I’m through apologizing for being me

I’m through apologizing for being me

“You love that I debate with you; only you hate that it comes from your daughter and not one of your sons!”
“Yep!”
“Well it sucks to be you.”

As best I can recall, this was the ending to one of the many tiring debates between myself and my father.  I believe I was around 20 years old.  Though I don’t remember the details of this small war, I’m sure it was something about the bible and no doubt how women were treated.  I was female, and due to my lack of penis, I was supposed to shut the fuck up.

While my father was still a pastor, he feared what I would do and say as a teenager.  I was a wild card (no, please stop your snickering pastor’s daughter comments right now), I was vocal and I didn’t fit into the proper mold.  I was told “You don’t want your mother and brothers to end up on the streets because I lost my job due to your actions, do you?”

So I lived a double life.  I attended all mandatory events, put on a sweet smile and tried to suppress who I really was.  Sometimes I even tried really hard to be the good girl.  Who I was certainly wasn’t OK, so I learned to be very sorry and apologetic.

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A good friend posted this picture on my Facebook wall saying, “I imagine this was how you looked as a child.”  In attitude, yes; in looks, well not so much.  Yet the words resonated and pierced me “too big, too loud, too emotional, too edgy”; simply too much.  I’ve always been a little too much.  When you’re too much you learn to acclimate and accommodate.  You take up too much space so you learn to be smaller.

“Calm down!  You’re getting all riled up!”  Too much.

“So tell us how you really feel! Ha Ha Ha.”  Too much.

“Stop being so sensitive!”  Too much.

You lose pieces of your soul, bit by bit, when you have to hold back who you are.  Yet you can only hold it in so long, well I can only hold it in so long before not having the capacity to contain it much more.

So I’m though apologizing for being me.

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom” ~ Anaïs Nin

 Today is that day.

The Unredeemed

The Unredeemed

Searching for God has been my side hobby my entire life.  Even growing up as a pastor’s daughter, will hell and damnation shoved down my throat on a daily basis, I never felt God’s presence.  Prayed the “Sinner’s prayer” at age 6, though I didn’t understand what awful crime I could have committed with less than a decade alive; diligently memorized my Bible Memory Association verses (and spanked if I missed any); and got baptized with two ex-hookers and my brother in the swimming pool of one of the wealthy in the church at age 8.  Yet I felt nothing.

From then on out the search was on.  Crying to youth pastors; attending Christian concerts and trying to suppress how much I hated the music; visiting one church after another in hopes of finding something I could hold onto; endless studies, workbooks and prayers, all in hopes of feeling what everyone else felt.  I felt nothing.

One of my many escapades led me to a church in Houston who was having a “Forgiveness Conference”.  I’d somehow became friends with the pastor’s wife who was advertising it on Facebook.  As always, this was my answer!  So I booked a ticket from Minnesota to Texas, because clearly this was the sign from God I’d been looking for, and flew down without knowing a soul.  Well the “conference” was about 10 people from this small church and one crazy ass lady who decided to crash the party.  In Christian circles they love looking for signs from God, so for me to have the balls to fly thousands of miles to be there, they felt surely that God was going to move in big ways.  I cried a lot, as I always did at these events, and overshared to the point of making people uncomfortable.  Talking about being raped, and staying with the guy because your Christian upbringing said you should, makes the church ladies squirm quite a bit.

A song was sung by a group called Selah called, “Unredeemed” and the lyrics are as follows:

The cruelest word, the coldest heart
The deepest wound, the endless dark
The lonely ache, the burning tears
The bitter nights, the wasted years

Life breaks and falls apart
But we know these are

Places where grace is soon to be so amazing
It may be unfulfilled, it may be unrestored
But when anything that’s shattered
Is laid before the Lord
Just watch and see, it will not be unredeemed

For every choice that led to shame
And all the love that never came
For every vow that someone broke
And every life that gave up hope

We live in the shadow of the fall
But the cross says these are all

Places where grace is soon to be so amazing
It may be unfulfilled, it may be unrestored
But when anything that’s shattered
Is laid before the Lord
Just watch and see, it will not be unredeemed

Oh, He will wipe every tear
Will not be, be unredeemed

Places where grace is soon to be so amazing
It may be unfulfilled, it may be unrestored
But you never know the miracle the Father has in store
Just watch and see, it will not be
Just watch and see, it will not be unredeemed

“Just watch and see, it will not be unredeemed.”  I banked on this for a few more years before it all crumbled.  No reconciliation with my father (now dead), no righting the wrongs, no peace that passes all understanding, no redemption.

I used to believe that if I saw my favorite color, hot pink, in a sunrise that it meant God had not left me.  Sure I made this up, but it’s certainly no different than all the other odd ways people chose to believe.  Seeing a hot pink sunrise now is bittersweet; I find joy when I see that color yet there is pain as I know it’s only the earth’s atmosphere and not a special message to me…the unredeemed.

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You don’t get that.

