Barely a day goes by when I don’t consciously think about how glad I am that we don’t attend the Mormon church anymore. Still, there are some things I miss. You can’t grow up in a faith without absorbing parts of it into your soul, and certainly into your memories and routines. This is the first time in my life that I haven’t tuned in to General Conference, the twice-yearly weekend where Mormons get together all over the world to listen to the words of the leaders of the Church, as spoken from Salt Lake City.
Of course, nothing was stopping me from tuning in this weekend–the meetings live-stream over the internet (even the male-only Priesthood session, which leaders began streaming just last year as a sort of compromise after Kate Kelly and the Ordain Women movement asked unsuccessfully to be admitted). But for the past few years, listening to General Conference has been more of a painful reminder to me of the many things in my childhood religion that I find troubling than the peaceful, soul-renewing weekend it is for many of my Mormon friends.
So I was relieved to leave it all behind and have a weekend full of nice, positive family activities. On Saturday I took the children to the library in the morning, and then Tony and I spent the afternoon in our usual haunt at the Drunken Monkey Cafe while they had their Irish dance class. Sunday morning we went to church at the Unitarian Universalist congregation that has opened their hearts to us. Axa and Raj sang the opening musical prelude, and it was beautiful.
After lunch, we drove down to the Rollins College Fine Arts Museum for a family art activity.
We talked about how art can sometimes make us think or see the world differently by juxtaposing multiple things that don’t intuitively fit together. They had all sorts of magazines out, and we were supposed to cut them up and make a surreal collage. So I made this:
It was a lovely weekend. But it was harder than I expected to see all the social media posts leading up to and during Conference. To try not to gauge from the memes and blog chatter whether Conference was much the same as it always had been, or if somehow while my back was turned it might miraculously have changed into a place where I would feel comfortable again.
I suppose it’s natural to wish sometimes that you could go back and take the blue pill instead of the red one. In my memory, Conference is breakfast at Grandma’s, beautiful music, and a renewing affirmation of my comfortable, secure, vibrant faith. It can’t be that for me right now, and if I’m honest with myself I have to admit that it will never again be what it was. How could it, when I’ve changed so much? When the shape of all the old, familiar things looks so different from where I stand now?
Perhaps someday Conference (and the Mormon Church) will be something else equally precious and valuable to me, but for now it’s something that can only exist for me in a memory of who I used to be. Like an old lover or an ended friendship, nothing will ever quite fill the hole.
And that’s OK. The hole doesn’t really need filling now, because the whole of who I am is bigger than what I had thought. Still, the hole is there, and sometimes I can feel it.
It’s like forgetting the words to your favorite song . . .