A Personal Update

I’ve been having trouble motivating myself to post regularly lately, but I definitely need to get back into it. Living with my family is very emotionally draining, and having the chance to just rant about the endless Catholicism I’m surrounded with is cathartic at the very least.

My family lives their lives by the church calendar, which is fine for them, but it’s not for me. I work around it when I can, and if I have to skip meat except for fish on Fridays I’ll do it. That’s not a huge deal.

What is though, is just knowing that I’m not in a home environment that respects my beliefs or political opinions. I still get passive aggressive comments from my dad basically calling me stupid for not believing. My brother likes to pick arguments with me about politics in which he shouts at me. I try not to shout back, but after living in this environment for so long I feel ganged up on and tend to end up being more emotional than I should. It’s very easy to say “I want to be the mature person, to keep my cool,” which I do want very much, but that’s easier said than done.

I also don’t have much of a community to fall back on now that I’ve left the church completely. I have way fewer friends than I once had, and a lot of them are moving to various other states as their careers take them elsewhere. This is a normal part of life at my age, and I’m very happy that my friends are finding careers and starting their adult lives in exciting new places, but realizing that is very difficult because it means that without my family’s support, I’d be basically on my own except for my fiance. I need to make some new friends, and get better at staying in touch with the people I can still get along with: the people whose friendships with me weren’t influenced by religion.

I need to pay off over $60,000 in student loan debt, but I know at my current rate it’ll be many years before I even come close to paying it off.

I want to move out of my parents’ house, but the longer I live here, the faster I can pay off my debt.

I want to get married, but weddings are expensive and at the moment my practical side says DEAL WITH THIS HUGE DEBT FIRST. So I’m kind of in a weird place right now.

It’s hard to feel like I’m going anywhere. I know my current situation is only temporary, but until I have a wedding date, or a new place to live that I’m moving to on a specific day, it just feels endless. I’ve been living here like this since May of last year. I’ve been living here for more than a year. After college.

I don’t really want sympathy, I just want to express where I am right now and get it off my chest. If any of you have advice or experiences to share, I’m more than happy to read about it in the comments. I hope you have a sense of progress in your life. I hope you feel like even if you aren’t where you want to be, you’re on your way there. If you have any advice for a young adult trying to figure life out, feel free to share it.

All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

Nancy

 

 

 

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Dear Searcher Open Letter Series Part 1: “How Often Visitation Should Be During Courtship”

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This is the first post of what may become a series if this continues to happen. I’ve occasionally had some pretty bizarre search terms pop up on my blog stats, some of them not surprising, others somewhat frustrating. While I can’t be certain that the person who did this will see it, I think this is a topic worth exploring again on this blog, and maybe someone down the road will stumble upon it who needs to see this.

On January 6th, someone found my blog using the search term, “How Often Visitation Should Be During Courtship.” This is an open letter to that person.

Dear person who stumbled upon my blog using the search term, “How Often Visitation Should Be During Courtship,”

I’m guessing that the person searching this isn’t a kid. It’s a parent. More likely than not, the parent of a daughter, possibly a young adult daughter. Even if it is the daughter or son doing this search, show your parents this letter. They should probably read this. As someone who had friends who participated in courting culture, I have a sense of how this works. I’ve seen it happen, and I’ve also seen young women raised in some form of conservative dating culture find themselves in situations you would never wish upon your children.

I know you want what’s best for your little girl. But you need to understand something: if she is at least 18 (in the United States), your little girl is an adult now. She may not seem like one in your eyes. Maybe she relies on you for a lot of financial things. Maybe she asks you basic questions about how to balance her checkbook and other adult tasks, and that makes you think of her as seventeen, or sixteen, but never eighteen. Adults know how to do these things.They’re independent! But the economy isn’t what it used to be. Just google the minimum wage in your state and compare it to the monthly cost of renting a studio apartment.  Financial independence doesn’t define adulthood anymore. Birthdays happen regardless of where we are in life, and even though you have her best interests in mind when you try to protect her from the world, you’re kidding yourself. You can’t keep her seventeen forever. It’s like putting a plant in a pot that’s too small for it. You’re stunting her growth. If you keep waiting for her to be big enough to move on to the big backyard outside without at least moving her to a bigger pot first, you’ll find that she stays exactly the same size. In my experience, incremental raises in expectations lead to a great deal of growth in a person. Some of the childishness you perceive in her may not even be the result of immaturity on her part. It may be a reflection of your expectations of her. Maybe it’s time you re evaluated those expectations.

