Wednesday, April 16, 2014

This is the Part.

Dear Heart,

I know you've been at your wit's end as of late. Things have not gone where you expected them to, you've been frustrated, you've wondered why it is that every time you think you're getting somewhere, another obstacle pops up in the way. Two steps forward, ten back - that's been the theme for far too long now, or so it feels.

You think wasn't it supposed to all be better by now? You think you've tried hard for long enough and that it would be really nice for the universe to drop a life into your lap, neatly wrapped in brightly-colored paper, bow and all. Because you're tired, because it's been a long winding road, because your heart sometimes feels like a massive black hole in the center of your being and you think it might start to swallow you whole if you don't get a shot of happy straight to the beating middle of it all.

It is hard, I know. It's been hard for a while. But I think you've been forgetting something, or trying to forget it, because it's a rather inconvenient thing to remember all the time and honestly, it's easier to let these things recede to the back of your mind when things are making you tired and sad and you'd rather just sleep.

This is just the beginning of your story.

This is the time before it gets good.

This is the getting to the good, the part where you slowly began to stand up, stretch, look around you, and marvel at the world.

Isn't it big? Isn't it bright? Isn't it wonderful?

Do you think that sometimes, you maybe miss the point about what you're doing here? I think maybe you do. Getting out doesn't happen in one day, one phone call, as much as you thought that perhaps it did. It didn't happen in the years you spent toiling through school, multiple jobs, bills on your own, living situations that didn't work out, the insomnia, the night terrors, the sobbing into a pillow case behind two locked doors praying your roommates didn't hear. Life isn't neat and you don't get to phase quickly from one point to the other. It's a long, winding, messy journey, full of fits and starts and false endings. Life is full of shit sometimes, and it's all interconnected in one massive yarn ball of connections and turn-arounds and there's a time when you get rest and there's a time when you work your ass off and they can come six hours apart.

The point of you being here, right here, on the grass-colored floorboards of this house's back porch, here on the tiled floor of the back room of your work, here on the rug in front of the fire at your best friend's mother's house, hererighthere? The point is not that you're supposed to be okay, or happy all the time, or opening up a basket of life abundantly that's been neatly wrapped and presented to you.

This is the time when your character has been built, your walls have been scaled, and you have left into a new life and a new land. This is the time in the after but still the not yet, the in-between, the beginning of the rest of it all. This is the time when you're learning to live again, not just get through the day, not just slide by, but to truly live. 

This is the part where you open up and unfold your arms from around your middle and begin to dance again. Tentatively, one foot in the water and the other out, a bizarre version of the childhood ditty you once knew so well. This is the part where you let your hands fly out and encompass the sky just because that sunrise is so damn beautiful, and there will never be another one like it, and you made it to this point alive, and it's a good day to breathe the scents of spring.

And you don't care who sees, because they were not there to see you screaming silence into the dark. They cannot chart the lines between here, now, and there, then, and be proud like you are.

Those who do not know how far you have come can either learn, or stand aside. You are free to be in and of yourself, and it does not matter what they say. You cannot be brought down by it, and isn't that the best thing? Isn't it wonderful?

Isn't it bright, here in this part?

You will still spend some days in bed, swallowing the pills dutifully each day. It will still hurt to breathe sometimes, not all the time, though, and isn't that good? Isn't that wonderful, that in the times when it hurts and you feel like each inhale is a stab to the heart, you can remember that perhaps tomorrow, or the next day or the next, you will wake up again and feel less numb and more whole and this will have been a passing moment?

You will remember this one day, with a sentimentality that only distance can lend. I know it isn't fun in the thick of the bills you cannot pay, the screeching of your car engine that you cannot afford to fix, the almost daily questioning of your purpose and path, and the painful work of figuring out who you are and where you are headed and what you think and feel and what to do about it. It isn't anything you'd wish on anyone, that's for sure. But these days will not be like the ones that came before, the ones that distance cannot do anything but dull the pain of. And isn't that something? Isn't that something good?

