Friday, May 1, 2015

Effects of patriarchy on gender and relationships

Summer 2014, out in my yard. I'm still not comfortable in my own skin, but I'm getting there.
It was when I was in my early 20's while still living at home, right before the intervention that resulted in me leaving the homestead.

I realize now this phase was my silent, extreme reaction to growing up in a patriarchal environment. My version of "fuck you!" without daring to talk. Talking was too dangerous, too scary. Too many repercussions.  This, on the other hand, was my quiet way of taking a stand and rebelling. Although I didn't know it at the time and didn't even realize it until recently.

It started with clothing. Pants were taboo, and jeans even more so. But by age 22, I was tired of getting stared at out in public wearing long skirts or the infamous culottes with tights. So I started going on a few covert shopping trips for more suitable clothing. Unfortunately, each pair of jeans I tried on made me cringe. I had never seen my legs in jeans, and the feminine cut that showed my hips and thighs was literally scary to someone like me who had never quite seen this outline in a public place. I hated the way my legs looked. The funny thing is that I was thin while still being curvy... I just hated my female curves. I didn't know why then. It didn't even click for me until the other day. Those curves were a reminder of my femininity, and I hated being a female. Because as a female, I was severely repressed and unhappy. 

After several failed shopping attempts, I left Macy's in tears, feeling disgusted by my body and angry that I couldn't even shop properly.

After that, I decided that men's jeans were the way to go. They made my curves disappear, and I quite liked that idea. There's no way I was going to try on and purchase my own pair from the men's department. So I went fishing in the family dirty laundry bin and began to surreptitiously 'borrow' both of my brothers' jeans. I knew it would be suspicious if I borrowed a clean pair, wore them, then put them in the laundry. They would be out of circulation from my brothers' closets too long. Somehow I didn't care if I even smelled like a guy wearing their jeans. Men were powerful, unfettered, not abused. I longed for that kind of freedom, even if I could only get a taste of it through a pair of unwashed men's jeans.

This is why guy's jeans made so much sense. They made my legs look long and straight like a man's. I could look and smell like a man. No other men would be looking at me and oogling me. I hated the responsibility I was supposed to feel for men's eyes lingering on me when they weren't supposed to be. It was so much work, I was always on edge looking out for it, trying to look down, trying to hunch over, to slink away quickly. I hated trying to shield myself from their gaze, and hated the distaste I was supposed to feel. Dressing as a man was so much easier. I could let my guard down. I could breathe. I would be safe. I could be invisible.  

Around this time, I was digging out both of my brothers' white T shirts to wear with their jeans. This kind of gagged me to wear them unwashed, but I got over it quickly enough. Thankfully, I had two brothers, so the chances of either one noticing their clothing missing was cut significantly in half. After a while, they unfortunately did notice and I did get in trouble, but I still kept borrowing them. I wore bras that made my small breasts even smaller, and I felt quite unaccountably safe. I had perfected a modesty hunch by this time, rolling my shoulders forward to hide and make even less apparent my breasts.

I remember the first time I wore my get up out in public. It was to a bowling alley where my freshman phys ed class met twice a week my first year of college.

I matched the outfit with newly cut short hair. I had found a pair of scissors and locked myself in the bathroom one night, trimming my hair into a boy cut in the back with longer pieces in the front. And I got away with it. For some reason, any of my sisters would have gotten the third degree and more than a tongue lashing for attempting this. But me? He didn't say a word. I had always been the good girl, the quiet submissive one. He didn't ever need to discipline me. He only hated me from a distance because I reminded him of what he did to me when I was little. He didn't dare discipline me when I got older because maybe he knew my anger could trigger something and I could remember what he did and spill his secret.

So I flew under the radar with that haircut. And paired with my new boyish outfit (which was hidden under a long skirt and sweater until the appropriate time), I arrived at the bowling alley nervous as heck. I could barely get out of my car for fear. I sat for a half hour before going in, and arrived late. But as I walked in, I glowed. No one looked at me. And that just felt amazing.

I got partnered off with a kid that was about my height with hair sticking up, jovial, a bit crass, not my type, but so talkative. And suddenly, we were best friends and I was making conversation with him easily, and I was having fun. Me, who had never spoken to a boy before, let alone in such an unguarded way. But I was able to get on with him so well because I felt like a guy and saw him as a fellow pal. We continued this way for a few weeks into the class, when he offhandedly asked me to be his 'girl.' I must have made an offended face, and he backed off and apologized.

I was puzzled... wasn't I dressed as a guy? Didn't he see? I didn't realize then that it must have been my self confidence that drew him in, not my clothing.
 
My dressing as a guy phase lasted a couple years. I wasn't able to grow my hair long until many years after that. But even after all this time, I was never able to go back to wearing dresses, even short ones. Well, I do have a few short skirts I wear, but only if I wear tights and tall boots with them. The loud decisive click, click of the boots when I walk show I mean business and am not to be crossed. This toughens my look enough to make the skirt acceptable by me. My favorite outfit of all, though, consists of tight jeans. I don't mind who looks at me or who doesn't. I simply love the way they feel.

I'm much more comfortable being a female now. But I am not, nor rarely have been attracted to men who show the typical masculine traits. I like a man with a soft voice, gentle demeanor, warm spirit, a nurturing personality, long hair even. Someone decisive and firm, yes, but someone who is intuitive, empathetic, and in touch with their feminine side.
 
The effects of patriarchy have reached past clothing issues and gender identification, in my experience. Growing up in a home with absolute male control and abuse of that power has caused me to be gun shy of men in my adult life, to put it mildly. I have been constantly alert in relationships with men, and run at the slightest hint. I haven't been able to stay in a relationship longer than two years. To stay longer is to not be able to breath. Even now I feel suffocated. I've resisted the whole idea of of marriage and family for so long, like it's a curse. I don't know what a healthy model of that looks and feels like, and I've been  terrified of having kids with K in case he goes patriarchal on me. I couldn't subject any of my future kids to that. Honestly, there is no reason for me to be afraid though. He dropped religion and the patriarchal spin off that he used to embrace. Reason is telling me there is no cause for  fear. I see the way he is so laid back, indulgent, and lax about rules with Maggie and Sparky. Yet the fear is still there. I also am constantly on guard,  defending myself from perceived threats often when no ill intent is there.
 
My perspective on relationships, marriage and family is warped in so many complex and convoluted ways. It has made me go into a tailspin currently in the way I relate with K. I can't unravel it. But I'm not going to stress about it anymore.
 
It is what it is and I will simply let it be.
 
While wearing my favorite pair of tight jeans. Which are clean, and haven't ever been worn by a guy.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Bog of singing frogs

These are the enchanted woods, and this is the trail that leads to the bog.
There is a bog of singing frogs down the trail a five minute walk away from my yard. In the evening, in the dark, they start to sing. It's magic. It's soothing. The world slows down, and I sigh.

Even better is to be on the trail surrounded by them. The bog singing on the right, a chorus to the left by the creek, the sound surrounding me and massaging away any stress or tension. There is only breathing now, only nature, only dark shadows and humid spring air. Only the smell of the trees and damp warm earth, only the crunch of gravel underneath.

Breath. It's so easy now. What is it about the texture of this surround sound, this soothing group of throaty singers. It's like the barrage of thousands of tiny droplets of water from the shower head massaging my skin, each little peeper singing, hundreds of them, all around me.

Right down the road. When I take the pup out at night in my yard one last time before he goes to sleep, I hear them. They don't sing during the day, just when it's dark. I didn't hear them last summer, though. But then again, I didn't go out at night then since I didn't have a dog then who needed to go out that late. This is yet another reason I'm glad to have Sparky! He gets me outside a lot more, and we walk on this trail often.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Changes in the air


I don't have a thick skin to start out with. I'm a sensitive person. So when someone disappears from my life because I gave them access to this blog, I get pretty upset. This happened recently, twice. I really need to stop giving this blog address to friends and potential friends. Or perhaps I should feel out people more before letting them in the inner circle here. But I'm not going to tame down what I write about here. I write about raw, personal events in my life. That's what I do. I would write even more openly, in a more unfettered way if I felt more anonymous. I might play around with the idea of anonymity in future blogging.

I'm really over living a life of silent pretense. This is my place to live fearless and fierce. So those who can't handle me will have to fall away and I will just shake it off. I'm going to be true to myself first and foremost.

So in honor of that spirit, I would like to share that I am in a new place in my life. Two roads are open in front of me, and I'm terrified of making a choice. I'm riding the rails of both choices right now.

