Public Service Announcement

A reader kindly sent me the link below.  If you think you, or someone you love, might be involved in a cult, this website will break it down for you.  It lists, in plain English and straightforward detail, the warning signs in both leadership and followers.  As an added bonus, there is also a list of healthy leadership indicators.

Warning Signs

If I encounter any good advice for extricating a loved one, I will pass it on.  If you need extricating, there is help available.  Unfortunately, you will need to be prepared for the abuse and ostracism that will come.  Please feel free to contact me if you need resources or click on Resources in the menu.

Ode to Broken Commitments

I came across this blog post on good ol’ Facebook and it stopped me in my tracks.  So many of my own experiences and those I grew up around are piercingly described here, as is the truth their effect on young lives.  Please take a few minutes to follow the link below and read.

http://stuffapostolicslike.blogspot.com/2015/08/285-nayc2015-ode-to-broken-commitments.html

Yes To Hope

Yesterday while driving around town I spotted a sign outside a business that said, “There is no hope in logic.”

This sentence jumped into my brain and ran around in circles. What the heck does that even mean?  I wondered.  In the interest of full disclosure, this business’ sign often has clearly christian perspective.  But this I pondered.

The belief that there is no hope in logic is a perspective I find remarkably sad and, let me just say it, wrong.  Logic gives us a path to follow, clear actions to take. Logic gives us power and direction.  When we can see connections between our own actions and their effects or, on a larger scale, between public policies and statistics, then we can make positive changes.  Changes can be made immediately and with intent, no waiting.  The ability to make changes gives us every reason to hope for a better future whether we are talking about our own life or the future of our country or our planet. Reliance on hope, also known as wishing, gives us an excuse to sit back and let things happen.

Life can be overwhelming at times, with stresses and worries that are difficult to shoulder.  Sometimes there is no fix.  It is necessary to take the time to listen to the still, small voice, to let go of the things that are out of our control.  It is also necessary to get up again, put one foot in front of the other, do the work before us according to the logic of our abilities and priorities.  It is possible that is where true hope lies, in our own efforts to make things better and in knowing we have worked hard and done all we can do.  Then sit back, have a beer and hope for the best.

There is no hope without logic.

 

But I WANT It…

As a child raised in the extreme isolationism and clamped-down atmosphere of the United Pentecostal Church, I had a deep, insatiable desire for worldly things.  The state of females’ appearance was rigidly controlled:  dress length to the knees (even for children), no pants or jeans, no sleeveless shirts, uncut hair (not even trimmed), no make-up or jewelry and I lusted for it all.  My most prized possession as a little kid was a big fat gold ring with rhinestones that I was allowed to wear only when playing “house” in the basement.  Once, some poor soul got saved and turned over her entire collection of costume jewelry to my dad; three boxes full.  I was momentarily ecstatic, envisioning hours of fabulous dress-up play.  My sisters and I got to keep the empty boxes.  I have no idea where the jewelry went; probably into the garbage.  Oh, that just made me feel a little bit sick to my stomach.

As I grew towards adolescence, my cravings grew: a plastic Oreo cookie necklace with a bite taken out of it on a leather cord, a Donnie and Marie Osmond lunchbox.  I didn’t know who they were, but it sure looked cool.  The short flippy haircut of a girl at the mall, a Barry Manilow poster.  I had a plan, though.   When I was old enough, maybe 18, I intended to backslide temporarily.  I was going to have permanent eyeliner put on (it hadn’t been invented yet, I think I fantasized it).  I was also going to get my hair cut, all very quickly and then come back to church.  I would take a chance that the rapture wouldn’t happen and I could slide back in fast enough.  All that straggly hair would be gone, at least for a while and I wouldn’t be able to take the make-up off.  Even after my hair grew back out, it would still have that cool, straight edge across the bottom and the Farrah bangs would last for a little while.

This was my nefarious plan to look hot and still go to heaven.  I had it all worked out.

Marriage Equality

While most folks are breathing a sigh of relief at the better-late-than-never decision of SCOTUS regarding marriage equality, the reaction of some reminds me like a punch in the gut of what it really means to be fundamentalist christian. I am reminded why I fled so many years ago, to escape the suffocating judgement and infuriating self-righteousness.

It is impossible for me to comprehend the mental gymnastics required to put oneself in a positon of authority over other humans simply because one has swallowed a “belief” about who they are. There is a lot of talk about god’s wrath and judgement day, akin to a mother telling a misbehaving child “just wait until your father gets home.” Covert fundamentalists aren’t much better, with their judgement–lite attitude of love the sinner, hate the sin. It is still a position of false superiority; willful ignorance of what it means to be gay. If you are not gay, you do not understand and have no right to impose your conjured criteria on anyone. When belief and dogma come before the rights and well-being of actual people, there is no love involved. Judgement and love, like oil and water, cannot exist in the same space. Remember the story of Ruby Bridges, the little girl that federal marshals escorted into her newly integrated elementary school in New Orleans? The furious, slathering white horde screamed at her as she walked their gauntlet. Fundamentalists are the new face of that hateful crowd. They are threatened and angry and they have lost this fight just like the racists lost that one. There is no judgement day coming for gay people. It already came and they are free.

