Preparing for a New Year

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I find myself on this cusp of the new year thinking about words and language. I am thinking about how for my whole life I was told that things meant things they didn’t mean. How that is a particular form of gaslighting and control that strips you of things that become increasingly hard to get back. It makes you question your communication, it makes you question your ability. How do you know that a word means what it means?

This, more than anything, is what makes me feel like I could never trust a religion again. The idea that words are redefined for the purposes of a being we will never see. Love was whatever god defined it to be, and if that meant that love was torturing people for an eternity, then that was what love was. Grace meant you accepted that people were flawed and sometimes that meant allowing abuse to go by without consequence. People are imperfect, after all. We must never fully trust humans but we must trust the organizations they are part of because organizations are somehow bigger than the human that built them, somehow big enough to capture their mistakes, somehow enough to be enough. No matter how many times they fall, it will not be enough to disprove this.

Perhaps worst of all, unconditional love is anything but unconditional. From the moment you are born you are walking a tightrope and at the bottom is hellfire and damnation, but that’s not even the worst part. Because as much as all Christians will tell you that the thing that you need more than anything is Jesus, that is not true. You are a social animal and the thing you need more than anything is people. You need your family, your friends, your community. And all of that is hanging in the balance. Because unconditional love could mean all kinds of things. If you slip out of line it could mean anger, it could mean hurt, it could even mean isolation. What it will definitely not mean is acceptance. You know this. This is sewn in your skin, like runes of salvation.

I sometimes feel like there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t think about these things but I think about it more now. When I was in high school I read 1984 and I was cut to the bone by this concept. Big Brother took away your language. Years later I watched Alphaville and it was the same, the totalitarian society just started taking words away, and no one noticed. But the one that struck me hardest was later, a Greek movie called Dogtooth that emotionally shattered me. An abusive family, keeping their children locked in a compound, never letting them into the outside world. Danger is manufactured in many ways. But the moment I can’t breathe is when they listen to their “language tapes.” These tapes tell them that “ocean is the big, blue chair in the living room.” That’s when I realize that it’s not just the stripping — although no one can deny there is power in that — it’s being able to change the meaning.

The English language (and probably any language) changes all the time. It is one of the more interesting things about it, a fluidity that encompasses culture. But with that also comes the ability to transfer power. What happened to me growing up can happen just as easily still. We are about to have a president take power who shows an unprecedented lack of interest in truth. He also has shown a remarkable ability to say something and then redefine and redefine those same words until they mean something unrecognizably removed from their original meanings.

I have a few goals for 2017 but none of them are as important as this one — I won’t stop paying attention. I won’t ever allow my communication to be taken from me again, or redefined. I will read and I will be open. I will listen, I will write. I will use the words I have at my disposal. I will choose them carefully. I suspect we are in for a long 4 years (at minimum). Like a lot of people, this election has brought up a lot of old thoughts and feelings for me. But I’m not a child anymore. This time I have power to fight back. And you’d better believe I’m going to.

Happy New Year.

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Stress and New Beginnings

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I find myself thinking a lot lately about confidence. I haven’t been writing much (obviously) and I feel like I am so caught up in my own head about it. I think of at least half a dozen blog topics a week, but I do nothing with them – not even write them down unfortunately. I feel tired of my own voice in print, worry that I am in a rut. I get afraid that I will sound stupid or cliché. I get stopped by that nagging thought that if something isn’t very unique and striking, it’s probably not worth writing down at all.

A lot of this is just white noise, of course. I know it’s there if I scratch the surface, but who wants that? So instead I just don’t write anything down. Suddenly my life is much too busy with television shows and films and sleep. It’s not that I’m not busy, but probably I am a lot less busy than I act.

That’s my why I haven’t been writing. I’ll try to do better. Our little pack has a whole new motivational plan for us all to be writing together. I imagine you will see the results, or not, from me as the case may be.

So, onto my life.

