Thursday, June 9, 2011

Church Update

I thought about titling this post "Weariness" or "Concession" or even "I Give Up." I haven't posted for such a long time because, in truth, I am weary of the battle that comes with chemical sensitivity. I haven't abandoned the cause entirely. I still read the MCS-America daily updates (or at least scan the headlines) and put my two cents worth in whenever there is an applicable discussion on Facebook. However, I've quit talking about the issue at church and I've (mostly) quit whining about it to my family (much to their relief, I'm sure). Because, frankly, I think it's a lost cause, at least in the LDS Church here in Helena, Montana. And who wants to fight a losing battle?

I've settled into a Sunday routine that works most of the time. I attend Sacrament Meeting (worship service) with my daughter and her husband. I often wear my mask and sometimes sit in the foyer, but it is worth it just to sit with family, the youngest boy often snuggling up to me during the meeting. It's not my own ward (congregation), but I have come to know several of the families there and don't feel like a total stranger. We sit on the back row of the overflow area of the chapel, and most people just leave us alone back there. It is never what I would call "fragrance free" but it is tolerable most weeks. I leave immediately after the meeting so as not to catch the fragrance of people walking by.

My only other involvement with church people is through the Visiting Teaching program of my ward Relief Society (the women's organization). I had asked to not have anyone come to our home, but the Relief Society president recently assigned a good friend who also has some chemical sensitivity to come visit me once a month. She is really the only person in my own ward (other than my husband) with whom I have any regular personal contact. I also mail the Relief Society newsletter with a short personal note to four other women in the ward each month. One of those women is an old friend and calls me occasionally.

There are two things I miss most with this arrangement: the sense of community and being part of the music. Every once in awhile I think, 'Maybe I should try again, to ask people to accommodate my needs so I can be more involved.' Then someone says something like I heard a couple of weeks ago from a family group that was looking for a place to sit before the meeting. One of the men, glancing over at me, said something to the effect of, "Well, we can't sit at the back because I'm wearing cologne." He looked at me and smiled as he said it, figuratively patting himself on the back that he was willing to find another place to sit to keep me safe, but I couldn't help but feel that he really didn't understand. Did he not see the signs, on every outside entrance to every LDS Church building in the area that ask everyone to please come to church meetings fragrance-free? Apparently, that doesn't apply to him. He's special. I'm not.

So, I give up. It is what it is and it isn't going to change. It's comfortable enough. I'm not sure what I'll do if my daughter and her family leave the area (a very likely possibility in the next few months). Perhaps I will try going to Sacrament Meeting in my own ward, sitting by myself at the back or in the foyer, mainly to keep up appearances and maybe, in some small way, to feel like I'm still part of the organization that my ancestors helped to found and to which I've given so much of my life.


Becca said...

Oh Mom. I hate to hear the defeat in your voice. But I think I'd feel the same way if I were you. I wish you could come sit next to me every Sunday (if I could guarantee it would be fragrance free). Love you.

CatherineWO said...

Becca, in sunny CA, where the rooms all have outside doors, it's not such a problem. The buildings here are designed to keep everything inside, so the air gets really thick with scent. Gross.

Amy said...

I am sorry to hear this too. It is frustrating that people Re not considerate of the needs of others. I've seen it in my own ward in different situations.

Magpie Sue said...

I hope the comments from your blog go to your email Inbox.

I haven't attended church meetings in I don't know how long now. Years. My poor husband used to just change his clothes when he returned from church; lately he's had to take another shower before he can be around me. He's had to quit singing with the choir too, which he used to enjoy, because he has become sensitive enough to the fumes that he ends up coughing instead of singing. Im in about the same boat with you in terms of VT. I'd rather not have visitors and I do a card route.

I'm so grateful that I can see Conference over and over again online. It doesn't replace fellowship but it helps. I actually miss the members of my quilt guild more than my Ward members. That's partly why I started my blog, to replace the sense of community I'd lost when I had to quit going to guild meetings and church. It's not a perfect solution but it's better than nothing.