No words. My tears won’t make any room for them, and it don’t hurt like anything I’ve ever felt before. – Sarah Bareilles “Uncharted” (all following words in bold are from this song)
I was raised Mormon. Even saying it like that sounds oddly foreign and simultaneously satisfying to me. I’m a 46-year-oldmarried mother to one, and after a lifetime of striving and hustling and proving my worth, I’ve stepped away from what I once believed to be the [T]ruth.
It happened all at once and so gradually that I can’t even tell where it began. I can pinpoint various catalysts along the way. I can also describe a slow and steady burn of learning to love and feel and grow that ultimately led me here. There were heavy griefs and monumental joys. There was a point where it hurt like hell. Like my world was upside down. Like I was in The Truman Show or The Matrix or The Twilight Zone. I didn’t know if I was dreaming or awake, which voices were native to me, and which ones were implanted in me from a foreign place.
But it hurt. In indescribable ways.
This is no broken heart. No familiar scars. This territory goes uncharted.
I’ve had a broken heart. Many, many times. I know broken hearts. And I know I can recover from a broken heart because I’ve done it over and over again. But this… This has no precedent in my life. The entire foundation of who I was and what I valued completely crumbled. It was dizzying and completely destabilizing. I lost touch with reality, because everything I built my reality on disintegrated in the face of new-to-me evidence and historical deceptions. My basis for morality. My measuring stick for truth. My sense of self and my life’s purpose and direction. Gone.
To paint the picture of how earth-shattering this was for me, I need to explain a little about who I was.
“Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and HE shall direct thy paths.”
“I am a child of God and HE has sent me here… Lead me, guide me, walk beside me. Help me find THE WAY. Teach me all that I must DO to live with HIM someday.”
“We are daughters of a heavenly FATHER who loves us, and we love HIM.”
“Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven.”
“Praise to the MAN.”
“I do always those things that please HIM.”
“I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded…”
“When obedience ceases to be an irritant and becomes our quest, in that moment God will endow us with power.”
“No true Latter-day Saint and no true American can be a socialist or a communist or support programs leading in that direction…”
“Adam, I now covenant to obey the law of the lord and to hearken unto YOUR counsel, as you hearken unto FATHER.”
“A queen and a priestess to your HUSBAND.”
“I anoint…your ears, that you may hear the counsel of your HUSBAND and the word of the lord.”
These messages and countless others about obedience, guarding against deception, and the importance and status of a male god were drilled into me from birth. As a girl, I learned that my voice only mattered if it echoed other voices, mostly male voices, more important than mine. Over time, the opinions and world views that I adopted were ricochets of the political and religious bullets I heard whizzing around me. And my natural bleeding, feminine heart was too often swallowed up in the rightness of being right. Compassion that would peek out occasionally was forced back into its box by the that’s-not-how-the-world-works mentality that eliminates humanity, mercy, and grace from any discussion about helping people. My own innate voice became quieter and quieter until I could no longer hear it.
Obedience. Rightness. Justice. All in the service of a male god.
And I obeyed. And I was righteous. And I judged. And I served. For 45 years.
Walking away from the guides I had trusted since birth… That meant I was venturing into a world of self-determination. That meant I had to learn what my voice sounded like. All of my patterns for finding comfort, peace, and direction were gone.
Just me, in a room sunk down in a house in a town, and I don’t breathe, though I never meant to let it get away from me.
I was taught certainty. Not faith. Certainty. I “knew” who I was, why I was here, and where I was going. I knew the rules to get there.
But then I became a parent. To a daughter. And my foundation started to crack. Small cracks in what it meant to be a woman, a mother, a wife. And like any good ADHDer, I could not leave those cracks alone. I began to pick at them. And I’d find more cracks. What if she was gay or trans or [god forbid] liberal? What did love actually look like? I started listening to my LGBTQIA+ siblings. How could they be punished for something that wasn’t their choice? I read the Old Testament. If god was a parent, how could a loving parent command a group of kids to annihilate another group of kids so the “good kids” could have the land? Is that love? How could a loving parent refuse admission to their house because their kid has tattoos and drinks coffee? Cracks. How loving is a god-centered on punishment? Eternal life or eternal death? And in order to satisfy the punishment this god figure put in place for their kids, their most obedient kid had to suffer death because all the other kids are bad?
I kept picking at the cracks and finding more. Polygamy. Lies. Manipulations. Threats. Abuse. Cover-ups. Anachronisms. Racism. Violence. Lawlessness. Pride. Money. Superiority. Greed. Billions upon billions hoarded and hidden and lied about. Hundreds of billions of dollars.
Hundreds of billions of cracks.
And I crumbled.
Now I have too much to hold. Everybody has to get their hands on gold, and I want uncharted
I had a choice to make. Here I was, sitting in the rubble of my entire collapsed world. I knew one thing. I can’t pledge my time, talents, and everything that I am to an organization that so completely betrayed my trust. So I stood up. Dusted off the remains of a once-firm house of faith, and stepped into the unknown.
Stuck under the ceiling I made. I can’t help the feeling. I’m going down. Follow if you want, I won’t just hang around like you’ll show me where to go. I’m already out, of foolproof ideas, so don’t ask me how to get started, it’s all uncharted.
Into a world that I make for myself. How do I learn what my voice sounds like? Do I believe in any kind of god, and if so, what kind? What are my core values? How do I make decisions? Can I make friends without the community I’ve known my whole life? How do I raise my child without a religious foundation? Can I drink coffee or alcohol without ruining my body? What rituals will help us navigate a life without religion? What rites of passage will we employ? How will we celebrate milestones and progress?
Each day, I’m counting up the minutes, ’til I get alone, ’cause I can’t stay in the middle of it all, it’s nobody’s fault, but I’m so low, never knew how much I didn’t know. Oh, everything is uncharted. I know I’m getting nowhere, when I only sit and stare…
It turns out that going map-less is actually pretty exciting. I spent so much time (probably about a year and a half) trying to find a way to claw back into the box I was born into. But I know things now that make that impossible. Coming from rock bottom, I’ve had to start moving. Start putting stones back in place. But this time, instead of building another house, the bricks are being placed into a path in front of me. I have no idea where they will lead, but I am confident that it will be beautiful and rewarding as I create my own life with my husband and daughter.
Jumpstart my kaleidoscope heart. I love to watch the colors fade. They may not make sense, but they sure as hell made me. I won’t go as a passenger, no, waiting for the road to be laid. Though I may be going down I’ll take in flame over burning out. Compare where you are to where you want to be
And you’ll get nowhere.
One of the first and most beautiful bricks I picked up and placed on my path is the one I call “Divinity.” In Glennon Doyle’s book Untamed (the closest I can come to scripture these days), she talks about sinking into the Knowing. That place deep inside where you hear your voice and no one else’s. This is where I find the divine. This is where I find the voice I’ve suppressed for so long. This is where I find power. This is where I find HER. Femininity. Peace. Presence. Strength. She’s the divine. And she is me. My god, my guide, and my light is in this deep, beautiful place that existed long before my wounding and long before anyone else’s voice stifled her power.
I have a feeling I will be standing on this brick for some time, to make sure she is strong and healthy and vocal. Here I will construct the kaleidoscope heart to replace the black-and-white stone that once occupied her space. She will be my starting point. I believe in HER. I will serve HER. I will honor HER. Because regardless of any other person or power I may one day live with, SHE is the constant. And SHE deserves to be loved first.