Sunday, July 8, 2012

There's a war inside of me.

This line from a song by my favorite twin/lesbian indie duo rattles through my head most Sundays. It usually starts off sometime during Sacrament Meeting, the rattling. Then it gets louder while I'm teaching my Sunday School lesson. By the time Relief Society starts, it's so loud that I can barely sing along with the practice hymn. Something, usually a statement from a talk or a line from a prayer, reminds me that these people don't really know me ... and I feel like they wouldn't like me if they met me. I mean the real me. Not the me that curls my eyelashes and puts on an A-line skirt and tasteful clogs for Sunday worship. No. I'm talking about the me that swears. The me that sits for hours on my futon reading feminist criticism and eating candy in my undies. The me that watches Breaking Bad. I feel like that's the me they wouldn't like.

One me is not more real than the other. They are both as authentic as I know how to be. My religion is my heritage, my culture, my history. It's the only way I've ever lived. But in the interest of self-preservation, there's a lot of me that stays, for lack of a better phrase, in the closet. (Spoiler alert: this post is not about being gay. It's about being a liberal, among other things.)

There are times when I chastise myself for keeping so much of me in this closet. If these people love me, I tell myself, then they will love me in spite (or perhaps because) of these other parts of me. And some of them do. (I'm thinking of you, Lisa, who put your hand on my shoulder today and shot me such a welcome dose of love and respect, even if I am a Democrat—winky eye smiley face. Or you, Angela. I'm pretty sure you would love me even if I showed you my communist party membership card, which I swear I do not have.) But a lot of them don't, or wouldn't if they knew. I've read enough of their blogs and Facebook posts to know that their tent is not big enough to include the likes of me: the bleeding hearts, the skeptics (but not necessarily cynics), the respectful questioners. The searchers and ponderers. The pray-ers with (maybe) different answers.

Here's what I want: I want to feel just as comfortable with my church friends as I do with my grad school friends. I want to know that, like my grad school friends, my church friends won't think I'm dangerous or misled after hearing what I have to say. Or if they do think I'm dangerous or misled, they won't hold it against me.

I want to come out to my church friends. I don't want to have to pretend to agree with their solutions or support their same ideas. I want to tell them my honest feelings and share my honest struggles. Maybe they're having the same ones. Maybe we can help each other. Maybe we can make things better.

So I'm not coming out of the closet yet. But I'm opening the door. Maybe I'll burst all the way through when it quiets down out there. Maybe I'll come all the way out when there is more room in the tent.


Joanna said...

Is your ward as bad as mine at turning every meeting into a political commentary chuck full of conservative rhetoric? "Constitution blah blah buy gold blah blah Glenn Beck blah blah blah." It's like listening to a mix of gospel principles and talk radio every Sunday.

Jen said...

I could have written this post. Except that I think there is room for people like us in that tent, because there are probably more of us than we realize. Because we're supposed to question, and because revelation is personal so it's ok if we get different answers, and because people aren't perfect and God still loves us. Right?

Gretta Whalen said...

@Jen you know I'm with you. But I read on a blog the other day telling "new order/progressive mormons" to enjoy the company of the wheat while they can. you know, cause we're the tares. *sigh*

@joanna ugh! yes! yesterday a lady actually said--in reference to enthusiastically sharing the gospel with others--that she could "actually like a democrat." you know, if she had to.

Gretta Whalen said...

@jen about the new order/progressive mormon title: this blogger classified anyone who would label her or himself a feminist this way. feminists = tares.

Huff said...

Gretta, you know how much I love you and your blog. Knowing both "sides" of you, is what makes you - you. Its what I love most about you.
Having a closet dwelling part of me too, i totally understand. Sometimes I cringe at what I assume the church friends are saying on sundays as they most likely see me cruising the house in my undies on the "lets take a day off" Sundays. We live directly across the street from the church, so I assume the whole neighborhood not only walks to church, but stares at our house to see if we are still inside.
As insecure as i am about letting "churchies" see the real me, i am slowly adopting the "who gives a *$@#" attitude. Sunday is another day to be myself. If i offend someone or someone disagrees with me, who cares. No matter what, Jesus loves me AND wants me for a Sunbeam.

Gretta Whalen said...

@huff you are my spirit animal.

Lisa said...

I love the sentence "The pray-ers with (maybe) different answers." I wonder if we need a new Article of Faith - We believe in personal revelation and allow all others the right to their own personal revelation. Or maybe just a working definition of the word "personal" would help.

I think that some of those tents are a little bigger than they appear on the outside. Maybe more prominent "Welcome" mats are what is needed.

Anonymous said...

I hope with all my heart that you don't think I'm ... how do I say "one of them" without saying "one of them?"

I guess I just want to say that I hear you, I love you, and I hate that we did not spend more time together when we were in the same state.

(and now I'm off to re-read old blog posts in search of a sign that maybe I'm coming off as "one of them" without meaning to.)

Zen Mama said...

Did my previous comment go through?

If it didn't I'll summarize. It was wordy anyway: I love you, Gretta.