You don’t get that.

“You don’t get that.”  Four words that haunt me.  I was first told this sentence by a friend who was describing an episode of Celebrity Sober House with Dr. Drew (stop judging me – I fucking love that show); she described a therapy moment where a patient was sobbing over all the things he wanted in his father.  He wailed for a caring, loving, present and understanding father, and was met with the blunt statement “You don’t get that.”  It stopped him cold, and me as well.  My first thoughts were that this was such a horrible and hurtful thing to say yet so painfully true.

I’ve read other blog posts about this episode which took this to mean “Suck it up.  Stop whining.”  That wasn’t exactly my take as I do feel whining, or rather weeping out the pain of your soul, is cathartic and necessary.  Processing pain is never a one-time event.  It seeps out slowly and sometimes in ways you aren’t fully cognizant of without a lot of self-awareness.  I’ve processed the pain of my relationship with my father, well my mother too, for as long as I can remember.  Sometimes I delve into their selfishness and abandonment, and at other times I go a different direction and mourn what never was.  I’ve forced myself to forgive them repeatedly; yet when you see the same behavior that caused the pain, it all comes back up.

Dr. Drew is certainly right in that “I don’t get that.” in so many ways.  I wasn’t blessed with parents who were invested in their children.  (Side note: I will need to do a post some time about how much I hate the word “blessed”.  So triggering.)  My brother and I have remarked many times that it would have been a lot easier to stomach if one of them had been an alcoholic, a drug addict or mentally insane, because then there would have been logical reasons for their behavior.

I do acknowledge I hold onto things a bit tighter than would be healthy.  Acceptance truly is the key.  Yet sometimes the trauma of one event, overlaps and collides with something completely different, and this is where it gets tricky.  For instance this past September I found I was panicking and triggered over a rape 20+ years before. I’d been stable and OK with what happened for a long time.  Forgiven myself for actions that were never my fault.  I could speak about it like the weather.  So why was this shit coming back to haunt me now?

It’s believed in yoga theory that your muscles, in particular the muscles in your hips, hold your emotions, pain and trauma.  It’s not uncommon for someone practicing yoga to have emotions well up, even tears, while doing hip opening postures.  Amazing work is being done by Bessell van der Kolk, who wrote “The Body Keeps the Score”, “he transforms our understanding of traumatic stress, revealing how it literally rearranges the brain’s wiring—specifically areas dedicated to pleasure, engagement, control, and trust.”  Interesting.

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So perhaps, those of us that are still triggered, can’t let go, can’t walk away, may be dealing with our brain’s trauma wiring, and we’re not so rigid and unforgiving after all?

I was ridiculed and criticized while in the church for continuing to be hurt from my past . They gave SO many reasons why this was happening and all were apparently my fault.  “You’re not accepting the price Jesus paid on the cross….you’re not trusting God…you’re not praying enough…you’re bitter (OK, I agree with that one)…you’ve got a demon (personal favorite).”  I walked to the front of so many churches with my forgiveness list, nailing my anger to a cross (literally), throwing my written thoughts in a fire, telling others, repenting of “my part” (though most of that was fucked up) and crying, crying, crying.  Nothing worked.

I avoided this post for a few weeks as I didn’t have a cute little conclusion.  Lets just say I’m working on it.

 

Back to the grave

“These aren’t about me!  This isn’t me!  These were the things my father said about my mother!”  Therapy is hard work; weeks, months and years can go by without a breakthrough.  It’s still beneficial for slogging through the days of your life, but we all want that light bulb moment.  This was mine.

I’ve been in some form of therapy on and off for years, decades really.  Crying about a father that didn’t want me, facing the traumas and horrors of my teen years and accepting that I did the best I could with what little I was given.  There was emotional release, for a moment, but it was truly the same words being repeated year after year without getting to the other side.

I should disclose that in addition to my psychological therapist; I now have friends who know me well enough, and love me enough, to give just as much guidance and support.  These therapist friends are a Facebook group of people I met through the page Stuff Christian Culture Likes (SCCL).  I found the page accidentally while searching Jonathan Acuff’s – Stuff Christians Like.  Stuff Christians Like was cute but tame; I got some laughs but didn’t really feel understood.  Finding SCCL blew open my world, as I found my people.  People being honest about their doubts, their fears and the atrocities committed by the church.  Through random chance (divine intervention?) I was put into a group of 20 people who have stood beside me in some of the worst times of my recent years.  I believe their presence in my life, along with my therapist, allowed this mind blowing moment.

My therapy homework assignment was to write statements I felt about myself in a specific area.  I did my list 10 minutes before leaving for the appointment as it was too painful to see the statements and hold the emotions for a sustained period of time.  As I read the list I saw my father’s face and was rushed back to a dinner we had shortly after my parent’s divorce.  He went into graphic details of the ways she’d betrayed him, ruined him and broken him.  Healthy boundaries didn’t exist as I had to listen to his tirade about my mother.  He ended is saying, “I have a hard time looking at you because you look so much like your mother.”  I was 16.