One of the things that I have noticed in reading through old Baby Me journals is that I never just let myself be upset or angry or even just meh. I always would talk about how unhappy I was and then end with this idea that I needed to be upbeat, I needed to stop being such a downer, or whatever the case may be. I don’t really know entirely where that came from. Possibly there was a gendered element in there somewhere, possibly there was some religious concept that Christians weren’t unhappy. But more likely it is just that my family isn’t very good with emotions of any kind and negative ones felt more difficult to manage.

I am going to try to talk about things without qualifying them and we’ll see how dire it sounds when I read it.

Things are not dire, which may be a part of the problem in a weird way (is that a qualifier at the top… who knows!). Even when things are very shitty I tend to ultimately do better if I feel like I have something to grab onto and fix. Right now I am just restless and feel stuck, concerned I am spinning my wheels and not doing… something. What I think I am not doing is fairly unclear to me. I have two jobs, which are making my life chaotic in a way I do not approve of as a rule. But it is certainly doing something. Both of my jobs are contributing to my experience in some way, and I am grateful for that. But in the newest one I feel very adrift and not at all sure of what I am doing.

I will have to get going on grad school applications soon, but they aren’t even available on their respective websites yet (sometime this month, probably?). In both cases, they aren’t due until the end of the year, leaving me with quite a bit of available time to work on them. I am in no way looking forward to doing this, and suspect I will procrastinate a lot once they become available, but they will be something specific for me to work on.

I am vaguely stressed about a lot of things. I will lose my health insurance soon due to the gobs of money I am making (or you know, over $1100 a month). It feels strange to be stressed about that, as I didn’t have health insurance for a large part of my life, but now I am on medications that I should probably stay on for the sake of sanity and all that nonsense. Plus I’ve had full coverage for almost 4 years now and I have gotten accustomed to that being one thing in my life I don’t have to worry about. What if something happens in the interim year?

I feel like I am having general post-college ennui more than anything. This realization that I was good at school and good at that structure. I liked having my life broken into quarters, I liked regular feedback every few months. I liked the feeling that I was actively working towards things and I could lay out on a chart what those things were. Must take classes X, Y, and Z to graduate by this date. They were all steps I understood and, while they were obnoxious, I was pretty good at following the rules. Good at deadlines, good at class participation, good at school socialization. And then I find myself worrying that perhaps I am not nearly as good at non-school life (even though I realize that a lot of those skills are very transferrable). But you know. I worked day to day jobs for a really long time before I went back to school – like a decade. And I was an okay worker, but I was also extremely depressed and generally miserable almost all of the time. When I went back to school it was such a complete change of everything. And it was a good change, even when it was scary (often). I think part of why I find myself so jumpy and restless now is the worry that being in this day to day working life means going back to what that meant before, which I clearly did not excel at.

There’s not a lot of reason to think that, probably. My life is pretty radically different. I feel very motivated. But then I worry, if I am so driven by these particular goals that I can see so clearly, what happens when I get my Master’s? What happens when I pass that milestone, and don’t have more school to jump into (I don’t think I plan on my PhD at this point)? Is the goal then just to finish enough supervised hours to have my own practice? What then? Will I fall into a state of restlessness and vague dissatisfaction without these very specific goals? What if I do not have the very specific goals? Why don’t I seem capable of setting out my goals in a totally self-motivated fashion, in the extremely organized way that I wish they were? What happens if I am not self-motivated enough to accomplish all the things I vaguely dream of accomplishing, because they are too vague? Am I really stressed out because I don’t currently have the goals for basically the rest of my life laid out on a literal map in front of me, with color coded signs and flags? Probably the answer is yes, in case you are all wondering.

I could talk about how many great things there are in my life but I’m not going to, not this time. I will just let this stand. Life transitions suck and I pretty much always lack confidence in the landing.