(blogger and wordpress aren't being friends. This is Heather and I miss you all the way to Texas.)

Gretta Whalen said...

@lisa love you!

@boysrus you never were "one of them." couldn't be. And the feelings are mutual.

elliespen said...

Maybe some of the churchy ones aren't as churchy as you think.

You should be reading my dear friend's blog. You two would get along splendidly, I think.

Gretta Whalen said...

@elliespen Thank you, friend. And thanks for the link. Read and commented.

Anonymous said...

Don't get me wrong I'm a fan of this blog. I read it- dare I say, religiously.

Gretta your honesty is welcomed and your perspective is cherished. But in this case, it felt like a song that is being sung by a lot of people who seem to think it's all their very own and they wrote, produced and feel they should win a grammy for it. Which leads me to ask is there any selfishness in your explained thought process?

As you think that part of you is hidden in a closet, don't you think that other people have part of themselves hidden a closet as well. Maybe it just happens to be a different part. But maybe there is enough crap in their own lives, that watching "Breaking Bad" is just a little too close to home. And taking a break from thinking about it and allowing themselves to be immersed or absorbed with people somewhere who on the bottom line believe in God and are trying to feel that love in their lives is about where they need to be.
Furthermore, and when there is someone who seems to be all out there, with everything they are and voicing it loudly, aren't the same people who claim they never can be accepted fully the first ones to sit in the back row, or text someone else or joke in the car ride home about how that person is so abrasive or full frontal. You say that you want to be totally yourself and allow others to see you fully, but maybe a part of you holds on to the precious fact that you are too unique to give everyone all of you?

And what does liberal even mean? Does it mean that you support gay marriage or that you are "democrat" or that you question church policies? Or is it more of a culture that you attach your association? Maybe when you stop focusing so much on your feelings of exclusion or polarization you might realize that there are more people out there than you think that are trying to figure out their own feelings on things. We are all growing and changing at various rates and you never know where someone is at. As you have probably realized with your family and husband there is no one way that people relate with life and God.

I think somewhere along the lines we each will be different but we are also sort of the same. We are human- we utilize judgement, we incubate our issues, we harbor our individualism, we spin our brain into debates and forget that nonattachment doesn't necessarily make us heartless. We are aware but unaffected. We can be active but peaceful.

In any case, I hope you find a way to marriage your two selves and progress with success and hopefully find the humanity that you seek.

Rob said...

wow. to the anonymous commenter:
don't get me wrong, i don't know who you are, but that was pretty defensive.

ash said...

Gretta, I would give you a Grammy for this post!

Scott Church said...

Gretta this is why we love your family so much and had such a fun time in college with you guys. Not only is your family awesome, but it was a slice of normalcy in a BYU world.

We live in a neighborhood that feels like it is a BYU ward aged 10 years and stuck right in the middle of Lehi. Brooke and I have a really hard time finding friends in the neighborhood because most people just have no personality. We have to try to fit in to some degree just so that our kids have friends to play with.

Brooke recently spent the last three years with a visiting teaching companion that only wanted to talk about jogging and how fat her husband was. Brooke would try to joke with her and she would just look at her because she didn't understand it.

Finding someone that watches TV is almost impossible in my neighborhood. A comment was made about How I met your Mother in Sunday school and I was the only one that said they watched the show.

And yes, Breaking Bad is the best show on TV right now.

Brooke and I got a chance to go to my best friends wedding in Alabama last summer and it was probably the funnest trip we had ever been on. We got to fly into New Orleans, see downtown and then go to Alabama. We spent a lot of time with friends, eating at great places and watching cover bands in bars. I can't imagine what our neighbors would think of us in a bar but it's not like water was giving us a buzz (Plus Brooke was 6 months pregnant).

It was fun to be in reality again, with other normal adults that were having a fun time too. (It was also fun not to have kids around for a week).

We miss normal people in our lives, having normal conversations about Pop Culture, Music or Movies, because you don't find that in Utah.

I surprised Brooke with eating out with Huff and Tasha the other month and Brooke was so excited, we miss our normal friends.

It's tough trying to fit into Utah when it's not really who you are.

kia said...

Your thoughts definitely strike close to home. In my proper life, I am a capable, intelligent professional who is treated as such. I have interesting conversations with people who hold a variety of differing opinions. We debate complex issues that have no easy solutions, and I love it. At church, I regularly feel like I have to walk on eggshells. Whenever I voice my (apostate) liberal or feminist views in conversation, I can see horror slowly creep into the eyes of the (righteous) Mormon across from me. The thing that frustrates me the most about this disparity between my real life and my church life is that as members of the church we are supposed to question everything. We believe in personal revelation. We believe in receiving an education, and in life-long learning. We believe in using our minds, which is why this ultra-conservative, close-minded trend in the church concerns me so much. I have no problem with someone who has conservative views, but I do have a problem with people who can't explain why they hold those views. When we become scared of asking questions and using our minds to seek for answers, I honestly don't know how we can claim to be enlightened by God.

Wow, so that turned into quite a rant. Thanks for providing an outlet, and just know that you're not alone. Solidarity my sister.