I know it hurts still. I know there was that one night you drove home in tears, blurry streetlights telling you this wasn't the best idea. You sat in the driveway and sobs shook your car, and you begged God to please, please, please make this hurt stop and stop quick. You were honest, not for the first or last time, when you said that if it didn't stop you were afraid the sadness inside would become a black hole that would eat you alive. The glow from the lamp along the road touched your head, colored your hair orange, danced shadows across the windshield.

I think my point is this: now, here, this happens less and less. You breathe freely more and more. Every day that you woke up then was another chance to fight the battle to survive; every day that you wake up now is another chance to be happy.

You've been wondering where you're at, and I'm here to tell you: this is the part where you learn to live again.

Congratulations.

Don't waste it.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Music & Surgery.

Hi there. This is a story with three parts. 

Part 1: I'm raising money to cover the cost of a much-needed surgery. Luckily, I have insurance, but my out-of-pocket costs are still high and are required up front. 

Part 2: I recently released my first EP of original music out into the great wide internet. You can listen to it here. It's a project that took half a year and it carries so much of my heart in it. Generally, it gets sold for $7. 

Part 3 (here's where it all comes together): I hesistated to do another fundraising campaign becuase I didn't want to be that person who is always asking the internet for money. But a friend suggested involvement of my EP, and that sparked a little lightbulb for me. I would love to give you this music that I made. I would also love to be able to pay off the cost of getting an organ that has caused me pain for months removed. Maybe both of these things could work together. 

So here's what I'm asking. Donate $5, or however much you want, and get my EP entitled "I Found You." You can get some delicious tunes for your ears, and I can get some delicious surgery for my insides. Sound like a plan?

Please head over to this page to donate and receive your download link. You'll have to enter your email when you donate in order to receive said link. 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

A Recap

I walk to my car, tired through and through after what feels like the longest work day of my life. I have to summon the energy required to shift the clutch in and make the five mile drive home. All I can think of is achieving food, bed, and unconsciousness, in that order.

And then I see the mountain ranges in my rearview mirror as I'm shifting lanes on this tiny freeway. 

I have to tear my eyes away, back to the road in front of me, and they're a little bit filled with liquid.

I get small flashes of wonder that I've actually made it through, sometimes. I get bright bursts of hope and gratitude and holy shit I did it and crying after birthday parties because this new life is so much better than all the lives I've ever hoped for. 

But if this is a fairy tale and I have left my high high tower, I have yet to make it to the golden fields I was promised so long ago. I am still in the journey, and there are unmarked roads, burned bridges. Here be monsters, still.

****

I start to notice that gradually, I've had less and less energy. Maybe since the start of the year, really. I find myself not getting much accomplished outside of going to work and going to bed. Before, that's all I could've wanted - successfully being able to go to and from work and be a functioning adult was my dream, because it eluded me so often. And because I used to not be able to do even that, it's perhaps taken me longer to notice that just doing that isn't good enough for me anymore. 

I want to have more energy, more life, more happy bursting from my throat. I want to have time in the day to clean my room and go to the gym and visit a friend. I want the idea of hanging out with someone to not be so draining that I have to cancel at the last minute. 

I begin to wonder if this is depression's middle ground, if I am not so bad I want to die but not so good that I am able to fully live free. I start to contemplate asking my doctor to up my meds, because maybe since I've been on the same dose for so long the effectiveness has worn down a bit. I wonder if the people who think it's okay that I'm on antidepressants would still think it's okay if I start taking a higher dosage. 

I wish there was a way to tell them that this isn't a new thing, this isn't a sort of post-leaving-trauma, this is something I have been feeling since I was five and eight and thirteen years old. I can remember seasons and swells of depression fogging up on the entire timeline of my life. I used to crawl into cupboards and sit in the dark, above the clamor of the busy house, and breathe slowly. I would stay there for hours (eight). I used to cry and not know how to stop crying, and be terrified because I knew that there wasn't a reason for me to spend an entire afternoon with hiccuping sobs. I was young but I knew by then that you didn't cry for that long unless you had a reason to, and I was scared because I didn't (five). I spent months in a fog, unable to tell anyone and unable to get my head above water. I slept too much and ate too little and couldn't stop myself from drowning every single day (thirteen). 