My heart and body belong down south in the luxurious humidity of a warm climate. I dream of Florida, and have since age five. Ask anyone who knows me even half well, and they will tell you about my dream to move there. My mind throws at me reason after reason to stay put where I am now, but my heart can't be squelched. My heart is foolish, rebellious, drunkenly courageous. The 'what ifs' and 'how will you ever make it on your own' kind of thoughts fly at me but I am floating without touching earth. When my feet do touch down, I will have landed far from this little town in PA.

Why leave my home here, you ask? To put it simply, I don't belong. I have no family ties to keep me here. My heart is too warm for the frosty winters here. My health always improves in the summers when its sunny and hot, and I can get outside and be active. I wish summer could last all year round, then my health could continue to improve. Also, K and I are not on the same page, and haven't been for some time. Living with him is a constant trigger to the past, living on edge waiting for his next fit of anger, his next attack. Emotionally, leaving him will be a balm to my spirit.

I have a couple ideas in the works as far as working from home, or the home I will make for myself once I move from here. The problem is that I'm honestly still not well enough to be working even from home, at least in the areas that I'm considering. But this doesn't spell defeat, and its not a roadblock. I don't give up easily.

I'm also attracted to the idea of living in an intentional community like Twin Oaks. I wish there were more communities like this. In a perfect world, there would be communities like this. I haven't yet left my abusive marriage because I can't yet make it on my own in the world due to my health. But in an intentional community, my health wouldn't be an issue, and I wouldn't need a husband to support me. The community would take care of me. My only 'job' in the community would be doing things I do in my home anyway. In a community like Twin Oaks, you have free health insurance, you don't have bills, you don't pay rent or utilities, you don't pay for groceries, you don't need a car, and someone in the group runs errands so you wouldn't ever have to leave the community if you didn't want to. So if you have trauma related agoraphobia, such as is my case, you can feel safe in knowing you don't ever have to leave the safety of the community. 
 
In exchange for the community support, you contribute your effort in the form of work that you enjoy doing, whether it's cleaning, landscaping, cooking, working on the farm with the animals or in the fields, or helping out in the community businesses such as seed cataloguing, plant care or basket weaving. Or you fix or build things if you want. Some of these things I could do quite easily. There isn't a time clock to punch... you set your own hours for some of these projects. This would be ideal for me since I need to take rest breaks, and I never know how well I am going to feel at any particular moment until that moment is occurring.
 
Also, you don't need to worry if you are a loner without friends or family, such as is my case. The community would be my new family and circle of friends.  The Twin Oaks farm is out in the middle of nature in a peaceful setting. This would help me with relaxation and healing.
 
Living in a community setting instead of being married to K or anyone at all is probably a good idea for me. I won't have to worry about any man thinking he has ownership of me and has the right to control and scream at me out of the blue. I also won't be expected to have sex. After the trauma of last summer, sex is really the last thing I'm interested in right now. Although, I'm not sure if my disinterest in sex is due to the trauma with my father, or just because I'm not exactly in a loving relationship right now.
 
I'm quite attracted to the idea of living in an intentional community. So far, Twin Oaks and it's sister farm Acorn are at the top of my list. However, they are both in Virginia, which is warmer in the winters than Pennsylvania is, but is still not warm enough for me. If I could find a solid intentional community like Twin Oaks that is located in Florida, heck, even Arizona or California, I would move there.
 
And so, dear readers, I am exploring my options and am quite certain that things will work out.

It's late April here, and the weather has topped out in the mid 50's as a high the last couple week. I can't wait until it warms up. There are a number of projects that I'd like to do here. I am planning to get a fence put in around the yard, as well as landscaping and a new flight of wooden steps outside. I've been interviewing contractors and reviewing plans, and am excited about the process of making things look nice here. Sparky will really enjoy a fenced in yard to run in.

So I have one foot in a set of projects here, and one foot in the process of potentially leaving. It feels messy making plans on both sides.

I told K that I wanted to leave. I told him that I would have left him three years ago if it wasn't for my illness and not being able to work. We've only been married about three years. He knows I want to go. But he also knows that if he changes his ways, I won't leave. I don't ask for a lot, just normal decent kindness. No verbal or emotional abuse. If he was a kind man, I wouldn't want to leave, even though I don't like the cold winters here.

I've been thinking over another option that is quite appealing: getting into a marriage of convenience with a gay man who lives in some warm state. I have the physical strength to easily be a housewife... I do it now. I cook and clean, make lively conversations, etc. I just can't leave the house due to agoraphobia. So he would have to be OK with that. And if he wanted to adopt, I would fall in love with him a hundred times over even though he wouldn't reciprocate, LOL. K does not want to adopt and I don't have the health or strength to bare kids.

So I'm at a turning point right now. Stay or go, go or stay.

I got a note delivered to my email from the "Universe" a couple days ago. I get daily notes sent from this dear entity, and they often are spot on as far as what I need to hear. So this particular note reads as follows:

There is no choice you've ever made, AJ,
nor any you will ever make,
that will limit you as much as you may fear.
Nor even limit you at all.
How cool is that?
 
Yes, that is cool. Thank you, Universe!  
 
 



Friday, March 6, 2015

New puppy!

 
I got a new puppy! On New Year's Day at 5 am, no less! From a farm out in the middle of Amish territory. I was sleeping in the passenger seat in the dark as K drove the hour's drive to the farm, then suddenly the sun was rising in this gorgeous, calendar-esque pinkness. I hadn't seen the sun rise or been up and outside so to speak that early in the morning since seven years ago when I was a teacher and rose early. So it was a good omen.

We got out of the car in semi-darkness. There were two carriages in the driveway, and the farm itself seemed quaint, although shrouded in dark. The farmer was young... well, he was the farmer's son. He spoke in an accent. Then he was going to get the puppy and his mother. They came running across the yard, but I had eyes only for the pup. He ran straight for me and tried to climb excitedly up my leg. I picked him up and instantly fell in love. It was like this pup was waiting for me his whole life and finally found me, that's how excited he was. So excited, he even peed on me. Three times. Each time, I laughed.

We were going to put him in his crate on the drive home, but he was snuggling up under my armpit while I held him, and I didn't want to let go. His mom was barking when we went to the car, and of course, she knew what was going on. Sparky was the last of her puppies to go, so it was even more sad for her. I tried to telepathically send a message to her- "I know you'll miss him. I will take such good care of him!"

He was shivering most of the car ride home, from either excitement, cold, or both. I kept him warm wrapped in a towel in my arms, and he slept like that the whole way home. By the end of the first day, I literally couldn't imagine life in our home without him. Is that odd? K said the other day that Sparky took to me in such a unique way, that perhaps the spirit of Thumper is in Sparky. I'll write about Thumper some time. He was my pet rabbit when I was a teen, and he had a sad life ending. Thumper was like a dog in his loyalty, and he was my closest companion for years. I still dream about him a couple times a year. Sometimes in my dreams we cross paths in other dimensions, in other forms, but I recognize him each time.
 
Maggie is fascinated with Sparky, but afraid of him because he is the same size as her and very playful. He tries to jump on her like she's a fellow puppy, and she freaks out and runs, then hisses and growls. In turn, she hits him when he runs under a chair she's safely perched on.
 
In the photos below, Maggie forgets her fear long enough to swipe a few of Sparky's kibbles off the floor. Food is such a fear reducer! Sparky keeps wagging his tail and sniffing in his friendly way, but in the last photo, Maggie goes to swat at him.
 




 
 
 
Maggie is getting less afraid of Sparky, and she hangs out on the steps while he passes by. She keeps a wary eye on him and gives him a swat or two when he gets to the bottom.  
 




 
 


Monday, November 24, 2014

Late bloomer

There are a number of life events that I have arrived at quite late in the game. The biggest life event has been marriage. And there are a few milestones in life I have avoided altogether, such as motherhood, even though most females my age have looked forward to and reached this milestone long ago.

Being a late bloomer hasn't been a problem for me. Probably because I'm so used to it.  It's like I've been dragging my feet in life as long as I can remember, and I don't know any other way to go about living. It's like I'm going as slow as possible and not dipping my toe into life on purpose.
 
Here's a hodge podge list of a few things I've done late, or skipped.
 
Kindergarten. I was too shy to go to kindergarten, so my mom homeschooled me. She told me I wasn't emotionally ready for school, anyway, and I figured that was fine by me if I got another year to play. So she homeschooled me. But she ended up being too busy nursing my younger sister, then pregnant with my younger brother, so she didn't get around to teaching me to read. So I repeated kindergarten with her a second year. Still didn't learn a blessed thing, but was put into first grade anyway... a couple years older than my peers. Thankfully, I was tiny when I was a kid, so they couldn't tell I was old.
 
