“The authentic self is the soul made visible.”
-Sarah Ban Breathnach
I tried holding my breath, but the tears streamed into my ears. Obviously, the driving force of despair building within me did not need oxygen as a catalyst. I could sense Rick’s awareness, though his back was turned to me in bed. He was probably still praying, silently pleading with Heavenly Father to soften my hardening heart. We had finished our nightly ritual, praying aloud together in the dark on our backs, fingers intertwined…a suggestion of our solidarity, which I felt unraveling faster than we prayed. “Our dear, kind, Heavenly Father..” he would begin, and so would my tears.
Night after night, it was the same. Lights out, prayers spoken, and my anxious heart, not hardened as our scriptures suggest, would almost seize in my chest. I would lay in the dark, and assess myself, asking… “Do I want to die? Will I take my own life?” I knew unequivocally, the answer was NO. My baby girls slept in adjacent rooms, my life ever so much more precious than it had been just two years before. Then what? Am I ill? Is something poisonous, cancerous, growing inside me? Is it disease creating this pervasive, encompassing awareness that I am ceasing to exist? These questions trumpeted loudly in my mind, an effort to drown out the answer I already knew.
I must abandon my life. Not my babies. Not my husband. But my faith, my religion, my testimony…my God? We were mormon. Married in a mormon temple for time and all eternity. We had callings (mormon jobs) and sacred underwear, temple recommends (worthiness cards), monogrammed Book of Mormons (well read), and pictures of Jesus on our walls. Friends. Family.
I am an impostor. A living, breathing, broken lie. Performing a mormon life like a mime trapped in an airtight glass box…and running out of air. But to leave my religion would be to dissolve all I have ever known. Maybe, I would dissolve with it. Like a sugar cube in bowl of warm water. All that was beloved could be ruined…I could lose everything.
My sobs shook my shoulders, and Rick came to me. He held me and kissed my eyelids and stroked my hair and took deep breaths into the crook of my neck. His desolation and helplessness hung thick in the dark above us, a dark monster ready to overcome us both.
My soul began to plead with him. Inside I was screaming. “Help me! Help me pleeease! Save me!” But I could not ask him to do it for me. To leave God, for me.
Months on end of the same scenario had played out, until we fell into exhaustion and slept. But this night was different. Tonight, I knew the monster would win, that some how, I would die. I tried again to find words to express my anguish, the urgency.
“Rick, if I were laying here next to you…and I was bleeding. A wound was open and I was bleeding out in front of you… you would save me.”
“Of course, I would save you Meg.” Fear distorted his voice. I began to shiver violently, my jaw chattering, even my insides shook. He was terrified, gripping my quivering shoulders.
“We are leaving. We will leave. We will stop going Meg. We don’t have to go, we don’t have to be mormon.” He said them…those words like a tourniquet, it slowed the bleed of my dying spirit. He held me against him so tight the shaking calmed. We held each other, aching and heartbroken, until we slept.
This was a defining moment in our marriage.
My Beautiful, beautiful daughter.Their are no words to say, other than I understand your anguish, I feel your pain. I love you with all of my heart, and I thank you for having the courage to speak your TRUTH!
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Beautifully bold, vulnerable, heartbreaking, and liberating all at the same time…
Thank you, Linds. It’s amazing the damage that can be done from living and inauthentic life.
I’ve been close to this, unable to keep food down and my hair fell out. We did not have to fully leave, but the notion of continuing in an orthodox way was completely out. My husband did choose me – to be a full partner of equal power and authority — over the church’s patriarchal teachings. Internally, though, I have emotional recall of that choice as being between choosing the removal of my heart or liver. The wound of lovingly-taught-invalidation-of-the-female all my growing years never completely scars over. And yet, though we stayed, we are forced further away. Our sons will likely never go on missions because of the specter of required temple endowment in which they would be shown a worldview in which it is ok for women to covenant to become servants of men, and it is ok for men to step between women and the Lord. We recently had a family council, including extended family, about the social benefit and the spiritual poison of the temple’s teachings on women. These are heart-breaking discussions.
Wow… I can only imagine how challenging it would be to balance all of that. It must be so heart breaking and so difficult to navigate an unorthodox approach to mormonism, a place where only strict adherence is acceptable. I am glad that you found support in your spouse as well…it makes all the difference when they are willing to recognize the huge imbalance of validation and power in the church. Thanks for reading!
Your blog is giving me so much comfort right now. Thank you. In my pursuit of the truth, whenever I bring up doubt (and I mean DOUBT) I am met with consternation, particularly from female friends. In leaving the Christian church, we have been told to just keep attending for our kids’ sake, to consider how this makes Jesus feel, etc etc. No one can seem to conceive of disbelief, and frankly, it makes me extremely nervous that I’m doing something wrong. Why am I the only one who feels this way?!? Thanks to your blog, I can’t say that anymore.
I so understand the feeling that you are alone and the only one struggling with doubts. I felt that way too. It is painful, and lonely. I left FOR my kid’s sake, and it was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever gone through. Just know that you are not alone, and if you ever need support, there are amazing groups that are online to offer gentle support. And, that is it o.k. to have your own feelings. It’s scary. I understand.