My life there and afterwards

Archive for December, 2014

Recent radio piece and other thoughts

Today I’m going to live up to my eclectic prediction. Have you ever let those drafts pile up until you don’t know what to do with them all? Ah ha! Put them all into one blog and clean out the file! Hee Hee. But I will be kind and only deal with two separate ideas here.

The first is that a lovely gal from Sweden did this interview with me. I am sharing it here.
http://www.prx.org/pieces/136114-a-life-not-my-own
This does not open in Firefox. Use Internet Explorer or Chrome.

She grew up on an island off of western Canada, but has moved to Sweden to live. She came back to Woods Hole on Cape Cod, MA, to attend a journalism course. For their last assignment they were told to do a radio piece on any subject of their choosing. She wanted to do a serious piece, did a little research and found The Community of Jesus, and my blog, so she contacted me and asked to interview me. I didn’t even have any serious hesitation, so we met twice. She has a lot more material than she was able to use in the time frame of her assignment, but I think she did a very good job. One thing of interest that is not in the radio piece is this: CJ was reluctant to let her come onto the property to interview them. They were going to send a crew to her in Woods Hole, but then changed their minds and let her come to them. The day after the interview with them, she called them back and said that she would like to come again and give them a chance to respond to some things that ex-members had said. Their PR person blew up at her and tried to intimidate and humiliate her, saying that she had been deceitful with them and that they had not known she had talked with anyone else. Deceitful about what? What reporter would not try to get both sides of any story? I’m glad they blew their cool with her. That says more than anything I could say about what is really in their hearts.

On another subject, here’s a great quote I came across recently:

“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” George Eliot

I think this speaks eloquently to our situation, those of us who have survived years of numbing Totalism, narcissistic control, and abuse. We have lost years, and that is a grief, but it is only a hurdle, not a wall. Time is relative, and we are now blossoming, with all the energy that was penned up for so long.

I am also in the middle of reading “Escape From Freedom” by Eric Fromm. Nope, that’s not a typo. Escape FROM freedom. It’s not an easy read, but worth it if you can hang in there with him. He talks about how each of us becomes individuals – individuation – from childhood to adulthood, but also how mankind as a whole has progressed in this direction. He shows how the Reformation was a freeing of man to be more of an individual, but also produced a lot of loneliness and anxiety. I’m in the middle, but he will be explaining his viewpoint of how this loneliness drives many people to want to escape from a negative freedom by looking to a leader, and submitting to either a person or a system. It takes work and growth to be able to handle freedom in a positive way that incorporates positive connections to others and the world around us, natural and societal. He also shows a side of Luther and Calvin that I never knew. Evidently they were both very anxious and fearful men, displaying a lot of hatred of themselves and others. Not very good role models, and yet they set the trend for all of Protestantism. Interesting.

May everyone have a wonderful New Year’s celebration. See you next year.

That was Then, This is Now

That was Then, This is Now
This is my newest little phrase from therapy that I am thinking about a lot.

In CJ I had accepted a lot of things as being “the way things are.”

I will digress and tell of today’s activity and thoughts as an illustration.

I went to church again today. It was disappointing.

I think that most churches are just a gathering of people, and those people try to live and work together in a way that follows the teachings of Jesus. If I were to commit to going regularly to one, I am sure I would get to know the people, find friends among them, and join in with the activities. Even though I reason logically about this, my heart cannot settle on picking one. The only thing “wrong” with today’s church was that it was dastardly cold. It’s a big old church with very high ceilings. Really beautiful, but not heated in any way that I could feel. No one took their coats off, and they have warm afghans across the back pew you can pick up to snuggle in for the service. That in itself would be enough to put me off. I suffered really freezing weather outside when I was in CJ’s Band – so much so that I don’t ever want to be cold again.

The cold aside, I ask myself why it is that I have this ongoing conflict. Why do I think I want to go to church, and yet no church I go to feels “right”? I have to question my desire to go to church. What is it that I am looking for – or from a different angle – what is driving me?

When I ask these questions, the answers are ones that are hard for me to admit to. The truth is that I don’t know where I stand with the Christian faith. Saying that conjures up the image and feelings from CJ. Anyone who left was talked about as having left their faith. They had left God and turned their back on the faith. So I have left, and I want to prove to myself that I have not turned my back on God. The only context for that, which I know of from experience, is to go to church, to be part of a Christian group. And yet that is not working for me.

Part of me feels I should be free to explore my own spirituality without the Christian framework. Another part of me feels guilty about that, and scared. Do I dare to be free of Christianity? Do I dare to admit that I don’t know what I am? The teachings of Jesus are good. But the church that has grown up around his teachings bothers me. At least the one I lived in does. I don’t know enough yet about the rest of Christianity to have a solid opinion. I have a lot of learning still to do. I am on the path. My first class in Intro to Theology was awesome and I have a list of books to read. But I digress…

If I don’t go to church, can I still be a Christian? Ah ha – there you have it. That is the crux of the matter. If I don’t go to church, can I still be a Christian? The obvious answer is yes, of course I can. Anyone who follows Jesus is a Christian. That is my logical brain. The deeper grooves of the conditioning from CJ say that I cannot be a Christian unless I am part of a church, and I am only a lukewarm one if I am in any place other than The Community of Jesus, Inc., Orleans, MA.