Intermission

I don’t know who created this diagram, but it explained my life to me in one picture.

A-GRAPH-Childhood-Indoctrination-color

At this point, my story meanders through the maze of how my experiences shaped my choices and how I corrected course.  Because it involves my children and former spouse and current life, I am not going to publish those details in my blog.  The story comes full circle in the end, complete with a true love happy ending.

Many of you have encouraged me to put my story into book form, and I will.  Having never written a book before, I have no idea how long that will take, but I am anxious to get started.  Thank you for your encouragement and support.  For those of you who have held your tongue, thanks for that, too.

Meanwhile back at the ranch…

While I was busy making bad choices, so was Preacher Dad.  While Mom and sister were out of town, PD’s friend showed up.  They retired together to my parent’s bedroom.  PD saw the look of shock on my face and said, “Oh, it’s just like when you have friend over.”

#1.  What friend?

#2.  I’m not an idiot.

Eventually, PD was caught in a gay bathhouse and secretly fired from the church.  A story was concocted for the congregation and he moved to L.A.  The concocted story was told to us all, including my mother.  NO ONE told my mother why her husband no longer had a job even though she was church secretary.  PD found work in L.A. and his partner joined him there. (No one was calling him “partner,” but that was the truth.) He would come home for an occasional weekend and pretend to be husband/father.  Mom was left alone, trying to make ends meet.   No one took her aside and told her the truth.  Except me.  I can’t remember how the conversation came about, but we were sitting on her bed.  She was unable to believe all the evidence that PD was gay, so I told her that PD’s partner had slept in her bed while she was out of town.  I asked how long it had been since he slept with her and she said not that long, so I recommended an AIDs test and saw the understanding settle into her face.  To her credit, she wasted no time in doing that.  She also packed her bags, moved back to Vancouver and divorced PD.  It is impossible to overestimate the amount of courage these actions took.  He never once had a real conversation with her, never apologized; never gave her any sense of closure or reassurance that he had ever loved her.  PD was done.

I had no understanding of regular relationships, no sense of how to be in the world.  It was clear that I did not fit in anywhere.  I worked in restaurant offices and could see that the wait staff, mostly college students my own age, lived lives I could not comprehend; attending school, living in apartments paid for by parents, socializing.  Shopping in malls and having relationships.  It was all so far beyond me.  I was weird, but I supported myself and was free of religion.  I was also desperately lonely until I struck up a friendship with a man at work.  He was creative, brilliant and funny and came from an atheist family, so I married him.  He married me because that is what I wanted.  We set about starting a family right away because that is what I wanted.  He was a companion and a friend and he loved me.  And we had beautiful babies.  I built a cocoon, wrapped up in a family of my own, ignoring the parts of myself I was neglecting.  Because you just can’t fix everything at once.

About a month after baby #2 was born, I came home to find a handwritten envelope from PD on the table and my heart lurched.  It could only be bad news, and it truly was.  He wrote one letter to everyone in the family and sent copies to us all.  He had AIDs; had been HIV positive for quite a while and the disease had progressed.  He was starting treatment, but the prognosis was not good.  It was 1995; just before medication that worked became available.  I went to see him with my sisters on Father’s Day and again in November.  By then he was hospitalized; it was near the end.  I had some time alone with him in his hospital room; knowing it was the last time I would ever see him alive.  We chatted about this and that.  When I tried to turn the conversation to a personal place, I choked on the words. He turned on the television.  A news story was running about a mother who had killed her daughter.  She was being dragged off in handcuffs yelling I didn’t did it, I didn’t did it.

Conversation over.  I left, heartbroken and stunned.

A few weeks later, the phone rang at 2:00 am.  I lay in bed feigning sleep, knowing what the call was.  PD’s partner called again at 6:00 am and this time I answered.  It was over.

I read this poem at his funeral:

Only a Person who Risks is Free

To laugh is to risk appearing the fool.
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.
To reach for another is to risk involvement.
To expose your ideas, your dreams,
before a crowd is to risk their loss.
To love is to risk not being loved in return.
To live is to risk dying.
To believe is to risk despair.
To try is to risk failure.
But risks must be taken, because the
greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.
The people who risk nothing, do nothing,
have nothing, are nothing.
They may avoid suffering and sorrow,
but they cannot learn, feel, change,
grow, love, live.
Chained by their attitudes they are slaves;
they have forfeited their freedom.
Only a person who risks is free.

– Anonymous

After I read the poem, I took my still-nursing daughter back to the car, out of the wind of the Oregon plains.  Unfortunately, I sat in the driver’s seat to feed her, where she promptly kicked the car horn, which emitted a very loud blast and everyone attending the service turned to look. I thought it a fitting end.