Swimming. I think the learning gap has closed for me here. I tried to take lessons a few times, but just couldn't get the hang of floating. Hmm. Swimming was outlawed in childhood because bathing suits were immodest, and even a full set of clothing was immodest when wet.
 
Socializing. The critical development period for learning this skill closed up some time ago. Talking to people was "sinful" unless they were model Christians who wouldn't tarnish us. No model Christians were found, and we were beat with a rod for attempting conversation with any others, so I've eagerly skipped the acquisition of this lovely skill. I mean, who wants to get beat with a rod, right?
 
Making life decisions. That one is explored more below.
 
Reading. Because books other than the Bible, even devotionals in Christian book stores.... could be just the foothold the devil needs to work his way into your mind. So even holding a book felt evil. Walking into a Christian book store felt like the ultimate rebellion for me. The thing is, I used to love to read when I was a child, when books were generally innocent and weren't in danger of being confiscated. Once I hit about age 8 or so, books started being taken from me because they were too risqué, too ungodly. Once I worked hard to purchase a book I'd been drooling over. It was confiscated before I got to chapter two, but I saw literally nothing sinful in that book. What, was there some kind of pre-teen romance brewing in the next chapter?  I would never know. I was heartbroken then. And countless times afterwards, each time a book was taken. By the time I was in my late teens, I reached a point where I just gave up. The pain of having them taken from me was not worth the effort of trying to smuggle them.
 
That was when I started dumbing down my mind on purpose, being oblivious and airheaded, staying in my mind and not trying to reach out to explore and learn. I had been crushed one too many times trying to open up my small world through reading. So, reluctantly, I gave up on books. Completely. Since reading was deemed as more evil than holy, I would become the holiest airhead of them all. A head of mush, an obedient and naïve female, exactly what my father wanted. I was sick at heart but at least he would be pleased.
 
Turns out, he wasn't pleased, but I kept my mind closed, uninquisitive, and naïve anyway. For most of my life. I hate that I did this. I hate that today I can barely bring myself to buy a book. I hate that I feel like I'm still going to be punished by the Man Upstairs when I'm reading. I hate that I can't breath normally, in a relaxed fashion while reading. I hate that I adore the feeling of the heaviness of a good book in my hand, I melt in the luxury of getting lost between the pages, but I jump in guilt with a sudden startle reaction anytime I hear someone approaching on the steps, or banging a door like they just got home. Quick, hide the book under the cushion! Breath normal! Oh. Wait. It's OK. No one's going to yell at you.
 
What else did I give up, or achieve late in life?
 
My first kiss. It was at age 24, incidentally with my first boyfriend.
 
Going through a drive through. Age 24. Fast food was considered evil, and eating in general was something I also put off as much as possible for decades of my life. I was scared to eat. Still am quite often, but am getting better at it.
 
Marriage. It was at age 36, and I didn't want to get married at all. I was so afraid, and was dragging my feet.
 
Living. Doing things that make me happy. Finding out what makes me happy. Acquiring things. Letting myself go shopping or purchase things. Eating. Breathing in a relaxed way. Being silly. Joking. Going after what I want. Knowing what I want.
 
Why have I been afraid of so many normal things?

I've decided to sit down and figure out the reasons I'm so hesitant about... living a juicy, full, vibrant life. If I can figure out why, I can make changes and start living a fuller life. Right?

So far, I attribute the hesitancy and slowness to perhaps three factors.


1. As a child and young adult, I simply wasn't allowed to reach certain life milestones because they were considered worldly and evil. Instead of embracing life and being adventurous, I was taught to fear life and shut down in my safe little corner of the Christian life, being bland, safe and colorless. I was taught that females don't have the God given right to make lucid decisions, since females are emotional, and satan works through the emotions more than reason. So  whenever I had a choice to actually go and do something in life, I knew that Satan could sway me, being the emotional female I was, so I hesitated and then never actually chose to do anything but just sit there in fear.

Even after I was an adult and was free to make my own decisions, I still only dabbled in a few of the normal life processes that most people go through without a question. Much of life was still off bounds, too evil to participate in. The list of allowable activities were slim. Even normal things like gardening, singing, laughing, and eating were each a shade of taboo in certain circumstances.
 
2. My hesitancy to actively engage in life may have to do in small part to being shy in nature. I've always naturally been an introvert. But I think there's more to my hesitancy to actively engage in life than just introversion. I'm seeing now how the psychological trauma in my early childhood has caused me to be hyper cautious and fearful. I've always chosen by default the safest course of action without realizing it, and I've always sat in the dark and quiet corners watching but not contributing, always alert in case an authority figure tried to catch me doing or thinking something sinful.
 
3. I wanted nothing to do with marriage and children of my own because of what I experienced growing up. I was terrified of being bound in a marriage like my parents' abusive relationship. And since I wasn't going to have a life partner, I figured that I wouldn't have children either. I wasn't about to raise a child on my own. I had to nurture my career first and foremost, because my career had to be number one in my life. I had to devote most of my energy to supporting myself, since I didn't trust a man to support me. Rely on a man, and he might trap you. Better to be self reliant and safe.
 
More importantly, I wasn't about to trust any potential child of mine around any Christian man. I saw what Christian men did to children, and I would have rather died than repeat my mother's mistake in allowing a man to terrorize her children, helpless to intervene because he was a Christian, and because submissive Godly women don't question their men. No.
 
I used to have nightmares about what it would be like if I had a child, and he or she reached that dreaded "age of accountability." I played it out in my head. My loving husband (God, how I hate that word! Husband. It has too close of a connotation to the word "band." Like an iron band around me choking me into bondage and submission. Ughhh.) Where was I? Oh yes, I would always picture the future hubbie kneeling down and telling my child, "Now, you know you are a sinner, right? You must admit that you are a sinner if you want God to save you. You are a horrible, wretched sinner. You'll go to hell without God's intervention. Look, here's a picture of the devil, and hell. Pretty scary, huh? Do you want to go there? I thought not. Now let me lead you in the sinner's prayer."

Of course, I would hope the conversation would be a little more gentle and politically correct than that, but my first introduction to salvation as a child was this brutal. So what gaurentee did I have that my future man wouldn't be a Bible thumping, non gentle, non-diplomatic kind of guy? I had no gaurentee, as most Christians I spent time with back then did not care to soften their words. An activity such as softening your words was sinful. Liberal. No, a real Christian cut to the chase and called sin what it was, sin.
For now, I gots me a cat, instead.

I knew I could not in good conscious bring an innocent child into the world knowing that he or she would be destined to such a talk about sin and salvation. I simply could not do that. And for that very reason, I knew I could not ever bare children. The world was not a safe or friendly place, especially the Christian world. I would never purposely bring a child into an unsafe environment. Additionally, I knew that if I ever had a child, I would probably be married, and if I was married, it would definitely be to a Christian man. If he wasn't Christian, I would be cut off from family, and I didn't want that. My concern was that despite him being a Christian man, I had no gaurentee that he might abuse the child. What if that Christian man was like my father? Or abusive like my Christian brother in law who is in ministry but who physically abused his kids, my niece and nephew? I would never subject a child to this possibility. And so by default, I would never have a child. Or get married.
 
This is why I've lived the majority of my life as an independent female, jumping glibly every two years or so from one long term relationship to the next, keeping particularly away from men who leaned towards the 'm' word. Marriage. I knew from early on I had to have a successful career because I would be the only one who I could depend on in life. I would have no man. This is why I plowed through college and grad school and moved far away from my family and lived on my own. I got what I wanted. Complete independence, the ability to provide for myself, a career doing what I loved, stability, boyfriends whenever I wanted or didn't want, and no pressure to settle down and start a fa, fam, fami, Achoo! Family. I was allergic even to the word.
 
But now it's like I'm waking up and I see suddenly that most gals my age have kids who are teens, and I have no kids at all. Oh my gosh! Was I asleep at the wheel all these years? Why didn't I have kids? Suddenly, I remember all these reasons that I never brought into the light of day, except here in this blog. Yes. I know why.
 
She's not human, but she she's quirky, funny, social,
talkative, inquisitive, stubborn and high energy.
Got my hand's full!
Interestingly enough, it was after I went through an awakening of sorts and left Christianity that I started to want to have kids. Without the threat of hell and need for salvation, my child will never need "that talk." And I can teach him or her how beautiful and safe life really is. How the world isn't against her, and that there's nothing to fear. 
 
So, yeah! I would love to have kids now. But circumstances won't allow that currently. I want to have better health first.

