One of the questions the young man asked was, "How did your Mormon friends react when you left the church?" As I wrote in my last post, most of my Mormon "friends" weren't actually friends but, rather, women I was assigned to work with.
I told him that my old LDS friends - people from high school and college with whom I'd cultivated genuine friendships - continued, for the most part, to be my friends. But the people I had been currently attending church with broke ties with me. Only not at first. At first, these assigned friends claimed they'd stick by my side "no matter what." Then, when reality seeped in and they finally acknowledged that I was never coming back to church, they unceremoniously dumped me.
This conjured a memory, one I hadn't thought of in years. Not long after I'd quit the church, I was in my local McDonald's buying coffee before work. One of my Mormon "friends" spied me from somewhere inside the restaurant, chased me out to my car, and then breathlessly confronted me with:
"I can accept that you no longer go to church. But I never thought you'd drink COFFEE!"For a few long seconds she leered at me in absolute revulsion, as if she'd just caught me exposing myself to a child or torturing a puppy with a lit cigar. Then she stormed off, never to see or speak to me again.
While amusing now, at the time this encounter was painful. It's tough to lose your friends, even tougher to acknowledge that they were never your friends in the first place. Since when does a friend dump you over a cup of coffee?
One of my favorite quotes comes from Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden:
"Grief is a most peculiar thing; we're so helpless in the face of it. It's like a window that will simply open of its own accord. The room grows cold, and we can do nothing but shiver. But it opens a little less each time, and a little less; and one day we wonder what has become of it."From where I sit today, the window is securely shut. I can laugh and roll my eyes over the absurd recollections from my Mormon past. But I will never forget the pain I felt back then.
When I meet people who've recently left Mormonism and are struggling to make peace with the believers in their lives, I can truly empathize. I can't reassure them that their LDS loved ones will support their new life choices, because, in all honesty, I know that's probably not going to happen.
But I can tell them about the bat-sh@#t crazy woman who flipped out when she saw me with a cup of coffee - and otherwise do my best to make them laugh. I can tell them that the cold wind will abate, the window will gradually close, and that, before long, they'll be laughing about a lot of things.
I also tell them that writing a funny blog really helps. Or producing a documentary. I hope those kids get an A+ on their assignment.