Saturday, February 26, 2011

What Have I Really Lost?

Over the past few weeks since my big friend fallout on Facebook, I've been thinking about what happened with the breakdown in communication.  Why did it break down?  And why did it break down so badly?

I had a lapse in good judgment, vented publicly some old hurts, didn't use the best choice of words, and managed to offend some, despite the fact that none of it had been directed at them or anyone in particular.  Sometimes I'm rational; sometimes I'm not.  That time I was not.  When others rant and vent about things, whether it's directed at me or not, I have an understanding about what is going on.  I know that they may be irrational, that what they are saying is not really about me.  I know not to take it personally.  That's why I allow others the space to vent.  But I had forgotten that not everyone has that same understanding and some things I said were taken personally.

There was no way I could help them see the error in what they were saying, believing, and assuming about my meanings or intentions.  But that didn't really matter; I didn't know what my intentions were at the time, which was why I was venting.   We were talking past each other.  So I just stopped talking all together and let the other person say what they needed to say and believe what they wanted to believe, about me.

All these years of progress, of letting go and moving on, trying to become a whole, self-defined individual, by reprogramming my thinking, vocabulary, humor, self-expression and identity; they all had no idea of who I was anymore, what I was about, why I felt the way I did.  And I was trying to explain it.  Albeit, poorly, but I was trying.  They just didn't understand; they also didn't really care.  They, for the most part, really wanted me to return to the way I used to be.  That wasn't possible. So in the end, I lost their friendship.  This was more than a stupid Facebook de-friending; this was the real deal.

But, was losing them as friends really what hurt so much?  No, what really hurt was the profound realization that when leaving the Mormon religion, letting go of god and all such religious belief, learning about a bigger picture of the world and how it worked, I had actually lost my ability to communicate with them.  I had lost my ability to see things through the eyes of Mormon politics, theology, culture and dogma.  I can still understand all these things, but I no longer understand them from the point of view of a believer.  But, when I was a believer, my understanding of them troubled me.  Could that have been because I was never a true believer? Or was I simply noticing things that others were not seeing?  And then getting frustrated and hurt as any attempt I made to describe or inquire about my observations were mocked and dismissed.

It reminds me of the story, Flatland by Edwin A. Abbot, a story that has had a subtle but profound impact on my life ever since I was introduced to it in 1986.  In that story there was a Square who lived in a two dimensional (2D) world who suddenly, albeit with much drama, found himself in a three dimensional (3D) world.  After that experience, no matter how hard he tried, he was never able to convince anyone in the 2D world about the 3D world.  That's what happened to me.  I could no longer see it only in 2D; I had the 3D version.  And the 3D language wouldn't translate to 2D without losing much of its information and meaning.

But, unlike the Square, who seemed perfectly content to live in 2D, until he was forced into the 3D, I was never satisfied by 2D.  It had stopped working for me. I saw too many contradictions and conflicts.  Many were essentially swept under the rug, and dismissed by those who claimed to have all the answers.  I needed something different, deeper, more meaningful and more applicable to now rather than only looking at that the imaginary future.  So I took a different path and learned things about my world that now make sense to me.  But they all seemed diametrically opposed to what everyone else believed.  At which point the communication gap went from a crack to canyon.  And all this time, I hadn't realized just how big that canyon had become.  And just like in the story, the misunderstandings across that divide would often elevate to frustrations, insults, and conflict.  Especially when I was reminded of the hurt I had felt while living in my old 2D world.

I can't force anyone to see things from my point of view.  All I can do is just say it and those who are looking will find it.  That's how it worked for me; I went looking for it.  But now that I've found it, I want to talk about it.  But, not everyone will like what I say.  I know it's not my problem even though they all may think it's my problem.  I have to let them believe what they wish, and if that means they want to believe I'm a bad person, then that is their right.

I'm not saying this to mean that I'm better than they are.  3D vs. 2D is not an "us" vs. "them" idea.  It's just that in one particular aspect of our lives we don't see things from the same perspective and understanding.  My thinking shifted perpendicular to theirs.  What they see as a circle, I can now see as a sphere or a cone, or a cylinder.  All they see is a circle.   But the huge irony of all this is that we both claim to have "the big picture". 

Throughout the story of Flatland, there are several events where a higher dimensional being is trying to communicate to a lower dimensional being about what they really are, and failing every time.  The only time it was successful was when one of those beings, the Square, was physically moved into the 3D space.  At which point it all became clear to him.  But by doing so, he crossed a line that could not be uncrossed.  And even though, in the end, he remained trapped in the 2D world forever, his thinking had permanently changed the way he viewed that world.

And like the Square, there just isn't any way I can go back to thinking in 2D.  3D is so much more engaging, enlightening and rewarding.  And there is a hell of a lot of stuff in 3D to learn and experience. I just can't spend a lot of time thinking in 2D anymore.  And yet, I must caution myself.  The Sphere in his arrogance, refused to accept the Square's suggestion that higher dimensions were thinkable.  And quickly showed that he was just as limited in his thinking in 3D as the Polygons were in 2D or the Line was in 1D.  Those worlds worked for them just fine and they saw no reason to look beyond them.

