I’ve been thinking lately…

… Sorry for the length of this entry, I am writing a book, this is just a chapter…

Like every 44 year old woman… I secretly love Eminem and NF music (haha)… Welcome to my mind.  When ADHD shows up and the thoughts and questions come about life, I start listening to hip hop music and exercising, doing yard work, cleaning house and this prompts deep thoughts. Much of my present day life is spent isolating myself for hours at a time just to think about what to do next. I have been suspect (more than usual) of the Bible’s content as a whole – since I studied Environmental History and Women Studies last year. Last night I decided to dig out a 26-year-old Bible that was given to me as a gift by the first man to propose to me at age 18. No clue where this man is now… but, his name *ironically signed with love on my very first, Holy Bible before he asked for a goodbye gift.

Without fail, I open to a passage, and something hits me deep (much like an 8 ball answering a question with no definitive answer, I have to keep mentioning – not to be disrespectful, just an observation at times, reminds me I control my mind’s eye, but if I don’t control it, it will do its own thing without me).  But for God’s sake, remember humans wrote that book from their experience and perspective and it was passed on for 2000 years, which leave some room for us to question and test truths (in my opinion), so please use DISCERNMENT when reading (it should have a warning label like coffee cups at McDonald’s) don’t take everything you read out of context and run out stoning people. Okie dokie? *crazy thinking? Sorry… not sorry. Anyway, this often leads me to other rabbit trails of thought that are surprisingly… inexplicably helpful…. I should have joined a spiritual convent decades ago; but we would have none of these stories to tell. haha

This book is tattered, highlighted, and torn in places, but I cannot bring myself to let go of a book I carried through the most spiritually formative years of my life, for me, the book has power because of my belief in it. I am going to compile a list of all the scriptures as super cool ‘truth-fortune-cookies-. I will call them “Bless your heart,” cookies…

I am here today to admit to myself and anyone who is listening. The first time I recall lying to myself was around October 1993. It involved falling in love with this first man-boy, having absolutely no clue what I was doing, and believing that marriage would complete me, before I could become (what I believed) all that I was supposed to be.  (not in the Army though)  It was supposed to be the answer to my insecurities, giving me a respectable purpose, at 18-19 years old – to be a wife and maybe a mother someday seemed ideal, after I travelled the world with my great love. I truly believed the books I read, the words I said, and experiences where I was able accomplish the most amazing things in the most extraordinary circumstances. At some point, I decided to compromise my belief for this first love, just once, mentally *thinking* God would still bless my heart and soul because my intention was pure, but still lying to myself*. Like a movie… making deals with the devil in my mind… (even confessing it to my pastor and best friends, to rationalize why I was OK -even if I set the specific rule for myself to stay pure and nobody would have loved me any less if I had been honest about what happened, or if I had changed course the moment I realized I was on the wrong path).  The Bible was at least clear about some instructions and I intended on following it… for my own future safety… until I didn’t.  I even publicly claimed I was willing to live and die for this Savior I read about. (yes, I see flaws in my thinking, but this story is the past). It was an irrational amount of pressure to put on a young person, but I often put pressure on myself to be something because I believed that I had to work extra hard to break the curse I believed hung over my family.

I was secretly ashamed because I was not a stronger person, and too proud to ask for help.   My faith was too simplistic, unrealistic, and I had not cemented my ‘reasoning’ behind the belief I claimed to live for.  Fear was ingrained in almost every aspect of my personality at this time. Feeling full of Fear without the Christian identity, but Fearless when I believed God was on my side. It was a strange place to be , but I felt free for a time and I beat death and cancer with this belief, without a doubt. I was afraid to admit I was unable to believe a lot of the stuff I found in the bible though. For a time, there was a Peace in following rules, and judging myself and others by its standards and trusting people that used God as a personal character reference. (For a solid year I turned completely away from anything related to church in 1996, and I scared myself to death more than once). I honestly never trusted my own judgement until I tried and failed at it first.  I tried to pretend compromising ‘situationally’ was necessary so my boyfriend would return from his deployment and marry me and take me to his home as he promised. The fact is, I wanted to live a full-time life of service for God and the church, I had this ideal Proverbs or Song of Solomon style love that would last forever and protect me from repeating the pain from my past. *I thought I had to earn God’s blessing, where I kept trying harder to be more perfect, so much so, it became a trend of shaming myself and working harder and harder to be better and only ran me face first into trouble while trying too hard to stay away from it. What people from the outside saw, maybe? was I being duplicitous or shady, honestly no, but I did not know who I was, to be fair to me. *I honestly can’t read minds, although I tried and failed (ask my fam). When I look back, I can allow myself to feel very foolish and sad, but also I want to give that young girl a hug for keeping that Forrest Gump attitude for as long as she did. 😊

