I’m Out!

Photo by cbguille (flickr)

Photo by cbguille (flickr)

{See my previous post for backstory}

My mother and I decided to eat out last night. After our almost-discussion the day before, the elephant in the room was just too cumbersome. We needed to finish our talk, and I was finally–after over a year of evasion and privacy–ready to tell her.

When our hefty plates of stir fry were placed in front of us, she grinned. “I’m glad your roommate walked in last night.” I grabbed a chunk of meat and stuffed it into my mouth. “I knew that if we had said more, then I would have gone down the path of ‘Well what about this?’ and gone down the path of debate instead of doing what I wanted to do which was understand your journey and see what brought you to where you are today.” She clearly knew what I had to say, but wanted to let me vocalize it all.

I told my story.

. . . . .

My hand shook. I stared as it carried vibrating forkfuls of food towards my mouth–too quickly, I thought. I could barely swallow in time before having another bite to chew. I didn’t feel control over my own movements, so they happened anyway; I simply observed. The clichéd tremble amused me, and I chuckled to myself, which I’m sure came across as puzzling to my mother who sat across from me, leaning back from her empty plate as I continued to work at my food–barely touched.

The need to fill the silence between my mother and I was a desperate itch. I ached to scratch it, but I bit my food with vigor and stared at my stupid, shaking hand instead.

I had just told her I was an atheist. She’d listened to my story, and now she sat silenced, glossy-eyed, and buried beneath her thoughts. As I inhaled my food, I tried to imagine what she felt. Disappointment came to mind first. Probably a caring sort of pity, too. Perhaps she was praying. No, I knew she was praying. My mother always prayed. This is probably the first time she thought twice about praying aloud in front of me.

“I can see how it would be hard for you to deal with all of that alone,” she said.

No more silence.

. . . . .

After the big “moment of truth”, we started discussing various topics and thoughts: We talked about the Catholic church, masculinity and femininity, how she used to be an atheist, evidence for miracles, and that she doesn’t believe Christianity requires people to leave their reasoning skills behind.

Aside: You should know that my mother is one of the most thoughtful and faithful Christians of my acquaintance, and she’s also one of the most respectable, wonderful individuals I’ve ever known. When people talk about blind faith and dumb believers, they are not speaking about this woman.

At the end of our conversation, she mused, “This is astonishing…” I nodded, smiling. “You’re the girl who came home from camp in 7th grade and said, ‘Sorry Mom, I’m going to be a missionary.'”

“I know.”

“Astonishing…”

Who should I tell next?

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November 1, 2009  |  Christianity, god, news, personal, relationships, religion

25 Comments


  1. Wow. That takes strength but honesty pretty much compels it, no?

    Very proud of you. Hang in there.

  2. That's awesome. It sounds like she handled it pretty well, and that's great you were able to have a frank discussion about the different components of religious thought. Way to go!!!

    • Her reaction is a credit to her stellar character and good heart. I am truly fortunate to have told her first and have seen that someone can disagree with you and be sad about your decisions but still love you without fail.

  3. That sounds as though she was very supportive. It must have been difficult for you, but to get a reaction that seems to have placed her love for you above any other feeling must be a relief.

  4. Good for you and congratulations for doing it so early in life. I just turned 40, and my parents and I have never had that talk. I think they probably have wondered, since they didn't raise me in the church.

    • Well if you ever find it necessary to tell someone the truth about it, don't let fear make decisions for you like I have in some cases. Sure I did it young, but it's pretty much terrifying. hehe

      • What's bizarre is that my wife, my Southern Baptist inlaws and most of my friends know I'm an atheist. My lapsed-Christian parents and my Christian relatives don't. Even my sister-in-law, widow of my only brother, doesn't know, and I'm fairly sure she's a Wiccan or some other kind of neo-pagan.

        I know, I know. I'm a bundle of contradictions.

  5. I'd so give your mother a big ol' bear hug if I could. I'm so happy for you, GG.

  6. well at least she didnt ask you what babies taste like lol… glad to hear all went well

  7. According to my knowledge of psychology, people go through various stages before accepting the truth. From this blog entry of yours, I can see your mother was in shock. If the model is right, the next stage will be denial. I would suggest to gather information about what to say to people who are in denial next and then prepare for her anger which comes after denial.

    If you want to know what I'm talking about, please go and read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C3%BCbler-Ross_mod

  8. I'm very happy for you and I'm glad it went well. Your mom sounds like an awesome person.

  9. Phew! Glad it turned out okay. I second the "everyone", though maybe one step at a time, if there are others to whom opening up might be similarly harrowing.

  10. congratulations! I've only been an atheist for about 2 years, and each new conversation makes me a bit nervous. good job!

  11. Congratulations on your coming out.

    I informed my parents I was an Atheist at the tender age of 8. It went something like this:

    Me "I don't believe in god."
    Mom "Your sister convinced you of this didn't she?"
    Me "No. Figured it out myself."
    Mom "Oh."

    That was pretty much the end of it. My parents, who were never all that religious to begin with, went on to watch plenty of George Carlin and Eddie Izzard comedy hours with me when I was a teenager and found more truth in the observations of comedians than they ever found in a church. They're kind of right there with me on the whole higher power thing now. If only it could go that easily for everyone.

  12. Nice! Your story is good inspiration for me… I need to have that conversation soon.

  13. Sounds like it went as well as possible. She sounds like a cool mom!

  14. Congratulations, GG! Isn’t it wonderful to finally be able to be yourself around the people you love? I so happy for you! Your mom sounds wonderful!

  15. Of course you’re a catholic!!!

    It makes sense now

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