**All photos and posts are my original work. Please do not reprint photos or articles without permission.**

Thursday, July 28, 2016

As A Homeschooler...


I've been watching my kids learn about their world and their place in it. Answering their questions about current events like the marriage equality ruling and "Mom, why would anyone think that's bad?" Talking about American racial tensions and what Black Lives Matter means and how we got here. About why a woman being the presidential nominee is so phenomenal and what it means for our culture. Listening to them talk derisively about Donald Trump and how they're scared for their friends from other countries and "Mom, how could anyone vote for stupid a racist?" Explaining why the man in the museum was being rude and loudly proclaiming that everything there was wrong because his god says so. Me, struggling to explain complex cultural issues to grade school children in ways that honor the complexity and don't create dogma in their heads.

And I remember......

As a homeschooler, I was taught that the Civil War should instead be called "the War for Southern Independence". Or sometimes "Lincoln's War". Occasionally, "the War Between the States". The south was right in succeeding, after all, from the overstepping tyranny that was Lincoln's America. Slavery had nothing to do with it and most slaves were happy with their owners, even though I was taught that obviously slavery was not desirable and we were glad it didn't exist anymore.

As a homeschooler, the only thing I was taught about the Civil Rights movement was that Martin Luther King Jr. was an adulterer and a liberal who stirred up division and not a Christian. My birthday often fell on his day on the calendar, and I remember asking who he was and receiving the above answer. In my child-mind, he was not a good man and "we don't celebrate that day". I didn't know about segregation and Jim Crow until I was an adult.

As a homeschooler, I read biographies of the great Southern leaders, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. I read how they were good slave owners who treated their slaves well, how they fought against the evil that was President Lincoln who wanted to take away the state's rights to rule themselves. How the War for Southern Independence had nothing to do with slavery and only godless liberals say it does. Even as an newly-made adult I boasted about being a Southern sympathizer. I was taught they were the heroes for standing up for what they believed in. I read "The Real Lincoln" and learned that President Lincoln was a liberal liar and an evil man that was out to destroy America and family values.

As a homeschooler, I was not taught about the Suffragette movement. I only learned that women couldn't vote, but then they could because some women protested. Also that feminism was bad and once women could vote, feminism took over and destroyed the nation. My A Beka history book glossed over the entire thing, painting the Suffragettes as rebellious women who might have done some good but really should have let God work it out while they stayed home in their place. I didn't know who Susan B. Anthony was until I was a mother of 2.

As a homeschooler, I was taught that history was "His-Story" and only to be viewed through the lens of what God was doing with the nations of earth, else we wouldn't understand it. Strangely, he mostly only did things with the nation of Israel, the countries of Europe, and the U.S.A. I guess the rest of the world didn't matter so much to God. We were taught that America was God's shining light on a hill to the world and He had a special plan for us in His Story. Manifest Destiny was the name of the game, for God's will, Amen.

As a homeschooler, I learned nothing of the history of Africa, Asia, Indonesia, Australia, or South America. I knew nothing of them or their culture or their people. Beyond being told they were dark places of ungodly people who needed us white Americans and Europeans to take the gospel to them and save them from hell.

As a homeschooler, I learned nothing of current events. I grew up in the 80's and 90's and knew nothing about anything that happened during that time, even in my own country. I knew nothing of pop culture. I learned about the Victorians, the pioneers, the Scandinavian immigrants, the plantations of the South, and the Revolutionists of 1776. I knew nothing about what was going on outside my own door, in what is now my history. I am learning it after the fact.

As a homeschooler, I was taught that science was deceptive. That we were enlightened and knew what was really going on in the world, how the world really came to be. We couldn't believe the "evolutionists" and all new scientific discoveries that did not fit Young Earth Creationism and Flood Geology were wrong. I was taught that the earth was 6,000-8,000 years old, that carbon dating was inaccurate, that fossils were made by Noah's flood, that dinosaurs were on the Ark then died because of the harsh post-flood world, that there was a canopy of water above the earth that made the entire earth a greenhouse and came crashing down at the Flood and we didn't have poles before the flood. That there are still dinosaurs in remote areas of Africa and Loch Ness today, thus disproving evolution. And that anyone that says otherwise were deceived by Satan. Everything had to be filtered through the lens of the Bible or it was discarded. I didn't understand evolutionary biology until I was 28. I never knew what plate tectonics were until I was 30. I knew nothing about rock formation, biology, astronomy, hydrology, climatology, or any other -ology until I was a grown woman with 4 kids and hungry to understand the world I lived in.

