I’ve been acquiring spider jewelry and clothes for a few years now, and I wear them fairly regularly. I have gotten strange looks but few people ask me about them (unless it’s around October, when I wear them more often, more of them, and more brazenly, in which case no one looks at me even sideways). I even have stuffed spiders, although those are generally kept in my bedroom.
Ever since I got my tattoo, however, I get a lot of questions: “What does it mean?” and “Why a spider‽”. I guess having it permanently inscribed into my flesh is different from an assumed poor fashion sense.
So I’ve had to answer—to the best of my ability in a short amount of time—why a spider, what a black widow means to me, and why I don’t think it’s incompatible with my suit or business-casual skirt.
The long answer is easier: I’ve always had spider friends, spiders have always brought me comfort, knowing that I have the power of a spider helps me face difficult situations. But what is that power? Spiders are independent—indeed, they eat each other with little provocation. Spiders provide humans with a valuable service—eating pests—yet are considered pests themselves. Female spiders, not just black widows, are generally larger and more aggressive than their male counterparts. (They’re also really bad mothers: they just lay a hundred or so eggs and then scarper to leave them to fend for themselves.)
These are attributes that I’ve had since I was a child—even though some of them were suppressed by my environment until I forged out on my own. In Seattle, there were parachute spiders and, my father told me, to escape their brothers and sisters who would otherwise eat them, as soon as they hatched, they would cast threads to the wind and fly away.
I guess my tattoo means I’ve always been the one in my family who wouldn’t just wait around and have life happen to me.
’Twas night; the floods were out; it blew
A winter hurricane aloof.
I heard his voice abroad and flew
To bid him welcome to my roof.
I warmed and clothed and cheered my guest
And laid him on my couch to rest;
Then made the earth my bed, and seemed
In Eden’s garden while I dreamed.
- from “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief,” by James Montgomery
Several people have asked me why I’m not writing about the divorce, given that I’ve written so openly about other difficult personal issues. Some have even thanked me for not blogging about it.
While I have written openly about my family of origin, my faith journey, and my problems with my relationship to the institution of Mormonism, I’m actually pretty selective in what I blog about. I rarely reveal difficulties at work, or with friends and my immediate family, although I do celebrate them as often as I can. And even if I try to focus on my own internal issues, I worry that they’ll spill forth some kind of negative influence beyond my awareness, something I couldn’t have predicted no matter how sensitive I try to be. And finally, the main reason I want to avoid blogging about this topic is that our children are online, and sometimes read what we post. If you leave comments, I hope you’ll keep that in mind.
I’ve thought deeply about this, and I’ve decided that I do want to blog about one struggle. It’s worth bringing up because I know I’m not the only one who’s suffered through it, and our society reinforces the situation: and that is the sense of isolation and the feeling of deserved judgment and the deep grief that the one departing a relationship can experience post-separation.
In my case, I felt that our mutual friends would largely rally around Jana, which made sense to me. I deserved to be ostracized. I was the one who hurt her, right? I was told, partly by people and largely by my religious background and a lifelong burden of guilt that I was fundamentally a bad person, and that I deserved unhappiness, and every punitive measure, perceived or real, that came my way.
This is another reason I haven’t blogged. I feel like the contingent of voices would respond: “Well, of course you’re suffering. You brought this on yourself and your family. You deserve it.” There’s a part of me that feels like no matter what I write, it’ll be interpreted in the worst possible light. I’m trying to overcome that fear, but this is definitely a moment of vulnerability.
Parts of November and December were some of the darkest days of my life. But I feel like I’ve clawed my way out of that pit. Largely this has been due to the undisguised love of my wonderful, beautiful, resilient children. Part of it has been my own faith that I am and always have been a good parent, whatever my failings as a spouse.
But it was still hard to shake the sense that I was a horrible person, a failure as a human being. What saved me is that my friends rallied around me. They immediately offered places to stay during and around Thanksgiving and Christmas, offered furniture and other items, reaffirmed my core goodness (while acknowledging the complexities of life and relationships), and welcomed me with warm and healing hugs, both virtual and real.