It’s time for her to make her own decisions. If she’s 18 and you’re still making big decisions for her, some things need to change. Yes, dating is a big decision. Yes, dating the wrong person can lead to heartbreak and pain. Yes, adding sex to the mix of that can make it more complicated. You’re right about all those things, but your approach is not making them easier for your adult child to handle. There will come a day when you aren’t around to make her life decisions. Wouldn’t it be better if she figured out how to make those choices now, with you there to offer advice and support, than later when you’re not? There will always be adult men in your adult daughter’s life, and you don’t put the same restrictions around them as you do with the man she is courting–the man who is a serious contender for marriage to her. When the repair man comes to fix her washing machine, will you insist on having a chaperon there to make sure he doesn’t try anything funny, or will you trust your daughter to hold him to the standards of a professional? When she answers the door to sign for a package delivered by UPS, will you wait with her for the package that could come any time on Tuesday or Wednesday? Will you track the package to ensure that you know when it is coming, reviewing every correspondence your daughter has with the company to ensure that it is appropriate, timing her phone calls to be sure she isn’t giving up too much of herself to her involvement with this company? I don’t think so.

So why do you plan to do it for her relationship? Down the road, when she’s in the marriage you practically arranged, you won’t be there watching to ensure that the man you approved of is a good husband. You won’t be watching their dates to be certain that he is respectful, that he doesn’t disrespect her, or harm her, or abuse her in any way. That would be invasive. That would overstep some boundaries. After all, they’d be a married couple, and it’s up to them to manage their relationship, right? Right?

How are they supposed to learn how to do that in the first place if they’re not allowed to make the small decisions couples make when they’re first going out? How is she supposed to learn what he’s like when there are no chaperons around if she never speaks to him in private? For all you know, he could be putting his best foot forward because you’re there. You won’t be there to watch them every second of their marriage. So while they’re trying to decide if they like each other enough to make that commitment, let them go out to dinner together, just the two of them. They’re in a public place anyway. As a matter of fact, a movie theater is a public space too. So is the ice rink, the bowling alley, and so are many other perfectly good places to go on a date. Let him take her to them, and let them get to know each other’s full personalities, including the thoughts they don’t share with you.

For further reading, check out this great article that the Wall Street Journal did about how parents can positively influence their children’s dating decisions for the better. Hint: it doesn’t involve making those decisions for them. If you’d like to see some personal testimonies by women who know even better than me–who’ve experienced courtship themselves and can tell you first hand how that turns out in the end–check out the Homeschoolers Anonymous posts about courtship here. Remember, this isn’t about what’s best for you, or what gives you the most control. This is about what’s best for her.

As always, if you have any thoughts about this feel free to leave a comment. All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful of others and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

Nancy

Coming Out Atheist to Religious Parents

Image courtesy of artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’ve told my deconversion story, as well as the story of coming out to my conservative parents elsewhere on this blog. As you may know if you’ve read other posts here, I’ve had pretty good luck with this. (See my About Me and Why Atheist pages for more on that). In summation, I have not been cut off financially, or disowned. My parents still say they love me, even if they don’t understand why I don’t believe. They have yelled at me and argued with me, but they’ve also stopped making me attend mass; that was my biggest victory. However, there have been a few rough patches in the road as far as coming out to my family is concerned, and one in particular has been a problem lately: the fact that I came out at all.

The person bringing this up is the elder of my two little brothers, the same one who asked why I was against prayer in school (see that post here). Over winter break, back in January, he asked me why I came out at all. He said I’d hurt my parents by telling them I was an atheist, and wouldn’t it have been easier for everyone if I’d just waited until I had moved out of the house for good? At the time, I addressed his concern head on. I explained that I had, in fact, weighed the pros and cons of coming out before doing it. On the one hand, I got along with my family better, on the surface, when we seemed to share the same political and religious ideologies. On the other, when I started having doubts, I would frequently have outbursts in front of my parents. I’m generally an open book and very bad at hiding what I really think. If my words don’t give my thoughts away, my face does, and religion–which I had come to strongly dislike at that point–was all around me. Not only did I have to attend mass every Sunday, but I was expected to participate in grace at dinner time each night, to say “God bless you,” when someone sneezed, to avoid “using God’s name in vain,” and to pray the rosary whenever my parents decided it was time we did that “as a family.” Sure, I can mumble the words and not mean them. I can go through the motions of sitting, standing, and kneeling at mass. I absolutely suck at hiding my true thoughts and feelings though. Eventually, the truth would come out, and I wanted it to happen on my own terms.