As a homeschooler, we were taught that the world needed us to show them the truth about Creationism. We were drilled on how to argue with "evolutionists", point by point. How doing so would be showing them God and the light of the gospel and would save them. Now when young Creationists to that to me, I cringe. I was them once. They have no idea.

As a homeschooler, our "social studies" books were from Rod and Staff, a conservative Mennonite curriculum company. All the women in the pictures wore head coverings and long dresses and were homemakers. Everything was American-and-European-centric. There wasn't much social studies going on in those books, other than the study of the Christian culture that we were being raised in.

As a homeschooler, I was not taught any sex ed. At 13 my mom told me the basics of how babies were made. I was horrified. I was told only married people can do this and if you do it outside of marriage it's No Good Very Bad and could result in diseases and pregnancy. Then they started pushing the courtship books and tapes. I was taught that dating was worldly and that we were not to be friends with boys because boys and girls can't be friends. That having a crush on a boy was emotional fornication and would take a little piece of my heart that I would never get back. At 14, I solemnly promised to commit to courtship and the authority of my parents to oversee it, thus ensuring my purity and the protection of my heart. I never heard or knew words like "penis" or "vagina" until I was 18 and in community college. I knew nothing at all about sex until I started experimenting with my boyfriend as an adult and getting advice from my friends in school and looking up books myself. I didn't know what homosexuality was until I was 19 and someone told me a friend was "gay" and I looked it up in the dictionary.

As a homeschooler, I was taught things like "character". Character mattered more than anything else. You could be intelligent but have no good character traits and that made your intelligence nothing. Who cares if you can read and write well if you're not nice to your siblings? Character included obedience to authority, cheerfulness, joyfulness, attentiveness, submission (if you were a woman), peacefulness, all the fruits of the spirit translated in such a way to create a power dynamic of happy, obedience children with parents ruling over them benevolently. 

As a homeschooler, I was taught strict gender roles. I sat through women's Bible studies where they argued whether a woman could work outside the home. I was taught that working was OK in some instances, but being a wife/mother/homemaker was God's best plan for women. That we had to submit to our husband's desires in this. That as a woman, I needed to learn skill like cooking, cleaning, sewing, and childcare to prepare me for my life's calling.

As a homeschooler, I was taught that we were the salt and light of the world. That we were the cream of the crop, smarter, kinder, more godly, more pure, better in every way than our public schooled peers. That the world would see us and glorify our Father in heaven. That the world was a dark place and we were to be in it but not of it. That meant dressing differently, smiling and being joyful (because the world was sad and we were to be different), talking differently, choosing different activities that reflected Christ, knowing our Bibles well, and being obedient to parents. Our long, shapeless skirts and long hair and submissive attitudes were a light to a world that didn't know what purity was. We were pure. It was our badge of honor. We were not to spoil that.

As a homeschooler, my world was small and scared and black and white. Nothing came into my world that didn't fit the worldview of the ones in charge. Everything outside was a threat. Friends were a threat. Books were a threat and heavily censored. TV was a threat. Current events were a threat. Shopping in certain sections of the store was a threat. The world was out to destroy us and we must stay pure, in knowledge and action. Renewed by the transforming of our minds, away from the thinking of the world.

We were The Village, and there were monsters in the woods. No one bothered to tell us the monsters weren't real. Even fake monsters serve their purpose. The difference was that the creators of those monsters actually believed in them.

I come jolting back to reality with yet another question from a searching mind. Where my kids aren't being raised in The Village, but in the world. In it AND of it and proudly. And they will understand it and learn to navigate it and make it their own. Even as their mother still quietly struggles and remembers.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Of Libraries, Flashbacks, and Alternate Realities

I will probably never be free from the memories. No situation or activity is safe from the flashbacks, the comparisons, and the wonder that things were ever so dysfunctional for child-me and that they're so normal for my own kids.

Yesterday we went to the library for a presentation on Mt. Everest. The local university took an expedition to the top in 2012, and they put together a great video presentation for kids on geology, culture, and the amazing feat of scaling the world's tallest mountain.

