All people seek to create meaning in their lives. It’s unavoidable and an integral part of being self-aware. Sometimes I feel like seeking for meaning in my life is like looking into two mirrors that are positioned to reflect each other, and your image is repeated indefinitely. There seems to be no end and no final solution or explanation. I think I have to accept and come to peace with the flexibility and unknowingness of a lot of life’s questions.
Having gone through the shock of betrayal and dislocation, i.e., realizing the cult was not the wonderful Christian group I thought it was, and suddenly being on my own with no planning or financial resources, I’m now at a point where I am re-claiming the good from those “lost years.”
I don’t know if other survivors have experienced this, but in the deep pain I have felt I have been afraid that others would not understand or not believe me, or try to minimize my experience. When I was told how well I was doing, it felt like a threat. “You mean I’m OK? Does that mean what was done to me wasn’t that bad?” Why I would see praise as indicating a lesser experience, instead of a greater healing, I’m not sure. That’s a topic for further exploration.
In this place of reclamation, I am looking for the parts of those 40 years that were my own, or that were good, without negating the horrible de-humanization I went through. The good from the past, and the healing of the present, are in spite of the wrong, not because the wrong was not there. That is a significant difference I need to remember.
In reading ICSA Today, Vol. 5, No. 2, I was struck by the article written by Greg Jemset. He says “Reauthoring is the process of a person looking back at neglected story lines in his life with an open mind, articulating them to a nonmanipulative audience, and rediscovering themes, values, and preferences for living that he may have disregarded previously.”
I get excited at the prospect of rediscovering my story lines that were neglected while at CJ. For instance, my love of children was torn from me in my own family, when my children were young. Many years later I was asked to be godmother to a new child, born to SGA’s at CJ. I was thrilled, and this child and I bonded. I became like his grandmother. I babysat him and took him to church. Our love grew and I looked forward to teaching him about the love of God as he grew. This love was noticed by the leadership and, as always, was interpreted as “family idolatry”. They came down swift and hard on me. They accused me of sinful attitudes and actions towards one of his parents (which was ludicrously false) and of an unhealthy attachment for the child. They forbade me to visit or babysit, and limited my contact to a weekly group kids’ lunch at the Convent with him. Not only could I not speak to the parent, I was not even to look at him/her. No explanation was to be given to the parent.
This was outrageously cruel and totally out of context. If there was a “fly” of sin in our relationship, this was killing it with a Mack Truck.
The one good thing about this extremism was that it broke my heart so completely and was such a repeat of what they had done years before with me and my own children that I sunk into a depression that was instrumental in bringing me to my senses and to leaving. This was a wrong that even I knew was wrong and could not excuse for some “higher good.” The outrageousness of it all gave me the courage to argue back against the blatantly false accusations.
Well – I think I wandered off topic a bit, but this is a story that has not been told yet. All the gory details will be in my book, and perhaps future blogs.