I want to grab ahold of life and live more. I'm tired of being on the sidelines, too scared to try new things. It's like I'm afraid of life itself. I'm only tasting a little bit of it right now. I psyche myself out and don't let myself try new things. I don't let myself luxuriate. I live such a spartan, meager, quiet life. I used to be so adventurous, though, that first decade or so after I escaped from my family and moved far away from them. I want to get back to that state of being fearless. The more distance I put between my family and me, the better I feel.

Sometimes I just want to pack my bags and go. Someplace warm and sunny all year round. I want to start a whole new life that is completely free of any remembrance of my family. Trigger free.  I'm so done with this life. I want a new identity. A new name. A new childhood, a chance to live life over again in some other family. Or if I can't have that, I want to start my own family and get so busy and enjoy life so much that I won't have time to reflect on the past. Sometimes I wonder if all this spare time, not working, and staying at home alone in this big, empty house contributes to the flashbacks and ruminating. I am so ready to get busy again with life, so that I'm not haunted by the past.  I hate reliving memories from the past. They replay in my mind all day long, torturing me. I need to make myself busy so I'm not bogged down by them. I want a dog. I need a companion during the day to keep me company. I really want a dog.

A Dog
And Health
And a Job (which would be easy with restored health)
And Kids (again, easy-ish once I get my health back)
And a Car, (again, easy once I have the health to drive it, and the health to start my career again)
And Freedom to come and go (easy once I start to drive again)

I want to be done ruminating on the past. No more feet dragging. I want to dive back into life again.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Leaving before you are ready

How easy is it to leave a cult? For me personally, the answer is "not very."
 
I pay close attention to the stories of those who have left a religious cult. I admit I am a little envious of the females who made their escape from their family's cult by marrying a man who whisked them away from it all. I wish I had that ticket available back then. It wasn't available to me because I was terrified of men. I was especially afraid of Christian men because of the religious Christian monster my father was. And I was also scared of the so called secular, worldly men because linking up with them meant my life would be cursed with demons attacking me, and my family would cut me off. Also, there was that unspoken threat circulating in the underground Christin dating advice columns and pastor's sermons where the non Christian man is guaranteed to cheat on you and leave you. If he doesn't first rob a bank, then become a mass murderer. Because, gasp, that's what people do who don't fear God.
 
So I knew from  a young age that my escape was not going to be through a man. There would be no prince on a stallion. My sisters didn't escape with the help of a man or marriage, either. They were about as gun shy of men as I was.
 
So how did we get out? Well, we couldn't just leave. It seems so easy, right? Just walk out of the door. But if we moved out of the house, God would allow Satan to attack us, destroying our physical health, mental health, finances, future career, and future relationships and marriage.  That would happen if we left the house without our father's permission. The only way he would give us permission to leave was if we married a good Christian man he approved of. A man who our father would transfer us to, so we could be under that man's authority. We wouldn't be safe unless we were under a Christian man's authority. Also, if we left unwed to an approved man, our father said he wouldn't be able to pray a hedge of protection around us. He said his prayer alone wouldn't be enough to keep Satan from destroying us while we were out in the world.

There was no safe way to leave. Going into a courtship with a man approved by my father was far too frightening a concept for us sisters to want to entertain. We saw how our Christian father abused our mother, and we weren't going to be tricked into an exit from our father's home just to relive it again with a patriarchal man that he chose. No, that was far too great a risk.

And we couldn't just walk out the door and move into our own apartments. With all those threats and judgments from God? No, doing so would be equivalent to admitting you had a death wish. I would never have thought to leave on my own. Unless I really hated myself and wanted my life as I knew it to end.

It was easier for my brothers to leave. They were Patriarchs in the making, and were far better equipped than women to make it out alone in the world without risking God's wrath. My older brother got out after he graduated from college, accepted a good job, and had the financial where with all to go. Incidentally, he timed his departure so that he got married right when he left my parents' house, but he could have left with or without getting married if he wanted to. My brothers were privileged simply because of their gender. They didn't have nearly as much oppression or nearly as many rules as my sisters did. 
 
So, this is how my older sisters escaped. My father hadn't made any matches for them, and they were waiting and getting old. My father did approve of a courtship for my oldest sister L with a Christian man who worked with my father. My sister L did not find him in any way attractive and declined him. That I know of, she didn't get courtship offers after that. So when L was about 25, my second oldest sister Thalia (aged 24) staged an intervention and secretly got an apartment out of town, where she all but dragged my mild mannered, easy going oldest sister along to. They left quickly and secretly, before my father found out. L didn't want to go initially, but with Thalia pushing and planning, they made a hasty departure. There was a big blow up when they left, much threatening and cursing of their futures. All manner of ill will was wished on them, Bible verses were hurled, their characters questioned. They were called harlots who were practicing the sin of rebellion, which was likened to witchcraft. At this point, my sisters were so naïve and innocent about matters of life, that calling them harlots was just silly. Their harlotry consisted of wearing gel in their hair instead of leaving it natural. That, and going to a university where... non Christian men sullied my sisters simply by walking past them on campus. As if. My younger sister and I were given threatening sermonettes on the dangers of following their wicked footsteps.
 
When I was about 24, my 21 year old sister Christy staged an intervention. She secretly put a security down on an apartment out of town and rented a U-Haul. The same day, she broke the plans to me and told me I had a few hours to decide if I wanted out or not. She told me I had to make up my mind quickly. Back then I didn't even know we were living in a cult. I had no outside worldly experience to compare my life to. My 18 year old brother was going along with us. At the last minute I said, "OK." But I was dragging my feet. I was scared and not ready to go.
 
I had just graduated college, and had my bachelors degree in elementary education and my teaching certificate. I was too scared to go on interviews, so I lived on a substitute teacher's salary. This wasn't enough to pay the rent, even splitting it three ways. My younger sister had just graduated as well and had her bachelors degree and was hired as a nurse days before she even got her diploma. She was strong in her decision to go. I wasn't as confident.
 
As an aside, it is quite a shocker that we had gone to college at all. But my sisters and I had discussed how we didn't want to end up like our mother, uneducated except for a high school diploma, trapped and abused by our father. Since we didn't trust any man to get us out or have our backs, our ticket was an education, career and independent single gal living. If it wasn't for my older sister Thalia paving the way and helping each of us work out the FAFSA and various scholarships and loans, we wouldn't have had the know how or balls to go against my father and try to extend our education. All of my siblings and I took part and sometime full time jobs and went to college around our work schedules. I certainly would never had gone to college without Thalia's example and encouragement. My parents would not help financially based on moral grounds, and kept trying to discourage us from going. According to my father, college was evil and worldly, and all of us had better be prepared to reap the consequences of going through demonic attack as punishment from God for disobeying and going. My siblings laughed this off, but I was terrified. I woke up every day and fell asleep each night worrying when my judgment would hit.
 
So I entered the real world with reluctance and fear. I had a secret boyfriend at the time, and was able to see him much more often, which was nice.
 
But I'll be honest with you. If my younger sister hadn't staged that intervention, I wouldn't have left. If I hadn't gone with my younger sister and brother, I would have been the only one left at home other than my parents and trust me, I was incredibly uncomfortable with that. So I went with my siblings, even though everything inside me was screaming that I wasn't ready. Home was bad, yes, but it was all I knew. And even more importantly, I knew what would happen if I left as a single female, unmarried to a man who could protect me from the evils of the world. I knew I would be slaughtered. According to cult rules, God would punish me by sending demons to destroy my physical health, career, finances, relationships, happiness and mental health.  
 
Again, my siblings laughed all of this off. I wish I could have had their thick skin and sensibilities. For some reason, I was terrified of the consequences and they weren't. However, I think that had to do with the fact that I took spiritual matters far more seriously than my siblings did. And the main reason for that, although I didn't recognize it at the time, was because I sensed how much my father hated and shunned me, and wanted to do everything possible to get his approval. Since religion was his life, I figured that my following his spiritual rules to the T would be an excellent way to gain his approval. Sadly, though, the more I tried, the more he pushed me away.
 
But I didn't let myself see that. I just kept trying all the more to be spiritual. I got baptized, taught Sunday School, tithed, fasted for weeks on carrots, cornflakes and water, wore hideously modest prairie dresses and culottes, went to Bible College, went on a mission trip overseas, wanted to become a missionary, didn't look sideways at men, read my Bible and prayed regularly. Meanwhile, my sisters left the house in modest attire and changed into tight jeans and tanks in their car, dated wild men, read romance novels, said "Shut up" and "Oh my God," looked at magazines in the grocery store checkout, pierced their ears and wore clip-ons over top to hide the holes from my father, bought bathing suits and went to the beach (covert trips, of course). Most of my siblings were dancing on the edge of hell, and were just laughing all the way.
 