Charity said...

Thank-you! Seriously. It drives me crazy when people from any group equate their viewpoints with personal righteousness. Grrr, people! Research your ideas, come to your own conclusions, have an intelligent conversation with someone who disagrees if you so desire, but stop assuming that anyone who has come to a different conclusion than you must be somehow evil or stupid. How arrogant! And how obviously insecure it makes you seem. (I am yelling at "them" here, not anyone in particular). Your personal beliefs should be strong and well thought out enough to not need to hide behind name calling and blanket generalizations.

Anyway, I love you. I will admit that I am a "total conservative", but I hope you won't shun me for that ;). Someday when you have a free evening we should all hang out again.

And seriously I would love to hear your "different" views it you ever feel like talking. Being around too many people with the same opinions makes your brain go soft. I love a little bit friendly disagreement.

Gretta Whalen said...

@Scott Gosh, I miss you guys.

@Charity I love you and if I shunned you, I'd have to shun the crap out of my own self for being a jerk! The whole point of this post was to say that we shouldn't condemn each other's politics. Render under to Caesar and all that jazz. I'd love to talk to you more about it.

@ash I would give you ALL the awards!

Gretta Whalen said...

@kia my darling! I can't be positive that this is you, but if it is, hello and hugs! Thank you for your support and for sharing your thoughts. Additionally, you are wonderful.

And if this is some other KIA, much of what I said above still applies. ;)

kim reed said...

I LOVE THIS. Great post Gretta, i knew we were kindred spirits when we talked all through nathan's party haha. obviously you're not alone in this. i kinda hope the tents can all merge and we can all realize there's room for a whole spectrum of relative truths under the big tent of Gospel truth, ya know?

Anonymous said...

You know we've been discussing this very topic a lot in our house lately. It kind of reminds me of the meme that's been going around lately :"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts." Maybe we should all just act as cocksure of ourselves as the fools and let the fur fly! Now wouldn't that make Sunday more interesting?

Well, you can add us to the list of people who don't mind discussing crazy, liberal, heathenish stuff with you (and we'll probably agree with most of it!)

Nolan said...

The unfortunate truth is that some people really would like you less if they met the real you. But others of us like you all the more BECAUSE of the real you.

I'm starting to open the closet door too, and you and Rob are part of the reason. Just remember, you're not alone!

amelia said...

OK, catching up on your blog, I'm late to this party.

Thank you for your honesty in your "selfish" blog (WOW anonymous). I am lucky to live in a ward in UTAH (I feel I have to throw that out there, that Utah is not full of Mitt Romney-loving, Republican Mormons, there is diversity...I do live in Salt Lake City though, haha) where the kind of conservative blabber you hear in a lot of LDS wards is often crushed in open classroom discussion because there are so many different thinkers.

I think EVERYONE at church has these same feelings at one point or another, no matter where you are on the political/religious spectrum. Take a woman in my current ward - when she moved in and I heard her opinions and rather tight-laced lifestyle beliefs, I thought "Better not sit next to her...she won't understand me." Today, she's a dear friend, our differing levels of Mormonism and all.

P.S. LOVE "Breaking Bad." Ha, actually had a lengthy talk with a fellow fan/church friend about how it relates to the Plan of Salvation. Haters gonna' hate.

Hilary said...

I loved this post. I'm starting to believe that there are a lot more people in the closet about their liberal mormon beliefs. I mean, I 'm not jumping into a church history debate with some relief society lady 20 years older than me who whisper speaks because we all know she would be horrified and probably make it her personal mission that I never have a calling that could "influence the youth" with all my rabble rousing questioning...but the more people I do talk to about this sort of thing either a) agree and in their mind think I'm an apostate or b) agree with me on some issues and share some of their own thoughts and questions and it's cool. Either way, yo Breaking Bad is awesome bitch. (jesse reference) and I loved this post (as usual)

Vanessa said...

Hey Gretta! I'd probably fall into the inconveniently conservative category, but I can relate to your post from other angles and I 100% believe that we need to make a greater effort to let everyone know that they're both needed and wanted at church! It makes me crazy that it doesn't always feel that way. Also, let me just say that I am so incredibly GLAD that there are intelligent and opinionated people like you that I may not agree with on every single issue. I think it is a breath of fresh air and makes everyone around you better. So, IMHO, you should open that door wide - and today! :)

Gretta Whalen said...

@Vanessa Thank you so much for your comment! It takes all kinds, doesn't it. Personally, I'm glad not everyone agrees with me. How would I learn if they did?

Stephanie Dunn said...

It's like you are in my head. In the whole whopping two or three Sundays I spent in the Glendale ward, I found you to be spunky, wickedly funny, honest, snarky, and good to the core. I liked you immediately.

AmyK said...

Hey Gretta, Fun to read your blog. All I can say is "Amen" to this post. I think I made it thus far because we grew up in a ward where it was somewhat more acceptable to have "questions". Where I live now I feel isolated and like I would become the project if people knew my true feelings about a lot of things. It's lonely, so thanks for sharing and helping me feel less like Pluto.