Dear Baby Me: April 28 & 29, 1997

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Dear Steve,
3:15pm
I want Zach to call! He has to call by tommorrow to talk about carpooling. Ring, phone, ring!
Ciao!
Love Meg

Dear Steve,
9:08am
Did I ever tell you I bought Independance Day? Of course I didn’t. I bought Independance Day! Isn’t that cool? Of course it is! I can hardly wait to watch it! Zach has to call today, he just has to! We have to talk about carpooling. If he doesn’t call, I’m gonna hafta call him. Oh, what a shame! I’ll write later – I think.
11:07am
Mom called Carmen and we’re going to Camano Island today. I’m glad of that because it means we could probably give Zach a ride both ways. Bye!
Love Meg

 

Dear Baby Me,

You are a huge nerd. I do not know what else to say to you right now.

Love, Me

Dear Baby Me: April 26, 1997

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Dear Steve,
9:30am
I’ve been writing alot, havn’t I? You can blame or thank Zach for that, your choice. I’m gonna need a new book soon. It’s not fair! I want Zach to call! We’re on our way to the boys first baseball game.

11:28am
The boys lost. 13 to 20. It was a good game though. I want to talk to Zach! After lunch I’ve gotta call Kim. We’re gonna see if we can get together. I hope we can. Then I’ll have someone to talk to. Gotta go!
Love Meg

Dear Baby Me,

You will always, at least up until this point, write much more enthusiastically when there is a boy (or person in general, not always boy) to write about. I can’t say more frequently, since I now write every day, but certainly with a lot of enthusiasm.

As usual, I am fascinated by the ways you hop from topic to topic with nothing in between them. Writing more! Zach! New book soon! Zach! Baseball game! Kim! I assume that what you are saying is not fair is things to do with Zach and not that you need a new book soon? But with the exciting shifts in conversation, it is hard to be totally sure.

Love, Me

Dear Baby Me: April 24, 1997

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Dear Steve,
This SUCKS!!! For some unexplained reason, Zach’s dad thinks me and Zach are “doing stuff” and so he won’t let Zach invite me to his games anymore or call me alot or talk to me very long when he does call me. Isn’t that stupid? I think it really sucks! He called and said that he hoped I wouldn’t hate him because of it. I’m like, yeah right, like I’m going to hate you for something your parents did? But it sounded pretty sweet the way he said it. He is so sweet! He say’s his parents will probably ease up after he turns 15. That’s in 34 days. May 28th. See, his parents said he could have a girlfriend when he turned 15 and that he could date when he was 16. So I’ve got a little over a month to wait. Mom said that the next half-price Mariner game he could probably come with us. That would be awesome! I don’t know if his dad would let him but if he did it would be cool! His parents weren’t home when he called so we talked for almost an hour until his mom got home. Then he had to hang up. He should call again because he has to tell me what we’re doing for carpooling tommorrow. It’s fun to carpool with Zach. Today his dad tried to seperate us by telling us the back seat was a mess so only one of us could sit back there. But Zach said that he didn’t want to sit up front and so he threw everything in the back and sat with me. I don’t think his dad was to happy but I was.
9:30pm   Zach called. We (or in other words me and my mom) are taking him both ways tommorrow. He had his best friend Jordan on the other line and since his phone is screwy we could all talk to each other at once, but I didn’t realize it until Zach said “you better say ‘hi Jordan” and I’m like “huh?” Then I heard this other voice say “hi Jordan.” So I got my first phone introduction. It was very interesting. Jordan sounded pretty nice. Hard to tell when all you do is say “hi” on the phone. I assume he’s Zach’s age – 14 or 15. I’ve gotta go! Heart ya!
Love Meg

 

Dear Baby Me,

I am genuinely baffled at what “stuff” Zach’s dad thought you were doing. Like… I suspect at the time you did not even have a good idea of what he might have been imagining and even now I can’t remember a single time when you were alone together or had any opportunity to… do anything. It’s very weird. And paranoid. And pretty unfair. And it does in fact, suck.