The real turning point came when I spent Christmas with my friend Christie. She picked me up from the train station, and I dropped off my things in her beautiful guest room. We stayed up late talking, eating nachos and watching the Hogfather. When we said good night, it suddenly dawned on me that she was going off to sleep on the couch in her office, and that I was going to sleep in the master bedroom. At that point, I lost it completely, and she comforted me while I cried and cried.
I think it was at that moment that it really sunk in–to my core–that I was a human being of worth, of value, deserving of love, and that some incredible people, whose judgment I trusted, had faith in my essential goodness. And I think this is something that I’ve struggled with my entire life.
I know it’s not always easy to be a friend through your friends’ divorce. I want to thank everyone who has extended love and support and the many who will continue to do so throughout this difficult process. I know that Jana has wonderful support networks who’ve rallied around her, and I’m deeply grateful for that. But I’m thankful, too, for every overture, every kind word and facebook comment and tweet and email and voicemail (which I still may not have responded to–apologies!), dinners, dance lessons for the kids, futons, catsitting–the list goes on. Thank you.
And I want to make it clear that I’m not comparing my suffering to anyone who has been hurt in a relationship, and it’s my sincerest desire that my blogging about my experience doesn’t diminish or devalue anyone else’s pain.
Right now, this is all that I have left of Toby:
When I say all I have left, I mean this digital photo of her collar, the empty, tiny cat-shaped hole she left behind, ephemeral memories.
I don’t think she ever crossed 5 lbs. She’s always been a dainty creature:
When she sat, she kept all four paws together, and then wrapped the tip of her tail around them, pure elegance:
To those of us close to her, she was full of curiosity and play:
And she had her goofier moments:
For a long time, we called her CatGirl’s daemon:
But over time, she let us all into her world:
The past half-year with Toby has been alternately delightful, as the drugs calmed her and allowed her to warm up to others in ways she never had before, and hellish, to watch her struggle through various attacks and seizures and turn feral and fearful. Her latest bout was so miserable that we decided that the quality of life line had finally been crossed. Today, a little after 5pm, her vet let her pass peacefully from this existence.
I’m writing this in part because we didn’t get to see her go. We wanted to so bad, but we didn’t want to make her last moments worse–each movement was inducing seizures and making her fearful.
We’ll miss you, little one. It breaks my heart to write about you like this, but I’m so glad you’re not suffering anymore.
I feel like I live in a very masculine world. I know this is a stupidly obvious observation to anyone who, you know, can see, but I also feel very often as though I buy into it. I’m not a woman who likes skirts and children, which means it’s hard for me to find a non-masculine way of being. Currently, I’m training to be in one of the most male-dominated industries (law) and consciously making an effort to seem like “one of the boys”: I’m learning to appreciate whiskey, play golf, and smoke cigars. I don’t feel that these are necessarily masculine activities, but they are definitely activities that men in power like to think of as “theirs”.
Sometime between the start of the most recent semester and finals week, a lump that has been in my breast for as long as I’ve had a breast started getting bigger. I noticed it, but I didn’t really notice it. It took my husband saying something (“Is your boob…bigger?”) to shock me into acknowledging it. As I said, I’ve had that lump for as long as I’ve had boobs, but during my first gynecological exam, the doctor mentioned it and I fa-reaked out. I started having nightmares that it was a mouth, eating its way through my skin and then proceeding to devour me. So I went to a surgeon who removed it. And it grew right back. Years later, I started doing research about the kind of lump it was and realized that I really didn’t want surgery, I wanted someone to hold me, let me cry, and tell me what I could do about it. Which, as it turns out, is a lot.
So this summer has been about me and my breast. Specifically the breast with the lump. It’s always been a kind of bellwether for me, giving me sharp reminders not to do stupid things (like eat things that are bad for me, mostly), but now I’m trying to listen to it better. I went to some western doctors and they said what I expected: the radiologist wanted more radiological tests; the surgeon wanted surgery; the internist wanted more opinions and wanted me to not look things up online. That’s the one that really annoyed me—he actually wanted me less informed about my own health. So…I’m going the non-western route. As my husband (whose step-mother is an acupuncturist and Chinese doctor) says, “Three thousand years of Chinese medicine can’t be wrong!”