My siblings would occasionally talk about how horrible it was growing up. They would whisper that we had grown up in a cult, and that our father was a sociopath. They worried he would work himself up into some massive Biblical dither one day, shoot our mother, shoot himself, and then that would be the end of them. We used to check in our mom to make sure she was OK after most of us left. Our father kept loaded rifles on his bedroom wall, and often fell into unpredictable tirades of anger where he got violent. So my siblings worried. I was in a religious stupor myself back then, and told my siblings he was innocent, that he would never hurt our mom, and they were just being dramatic. Again, I didn't have the foggiest idea of what we grew up in, as I had no experience in a world other than the family home and cult. Yes, I did go to college full time and worked, but I was too afraid of people to talk to them, so it's like I was just a ghost passing through. I studied, took tests, drove, came, and left without communicating with other people, so it was like I actually wasn't even doing these things or really in the world. I was technically, slightly "in the world" but without human interaction out there, it pretty much doesn't qualify as being out.
 
Even after the intervention, when we moved out, I was in the world but very hesitant to break out of the mold and drop my normal customs and habits. It took quite a long time.
 
Fast forward a decade. I was living in extreme stress every day worrying about God's judgment for every little thing I did. And trust me, after ten years, I had started being worldly. It's like I had one foot back in the cult, since I believed 100% everything I was taught back then. And I had one foot in the world, living the life of a heathen while wracking up punishment and guilt left and right.
 
That's the danger of leaving before you are ready. That was the danger in my leaving my family and the cult before I was ready. That was the downside to accepting the intervention my sister staged when I was scared to go. That was the danger of leaving the cult physically, without first leaving mentally and emotionally.

That was the danger of living in the word without shedding the cult mentality. I gave myself permission to try to live a "normal" life like normal people did, but I couldn't get rid of all the nagging cult fears and threats of punishment for trying to be normal.
 
Maybe I would have been safer never leaving the cult in the first place. Maybe I would have been safer at home with my parents in the cult, safe from God's judgment because I was carefully obeying all rules?

Maybe that would have been safer than living a double standard, free on the outside but still in bondage to the cult fears inside?
 
I can't even begin to explore what would have happened if I had stayed in my parents' house instead of leaving with my siblings during the intervention. I think it would have been an incredibly dark experience. I do know that once I started living on my own, I began to experience happiness. I did forget the horrors of the cult. I think I can honestly say that I was happy on my own. Especially when I was geographically far away from my family. I certainly didn't have any flashbacks, anxiety or any physical manifestations of PTSD for at least a decade. I was pretty much oblivious and happy go lucky. I was always on the move though, never sat still or rested. Never stayed in any one location too long, or with anyone too long. I was antsy. I didn't ever want to get trapped by any person or situation. I was always running, always busy. I didn't stop to reflect or look inside. I just thrived on looking outside of myself, and shut my emotions and feelings up tightly. I was my five senses exploring the world, and nothing else.
 
I do recognize the danger of living in the duality I was immersed in for the decade of time I was out free in the world, living it up, but terrified on the inside. Like I mentioned, I always felt fear and threats lurking over my shoulder, poised and ready to get me for the huge amount of sins I was piling up every day. I was just waiting for all hell to break loose. I was just waiting for my punishment to begin. Biting my nails hoping that maybe I could squeak by for another day, another month, maybe even another year before disaster hit me.
 
And then it hit. I was 33 and a half. The PTSD knocked me blindside, and everything fell apart. My health fell apart, even though I struggled for a year to keep myself together. I had to eventually give up my teaching career. Well, I put in for a year's leave of absence, but my health wouldn't allow me to go back after that year was up. I had to give up my apartment, my boyfriend left me, acquaintances disappeared, and I didn't really have friends... the only thing I had left was my family. I had literally forgotten how strange and cruel they were. Time has a way of clouding those things over. So I crawled home, happy to have a family to go stay with.
 
I was naive. Too trusting. Too gullible. I give too much credit ahead of time. I actually thought I would go home to open arms. They were closed. But I didn't find that out right away. It was a very slow process of me finding this out.
 
When I went home, I was so ashamed of my life of sin, that I.... wait for it, wait for it, oh, darn it. Yes, you guessed it. I weep to share this sad revelation. I went back into the cult.
 
There. I said it. I double dipped.
 
Oh, horrors!
 
That's what happen when you leave before you are ready. The chances of falling back into the fold are just that much higher.


And I felt so guilty. I fell into it headlong.
 
To the point that I was back in the Bible, back in the land of religious fear, eating up all the devotionals that said illness was punishment from God, that illness was a gift from God, that I was supposed to praise God for the beautiful gift of character edification that came in the form of illness. I ate it all up.
 
I even let waver my fiercely held promise that I would protect myself by never getting married to a man. I let myself believe for the first time that perhaps a Christian man would be safe after all. Because what had I ever really known about being safe, right? Here I thought I would the safest out on my own in the world far away from my family, far away from religion, and without a man. I really thought that was my safest bet. But here that plan didn't pan out. Being alone out in the world unmarried, living a non-Christian life only ended up with me getting PTSD, ME/CFS and severe adrenal burnout.

So I had to re-evaluate my perception of what "safe" really looked like. I had been broken. I had to try a new route. God was a fierce punisher, and the single life alone in the world without Him and a man who served Him was a dangerous life after all. I had learned the hard way that it would be safest after all to do the Christian thing, the right thing, and get married to a good Christian man. If I did this, perhaps God would ease up his punishment on me and perhaps He would even let me regain my health!
 
So I over-rode my fear of Christian men and married one. I introduced him to my family (oh horrors!) and I introduced him to Christianity and the cult. I thought I was doing the "right" thing. I was getting back on track. The backslidden AJ rallies and returns to her Christian roots, praise God Almighty, and all God's people say, Amen.
 
Right. I married K. He actually wasn't a Christian when I initially met him. It was I who led him to the Lord. Out of compulsion and duty, not out of a desire. I didn't trust a Cristian any farther than I could throw one, but at the same time I feared what would happen to myself and him if we didn't punch our tickets and do our bare minimum as Christians. I felt safer around K knowing that he was brand new to the faith and hadn't been brainwashed by any sub cults or extremist thinking. He was a good man, and kind, when I met him. I imagined it could stay that way. I figured that as long as I was there to guide the ship and help shape the direction of his newly forming beliefs, he would remain the kind and jolly fellow he always was.

I was wrong. As soon as K put on the coat of Christianity, he became a monster. A living and breathing certified, Bible thumping, Christian monster. And that's when my eyes opened and I didn't want to go on living or breathing any more. The life vest of Christianity that I had reached for in my hour of need was now no longer a life vest, it was a pile of rocks that drug me to the bottom of the lake and wouldn't let me up for air. I endured it for a couple years, until one day I woke up and realized that I want nothing more to do with being a Christian.
 
It's been about two years now that I've left Christianity. I'm still digging myself out of the pit and separating from my family and a few situations and people still involved in the cult. I'm happier now, and K is happier.
 
On looking back, a part of me thinks that if I had stayed in the cult at my parents house instead of leaving during the intervention, I would have not only obeyed the cult rules, but I would have felt safer, I wouldn't have feared severe punishment from God every waking minute of my life for years on end, and I wouldn't have fallen apart with severe PTSD. I could possibly have avoided my health falling apart. Just think!

From this perspective, I wish I would have stayed at the homestead after graduating college and lived a safe life where I could just breath. It is too difficult balancing one world with another, with one foot in one world and one foot in the next. But at the same time, if I had stayed on the homestead in my parents under cult rules, I may have just shriveled up and died inside. Or I may have reached some kind of internal conflict that forced me to examine my beliefs and wake up. After which I would have solidly renounced the cult and made a clean break by leaving the belief system 100% and physically removing myself far from the cult and my family.
 
A solid, clean break is the ticket. The best way to leave involves breaking away emotionally and intellectually, as well as physically and geographically.
 
I still do admire those folks who were able to know firmly what they wanted the first time they left, the folks who didn't have to come back for round two to relive the nightmare. I admire some of my siblings who weren't so entrapped and who left more easily than I did. But every one's journey is different.
 
