11/19/2006

Casting Faith

On Thursday during my casting appointment there was a group of four people involved in the process—two prosthetists and two interns—each taking a different role in wrapping my residual limb in a flexible fiberglass shell, then shaping that shell into a form that will both conform to my anatomy and will also best contain the tissue, muscle and bone as I walk. This is an intimate process, as the socket of my prosthetic leg interfaces with the major bones of the pelvic girdle—holding in the ischium and pressing against the ramus.

It is an odd feeling to have two male prosthetists shaping the casting material between my legs and around my hip. Realizing that they are interacting with the most personal spaces of my body. Knowing that it is their job and this is a necessary process for getting a good fitting socket. Me, trying to remain a bit aloof and distanced from the process, yet at the same time having such high hopes that they will get a good fit—that the socket will work well and not cause pain and the suppurating sores that I’ve suffered with for the past few years.

On Thursday evening I experienced a different form of intimacy. I gathered around the kitchen table of a Friend, holding hands with three Quaker women who agreed to serve on my Clearness Committee. We sat in silence, in prayer, until I felt moved to speak, to tell them of the turmoil in my heart in the process of leaving Mormonism. I spoke hesitantly, nervously. Their role was only to ask open-ended questions. Not to judge. Not to guide. After 90 minutes of speaking and silence, they mirrored what I had spoken back to me. They told me what they had heard me say. They discussed how my body language revealed the truths of my heart. Most of all, they shared their concern for the burdens that I am carrying.

Perhaps ironically, the Clearness Committee experience was far more discomfiting and intimate than the casting for my prosthesis. For I don't readily share the thoughts of my heart. Yes, I do this daily blogging, but I speak primarily of mundanity here. I've only very hesitantly shared the steps of my spiritual journey with anyone. I suspect that most just can't understand. Within the Mormon community I feel censure and distrust. I have few friends who can empathize with the loss of faith. Who can grieve with me through this process?

Outside of Mormonism, I am flummoxed by trying to explain what leaving the church means. That it is a complete change of worldview. Is it, perhaps, like having to relearn to walk?

There is a popular LDS song called “I Walk By Faith” that I sang often during my teen years. I identified with this song as a young Mormon who was developing faith in Christ and as an amputee, because each step involved trusting my prosthesis in hopes that it would support my weight. So now on my spiritual journey away from the LDS Church I am learning what it means to walk by uncertainty, to walk by doubt, to walk into completely unknown territory as my heart leads me onwards. Ironically, this seems the biggest leap of faith thus far.

7 comments:

Téa said...

Reading about the Clearness Committee left me with a sense of awe, both in your choice to do it and that you have associates who are skilled(?) enough to be your committee.

Both experiences in the same day, too. Exhausting but productive, I'd imagine.

Caroline said...

I love the idea of a Clearness Committee. Someday when I'm at my wits' end over my issues, maybe I can call one and you can be on mine. :)

Anonymous said...

This friend speaks my mind.

Thank you, Love, for speaking my truth with clarity as well.

Gray said...

I have always felt that your writings here were quite personal. As a regular reader I feel much more welcomed in to your life than shut out. It often feels surprisingly intimate.

Your blog has the feeling of sitting around the living room in conversation. Often the intimacy here comes not from the content of what you reveal directly, but, from the clarity of your writing, and your willingness to present yourself to the reader in an unfiltered, forthright, and accessible manner.

Haiku and the music of Bach both bring us to the address of intimacy and let us look around. Intimacy and emotion are there for us to experience, but Basho and Bach never tell us what to feel. They place us in a private environment where we may guess their paths and to freely find our own path through the experience.

Brahms and the romantic poets insist that we emote with them and jealously attempt to chain our hearts to their own passions and nightmares.

I guess that this is simply a long- winded way of saying that I appreciate the level of intimacy that you are willing to foster here.

Good luck and best wishes for healing the painful sores caused by an ill-fitting prosthesis and an ill-fitting approach to worship. May the human-made extensions to your body and soul give you comfort for a long time to come.

-Gray

AmyB said...

This is very moving, Jana. I recently read a book by a Quaker, Parker Palmer. I was intrigued by his descriptions of the Clearness Committee. What a beautiful process.

I was also deeply affected by your mention of grieving through this process. Just when I think it doesn't affect me so much, those few simple words brought an onslaught of emotion. I see myself going through stages of grief on my own faith journey. Everything as I thought I knew it fell out from under me. Whether I stay or go, Mormonism will always be a part of me, and even if another path is the best for me, I will still need to grieve the loss of the community and the faith that my family and so many of my friends still hold dear.

jana said...

Thank you Gray. Your thoughts have touched my heart. :)

AmyB--I don't think Mormons can fully understand how much this _is_ a process of grieving. Of remembering the past and slowly letting go. Of leaving a community and a way of life. Of feeling alternately angry, sorrowful, and at peace.

Tea and Caroline: Certainly Mormons can adopt/adapt the Clearness Committee concept for their own uses. If you want to convene a committee for yourself, follow the link (in the post) and share your desires with some trusted friends. Try it out and see how it goes! :)

Dora said...

I'm so glad that you're gettin a new socke and leg with a competent team. You've been through enough with the other prosthetist.

And the Clearness Committee sounds wonderful. Isn't that ideally what therapy should be like? Have someone objectively listen to your vocalized concerns and issues, and non-judgementally reflect back what they are hearing so that you can evaluate how clearly you communicate and understand yourself? Sometimes it's finding that kind of person/people who can really listen that gives us the permission to give voice to the things we most want to say.