To Vato With Love

Bros and Biddies, Hombres y Mujeres – VATO – why so goddamn afraid of my voice…OUR voice, THEIR voice? Is it because you fear, now that we are finally armed with knowledge and power, we will do to you what you have done to us? Relax, Vato. Calm down. How is it after all this time you still do not know who I AM?

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–When someone says, “We’re saying the same thing.”
Say, “We are not saying the same thing.”

–When someone says, “Don’t question, just have faith.”
Say, “I am questioning, vato, and I have supreme faith in what I think.”

–When someone says, “Don’t defy my authority.”
Say, “There is a higher authority that I follow.”

–When someone says, “Your ideas are seductive.”
Say, “No, my ideas are not seductive, they are substantial.”

–When someone says, “Your ideas are dangerous.”
Say, “Yes, my ideas are dangerous, and why are you so afraid hombre o mujer? ”

–When it is said, “It’s just not done.”
Say, “It will be done.”

–When it is said, “It is immature.”
Say, “All life begins small and must be allowed to grow.”

–When it is said, “It’s not thought out.”
Say, “It is well thought out.”

–When they say, “You’re over-reacting.”
Say, “You’re under-reacting, vato.”

–When they say, “You’re being emotional.”
Say, “Of course I have well placed emotions, and by the way, what happened to yours?”

–When they say, “You’re not making any sense.”
Say, “I don’t make sense, I am the sense.”

–When they say, “I can’t understand you when you’re crying.”
Say, “Make no mistake, I can weep and be fierce at the same time.”

–When they say, “I cant understand you when you’re being so angry.”
Say. “You couldn’t hear me when I was being nice, or sweet or silent, either.”

–When someone says, “You’re missing the point.”
Say, “I’m not missing the point, but you seem to be missing my point — What are you so afraid of?”

–When someone says, “You are breaking the rules.”
Say, “Yes, I am breaking the rules.”

–When someone says, “That’s not practical.”
Say, “It’s practically a done deal, thank you very much.”

–When it is said, “No one will do it, believe you, or follow it.”
Say, “I will do it, I will believe in it, and in time, the world may well follow it.”

— When it is said, “No one wants to listen to that.”
Say, “I know you have a hard time listening to that.”

–When it is said, “It’s a closed system, you cant change it.”

Say, “I’m going to knock twice and if there is no answer, then I am going to blow the doors off that system and it will change.”

–When it is said, “They’ll ignore you.”
Say, “They won’t ignore me and the hundreds of thousands who stand with me.”

–When they say, “It’s already been done.”
Say, “It’s not been done well enough.”

— When they say, “It’s not yet time.”
Say, “It’s way past time.”

–When they say, “It’s not the right day, right month, right year.”
Tell them, “The right year was last year, and the right month was last month, and the right day was yesterday, and you’re running behind schedule, vato, and what in the name of God and all that is holy are you going to do about it?”

–When they say, “Who do you think you are?” —
tell them …tell them who you are, and don’t hold back.

–When they say, “I put up with it, you’ll have to put up with it too.”
Say, “No, no, no, no.”

–When they say, “I’ve suffered a long time and you’ll have to suffer too.”
Say, “No, no, no, no.”

–When they say, “You’re an incorrigible, defiant, hard to get along with, unreasonable woman … ”

Say, “Yes, yes, yes, yes …and I have worse news for you yet–we are teaching our daughters, and our mothers, and our sisters…we are teaching our sons, and our fathers, and our brothers,

to be
just
like
us.

Go and do likewise in your own ways dear brave souls: Tribe of the Sacred Heart, many of us Scar Clan.

With deepest love for your soul who knows the way… has always known the way… Now is the time for deep prayer and effective actions…

Creator bless all the children who stand for us all, all the older people who stand for all the children, for everyone of learning heart and truth-seeking mind.

– Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes

How It Is

I can only afford people in my life who understand. It’s nothing personal against anyone – not even my lifetime abuser(s). Nothing is from here on out. There is only myself and my responsibility for myself. Into the fire we all must go and we all must go alone, one way or the other. As I flesh back together new, I’m relying heavily on the words of others who can speak my experience. Huge thanks to Greg Zaffuto for his generous provision of practical, powerful encouragement and support and for his example of allowing the devastation to break us open – together.

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We MUST process the truth that this was abuse! We believed it was love when it wasn’t and we are in a place that is called abuse and the journey to recovery must start NOW that we understand JUST HOW DISORDERED this person was to our entire life. Unless you stop blaming yourself, you will never really get out because you will be upholding an image of yourself that someone else created, but not facing the facts and the truth. THIS WAS NEVER ABOUT YOU – it was about a Narcissist and predator that unfortunately found their way into your life.

From my Book – From Charm to Harm and Everything else in Between with a Narcissist! @ https://www.amazon.com/Charm-Harm-Everything-…/…/ref=sr_1_1…

There is a complexity that is involved here and that has to do with what has happened to YOUR psyche through this abuse – and what kept you attached to the relationship because of the emotions that evolved or better yet you were manipulated into believing were real. Without understanding this and educating yourself you continue to fight YOUR emotions/feelings until the truth is apparent. The more you get to know what they’re doing (their real agenda), what they are really like, see it for yourself with your own eyes, the more you observe and journal in your mind, the greater your desire becomes to not inhabit the Narcissist’s planet any longer nor be pulled into the gravity from the Narcissist. A better way to describe it is being seduced into this abuse by the extreme manipulation the Narcissist uses to trap you into their agenda.

FIRST and FOREMOST, most of us fell in love with a Narcissist – but it was FAKE, not real, a con job and a means for them to use us as Narcissistic supply. Huge and I mean ABSOLUTELY a huge betrayal and the sign of a highly-disordered individual. They thrive on admiration so they select an audience or a particular person that fulfills their need – and that is key here – we were objectified to fulfill THEIR NEEDS. Like a great actor does, a Narcissist draws from the audience/person to create a reality that is believable and we, as the audience, become engaged with the complete story – emotions, beliefs, feelings and all – we empathize with the character in that fake script. But this scenario is different because we PERSONALLY interact with this Narcissist and we didn’t know it is a huge con job and DANGEROUS at the time because our hearts are ruling our heads. We also didn’t know that the actor is not a fully functioning human being as well as lacks ANY empathy, nor do we know they are abusive and will destroy our lives and run off with whatever they can take from us. Read this very paragraph to anybody and they will probably shake their head in disbelief and think you are crazy. BUT IT IS THE TRUTH – so imagine if you will that it is just as crazy for us (target/victim) to relate to and try to put in a realistic perspective to create our OWN closure and recover from a predator that attacked our lives BUT we believed it was LOVE.