I am not as bad as I once was, thank god and medicine and therapy and people who care. 

But neither am I where I want to be. I have no illusions of depression being something that can be "cured." I know I will deal with it always and forever. I do maintain a hope, though, that despite this being an ever-present gray, I will find a time where I can do day-to-day a little bit better and live a little bit fuller, happier. 

****

The pain first started about six months ago, leaving me shaking on my bathroom floor, examining the grout between the yellowed tiles in futile efforts to maintain composure. I finally cave and call my best friend, who talks me down and instructs me to go find hot water and drink tea and stay still til the pain leaves. 

It happened in fits and spurts since then, but never as intense as that first time. I chalk it up to an extreme bout of lactose intolerance and cut down on my dairy intake, which seems to curb the worst of it. But I still spend quite a few nights canceling plans due to stomach pain that I can't explain. 

It finally starts to become almost constant, and always unbearable. I miss days of work, which never happens (I have worked sick before rather than call out, which causes me to think this really is severe), and end up in urgent care all day on a Friday. 

Weeks of tests and unpleasant liquids and scans and x-rays reveal that I've got a gallstone the size of a quarter, and the diagnosis is surgery. I am relieved to have an end in sight, and doubly relieved to have generous strangers from this network of care I've stumbled into on the internet send me money to help cover the costs of taking time off work for recovery. My best friend tells me she'll take the time off work and have me at her house while I get better, which makes me cry some more. 

It's still surgery, though, and it's still working through more weeks of pain and exhaustion to get there. 

It's still medical bills and things I wasn't planning on. It's just proof that this year really isn't turning out how I'd expected. 

****

In an effort to challenge myself and get outside of my "comfort zone" (read: bed and books and no pants and no people), I've joined one of the myriad of online dating sites. I'm trying to learn how to date and how to relate to men and all this other stuff I've never had the opportunity to try and figure out. I am thus far finding it to be a highly overrated and underrated experience simultaneously. Crushes are amazing and being weak at the knees is a rare and multi-faceted feeling, but there is also the awkwardness of conversations in hipster coffee locations with a boy who's literally too scared of your intimidating womanly presence to even try to maintain eye contact with you.

There's also that thing of where you realize dating isn't serious until BAM it is, and you're left trying to figure out how the hell you're expected to be ready to fall in love and live life that way. 

It is an ugly and unbearable truth that I am completely and totally afraid of commitment, of trust, of letting someone hold my hand or my heart. I am not scared of rejection or the weirdness of getting asked out on a date by a proud satanist (this is a real story), but I am scared of what might happen if I meet someone I like enough to open up to and then that is met with woe and pain. In a strange way, I'm fighting against all the things I think about relationships by continuing to make myself available for one. It'd be a lot easier to give up, and I think about it a lot. There's nothing wrong with listening to yourself and knowing it's not for you right now, but I think this is less that and more the big OTHER. 

The other being learning how to view myself like I am worthwhile, like spending time with me is a good choice, like someone doesn't have to be crazy deranged to want to hold my hand. It's me trying to smash all the things that told me I wasn't good enough and it's me putting on an awareness of GOOD ENOUGH as a banner and marching outside to meet boys who then cannot meet me in the eye. It's me despairing of forgetting about the boy I wanted to fall in love with and it's me declaring that I am worth pursuing. 

Or, like my friend Emily said, dating: it's like 90% awkward conversations and 10% making out. 

****

This has been a mishmash recap of my first few months of the year. I'm sure I'll see you on the other side of surgery, and oh yes also, if you're one of the ones who have donated towards that cost, thankyouthankyouthankyou. Stay tuned for more weird boy times, depression talks, and waiting room selfies. 


