And for the record, I followed my heart, for probably the first, or second (now that I think about it), time in my life. It was the most difficult decision I've made in my life, but the one for which I am most thankful.
In an effort to be as fair as possible, I'm sure that I was not the perfect husband, church leader, or father. And I'm sure that over the years I inflicted my fair share of damage and harm in the relationship as well. I freely admit this. But on the flip side, I never spent a day where I was unfaithful or otherwise unworthy in my life before I left. I did my best, made what I am sure now are some bad decisions, and paid the price for them. On the other hand she was single-handedly responsible for a 20 year estrangement between one of my best friends and myself, forcing me to make a clear cut definitive choice.
And over those years, I was also notably absent from relationships within my own family. Both of these items have been repaired to a large extent, but there has been a lot of time that has passed by, like the waters of a river - those drops never pass by again, they are lost. Only to be replaced by new drops that bring along with them new hope and opportunity. And I now have new hope and opportunity as well.
I wouldn't say exactly that I am a son who is estranged from his father. But I would also not say we are all that close either. The relationship with my parents is better now, but it was certainly thorny for a long time, again because of choices I made, or, more appropriately, was forced to make. Those relationships always were strained to the breaking point when they came to visit their grandchildren. She was always in everybody else's business, and it was very trying for everyone involved. Since then, in the ensuing years, those friends and family members have noted that I have new life in my eyes, new spring in my life, and I happen to agree.
I am free to be my own person now, and it's got a lot to do with the angel to whom I am now married, along with my own determination to follow my heart, and be true to what I want in my own life. It's interesting, but I've learned now what it's like to be loved without conditions. Hell, my wife doesn't really NEED me, she just WANTS to be with me. What a difference THAT makes! All I have to do is be myself, do my best, be true, loving, and respectful, and the rest falls into place. I have found as well, that when you have a situation like that, it is certainly easier to give that same unconditional love back to a person. Which is how it was supposed to be all along.
I haven't reconciled myself with the religion of my fathers, however, and I doubt that will happen any time soon. There are MANY things that have not been written here - or more accurately, they WERE written here, but there was liberal use of the delete key - because at the end of the day, they are what they are, and they aren't going to be changing any time soon. For the purposes of this little jaunt, let's just say that I have been exposed to some very unsavory individuals and situations that were cloaked in a mask of righteousness. The adage that "I'll be a nice guy and wear a white shirt on Sunday, but on Monday, I'll poke you in the bum" rings so true it ceases to be funny any longer. How appropriate it is then, that this Part would be posted on the last day of the Utah Legislature, the last day that the church gets to legislate its own brand of morality from the state capital, to enshrine its own bigotry and hatred into secular law, all while talking out of the other side of their mouths to say that they don't meddle in politics, care for all people, and want the best for the world.
I have very controversial views (at least within my family) of organized religion in general. I have had such a bad experience that I now feel like organized religion is a modern construct of man for the sole purpose of inflicting guilt and moral superiority on others for the purpose of self aggrandizement in the eyes of others, and to prey upon the weak-minded who need a crutch to get through every day of their lives. They are taught not to think critically, or even question, only to blindly obey. Those who are overly aggressive and seek to impose their system of values on everyone around them are nothing more than simple egoists who need to feel morally superior.
I am not a campaigner against those who find solace in their religion - because I think that is perhaps the true purpose for associating oneself with a particular religion. And at the end of the day, what someone else does with their private life is no business of mine, or yours, and it ultimately makes no difference to me and how I live my life every day. Where I have a problem with it is when that person seeks to compel others to follow along out of some sense of guilty duty, blind trust, and the thought that "I know better than you what is good for you".
I know not all members of the church are this way, or think like this, but there are enough of them that one has to wonder what the purpose is, really. If this is what is bred there, where is the good? I have many friends, members of the church, who are good people, very good people in fact. But I have come to find out that at the end of the day, unless you're in the club, you're an outsider with no voice, no opinion, no validity, no value. There are many others whom I THOUGHT were my friends, but who are just conformists who thought I was too. They have not spoken to me since I left, and many have gone out of their way to NOT speak to me. And to those ones, I say: Fine. Swell.
So let the flame wars begin - I am prepared. You may think of me what you will, it matters not a whit to me. Because I am, for the first time in my life, at peace with my life, and where I am in the grand scheme of things. My children know what I think. I have one who is a missionary now. He knows what I think. He knows and understands that there is a difference between seeking to share your message of hope, which is exactly what he is doing, and seeking to compel others to conform to your way of thinking through the placement of guilt. They also know that, no matter WHAT they do, they could be no less loved by their father. More than one of them has said to me very specifically that they are happy for me now, and are glad that they get to see that their dad can be happy. They never saw that before - I had a constant migraine, and I was often wont to yell. I was not happy on any day.
Part Ten will tie these 10,000 words together and I'll talk about the real reasons I started this blog, and why I chose to write all of this stuff down....