Hey, Captain. I’ve got a bit of a social conundrum and would appreciate any tips/scripts to help me deal with people I don’t want to talk to at all.
Short back story: My husband is a youth minister at a church. We have been living in the church parsonage rent-free for the past 8 or 9 years in exchange for monitoring the property, and him not getting a pay check. Over Christmas, the church burned down. A week later, the pastor and a deacon came to us an explained (very poorly) that due to state building codes, the church cannot be rebuilt in the original location, and the only other property the church owns for building is where the parsonage sits. They told us they would like to start removing the parsonage by March; but please don’t tell anyone about this because they hadn’t decided how to tell the church body, or even when to tell them-they seemed to think that two months is sufficient time for a single income (me) household with two children and a person who is a wheelchair user (my husband) to find a new place to live (it isn’t, we’re still looking).
Current problem: While my day job sometimes schedules me for Sundays, there are still weekends I have off, and due to not being right next to the church, if my husband is to perform his duties, I have to take them to church. Our girls also like going to church. I do not. I am feeling a lot of anger and bitterness, as well as depression, because this couldn’t have come at a worse time. Now, when I am at church, I find myself needing to act like I enjoy being around various groups of people who are a) willing to give a family a bare two months to move, and b) are exhibiting more ideological differences with each passing day (I’m sure given the current political climate, most everyone can guess why) that I find more and more difficult to deal with. I have already left off social media outside my online bookstore owner persona, but I can’t leave my husband and kids to always go to church alone-then my husband has to deal with people commenting on my having to work (it’s so dreadful) or asking where I am and if I’m okay (I’m not, but they don’t want to hear that anyway).
Any ideas/scripts how I can politely tell them to leave me alone and give me space because we are not on the same page, when I’d really love to have an epic breakdown and tell them exactly where they can all go?
Too Stressed For This
(she is fine as pronoun)
Dear Too Stressed:
Your husband goes to church for his job, and your daughters like church right now, and they need you to drive them back and forth. Okay.
You can actually leave them to go to church alone and go do something else with your day. Your husband can deal with being asked where you are. I promise you that he can. He might not like it, and the expectation might be that you’re there cheerleading away, but a dude who chose “Youth Minister” as his career will survive a few moments of small talk with inquisitive folks by saying, “She’s just fine, she couldn’t make it this week but she said to make sure to tell you hello!” if it gives you some needed space. You need the space, so, take it.
Ideas for how to spend that two hours off the top of my head:
- Do something that de-stresses you. A nice walk in nature. Reading a book.
- Heck, if you want fellowship and worship, go to a different church where nobody knows you and sit in the back.
- Looking at rental listings for where you’re going to live or otherwise do the million things you need to do for your upcoming move.
Take. A. Break.
Now, you don’t want to flee church (or this particular church) forever, and you also don’t have to lie and say you’re fine or pretend you agree with stuff you don’t agree with. Most people want, “Fine, and you?” as a response when they make “How are you?” small talk, and it’s okay to say that when your energy is low and you want the path of least resistance. That said, “A bit distracted, we’re looking for a new place to live just now. What’s new with you?” or “Pretty concerned about the state of the world with ______ issue happening, how ’bout you?” or even “I feel pretty alienated sometimes when I’m here because of politics, sometimes I feel like everyone agrees with x, y, and z except me“are perfectly acceptable answers if they are true answers. You don’t have to pick a fight, you don’t have to tell every detail of everything, you don’t have to tell other people how they should feel, but you also don’t have to agree with everyone else or perform stuff you don’t believe even if these are the unwritten expectations for women in your faith community.
If people react badly to this, and by badly, if they are mean to you or pressure you to comply with the party line or act shocked that you would ever ask a question or admit to being not 100% happy about everything, you and they will survive that interaction and you will mentally designate them as Smallest of Small Talk people for future interactions. And maybe by being open about your state of mind, you’ll give the others who feel like you do some room and courage to be honest, too.
You can tell the truth about your life and your feelings in your church. You can ask questions in your church. And you can skip church sometimes.
Closing comments 2/1/2017.