Thursday, February 20, 2014

I Found You (an EP release)




I Found You is something I've been working on since last summer, or, perhaps, for much longer. These songs were written during formative periods of my life, in moments of weakness and strength. This isn't anywhere close to professional quality - I'm literally a girl recording noises in her room. But I hope you like it anyway and I hope it speaks to you just a little bit.

It will be available to purchase on iTunes within the next few weeks, and I'll be updating with links when that's live.

Until then, you can purchase the EP from my Bandcamp profile.  It's more unwieldy than iTunes, so I'm working on getting that up asap.

Thanks for taking the time to listen, and for supporting me on my journey.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

What It's Like.

Possible trigger warning: abuse.

A thing you might not know about me is that I wasn't allowed to go to college. No, I didn't come of age during the earlier portion of this century. I graduated high school in 2009, but I was only seventeen when the first semester of what should have been my freshman year came and went. The details are too complex and too saddening to get into, but I was effectively prevented from using every avenue available to me to get to college. 

I wasn't allowed to go to high school, either. I was thirteen and at home, the primary caregiver for a younger sibling, being told that if I went to school he'd have to go to daycare and what kind of godly sister would that make me? The first semester of that freshman year came and went, too. I homeschooled myself, alone with a four year old, at home, on the computer - and failed almost all of my courses. 

All my life, people have been trying to cage me and shape me into something I wasn't, something I have never been. All my life, there have been people trying to control and contain me, smothering and break me. There have been people who have beaten me physically, people who have assaulted me with words most can't even imagine, people who have used threats and intimidation as a way to force my compliance and silence. 

These people have been, overwhelmingly, 99.9% of the time, men. 


****

Unacceptable. Worthless. Out of line. Rebellious. Too much, too loud, too needy, too little, too big, too brash, too opinionated, too sharp, too strong-willed. Disobedient. Disrespectful. Disgraceful. Worthless. Owned. 

Owned. 

Owned. 

These were the words I grew up under, their crushing weight battering at me every time I told myself I could believe in something more. Stupid and sinful and fat and worthless and owned. My father repeatedly, in that semester that I could not be in college, told me these things. A litany, over and over and over, beaten into my head and my skin and the fabric of my being until I believed it, until I screamed in agony when no one else was home because I remembered what it had felt like once to believe I was worth something, and I did not know what I had done to change that. 

I was useless, a waste of space and food and energy. I was hopeless, a lost cause. I was worth nothing. And he owned me. 

Maybe that's why, all these years later, I still begin shaking in anger when I read the words of some anonymous internet stranger telling his "future wife" that she's like a car. A thing to be driven, to be possessed, to be controlled. Maybe that's why I get so undeniably pissed off when I read this person's smug assertion that they are already owed things by their future spouse - simply because she will be a woman, and he's a man, and we owe them things, don't you know. 

We owe them our life and our laughter and our children and our beds and our censored thoughts and our carefully cultivated actions, stuttering around theirs so as not to be too much or too loud or too big and uncontainable. We owe them our piety and our bodies, our every article of clothing that we put on carefully tailored to their gaze. 

Be appealing, but not too appealing. Cover up in the way that they'd want you to but don't be a prude. They can go to bars, but you can't. You can go to church and prepare your womanly brain for a life of submission to a man's will. You can go to church and hold your lily white hands high in the air and pray that God, whatever god there may be, will save you from the horrible fate of a man who controls your life like your father does. You can pray to whatever gods that hear you to be saved from your miserable existence. 

You can pray and they will answer - the men, that is, they'll answer you - you are owned, and this I know, for the Bible tells me so. 

You can curse God for the crime of putting you in the wrong body. No, no, you accept your gender and have never felt shame about being a woman - except for when you do, because every part of who you are, the things you like best about yourself, would've been better in a man. Your humor and your passion and your intellect and sharp wit, those things would've served you well with just a subtle shift of chromosomes. 