Back to the lying story… I hated myself when we broke up, and I started living as if nothing I claimed prior to that relationship mattered, I gave my heart away and it was not coming back, and my God would certainly punish me. Shortly after the break-up, I made an impulsive decision to join friends at a bar alone and ended up getting hurt much worse. *proving I do not learn without extreme painful consequences…  Believing myself to be a hypocrite, self-hatred led me to a series of more poor choices, trying to recreate what I lost with each mistake. Almost like a really bad gambler… with life… the world’s worst gambler. Each failure in communication, each break up confirmed an internal belief that I was weak and could not be trusted to judge Good or Bad people, confirming I needed the Christian Lens to be able to tell the difference, and feel safer. I generally avoid men still, unless I am on an equal playing field, such as at work, otherwise, I become a babbling insecure mess.

I decided I was no good without a good and honorable man by my side or I would stay alone and live in some type of service. The shame spiral was the internal thoughts -saying this to me. “you need to leave home & fix yourself, and then I can go back and be a woman God would be proud of and your family will accept you”. The harder I tried to present myself as normal, the more abnormal I appeared. A hundred people can tell me how smart or talented they think I am, or how much potential I have, but I irrationally felt I had to hear the words “you are ok and you are truly loved no matter what” – from a blood-related source, for it to count. It took me 40 years to figure I can’t be anything for anybody else, I have nothing left to apologize for… and that has to be, OK.

I lied to myself in order to stomach the life as it unfolded into events I never hoped or planned for. I was too proud to tell my friends that I had a darkness inside of me that may have been chemical or just poor teenage logic. I needed help but believed my faith and service to others was enough to heal me. I felt I made a huge mistake in character to this boyfriend/fiancé, and that I was profoundly terrified and lost thinking of the idea of making it on my own. I did not want to admit that I had fallen head over heels for some person that was only stopping to port and not ever coming back. I told myself this navy boy was a gift from God, but the Bible told me God’s gifts do not show up that way. Usually whatever looks the nicest or feels the most perfect is not quite what it seems. The guy did what a young man does when presented with a passionately naïve church girl from southern Mississippi that was saying she wanted to ‘save herself for marriage’ and he was only in town for 6-9 months… he made all the promises she wanted to hear; it was a rush of infatuation, and I do regret lying to myself and others that I was totally OK with my choices.

I had NO IDEA who I was back then, but I sure as hell thought I did. I was convinced that God was on my side, and my heart was always concerned for His will, mine an afterthought… so whatever I chose ‘should have’ been the right decision — I have had several epiphanies this year. Back to my initial statement, my first conscious mistake. I did not know how far off course I was, until way after I made the choices, to be fair. I put so much emotional and spiritual weight on that relationship that I felt I was completely ‘ruined’ for any future man. I spiraled internally, which I NOW can attribute to my depression making an early appearance, but anyway, that initially wham – bam – thanks mam, pushed my emotions to a very unhealthy place, at a very vulnerable time of my life.  I credit the US Air Force for giving me the structure I needed at that time, and showing me that I was much stronger than I thought.  If only I would have given myself credit for my service back then… maybe my life would have turned out differently.  ‘if’

Thoughts like… “If I had not been abused as a child”  If I had learned how to handle the emotions that resulted from those childhood violations.  I wonder what the relationships I used to have would be like now, if those people experienced what I had in the last 20 years. I wonder if the people I cared about would respect me as a person if my mistakes had not been so messy or loud.

