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With whom to share

Oh, how often I have been working on a particular problem in my research and after weeks of beating my head against a wall, I make a breakthrough and I feel so excited and elated, only to make the deflating realization seconds after the fact that I have no one to tell about it.  Yes, I can tell Conrad, but he won't have any clue what I'm talking about and he won't appreciate why I'm so excited.  I can tell fellow grad students, but they are all working in different fields and still wouldn't fully understand what I'm talking about, although they would be able to empathize with me on the joys of making a breakthrough.  Why is it that telling someone about an emotional experience is so compelling?  Why do we have this need to tell people what's going on?

My fiancĂ© is my confidant.  I tell him everything.  I tell him what I'm feeling and thinking.  I tell him things people do that have caused me to be angry, sad, frustrated, happy, and so forth.  I talk to him about arguments that I have with people online.  I literally do keep nothing secret from him.  And this is so refreshing.  It's absolutely wonderful.  Just the peace of mind that I know that there's at least one person in the world that I can tell anything and he'll still love me and support me no matter what.  It's amazing.  He may not understand, when I tell him things about my research, but he'll listen and he'll be happy for me that I'm happy.  Why is this such a wonderful thing for me?

To me, true relationships are based on authenticity.  I've been able to gauge roughly how close a friend is by how open I am with them.  I don't tell everyone everything about myself (although it may seem like that at times on this blog).  If someone asks how I'm doing and they're just someone I know casually, I'll tell them I'm doing fine.  If Conrad asks, I'll tell him exactly how I'm doing.  I feel close to someone when they open up to me and I feel comfortable opening up to them.  Then I get to know them better and they get to know me.

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about some of the major sorrows I've gone through in my life.  I have thought a lot about that post during the interim and I've concluded that one thing that amplifies the pain that I expressed in that post is that I can't share it with the people that I love the most.

When I was a child, I could talk to my mom about anything.  As I recall, we often had long conversations about things.  My father and I would also have some deep conversations, mostly about science and politics, but also about personal things from time to time.  In high school, there were a couple friends that I felt comfortable confiding in, but for the most part, I was closest to my mom.

So, what has been hard is that now there are things that I can't talk to my parents about.  There are things I can't talk to some of my siblings about.  And the things I discussed in that post are some of those things.  I can't talk to them about the pain that losing faith in the church has caused.  I can't process those emotions with them.  I've shared all of these feelings with Conrad, and that's been great.  But I long to be able to discuss them with the people who have always meant the most to me ever since I was little.  I feel like I've always been close to my family but that I'm drifting further and further away from them.

I've tried talking to both of my parents about my feelings about the church, but any time I have brought the subject up, I have been told that such conversation is not welcomed.  I don't mean to be critical of my parents, or siblings, or any of my Mormon friends.  I understand quite well why they have the aversion.  They believe in the doctrines of the Mormon church.  They believe that Joseph Smith saw God and Christ, restored the true gospel that was on the Earth at the time of Christs's earthly ministry, and that he translated the Book of Mormon through the power of God.  To listen to me say that none of that is true would be quite difficult for them to hear.

I've been very vocal about my newfound skepticism and loss of faith.  I've caused and perpetuated many heated arguments over it.  I'm sure I've offended dozens (and maybe hundreds) of people.  But, I've thought a lot about that, and I really don't mean to.  I don't want to offend people.  Why am I so vocal?  Why do I have such heated arguments?  Why do I get so mad at people who disagree?  The simple fact is that I just want to be heard.  I want to be understood.  When someone disagrees with me, I feel as though they don't understand me.  I shouldn't do that.

I have not been giving to those I love what I have been seeking myself.  I don't need people to agree with me, I only need people to empathize with me.  I don't need my mom to deny her faith, I just need her to acknowledge that I no longer share her faith.  When trying to talk to her about it, my focus should not be about whether her church is true or false, but it should be about her acknowledging my feelings and me acknowledging hers.  I can acknowledge that her faith brings her joy, that my lack of faith is distressing to her, and that she is pained by my departure from the ways of the church without actually adopting her viewpoint.  At least, I should be able to understand where she's coming from without necessarily making myself believe it as well.  And this is all that I want from her.  I don't need her to admit that her church is false.  All I need is for her to appreciate my feelings.  I do not believe in the church.  I feel betrayed by the church because it was something I believed in my whole life and then it ended up being false.  I only want to be able to tell her this, and to have her say to me that she knows how I feel and why I feel that way.  I do not need to prove to her that I'm right and she's wrong.  That's what I've tried to do with her and with many other people on many occasions.  But when I stop and examine my own feelings, it's not what I truly want.  What I truly want is to be able to be authentic.

As I said before, I feel like I've always been close to my mom.  As a child, I always felt comfortable sharing my feelings with her.  I knew there were certain subjects that would be inappropriate to bring up, but they were never topics that I felt a great need to discuss with her.  And I want to still be able to confide in her.  I want to bare my heart to her, and I've tried to do so.  But I have not confined myself to that, I have demanded also that she adopt my viewpoint.  This is not fair.  I should allow her to be able to disagree with me but still empathize with me because it is the empathy that I truly need, not the actual confession of disbelief in her faith.

I feel that in many ways my conversations with my mom have grown anemic.  I am not as close to her as I once was.  I even expressed this to her on a couple of occasions.  She replied with the analogy that when a person takes up a new hobby, say golf, they develop new golf friends and grow further away from other friends who don't share that love of golf.  It actually hurt quite a bit when she shared this analogy with me, because it seemed to me as though she were saying that not only was it expected that the two of us grow further apart but that it was natural and even healthy.  In many ways, I feel that our relationship has gone from confidants to acquaintances.  She tells me the fun things she does in her science class and I tell her how the weather in Tennessee is.  Not that there's anything wrong with small talk, but that I miss the richness of the relationship that is built upon communicating deep, important, and highly personal emotions with each other.  And practically everything I've said about my mom applies to countless other relationships--with siblings, with my dad, with other relatives and old friends. I would much rather talk about important matters of the heart, even if it occasionally leads to some discomfort.  I have something I really want to share and I feel like I can't share them with the people I love most.

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