The trust game

Remember that game you play as a kid? “Trust” You fall backwards into the arms of a friend, expecting they will catch you. They do the same with you catching them. It is fun. Have you ever had someone drop you? If it happened once, you might be a little distrustful. If it happens over and over again, eventually you stop playing and stand on your own.

I have a big problem. I don’t trust. When I do, it takes a long time, and then it just takes a tiny mistake to get me distrustful again. I would rather do everything on my own. I have always been capable enough to do it all. Until now. I find myself at a point in my life that I cannot do it all. If I have a career, I am really not making any money for the family, I am just paying the daycare. Full time daycare means I miss out on valuable time with my children. Staying home with them means I am not contributing to paying the household bills. This has left me feeling helpless at times. I am so restless at night that I cannot sleep or find a solution. I feel trapped. My husband says to trust him. He makes enough money that we will get by. I handle the finances, so I know this to be true. However, I always like to have a backup. Just in case. I don’t want to depend on him, or anyone. I am accustomed to being let down, even eight years out of the cult. Thinking like this, like my Mom says, is “borrowing trouble”.

Here is the facts: my children are only little for a few years. Three years from now, they will all be in school and who knows what life will be like then. I am taking this valuable time to stay home with them, while going to college. Raising three little boys is a full time job. I am exhausted most days. But today I am reflecting and making some decisions: I will be focusing my mind on them, and will stop my mind from wandering down alternative paths. This is my life, and what I have chosen. I am aware that the transition is rough, but I am not alone. I am choosing to trust in my husband, and the spiritual forces unseen. I have a lot of wonderful, supportive, and invaluable people in my life. I am choosing to breathe and observe.

I am sitting here typing with a toddler on my lap. If you are reading this, you are supporting my dream, and I thank you.

~E

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Will I ever go back?

Questions that I get from time to time; only the brave approach me with this: Do you still believe in God? Will you ever go back to church? Here are the answers: Yes, but probably not the way you believe. Yes, but I don’t see myself becoming a member. A few weeks ago I went to a church with my friend and her family. We attended her baby’s dedication. It was the first time in seven years that I have attended a church without having a panic attack. I was able to take the church experience lighter than I have in the past. I appreciate the history of churches, and how that brings comfort to most people. I love the beautiful architecture of churches. And I am a sucker for stained glass windows. However, I don’t like sitting in a group of people while one man (or woman) sits up front and tells me what to believe. I found myself agreeing with a few things this pastor spoke about. I also had a lot of questions. The frustrating part about having questions is that I cannot ask them right away. I would have to arrange a meeting. The thought of a meeting with a pastor brings up all sorts of anxiety. I decided I most likely wouldn’t like or agree with his answers. I have decided that if going to church brings peace to others, then that is okay. The routine and ritual can bring comfort.

There are leaders who are abusers of power in any organization. It is so painful and familiar to me when I hear of a child being abused by someone in power at a church. I know this happens within families, at schools, daycares, and countless other places. People can be evil, selfish, and cruel. I hope that my children never suffer abuse. I realize also that there is no way I am going to be able to protect them all the time. I do my best. I follow my gut, and I speak up when I am uncomfortable with a situation. My goal is to raise strong independent children who speak up for themselves. It is really hard giving up what control I thought I had and realizing that I will not always be there for my kids.

My beliefs are based on my soul, spirit, and experiences. I am spiritual, but not religious. I have felt an encouraging hand on my shoulder, only to look over and see no one there. I have had prophetic dreams, and visits from friends and family who have passed away. Endless encounters where I have received gifts from the universe. I have felt protected when narrowly avoiding disaster. I will not justify nor let anyone belittle my experiences. I do not have a name for my entity or beliefs. Call it the Universe, God, Spirit, Karma, Great Divine Mother, whatever you like. I feel peaceful when I get a sign that I am doing the right thing, or I need to turn away. I take my signs, listen to my gut, and voice feelings and concerns. I have a right to my feelings, even when I know they are not “right”. I can be judgmental, I am normal. This life is a journey, and I will not struggle to be something I am not. I spent so many years with my fists balled up and biting my lip. I am free now, and I believe in love, compassion, and peace.