That was Then, This is Now. When I was a part of CJ, I believed as they do, I thought as they do, I acted as they do, and I judged other people as they do. Now that I am grown up and on my own, away from the destructive Totalism of CJ, I can find my true self and act accordingly. I can put away the practices of the cult, and find a different way. That was Then, This is now, and my Now is for me to discover.

Hallelujah and Merry Christmas!

I’m Back

I know we are not supposed to apologize for an absence from writing, so I will try not to do that. I do feel a simple explanation is due to my friends and readers, however, out of common courtesy.

I grew tired of talking constantly about the pain, the agony that I had experienced at The Community of Jesus. I needed a break from it. I have had that break, and have spent some time thinking about what direction to take next. I have decided to be eclectic, to let the topics flow as they will. I imagine some will be positive and grateful, some will be angry and seeking justice, some will be what I am learning at College, and who knows whatever else. I feel a freedom to bounce around everywhere.

In the time I have been silent on this blog I have taken a course on the Psychology of Trauma. It triggered some reactions in me, but I have been able to cope with them, and have learned a great deal. I have also taken a course on Introduction to Theology, which has been a wonderful exciting discovery.

We are in Advent. I am strongly against the commercialization of this religious holiday for many reasons. The birth of Christ, and celebrating that birth, has nothing to do with spending money. What is gift giving all about, anyway? Well, his birth was a gift to us because his life, in word and deed, gives us some of the most beautiful and life-giving examples of life that are to be found. That is worth celebrating. And in the spirit of being grateful for that gift, yes, we can give to others.

Which means more? To go to a store, buy some material item (probably on sale) out of a sense of duty? Or to think about one (maybe small) item that a loved one or friend actually has shown a need for. Maybe a blouse to go with a sweater they love, but don’t have the money right now to buy. That shows that you heard their comment, and care about them, wanting to provide something that will make them happy, but more, to show they are appreciated. What is love anyway? Caring, noticing, listening, and taking action prompted by what you have heard. My gift giving this year will be thoughtful, small, and based on actual comments I have heard my people make.

As I sit here musing, it occurs to me that justice is being played out, and that no harm is done. Long before Christ, people celebrated the winter solstice. The evergreen tree was a symbol of everlasting life, and light to dispel the darkness are symbols in a wide variety of faiths. Christians have no monopoly on these. Christians took existing celebrations and “Christianized” them. No harm in that. Sounds like a good idea to me. The reverse is also true. December is not Christian month. Entrepreneurs have exploited every opportunity for making money that they can for centuries. It is up to us, the consumers, to pick and choose, and to use our critical thinking. They can only sell what we buy.

What about decorating? In the 4 years since I left, I have not done much with Christmas. I was hurting too much. It all seemed so fake. I didn’t want to operate on auto-pilot, and I didn’t know what I believed, felt, or wanted. This year for the first time I am enjoying some of the decorations. For instance, take the lights that some homes put up. To me, it is not really about Christmas, unless of course there is a crèche scene there. But it is beautiful nonetheless. I look forward to taking my grand-daughter to see some of them. It is a wonder, and lights in the night, colorful, bright, pretty, are awesome especially to a young child. I have fond memories of my childhood surrounding light displays. Does it tell me of the message of the Gospel (good news)? Not directly. I can read my own message into the lights – light in the darkness, joy when all seems black and cold, etc. I do that. But I now realize I can enjoy the lights as a Winter message. It doesn’t have to be strictly Christian. Who said December had to be strictly Christian? Anyone can celebrate light in the darkness.

I have my little fake tree up and am putting the ornaments on it. It makes me happy to do so. Beauty can be celebrated at all times. The star announces Christ’s birth. The tree is a symbol of everlasting life, which we are promised. (There’s another whole blog in that statement about the psychology of belief in life after death.) The lights remind me to look for the sparkle in the midst of worries, troubles, questionings; all the stuff of life that can feel unhappy or stressful.

I was well trained to not celebrate Christmas until the night before. Advent was Advent. Christmas lasted until Epiphany. I remember feeling so out of step with the rest of the world, especially since we left our tree up so much longer than others did. We weren’t allowed to open any presents on Christmas Day. At first we couldn’t on Christmas Eve, either. Then we got permission to let the kids open their stockings on Christmas Eve, and then we gave one present to each person on the Eve. But Christmas Day stayed a strictly religious observance, with lots of church and a big communal meal. I’m glad those restrictions are out of my life now. But I also am aware of the need to sift through and retain what was good from my former life. I do think it is good to remember the ‘reason for the season’ and not get carried away with possessions. It’s an ongoing journey of learning, and I am so happy to be on the journey.

May the season hold many blessings for you, whatever your frame of reference.