If we honestly evaluate what has happened during the aftermath, we can identify times where we were in full-fledged denial of the obvious facts. Our partners had changed and we chose to believe that their viciousness and cruel behavior was caused by something WE had done wrong – a big NO to that – and our denial was in response to the barrage of manipulation that a shrewd Narcissist used to fulfill their agenda. It was the pull of the positive AND negative conditioning that kept us frozen in confusion and denial. That Narcissist was studying and reading us and our emotions like a book and using them against us to CONTROL us. It is also not a sign of weakness or stupidity on our part, instead it was a slow and insidious process of extreme manipulation, betrayal and brain-washing that stole our self-esteem and changed us. It is not hard to understand how it could happen because a Narcissist employs a manipulation that warps human emotion – something that we all cherish and try to emulate into our lives – and that is love. Love is many things that includes happiness, trust, personal bonding, strong emotions, empathy, attraction, growth, etc. – a very normal, unconditional and REWARDING emotion that can be real with a real person – again the Narcissist was nothing even near real. They use this “fake love” to grab our trust, take what they wanted, then destroy it all right in our faces and manipulate us back in to take more and more until there is nothing left of us!

So, we fell (were conned) IN LOVE – but an unnatural, desperate, and abusive love is nothing even near a normal love and it comes with a great price – the truth of the extreme and hideous betrayal that steals away a person’s self-esteem, belief system, and worth. We constantly tried to adjust and fix the damaged relationship AND ourselves and in doing so, our Narcissist was just taking the supply they required with their arsenal of tools. Their manipulation, betrayal, control, lies and acting out “trained” us to provide them with supply OR groomed us to become one of their objects and then they stepped up the game to get the most if not ALL they could from us until they were caught and identified as the monster they are and then they tried to destroy us to cover up the abuse so they could run off. They controlled us to gain power and we gave them power with each and every change we made, BUT we also eroded our sense of self-worth. We didn’t give them the power to abuse us, we mistakenly opened our hearts and minds with empathy to make things right and return the relationship back to what we believed was love, but the Narcissist used this as the very vehicle to drive us straight into this fake relationship as well as our own demise – AND THE NARCISSIST HAD COMPLETE COGNITIVE KNOWLEDGE OF DOING SO!

So now on our part (the normal person in this relationship) who believed there was reality, honesty, integrity, love, individuality, etc., AND a real relationship – we only tried to follow the natural flow or path of a relationship. THAT is what is difficult to reconcile and that is also called ‘cognitive dissonance’ or accepting a new reality that our beliefs about something (like this manufactured love) is so directly in opposition to the real truth that we are NOW presented with – in other words it takes a GREAT deal of reconciliation to get to the closure that we were abused. We didn’t know that we had inadvertently set the stage for Narcissistic attacks and rage when we only tried to express our basic needs in our relationship with them – and that is a BIG NO with a Narcissist because it is always and only about THEM and their MANY needs. A thief steals from you when you least expect it and they NEVER leave you a personal gift in return for what they stole – not a give and take situation – ALL TAKE like a Narcissist! Like a spoiled child, a Narcissist will act out in rage against the individual who is keeping them from getting what they want – constant supply, admiration, adulation and total control over their target. The hardest aspect to acknowledging this is accepting that we were JUST the next object for this Narcissist to use and this was SITUATIONAL abuse.

During what I call my “processing phase” I thought about all the arguments that seemed to come from nowhere and escalated to an “out of control” status for absolutely no reason – that is what describes the conditioning or grooming process. There were never any questions asked BUT there were always accusations from my Narcissist CONCERNING me. I was everything evil, everything mentally ill, I was perverse, having affairs, lying, cheating, stealing and anything else that the Narcissist could think up. It was the creative and DESTRUCTIVE mind of a highly disordered person acting out of their deep seeded pathology. These were diversions and projections of what the Narcissist was actually doing and they were shoved down my throat in an effort for this Narcissist to release from the shame and blame they should HAVE OWNED themselves for their hideous acts, lies and betrayal. Next it was to attempt to slowly but surely make me feel unworthy like I was all of these things wrong and bad so that I would keep changing to meet this Narcissists needs and be vulnerable. This defines the relationship with a Narcissist – totally and hysterically dysfunctional with an edge that serves the Narcissist’s agenda always. I reflected on some of the Narcissists arguments or statements that were uncharacteristically insecure and childlike to me at the time. It was such a surprise coming from an adult but I justified it and wrote it off as this Narcissist’s “immaturity.” I wanted this Narcissist to be the person I believed the Narcissist to be when my heart assigned itself to loving this Narcissist and I was resolved about my beliefs. If you love them, you will accept them for WHO they are and work with them, time will work to heal all of this and the bigger picture was what was important. Too bad I didn’t realize the PSYCHOPATHY behind all of this. REMEMBER there was a great deal of “love bombing” so the Narcissist could gain our trust to get us to believe they were GOOD at first. I wasn’t overlooking the obvious because I wasn’t seeing the WHOLE picture or the lies, cheating, betrayal, brain-washing and everything else that is kept so hidden from all of us – this is why it is classified as abuse or better yet psychological terrorism/abuse.

That is, perhaps, the most difficult and devastating outcome of a Narcissistic relationship, mustering up the strength as well as adopting the position to accept that your partner was just pathologically abusive and cruel AND now you must abandon them and the relationship COMPLETELY. It is a difficult and unnatural process to have to dump your past completely, as well as your emotions, dreams, plans, the family structure (they abandon/abuse their own biological children as well), all of the years you spent together and the memories that are also fake. IT IS AN ABHORATION of human life as well as human dignity to use/harm/destroy another individual in the manner a malignant Narcissist does. After you get there you are then left with the arduous task of finding and repurposing yourself again.

