this morning i woke up between my two little humans, the littlest one nursing and the big one holding my hand. eventually they both wiggled out of bed and downstairs to where daddy was already awake. i remained in bed. i had that tightness across my chest and shoulders that tells me i am experiencing anxiety. i knew why. thanksgiving.
this day last year we were in michigan. i had dressed the littles in coordinating corduroy outfits, one a hand-me-down and one a resale shop find. but before it was time to head to a family member's house for dinner, my littlest one, then just nine months old started running a fever. i notified the family we were supposed to be meeting with that we would be staying home. later that day i began running a fever too. it was the start of a month long battle with the cold virus from hell. we have wondered if it was covid but we still don't know. probably too early to have been covid. whatever it was, it knocked us all out. hard.
in the last five years i have come to hate the holidays. just regular old days that have turned into these once-a-year events where you are expected to gather with family. expected to play a certain role, act a certain way, do certain things. and when you don't play the role, you are the subject everyone else is talking about either at the event (if you are not present) or after the event (if you are). i have played the role, done the talking about the one(s) who aren't. i know how it goes. and do you know what i felt when my youngest got a fever last thanksgiving and i suddenly had a legitimate excuse not to show up? relief. relief over not having to play the role. relief over having a sick baby. i was glad my baby was sick so i could stay home. i mean how fucked up is that. now i know better. i know i can just say no. no, i am not coming. i don't owe explanations. no means no. you don't have to understand. i don't even expect you to. no means no.
the last several months i have been in the midst of a faith transition. i am not sure where i will end up. all i know right now is that i have zero tolerance for abuse. zero tolerance for abusers. i know the lines now. i know the strategies. and i am no longer succumbing to them. no longer betraying myself to maintain the "peace." instead i am calling them out. abusers don't like that, being called on their bullshit. not many do it, so it makes sense that it is quite irritating to them. and if everyone did it, abusers would have no power. what a world that would be, huh? a world where abusers had no power because they had no one to feed their egos.
i have been pondering a number of things lately. one of which is the idea that women are supposed to submit to men. as the bible story in genesis goes with so-called "original sin," the woman eats the forbidden fruit and convinces the man to eat it too. then their eyes are open to good and evil and they realize they are naked and feel shame. god finds the man and woman and doles out punishment for this sin of disobedience, eating the fruit he said not to eat. they are banished from the perfect place they have been living and separated from god. the woman must endure painful labor and desire for her husband who will rule over her, and the man has to work hard at what he does for work. the part that hits me lately (as i just wrote that out i have so many other thoughts too, for another time) is that man ruling over woman is punishment for sin. this is not the way things are supposed to be, the way god intended them. and yet this is what christians prescribe, practice, and enforce, women submitting to men. why?
once i realized that i had been the victim of narcissistic abuse my whole life, my eyes were opened and i saw good and evil clearly for the first time. and in recent months I've been contemplating god and christianity. how the church has been a haven for abusers, how evangelical christianity has aligned itself with trump in america. how it props up the patriarchy and confuses the oppressed with the oppressors. the more i think about creation and the idea of the trinity, three in one in perfect communion without need for anyone or anything else, and the reality that god doesn't need creation but created it to worship him, i wonder what the point even is. anyone who refuses to see god as who he declares himself to be is damned to eternal separation from him. why create a people just to damn most of them to hell because they chose not to worship you when you don't even need anyone to worship you because you are supposedly complete in yourself. but you just decide to make humans anyways as a side experiment. what the fuck is up with that? what is even the point?
i used to joke about god not being a cosmic narcissist. when talking about god as a model of the perfect parent, i would ask if we see god telling humans "i am not going to listen to you until you change your tone" or "go to your room and calm down before you talk to me" or "i will not be talked to that way." these statements are ridiculous and not true of god, i would reason. god is the perfect parent who always holds space for the beings god created. who is big enough to stand and take all of the hurt and pain and emotion. who is unchanging. but the more i think about it lately the more i am starting to come to terms with the prospect that maybe my joke is not a joke at all but a sad reality. alfie kohn says so much in his book unconditional parenting. i thought he was wrong for saying so. now i think he may be right.
the three monotheistic religions of the world, judaism, christianity, and islam, all hold that their god is the one true god. everyone else is misled. this results in each of these religions finding themselves superior to the others and all others. the idea that their way is in fact the only way. and whenever that is the case, abuse of power happens. i used to fall prey to the reasoning that those who advocate for tolerance of everyone are intolerant of the intolerant. therefore the so-called tolerant are what they accuse others of, intolerant. no. this is bullshit. it is not inconsistent to be intolerant of the intolerant in pursuit of tolerance. this argument confuses who the oppressed and the oppressors are. stop it.