My sister goes to a non-western doctor who I affectionately call the Witch Doctor. So I asked for a referral and have started going to her. Just like the other hammer-nail doctors, she prescribed what I expected: some witch doctry. Since none of the western doctors thought that the lump was (a) cancer or (b) urgent, I figure I have some time to do crazy stuff before I have to submit to the knife.
So I’m on a strange diet (no wheat, corn, dairy, nuts, or sesame seeds) and I’m taking strange supplements (phosphatidic acid & freeze-dried chamomile). And I’m feeling listened to by a doctor and that I’m participating in my own health.
I also find that I’m seeking out more female energy. I’m spending more time with my sisters, my mother, and female friends of mine (of which I have few—most of my good friends are men). This was the year I got off my ass and put together a little altar that’s been in my mind for a long while. I’m watching Buffy: the Vampire Slayer (which doesn’t sound all that spiritual until I remember that, when I was a badass, athletic, hot teen, I was filled with nothing but disdain for Buffy but now I can’t seem to get enough of it). I picked up from my mother’s house a nude that one of my sisters did when she was younger. I picked up creepy candles and have started displaying images of Mary, my mother’s goddess.
And my breast seems to be approving. One of the major things that annoyed me about the western doctors was that they treated me like an Apple Genius might: There is a problem with your breast; if you just leave it with us for a few days, we’ll fix it; maybe even replace it; just leave it in the hands of the professionals and we’ll call you when it’s ready. But since it’s been with me for so long, I don’t feel that this lump in my breast is apart from me but that it is a part of me. And maybe I will need to get rid of it eventually, but right now, I think it’s just what I need: I need to step back from the masculine world I’m a happy part of and start reconnecting with reality in a different way. I’m eating more intentionally, drinking less, doing more judo, meditating more, and working on accepting myself the way I am.
I’m feeling healthier and, although I’m only a few weeks into this regimen, haven’t discerned any change in the size of my breast lump. So we’ll see. I may need to call in the surgeons and, at that point, I’m sure they’ll be only too happy to chop me into tiny bits and put those bits under microscopes. But until then, I’m going to do this my way and pay attention to the female energy around me.
This has been going around teh intarwebs, and it wasn’t until I commented on this repost that I realized I had something to say about it.
Background: The Bloggess, who if you don’t follow on twitter, go do it now. I’ll wait. You back? Okay, so the Bloggess recently posted about a red dress and how she wants it even though she has no excuse to buy it, nowhere to wear it, and nothing that matches it. She is much more eloquent than I and so you should read her words. But the upshot is this: you’re worth it. Do things that you want to do just because you’re special and you deserve to do them, even if it makes other people think you’re crazy or weird.
My Take: We’re all worth it. Read more >>
[Final Update: Here is the link to my final creation, which also has links to other participants' works: You Are Here: A Photographic Journey Thru Heaven & Hell ]
I will be updating this throughout the day.
6:16 am: GameBoy wakes me up and reminds me I need to take him to his all day Junior Classical League event this morning. I’m feeling mighty groggy from a late night and sleep meds, but I finally had a solid night of sleep. Count Chocula serves me breakfast.
Ideas that I’ve held back for weeks start to mingle and join together. I decide: a) I’m not going to draw *anything* and b) I’m going for the 100-panel web-based infinite canvas model, rather than the more traditional 24-page approach.
I’m less overwhelmed by the comic challenge than by how messy the house is, and by all my non-comic obligations for the day. Wish us all luck!
9:46 am: Finally made my first, inglorious post. Spent the past couple of hours thinking about story and theme, procrastinating, and building a template image. Decided to work in Photoshop.
10:28 am: Building some momentum. First four panels posted. Only 96 left to go…
Gonna take a stretching/cleaning break.
11:53 am: *Now* I’m going to take that stretching/cleaning/lunch/grocery/gas break. Hmmm…a third of the time is up, and only 10% of my 100 panels. Not sure I’m going to make my goal, but I’ll keep marching along.
1:07 pm: Gas tanks were filled, groceries were purchased, and lunch was eaten. Back to the digital grindstone!
4:34 pm: Picked up GameBoy from his conference. Only 16 panels completed. Time is flying by. The process has been fun, frustrating, and educational.