So here we are with the truth. We have to stand up again and brush ourselves off and start walking forward again and realize our own culpability in the exchange with this malignant Narcissist. We believed it was love when it wasn’t and we are in a place that is called abuse and the journey to recovery must start and NOW that we understand JUST HOW DISORDERED this partner was to our entire life. Now we MUST go “no contact” because we have educated ourselves with the truth and we have to stop anymore attempts on their part to abuse us anymore.

Apart from all of that, I live and I love again. It is an amazing life because now, I accept that there are people in this world who represent darkness and evil. It is not my place to fix them, make them better or to even tolerate them. Life is good without narcissists/psychopaths. I know myself better, I am myself, I love and enjoy and find the world a wonderful place to live in. I have good and great relationships. I know that I finally faced the truth and worked through it. I was not a deer frozen in the headlights and stayed in that position dazed forever. I was an adult with many resources and I learned to use them. I accepted that abnormal people had entered into my life. I accepted that they left damage in their wake and I needed to get them out of my life. Unless you do that, unless you stop blaming yourself, you will never really get out. You will be upholding an image of yourself that someone else created, but not facing the facts and the truth. THIS WAS NEVER ABOUT YOU – it was about a Narcissist and predator that unfortunately found their way into your life. Educate yourself and go “no contact” AND educate others once you understand the reality of this abuse and the damage it does to many undeserving and beautiful people. No/minimal contact! Greg

 

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Living Above the Curse (Part 3 – The Curse of Man)

We all know the Venus and Mars stereotypes. Women are complex multitasking nurturers, men are singularly-focused aggressive hunter/providers.

Woman with the flu, a cramping, hemorrhaging uterus and a baby attached to her boob pushes through her daily myriad of responsibilities to take care of the family vs. male devastated by Man Cold.

Generalizations? Sure. It’s that spectrum thing again. There’s a wide range of expression of gender roles and no real “supposed to be’s.” There just IS for each of us what IS based on our unique makeup. What IS, generally speaking for the cisgender male, is a testosterone-driven drive to accomplish and conquer in order to find satisfaction and self-worth.

This is neither good nor bad, to be neither admired nor mocked (though I’ve totally indulged in misandry along with every other woman by doing just that). It’s biology and psychology. It just IS. The writers of Genesis recognized it in Adam’s curse.

“Cursed is the ground because of you;
    through painful toil you will eat food from it
    all the days of your life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
    and you will eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your brow
    you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
    since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
    and to dust you will return.”

The Woman’s complexity of curses are tied to the flesh from which she came. The Man’s curse is associated with the dirt from which he was God breathed. The curse of Man is the futility of his work. He has to toil very, very hard his entire life, be frustrated every step of the way, and then die and return to dirt as if he never existed.

Damn. So much for satisfaction. Honestly, I don’t envy a man his curse at all. It may be singular but it’s very, VERY heavy. From my observation it also makes him more vulnerable (not weak). Vulnerable to what? Despair. A Woman’s complexity and connections are her strength. When one pillar falls, there are others to compensate. When a man’s focus of satisfaction and self-worth disintegrates it more often than not turns him to denial, distraction, and destruction and a desperate grasp for control – anything but facing this reality that his desires and drives are going to be continually frustrated and in the end…utterly insignificant.

A theory I’m working on, but this might be why a lot of men keep such a tight lid on open expression of sadness and fear and are often dismissive of a women’s frequency and freer expression of the “difficult” emotions. For a man, it’s a sign of the despair and failure he’s trying so hard to outrun, so he does what he can to shut that shit DOWN. Just a theory.

Males also have a typically strong and aggressive sex drive that demands regular satisfaction. Biology. It just IS. So it is no mystery nor shock nor anything new under the sun when every single male on the planet frequently satisfies themselves in the most efficient ways without “toil” or risk of frustration or rejection in coordinating with an equally-willing Woman by taking it into their own hands, so to speak, with the help of readily available visual aids. But there is also taking it by force and through deception/coercion. Survey a group of 20 women and 19 of us can tell you the first time we were groped, harassed, or sexually violated. All of us can tell you the constant pressure we feel to be enough to satisfy a man along with everything else we’ve got going on with our bodies and brains.

Long story short – humans are ALL sexually frustrated and incredibly insecure. Being a truly satisfied human – mind, body, and soul – isn’t easy and only we as individuals are responsible for it, but most of us give up trying and settle for an endless string of cheap fixes outside ourselves to get us by, especially when life gets overwhelming. Add the handicap of having the body/brain hijacked as a child (which is the tragic case for SO many) and…well, it’s a jungle out there and there’s a lot of carnage that perpetuates with each generation. We are, as humans, truly cursed.

If my mind wasn’t hardwired for satisfaction through intimacy and connection with an actual person (one in particular after all these years) and I could be stimulated that easily with externally accessible equipment less than an arm’s length away at all times, I’d be every guy too. I honestly wish it were that simple for me. It would make my current (and possibly permanent) situation a lot easier to come to terms with.

Y’all know where I’m going with this and the only reason I am is to take away the stigma and power once and for all. There is nothing that has happened that is truly any earth shattering thing. As a matter of psychology (not morality) my husband took it farther than some and I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s where most men wish they could and plenty already are and they are your neighbor, your boss, your pastor, your brother, your son and your husband.

Everybody has done the math by now, and math was one of the reasons why I felt I had no other option than to go public. Care and provision for the family were being compromised. Because of the psychology involved (as explained in the previous post), there has been no private rational discussion possible. I’ve been desperately trying for over a year now. All he can do with me is deflect and dismiss and spin. He could barely ever talk about very minor things he’d done that hurt me, so expand that out to our current situation and…there is just no way. It is too much. He is not going to pull out of this any other way. But I have faith he can, at least to some extent, if he has nowhere left to run and no reason to. He has always been able to turn on a dime and switch out an addiction when it stops serving him. I’ve done what amounts to an intervention to make that the case. He doesn’t want to be that man, and now that it’s out of the shadows, he won’t.

