Sunday, January 27, 2013

Do We Ever Stop Having Awkward Conversations With Our Parents?

I was raised in an extremely Catholic family, and was a fervent believer as a child.  That included five years as an altar boy, and a period of time, around the age of 13, when I seriously considered a career in the priesthood.  My parents are anti-abortion activists, and when I was younger, I came along to "life day" protests with them.  During my teen years, that faith began to wane, especially after I learned more about the history of the Church and developed an interest in the ideas of other religions.  Even though I went to a Jesuit university as an undergraduate, I came in as a doubting agnostic, and ended my time there as a self-avowed atheist.

The whole time I kept these beliefs a secret from my family.  One of my gay friends used to tease me about this, urging me to "come out" as he had done with his parents (with something much more stigmatized) and that I was being chickenshit.  I wanted to, but never could, since I felt that they would think I was somehow rejecting them or putting them down.

As time went on, I dropped my atheism for my former agnosticism, and would still occasionally attend mass.  I got a great deal of enjoyment out of this during my time in Germany, with its gorgeous medieval churches and dedicated parishioners who acted like they really wanted to be there.  I regained my old appreciation for my the mystical and the power of ritual.  In recent years, after going to a close friend's church, I began attending Episcopal services, and felt something important inside of me rekindled.  I am still not a completely committed believer, but I feel something stir in my soul again, and I enjoy being around good-hearted people who really care about making the world a better place.

This is all background to a phone conversation this evening, when I told my parents that the reason we haven't baptized the girls is that I do not wish to remain affiliated with the Catholic church.  I framed it in positive terms, in that I felt more comfortable in a different faith community, rather than going negative and cataloging my many deep frustrations and critiques of the Catholic church.  However, there were still some awkward moments, to say the least.  I'm thirty-seven, but I felt fifteen again.  As I grow further and further apart from the person I used to be, I wonder if these moments will ever go away.

I always fear that the decisions I've made with my life are interpreted by them to be rejections and repudiations of their love.  I went into an unorthodox career, married late, left Catholicism, and settled down in the dreaded land "back East."  As they get more set in their ways, and I get to be more confident in revealing my true self to them, I wonder what kinds of strain our relationship will face.  I guess dealing with the ensuing awkwardness is a worthy price to be paid for living in the truth rather than hiding behind twenty years of lies.

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