~E

Don’t look at me!

Don’t look at me,
You monster
Hunting me
    Haunting me
        Watching me
I make myself ugly
You continue pursuit
  I turn away slowly,
    change every route
But always you find me
   In the deep dark places
I scan desperately
   For comprehending faces
I tell them about you
   The things you do
No one believes me
    So you continue
I stand up against you
    Fight on my own
You’re stronger than I am
    desperately alone
And so
    I give in
I have no fight left
    do what you want
You’ve committed your theft
Coming to steal
   Strip my soul bare
Rob me of innocence
   Leave me no air
I hate myself
   Alone in the stall
      Punching my gut
I’m such a slut
Maybe tomorrow
I’ll make my escape
Maybe tomorrow
There will be no rape.
~E

Apple pie and avoidance

Summer time means riding bikes, picking apples, and avoiding the abusers as much as I can. Mom and Dad are working every day. Samantha stays with us, but I am getting more and more babysitting-like responsibilities. I love hanging out with Samantha, she is teaching me to bake. Mom and Dad gave me the responsibility of planning the family menu. Each week, I will sit down and write out seven dinners for the week. Then I will go through the pantry and make the shopping list. One night a week Mom and I get to go to the store together. It is the only time that her and I get to have alone. These shopping trips are the highlight of my life. I feel comforted sitting in the car with Mom driving. I knew there were certain things I should not talk to her about. Like how I get in trouble at school, or a lesson that I was in. I wanted to keep these times happy and they always were.

This summer, Dad told me I could grow a small garden outside. I am so excited. He is helping me plan the garden. Next he will take me to buy seeds and starter plants. I choose strawberries. Dad chooses tomatoes. I choose sunflowers. Dad chooses squash.  We head off to the do-it center in town. Dad always needs some sort of hardware, and they also sell plants and seeds. I have many childhood memories of going to hardware stores with Dad. I get to go to work with Dad sometimes in the summertime. I love it so much, and I love watching my dad work. He creates beauty in restoration of homes and boats. He takes an old piece of furniture, or a house that needs work, and he restores it to better than it’s original beauty. The houses that he works on are beautiful, and he makes them one of a kind with his details. My time with Dad is special. I notice a difference in his voice when it was just him and I. He is more gentle with me, a soft calm voice while explaining his process. I want to be like Dad. To create beauty with passion.

The summer started off great. I was enjoying cooking, cleaning, and gardening. We had all this great property to explore. I would pick apples and blackberries, then come home and make some pies. Samantha showed me how to make snicker doodle cookies, and dinners for the family. Brother and I would ride our bikes to the store for ten cent candy. During the weekend, we had family time on Saturdays. Sundays I would ride along in the church van to pick up kids. We would have Children’s Church, then regular church. That didn’t seem to be so bad. Samantha also rode in a van on Sundays. She would help me to plan games and songs for my van.

The church did fundraisers a few times through the year. I did not like the fundraisers. It meant that I had to stand outside of stores and go knocking on doors asking people to buy things. We sold candy, calendars, coupon books, shirts, hats, and so many other items I don’t remember. This summer the church is having a carnival. It sounds like fun to me! At the public events, I usually don’t get in trouble. There are so many people around, and everyone is happy. I realize now as an adult that this was because they were trying to “recruit” members. The kids were always coached by the pastors right before the event happened. We needed to be on our best behavior. We are representing the church and, ultimately, Jesus. I would get scared thinking that if I did not properly represent, that someone may miss out on eternity in Heaven.