This isn’t about sex. This isn’t about betrayal or a moral failure. It is about a Man, like any other, crushed under the weight of despair…except he’s not just any other man, he’s the love of my life and the father of my children and by far the most influential person in terms of shaping my spiritual life. There is no me without him. He surfaced enough the last time I saw him to be able to say the same – that there is no him without me. We are one flesh and one life. Nothing he has done or will ever do can nullify that.

I have no idea what we’re capable of being next, but I do know I’ve got to crush the Snake’s head NOW to stop the hissing lies of fear so that the Man can at least have a shot at living and we can eventually come back together as…something good, whatever that looks like, anywhere on the spectrum of possibility.

As I said before, he was there for me when I had my mental/emotional breakdown at the beginning of our journey with Four Creeks. Now I’ve got to be there for him as he broke at the end, and this, believe it or not, is what it has to look like. It’s because I’ve done the work to understand us (with professional help) that I’ve been able to figure out his language, learn not to be afraid when the most horrific things come out of him, and recognize they are a spotlight on what he feels the worst about himself that he cannot handle and therefore HAS to project on me. It is all he can do when he is consumed by fear and failure. The Curse of Man crushed him hard. As I said previously, no one could survive what we’ve been through without breaking. No one could be as isolated and vulnerable as he is right now without being utterly terrified and at rock bottom. We may process and express our humanity in vastly different ways, but I know that desperate place all too well and I cannot and will not abandon him there.

The only way to end this is to simply say out loud what is real and then let him see that the worst that is going to happen is that there are a whole lot of people who love us and nothing otherwise has changed. He has lost nothing, he will lose nothing, and he is free from here to do whatever he can and will with all pressure off from me.

There is nothing more for anyone to fear. Nothing more for anyone to hide and no reason to. There is no shame. There is no condemnation. There is only love. This is why I must finish the story and be done so we can all be free to love.

Reality IS Redemption

What Jimmy and I are experiencing is universally common to humanity AND ALSO personally devastating. And you know what? I GET TO TALK ABOUT MY OWN LIFE as the whole person I AM now using my own discretion alone to decide what is wise, what is good, what is beneficial, and what is love. I am a Woman who thinks, feels and now speaks without any fear. The truth has set me free and now I’m using that freedom to set other captives free. I picked up my own cross, shared in the sufferings of Jesus with countless agonized tears, kicked over a few tables in the temple because YES, I WAS ANGRY, I went all the way to that humiliating and torturous death alone, and I rise now to new life having conquered sin and death – AKA what it means to be a fucking Christian.

I lived it out in front of you, gave everything to all, went all the way into death and now I’m ascending outa here. Stop standing around looking forlorn up at the sky waiting for us to come back and do some more feel-good miracles for ya. You’ve got everything you need. Get off your ass and walk the path yourself, set yourself free…or don’t. As for me and my house – we are on to life abundant.

 

 

I AM

Happy, Happy new year and a warm and massive cyber hug to all as we enter 2017. I’ll take and freely give all the hugs and love and kindness possible wherever they are found.

I’m going to use my first post of the new year to introduce myself as the new me that has actually always been. There are some things about me you should know to put everything I write going forward into some context. There was a time in my old life when I would have written separate blog posts for each of these things, explaining them in detail in the hopes of persuading people to at least respect what I see instead of shitting on me for it.

Life has radically changed for me, and ain’t nobody got time for that in the new life that is. So much shit has rained down on me that I now dance in it and make art rather than try to outrun it or hide, or worse, deny its existence or try to pretty it up to be something it’s not (LIE).

The old life was 25 years of marriage, 22 of those spent in evangelical christian ministry together, the last 5 of which we (Love of My Life and I) embarked on an exodus out of Church World to plant a funky little honest church ourselves that was doomed to “fail” from the start because it was one where any human of any persuasion, any belief or lack thereof, was welcome to participate, love and be loved as is. We gave up everything and ultimately ended up losing more than we’d ever imagined possible – our very lives together – though isn’t that exactly what Jesus said was the price to be considered? Anyhooo, that truly is for a separate blog post.

So, in the new life (whatever that’s now totally free to be), here’s a quick summation of my current (and fluid) theology/psychology/ideology/methodology around which everything I say and do emerges, and I care not one whit what anyone thinks of it. If you follow my writing for whatever reason, even if only as a vulture to feast on the carcass of my family to poop out as gossipy judgment (why would you stop now after the last 5 years of pecking away at our flesh before we were even fully dead?), knowing the following will at least put things in perspective:

  • All God talk is human talk. All we have are human ideas about God. The only experience we have of Whatever God There Is happens in the gray matter between our ears, individually. The second anyone tries to enforce any idea of God as absolute certainty is the second I smile politely and disengage. The second anyone does harm to others with their god-in-their-own-twisted-image certainty is the second I go into verbal smack down mode. I have no pride, shame or fear left in me to cause me to either shrink back or have any further need to self preserve, defend or explain myself. I’ve never been more confident and peacefully assured in my faith and absolute uncertainty than I AM now.
  • I have always had an awareness of and communed with Something Other both wholly outside myself and wholly inside myself that I learned to call God since my earliest memories, around age 3 or 4. It was always plural – a They – and there was a definite female component. I never thought to question it as it fit perfectly into my Tribe’s doctrines of the Trinity, with the exception of the female part. I’ve always gone against the grain of my tradition and personified the Holy Spirit as female, though also knew very early on to keep that shit to myself if I wanted the belonging and acceptance (which was THE most important thing to me) of my Tribe.
  • I AM is the identifier God gave Moses. Jesus invoked I AM for himself, and that’s good enough for me. I simply AM. What is, IS. God is existence. God is reality. To be who I AM with full integrity and to let everyone and everything BE what it IS without inserting my own desires and agenda for any of it is, to me, to engage, participate in, and BE the divinity that is inherent in being human.
  • I’ve always read and understood the bible for myself for what it is since childhood – and loved it. I never really found value in taking any of it literally, though I forced myself to suppress my true instincts and knowing in order, again, to be accepted by my Tribe. To question the “inerrant” literal truth of the bible meant brutal and immediate rejection. To do it as a girl at any age? Forget it. More shit I absolutely knew to keep to myself – even from myself until recent years.
  • Whatever meaning or “truth” to be found in life is in metaphor, patterns, echos, cycles, seasons…and the bible is my endlessly rich base source for the poetic language I use to tell my own story and I will continue to dive into and mine scripture in order to do so, now more than ever. But I am not bound or restricted by it. Sacred metaphor is absolutely everywhere and I call it when I see it, however, wherever it presents itself. “Love Thy Neighbor As Thyself” is echoed throughout all cultures, eras, ancients and contemporaries, poets, artists, children, old women, heathens and holy men alike – and I pay attention to them all. If I had life to do over, I’d be a professor of anthropology and religious studies. As a profession it’s not practical at this point, but the studying and going wherever my fascination takes me is just getting started. It is an exciting time to awaken and go after my own life.
  • I AM a Christian, an identifier I’ve decided to keep for myself alone and to myself alone without any further need to justify or explain my right or reason for doing so ever again. I identify my entire story, my entire life with Jesus and the birth/life/death/resurrection metaphor of his and the sharing in his sufferings of rejection and humiliation that I’ve gone all the way and lived out and will continue to cycle through until my last breath. Salvation and redemption are to be lived out HERE – NOW.