I double dipped, but that's OK. The first time only my body left. The second time, my body, heart and mind broke away. I had to experience the horror twice to know what I wanted and didn't want. I know now. And I'm finally free.
 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Momentous occurance

 Each time something big happens in my life, I have to record it in a paper bound journal with an actual pen. There's something about the touch of ink to paper that transfers an event into a reality. The occasion is then locked in time and real. And it's given a workout, re-lived from as many angles as you want during the writing and re-lived again each time you reread. I slipped out of the habit of journaling in a paper bound book since launching this blog, so this big event will be transcribed here.

So, this is what happened. Karl confronted my father over the phone  during the most recent conversation I had with him that I wrote about in my last post. I listened in over speakerphone while Karl laid into that man, hitting him with exactly the right questions. The ones I hadn't heard anyone dare to ask him before. It was amazing. Karl kept his voice calm and regulated, but he meant business. And he put my father right in his place.
 
This man has had it coming to him for a long time. I wish I could have video recorded the conversation, it was that good.
 
Here are the high points:
 
1. Karl asked my father straight out if he sexually abused me when I was little. My father said no. He said that it happened so long ago, and why hadn't I ever mentioned it before. Ummmm, fear? He said that my 35 page letter detailing what happened was "suspect," and that only demons could give a person so much information that it would fill up that many pages. He then said that I had no one on my side. He said that all my siblings and mother were in the house (not true) when the alleged events happened. Then he pouted, "Plus, I didn't do it." Said in a cocky, peevish, teenager like voice.

Karl told my father that he didn't care what my father said, that he knew my father was guilty. Point blank. That he believed me, and had my back.
 
2. Next, Karl told my father he knew something was wrong in the family the moment he stepped in the homestead door and met my family for the first time. Karl said he saw the lack of interaction between my father and his children. There was little to none. And there was none between him and I. The father figure tried to tell Karl that he didn't interact with me because I was bitter and difficult. Karl cut in and told the father figure that no, that wasn't the reason. It was because I was terrified of him.
 
3. Then Karl told my father that all he ever did was study the Scriptures, instead of paying attention to his own family. That he had no relationship with his family. That at each party or family event, the only thing my father did was sequester himself off in a corner and talk to the men about the meaning of the Scriptures. While the rest of the family was ignored. (That was how it always was growing up, not just at parties. There was no interaction with the father figure unless it was Biblical exhortation or Biblical reprimands.)
 
Karl asked the father figure who he would be without Christianity in his life. My father paused. Then he said. "I would be nothing. I would have no reason to live."

This is the way this man speaks. All or nothing.
 
Karl said, "But [father figure], you are wrong. Without Christianity, you have many things to live for. You have your family, and you have your work shop where you know how to create many inventive things with your tools and machines. You have a very full life outside of God and the Bible."
 
My father didn't agree and said so. He began preaching at Karl. Karl listened very patiently, but told my father that he (Karl) wasn't a Christian any longer, just as I wasn't either.
 
4. Karl then told my father he was a horrible example of a Christian because he wouldn't take in either of his daughters, me or Thalia when we were sick three years ago and had no where to go before Karl came to my rescue first, then Thalia's.  Karl told my father in no uncertain terms that he did my father's job by taking in Thalia for the last year. The father figure didn't have anything to say about Thalia. But he told Karl that he didn't want me to live in his house three years ago because I was bitter towards him, and always had been. Bitter. That is code for "angry that he abused me, but bottling it up, unable to speak up about it due to fear of punishment from him and God." Additionally, it wasn't just his version of "bittnerness" that caused me to shy away from him. It was extreme fear, terror of that man. Based on the way he treated me, and because he clearly warned me as a child that I wasn't safe around him. Although back then I didn't know exactly why I wasn't safe. I just lived with that mystery and chalked it up to just another one of the idiosyncrasies of living in that homestead with him.

Perhaps it was for the best my father refused to let me go home when I was sick a few years ago and had no where to go, before I met Karl. But my father wouldn't have abused me, at least, not sexully. The sexual abuse happened only when I was a child.

But still, regardless of how uncomfortable either party would have been, I was slowly dying back then, and they knew it. I had no other place to go. I cried for hours on the phone begging them to let me come home, but they refused.

Karl brought up an example of his own grandfather. Despite having no religious faith, this man took in over the course of his long life two of his adult sons, one when he lost his job, and one when he got divorced, as well as his daughter and her baby boy born out of wedlock. Karl's grandpa didn't abuse his children. He provided for them and took care of them like a decent human being. All without a religion or God telling him what to do.
 
And what was my dad's response? He brought up his own father, who didn't know the Lord for most of his life. Apparently this man (my grandfather) was a decent fellow with a calm, phlegmatic personality, but he was still a sinner in the eyes of God. And what drove this man to Christ? Well, my father said that my grandpa hit the end of his rope and cried out to God to save him when he was at his lowest point, when his daughter (my Aunt Shandy) started dating black men in the inner city and word got back to him. That, my friends, is what drove my grandfather to Christ. That was his low point. My grandfather went crying to the racist white Lord to save his daughter from men of another race. That was his rock bottom in life.
 
Oh Lord, rescue us from this sick comedy hour, I beg of you.
 
How utterly ashamed I am of this man and his sick beliefs. That he blatently shared with Karl. It's like, I know the man is sick and twisted, but hearing him so calmly share his perspective with Karl was like seeing it all with fresh eyes, and being horrified and embarrassed by it all over again.
 
This same Aunt Shandy is the aunt who is no longer with us. She was struggling with depression and some other mental health issues for a number of years. My father told her that depression and mental health issues are actually just signs that you have sin in your life and are the result of not taking responsibility in your life. He told her that depression and mental issues happen when you house demons in you. He warned us all to not go around her when she visited us, in case a demon jumped out and latched onto us. The night she came to our house and my father told her that her depression was simply a case of sin and demonic influence was the last night we saw her. My father was the last person she spoke to. They found her dead in the early hours of the morning the next day. She drove her car at high speed into a tree. She had left a note saying, "I'm glad this is my last day."
 
Would that she had never spoken to my father. Such ill advice to give to someone who is depressed. The man is sick, but people around him don't seem to see because he is adept at coating his words with Bible verses, as well as brainwashing the young and vulnerable.

5. My father then began to tattle-tale on me by telling Karl that earlier on in the conversation, I had started mouthing off and acting rebellious, raising my voice. This would have been the part of the conversation when I started calmly reminding my father in detail of the various lewd acts he performed to me and in front of me. My father quickly interrupted me and raised his voice, and in turn I raised my voice and interrupted him back, asking him why he always cut me off.  He owns the privilege of being rude, but my echoing back his rudeness is rebellion. So my father told Karl that I had never been like that before, and he wondered what had happened to me. I'm sure he was about to pull out the old, "I'm sure she's demon possessed, wouldn't you think, Karl?" but Karl jumped right in and cut him off.
 
Karl told my father that compared to his (Karl's) own sisters, I was quite the quiet and respectful person. He said that he was actually quite glad that I spoke up and raised my voice when I felt the need to, and that he trusted that if I was raising my voice, that I had every reason to do so.
 
Then Karl told my father that he (Karl) had several times been verbally abusive towards me, and that I had the balls to stand up and yell back. And that was what made him (Karl) finally wake up and realize just how awful he had been treating me for some time. Karl said that he was sorry he treated me that way, but was glad that I spoke up to him in a loud and forceful way and showed him exactly what he was doing, then and on other occasions. That he was proud of me for fearlessly standing up for myself when I felt I needed to.
 
And very proud of me for standing up to him, the father figure.
 
And that just about blew that man away. He didn't have much to say after that. He wanted to wrap the conversation up.
 
Women standing up to men is a huge no-no in his patriarchal mind. And a man encouraging a woman to stand up to him is utterly earth shaking to the father figure.
 
My father knew he didn't have a supporter in Karl anymore after that. And I was over on the other side of the room saying "Yes! YES! YES!" because Karl stood up for me.
 
6. Karl made my father promise to read the letter I sent to him, and to write and let us know he read it afterwards. My father promised. (Note: it was an empty promise; he never wrote back to say he read it, and he ignored my email asking if he did read it after all.)
 
The conversation ended with my father asking, "Now, may I say 'God bless you'?" And Karl amiably said "sure." I mean, why not, right? The man has no other language to end a conversation. And that was that.
 
I can not express in words what a huge weight was lifted off of my shoulders after hearing that conversation between my father and Karl. For the first time in my life, someone has my back in regards to a situation where I most needed backup but never experienced it, until that moment. My mother, my siblings, other relatives, church members, neighbors... no one has stood up for me against him before. After that confrontation, I felt like I finally had an ally at my side, and a formidable one at that. Karl being male makes the conversation more valid than if it had been simply another female taking my side. I am not going at it alone anymore. It's almost like Karl is retroactively protecting me against this monster, despite the protection being only verbal and occurring over 30 years after the harm was done.
 