I started secretly harboring anti-Baptist church feelings around the time I was in the Baptist Student Union in 1992, and touring Bourbon Street in New Orleans to offer support to this mission church that stationed there. These people walk around dragging crosses and holding ‘turn-or-burn’ signs and handing out tracts while people were wasted and celebrating Mardi Gras.  I saw the pastor’s daughter on a far corner throwing up in a gutter.   (not judging the cross-draggers now, but then, I determined I was going to live a life that people couldn’t point to and hate God for) I decided that weekend I never wanted to be that kind of Christian, and in fact it was embarrassing.  Why is it that the most offensive Christians are the loudest? I rarely want to tell anybody what I believe now, because I have no idea what scary story they may have about church people in the past, or I encounter serious irritation when mentioning the possibility of a greater power that is inside of all of us. Saying the word Christian has too many negative connotations, I feel.

I do not associate myself with any specific church any more, but I like the church community as a concept and I still hold belief in God because it is more realistic, personally, I do not think Jesus would attend 80% of the services that claim to be celebrating his life and resurrection. The problem with me, is the faith in myself became so low that I did not walk in any of the knowledge or the truth I gained in the last 4 years. I have held my head lower than I should, still with automatic thoughts on past family conversations to block just to get through the day and feel like a normal person. I only have surface ideas of who my siblings are, and that hurts more than it should. I say that because the loss is for something that was most likely never fully established. I have continued to play a role inadvertently, to portray a false sense of humor about very large issues that has never been aired. When Tina comes to town, it is like inviting ‘the elephant into the room’ – and attempt to tiptoe around It, with humor or a couple beers. I have irrational fears being a burden, or reminding my siblings of a negative past, but that is what I may have done without knowing it. I had no idea people saw me the way they did, I used to imagine the worst about myself, and often found that my worst fears were true. Instead of letting it go, I obsessively returned to the trough as if the food was going to be another flavor each time. *insanity* I could not see who I was presenting… my self-concept was gone and the people I once knew, did not recognize me or they pity me. Joining the military, then marrying into it, sent me all over the country, and any open-ended issues or relationships back home where left open-ended with question marks. I attached with pride to the military, I loved how I felt when I served, but with the spine fracture, cancer and divorce, I never learned how to handle interactions with people without participating in intense therapy.

The mind of the young woman with particularly zealous beliefs about life and Christianity; inspired her ‘Life Lens’, therefore her actions from those days forward set life on a trajectory she never anticipated (yet, she was warned about evils of the world in the bible). I was blessed with three children but not in ways that any person would have chosen. With great love, comes great pain (in my experience). I only say this, because my perspective at the time – allowed me to create decades of falsely held beliefs and rationalizations – to survive my childhood mentally and emotionally. Growing up I was reminded that being a female is distinctly different than being a male. Now we live in a world where I am educated that gender is a ‘fluid concept’, and I think of how often I judged perfectly respectful and amazing -GOOD- men, because they did not portray the qualities of Donald Trump or his minions…. ooh… sorry Trump-lovers… my bad .

The social conditioning plus early abuse created a toxic form of shame and fear and self-doubt. The zealous-but-naive Christian faith gave me so much hope that I never stopped trying to ‘self-correct’ or surround myself with this idea of perfect people in order to be worthy of God’s blessings, and their friendship. This self-lie alone, decimated me, attempting to earn God or man’s love will always leave you in pain, and it is our own fault, so don’t do it – unless you wanna do some serious growing. I did the same with my own family, no matter how many mistakes that followed, I kept fumbling and trying to express my love and loyalty but appearing as a fool instead. No matter how many times I went back to my hometown, in the past – never felt I belonged there. I feel I may have not truly appreciated the rural beauty of Mississippi and her people, until my last visit. I can see now, my negative experiences were not the fault of the place or the people, but the condition of my heart and mind when I went. The last visit was too short, but it was real, and it was nice, and I am super excited to go back again as soon as possible. There is some freedom or closure in having a positive memory to replace negative ones.

‘I hold my issues up for all to see, like ‘show-and-tell’. ‘A lot of people know me, but not a lot know-me-well’.

Know – by NF Outcast by NF