8:10 pm: I have about 4 hours left to go, and 25 panels up. I’m somewhat frustrated at my pace–I’m just searching for and pasting images, and cranking out a bit of text for the most part. There is also management of files and posting to flickr and the blog, but it doesn’t seem like this all should take as long as it is. I’m averaging just over one panel every 30 minutes. That seems like an excruciating pace.
Anyhow, let’s see what I can power out in the next 2 hrs.
12:03 am: It’s 10 minutes less than 18 hrs since I started this project. No energy left to process anything. I posted 37 panels, and a complete story. I’m going to call this a noble failure in the Gaiman mode. If I’m going to fail, I want to fail like my hero.
If you want to read it, click through to the photo’s page on flickr, and choose “all sizes,” and go from there.
BiV wrote the poem back in June, and CWC was responsible for the calligraphy.
“Blessed” describes best how I feel, to be on the receiving end of such kindness from such singular creative spirits. Thank you again, my friends.
I love xkcd, and I love this comic the most:
In spite of (because of?) the instance of profanity it contains, it hangs prominently above both of my desks, at home and at work. I am, of course, the guy at the desk, and the girl’s voice is like a siren calling to me.
I am a coward to the core. I like my security and safety.
Only I don’t. I hate it. I think I realize at times that in choosing the safe and secure life, I take the greatest risk of all, of not living fully the one precious life that I do have.
I recently quoted Eleanor Roosevelt’s famous admonition to “Do one thing everyday that scares you.” It’s worth repeating. I’m going to turn it into my personal mantra.
I also have the habit of telling friends and family members to “be safe.” Last week, when Jana left for New England, I decided not to tell her this. Because if she was being safe, she’d stay right here in Irvine. I don’t want my children to “be safe.” (Just to be clear, I don’t want them to be utterly foolish, to dance in traffic or anything.) CatGirl took a risk today and asked her principal if she could start a chapter of Amnesty International on her campus. (She tried to ask in person, but couldn’t get a hold of him so did so via email. We’re still waiting for a response.) She was willing to get over the fear of being rejected. She’s already doing better than most adults, including me.
The most worthwhile experiences of my life–the defining moments–are those times I was willing to risk something: choosing to spend a year in Japan as a kid, leaving home at 17, quitting college to serve a mission, getting married young, having kids, completing a marathon, submitting my writing to contests and for publication, joining the Church, leaving the Church, meeting people I only knew online, moving to California without a job, blogging openly (esp. on fMh, which scared me to death), speaking at Sunstone and at peace rallies, climbing cliff faces, etc. These have all added such marvelous value and flavor and depth to my life.
When I peer out the window and see how far it is to the ground, I get dizzy with fear. But I’m gathering strength and courage. I’m stocking up on cat-5 cable and braiding my stash into a solid length of rope. I may have missed adventure’s first call, but soon I’ll be ready to rappel down and seek her out.
In spite of my various attempts to clarify my motives, people continue to ask why I have chosen to be so noisy and public as I exited the LDS Church. Most of these questions (and the occasional accusation that I’m insincere, or an attention whore) come from people who seem to be deeply connected to and invested in Mormonism. I’m realizing more and more that they’re not going to get it. And I’m ok with this.
I’m assuming that most of these folks are secure in their convictions of Mormonism and their place in it. I suspect that these people will not change their views much by reading anything on this site. It is my hope that maybe one or two will discover, perhaps against their expectations, that some ex-mormons and apostates aren’t quite as vitriolic and maybe a bit more thoughtful than they suspected. But maybe it will confirm their worst fears of us. I’m ok with that, too. They have the institution at their back, and the culture reinforces their views. I’m no threat to them.