The above picture is me at age 7 (AKA the real Princess Leia), the last time I was the most me as I AM that I can remember before learning, as we all do, to shove the truth of my divine self down deep, believing that was the only way to be worthy of human love. I’ve missed that sweet nerd so much. Almost 40 years later, she’s back. She’s awake. She has surfaced, and she’s gunna rock the world.

The Last Pillar Has Fallen

Hello, my name is Jennifer and I’m a ridiculously fearful avoidant personality in love with an absurdly dismissive avoidant personality. Together we are a textbook perfect psychological shit storm.

For me to finally understand exactly how fucked up we are and in what ways is, quite frankly, a massive relief. Every single pillar of certainty that I’d been led to believe was unassailable has toppled in recent years. Throughout this process, I’ve been clinging to what I considered to be the central pillar, convinced it was the one that would never, could never, should never fail. Then it too began to crack and pitch and I could no longer depend on it for safety and comfort.

And that’s the sickest/saddest part about the whole thing- it had never provided me the stability and protection I’ve always craved. No, this “central” pillar never stood still. It was perpetually restless and roaming, resistant to anything and everything that sought its support. Yet I’d been conditioned to believe that it must be that for me and had convinced myself that the reason it wasn’t was entirely my responsibility. If I threw every bit of myself into “supporting” this pillar, i.e. clutching ever tighter as it jumped and swayed precariously, feverishly patching cracks to keep up appearances (we’re good…we’re solid…we’re fine), it would eventually be still and strong and a source of stability and safety around which the rest of my life could nobly function.

It’s actually quite the comical visual. Everything else in my world had long ago disintegrated into rubble and ashes, yet here I was still insisting it was right and good to chain myself to the remaining wobbly and wild pillar that wasn’t even holding anything up and was aggressively trying to shake me off for my own good as it approached terminal collapse.

Up until 3 days ago, choking on spite in spite of what seemed like the never-going-to-end 9.0 temblor that had disintegrated everything I thought should be but never really was, this remained my unshakable belief –

If this one falls, I will die. If this one goes, I’m an ultimate failure. If this one crumbles, I’m the biggest shameful idiot there ever was.

I would not allow myself to let go until the shaking stopped. My God, my God…please MAKE IT STOP! I’m so exhausted and spent and empty…make it stop…make it stop…make it stop…

Then let go, you dear delusional girl. LET GO of the thing that is shaking so violently and let it crumble. You won’t die if you let go…but you surely will if you keep trying to hold it together. Let go, Love. Let go. Let everything die so that you can finally live. 

And I did…right there standing in front of the kitchen sink doing the dishes. I saw it. I understood fully and gave myself permission to do what up until that very second had been unthinkable – give up on my marriage, my idea of what this thing is supposed to be and let it collapse all the way.

The crushing, debilitating panic instantly vaporized. There was no crash, no boom, no implosion, only instant relief and supreme stillness. In that divine stillness such fullness, warmth, nurturing and belonging.

Oh heeeeeey, there They are, Whatever God There Is, or rather – there I AM. Then it began bubbling out of me. A wide, wild grin took over my face followed by unconstrained giggling before finally erupting into deep, somewhat maniacal laughter. I’d imagine it’s the same euphoria one would feel upon realizing they and their loved ones were alive and safe after a disaster, even if they’d lost everything else to it.

And that’s where I am. It’s all gone. All done. Everything, and I do mean everything, that was but actually wasn’t, is rubble. It’s sunrise and I’m getting my first look at the scene after the quake storm (as my oldest Big used to call it when she was little) and I’m happy. Giddy, in fact. I’m in no hurry to clean up or rebuild. I can’t even think about that right now or what it might look like. All I know is that I don’t need to know anything and the future doesn’t have to be any certain way. There is no should be or should have been. There are no supposed to be’s. 

Will a couple of middle-aged, highly avoidant personalities find a new way of being together now that everything has fallen apart? Yes…they will…in some capacity, but I no longer have any expectation for what that must look like nor sense of obligation that I should. Whether what is to be exceeds my wildest dreams of fulfillment or is something wholly undesirable that I never imagined for myself or my family (reality is certain to be somewhere on the spectrum in between)…I AM going to be OK.

There only IS what is, and right now is sacred and pure and I’m not about to rush through this gift of serenity and stillness in the aftermath of the Great Reduction. I’m going to rest here, just me and Whatever God There Is, who have always manifested Themself to me in reality, and find the comfort and security I crave with Them as I laugh/cry in unhinged relief as the encroaching light incrementally reveals all that is now after the shaking. I’m alive, goddammit. I’m alive…and for the first time in my life not lonely and afraid.

Oh, there I am. You lovely, demented girl. Take a beat and then let’s get to work building up YOU – the central pillar – strong and true. Who knows what beauty these hands are capable of creating with what IS now that they’ve finally released their death grip on what never was.