In the middle of it, somewhere between talking about tectonic activity creating the Himalayans and the sacred ceremony and prayer flags the monks performed for the climbers, I had one of those weird disconnecting flashbacks that happen every so often. Like I'm suddenly an observer of an activity I remember taking part in in the past, and the one I'm taking part in in the present, watching from the outside.

I suddenly remembered being a child and going to presentations at the library. Or the IMAX. Or the Science Center in Seattle. Or a museum. We often went to such educational things. My mom thought we would learn best by experience and exposed us to more than a few really cool educational experiences.

I remembered being uncomfortable as a child every time something science-y was brought up. The words "millions of years ago" would produce an instant disconnect in my young mind. We were trained to hear those words and disregard them from a very young age. We'd usually get a talk in the car on the way home about how "the world" thinks that the earth is millions of years, but we know better and Everest has marine fossils on the top of it because of the Flood, not because of tectonic uplift (which we were told was made up by "evolutionists" who deny the Bible). Geology talks were a waste of our time and I learned to shut them out, as if the words themselves had power to deceive and I needed to be on the alert. 

"Multi-culturalism" was always portrayed as a bad thing. Or joked about as ridiculous. I can't remember anytime in my childhood those words were spoken of in a positive way. Adding other religions and their practices to the conversation only made the speaker more our enemy. As a child, talks of prayer flags and Tibetan monks offering sacrifices to the mountain was very uncomfortable. Not just while sitting there, but also nervously anticipating the talk my parent(s) would give later about how we don't accept that and how wrong it was and how I needed to be sure to respond correctly so they knew I didn't believe a word of it.

And I came back out of those flashbacks as I sat there, an adult, in our library, listening to the person teaching my kids about tectonic activity, geology, and Buddhist ceremonies and so many emotions flooded over me.

Relief. Because my children will never know what it's like to be so foreign to the world they live in. They sat there, soaking up the information, never once worrying that they were being deceived by Satan and the world, never worrying I was going to lecture them about the truth, never scared that they have questions they're not supposed to ask, never feeling like an outsider with an alternate narrative of reality, unable to engage in their world because they're not a part of it.

Frustration. Because child Darcy deserved better. Because I'm 32 years old, in charge of my own life, yet the scars of my past will always be there, showing up in the strangest, most unexpected places. The childhood that formed me, formed me thoroughly and I cannot shake it because it is who I am. Frustration because there are children still being raised with this kind of psychological and spiritual abuse who will one day be adults unable to attend a kid's library presentation without their past smacking them in the face.

Hopelessness. Because my parents will never understand the depth and severity of what they did. The consequences of the choices they made. What was a phase for them was my entire childhood, my most formative years spent in one of the most toxic environments on earth. The lasting effects indelibly imprinted on every cell in my body. They call me bitter and unforgiving. They excuse themselves with "we had good intentions". They say I'm making a big deal out of nothing and need to move on. But they don't sit in a library and have flashbacks. The fact they can call all of this, all of what made me, all of what I deal with on a daily basis because of their choices "nothing" says a lot. I think we will never be able to connect because of this. Even outsiders don't understand. The only ones that get it are the ones like me. The walking broken, the walking lost, the homeschooled impostors who struggle to find normalcy and belonging and peace.

And yet, also hope. Happiness. Thankfulness. Amazement. Because my kids are being raised so.....normal. They'll have a solid foundation from which to choose whatever life they want. If they want to be weird and different in any way, they will be able to freely choose that. They'll know what it's like to be part of the community and world that they live in. To not be an outsider because they're supposed to reject everything about "the world" and own a different reality. To not have a different history, science, and social narrative than everyone else around them and the insecurity that comes with it.

I hope they someday sit in a library with their kids and only remember with fondness the awesome time they had learning about Mt. Everest.


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

You're Gonna Hear Me Roar



Today my 10-yr-old daughter got up on stage in front of about 500 people, 400 of her classmates, and sang Katy Perry's "Roar". 

And I cried like a baby.

Because there was my tiny daughter, in a tiger dress, dancing and singing the words "You held me down, but I got up, Get ready 'cause I've had enough I see it all, I see it now. I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire, 'Cause I am a champion and you're gonna hear me roar!".

So I cried because once I was 10 years old and I didn't know what pop music was and I didn't go to school and I was forced to sing hymns for family members at Thanksgiving even though I hated it.