I thought that answer had settled it for my brother, but when I came home for Easter weekend, the youngest of my brothers said, “He’s mad at you again. He thinks you shouldn’t have told Mom and Dad you’re an atheist.”

I didn’t address it this time, since he did not approach me about it himself, and I didn’t want to start an argument during a holiday. Still, I felt a bit frustrated that he was holding on to this point of contention for so long. It had been months, after all–long enough for him to have contacted me if he wanted to talk again. Maybe I didn’t make my answer clear enough to him originally, though, so I want to expand on why I came out here, for the sake of anybody else who’s considering telling their family they’re atheist, or anything else about them for that matter. Maybe you’re dealing with this, or will someday.

My brother sees me coming out as the selfish thing to do, and I see where he’s coming from to an extent. I definitely upset my parents severely. I know they believe that I’m probably going to go to hell if I don’t start practicing Catholicism again before I die, and it’s probably very stressful to believe your children are doomed to eternal damnation. As I said before, it’s also more challenging to live with someone with different political and religious views. There are topics to avoid, and difficult conversations to navigate. With that being said, I do not regret coming out, and I strongly believe that doing so was the right thing for me and my family, though certainly there may be people in situations where waiting may be beneficial.

I think it’s pretty clear how coming out has benefited me:  I can be myself, I don’t have to practice Catholicism, and I don’t have to lie about what I believe or don’t believe. How has me coming out benefited my family? Well, for one thing, I’m not lying to them every Sunday, and any other day of the week when religion came up (and it came up a lot). That means the relationships I have with them can be more trustworthy. Sure, it stings a little to find out that someone you thought you had a lot in common with actually doesn’t share one of your interests or obsessions, but wouldn’t you rather they tell you the truth about that? I sometimes listen to 90s boy bands out of nostalgia, but if a friend doesn’t like them, I’d rather have him or her tell me so that I don’t drive them crazy whenever they stop by. I realize for my parents, religion is a bigger deal than what bands one listens to, but I strongly feel that honesty is a good thing in all relationships, and that includes family.

Another way in which coming out when I did (as opposed to whenever I move out, when my brother thinks I should have) benefited my family is that I was home during the period when they were adjusting to the news. (It happened over the summer). I was around to answer their questions, and have discussions with them. While I will admit I may not have handled them all as smoothly and calmly as I would have liked, it would have been much worse if I had moved out of the house and suddenly said, “Oh, and by the way, that religion stuff you taught me to believe is bull crap. Bye!” Talk about dropping a bomb! Even if I said that in a more polite way, it would have a pretty profound effect on my family. Moving out is a time for a young person to learn how to be independent, and a time for the family to learn how to stay in touch despite busy schedules and not living in the same house. It’s not a good time for them to also be wrestling with the idea that you’re going to hell. That might make the separation seem like a good thing. It might make us avoid each other. It would certainly make them all quite angry with me–and rightly so. No, I chose a good time to come out. I also had the added bonus of knowing I’d be back at school in a few months, giving us time apart to grow accustomed to the change, but not so much time that we also grow apart.

That’s what I worried about the most when I came out:  not the short term negative feelings, which I knew would happen regardless of when I told my family, but the long term effects of coming out at a given time. I had to prioritize staying a member of my family. Unless they choose to shun me, I see no reason to do anything that might be interpreted as a rejection of them as people. I’m not rejecting them at all; I’m only rejecting religion.

What I want my brother to understand is that I did, in fact think this through very seriously. I know I made the right decision.

My advice to anyone considering to come out is to do the same: think it through. Consider the likely consequences of coming out at any given time. Figure out if it’s safe to come out–and if it is, figure out the best way to do so.

Have any of you experienced anything like this, where someone basically told you you shouldn’t come out? Are any of you considering coming out? Feel free to leave a comment. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

-Nancy