Mama, Help Me

Mama, help me! Please be real

Mama, help me! Hold my hand

This absolute brilliance

To see things as they truly are is more than I can bear alone

Mama, help me…help me…help me

I listened and followed you out

My senses instantly assaulted with stench and horror – a legion of putrid corpses exposed

Mama, help me! Hold my hand and walk with me through

Mama, help me! Please be real

Don’t leave me here to die in the light

Alone

Journaling That Doesn’t Suck 09/27/2016

Went for a slow walk yesterday around the fake lake. It wasn’t exercise as much as knowing I have to get out and begin moving, to start putting one foot in front of the other. It doesn’t have to be pretty or accomplish any other goal than moving forward steadily.

Didn’t listen to any music to distract myself or try to elicit a cheap emotional release. Just walked and BE’d.

Said “hi” to a lot of friendly people getting their exercise on. Smiled at their dogs.

A little stormy weather was coming in from the west. Looking east, though it was around 9 a.m., the line of dark clouds not quite eclipsing the brightness of the sky in that direction gave it the illusion of a sunset.

What is your impression of the picture above? Is it a sunrise or a sunset and how does one tell without being there? Impression and “feels” mostly. I dunno. Perhaps if I looked it up there would be a more sciency explanation like more particulates in the air at dusk…but at any rate, my first impression upon looking east was that it surely looked like a sunset at 9 a.m.

Insert the obvious life metaphor. Although I’m pretty sure that’s entirely my problem right there. I assume what’s so goddam obvious to me and speaks for itself SHOULD be apparent to everyone.

But it’s not. Some days (like all of them lately) it seems like the whole world is upside down in delusion, insisting the sun is setting and it’s time to sleep  when I KNOW it’s a sunrise and it’s time to get busy with the day.

How do I know?

Because the sun rises in the east and I know which direction east is.

So was your initial impression of the above photo a sunrise or a sunset? Arguing about which one is truth is pointless without being there. It’s absolute fucking madness to be there in person, day after day, the sun rising and setting in the same place as it always has, and STILL insisting a sunrise is a sunset because it just feels right…or you prefer it to be so.

Do what you want, World. I’m done engaging anyone and anything that trades the truth for a lie and would rather live in delusion than the most basic self evident truths.

I’m hoping last night was a collective turning point and that a majority of us have a clear sense of direction and know the difference between east and west, day and night, and will act accordingly.

I’m getting busy in the day while it is still today. Who’s with me?

Shut Up and Sing

I made my bed, and I sleep like a baby
With no regrets, and I don’t mind saying
It’s a sad, sad story
When a mother will teach her daughter
That she ought to hate a perfect stranger
And how in the world
Can the words that I said
Send somebody so over the edge
That they’d write me a letter
Saying that I better
Shut up and sing
Or my life will be over? – Dixie Chicks

Once upon a time, we were offered 6 figures to climb the corporate church ladder and be entertainers in an even bigger and better church than we were already in. We turned it down. It’s quite a story from there.

The short of it, the second we stopped singing at the church we’d remained loyal to in order to minister with integrity, they broke every promise they’d given of support, disowned and ghosted us, leaving our family of 6 hanging with nothing.

We kept our baby church alive as best we could for 3 years right under the shadow of the Big Bro Church. I’ve really got to hand it to them. They were (and continue to be) absolutely amazing at pretending not only that we don’t exist, but that we never did.

Jimmy is still there. I couldn’t take it another second and fled to where the love is with my family.

So imagine, if you will, what it was like for us last summer, as we were making the tough decision to put our church baby on hospice, when my husband received a text from the former boss who’d wanted us so badly 5 years prior, demanding he silence his wife.

I was saying dangerous and heretical things.

Here I was thinking I was nothing to no one. Turns out I was a very Scary Girl.

Alright Bros of God…you only want to hear my voice if it’s singing?

Here ya go.

Scary Girl lyrics

Talk To Me – A Book Review (and personal mantra)

As an introvert, the advent of social media has been huge for me, Facebook and blogging in particular. It’s where I’ve found my voice and strength, before which I was clueless that I possessed either. It’s also where I’ve found the best and most fulfilling social/spiritual connections.

Over the last 5 years, while my local church relationships have withered and died to almost nothing, my e-relationships have blossomed into a lush and vibrant garden where I thoroughly enjoy spending most of my time and energy tending to the souls of myself and others.

I spend a great deal of effort trying to keep my head above the putrid toxicity of political/religious rants and absurdly ignorant and arrogant memes that is often my Facebook newsfeed. With practice (and a great deal of epic failure), I’ve gotten a lot better at saying what I feel needs to be said with clarity and kindness. As a result, I’m instantly drawn like flies on poo to people I recognize are doing the exact same.

Qasim Rashid, an Ahmadi Muslim, is one such insta-beacon of light piercing the darkness of vitriolic dogma and hatred. I started following him on Facebook a couple months ago and was delighted and encouraged when my newsfeed started filling up with these gems –

  • Love for all, hatred for none.
  • Freedom of conscience for all people regardless of faith.
  • All people, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or background, are children of God and all humanity should be cherished, nurtured, and elevated.
  • Recognizing the dire need for (and tragic scarcity of) humble servant leadership.
  • Crucial investment in support and education of children and protection of the oppressed.
  • Taking time to reflect on and learn from our past, especially our failures.
  • The importance of honest, respectful dialog and the sharing of our stories.

So when Qasim put out the call for bloggers interested in reviewing his new book Talk To Me; Changing the Narrative on Race, Religion, and Education, I jumped at the opportunity.

This book was entirely my jam because it consists of personal stories; about a third of them Qasim’s and the remainder from dozens of his friends and colleagues representing a veritable smorgasbord of religious and cultural backgrounds. I’ve always maintained that a personal story will eat doctrine and dogma for breakfast 100% of the time.

My absolute favorite example of this is from the Gospel of John where the religious leaders (the gatekeepers and witch hunters) interrogated the blind man Jesus had healed on the Sabbath. Rather than celebrating and marveling with a man blind since birth now blessed with sight, they ridiculously obsessed over Jesus’ heresy and “wrongness” of religion, picking apart every aspect of the miraculously healed man’s story until he blurted out, “Listen guys, I don’t know what to tell ya about this Jesus guy except once I was blind but now I see.”

