Yes, I was homeless. Basically what happened was that my mom was in a mood, and coerced my little sister to send me some very vicious messages. Words that likened me to the worst of the worst. Typical of my mother. Needless to say, I packed up what I could fit into two garbage bags and walked down my parent’s gravel driveway and sat down on the sidewalk. I called Linda.
“On my way,” she said.
We drove to the church, where the Bishop had already made living arrangements for me. There was a childless couple living on the other side of town, and they gave me their entire second floor. “Stay as long as you need,” they offered. Things were a little awkward. We ate dinner with small talk. I lied a lot. I said I was in school. I said I had a job. I told them I was somebody. But it made them happy, and that made me happy. I spent a lot of time watching ‘Teen Mom’ upstairs and eating Twinkies.
A week later, I convinced a friend of mine to give me $300 so that I could move out. A strange girl had an empty room in a dumpy apartment 20 miles North, and I resolved to fill it. With the money in hand, I packed up my garbage bags and bid my farewells. Dan Emiger (the man who hosted my meetings with the missionaries, which I wrote about in Part 2) drove me over to my parent’s house to pick up the rest of my belongings. No words were spoken. It was sad. I cried when I got back into the truck.
“The devil is appearing now, trying to pull you away,” Dan said, trying to comfort me.
I think the devil is always with me, I wanted to say. Instead, I just nodded.
Unpacking in my new room, two missionary girls knocked on the door. Seriously. My first night there. Tammy (my roommate) was a little shocked. “Oh yeah, I’m a Mormon,” I snarled. The girls were there to welcome me to the new town, and to confirm my suspicions that the Latter Day Saints are always watching you. They also let me in on a new little fact: I was to stop going to the church I had been attending, because I needed to begin going to one with single people my age. Okay. We drove over to a random member’s house, where they were hosting a game night. Tammy came along with me for moral support.
“Just so you know, I’m a Baptist. So don’t try to convert me. I’m just here for the food,” Tammy joked. Or maybe it wasn’t a joke, but either way, I was glad to have a stranger that was less of a stranger than this group of peers.
I am an introvert, with a shit load of social anxiety … especially with people my age, so this ‘game night’ thing wasn’t easy for me. No one really spoke to us. We spent most of our time counting the speckles of dirt on the windows and trying to hide muffins in our purses.
Tammy and Linda attended church with me on that dreaded first day at the new place. Linda was considered “too old” to be there (she was 35), but we didn’t really care. She was single. And ready to mingle. Apparently, with 18 year old boys. Again, no one really spoke to us. They were rich kids, who grew up in the church. They were in college, they were modest. They were beautiful. They were confident. And I was pulled into a little office with some old guy telling me that I needed to be more engaged. I wasn’t paying my tithing. I wasn’t mingling. I wasn’t involved.
Well, see, aside from my social anxieties … I was also involved, at that time, in a trial for a military superior (long story for another time) that had sexually abused me. Along with several other girls. Most of them underage. It was seeping through my pores.
I started bawling to the old guy, trying to explain my situation without divulging too much, and had snot spewing out of my nose. He looked uncomfortable. Told me that I should leave. That I should seek some counseling.
After that, I really started to notice the obviousness of members looking at me funny. No one was even interested in small talk. I didn’t fit in. They knew this. I knew this. All of the compassion I had received prior to being baptized, had long since vanished. Their patience was running thin. It was like, “Okay, we put up with your ‘misfit syndrome’ before because we thought you would snap out of it. You aren’t snapping out of it. Snap out of it!” Of course, I couldn’t because I am me.
So I quit going to church. The missionary girls would knock on my door at all hours. I would hide so they couldn’t see me through the windows. One time, Tammy invited them in for dinner. I snuck out the backdoor and went to a bar with Linda.
Eventually, like clock work, I couldn’t pay my rent again. So when Tammy went to work, I moved out. Some new missionaries found me somehow, and I told them I wasn’t interested. No, that’s not true. I just hid until they black-listed me. Or maybe it’s a grey list. Either way, no one came to my door anymore.
Looking back on my stint as a Mormon, I realize that I was just trying to find somewhere to belong. I was lonely and lost, the perfect combination of traits that lead one to religion. For awhile, I felt a sense of community. I felt love and compassion and openness. But things unraveled. I was too broken. That didn’t fit what they were looking for.
Nowadays, I live in my agnostic world with my atheist husband. I believe in something, I just don’t know what that something is … and I find more comfort in that, than in any scripture or text. At the end of the day, we are all just here, living the best (and sometimes worst) ways we know how. The bigger picture doesn’t care about our skin color or our sexual orientation, or whether we are giving 10% of our income. The bigger picture just wants to see us helping others, and trying to find our way to some sort of peace. Whatever that may look like. And this is where I sit. In it’s scary, sometimes lonely, no questions answered, space. Which is oddly, quite compelling and nurturing.
That one time I was a Mormon, and now I’m just me.