But you were born a woman, born Becca. You were born in a body with large hips and damnable breasts and every single cultural convention that fundamentalist religion wants to place on those is the price you pay for your existence. You go to church and you bow your head and you don't tell anyone that sometimes at night your dad beats your brother because what would be the point, anyway? 

You are silent, you are submissive, you are a raging wind trapped in an airless chest. And you are dying every single day that you're forced to live like this. 

****

When I tell people I am a feminist, there is often a pinched look about their faces as they ask, "But..not a man-hater, right? Not a feminazi, right?" They want me to laugh and tell them that I'm not one of those kinds of feminists, the ones that are extreme and brazen and make you feel guilty. 

I smile and I say I am a nice feminist. I say, "Feminism is the radical belief that women are people too." I tell them not to worry, I'm not strident. I downplay their fears and soon, I become the token feminist at the party, the one people might ask an expert opinion of or say something incendiary to, as a joke, of course. Poke the angry feminist and watch her growl. Tell her she'll never get a man that way, then maybe joke about how since she's a feminist, she probably doesn't like boys at all.

I remember my first kiss. I remember the taste and the buzz and the tingle I felt all the way through my chest. I remember feeling scared but safe and I remember feeling wanted. I remember thinking, this, this is the best feeling in the world. Right now, this moment. I remember, too, the way that boy broke my heart, and the way I laughed it off through tears, saying, "I've been through worse before."

I've been through worse, before. 

****

I think I was maybe twelve the first time I told my mother I didn't want children; sixteen when I ranted to her in the car about the indignities of child birth and rearing, the submissiveness that I never could seem to master, the travesty of the birth canal and the unfairness of the teachings that birth control was a sin. She laughed and laughed, and I kept going, desperate to be heard, but she just laughed.

"Oh, Becca. You're so funny. It'll be different, you'll see. You'll change."

In the first semester that I went to high school, half-way through that freshman year, I remember the way that my father would avoid looking my direction. The way his head would turn when I walked out the door to walk the mile to catch the bus out of our rural area, the almost two-hour ride to the nearest public high school. 

That was the beginning of him not looking at me. It was like if he couldn't see me, couldn't see what I was, then he wouldn't have to admit what I was becoming. We wouldn't have to talk about the fire inside me that refused to die, the voice that whispered that I could do this, I could make it. He didn't look at me, and I avoided him, and for the most part, as long as I was good enough at scurrying around corners when he was there, that worked just fine. 

In the lost semester at the beginning of what should have been my college years, he started seeing me again. He looked at me to find fault and flaw, expose my character failings and the crevices of my selfish heart. He cracked me open under his gaze and though he seldom touched my flesh, when I left after six months of living life under his examination, I was bruised through and through. 

The only times my father really looked at me were the times when he was determined to reshape me, to make me something more pliable, to form my being into what he wanted of it. 

But I believe that the reason he stopped looking at me, long before that, was that when he did, when he saw me, he saw the fire in my heart and the iron in my bones, this thing that wasn't what he'd expected when he'd had a little girl; and he was afraid. 

It's funny, fear. It'll make you try and break something. 

****

I have often been told it is a wonder that I still believe in men at all. I rather think the opposite. Why would I not? I have three brothers whom I love dearly. I know their hearts and I know they are good. I have friends who are men earnestly seeking to build themselves into good human beings. There are many men in my life now and in my life before and I see them and know that we are all just humans trying to make our peace in this contentious earth. I see men in stories and books and in my best friend's family and I know that the majority of them, the widest swell of the gender, are good or trying to be. 

I am not a feminist because I think men are monsters. 

I am a feminist because I have seen how crippled men become when they believe they must be the best, the highest form of God's green creation. I have watched gender norms cripple and shame men alongside of women. I am a feminist because I believe in the goodness of the species, of men and women alike, and that for us to succeed, we must do it together or not at all. 

I am a feminist because no woman should ever be told she is owned. I am a feminist because I believed that about myself for too long, and I refuse to be told I should do so again. 

