My life there and afterwards

For those who would like to know about some of the daily things survivors of high-control groups go through, here is one example.

Walk through a day with me. My alarm goes off at 6:00 am. That’s a little earlier than strictly necessary, but I am more of a morning person than a night person, and I like to take my time, puttering, picking up from the mess I left last night, maybe have a cup of tea, knit, look out the window. I don’t usually have time for much of that on a work day, but it is such a treat to not be rushed. I don’t have to throw on some clothes and go outside over to the church for a morning 1/2 hour service of Lauds, Gregorian chant in Latin, cold, sleepy, grumpy. Then back for a breakfast that is made for us (no choice in menu) then quickly make my bed and get to work. I relish having the time to wake up slowly and prepare for the day.

Now it’s Saturday, and I take a shower mid-morning. Again I relish the freedom to spend from 6-9 am puttering. Drink my cup ’a tea, write on my book, eat my cereal. You have no idea how such simple things mean so much to me. I am still awed by the fact that I have my own space, my own apartment, with my own things. There is no one to watch and criticize my actions. What a delicious freedom.

My shower: at the Community of Jesus we were taught in the Convent that we should take “submarine showers”. Get wet, turn off the water. Soap up; turn on the water to rinse. Turn off the water. Shampoo your hair. Turn on the water to rinse. This was not because we were in any kind of water shortage. It was a money saving device. We were 60 women living together in the Convent, and they kept telling us regularly how much money it cost to support us. I would always feel guilty that they were supporting us, and that I was a burden to them. Of course, I never considered the fact that I was free labor. I worked hard, from morn till night, with no pay. I created all kinds of artistic things; weaving, quilting, knitting, crochet, for use by the church and others, with no compensation. If they had had to pay for the multitude of services that the sisters and brothers provided, they would not have been able to stay in business.

But back to the shower; I learned that if you took a shower in the morning or the evening, there were always people coming in and out of the bathroom. It was a large public-type bathroom with 6 toilet stalls and 4 showers and 2 enclosed sinks and 2 open sinks. And there was always someone willing to rat on you if you took too long in the shower. I was never caught, but I heard others being tattled on, and harshly corrected. Showers were one place where I felt relaxed. The hot water relaxed my tense muscles and soothed my agitated mind. I would stretch them as long as I dared. I learned one day by chance that if I took a shower right after lunch, no one ever seemed to use the bathroom at that time, and I could get away with a longer shower. The whole time I would be listening to see if anyone came in, and if they did I would cut the shower short. I was aware of how much steam I was putting into the room, because if it was too much, they could tell you were taking too long a shower. At about 5 minutes, even I couldn’t push it any longer and would stop.

Now, I find myself feeling the same tension, and the urge to cut the shower short. Even though I know full well no one is watching or caring. I am still tense until I pass that 5 minute mark, and convince myself that it is OK to take a long shower if I want to. Really? Yes, really. Then I relax and exult in the freedom to make my own choice. I am not exaggerating. This is what I go through as I recover and work on re-evaluating my experience of the last 40 years.

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