But there are a contingent of people reading this, or who will come across this and other posts, and find that my account of my journey out of Mormonism and my excommunication resonate with them. The LDS institutional and cultural messages are a source of dissonance and anxiety for them. They’ll find comfort and companionship in my opinions and experiences and of similar ones voiced by other commenters. I know this because I once felt similarly isolated, and I’ve encountered many people over the years who feel the same way. This is one reason why the Church tries to limit the public voicing of doubts (I should note that this is not a pre-requisite of a faith organization–some, like the UU and liberal Quaker churches, welcome it) and warns against attending symposia–to keep people who struggle this way separate from each other. It’s one reason why I set up the Open Thread post: I want questioners and skeptics who are beginning to encounter serious doubts or those who feel trapped in religious institutions to realize that they are not alone, isolated, or aberrant. If you feel this way, I hope you’ll go check out the sites in the comments there. You are part of a large community. You may find more stories that resonate powerfully with you. If you’re like me and Jana, you might even find that some online conversations will grow into important and lasting friendships. If you don’t already have one, maybe you’ll start a blog of your own and reach out to another set of lonely and struggling souls.
But if you’re coming from the faith-promoting perspective, I don’t expect you to agree, sympathize or understand with anything of this. But that’s the point–I’m not writing with you in mind (though you’re always welcome here if you can stomach the subject matter and remain respectful of the individuals who comment here). You already have a strong community. I’m not reaching out to you. But thanks for stopping by, anyway.
This post is mainly a recounting of my experience of being excommunicated. Mine was probably a strange situation, since I may be one of a handful of apostates who welcomed excommunication, who also chose to attend their disciplinary council. I may follow this post with some analysis in a day or three. Finally, this is meant to complement my partner Jana’s account of the same event.
First, let me address my choice of attire: wearing the “Legalize Gay: Repeal Prop 8″ shirt was carefully considered symbolic act. I initially was going to wear a white shirt and tie and suit, and then I thought, wait, these men wear these clothes in part as a symbolic gesture, to remind them of who they feel they represent (this was drilled into me as a missionary). I decided that I wanted to wear something to remind me of my community. I spent a long time in the Mormon Church, I didn’t want to just fall into old patterns of acquiescence to authority. I also wanted to let those who were going to excommunicate me to know that no matter how civil I was, I stood by my principles. I knew I risked caricature, but I was hoping that the combination of the shirt and my behavior would communicate something that would break through stereotype. Finally, the shirt logo represents the bulk of my critique against the Church for the past year, which falls into acceptable political speech. Members are not supposed to be disciplined for their stance on Prop 8.
I poked my head into the high council room. Maybe a dozen men sat sandwiched between comfy office chairs and the large table. “Do I come in now, or wait out here?” I asked. Shrugs and quizzical looks. Some of the men seemed as nervous as I felt. My anxiety dissipated and I stepped back into the foyer. This was Church. I operated here for years. I could do this.
There were smiles and firm handshakes with people I remembered fondly. One man mentioned his teen child and I reminisced aloud the same child as a toddler scratching his cornea. Jana refused to shake hands with anyone, which seemed to make a few men uneasy. She also addressed men by their first names. I’m too Japanese to get over titles. Maybe someday.
The Officiating Man (OM from here on) drew Jana and I into a meeting with him (I vaguely recall some of this happening in a very brief one-on-one with him before he invited Jana in, but it’s all muddled now). He glanced at my shirt and raised an eyebrow. I was told that this wasn’t a trial, but a council. He voiced his concern that I had a recording device. I told him that I considered that dishonest and had not brought one. He said that possession of a recording device would be reason to forego tonight’s proceedings. I nodded.
He expressed concern about publicly discussing the events of the council. I balked and protested lightly. “What goes on here is sacred,” he said. I sat silently and probably glared. He did not forbid me from talking about them, but spoke in round-about ways, about the sanctity of the proceedings and wanting to avoid drama. I continued my glaring. He gave us a brief overview of what awaited us. I asked if Jana could be a witness on my behalf regardless of how I responded to the charges. He assented.
Jana and I exchanged pleasantries in a side room with a young official while the twenty or so men prayed and sang a hymn in the high council room. I was summoned. I sat down at a folding chair at one end of the table, and across an expanse at least six tightly packed men in big chairs wide, sat OM. He spoke softly, so at times it was hard to hear him. We opened with I Need the Every Hour, and I tried to sing bass, with mixed success. It had been a while.
With only a short introduction, OM moved right on to the charge of apostasy, and asked me how I answered to it. I asked for a clarification, and I got this definition, which is the first of four definitions of apostasy from the Church Handbook of Instructions (see page 110):
“to repeatedly act in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its leaders.”
