I just spent a week in Utah with my parents. When I first moved to Louisiana over seven years ago I made the trip to visit frequently. I used to visit three or four times a year. I am down to about once a year now. Visiting used to be something I looked forward to and now it feels a bit like a chore.
Each visit unavoidably causes me to face Mormonism and what I have tried so hard to shed. The problem with trying to shed Mormonism is that loved ones end up left behind and the church forever seems to loom between you…
I want to say that I value family relationships but I find them soooooooo difficult to maintain and much of the effort is so one sided. I make all of the trips. I make all of the phone calls. I send all of the texts. I start to wonder if it is worth it.
Last summer's visit was rough. It was the first time that I took Leigh to meet the family. My dad and I did not even have one actual conversation while I was there. My parents were somewhat rude to Leigh. We were not really and truly welcomed. My mom made a huge point of saying that we could not stay at her house. I told her that was fine and that we respected her beliefs but that she needed to realize that the extra cost of staying in a hotel would cut down on the length and frequency of our visits.
I am not proud to say that over the last year I have made a point of somewhat passive-aggressively sharing with her stories about staying with Leigh's dad or with Leigh's mom when we were visiting them. Sharing that we saw them several times during the year because they made the effort to come to us or let us stay with them when we went to them. Parents that act like parents… Imagine that. Family that acts like family. How strange?!
This visit last week was somewhat uneventful but my passive aggressive messages were received on one level or another. I think that my mom regretted how our visit had gone last summer but knew that it could not really be made up or did not know what to say. She said a lot of pretty things like, "Too bad Leigh could not come this time." She made small talk where she brought Leigh up. She talked about finishing a quilt for Christmas that she intended to give to me and Leigh.She mentioned that maybe now that we lived closer we could meet up in southern Utah or northern Arizona for family vacations.
I question her motives… I question her intentions… I question whether there will ever be follow-through. She has said nice things before and then the cognitive dissonance has caused her to swing back the other way where she suddenly becomes super orthodox again.
I just found myself tired after the visit. Not angry. Not disappointed. Not hopeful. Just tired and distrustful.
The relationship that I have with my parents really reveals some of the walls that Mormonism builds. We can no longer get past simple small talk. We no longer have any sort of meaningful conversation. There is little emotional connection between us anymore. I hear us exchange the words, "I love you" and I find myself questioning what the words mean. Do they say them out of obligation? Do they say them out of memory for who they thought I was or hoped I would be? If there is real love between us it is definitely secondary to their church beliefs…
We had strong relationships before I left the church. Mormonism somehow cuts people off from being able to be sincere. It cuts them off from being able to connect with people that do not believe exactly what they believe. Mormonism somehow makes real relationships impossible if you are not all pledging allegiance to its idiocracy because if that person does not accept the Mormon god and Mormon Christ and don't forget the Mormon prophet into their heart they are suspect.
Increasingly I want to blame someone for my parents' lack of coping and communication skills. Increasingly I find myself excusing them. They are victims of their beliefs. They have little reason to question the world that they have been presented with. They seem to reach out as much as their beliefs allow them to and it may just never be enough.
With my mostly atheist/somewhat agnostic on some days leanings I mourn for my parents and feel that religion has wasted their lives and the connections that we might have had. I am left feeling like the church holds people that I love hostage and that white hot anger flares again for awhile...