And I wasn't allowed to listen to "rebellious" music, and I didn't have a voice beyond what I was supposed to sing and say. 

Because my voice was a reflection of my parents and not mine at all.

Because I wasn't allowed to express dissatisfaction with my life or overcoming or to be proud of myself because pride was the Devil's sin. 

Because I loved to sing and play the piano and my only outlet for my talent was classical music or special music at church. 

Because when I was 18, I performed "When You Say Nothing at All" at a family party, and my mom told me afterward that she was ashamed because I was singing about sex and it wasn't appropriate for an unmarried, pure girl.

I cried because I'm so proud of the person that my daughter is becoming and the struggles she has faced and will face because of ADHD, and she's singing about being her own person and rebelling against anyone that wants to take her down and make her into something more acceptable. 

Because she does not care what anyone thinks of her, she just sings her soul in a tiger dress. 

Because she's 10 and she has a voice and I love her voice and it has nothing to do with me.

Because she will never know what it feels like to not have her mother as her biggest fan and ally. 

Because I don't understand how any mother could treat their daughter the way my mother treated me. There are no excuses good enough, certainly not the God excuse.

Because I'm 32 and have only recently found my voice and let it roar.

Because as I parent my children, I am exposing, grieving, and healing the broken places in my own heart. And it's painful and it hits me out of nowhere. Even in the middle of a 4th grade talent show. 

You held me down, but I got up
Already brushing off the dust
You hear my voice, you hear that sound
Like thunder gonna shake the ground
You held me down, but I got up
Get ready 'cause I've had enough
I see it all, I see it now.
I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire
'Cause I am a champion and you're gonna hear me roar
~Katy Perry 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