As I exclaimed, “These aren’t about me!  This isn’t me!  These were the things my father said about my mother!” I felt my body tingle.  My face became flushed and I started struggling to breathe.  My therapist called me to mindfulness and brought me back to the room, as my memories were swirling and starting to swallow me up.  I said, “I’m going back to the grave with this list.  I need ridiculous dramatic moments to push me along.”  I added, “I’ll do it Saturday, February 13th, the day before Valentine’s day, I want this off of me before then.  I also like that it’s on the 13th.  I was raped on the 13th.  I want that day – that number back.”

It wasn’t as cold on this day back at the grave site.  Not nearly as tumultuous to drive there either; I knew my route and was focused.  Still couldn’t find his damn headstone but I now had a place that I’d designated for my release moments.  I read the list allowed, half crying – half screaming, much angrier than the previous time.  As I ripped the list up and gave his statements about my mother back to him, I stomped and growled.  Felt a bit like a toddler, or someone losing their mind, but it felt right and good.

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I then drove to my step-mother’s and brought back the key to their house. I’ve held onto it with thoughts of breaking in when my step-mother isn’t there. I didn’t want to take anything. I wanted to snoop. And I wanted to see if my father wrote anything…about me…that’s nice. I kept the key in my purse so I’d be prepared for my moment.  It had to go.  Now in my family when there is an issue we typically write letters back and forth, raging with venom as to why we are right and deserve an apology.  I did nothing this time.  My silence was the statement.  I wrote her name on an envelope, put the keys and a post it saying what they were, and didn’t even sign it.  Be gone.

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The blogs I’ve read recently tend to end with a bible verse or some statement about how “God did ___”.  I don’t have that.  I was told for years in church that God would reconcile my father and I and make everything new and better.  I was disowned two years before he died, and though I did see him before his death, God didn’t do shit.  As always.

There isn’t a nice way to wrap this up as the journey continues.

The first attempts at releasing my Father

Does Father actually need a capital letter?  I’m not sure.  I was raised mostly in the south so doing things properly is always a concern.  Father is a big word for me so a capitalizing it makes sense, even if it wasn’t needed.  My Father died January 29, 2015 while I was partying with friends in Las Vegas.  Funny that it was my first trip to Vegas, Sin City, and this is the town I’m in when he passes.  My middle brother was by his side, being the golden child of the family fate would of course shine on him to give him this position of honor.  My youngest brother was at work in L.A. and burst out laughing upon hearing that I was in Las Vegas.  You see my father was a pastor, and I was a disappointment, so my being far away from Minneapolis in Las Vegas was truly the only fitting place for me to be as took his last breaths.

I was the first born in my family, so for 2 1/2 glorious years I was the one and only.  When my brother came along, and my father saw what he really wanted from a child, I was demoted.  Being female with a fundamentalist legalistic pastor father was no treat either.  I’ll devote other blog posts to exploring our relationship but for now lets just call it bad.

So a year went by and as the days came closer to the anniversary of his death I became more and more disturbed.  Troubled by thoughts of how long I have left to live and was I being honest with myself.  I wasn’t.  I live in fear and shame and heaps of bitterness.  Stepping one foot in front of the other, without seeing the path, I signed up for a blogging course; committed to show myself in an honest blog and took the first steps in letting my father go.

After a night of making sure I felt nothing (details not necessary), I wrote some pages telling my father how I felt and that I decided that January 30, 2016 was my new birthday, the day after the anniversary of his death, as I started a new life.   I then drove to the cemetery to give them to him.

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I had movie images in my head of crying at reading his tombstone, crying at his grave, tearing up the pages I wrote and crumbling them over the top. I’d called to find the exact location: Tranquility 4413. LOL! I know they make names like Tranquility, Peace and Eternal Rest to comfort love ones but I find it silly now. So I get there and drive to where I vaguely remember us parking the previous year. The markers in the snow weren’t in order and placed very randomly. Nothing indicated the “Tranquility” area and unless someone had been at the grave recently, they were all covered in snow. I kept driving, stopping and walking around trying to find some rhyme or reason to the marker placement and I couldn’t find any. Looking for my father and unable to find him; I figured there was probably some amazing parallel I should draw from this but it escaped me. I went back to the spot that I expected his grave to be took out the pages I’d written and then ripped them up and covered them in snow. Sobbed for maybe 60 seconds and then I was done. That’s really all that was left.

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I then drove around the area as this was the last town I would have called home, where my father left the church and where my parents divorced. I told myself as I drove past various locations of events of my life, “this is the past – you don’t live here anymore”; our old church, my last real home, my father’s last home where my estranged step-mother lives, the street light I crashed into while drunk at 15, the park I used to swing in after sneaking out of the house to get high, the streets I walked to school and the pool hall of the boy that never wanted me.  

Cathartic? A little. I’m a bit immobilized from it all.