The whole time we were in Mexico I kept having this nagging thought that I just want to be a believing Mormon again; I’m not even sure what that would mean anymore for me, I’m not sure what it would look like… Sometimes I just miss it, maybe more often than not I just miss it. It is such a central part of me. The beliefs were how I processed the world around me, how I got through hard times, and kind of the light in every dark situation. I still feel that way after two years of struggling with my belief. I certainly see now that lots of people get through life fine without the church. However, I just don’t seem to be getting along fine…well maybe fine, but not great.
I don’t know if I am really reaching conclusions on my questions or just getting tired of the search sometimes. It’s just that life has lost something for me, this edge of excitement and purpose that was there before. I don’t completely understand why I feel this way. Other people don’t always feel this way. Lots of ex-Mormons on Facebook groups I belong to talk about feeling enlightened after exploring life outside of the Mormon church. In some ways I feel more enlightened now. I’m less afraid of new information, ideas that contradict my own, and thinking about things I thought I shouldn’t think about before (like my doubts about the church, which I felt before were probably better left alone). But in other ways I feel less lightened. I feel dim. Maybe this is just because I was told this is how I would feel if I stepped away from the church, so now I feel that way–like a self-fulfilling prophecy sort of. Maybe it is just the confusion I feel. But maybe it’s something more?
I miss praying and feeling answers to my prayers. I don’t even try to pray anymore because I don’t know if I would even believe the answer even if I got one. I miss feeling like I had this ultimate guide for life that would never lead me astray. I miss feeling like I had the single greatest thing on the face of planet earth and that I was meant to give that to other people, to share that with other people–with my children, with my neighbors, with my spouse. I miss feeling spiritual feelings and finding meaning in them. Does that make me crazy? Does that make me weak? Does it make me weak to want to trust my own experiences even though so much of what I read suggests that those experiences might be nothing more than my mind giving me experiences to reinforce my belief or things such as that.
Then I wonder if I will even be satisfied in my belief now that I know there is a good chance I am just wrong. Argggg….there are moments when I wish I could go back and just be happy in my naivety (naive at least in the sense of not really understanding the reasons why not to believe).
You know what I really miss? I miss feeling like I could KNOW things by having spiritual experiences, like I could know God was there, know the church is true, etc. I just miss feeling like I know. This place where I am where my previous experiences suggest something that other facts contradict is not a place that I always like. It kind of drives me crazy. Sometimes I just want someone to tell me I can know again and then I just want to believe them (certainly I have plenty of people in my life who would gladly tell me that, I just am not as easily convinced anymore I suppose :))
There are days though when I think I could just take the approach of believing, but just realizing that there is more empirical evidence to suggest my church is not true than that it is true, and just deciding that my personal experiences carried more weight for me, and that my personal experiences suggest that my beliefs are valid and possibly true. I could know and understand the limitations of my argument–my belief really has no power over other people since it is based on my own experiences–and yet believe. Could I really believe like that though? Could I fully invest myself in something that I thought was very possibly, some days thought was very probably, more false than true? Sometimes I still want that answer to be yes. But what does that say about me? What does it say about me that I want my beliefs to be valid more than I want to face a world without them? Does it say that my beliefs are just powerful and important to me, or does it say that change is just too scary for me?
The other night, while we were in Mexico, I had a dream that I was sitting on the stage at my high school. I think the setting was a practice for a high school musical of some sort. I was surrounded by all of my Mormon high school friends. Some of them talked to me and others of them treated me like a leper. In the dream I longed to no longer be the leper, to no longer be the person that people looked at as being sick, the person people feared would pass them a vicious disease (I realize leprosy is not actually that contagious–it’s a Biblical analogy). I suppose that probably says I have a pretty strong drive for acceptance.