The day of the carnival has arrived, I have brought a friend who is my neighbor and not part of the church. I am proud to show that I have brought someone, as we are encouraged to have guests. Though having friends outside of the church is really difficult. How do you start up a conversation with someone you don’t know when the only places you go is the grocery store and church? I longed to have a friend. I was wearing the cutest outfit I knew because I wanted to seem normal to the neighbor girl. I was wearing a jean tank top that had a floral canvas type material inlaid in places, and jean pants. I had a great time at the carnival with my friend. Mom and Dad were walking us to the car when Pastor W and his wife came up and asked to talk to us. Everyone else got in the car while Mom, Dad and I stayed out. I was instantly nervous. Pastor W asked if we could come to their house after dropping everyone off, they needed to talk to us. I felt my stomach drop. Whatever I had done, it must have been really bad. The whole drive home, I was trying to act normal with my friend, but I was so nervous I could hardly stand it. The drive to Pastor W’s house, we were all silent. It was ominous. We got there, and the boys were all running around (of course with their shirts off) while the girls were cleaning the kitchen. It was the first time that we had been to the W family’s new house, and it was a pretty nice house. Much better than the one they lived in in Everett. I wondered what had changed? Neither one of the parent’s had jobs. How did they afford this? Brother and Sister were told to play downstairs while Mom and Dad stayed upstairs with me. The W family had a huge movie collection. It was Pastor W’s pride. He believed that we could learn many lessons from movies. The movie they chose for me tonight was “The Accused”. This is a movie starring Jodi Foster. They didn’t let me watch the whole movie, just the scene where Jodi gets raped in the bathroom of a bar. The pastor told me that the outfit I had worn to the carnival was inappropriate and I was asking to get this type of attention by wearing things like that. “Do you want to be raped?” He asked. “No!” I say. Why would I want that? How do I avoid that? Why didn’t Mom and Dad tell me that my outfit was so bad? I am feeling awful about going around wearing that. Everyone at the carnival must have thought that I was an awful person walking around wanting to be raped. Pastor W is really mad, but he tells me it is because he is concerned for me. He doesn’t want me to get in trouble. He is really painting a black picture and yelling at me, he wants me to understand. This is traumatizing. The yelling goes on for hours, and Pastor says he is tired, but the conversation isn’t done. Pastor and his wife go to their bedroom to sit on their bed. Mom, Dad, and I follow. Mom and Dad are on one side of the bed and I am on the other. Pastor says that since I dressed that way, that I must be wanting to have sex with someone. He asks me “who do you want to have sex with?” “No one” I say. He asks again, and each time I say “no one”. Because I really don’t and I am scared. Finally, I realize he is not going to stop. I start naming boys. Starting with the ones that are my age, and most of them are his sons. I am afraid the boys are listening on the other side of the door, but I don’t know what else to do. Every time I say a name, he says “no, try again”. I name every man in the church. I am crying. I am getting more desperate for the right answer. I have named everyone and he has said “no, try again”. I say “I don’t know” and I throw my hands in the air. Then Pastor points. My memory is in slow motion. He points to my Dad. He says “you want to have sex with him!” I think in my head “No I don’t!” This is where the memory stops. I blacked out. I don’t know what was said after that point. Where my memory picks up is when we are back in the car and Dad is driving home. Once again, we are silent.

This was the turning point in my relationship with Dad. I felt like he never trusted me again. I also felt like Mom didn’t trust me with him. But this was a two way street. By losing their trust, I also slowly stopped trusting them. No more trips to the hardware store with Dad, no more going to work with Dad. I longed to be close with him again, to sit on his lap and read the sports and comics in the paper. I longed to feel that trust, the mutual trust. It was lost. In that one single night, I lost our entire relationship. Because I wore that stupid tank top.

~E

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Corners

Just because I have asked Jesus in my heart, does not mean I have “arrived”. This was drilled into my head after I said that magical prayer. Also now the attention seems to have shifted from me to my little sister. She is only three, but seems to be getting in a lot of trouble. There was a nursery at the school for the babies. The nursery was a tiny room, probably ten feet by ten feet. It was in the entry way of the church. It was probably meant to be a coat closet. I would hear someone talking sternly back there, so I peeked to see who was in trouble. I saw my sister standing in the corner. I felt very uncomfortable seeing this. I knew I was helpless, just like the night Pastor W held her face in his hands. My sister never cried when being punished. Today she stood in the corner for three hours. She fell asleep in the corner and fell backwards. How could a child of such a young age be so compliant? Sister knew no other way. One of the associate pastor’s had four young boys in the nursery with Sister. Their grandma was the one in charge of the nursery. Sister always got in trouble and they never did. I noticed it. I am so frustrated at the injustice. I also knew the injustices that were happening to me, and I had to go through them. I would do everything I could to help Sister, but I know there are some things I just can’t.