I am a feminist because I am so tired. Tired of men's expectations. Tired of being told my friendship is just a consolation prize and that it has been found wanting. Tired of being lied to in efforts to manipulate because they want more from me than I am willing to give. I'm tired of protecting myself against all comers, tired of men who just want and want and take and take and use but never care. I am tired of men playing the devil's advocate, as an interesting exercise for themselves, when I am sitting here beating my hands against the walls yelling but this is my life. This is my everyday life. I am tired of being treated like an interesting debate topic, tired of being told it's not okay to call a spade a spade and a sexist a sexist. I am tired of all the men who've ever used me or tried to and tired of being told I cannot use the term misogyny because that's just too hurtful. 



I am a feminist because for the majority of my life, a man has had absolute control over my hair, my clothing, my reading material, my schooling, my entertainment choices, my worldview, my food, my appearance, what goes into my brain and what comes out of it. I do not know if I can properly convey to you the level of stifling control I lived under. Picture a box, locked, pinholes allowing in just enough air and light to survive. Picture emerging from it after eighteen years with limbs too atrophied to walk. 

I am a feminist because I have a wild and untamed heart that had led me here. 

I am a feminist because this is what it's like, being a woman. And that has to change. 

****

These days, I have a college degree. It's one I earned fighting, and with a lot of help from unexpected persons and places. I provide for myself and no one calls me worthless anymore. I created a safe haven for my soul to rest in, and every night when I go to sleep I curl up in my bed, comforted by the fact that I am safe and there will be no one pounding on my door in the morning to hurt me. 

These days, I don't often speak of my parents. I haven't communicated with my father in well over two years. I don't know if he thinks of me at all, but if he does, I hope it is with the knowledge that I would not allow myself to be harmed at his hands, that he never did break me, that I am free of him and happier for it, and I hope that knowledge cripples him. 

Oh yes, I am an angry feminist. I am angry because I have the right to be. Go on and search my past, live my history, and then come back to face me and tell me that I do not have the right. 

But know that when I curl up safe in my very own bed, in my very own space, where no one but myself tells me when to sleep and when to rise and how to speak or dress or act - know that before I go to sleep, I pray for my father. I pray for the men who have used me and hurt me and done me wrong. I pray for their forgiveness and their absolution and that one day, they might be changed. 

And I pray that they never get the chance to hurt another little girl like they did me. 

****

I am fire and I rage bright. I am a wind that cannot be contained. I go where I please and I go where I will. You cannot unmake me. 

Trust me. They've tried. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Bracing for Impact.

"Becks, you have to let yourself go limp." That letter, from one of my oldest, dearest friends, sits on my nightstand. It was sent in December and the creases are already worn soft from how many times I have reread it and folded it back up, placing it next to my sleeping head like a talisman, a harbinger of change. Sarah had been in a car accident and seen it coming, and braced herself for the impact. She, also a writer, made this story into a metaphor about how the only way to survive the crash is to go limp and let the impact take you where it will.

I didn't know what I was doing when I moved eight months ago. God, has it been eight months? I think it has. I didn't know what I was doing, where I was going, other than something else and away. 

I have found myself wading through the water and squinting at the horizon, wondering where I've come from and where it all goes from here. Does the river run south or is that the current whispering at my legs? Is the call of the wind and the waves that drives me, or is it my own fear and inhibition? Am I little girl lost or little girl found or little girl finding herself?

So I have been resting, and waiting, and recharging, and wondering. Wondering, wondering, wondering. Where is God, where am I in orbit around Them, am I leaving my faith or finding it? I think it was maybe another writing friend who wrote the phrase "You can leave fundamentalism, but it doesn't leave you." I've been sifting through the pieces of my past that I carry with me and the work is hard, hard, hard. It would be so much easier to throw everything I've ever learned out the window and decide that God is a thing that is for other people.

