Mostly, the tears have subsided—“in public, anyway,” she says one afternoon, as we sit in a Tribeca café. “I still cry a lot.” Forget what you know of the church. Just imagine what it is like to walk away from everything you have ever known. Consider how traumatic it would be to know that your family is never supposed to speak to you again. Think of how hard it would be to have a fortress of faith built around you, and to have to dismantle it yourself, brick by brick, examining each one and deciding whether there’s something worth keeping or whether it’s not as solid as you thought it was.
I know that paragraph. I've lived it.
I've taken my life apart, brick by brick, and examined it. I discovered even recently, that there was an area of spiritual cognitive dissonance in my life.
More dismantling. More examining.
And this...why I also often feel like a "late bloomer" in many ways:
At times, there’s something about the way she unpacks these observations and answers my questions that makes her seem much younger than her twenty-seven years. There’s an innocence, almost a naivete. But how else would it be? How else could it be, given the boundaries that have always marked the hours of her life?
When there is a line in the sand, when your former life no longer makes sense with your present one, there is inherently the need to understand yourself in the now.
You must almost become childlike to answer the questions of adulthood.
Take it from the beginning, open it all with wonder.
We were brought up in a world so black and white that gray can be a beautiful and compelling nuance.
My gut says she's not done. She's at a way point now...a place that feels comfortable in her slow peeling of the bandaid.
But one day she'll wake up and find that much of that sheltered, oppressed girl is gone. She'll discover that she's wanted to do good intrinsically, and always has, religion or no. She'll still unpack and unstack and question and rebuild. Always.
She'll relearn to trust her emotions and feelings after a life of being told that anything outside of a sunny disposition is false and displeasing to the same Sky Dude who has a history of wiping out whole villages.
But the beauty in growing up like we did is that, in many ways, we will always approach life with wonder.
There are many things we will never take for granted...like the ability to be a woman with autonomy, or learning something new about human nature and the ability of others to love and be loved.
And we will continue to be in awe at our own capacity for love and brokenness and rawness and forgiveness.
I hope she finds, like I did, a motley crew of individuals with the patience and heart to teach and comfort her. A stitched-together family who will surprise her at their capacity for kindess.
Because when you've lived a life like that, and you're suddenly set adrift, you need at least one person you were told all your life was a terrible sinner who will, when you are at your lowest point, take your hand and look you in the eye and say, "You're a good person, you know that?"
She will sob the first time she hears that...because it will be the thing she is hoping is true, but has no way of knowing for sure anymore.
Brick by brick.