When Sister is at home, she is a very happy kid. She runs around and plays with Brother and I. She loves her dolls and is always playing pretend. I love watching Sister playing outside. She makes up stories and sings songs to the birds. I love seeing her imagination at work. She knows every word to Ace of Base songs. Music sticks in her head. I wish that she could flourish. I hope one day that the leaders of the church will see her talent. It is unlikely though. I know that the only people who get to perform in the church belong to one of the two Pastors’ families. A general member never gets to have time in the spotlight. Not for anything good anyway. Sister and I share a room. She sneaks to my bed at night and snuggles close. Then she tells me that my legs are scratchy. In spite of that silliness, I cherish these moments. Quiet moments when it is peaceful and just us. Sister brings out the little kid in me. She gives me an excuse to play simple games and have fun. I love to scoop her up and dance with her around the house. I wished she could stay little and innocent forever. I don’t want her to be hurt.

Once I said that prayer, then I was allowed to go to Youth Group on Wednesday nights instead of Kids Group. I was so excited! But I had to leave Sister behind in the Kid’s Group. Youth Group activities were to play basketball then to sit around for a discussion. I don’t actually remember what the discussions were about. I remember looking at some of the older boys and girls who were not in the school. Some of the boys were cute. The older girls were all pretty. I wondered what their lives were like. They all seemed so confident, but I was told they weren’t as happy as we were. They didn’t have the protection of Jesus and I was told that anyone who was “in the world” didn’t know Jesus’ love and protection. Three years I had been at this school, and I had forgotten what life was like prior. All I knew was the day to day survival. I was aware of being in trouble every day and feeling like I was going to cry most days. They told me that it would all be worth it in the end. That I would become what Jesus wanted me to be.

The school year is through now, and it is time to go to Wild Waves. We go there every year for the end of school field trip. I have so many bad memories. They never allowed me to be in a group with my Mom or Brother. Because it was a school outing, not a family outing. But the pastor’s kids got to be in groups with their family. Even my friend Jenn got to be in a group with her mom. I was irritated, but I went along, what choice did I have? We would play at the amusement park first, then go to the water park in the afternoon. I have always had a fear of drowning, and the wave pool and water slides scared me. What scared me even more was the way Ted was looking at me in my bathing suit. I tried to keep myself busy, and pushed myself past my fear of water to get away from him. But every line I got in, it seemed like he wasn’t far behind. I was in a group with Renee, who was his girlfriend. I tried to tell myself that he was following her. Which was probably mostly true, I just wished he would take his eyes off of me. I did not know what he was thinking, and I was also afraid that someone would see and that I would get in trouble again. It was so embarrassing to get in trouble in public. Jenn and I decided to get in the wave pool. We got about halfway into the wave pool when the waves started. We each had float boards. One of the swimmers next to us started to panic, and was clawing for someone to help him. He pushed my head under the water in an effort to save himself. I was caught and couldn’t get up for air. Starting to panic, I kicked him as hard as I could. He let go of my head and I swam toward the shore. I felt like crying. I sat on the cement wrapped up in my towel. I did tell Renee about it because she saw me crying and I felt like I could trust her. I didn’t want her to tell any of the teachers because I was afraid of getting in trouble. I didn’t want them to ask me why I thought God allowed this to happen. She just told my mom. The feeling of Mom hugging me made it all better.

I was glad school was out for the summer. I was looking forward to family time, and time away from Ted. He has still been grabbing my leg under the desk. When this happens, I try to find a reason to get up and leave the desk. It is happening so frequently that it is going to become obvious that I am away from my desk a lot. At the end of the year the teachers give out academic awards as well as funny awards. I got the toilet award for going on so many bathroom breaks. You would think that would have been a red flag.

Just when I thought I would be getting a break from Ted, I find out that he will be working for Dad at our house this summer. What am I going to do now?

~E