No matter. Right then at that moment, I felt protected from that monster for the first time ever, and I actually was able to breath. And smile. And even laugh. The dynamic between Karl and I changed after that. Karl has my back, and he's proud of me.

A fork in the tracks has been reached. Karl is generally such a friendly, easy going kind of person. He used to be in good with the family, and things were congenial and tight knit. It took him longer to want to exit the family dynamic than it took me. Karl used to not understand the depth of religious mire my family was lost in, and he never saw before the need to speak up or stand up for me. Now a point has been reached where he not only understands the gravity of the situation, but he backs me up. And my family sees now that Karl isn't going to be their pawn any more. We are split from them, and it feels great.
 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Summer ebbs into fall

I haven't written for quite some time. The summer has been a blur. In between flashbacks, much crying and many solitary walks, I've been pretty much out of it. It feels like I'm not in reality much of the time anymore, because reality is painful. I feel detached, like I'm floating somewhere outside of my body. Looking at myself from some point other than inside of my body, cheering myself on, encouraging myself, telling myself as often as I can remember things like, "I'm brave! I'm strong! I'm truth! I can do this! I'm amazing!"
 
I cheer myself on, but I'm outside of my body trying to comfort myself like a mother would a child. I practice having compassion and pride for myself. I practice what it would feel like to be my future self who is outside of the storm and is healthy and strong. She regularly comes to cheer me on and tell me how proud she is of me. I had a friend tell me recently to pretend to be in the eye of the storm. Everything is whirling all chaotic around me, but I am centered and balanced in the center, just calmly observing. I'm safe.
 
Yes, safe. Sometimes, well, often times, I go sit in my bed with my favorite blanket up over my head and hyperventilate, then after an hour or so, I feel grounded and safe, and then I come out again. Sometimes I spend the whole day on the couch with the same blanket around me in a kind of nest, and that feels safe.
 
I had a therapist who was coming to my house each week to do a trauma release therapy called EMDR with me. I was quite psyched at first when I got ahold of her because I didn't know she did house calls. She mentioned to me over the phone before we ever met, "I get the sense that your world is very small and you feel trapped." And I started crying all of a sudden because it was true at that point in time, and I didn't know how she knew I didn't drive and didn't get out much. She didn't even know about the agoraphobia, but she guessed.
 
And after that she told me she would gladly come to me as she understood agoraphobia and wanted to help. How serendipitous!
 
We had three sessions that went pretty well. But then she went on vacation for a week, and we had a new roof and siding put on our house, so I had to cancel a few times. Then I had to cancel an hour ahead of time due to a migraine and other physical issues.
 
I told her that I didn't have therapy because I had to cancel last minute due to unpredictable health issues too many times to maintain steady therapy. So this lovely therapist came up with an agreement where she would call a few hours before a set time every Wednesday to check if my health was well enough to hold the session, and she would continue to do that weekly.
 
However, when I called to cancel, she told me, "Look, I can't help you unless you let me. You keep pushing help away at the moment you need it most. I will discontinue our sessions until you are ready to let others help you."
 
And I started crying... again. But, she wasn't a good fit after all. She didn't get that it was a physical issue, not fear of therapy, that had me cancel that day. She didn't understand that when a person is sick, they don't want to be around.... anyone. She believed it was all anxiety based, and that if I tried a little harder, I could miraculously make the illness go away. Well, let's all be Tinkerbells and Peter Pans and let's live in a magical world where we make illness go away instantly with the sheer power of our thoughts. Ready, little magicians? If you believe in magic, then clap your hands!
 
As if.
 
I do believe in manifestation, the Law of Attraction, that thoughts become things, that we create our own realities with our thoughts. But I'm not at a point where I can instantly make physical symptoms disappear with the snap of my fingers.
 
So I'm out of therapy. For now.
 
My therapist asked me a few times if I had any supports such as medications to help me through the processing and healing process. I told her no, I didn't. I didn't have the option to take psych meds for the last five years because my body hyper reacted to them. Now, however, I believe my system has calmed down and is able to tolerate more. I actually took a medication for migraines the other month, and not only did I not react, but the medication actually helped. I guessed this would be the case as I've been able to tolerate and get benefit from many supplements and foods slowly over the past two years that in the past had caused adverse reactions. I know my body is able to deal with stress far better than it ever could in the past, so the resting, hibernating and nourishing over the past several years is paying off.
 
Remember last spring when I wrote about facing the biggest fear in my life? I had just crossed paths with a beautiful spirit, Hillary Rain. She asked me to fill in the blanks to a few pieces of poetic phrases, such as "I am brave because I _______."  So I filled in the blank with the first thing that popped into my mind. I am brave because I sit with my emotions.
 
I could have said any number of brave things I've done, or wanted to do. I've been a free wheeler, a dare devil, despite my seemingly calm and passive outward appearance. Going out on a limb, challenging myself with the seemingly impossible, going after and doing what others wouldn't have dared. Don't believe appearances, guys. The wild ones are quite often the ones with the innocent face and almost child like demeanor. Watch out!
 
But last spring, the bravest thing for me to do.... I knew in my gut, but had never voiced it... was to simply sit with myself.
 
Oh how difficult! I remember the post I wrote in April, I remember the chair I sat on, I remember the endlessly long spring and summer days that stretched one into the other, overlapping endlessly, wave after wave, day after day. A blurry haze now. I remember the slant of sun stretching across the patio day after day, zoning out in that lawn chair. I remember the cacophony of thoughts scrambling for attention, and my intention every day to just simply clear my mind and just... BE.
 
Being in tune with myself. Naming my emotions, and being OK sitting with them. Often it was, "I'm angry! I'm angry because...." or "I'm enraged! I'm enraged because...." or "I'm so frustrated and antsy! I'm frustrated because..." and then, all over again, "I'm mad! I'm mad because....."
 
It was healthy to release all of that. I've bottled up way too much for far too long, and even if no one was there to hear me, I heard, and I was OK with acknowledging these emotions. For once in my life. Just getting them out there and being OK with it.
 
Sometimes I would tell myself, "I'm peaceful."
 
Sometimes  I really was able to just sit with no thoughts. Hearing the crickets squeaking their quirky, raspy chant, feeling the sun on my skin calming me, breathing, feeling the rise and fall of my breathing. Feeling the ground under my feet, feeling the chair underneath supporting me, feeling the hair brushing across my face, smelling the husky burning of some one's pile of wood burning. Hearing the crunch of gravel as a neighbor pulls out of his driveway, hearing the rise and fall of bird song in the air, heavy and slow as the heat grew, feeling a bead of sweat dribbling down my left arm. Smelling the sweet hay like smell of cut grass toasting in the sun, hearing the scrape of my chair as I push it back into the slanting rectangle of shade behind me. Maybe it was heat delirium, or maybe it was mindfulness. Maybe it was even meditation!
 
That whole summer was about just being in tune with myself. And doing nothing. But that. No visitors, no other human interaction except with K, and the occasional hello chat with a neighbor while getting the mail. No trips out except to the doc and once to a horse farm to visit and possibly sponsor a horse. And once my family came on Mother's Day. I wrote about that.
 
It was the day after that when I had that phone conversation with my little sister, and she said those trigger words, and "it" all came back. For the first time in my life, I was ready to hear, and if I hadn't been ready, I wouldn't have had the courage and openness to comprehend or be triggered by those trigger words. God knows what else she has said to me over the years that I may have completely overlooked or not understood. Looking back, it must have been all the practice I've been doing over the last year, and especially this spring and summer, sticking my toes tentatively into the waters of 'being in tune with myself and facing things."
 
I was ready. And I heard. And I was strong enough to handle it. I was finally ready to put the puzzle pieces together. Thinking back now, I realize that many of my suppressed memories weren't even repressed. Much of it I do clearly remember and always did, it's just that I remembered it from an innocent child's perspective of "Dad did ____ and as a kid, I always trust Dad, and because it was no big deal, on the same level as him driving us somewhere in a car, or eating dinner with us, there was no need to particularly go back and examine or be traumatized about it, because it just simply was."
 
I also had the memory of fear from my mother and father scaring me into forgetting/not bringing into the light of day what happened, so I never went back in time to put my innocent, childhood impression of what happened into the context of an adult's understanding of what happened. The memory stayed encapsulated as an innocent child's view. I never gave myself permission to go back and look at it with the understanding and horror as an adult would look at it. It was incredible fear that caused me to never go back there and revisit what happened. It was fear that froze that memory into a place too terrible to ever go back and acknowledge from an adult's perspective.
 
