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Sunday, October 18, 2015

In Which I Wonder Why

I don't understand. Who tells a child the things that I was told? Who forms a child's self-concept in the worst way possible on purpose? What kind of person takes a sensitive, kind, loving, feeling child and tells them from birth that they are mean, bully, selfish, and unloving?

What kind of parent does that?

Was I a threat? Did they feel the need to tear me down because I threatened something? Were they afraid of me somehow? Did they look at me and feel fear and thus were driven to squash who I am? Was who I am that scary?

Selfish, unloving, unfeeling, mean, bully, harsh, hostile, angry, unkind, moody, vengeful, unhappy, rebellious. The words fill my head and keep coming, one after the other, all the words I was given as labels. All the words that they might as well have written in ink on my body as they were indelibly printed on my soul. But even permanent ink fades eventually and can be written over.

I am only recently discovering who I really am. And I am not who they said I was.

I am kind and generous. I am an empath. I feel others' emotions so deeply, like I am experiencing their pain in my own soul. I am a giver, I give til I have nothing left. I love with all that is within me. I am loyal to a fault.

But I am no doormat. I do not accept what I am told without proof. I am also a warrior. I fight for the people I love, for every person I come across who can't fight for themselves. I stand up for what is right and that is interpreted as "hostile". It's not hostility, it's righteousness. It's strength. It's ferocity. And it is who I am.

I am rebellious. I will claim that label, of all the words they slung at me. Some things are worth rebelling against. Rebelling has saved my life. "There's something wild in your heart, you need to pray to God to help you." There was something wild there. There still is. Did that scare them? Does it still?

What kind of person does that to a child? What kind of person teaches another child to do this to their own sibling? What was it about me that scared them so?

Whatever it was, they failed to eradicate it. Because here I am, in all my wild glory, and they can't do anything about it now, except keep trying to spread their lies and paint their own picture of me that I no longer recognize. Their picture of me looks suspiciously like their own self-portrait.

Was it religion? I fucking hate religion. Religion said I needed my will broken, beaten down, and taken away. Religion said to squash my glory because their pathetic god would be jealous. Religion said they had to take my rights, my ownership, my boundaries, because those things were not from god. Did religion make them try to break a child or did it just justify their own penchant toward insecurity and whatever the hell else was wrong with them? I don't know. I might never know. Does it even matter? The damage has been done, the healing has long ago begun.

As a parent, I look at my children in all their glory and life and I am completely baffled. The thought of telling them that they are inherently selfish with wicked hearts that need their foolishness driven out by the rod is painful enough to leave me breathless. The idea that I could take such amazing creatures and make sure they know how worthless they are unless they become what I dictate they must be causes physical pain and revulsion in my heart.

What kind of person does that to a child? I have no more excuses for them.

Monday, October 12, 2015

That Person Is Me

A few friends posted a quote on Facebook last week:

We have a God who sees hearts like we see faces, a God who hears ache like we hear voices, and we have a God who touches & holds & heals our wounds like we long to be held. ~Ann Voskamp

It struck me as something I once would have said and felt. Once, it would've stirred up the proper emotions in my heart and comforted me, like it was designed to do.
I used to believe this. With all my heart. It was comforting. No matter what happened, from the time I was about 14 until 8 years ago, I held on to this "promise" with my life. It got me through some very difficult things. 
Until the god I thought saw me and cared for me, stopped. Or maybe I just stopped being able to bullshit myself.
I can look back and see that the beginning of the end was when we lost our home to a fire 8 years ago, on October 22nd. God didn't save what little we had worked so hard for. He didn't help me find my wedding ring though I begged him, believed on faith he would help me find them, and dug through the ashes for a week. He let my babies' teddy bears and clothing and toys burn up; everything from the first 5 years of our lives together was gone. I praised him when our church got together and donated enough money for me to replace household goods and when they came with hammers to help us turn our garage into a home. 
But god didn't do those things, people did. Good people, who probably would've done it even without god (some of them weren't even Christians, just neighbors, good human beings).
That was the day my belief in a loving god who heals my wounds began to die, even against my will because I tried so hard to keep believing. It's symbolic how the ashes of my home became the ashes of my faith, me digging, trying to find something to salvage. Eventually, as things got worse for us, all the cliches about why god was saying "no" and why bad things happen to us even when we obey him and have faith and work hard, didn't work for me anymore. 
I sat thinking one day "what am I saying? I am bullshitting myself. This doesn't even make sense." And then I felt guilty because god hears your thoughts and he heard my lack of faith and maybe something bad would happen because of it. 
And then I got mad because how stupid is it to worry about god punishing you for being human? I had so much internal conflict, as reason and honestly looking at what was happening in our life started breaking through the cliches and the religious bullshit. It didn't add up.
I tried, prayed, cried, had faith, claimed god's promises, read the scriptures, forced myself to believe that he had a plan and it was good and he loved me, for 5 more years after that. 5 years of struggling and depression and loneliness and barely surviving and paying the bills. Through family betrayal. Through losing my best friend. Through foreclosure on the new house we'd worked so hard on. Through old wounds being ripped open. Through packing everything we had left into a truck and trailer and moving 2 states away just to get a job. Through being alone with 2 toddlers and a new baby for weeks on end. 
A little light came when we found a church with good people and they made us one of them and I had friends again and was leading worship again and loving it. Then the rejection after 2 years of throwing my life into these people, all because I believed the wrong things, like that gay people aren't sinners and god used evolution to create the world and women are equal to men. That was the end. I tried half-heartedly to visit other churches, but just couldn't do it. When my husband said he was done, no more church, I was relieved. I was tired of pretending that any of it mattered, or that I mattered to any all-seeing being who seemed unable to see me.
I wish sometimes I could still believe this and be comforted again. But I can no longer do make-believe fairy tales, no matter how good they sound. There is no deity out there who sees my heart or heals my wounds or cares about me personally. You know who does that? People. People like my husband, who has walked this road with me for 13 years now; people like many of you who read here, who though we've most of us never met, you still care about others on the other side of the computer screen; people like the new friend I'm making who hates religion and likes me; people like the various therapists who have shows empathy and understanding. 
People like me. I care. That person who cares about me and sees me....that person is me.
Some would be horrified at this, but to me, it's a relief. I don't have to go through mental gymnastics trying to figure out why shit happens, trying to convince myself that god has a plan for this shit, that it's divine shit, that I should be grateful for it, that god still loves me even though he's slinging shit at me (or allowing shit to be slung, depending on your theology). Shit just happens. There's no reason, usually. I didn't do anything wrong, I'm not the target of Satan, God isn't testing my faith, I don't have to pretend or try to convince myself of these illogical things anymore. These ridiculous cliches that people use to protest against doubt when, really, the doubt is right. 

And that's a huge relief. I alone am responsible for taking that shit and slinging it back at the universe. For forging meaning and making love and being resilient and rising from the ashes. That's on me. I am not at the mercy of the whims of a god I've never met that I'm supposed to just trust cares about me, even when everything in my life says otherwise. I can take control and make my own way and not look for someone to blame or someone to trust when life doesn't work. 

I write my story. I decide where to go from here. That is, perhaps, the most comforting and freeing thing I've discovered so far.

                                                                      (photo credit)