(for you non-Mormons out there, there are four significantly different definitions of apostasy that I will go into in a separate post, and most members who are not men serving in central leadership positions are unaware of these definitions.)
My response to this was somewhat rambling. Basically I was being asked if I personally felt that my actions fit the definition provided. I thought some, and said that I thought the bulk of my anti-Church writing was political in nature, specifically, against Prop 8. Did this material fit this definition? (I asked this particular question mainly for the sake of other bloggers out there.) I was told, rather emphatically, that political writings were not included. This was the *only* clarification I received that evening. I said that I supposed that my other writings might fall under that definition, though they had decreased in frequency in the past year or two.
One aside: I still have no clue what writings fell under the above definition in the eyes of the church. I suppose I could’ve challenged the charge and then maybe I would’ve heard evidence presented against me, but that would’ve been insincere. I do feel that I’m an apostate by the above definition, but I’m interested, both for the sake of my own curiosity (I really must’ve gotten under someone’s skin) and for the sake of my Mormon blogging friends who care about speaking honestly and about their church membership. The only hints I have are from the visit from the Stake in June in which brief and vague references to my speaking about the temple and sacred things were brought up, and another protest from the previous bishop about an LOLReligion picture of the First Vision I posted. I also have a relatively recent post in which I say that Mormon Prophet Thomas Monson kind of a jerk, which is true, since he’s the prophet who made Prop 8 support a top priority.
Returning to the council, I was told that my honesty was appreciated. All the men in suits sat silent, some somber, some avoiding my gaze altogether, and some smiling in what I’d like to think was support, or at least compassion. I had a bit of a sense of being at a tennis match, with me and OM as the contestants, and everyone else in the stands.
You could do a great game of high-powered ping pong on that table.
After this, Jana was escorted in, and she was asked if she thought my actions (“actions” was not clarified in any helpful way) fit the above definition. Jana describes this in detail in her post. She said that the definitions were too broadly defined, and that she couldn’t answer the question. She then spent a couple of minutes talking of my character. It was both humbling and thrilling to hear the person who knows me the best to describe me as someone of sincerity and consistency in my desire to respect the truth.
Jana was asked if she loved me, and I was asked if I loved Jana. This was kind of a what the fuck moment. I think I stared in shock for a second, then said, “Of course!” It didn’t lead to anything. I’m not sure why it was asked.
Jana was led back out, and I think at this point I had an open mic opportunity. I didn’t have anything prepared, so I launched in, in good old Mormon Testimony and Quaker Meeting for Worship style. I felt both at ease and energized, and inspired. I said something to this effect:
I began by telling them that when I joined the Church my family disowned me, but X Ward became my new family. I’ll always be grateful to the many kindnesses shown me there. When it was time to serve my mission, Brother X gave me my dental checkup, and Brother Y did my medical exam for free. The ward paid for most of my mission, beyond my little savings.
The same spirit of seeking that led me into the Church eventually led me back out again. I tried to do every thing right, praying, seeking, working with multiple bishops (including at least one man in the room). It was a long and traumatic experience. I felt like I was two people, someone putting on a facade on Sundays and the authentic me underneath. Some leaders heard my questioning and still trusted me with teaching positions (I pointed to one of the younger leaders in the room, who had indeed been very generous with me, and who spoke kindly of me several times that evening). I realized, however, that this struggle was affecting my emotional health, and the health of my marriage.
I said that for every person who is open like me, there are at least 10 to 20 men and women in their wards who struggled silently. I encouraged them to be compassionate and patient with them.
In closing, I said that even though we fundamentally disagreed on areas that were important to us (I think I pointed to my shirt), I felt no anger or hatred towards any man in that room, and that, in fact, I had warm feelings towards many of them.
I did not close in the name of Jesus Christ Amen. But I think my remarks were well received by some.
We were led back out. Jana spoke to the young official about her application for membership in the Quaker meeting while also emphasizing the many connections to Mormonism she maintained. Jana gets full points for gutsiness and being completely transparent.