yesterday i was conversing with a friend about trauma and got on the topic of shame and dysfunction around sex and pleasure. it occurred to me that both men and women can experience shame surrounding sex. but men are expected to be sex crazed, and women are expected to control themselves so as not to tempt men. you know, the whole "well what were you wearing?" bit when women are raped by men. as if sexual abuse is about sexuality and not power and control. it's about power and control.
going back to that original sin story: the woman tempts the man to eat the forbidden fruit. this supports the narrative that women are the ones that need to be controlled so they don't lead the (poor, insecure, unable to take a stand of his own) man astray. men are merely responding to their nature, but women are deceptive. what a perfect coverup for the patriarchy. this line of thought brought me to the conclusion that it's probably hardest for white males to leave evangelical christianity because they benefit from it most. their power is secure in their pursuit of (white) supremacy and a religion that props that up. women leave and it's just women recognizing the power they have always had and were told they shouldn't have and that to desire it is sin and bad. for men to leave, they have to recognize that they are not all powerful and they don't have power over women as they have always been told.
if me six months ago were to talk to me now, me six months ago would have been like: girl, you are a heretic. but here i am. realizing: wow. the so-called "heretics" were right. it is as if uncovering the reality of my own abuse by a family member led me to look at other key relationships and influences in my life, namely the church, and start to see similar patterns. i realized the abusers in my life identify themselves as christians. several of them pastors. or in church leadership. gross.
last week i dissolved the last financial tie to achieve financial freedom from a narcissist. that was a tumultuous process. a four step process that spanned the past 11 months. dissolving that last tie proved more emotionally complex that i expected. on more than one occasion i found myself asking the question my mentor asked of me: what is your goal? my goal was to achieve financial independence. but i also found myself wanting revenge. i wanted to make the abusers hurt a fraction of the amount they hurt me. why? to achieve financial independence and freedom, i had to let go of my desire for revenge. my desire to correct the way i am perceived, to make sure my narrative is known. it doesn't matter. it doesn't matter at all. the narcissists, the abusers -- they are all dead to me. i mourn the living, and i will mourn the living the rest of my life. with time and space the pain lessens, as i keep on living this beautiful fucking life i am building with my spouse and our two small humans. no narcissists allowed. no oppressors. no abusers. no anyone who enables anyone in those categories. i am done making time for bullshit. for inauthenticity. there are too many authentic people out there who are brave and beautiful to waste time on the inauthentic abusers and oppressors. i choose the brave and beautiful. i choose life. i choose the life i am making for myself and my family.
and what does that life look like right now?
it looks like a morning spent outside reading on the back patio while my two small humans play in the yard. the smallest one steps in dog poo and the big one notices and starts yelling and running around the yard with the little one trailing her and imitating her. it looks like my spouse hanging the new hammock chair swing i purchased off wayfair in our front tree and my two small humans fighting over who gets to sit in it. the big one gets her turn and lays in it sideways like a hammock, not a chair, and asks for some books to flip through as she relaxes. i grab her a my little pony graphic novel we borrowed from the library. my little one sees the big one and grabs my hand and leads me inside the house to retrieve a book for her to flip through. then the little one leads us back outside and finds her spot on the swing opposite the hammock chair swing and proceeds to read her book upside down. it looks like my spouse slaving away in the kitchen cooking up our special little family meal of roast chicken, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and pecan pie with vanilla ice cream. it looks like the littlest one taking a nap in our king bed and the big one watching a movie for her eye patching time and my spouse and i getting a relaxing bath and time to talk while the two littles are occupied.
i didn't want to get up this morning. didn't want to face this day, thanksgiving. it will always be a reminder of what should have been but is not. and it will also always be another day in my beautiful fucking life that my spouse and i built for ourselves. one where we honor our pain and loss and celebrate our joys and gains, holding space for the tension of both existing simultaneously. one where authenticity is the goal and in that pursuit we find ourselves apologizing over and over and over again because we. are. human. and humans make mistakes. we gather data and keep going, always tweaking and adjusting until the day we die. or at least that is my goal. i didn't want to get up this morning, but i did. and we made it through this day. and i find myself sitting at the kitchen table typing this and feeling full of gratitude for my little family: my spouse and our two tiny humans that we grew from scratch. living in a home we love, in the neighborhood we love, with a community of friends we love. it doesn't get better than that.