I Fight These Demons - Part 2


< Part One

Part Two
I grew up thinking I was unworthy.
Unworthy of love, nice things, friends, God’s favor. I strove to be the kind of person who would be worthy of these things, but always fell short. I did everything I could to look the part on the outside: I dressed modestly and acted like a godly young lady and played the part as best I could.
“Fake it til you make it,” my Mom liked to say to me.
My journals of that time are so filled with anguish and desire to be accepted and to be good. I can barely read them. I want to go back there and hug that girl and tell her that she WAS worthy, she WAS good, she was enough. But I can’t. I can’t go back there and comfort that girl with the broken heart that was broken by the ones who were supposed to protect it. I am left with the woman she has become. The woman who has had to teach herself how to be loved and how to accept worthiness and how to see herself and the world through different eyes.
When a boy fell in love with me, and I with him, they all did their best to convince him that I was a terrible, selfish person and he would be sorry if he married me. That they knew me better and I was just putting on an act to impress him. He was skeptical, but thought maybe they really did know better. So he watched me, befriended me, and realized I was every bit the person he thought I was and my mom and sister were crazy.
I couldn’t understand why he would persist in loving a person like me, but he did and it was such a wonderful feeling.
I was so afraid he would find out who I really was and would run far away. 
But that didn’t happen. We fought for our relationship against my parent’s wishes and we married very young and very in love. Not too long after we were married, we were talking and I said “Well, I am a selfish person”. He looked at me in surprise and said, “Why do you say that?” It was my turn to look at him in confusion and say, “Well, my mom and sister always told me I was selfish and I struggled my whole life to not be, but I guess it’s just who I am and I thought you knew that.” He took my face in his hands, looked right into my eyes, and said, “You are the most selfLESS person I have ever met. Never let anyone convince you otherwise. You can’t fool me. I know who you are. They don’t know who you are.”
I cried that day, at 20 years old, for the first time thinking that maybe I wasn’t the person my family had tried to convince me I was, that my religion tried to convince me I was, that I needed to hide and pretend not to be so people would love me. Maybe I really was loveable and the fact this man had married me wasn’t because I had fooled him into it. But it would be 5 more long years before I was able to clearly see how dysfunctional my past was, the part that fundamentalist religion and homeschool culture played, and began to heal and figure out who I was really and to fight for myself. It would be 10 more long years before I was able to put a label on the treatment I received from them.
Emotional Abuse. The systematic diminishment of another person….their worth, their dignity, their character.
“Emotional abuse is like brain washing in that it systematically wears away at the victim’s self-confidence, sense of self-worth, trust in their own perceptions, and self-concept. Whether it is done by constant berating and belittling, by intimidating, or under the guise of ‘guidance,’ ‘teaching,’ or ‘advice,’ the results are similar. Eventually, the recipient of the abuse loses all sense of self and remnants of personal value. Emotional abuse cuts to the very core of a person, creating scars that may be far deeper and more lasting than physical ones.” (University of Illinois, Counseling Center)
Spiritual Abuse. The use of religion and spirituality to control, manipulate, coerce, dominate, and beat down. To control behavior and thoughts by religion.
“Spiritual abuse occurs when someone in a position of spiritual authority, the purpose of which is to ‘come underneath’ and serve, build, equip and make God’s people MORE free, misuses that authority placing themselves over God’s people to control, coerce or manipulate them for seemingly Godly purposes which are really their own.”   (Jeff VanVonderen, The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse)
I can’t tell you what came first: the dysfunction or the religion.
But they worked together to create a complete brain-washing and erasing of my self-worth and self-concept. Our religion taught that self-esteem was really pride and God hates a prideful heart. We were not to think highly of ourselves but to remember that we were nothing without God and probably nothing even with His help. To be told that I was a selfish, horrible person but that they loved me anyway “because you’re our daughter/sister” is no different than this view of God that makes us all worms who are only worthy of anything because God created us and therefore must love us. Turning the idea of a “relationship with God” into an abusive relationship between a narcissist and a victim. A manipulative power-play. Is it any wonder that “God’s people” turn out abusive when they see Him as such?
If I try to say any of this to my family, to recount my experiences and feelings, I am told I’m overreacting, too sensitive, too emotional, that these things never happened or “didn’t happen like that”. I’m told that even if they did happen, I should forgive and move on because family is the most important thing in life and I’ll regret making a fuss over the past. That I was raised in a good home and was loved and am ungrateful. I am denied, belittled, and word has spread that I’m a crazy, unstable person who has a chip on my shoulder and is trying to tear apart our happy family. But I am done accepting their definition of who I am, their portrayal of my identity.
I am not who they think I am. I am so much more.
I am worthy of love. I am a good person. I am a human being, wife, mother, and friend. I love unconditionally and fiercely. I fight for the people I love and for people I don’t even know because I desperately want them to know that they are worth it. I fight my own demons to give my children a healthy mother and so I can explain the scars to them someday and they can know that I valued them by valuing myself
— That I fought for them by fighting for myself. That I broke the cycle.
“Adult survivors of emotional child abuse have only two life-choices: learn to self-reference or remain a victim. When your self-concept has been shredded, when you have been deeply injured and made to feel the injury was all your fault, when you look for approval to those who can not or will not provide it—you play the role assigned to you by your abusers.
It’s time to stop playing that role, time to write your own script. Victims of emotional abuse carry the cure in their own hearts and souls. Salvation means learning self-respect, earning the respect of others and making that respect the absolutely irreducible minimum requirement for all intimate relationships. For the emotionally abused child, healing does come down to “forgiveness”—forgiveness of yourself.”
~Andrew Vachss, taken from this excellent website: The Invisible Scar.

I Fight These Demons So I Can Explain the Scars

Note: Almost two years ago, I was in therapy, peeling back yet another layer of my story and finding help in processing it. Just having the therapist give validation and labels to parts of my story was amazingly healing. Part of me processing and working through some of the darker parts that I hadn't faced at that time was writing out this story. I asked it to be posted on Homeschooler's Anonymous anonymously at the time, thinking that it might help others but feeling far too vulnerable and afraid of repercussions to put my own name on it. Yesterday, I realized it was time, I was ready to put my name on this small piece of my story. Originally posted on Homeschooler's Anonymous, July 2014. 