I’d have to say I found the chapter of Qasim’s book written by an atheist advocating for the humanization of nonbelievers and the religious alike to be where all the narratives came together for me. I don’t care if someone credits Jesus (as I do), the Quran and the prophet Muhammad, Hinduism, Buddhism, humanism, any combination of or absolutely NO isms for their enlightenment. If the end result of any “ism” is the belief that the best we can do in this life is to do for others what we want for ourselves – THAT person shares my religion. THAT person is not only my brother/sister/mother/father, but THAT person is my partner and friend and someone I want to shoulder up with to move mountains (or at least a few piles of dirt) in whatever time I have left on this earth until I return back to it.

In an effort to move a tiny parcel of dirt, I’m asking each of my literally dozens of faithful readers to head on over to Amazon and buy a copy of Qasim’s book here  – Talk To Me; Changing the Narrative of Race, Religion and Education (and then read it, of course). Also please do me the favor of sharing this blog post on Facebook (sharing any of my blogs is like validation crack) and then do yourself a favor and follow Qasim on Facebook and Twitter @MuslimIQ.

Peeps of all persuasions, above all, whatever you do (or don’t do) double check your motivation and make sure it is love – never fear. That is the essence of our connection with each other and to whatever God there is.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love… No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. – I John 4

I Am Vain

Gospel of Snark blog post from this time last year. The tally of complete emotional/spiritual unravelings in the process of planting, nurturing and then letting go of Four Creeks Church stands at 3. I felt during each one that I was going to die. I was right. Over the last year my laziness and vanity were finally starved into oblivion. Jimmy and I are so very, very relieved to be on the other side among the dead-living and immune to the bites of the living-dead.


 

In preparation for facilitating a new round of Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, I’m going through the little twice-daily devotional book Day by Day (formerly The Daily Office) for the third time. This morning I came across one of my favorite quotes that I strongly related to the first time I read it 3 years ago.

“I am busy because I am vain. I want to appear important. Significant. What better way than to be busy? The incredible hours, the crowded schedule, and the heavy demands of my time are proof to myself –– and to all who will notice — that I am important…I live in a society in which crowded schedules and harassed conditions are evidence of importance, so I develop a crowded schedule and harassed conditions. When others notice, they acknowledge my significance, and my vanity is fed.

I am busy because I am lazy. I indolently let others decide what I will do instead of resolutely deciding myself. It was a favorite theme of C.S. Lewis that only lazy people work hard. By lazily abdicating the essential work of deciding and directing, establishing values and setting goals, other people do it for us.” – Eugene Peterson

Scazzero, Peter (2013-03-26). Daily Office (Kindle Locations 346-347).  Kindle Edition.

I AM LAZY

My entire adult life in church in ministry has been miserable and drowning in busyness and physical and spiritual exhaustion because I am a lazy ass. We’re talking pathological here. I’m extremely passive as a result of equally heavy doses of nature and nurture. I was raised in a culture with a double whammy of indoctrination from both family and church that the “right” (and only) way to live was to abdicate “the essential work of deciding and directing, establishing values and setting goals” and to let authority (parents/church) do it for me.  For the most part, having a naturally passive personality, I was happy to let others dictate life for me because it was easier, because…I am lazy.

My laziness is rooted in fear – fear of facing the discomfort of conflict. It’s much easier for me to conform and play by the rules in a system I have no responsibility in making than to take responsibility for my own, because…what if I get it wrong? What if someone doesn’t like it?

Rejection and criticism wreak havoc in the life of a comfort junky. It is deeply, desperately ingrained in me never to be/act/think wrong. It’s the worst. I feel the worst. I am the worst when others think I’m wrong. It’s not that I have a need to convince anyone that I’m right…no, no, no. I just want to avoid at all cost the risk of anyone thinking or believing I am wrong…because in the system I come from, the wrong person is not respected; the wrong person is not worthy of love; the wrong person must be stopped, condemned, corrected and made right immediately or forever rejected because – THOU SHALT NOT BE WRONG.

I am lazy mostly out of fear of being wrong.

Comfort and safety are my #1 inherited family idols that I was taught to hold up as supreme and noble motivation. Over time, they insidiously morphed into a lazy, dishonest, hot mess of an inner life while I feverishly expended energy maintaining a squeaky clean, socially acceptable, respectable outward life. I became grossly church busy for 18 years as the wife of a minister at the expense of my family, my health and my sanity because…I am lazy.

I repressed and denied my true thoughts and feelings and allowed people to direct me down soul-sucking paths I didn’t want to go because I have tremendous safety lust and…I am lazy.

It’s taken me every bit of the 3 years I’ve been working in EHS “going back in order to go forward” in order to identify and unpack this baggage. To no longer be conformed to the pattern of my world and be transformed by the renewal of my mind is an intense and prolonged process – a gnarly, epic wrestling match.

My entire Church World experience had sold me on an alter call, some tears, and a one-and-done prayer and doubling down on the rules as the answer to all Christian struggles. God loved me enough to utterly break me before I was ready to get over myself and my laziness in order to stop buying (and selling) the shit substitutes. But wow did that love feel like death…because it is; death of SELF in order to live as Christ.

THE SCARLET “W”

The planting of Four Creeks Church saw my worst fears realized and magnified on a personally horrifying scale. We stepped out of the established church system in which we’d worked and served faithfully our entire adult lives and set aside it’s comfortable human traditions and secure structure to embark on a grand experiment to see if a church that preached and taught and modeled Jesus alone and the exclusive inclusiveness of his Gospel of Grace could fly.

Starting out, we honestly thought we had the full support and partnership of our home church. If anyone had told me we’d end up completely rejected and unsupported just 9 months in, I never in a million years would have been on board to sacrifice so much or take such a personal risk for myself and my family – absolutely not my M.O. as a comfort junky and safety slut.

And why were we rejected and dropped like we were hot from the fires of hell? Because we were wrong in the eyes of a few influential and very vocal church people. Our teachings on prayer, worship, love, how to be the church and do life were all wrong. It didn’t matter if they were all taken straight from Jesus’ own words and example – it challenged the long established system, which, in Church World, is the ultimate in WRONG.