In another dream that same night I dreamed about the guy I liked in High School. I don’t dream about him often anymore, but I woke up thinking about the things I wanted out of life back then–a temple marriage, a return missionary husband, a house centered around the gospel and the Mormon church. For several days I was harboring some negative feelings towards Ricardo (the, “you ruined my life” syndrome of sorts). I tried to shake it but the feelings persisted. I started watching him in his element with his family in Mexico. The things he did and loved that were not Mormon things started grating on me again–how he enjoys and always has enjoyed (except for his brief stint in Mormonism) betting on horse races, betting on football, sitting around the table laughing and drinking alcohol with his family, etc. (btw, he does these things very occasionally and moderately). All these things that I thought I was pretty much over started getting under my skin again. I started wondering if I was somehow deceived when I married my spouse, not deceived by him, since I knew and still know that he was very genuine in his belief in the church and its teachings, but deceived in the sense that maybe he always was the betting-drinking-violentMovies guy (again, betting and drinking in extremely small amounts) and I just somehow fell in love with some temporary, less real version of him.
Well obviously thoughts like this are not particularly good for my marriage. Once we got home and got settled back into the routine, I brought it up. Ricardo felt pretty hurt that I said I wondered if I had married a fake him. I would have been really hurt if he had said that about me too. In trying to be honest I said something pretty harsh. He reminded me that his belief in the church was genuine and that he really did try to fully embrace the church, its teachings, and its lifestyle and that he was pretty sure I knew that. I do.
After my harsh comment Ricardo reminded me that he knew me, loved me, and that his love had never changed even though his religious beliefs had. I paused and thought about that…”But there are things that you wish were different about me now. You wish I could wear clothes that I can’t wear with garments, you wish I wasn’t Mormon, you wish I would drink with you sometimes and be more like you are now. You don’t say that often, but I know you wish things like that sometimes. That’s kind of like me wishing you were more like me, and more like the guy I wanted to marry. How do you deal with feelings like these?” After a good conversation the wise sage that sometimes is my Ricardo came out 🙂 He responded, “You are more than a Mormon. Mormon is only a part of who you are. You are beautiful. You are intelligent and smart…You are so much more to me than just Mormon. And your belief or lack of belief or whatever does not change you to me. You did not stop being amazing to me just because I’m not Mormon anymore.” Then he told me that he also is not the same person as he was before Mormonism. He said there are things that he didn’t like about the old him, and lots of those things are different now.
Ricardo’s profound profession of love reminded me why I tied the knot with him in the first place. His testimony of the church was only a part of it. He is sweet, loving, and gentle. He is intelligent and capable, honest and sincere. He says what he means, he’s blunt, and yet he’s careful with my feelings. He is young at heart, silly at times, and yet mature in so many important ways. He’s driven yet laid back, a complex thinker yet loves a simple life, he’s not flirtatious and is satisfied with the few things he truly loves and needs–and I make the short list. He is handsome and wholesome and holds himself to high standards (maybe not all the same standards I have held myself to, but in many ways his standards for himself are even higher than mine). When he decides a change needs to be made, he makes it, no matter what sacrifices are required. My husband is still that same amazing, completely breathtaking person that he has always been. His belief has changed, and that was a big deal to me, but he is still so much more the same good man he always has been than he is different due to his changed beliefs. I forget this sometimes. And to add to that, he is some wonderful things that I did not even know before–he is a wonderful father for starters 🙂 And the changes he has made, hard as they have been for me, have come from his honest and sincere heart, not from any other source.
At this moment I find myself wanting to believe more again for so many reasons, probably lots of them not even sound reasons. That is scary and that is a relief (that could also change tomorrow). Already I find myself sad again about my loss of my Mormon companion and typical Mormon family I had started on the path of marriage with. In just contemplating my desire to be more believing I have already started panicking about all the many things I have no clue how we are going to do–like raise children in a mixed-faith home. But Ricardo has once again reminded me that there is something we have that is worth fighting for–we really, truly love each other and we are both great people and well matched in so many ways. And as much as I have struggled these last two years I can say without a doubt that I still love, cherish, and admire Ricardo. He is my mate, and I still plan on mating for life, longer if possible 🙂