Part One
I was never good enough.
From as far back as I can remember, I was never good enough. I was told I was selfish, lazy, prideful, rebellious, and argumentative. I was told I needed to ask God to forgive me and make me a good person through Him (because we could never be good on our own, only with Jesus’ help and then it was never to our credit, only to His).
When my little sister picked fights with me and I lashed out at her, I was the one scolded, grounded, spanked, had things taken from me, forced to spend time with her to “help us get along”, told to get along and be nice and stop being so selfish and be a better example because I was the oldest. She often got away scot-free, even when she started it. I was told numerous times that if I couldn’t learn to get along with my sister then I couldn’t have friends. Family is more important than friends and how you treat your family tells you how you will treat friends. And if you treat friends better than family, you’re a special kind of hypocrite. I tried to explain why it was easier to treat my friends better. Because they were nice to me.
I was then told that Jesus said “what good is it if you love those who love you?” but loving people who aren’t nice to you is much better in God’s eyes.
Everything I did was criticized. It was never good enough. There was always something to be fixed, some way to do things better. I remember being about 12 years old and telling my mom in exasperation, “All you ever do is criticize me. You never tell me what I do right, only ever what I do wrong.” She first acted surprised and denied it, then promised to try to notice the good before telling me the bad. That didn’t last very long and felt very fake even when she tried. Like she was straining to find something good to say to get it out of the way so she could go on to grasp “this teachable moment”. Of course, when I resisted the “teachable moment”, I was the one at fault for being “unteachable”.
To this day when someone says “teachable moment” I recoil.
I was always “unteachable” because I often argued with my mom’s criticism. Because her words stung and fighting them off was my only defense, as little as it was. I was good with words and knew how to wield them as weapons of defense. I often had Proverbs quoted at me that said that people that were unteachable were fools and only those willing to listen to constructive criticism were people of good character whom God loved. So I guess that was just another thing that God hated about me too.
I was told constantly that I was selfish, and it didn’t take long for my sister to take up that anthem against me. Of course, sister had “a servant’s heart” and was selfless and kind and I should be more like her. She was generous and I was stingy. I only thought of myself and my needs and God was not pleased with that. I should ask God to give me a servant’s heart. I spent many hours as a child crying to God to give me this elusive servant’s heart that I apparently lacked and needed before my mom would accept me and my actions. Then maybe my sister wouldn’t hate me either. We were given roles very early in life and we played them well. She learned early how to manipulate our parents against me and she was always believed over me.
I was a child of many emotions. Sensitive, thinking, opinionated, deeply feeling.
But I quickly learned that some emotions were not acceptable, maybe even a sin, and I was not allowed to express them.
I learned that if I was angry, it was “godly” to forgive and forget that anger and definitely don’t express it. “Be angry but do not sin” meant “be angry but never tell anyone or show it”. There were times I wanted to scream because of the pent-up feelings of anger at my parents, anger at my sister, and anger at myself for being angry with them. I must be the terrible person they said I was because I couldn’t stop being angry and sad all the time. I begged God to make me nice and happy and sweet. “Why can’t you be sweet like your sister?” was something I heard often. I often escaped with a book into my favorite tree, away from everyone I could possibly sin against, away from the constant criticism of my actions and “bad attitudes” and the reminders that I was rebellious against God and my parents.
When I was an early teen, things only got worse. Thanks to a cult leader called Bill Gothard and his seminars and his followers, my family finally found answers to all our problems and embraced the promises to have the perfect godly life if we followed the Basic Principles. I was 14 and I thought, yes! This is the answer! The rule list that will finally make me a good person whom my family will love, who will be worthy of their love and acceptance. I poured my heart and soul into the materials, spending hours praying to God to forgive me for all the ground I gave to Satan. For not accepting my parents as the hammer and chisel that were molding me into the diamond I was meant to be. My resistance of their umbrella of authority must be the reason I’m a bad, selfish person. I was determined to finally fix my broken soul. I befriended many “godly girls” who were homeschoolers and whose families understood and followed the secrets of a godly life, hoping their goodness would rub off on me. Eventually, those girls popped into arguments between me and my mom… ”why can’t you be more like them? They would never treat their parents and sister the way you do.” I wanted nothing more than to be “more like them” and tried even harder.
I had many teary confessions to my parents for being rebellious. They piled on the modesty books and the courtship books and all the books that told me I was a naturally bad person and needed my parents as my authority because I couldn’t trust my heart to know what was best for me. I ate them up, thinking I would find the answer to all my problems. When my sister would lie about me, get me into trouble, pick fights with me until I snapped at her, I would take a breath, search my own heart for any evil thoughts, and beg her to forgive me for being selfish. She always did, of course. It was very magnanimous of her as a good, generous person to forgive my selfish actions.
There were some dark times in there. For a while I was convinced that since I was such a terrible person and my family hated me so much, that maybe God hated me too and what was the point of me living? I began to fantasize about ways I could kill myself and relieve my family of the burden of me. I never went through with anything.
I was afraid of death, that God really did hate me and would send me to hell and I couldn’t die until I turned into a better person.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Not A Nice Story


From babyhood they said "You are a dirty sinner, there is nothing good in you, you are destined for hell because of your nature."

