Guest Post: Today, It Feels Like I Have No Place.
Today, it feels like I have no place.
I had to choose whether or not to go to a ward dinner after our meeting block. I have been taking a break from going to church for almost a year. I’ve only been to church a handful of times during this time period. At first, I thought I would have my quiet time away and then be ready to go back. After a while, I did go back a few times. It felt like people maybe thought I had had my necessary alone time, and now I’m ready to be back as myself again. I even thought maybe this means I’ll be more involved again, even if not at the same level I was before.
As time has progressed, it still doesn’t feel right to be fully involved and active in my faith. There is so much pain involved in being there. Being misunderstood and hearing people verbally discuss unhelpful stereotypes and misinformation is really difficult. Sometimes when I’m there, it feels like I’m somehow saying it’s okay the way our Church treats women and other vulnerable people (children, LGBTQ+ folk). Sometimes it feels like by being there, I’m saying that it’s okay for the Church to use their lawyers as a way to avoid legal and spiritual responsibility for wrongs done in the context of our faith. I don’t want to say any of that is okay, because it’s not.
Even if I were to be there, there’s only one dear friend who knows the kind of pain I’m talking about. Everyone else is primarily unaware or uninformed about the things that cause me and others so much pain (“Who is Joseph Bishop? I don’t know who that is” or “Somebody is trying to change the bishop’s interviews. What is the Church supposed to do, put cameras in the bishop’s office?”). These sources of pain are really important and a life-and-death situation for a lot of people. It’s so isolating to know most people don’t even know about it, or if I exert the emotional labor to explain, most don’t want to deal with what that really means about our faith.
Part of me really wanted to go to that dinner because I miss feeling a part of that community and those people. Being an active member of our Church has been such an important part of who I am. Now that I’m trying to figure out how I really feel about this, I feel really alone. They are having the dinner right now, and I’m alone at my house. I feel pretty sad about it, so I’ve tried to make my room cozy. There’s a vanilla candle and soft lamps on and I’m sitting in my bed, my cozy and safe place.
I am really proud of the fact that I think for myself, and I’m taking the time and effort and self-work and self-care to understand how I would like to relate to Heavenly Father, Heavenly Mother, and my faith.
If someone like me were to read this, these are the things I would want someone to say:
You are so brave to try to understand yourself and what works best for you. That takes so much courage and softness and self-awareness and power.
You ALWAYS have a place inside yourself. No matter what others inside or outside of your faith think or say or do, you belong to yourself first and foremost.
If it feels good to you to think about it, know you belong to your Heavenly Mother. She is safe and good and soft and wants you to be as you are.
Institutions created or maintained by people are not designed to or always able to hold and understand human pain and complexity. You are more complex and beautiful and intricate beyond these structures.
These things bring me a little bit of peace. I hope we all can find a little more peace in our safe places, too.
LMA is PhD-holding boss lady that teaches child development to university students. She cares deeply about issues that affect women inside and outside of our Church.