go to the same church.
    I also had a bad experience with ward members the last time I moved states–I was leaving because I hadn’t been able to find steady employment, I was only able to take what could fit in my car, and had to borrow money for the move. I had sold a few items of furniture but still had quite a few things left when my home teachers called me (for the first time the entire time I lived in that ward). After fully explaining the situation, laying emphasis on how much I had needed the money, and now was needing to be out of the apartment ASAP and find a way to remove the furniture. They said they knew some female college students moving into the ward, who were desperate for furniture and really cash-strapped. So I said they could take it for the women for free as it sounded like they were as desperate as I was, but I wanted the furniture to only go to them; if it was going to anyone else, I really would need money for it. They took a load of furniture in the their truck and said they’d be back the next morning for the remainder (which meant I was delaying my plans to leave to wait for them, and also meant I cancelled the Salvation Army truck picking up whatever was left in the apartment). They never came, never called. When I finally got a hold of them, they said, oh we don’t need any more furniture for our apartment. So, home teachers lied over who was getting the furniture just to get it for free, despite knowing my desperate situation. They also cost me more money as I couldn’t reschedule the Salvation Army truck before I had to be out of the apartment, had to just leave the furniture in the where it was when I left and so was charged a furniture removal fee from the landlords.

    • I am so sorry about this, DePizan. I echo Moniker Challenged, and hope a monkey’s paw hexes the ill gotten goods of those who were dishonest with you. I firmly believe your generosity will be rewarded in this life. I don’t know how, but have seen amazing blessings in my life that I know are a result of surviving this trauma with faith. Still, writing about it was very, very healing for me.

  5. So sorry to hear this, but not surprised at all. The behaviour of Mormon Vultures (some) is astounding.
    My sister and I used to cater to LDS weddings until we got so fed up with them always waiting a reduced price for everything that we now charge double our rate! Not to mention their bad behaviour. There are a lot of Mormons who think that weddings and funerals are just another ward function. I could go on but I just get angry thinking about it.

    Hope you will find peace and joy in your new place.

    • Yes, EJM, I agree– I think I was a little vulture-esk when I was broke and in college– But I think that is what shocked me most– these were peers of similar income who were aware of our situation who seemed quite content to take advantage of us. Only 2 friends offered to store things for us, and I felt safer with them than anyone else. I hope to never forget this lesson and never mistreat people when they are in the middle of an emotional move.

  6. One of the things I love about being a Mormon is our belief in embodiment. In Mormon theology the material world is not just a test for this life, but a taste of things to come. We teach that God has a body and that each person living on this earth will have a body restored to them at the resurrection. We are a people who believe in the tangible as a manifestation of the divine.

    So what does this have to do with your post? As a person who can become deeply attached to objects and the memories I associate with them, I think there is something beautiful in reverencing the tangible things that have been with us for a long time, that are a part of our history in both a spiritual and material sense. Obviously such attachments taken to extremes may lead to gross materialism or hoarding, but a healthy affection for the objects we have chosen to add beauty to our lives, or to conjure the memory of a loved one, can be sacred. It is rotten that others, particularly those with whom you share a faith community, would opportunistically seize on your belongings without any sense of their value to you (monetarily or otherwise). I’m so sorry that your already difficult upheaval was accompanied by an additional sense of loss, Spunky. I hope you will soon find friends as generous as you are.

    • Thank you so much, Aimee. As always, your words are wise and healing.

  7. I officially left the apartment where I gave birth to my daughter just today. My husband and I did the last bits of cleaning and gave our building’s Super our keys. While we were packing our last few things, a couple came in with a realtor to look, and then right after we left the door, another two women came. I stood with my daughter in the hall while my husband waited outside in the rain for our taxi. I heard them comment on the amazing bike pulley in the hallway, and I wanted to tell them my husband did that, as he designed and installed the beautiful shelves, and the desk. I wanted to tell them I gave birth there, and that that space was sacred to me. When they walked out, I did tell them my daughter was born there. I’m not sure if I was helping or hurting the rent, but I had to speak then, in part because their presence at that exact time meant that I didn’t get to say the goodbye that I hoped for, of going to room to room.

    I’m sorry that some individuals you considered friends were inconsiderate of you during your own time. I am grateful that at least one stranger understood.

    • I think you are so brave and wise for speaking up, Rachel! I was trying to sort out for some time as to why this move, and this home meant more to me– I mean really– DH and I tend to move a lot! But you hit the nail on the head… in addition to losing a beloved pet in this home, this home was also where we became parents. That makes it a sacred space, and to me– the toys and blankets associated with that development of what our family is– are all a part of that sacred ritual of building familial relationships.

      I am so glad you shared that with the people looking at the apartment. I don’t care what they think– that sacred information of your birth into motherhood makes that space infinitely valuable.

  8. It sounds like this move has been difficult on many fronts. Here’s hoping that you find much to love and rejoice in during your time overseas.

    • Thank you, MB! A new country is always a big change. I am happy for the adventure, though it would have been nice to start with better rounded well-wishing, and wholly absent of heartless escorting out the door.

  9. I had a somewhat similar experience in my most recent move, but on the other side of the move. I am downsizing from a six-bedroom house to a three-bedroom. I don’t need a sewing room or a craft room any more. As I sold my wife’s top-of-the-line sewing machine, the lady who said she wanted to be sure I got a fair price suddenly started to lowball me when she came. But it was cash money, and I needed the freedom more than the extra money, so I took it. My conscience is clear, and I hope hers is too.

    But I admit that I like Spunky’s idea of the monkey paw….

    • People are so strange, CS Eric. I think they want to believe they are doing what is right– in my mind, these people mostly weren’t trying to hurt me or my family, but they saw themselves as benefiting their family. They just seem to lose sight of the big picture, one of the problematic side-effects of church rhetoric so family focused that it dismisses other families nearly as roadkill.

  10. I really feel your pain. I have been going through a similar experience lately, though not nearly so dramatic as moving overseas. I think choosing love over material, corruptible things is not something we are taught very well in our church. You really see that when you are in situations like yours and your fellow Mormons care more about stuff than they do about you and your feelings. I love that you met a compassionate Afghan man ( sort of a good Samaritan) who could empathize with you. This was a good lesson to me to be the good Samaritan when I see others in pain, and not to let corruptible things cloud my ability to be compassionate.

  11. I just want to add, that I too have moved many times, often with the help of members, I haven’t tried to sell my things to members of the church, I usually give them away, or sell them on gumtree. I have often received many emails and text messages from scammers, saying they want the item and will do the shipping, they end up sending a bounced check and demand money from you, fortunately I have not been caught out yet. People are people in the church or out, none of us are perfect. I would to add, that Spunky you obviously need a cat.

  12. Ryan, I think you’re reading something between the lines that just isn’t there. If you’re merely hoping that Spunky can find some healing and peace, that’s fine, but your comment sounds as though you are judging her.

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