So we, small humans, awoke to a world where toddlers need the sin and foolishness beaten out of them with switches and wooden spoons and belts.

They said "Only with Jesus are you worth anything."

So as small children we begged Jesus to come into our hearts and make the dirty clean.

They said "Because of your sin, God cannot look at you, Jesus had to die. You killed him."

So we mourned that we were so sinful that God couldn't look at us without someone else standing in our place.

They said "You are human, a sinner, you cannot help it, only Jesus can make you worth anything."

So we felt that we were worthless, that no matter how hard we try, we will never be good enough, while some kept trying anyway and some completely gave up.

They said "If you fall in love with a boy, you are committing emotional fornication."

So we guarded our hearts lest sin defile us with merely a thought, and when our hearts betrayed us and we fell in love with a boy, we hated ourselves and knew we were worth less than before, we had lost a piece of our hearts we would never get back.

They said "Your body needs to be hidden because it is dangerous and if a man lusts after you because of your clothing or movements, it is your fault".

So we covered our bodies from head to toe, swathed our femininity in fabric hoping no one would notice the curves, and spent years of our life worrying that we may cause a man to stumble and thus defile our own hearts and his.

They said "Boys only want one thing, so be sure you don't do anything that makes them think they can take it from you. They can't help it, this is how God made them, we must help them."

So we lived in fear of men who God made pigs then placed the responsibility for their pig-ness on us.

They said "If you kiss a boy, you're like a lolly-pop that's been licked, a paper heart that's been torn, you are worth less than before, and you've given away a part of you that you can never get back."

So we spent our days afraid, terrified we would lose our worth and have nothing to give a future spouse.

They said "Virginity and purity give you value, don't give that away."

So whether virginity was taken forcefully or given lovingly, we were left worthless, used goods, and told no godly man would want us now.

They said "You cannot hear God for yourself, you must obey your authorities. They know what is best for you."

So we submitted to things that no human being deserves to suffer, because otherwise God would be angry and not bless our lives. Submitting to unjust treatment was what Jesus did, after all.

They said "You are rebellious. Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft."

So we begged God's forgiveness for the ways we wanted something different than they wanted.

They said "You are a woman, emotional, incapable of leading, easily deceived. You must stay in your place, submit, and only then God will bless you."

So we felt loathing for our womanhood, wondering why God would make us inferior, and feeling guilty that we dare question the Almighty's plan, that we are not happy with his decree.

And now.....now we are told "Why are you depressed? Why do you have anxiety? Why the addictions, the anger, the rage, the self-loathing? Why can't you just be happy and normal?"

As if no one can connect the dots. As if their actions did not have consequences. As if a child can be raised to hate themselves in the Name of God and suddenly grow into an adult that is healthy. As if a lifetime of emotional trauma and spiritual abuse suddenly vanishes because a person changes their mind about who they are and their place in the world.

That's not how it works. That is only the beginning of a journey that could take the rest of our lives. A journey we are told not to speak of because it makes people uncomfortable, because they'd rather call us names like "bitter" and "unforgiving" than to look deep into the darkness of our hearts and hear tales of pain and see the rawness of souls taught to hate themselves. Because those stories aren't nice ones. But we will not change them in order to make others comfortable.

Do not tell us to "forgive". Forgiveness has nothing to do with it. Do not tell us to "get over it". One does not "get over" years of trauma and brainwashing and brain-wiring from babyhood just by making a single choice. We do not choose the nightmares. We do not choose the triggers and the gut-level reactions and the panic attacks. We had 18+ years of being taught that we are worthless, that God cannot stand to look at us, that we killed Jesus, that our worth is in our virginity or how well we obey our parents, that who we are is dirty and sinful. Give us at least 18+ years to re-wire our brains and heal those festering wounds and to learn to love ourselves where before there was only self-loathing. Some wounds cannot be healed. They can only be lived with. And scars do not disappear on a whim. But they can tell our stories and make us strong.

And tell our stories we will, and get stronger for the telling. We heal a little more every time we speak out loud what was hidden and decide that we are worth loving and our stories worth the telling.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

I Am No Longer Afraid

"You're different these days."