I hate the be the person who points it out but probably Jordan just had… two phones? Did you not know what an extension was? I am pretty sure you did.

Anyway, so many exciting new things happening! First phone calls from boys, first phone introductions, it’s a brave new world. This could explain why your entries are getting noticeably longer.

Love, Me

Dear Baby Me: April 19, 1997

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Dear Steve,
You wouldn’t believe all the things that have happened since I last wrote. I e-mailed Zach at class Wedesday and asked him if he went down Hwy. 20 on his way to class and he said yes. So then I just casually mentioned that we should carpool. I just assumed that his mom would call my mom and they talk. But on Thursday night he called me. He said he needed a ride home from field trip on Friday. He is soo sweet. We got put on different teams and so he offered anyone who would trade so we’d be on the same team a quarter. But no-one would trade. But afterwards we hung out together. It was fun. On the ride to his house he invited me to his baseball game. I’m going on Tuesday. He’s taking me home from computer class on Thursday and we might be picking him up in the morning. Also when we got to his house we found out he hadn’t really needed a ride home. His mom was home. He’d wanted to ride with me. Isn’t that great?! What’s not great is that mom won’t let me call him. She says it gives him the wrong idea or something. I mean why? I want him to know I like him. I have his number memorized (he put mine in permanent marker on his arm) 856-6180. Also, he’s almost 15. His birthday’s May 28th. What I hate however is how he’s always putting himself down. He’s always saying things like “I’m stupid” or “that must be what made me braindead.” I hate that. He’s not stupid. And definetly not braindead. Now all I have to do is make him believe that. Well, I could go on and on about Zach, but I better not. Bye!
Love Meg

Dear Baby Me,

You would really think that with how often you use the self-deprecation trick yourself, you would know it when it was used on you. Although that’s being mean to Zach. He’s a nice guy. And this is cute! Your first phone call from a boy. So exciting.

I want you to know that your mom’s rule is stupid. Your logic is absolutely solid. Your mother is stuck on a really strange a gendered viewpoint. She’s also probably beginning to be pretty panicked about your boy-craziness. That is going to get worse, not better. But actually, in this weirdly brief moment of Zach, for the most part you will be on the same side. Phone calls notwithstanding she will support you most of the time. That will not be normal. And it will be mostly about her and not you. We’ll talk about that later. Right now just enjoy your undoubtedly painful phone conversations.

Love, Me

Dear Baby Me: February 2, 1997

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Dear Steve,
Happy Groundhog Day! I watched the movie Groundhog Day last night. It starred Bill Murray and it was pretty funny. I can’t see Jeff hardly at all from where I’m sitting. There now I can see better. It totally depends on the position of his head. This is boring. Finally the sermons over. Only another 15 or 20 minutes to go. (groan) Gotta go!
Love Meg

Dear Baby Me,

Groundhog Day is amazing and I feel that you do not properly appreciate how great this movie is. Sigh. Sooner or later you’ll develop actual taste.

Also I kind-of remember the whole trying to get the right angle on Jeff’s head in church. YOU ARE SO WEIRD. Also church is boring because that is kind-of how church is. It will take you a long time to accept that.

Love, Me

Half a Lifetime Ago

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I spent most of my 15th birthday in tears. I had actually almost completely forgotten about my 15th birthday, which is a fairly impressive feat, since it’s definitely one of the worst birthdays I ever had. I think my brain tries really hard to protect me from things and I stubbornly refuse to allow it to do so. Last week I was going through an old binder of mine with David. It had letters I had written to other people. I think it was copies of those letters. Or first drafts, really. If I remember correctly, the finished products were usually longer than the first drafts but that does not mean that the first drafts are short. There are a couple of letters to the teenage love of my life. One of them is a goodbye letter. Now of course it’s not really a goodbye letter. I could tell Baby Me that she’d see him again in a couple of months (I don’t even think it lasted that long) but I only lived in the moment at that time. I do explain in a fair amount of detail to him what happened on my 15th birthday and there it was, it all came rushing back. So that was a surprise.