I literally was unable to even go there. For all I knew, it was locked away forever. Fear will do that. Religious fear, fear of your father, fear of your father who is the voice of God, fear of hell, fear of the devil, fear of your father going to jail, fear of your father isolating himself from you forever. Fear.
 
Fear.
 
And that's what I vowed I would face this spring and summer. And that's what I did.
 
I feel incredibly lighter now. But still entangled and smothered, somewhat.
 
So I made a list on a post it card, entitled it "Going from Victim to Overcomer" and put it on the refrigerator. I listed about 10-12 actual things I'm going to do to speak up about this, face my abuser, and tell the truth about what happened. I recently checked off everything on the list and then added two more additional things I can do.
 
I made sure no one in my family has contact with me on social media. I know the f.f (father figure... he doesn't deserve a title warmer than that) snoops through my mom's Face book profile and looks at the pictures that family members post. I've felt his eyes staring at me in a dirty way far too many times, and I'm not talking about just when I was a child. He stared creepily at me, my sisters, and my shapely cousins when we were teens and adults. I still don't see how my family members don't catch on, but he "is" God, so. You don't question God. He will punish you severely for any questioning. My family is primarily comprised of sheeple who don't question.
 
One of the biggest things on my list was actually speaking to my father, confronting him, and confirming that he read the 35 page letter I wrote him listing in detail everything he did to me. My memories are detailed down to even phrases that he and my mom used, down to the exact nuance and expression, down to exactly how their voice raised or fell. It's like it's burned in my memory. For example, the way my mom said, "But did he touch you?" She emphasized "touch" and kept saying it again and again to me after she walked in on him and then had a private confrontation with him and me in their bedroom when I was five.
 
I remember the tape marks with X's marked on them that he placed on his bedroom floor to line up his desk chair with. It was marked exactly, so that when his chair lined up with the X's, it was in a safe position and someone who came in his bedroom door couldn't see his lap. The filing cabinet would have hid his lap. If his chair wasn't on those X's, someone at his bedroom door looking in could see too much. He was a perfectionist, and spent much time sending me to the door to see what I could and couldn't see of his lap based on where his chair was. It was very tiring to me as a young child. This is just an example of a small fraction of what I remember.
 
I know that if he read my letter and knew that I remember all of this, he would confess. I know he would. He already tried once to confess when I was in fourth grade, but back then, I didn't know what sex was, and I wasn't able to put in context what he did. And he was too subtle to go into detail. He told me he did horrible things to me when I was young, and that he felt guilty and thought about it every day. He wanted to confess and get it off his chest.
 
That was the year he wanted to put us into ATI and home school us. He had been following Bill Gothard for years before this, but he really got into it that year and was all about asking forgiveness from those he offended.
 
So I know that he will break when he reads my letter and knows that I remember it all in fine detail.
 
Which is why my mother has made it more difficult to get to him than getting through to the Pope. I wrote about my persistent attempts to call the homestead over the summer. How my mom blocked my emails for over a month, then blocked my calls. When the f.f. finally did answer the phone, he basically cursed me in the name of God for "sowing seed of discord among the brethren," (ummmm... what?) then my mom grabbed the phone, screamed at me, cursed me further in the name of God, warned me not to call ever again, then hung up.
 
I called again. And again. I needed to know if the f.f. read the letter. Finally, he actually answered. But this time he played all sweet and calm, and I was thrown for a loop. He said that he hadn't read the letter. That my mother thought it was full of pornography and that my memories were from demons. That he trusted my mother's judgement about not reading it. I told him in a wavering voice that I wanted him to read it. I also told him that I didn't like it that he frightened me and made me terrified of him ever since I was five. I told him that I was still terrified of him even now. Which is true. He seemed like he wanted to cry. He kept saying he was sorry for that. But he told me he couldn't apologize for whatever was in that letter because mom wouldn't let him read it. As if. He's a grown man. Excuse after excuse.
 
I let it go for another month or two. Then I decided I had to try again. I was sick to my stomach and shaking like a leaf. I was pumping myself up, saying, "I'm brave. I'm strong. I can do this! I'm honest. I'm courageous. I can do this!"
 
I called. The phone rang, then "click." They had lifted the receiver and put it right back down so it wouldn't ring. I called again. Same thing happened. I called again. He picked up.
 
We went round and round about how he couldn't read the letter. Then he said he was going to send me a letter, and that it wouldn't be "all bad," only partly.
 
So then the gate of sarcasm broke loose and all the waters rushed out. The anger and disgust at him suddenly came out. No more fear.
 
I use a sickeningly sweet, dramatic voice, "Oh, I'm so sorry! Karl is not going to let me read your letter. If you send it by email, he's going to block your account. I'll never see it. And if you send it by mail, Karl is going to rip it up, then burn it. If you send it by certified mail where I have to sign for it, Karl will sign my name, then rip it up and burn it. I'm so sorry. I will never get it."
 
He stays silent. He doesn't get it.
 
I tell him, "Karl is going to do exactly what mom did to the letter meant for you. He will OBSTRUCT it's delivery. Period."
 
Silence.
 
"You promise to read my letter, I'll read yours."
 
So later when he's talking to Karl, he tells Karl that he promises to read the letter, if we send it one more time to him. He tells us that he promises he will unblock our email addresses. And that he promises to tell us he has read it after he does so.
 
Turns out, he lied. Later that night he sent us an email saying he unblocked us. I sent the email. I sent another saying "did you read it?"
 
No response.
 
It's been a month now. He hasn't tried to send any letter to me, either.  
 
Their true colors came out during that call.
 
My mother told me that I am now officially cut off from the family. She started laughing and told me to not expect a birthday card or call on my birthday, which was about a week away at that time. She told me she didn't want me there for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or any holiday after that. She didn't want me calling or writing or trying to get in contact with her any more.
 
Then she stirs up this sorrowful, syrupy, melodramatic and judgmental tone, "AJ." Long pause for effect. "Don't you wonder why T moved out?"
 
I said, "What? She moved out because she has a job and just got herself an apartment."
 
Then my mother said, "AJ." Long pause. "Don't you wonder why L doesn't want to visit you anymore?"
 
This is a side of my mother I've never seen before. She went from laughing during the part where she told me I wasn't wanted at the family home anymore, to judgemental and sorrowful, to angry, to deadly calm. She is going unhinged. All I felt afterwards was sorrow for her. I wasn't even able to engage back and call her out on her rudeness. It would have felt like pinching a yapping dog that is being fierce because it is hurt and has a broken leg. I know she's hurting. It doesn't excuse her, but I don't have any desire to fight her back or bring her down.
 
I did worry that my sisters actually had abandoned me as well for a few weeks. I haven't recently talked to Louisa but she called me a few months ago to see if I was doing OK. She told me she knew I was going through a stressful time, and wanted to make sure I was all right. We had a lovely conversation. L told me that she wasn't taking sides.  
 
Then yesterday, Thalia came over with her daughter Gloria and some friends, and we celebrated G's birthday. I made Gloria cupcakes and a homemade card and we went for a walk on a local trail around here. After spending so much extended time by myself for long stretches of time, it's so nice to converse with.... people! T was full of laughter and didn't seem like she hated me like my mom was trying to insinuate.
 
Then I called my younger sister Christy on her birthday a few days ago. Yes, we have a lot of November birthdays in my family. We're a bunch of Scorpios.  Christy and I were chatting away. I know she's always been on my side. C mentioned out of the blue that mom had sent her a birthday card in the mail. And called her. C told me she was shocked because my mom apparently has never called her on the phone in her adult life, and also has never sent her a birthday card. Apparently, I must have been a bit of a favorite and C wasn't. But. C apparently is my mom's favorite now. We both joked about this. About the craziness of the whole situation.
 
Even if my sisters turned against me for telling the truth, I would have told the truth anyway. Thankfully, they don't seem phased by my speaking up, and don't seem to have anything against me. Why would they? My mom was just using a scare tactic trying to create division between us where there is none. It is a sore point with her that her own sisters have kept a distance from her. Her sisters resent that the ff won't let her socialize with them, and I know she's been hurt by that. Apparently, her sisters are a "bad influence" and "give her ideas." My mom understands deeply the pain of being kept from her own family for righteousness' sake. So a sibling split is just what she wants for me.
 
I see right through her. I see her ache, her pain, her life of entrapment. She is lashing out and doesn't even know why. She thinks I'm the enemy, but she is living with the enemy and acting like he is God, her Savior. I can't work up any anger towards her. Only a wish that I could set her free.
 
But only she can do that.