It was a compliment this time. Though I usually hear it in a chiding tone from someone who thinks it their right to comment with displeasure on my life-journey. But this time, surprisingly, it was in admiration from someone who has known me a long time. It made me smile.


I am different these days. I am....happy. Confident. Free. Comfortable with myself and my place in the world.

But mostly, I am unafraid.

Fear has shadowed my entire life. I can never remember not being afraid. My earliest memories were tainted with fear, even the happiest of them.

But these days, that fear is gone. It's amazing how that changes a person.

I am no longer afraid of god. Afraid of displeasing him. Of not following his will for my life. Of making a mistake and disappointing him. Of him ruining my life because that's what god does when you rebel, it's how he shows you he loves you, by not letting you get away with your own selfish desires. His plans are so much better than yours, after all.

I am no longer afraid of hell. Of accidentally sinning and dying before I can repent. I had nightmares about that as a small child. I was terrified of spending eternity in hell. It seemed so easy to screw up and end up punished after you die. I was so afraid of my friends going to hell too. I was so afraid that I wouldn't get to tell enough people about Jesus in my life and would be responsible for them dying and going to hell.

I am no longer afraid of punishment. For most of my life, I lived under fear of punishment. From my parents, from god. Messing up meant harsh punishments. Spanking, grounding, losing friend privileges, having to do extra chores, writing out a hundred sentences that say "I will not blame-shift". But mostly spankings, until I became a teen. Then it was lectures, control of resources, and groundings that killed the small social life I had. For every little infraction, because all sins are the same, and foolishness must be driven out of the heart of a child. Afraid of punishment from god who could not only send me to hell if I died unrepentant, but he could make my life miserable too. He could do all manner of horrible things to teach me a lesson if  screwed up. He could even take my child's life if I loved her more than I loved him, if I loved her too much. That's what god does, because he's a jealous god. My entire life, death, and afterlife could be punishments if he decided I needed them.

I am no longer afraid of missing god's plan for my life. I make the plans for my life now. I take the responsibility, I pay the consequences, good and bad. No one is waiting to punish me for planning badly. I'm not going to ruin my life if I don't hear god correctly and take a wrong step. I'm in charge. If I screw up, I will try again. There are many different ways to live a successful life, I'm not fucked if I miss The One. There is no "hedge of thorns" sent to hem me in and bring me back to god's plan.

I'm no longer afraid of failing to be who god wants me to be. I don't have to ask permission to be me. To follow my heart. To love whom I want to love. To be passionate about what matters to me. I don't have to make sure my character fits someone else's idea of right. I choose my values, who I want to be and what that looks like.

I am no longer afraid of what other people can do to me. Of whether the ones I love and used to be dependent on will walk away, reject me, and break my heart. Because I realize now that giving my heart to them means they can hurt it, but they cannot ruin it. Only I can do that. I am not dependent on how others treat me for my validation or my success in life. I adore all the people that are part of my life, but my life is not dependent on them anymore. I am no longer defenseless and powerless.

I am no longer afraid of the darkness in me. That part of me that is just as much human as the light, happy parts. That part that scared people, that they taught me to fear. I am those things too, in all their rich glory, and they don't scare me anymore. I don't have to deny the darkness exists or pray it away because it turns out it's not evil. I know evil; and the anger, passion, depression, anxiety, rage, rain, storm, and shadows that reside in human nature are not it. I can be a whole person now.

I am no longer afraid of being happy. It's OK to be utterly happy with myself and my life. It's OK to love and to live. It's OK to feel satisfied and enough. Conversely, it's OK to be sad. To be unhappy. To want more. To wish and not be OK with how things are. I am no longer afraid of the entire range of human emotions. They are not good or evil, they just are.

I am no longer afraid of my passion. I am a passionate person, and that is perfectly OK. Though I still get shamed often for this, get sanctioned, invalidated, told I'm too much and not enough, told my passion doesn't belong or is misplaced, told to be quiet, be nice, sit down, shut up. But since I no longer need validation from others, I am no longer afraid of my own passion or what others think about it. I can shout from the rooftops or speak in whispers in quiet places, and it is enough and it is valid.

I am no longer afraid of so many things, fears that have been a part of my life for as far back as I have memories. And that changes a person. It takes a huge weight off their shoulders that makes every aspect of their life lighter.

So, yes, I am different these days. I am whole. I am unashamedly, gloriously me.

And I am not afraid any more.