I was doing a group babysitting thing for a church group that morning. My mother picked me up and I distinctly remember I got into the car with her and asked what she was doing there (someone else was supposed to take me home). She told me she wished she could say she was surprising her daughter by taking her out to lunch on her birthday but that was not the case. And then it started. As it turned out, while I had been talking to HIM on the phone last night at my other babysitting job, one of the little boys  I was babysitting had wet his pants and gone to hide in the corner of his bedroom and I hadn’t noticed, being caught up in the world of nothing else mattering. Their dad came and took me home and then returned to find his son soaking wet and shivering. Not my finest moment.

I was genuinely devastated, for the record. My mother was screaming at me, asking what kind of a person I was and any number of other things. I was sobbing and I didn’t know what to say and we’re driving in the car and she won’t stop screaming at me. She’s so angry, she’s so disappointed. It’s all my fault, nothing is okay, nothing will ever be okay again. It’s hard to over-exaggerate what fights with my mother made me feel like. I’ve never been good with conflict. Possibly this is part of why. I don’t exactly remember what happened next. We were on a highway but I feel like she must have actually pulled the car over to scream at me. In the letter I said that I screamed that I hated her and didn’t want to live with her anymore. I don’t specifically remember that but it’s probably true. What I do remember is the part where I got out of the car and started walking (which is why I assume she had stopped because I did not dramatically roll from a moving car – I was not that hardcore). What I remember is thinking that I knew where HE worked and that I could maybe walk there. Mom was just following me in the car, yelling at me to get back in. I was wearing high heels. I couldn’t remember how far the place was (probably 5 miles or more) but I was pretty sure I wouldn’t make it and also that mom wasn’t just going to leave me. More importantly that I wouldn’t make it. And you know. I had no money, no phone, no way of getting ahold of anyone. I gave up and got back in the car.

This is when my mother did an entirely unprecedented thing – she took me to someone else for help. This had never happened before and it really never happened again, at least not in this same way. Apparently my mother was so desperate and so overwhelmed that she just couldn’t deal with it. She called my youth leader and dropped me off at the church. She did not come in with me, she did not have any conversation with them in person, as far as I know. She only talked to them on the phone. For all I know she just said “my daughter is fucking an 18 year old (I was not), you have to fix this” and left me there. Whatever she said, I ended up in a chair in the youth leader’s office, absolutely devastated, sobbing, a complete mess. This was the only time in my life this would happen. I would periodically go to youth leaders or pastors, occasionally talk about my depression or cutting. My parents would send me to a therapist when they felt backed into a corner. But there would never be another time where someone would find me that completely undone, where someone would actually see how devastated I could be or how unraveled my mother could make me. No one outside my house saw that, no one outside my home knew that.

She did nothing. I shouldn’t say that, it’s not entirely accurate. She definitely did something. She told me that I had a very big decision to make and that she wanted to help me through this very difficult time but that the only way she could help me was if I made the right decision. She told me that I was disobeying God, that by disobeying my parents, I was hurting God and hurting my parents. She told me that HE was not a Christian and could obviously not possibly be someone who was good for me in any way because God would never want that for me. She told me that if I wanted her help I would gather up his letters and anything he’d given me into a box that I’d give to her for a year, that I’d write him a goodbye letter (at least till I was 18) that she’d read, that I would agree to go to a weekly Bible study with a group of girls that she’d pick out to “hold me accountable” for a year. She did not talk about my mom except how much I was hurting my parents. She did not in any way explore what was going on in my home or what got me to this place to begin with. She had known for a while now, she’d never seen me like this and she never would again. But it did not occur to her to question if something was wrong on a deeper level than the boy I was seeing.