But then I remember that when I am in the most distress and crying on my best friend's mother's couch, the thing I want the most is for someone to pray over me. When I have been lying in bed so distraught that I wanted to die, I have called a friend and cried please, please pray for me. All the altar calls of my youth have since felt false, but the feeling of safety and care that envelops me in these moments shows me what it is I still love.

And what is it that I still love?

****

"You don't like the word Christian, do you?" My best friend's mother asks me, no judgement in her eyes. She is one, a giant-hearted woman of faith, but she asks and does not implicate me in the asking.

"No, I hate it," I laugh. "I mean, I know I basically am one. But I hate that word."

I stumble through a long story of my baptism a year and a half ago. I'd been baptized around twelve, but it was at my mother's insistence and my father is the one who dunked me under. I wanted to shed that symbolism, reject the notion that my faith was a holdover of their indoctrination and scrutiny. So I was baptized in a pond, with friends and college students cheering, and my head didn't get under all the way but I think it still counts.

I think everything I've been doing since then is just the same - trying to reject the phantoms of my parent's faith and all the horrors I saw at its hands, and trying to find my own. I just didn't have the frame of reference to see it that way, but now I do.

I can't go to an evangelical church without a panic attack. I can't listen to a traditional sermon without flashbacks to the hatred spewing from a pastor's mouth, the violence of words and ideologies that blanketed my upbringing. I have not opened a Bible voluntarily in over two years. Rather than calling myself a Christian, I say I am almost anything else.

But when I walk out to my back porch at night, feeling lost in the swirl of the stars, the thing I talk to and look to is a thing that is bigger than myself. I don't feel God in sermons or speeches or bible studies. I feel God in the stark contrast of the trees against the night, the secrets the wind coos into the tangles of my hair, the laughter and tears combined into one as I tell the things I need to tell to someone who believes in that God, too.

The thing that I love is the thing that I have always loved. I see that now. It just looks different. Maybe it will grow stranger still.

****

This story is about me. This story is about how I found the courage to call it was it was, the strength to leave, the determination to stay gone, and the fortress of belief in myself to create a better life.

This story is about God, about Them, about a holy and divine presence that I still feel in my life. This story is about trust and hope and renewal in the belief that I am loved by a thing larger than myself.

This story is about the community and the expectations and the reason why I can't reject the process and purpose of church completely - because while church that taught me I was worthless, the Church, the body of believers in all shapes and sizes and dogmas, told me my story was worth listening to, taught me I was strong and beautiful and smart and that I was a woman of valor. The Church, not from a building, but from a network of people who care, gave me $1300 last week when I needed it. The Church has sheltered me, cared for me, fed me, believed in me, provided for me. The Church has loved me and listened to me cry and held me when my heart was broken beyond repair. The Church has reflected the love of this God I believe in, and it still does.

This story is about my desperate and constant fear that I will turn into my parents, that I will become my mother, that I will let someone hurt me like my father did. This is about the moment when someone asks me why I've been struggling with something so much and I cry through hot tears "It's because of my parents." It's about the quiet acknowledgment that I have been abused, and I cannot abuse my own heart any further.

This story is about sorting through the massive clusterfuck that was my upbringing and the journey I have taken to get here. It's rejecting notions that are harmful while realizing that for me, for my own heart, those notions still carry a kernel of truth.

And this story is, of course, also about a boy.

****

I told my friends that 2014 would be the year that Becca Dates Boys. I wanted to enjoy life and be happy and endure the awkward conversations over pancakes and hold hands and maybe kiss in the park. I've been denied so much in my life, and this is one of those things. I wanted to feel what it was like to be a human being on planet Earth, to be rooted in the laughs and terrible date stories and the nice ones too.

This is a very difficult resolution to make for someone who was brought up in the Purity Culture Conditions All The Things way of life. It was wrong to express interest in boys, it was wrong to date casually, it was wrong to want a boyfriend, it was wrong to have sex, it was wrong to kiss someone, it was all wrong, wrong, wrong. And I decided that I needed to figure out what, for me, was actually wrong, and what would be oh so right.