Rather than be associated with anyone or anything that had a reputation for being wrong, even the nicest and more sane personalities in leadership distanced themselves from us and let us go, out of sight and out of mind, to fend for ourselves so they could try to get back to safe and established business as usual without being sullied or inconvenienced by our scarlet “W” of wrongness.

WAKING UP ANGRY

I’ve heard it said anger is a secondary emotion and that it’s really an expression of underlying fear or hurt. In my case it was a massive sucker punch of both. I’ve also heard it said, “Jennifer seems angry in a lot of what she writes and shares on Facebook.”

Um…yeah…and DUH.

You don’t open up the flood gates of a lifetime of repression and resentment and get a gentle trickle. When my eyes were pried open and I saw things clearly for the first time, I woke up angry, terrified and in a tremendous amount of pain, and very, very much on my own with God alone to figure out how to deal with it. What intimacy and reality in relationship with my Father I have found there.

Pardon my French (or don’t…I truly, honestly no longer care), but since one of the first things that earned us the scarlet “W” was me using the wrong words, I’ve freed myself up to use all the words that best express my frustrations and to try to get across just how much of a cluster mind fuck this experience has been to have everything I thought I knew, every system I’d ever trusted, every rule, every certainty utterly and completely destroyed in order to build new and completely different…in faith.

I AM VAIN

The laziness, the repression, the grief, the bitterness are all quite familiar traveling companions to me at this point. I’ve worked very hard to honestly identify, embrace and submit them over the last 3-4 years. But, as EHS has a way of doing, a brand spankin’ new layer of dysfunction was brought to the surface and made visible to me this morning.

I have had such a hard time with bitterness because I am vain. I am most vain when you mess with or challenge…

My family
“I can’t believe those gossip-mongering, power-playing church biddies said such things about my husband and actively campaigned to put us into financial crisis. Could they really not see how amazingly good my own children are and what obviously fabulous parents we are to think we could possibly be a bad influence on anyone? How could anyone in their right mind with any compassion in them whatsoever justify doing that to any family, much less one so *perfect* as mine?!”

Oooh girl, that’s some hardcore bitterness coming from someone so *perfect*

My work ethic
“None of you understand how I’ve worked my ass off apart from church as a corporate peon, full time for 13 years; working holidays, even weekends and then exhausting myself 3 services on Sundays plus rehearsals, all with my family in tow. I never got away on weekends for family fun time. Why did I do that for so many years only to be rejected the second we stopped entertaining you? Not only did you not appreciate my sacrifice, you went above and beyond to treat us like shit. Ungrateful assholes.”

Oh so much bitter…even if I alone am responsible for making myself the lamest martyr on the planet fueled by my own dysfunction. It’s a lot easier and even feels kind of good to resent church people rather than myself. Ick, it’s a lazy and vain combo. That’s unattractive and thoroughly anti-Christ. Way to be Jen.

My intellectual integrity – 
“Oh no they didn’t! They did not just haul out the most tired and ratty scripture sound bite out of context to try and shut me down and shut me up.”

I suffer from the delusion that if I just explain myself clearly enough, citing sound evidence and reason about how I got to a certain view of scripture, that people will accept it (and me). I’m so very cool if you hold a different view…just don’t ever, EVER, denounce me as wrong for holding mine unless you want a deluge of scripture references explaining their context and blog links to help make my point and justify myself. I’m learning, albeit slowly, that hardly anybody appreciates that the way I do, and that hurts and then starts the whole sick bitterness merry-go-round spinning again. I’m getting better about not buying a ticket for that ride, no matter how tempting it is to justify myself, but vanity is a true beast in this scene. It just can’t handle people accusing me of being wrong in the name of God on the internet.

THE PERFECT VULNERABLE STORM

All of my weakness and vulnerability is tied up and on display at Four Creeks, not the least of which my laziness and vanity. I had what amounted to round two of an emotional breakdown last month. Thankfully, it wasn’t anywhere as debilitating as round one had been right after we launched Easter 2012, but alarming enough for Jimmy to panic a little and text the older children, “Mom is losing it again guys…help?” Poor guy is just not okay when I’m not okay. I love him so.

Here we are almost three years in and in more dire straights financially than ever. We had some people leave. It was a long time in coming and it needed to happen, but it was still very, very scary. For the first time in all this I entertained the possibility that we just might be forced to fold this thing and quit at a time when the few faithful people we do have are beginning to really catch on and run with us. Oh how the bitterness welled up fresh out of me as I wrestled with that thought. I love these people and what we are doing together so, SO much. The thought of having to quit now after enduring so much was too much. Then the thought…what on earth would my life be like not being in ministry, not even going to church for that matter. I just couldn’t see myself going back into a traditional evangelical church setting ever again as a free person. That was mind blowing to consider.

I spent a few sleepless nights and a lot of tears trying to wrap my head around those possibilities. A lot of crying out to God these words, “What more do you want from me here? I’ve done everything I know to do, said everything I know to say and now slammed up against yet another wall. Seriously God, WHAT DO YOU WANT?” Silence.

Then the bitterness welled up in me more fierce than ever. “It shouldn’t have to be this hard. None of them see. None of them care.”  Jimmy was off driving for Uber in those awful wee hours. I was truly feeling tormented and utterly alone and unseen. In those toughest moments of panic came a whisper…

“I see you. Until that alone is enough for you, you’ll stay stuck.” 

The fog of fear lifted a few weeks ago, but it all made sense this morning when I realized it is my vanity that keeps God alone from being enough; His provision from being enough; His acceptance and love for me being enough. Vanity feeds off people providing those things, and my vanity, having been brutally kicked in the crotch, spawned quite the formidable bitterness monster. The only way to kill that nasty beast of SELF?

Faith.

Laziness and vanity have a hard time putting down roots in a life of faith. Faith perseveres and strains and sacrifices without need or desire for human recognition or approval. Faith is aiming for a much farther and grander target than instant gratification. And as my two biggest and oldest vices starve and wither the deeper in faith I dare to go, the more familiar I’m getting with the bravery and humility that are my new traveling companions.