What choice could I possibly make? I was in love, as in love as any completely fucked up 15 year old is capable of being. He was kind to me, he worshiped the ground I walked on.  He saw me, saw nothing but me, in fact. It was not a healthy relationship, of course. It was codependent and pretty destructive. But it was no more damaging than pretty much every other relationship in my life at the time, in a long term sort of sense it would turn out to be significantly less damaging than my relationship with my parents. But of course I said goodbye. Of course I wrote the letter and gathered up all the things and met with the girls. I didn’t stick with it. I went back to him because I had never felt so alive or so seen or so real as I felt with him and nothing that God or the people who served him had could match that. So I went back. But I hid it and I lied and snuck out windows and did stupid, dangerous things. Because being seen is everything.

I’m angry reading back over those things. I’m angry knowing that someone had a chance to see some of what was going on and instead they took their power and manipulated me, even though I know they believed it was for my own good. I’m angry that I was so powerless and so hurt and so broken. I’m angry it happened on my birthday because that just seems like insult to injury. I’m angry that the very best thing, the kindest person I had in my life was a fucked up 18 year old boy who couldn’t possibly do anything to help me. I’m angry at a belief system that made everyone around me truly think the most important thing was that 18 year old boy, was me disobeying my parents, was the possibility of me fucking someone. I’m angry at just how alone I was in that system and how few choices I had.

I was only 15 years old and everything was already so screwed up. I remember a super awkward birthday dinner that night when I stopped crying long enough to come to the table, the birthday plate was out for me and I ate my spare ribs and dumplings before they gave me my presents, whatever they were. No one said much. Everything was already on the table by this point. I’d been caught sneaking out, they knew about my cutting. I had disappointed them so much, they had made it clear that I had lost all of their trust and for the rest of my adolescence they would make it clear I had never earned it back. I hated being a disappointment (I still do), I hated seeing the look on my father’s face while he avoided my eyes. All because I fell in love with a boy I wasn’t even having sex with. 15 years old and it was all over. I’m damaged goods and I’m so alone and so hurt and so devastated and I know that nothing I can do will make this better.  It wasn’t fair. I didn’t deserve that. No kid deserves that.

I know I should be grateful now and I am. I am grateful for my life as it is, I am so grateful for the people I have now and the life I’ve built. But safety should never be so hard to come by.

Recovering (From) Faith: World Vision Caves

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I know my schedule has been a bit off. You would think that being on break would make it easier for me to post on time but actually it makes it harder. For whatever it’s worth, I did actually write this yesterday, it was just very late and I needed to run it by someone before I posted it. So you know. The “today” references are actually yesterday. Anyway, sorry, sorry, I’ll try to do better. 😛

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Today the evangelical church held a financial gun to the head of World Vision organization and, with so much backing on the line, they caved. They reversed their decision of a few days ago to allow the hiring of LGBT individuals in their organizations. They apologized the conservative gatekeepers for their original decision to attempt to take a step towards treating LGBT people like human beings, admitted it as the grevious mistake it clearly must have been.

This keeps happening you know. Over and over again, they say these things.They talk about Jesus but it’s so clear that there are more important things than Jesus to them. It’s more important that LGBT people are not treated as equal than it is to feed hungry children. It’s more important to support the politics than it is to support compassion. It’s not what it used to be. I’m not part of it. In some ways it’s like family I’m kind-of embarrassed by. We may not talk anymore but it’s hard to leave them behind completely.

But at the same time this is not just about a tiny segment. This is real world consequences, these are real people being damaged and hurt. Can you imagine the difference it would make if the evangelical church decided there were more important things than the gay rights movement? Homophobia would obviously not disappear but imagine the difference. I’m just tired, guys. Just tired and wish there was a way to burn it all down and start from scratch.

It wasn’t the first loss. They add up. And as long as people keep caving to the gun to their heads, the gatekeepers keep winning. They set the rules and they bully and threaten and scream until they get their way. I don’t want to believe they’re winning and most days I don’t but days like today I get so afraid that they are.