05 October 2010

Please, look back...

Boyd K. Packer, in his much-discussed talk given in yesterday morning's session of General Conference (I don't even know where to begin with his comparison of mixed-sex marriage and the law of gravity, so I just try to shrug it off), taught that any persuasion to enter into any relationship that is not in harmony with the principles of the gospel must be wrong. This probably seems like a no-brainer to most LDS faithful. It's based, of course, on certain beliefs about the roles of procreation, parenting, and genitally-defined sex of the partners in relationships, along with relatively inflexibly defined gender roles, often affirmed in flippant disregard for scholarly perceptions of evolving (read "tossed to and fro") social and cultural factors. But that was only incidental to my more emotional reaction when I listened to portions of it yesterday.

Maybe because I woke up in an inexplicable funk, mourning a lost relationship a bit more keenly than I have in most of a week, I thought of [him] and his new path in life since he called it off with me. I wondered if he now accepted this idea that his same-sex attractions were "wrong" and artificial. My reaction was further exacerbated when President Packer explained Lot's wife's mistake and implored, "Don't look back." He advised those turning from unclean acts to "delete from the mind any unworthy thought that tries to take root." I couldn't help but wonder, "Is our relationship now an 'unclean act' to [him]? Is any form of appreciation for what we had or what we were a memory he now believes he is to forget as a 'wrong persuasion'? Am I an 'unworthy thought' to be 'deleted from the mind'?" These may seem like overwrought insecurities, but I think they're a natural part of coming out of that relationship. Even if he doesn't see "us" as a mere mistake to forget, I can't help but feel like I'm being lumped--by those who subscribe to the belief that they're fighting a larger war--into Satan's toolbox of temptation meant to lead away precious sons of God from Celestial destiny.

I couldn't help but feel like I might be perceived as personally representative of the unclean persuasion [he] and others have dangerously experimented with for a summer before running away, back to the safety of the church. And from that pained, discarded emotional place, I wanted to plead in frustration, but with all the patience, love, and sincerity I feel, "I know you may feel like you have to move on to find happiness, but I am not interested in persuading you detrimentally away from your convictions, if they are indeed yours.  Please look back with a distant tenderness if you must be distant. Look back from a 'higher' place if that's where you believe you are. Look back with regard for my happiness, so I at least know you ever cared about me as a person, even if you have to believe I could only find happiness on your path. Look back, even with confidence that you chose correctly, with gratitude for what we learned from each other and the love we shared, even if you now believe that love (or affection, or attraction, if you must reduce or redefine it) was partially misdirected. I never did believe what we had was perfection, but I loved so much about 'us', whether or not it was meant to be or would go anywhere romantically in the long run. Please, look back at the purity and goodness we shared, even if you have to also add "unnatural" or "impure" to some of what we shared. Just, please, please look back. Sometime... Voluntarily... In some way... Know that you'll not become a pillar of salt, and even if we're never "us" in that way again, look back."

But that's his choice to make, and our relationship is his to define in hindsight. But it's also mine. I fully believe what we shared, though brief, deserves to be remembered, even if preserved as an artifact rather than nourished as a living creation, and I will look back even though I'm walking away. I want to know he's happy moving forward without resorting to petty mind tricks like treating what we had like a filthy porn addiction...or maybe I mostly want to know he doesn't believe that's what we were? Maybe he does.

Maybe if I refused to look back, I'd experience faster emotional detachment and healing, as so many seem to recommend. Some who have found happiness in walking away from the church have been frustrated that I didn't sever all relational or incidental ties with the church. They've been concerned I might be tempted back with seductive ideas, social incentives, and pretty mirages of truth or comfort if I don't cut it off entirely. Maybe they're right, and I should never have looked back. But everywhere you go, someone has a conviction they tell you to follow without looking back. It's probably necessary for certain things. In this case, Packer discussed pornography, the quitting of which many believe can, like alcoholism or other addictions, require a complete effort without "looking back" and entertaining fond memories.

But I am not an addiction or a sin. I am the friend he felt safest with for a short time, whom he told he was grateful for not pushing him in any direction. I am (was?) the friend who has many beliefs and convictions which line up with his and some which now don't, but who cares about him and wants him to respect himself and be happy with his choices and his life, even if that means not having his companionship, as hard as that is to accept. Maybe he knows that, and I know that certain friendships or ties I have decided to cut off for my own well-being were useful and meaningful in their time and may be again in some way but currently bring more destructive pain or stress than productive or constructive benefits. We all make these choices. So though I understand he has new goals and needs to look forward, as do I, and though I may care less in time, I do hope he eventually--and kindly even if not longingly--looks back.

1 comment:

J G-W said...

I am not an addiction or a sin

Amen.