In the world, but not of the world

Today I had two "in the world, but not of the world" experiences.

First I found myself at General Conference (I went with my family). I blended in. I hummed along without thinking. I had to restrain myself from raising my arm during the sustaining votes (it's still such an automatic response!). Beforehand I wondered if I'd be angered, or inspired (in spite of myself). Instead -- I was mostly just bored. It seemed like two hours of mush that boiled down to...largely underwhelming platitudes. Through it all, I noticed the contrast in my feelings: externally comfortable, internally disconnected. It was like visiting a former home now inhabited by strangers.

Then, in the evening, I joined up with some friends at a bar. In contrast to the earlier experience, I did not blend in (most girls at the bar were decked out for a night on the town, while I wore no jewelry or make-up and a rather frumpy outfit). Initially I had a burst of extroverted animation, but as the night progressed I found myself forcing interest in drinking stories I couldn't relate to, increasingly exhausted by my efforts to make small talk. I was conscious of my awkwardness, ashamed by my vulnerability. I felt neither externally nor internally comfortable.

Somehow these two experiences remind me of a rebroadcasted This American Life show I just heard for the first time. The story was about two grown women who learned - in their 40's - that they had been switched at birth. The revelation helped explain why both girls seemed so different from the families in which they were raised; but rather than resolve the dissonance, it exacerbated their feelings of disconnectedness. The knowledge seemed to make both women feel separated - not only from one family, but from two.

Similarly, I feel so disjointed. I am connected to the non-Mormon world by values and pursuits; and I am connected to the Mormon world by language, understanding and long-ingrained habits (e.g. modesty). Yet rather than feel at home with one group or the other - I just feel out-of-place with both. I feel like a refugee and an imposter. And I feel sad.


Reuben Collins said...

I'm glad you decided to attend General Conference with your family, given the circumstances. It was an important weekend for your family, and I'm sure they appreciated your presence and support.

simplysarah said...

I'm glad I went too. I'm proud of my dad.

DB said...

I must say that I feel exactly the same way. I'm (was) a mormon from Brazil (born and raised). I don't remember how did I found your blog, but here I am... :)

I have a blog, also. And its about mormonism too. What a shame it is in portuguese, and you will not be able to read it, I think.

I just want to say that I feel we, dissenters, have this burden to carry: we are partly mormons, and we are partly "from the world". I have the same experience in dealing with non-members, it is like I am kind of mormon near them, very different from what they are. And when I am with my mormon friends, it is like I am not one of them anymore. Weird situations, weird feelings.

Gardner said...

I'm catching up to your posts and I really related to this one. It's hard feeling like no place is really 'home'. I haven't found an answer either to that problem but all I can say is that I definitely understand.

Hypatia said...

I was lucky enough to not be raised a Utah mormon. Transition for me out of the church has been easier because of that... I think (despite the insane rantings of my parents and inlaws). I'm sorry you feel displaced, I can only imagine things will get better over time for you.

Hypatia said...

Also, I just wanted to say, I'm sure people didn't look at you like an outsider in the bar. Being raised mormon, I was constantly comparing myself to others and, I hate to say it, judging people for appearance, language, etc.

The good news is that most people don't see you and think, "Gee, that girl is modest, she doesn't fit in." My experience is that people don't care. You can be yourself, even if that is bringing some of the things like how you were raised to dress with you to social events.

Most people are cool with who you are, but I think a mormon upbringing trains you to constantly compare yourself and your appearance to the appearance of others.

Ashley said...

reading this post I feel that I can really relate to what you're going through! I was raised mormon and am now agnostic and I find that I often don't feel like I truly fit completely in either world and it makes you feel like you are a women without a country. I am now a mother and am struggeling with raising my kids ethically and morally without religion in a very mormon conservative community and it can be very challenging. Good luck to you, awesome post!

Kiley said...

I really love this post. In social situations I often find the same thing. Others notice my "weirdness"... Not fitting into either world is often annoying.

For all we think we gain we also seem to lose things too.

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