In my haste, I've found myself getting too attached to my new 3D world and assuming that it is a complete picture, and in my own arrogance have tried to force in on others who have no desire to know if it.  Also, my attachment has in the past closed me off from discovering 4D, 5D, 6D and so on, in other areas, until something drastic hits to knock me out of it.  The funny thing is it took a nervous breakdown to make that "leap of faith" in to the 3D realm for me.  I would hope that it doesn't always have to take such drama to gain new perspectives.  Many people seem to have done it without all the drama; it seems silly to keep doing it with all the drama.  But, I guess that's probably a bit optimistic to make such an assumption.  Whether that drama is internal or external, there is always going to be drama.  The Sphere was offended and chastised the Square for suggesting that 4D or 5D could be possible.  And the Square was imprisoned in 2D for attempting to talk of the 3D world, which had been made illegal.  At least it was better than execution, which was the other option.  And in all cases, the object in the higher dimension would arrogantly try to impress upon those in a lower dimension a differing view of the world.  Conflict ensued. Drama.

I guess the easy thing to do is just say nothing, keep it too myself and shut myself off from the world in order to avoid the pain of rejection and ridicule.  Or, say something, and just accept that all my old friends believe that I am their enemy.  Compartmentalize, perhaps?  I don't know.  I really hate it when people tell me that if my friends can't accept me now, then they never really were my friends.  Is that really true?  I just don't buy it.  Or, am I just stubbornly trying to hold on to the past?  I prefer to think that we can no longer have expression in friendships because we no longer speak the same language.  Or is that just being naive?  I would hope not.  I've had friendships suddenly "come back" to me the second I found myself in 3D.  When all that time I thought they had turned their backs on me, they were really there, just standing outside my range of vision, waiting for me to turn and face them.


  1. This is such an important post. This gap that suddenly divides us from friends and loved ones when we leave the church is heartbreaking. As you have pointed out so well in this post it really has to do with a difference in how one views the world. It almost starts to feel like we are speaking different languages or speaking past each other when beliefs and perspectives start to shift.

    I often think that we think that we are responsible for our journey out of Mormonism and we often wonder why others to take the leap out too. I have started to realize that those that leave have usually been jolted it out of it either by some event that caused them to re-evaluate things or by their very "self" not fitting the mold. Those that fit the mold so to speak, or those that never have reason to question will never leave. Some of us just were never meant for Mormonism even if that is where we came from. Like you said being 2D hurt, it didn't work. Being 3D is invigorating and refreshing. If we move on up and become 4D or 5D is probably not in our control either. There will probably be some kind of catalyst that pushes us in that direction too.

    At some point though I think that patience and love with the people of our past can help. I still believe in the Relief Society phrase that "Charity never faileth." I would add that it might look like it fails or is rejected but with consistency and time I think that it does wear away at the divide.

    I have been defriended by quite a few people and it does hurt everytime. I wish that people were not threated by the "different"... But were I to come face to face with any of them I would do my best to be nice and kind and show them that despite the canyon between I still loved them.

    Now I have rambled for quite a while here...

  2. "I can't force anyone to see things from my point of view. All I can do is just say it and those who are looking will find it."

    Yes! Such an important thing to remember.

    Sweetie, have you ever heard of Network Spinal Analysis? I swear by it. It's a healing technique that helps us release trauma and stress and old patterns, thus allowing peace and new patterns (better, happier ones!). It's been instrumental in my life. If you wanna try it, Google "find a network spinal analysis practitioner" I'm sure there are some in your area. Great stuff!!!

  3. This is such a powerful post.
    You nailed it, and then Kiley said it again: those that never have reason to question will never leave. Sometimes I feel jealous of those that were happy in the church. Other times, I'm SO glad for where I am now - I would NEVER want to go back.

    I actually speak a different language than my family now. They talk about temple, church, tithing settlement, callings, meetings, etc... I talk about horses, books I'm reading, doubts and questions. Even though they are very supportive, it still feels lonely sometimes.

    As for the loss of friendships... I haven't told people, so I haven't given them a chance to choose yet. I am learning though that I can be true to myself, speak my truth, and still let them have their truth.

    The church teaches there is only one truth, but I don't believe that. We all have to find our individual way, and those that are still in, are on their own path.

    All of the people closest to me know I have left the church. I've never been good at "acquaintance friends", so I don't really care to tell them and I don't really care if I lose them.

    I must feel like talking tonight. Sorry for the ramble.


  4. So well put all around. Once the Mormon goggles come off it's very difficult not to become annoyed with those who still have them on and don't notice.

  5. I think that the biggest problem with society is communication (or a lack thereof).

    I don't know where you live or anything, but a few BYU students have started a series of discussion panels called Breaking the Silence. A few of them have been devoted to to LGBT issues. We're looking into doing one about self-injury (today is national self-injury awareness day), and we're planning another panel on understanding same-gender attraction at the end of March. Let me know if you have any ideas or would like to get involved in breaking the silence.

  6. omg, my husband has that book. he LOVES that book (he's a math teacher, too, but still). He had the same response to it.

    The only problem with messages such as Flatland has is that those in 2D won't ever see that there is more until they're ready. They'll totally deny it, and thus they may never get there. That's the sad part.

  7. It is so frustrating to speak with those who are still 2D. Especially those who don't acknowledge that you are no longer 2D, but argue that you are now 1D.
    Thanks for a great synthesis of the communication frustration.

    Part of me now wonders how many new dimensions I am oblivious to right now. Its kinda scary :)

  8. Thank you all for you're comments!

    Understanding SGA, thanks for bringing National Self-Injury Awareness Day to our attention!
    My sister was a cutter, I believe this to be a very important issue!


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