I was gently kicked out again. I should add that at some point in the evening the young official went in with me, and he said some brave things about respecting my pursuit of truth and a few nice things even though he had only spoken to me and Jana for a handful of minutes. I’m not sure what Jana’s opinion of the man was, but I liked him.
When I went back in again, I hear a brief explanation or intro, and then OM pronounced the sentence of excommunication. It was barely audible–seemed almost muttered to me. I felt no different in that moment. I think there were some words about this being a merciful thing. He mentioned something very quickly about how I could seek baptism only through the permission of the First Presidency. If I didn’t smile outwardly, I did inwardly at that.
OM then proceeded to bear testimony to me. I had to suppress my natural inclination to nod showing that I was listening, because I did not want to indicate any hint of mental assent to doctrines he asserted with everyone watching.
And then, that was it. I think a couple of the closest people shook my hand, then Jana and I were in the foyer and then we were being ushered out. In all fairness, there was a family situation for one of the leaders that may have sped up things up, but Jana especially was disturbed by how abrupt things ended (to the point of ignoring a few points of protocol in the Church Handbook).
As Jana and I drove off, I let out a spontaneous “WOOT!” 12+ years of hellish social expectations were ended. I felt like I could begin fresh. We went and got some frozen yogurt to collect our thoughts, then called the friends we had on stand-by for the excommunication party. We knew this would be an emotionally draining experience, and I am deeply grateful for how they all rallied around us that night. Many people who get excommunicated lose their primary social support network.
This has been a different experience for Jana, which you’ll notice when you read our separate accounts. I’m grateful to everyone who has shown her kindness and who have comforted her. Thank you.
I should add a couple of caveats to this report: a lot happened in the space of 80 minutes. I’m sure that I’ve mixed up sequence, misremembered a detail or five, and left out items that others (like Jana) would find important. I own the imperfectness of this transcript, but I still present it as something of worth, since there are so few accounts out there. I had little clue what to expect. Maybe having this record online will help a fellow apostate or two.
In closing, I want to reiterate that I’m reporting this as my experience. I’ll write an analysis in the next couple of days, but I’d rather not argue my experience. If you do try to point out where my experience is wrong, I shall probably ignore you. Wait for the analysis, in which I will undoubtedly provide all kinds of convenient targets.
I just wanted to direct your attention to Jana’s experience of the disciplinary council. She’s a tough woman, but I acknowledge that this has been difficult for her, so I hope you’ll treat her with civility and compassion.
I’ll try to fill some of the gaps in her recounting (when I was brought into the council, while Jana sat outside) in the next day or two.
Were those gunshots? Firecrackers? Was that screaming?
If it was gunfire, there were so many shots–was someone on the rampage? I told CatGirl to get down and I locked the doors. I called the police but the dispatcher put me on hold. And kept me on hold. I finally hung up. It was obvious that something was going on.
I called Meryl and Tim to make sure they were all right, since they had left just minutes earlier. When the cops came with their flashlights, I stepped outside. There were at least a dozen of them, all with guns drawn and at the ready. One female officer asked me where the shots had come from. I pointed in the general direction and they hurried through the trees and the parking lot. I decided it would be wise to go back in.
Over the next couple of hours, the story unfolded, in our front yard, talking to huddled neighbors, hearing grunts from preoccupied officers, and reading on twitter and on Facebook–but not through the news and not through the UCI PD–at least not until much later. Someone had indeed been shot. A neighbor had a bullet hole in their window and another in the wall, over their heads. There was more than one shooter. No, there was only one, and they had been apprehended.
People began speculating. Domestic violence, they said. Our minds filled in the holes. A male partner. An angry confrontation. A woman, dying. No, the news corrected us, when it finally had its say. A victim dead.
We have more information now. We have names, knowledge of a divorce battle, custody concerns, child support payments and suicide attempts.
But what goes through my head are the remembered sounds, now overlaid with what they represent, interspersed with my questions:
Wait, you’ve already gone too far, but you realize that now, right?
Why is there any need to shoot more than once? The hot anger should have already turned to cold dread.
Is the screaming hers? A neighbor’s?
What earthly thing could she have done to deserve anything like this?
This is calculated. There is no way this could be a crime of passion. Are you making absolutely certain there is no way she could survive this?
Stop. Please stop.