In the first month of my resolution, four boys expressed interest in me (which is less than in the last two years combined, which goes to show what putting positive vibes out into the universe can do for you). I laughed at one, engaged another but decided it wasn't for me, and flat-out ignored another.

But then I met a boy who I liked very much, from our first interaction. Better still, he liked me. We talked and talked and talked some more. At a certain point I realized that oh, this would not be the casual, awkward date story. If I start seeing this boy, I'm going to fall in love with this boy. And he's going to fall in love with me. And we'll have a story, a Story, capital emphasis intended, and it will be delightful and he will make me so so happy.

But then I discovered there was something I hadn't known before, something about myself and my heart. The way I like or love is everything or not at all, all the things or none of them, the best or the worst. I am passionate in a reserved way, and there is no in-between. And while I'd been neglecting the process for so long, I'd forgotten that it was okay to listen to what I needed and what I believed and what the whispers of the Something Bigger said to me.

The story is about crying for an entire twenty-four hours, desperate and confused, wanting everything but only able to choose one or the other. The story is that I met a boy who was perfect in every way except this one, and it wasn't his fault, and he didn't understand. I cried on the phone trying to explain why, whyever why, this belief in Something Bigger was important enough to me that I could not be with this perfect boy. I knew it didn't make sense and I knew it was hurting us both, but I knew that if I fell in love with someone who I couldn't turn to in the darkest times and ask "pray for me?" that I would feel less in love with them than they deserved.

Believe me when I say he was perfect, and deserved better than that.

It is so hard to try and explain why, if I like you and think I could love you and you'd make me happy, I can't be with you.

It is so hard to recognize that these things do not make me one of those christian girls. They don't make me a perpetrator of Purity Culture TM. They just make me someone who listened to her heart and learned about herself.

I cried more in a day than I'd cried in six months, thinking of how I was hurting him, thinking of how I was keeping myself from what could be an amazing experience, feeling the tug of two different ideological sides at war inside me. It was, to say the least, an emotionally intense experience.

I broke it off. It hurt terribly.

****

So where, where does this leave me? I have this thing about how mistakes or experiences are only justifiable if I learned something, if there's a lesson packaged with a neat tidy bow to hold onto at the end of it. But while I learned, I still don't know the answers. I don't know what it looks like to be a person who goes on dates but knows her heart is the kind that leaps or doesn't. I don't know what I think about how hard it was for me to do this to someone I'd barely known. I have more questions than answers and more doubts than beliefs.

I do think, however, that perhaps the point of having gone through this is not that I had to learn a lesson. It's that I learned how to live, just a little bit more. I am active in living and all that entails, and that's the point of this. It is strangely relieving.

Will the knowledge that there is a perfect, perfect boy for me out there, one I decided I can't have, haunt me? Yes, probably it will. Will the sigh of relief that my heart let out when I decided this echo and remind me of who I know myself to be? Yes, I know it will.

Maybe this is the Year Becca Dates Boys. Maybe it's the year I learn about myself. Maybe it's the year I discover what I think God looks like. Maybe it's the year I just go limp and -

live.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Asking.

UPDATE: Within one day of this campaign going live, my goal was fully funded. Thanks to you, I'm on solid ground again. The gofundme has been deactivated but as always, the donate button on my site is live. 

Hi.

I am asking for help from you, readers. This was a hard decision for me, but I've seen such generosity and caring from strangers all across the internet in my life - and I decided that the shame of asking wasn't necessary any more.

You may have been around here for a while, following my story. You might know that leaving an abusive environment was the hardest thing I've ever done. But what I haven't talked about before is this - the monetary cost of leaving abuse. $1200 still haunts me to this day from costs incurred during that horrible time in my life. So I started a crowd-sourcing campaign, the first I've ever done, in order to try and ask for help. Help paying this debt off, help establishing myself in life, help moving forward as I create a new life and a new path for myself.

Any help from you would be so deeply appreciated.
(in case the widget doesn't load, here's the link: gofundme)