Message in a Bottle (part 4)

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It’s times like these that I doubt everything. It’s times when my husband is lying in bed asleep, the dog has his head under the bed (I have no idea why he does that but he does) asleep, and I am the last one awake.

It’s moments like these when I think – I have so much to be grateful for. I’ve come a long way. No, my life hasn’t been easy but then again, who’s life has been?

It’s nights like these after I’ve made dinner and we’ve watched a show on VUDU or Netflix that I find myself content to just be. Just being in the moment. And I find many moments like that. In the morning when I take Kaiser (or Stink depending on how long it’s been since I’ve bathed him) for our walk and I put my headphones in and listen to an old Fleetwood Mac album. Or when I’m doing yoga – which has been a wonderful outlet for me to center myself mentally, emotionally, and physically. Or when I am sitting down to add words to a page in one of my books.

And I think to myself, “Why not let things be?”

So often I’ve been told that I have to get over what happened. That I have to move on. And those words have come at the precise of the moment when I am not at my best as I am now. They’ve come when I’m so low I could do a snake a favor and scratch his belly for him. It’s in those moments when something comes across in social media, or I see something on television, or an old memory flares up in my mind and I beg the universe for deliverance to that land of ‘move on’. And I think to myself, I’ve lived with this stuff for so long – will there ever be a day I can say, “I’ve arrived.” I am fine, now, I’ve moved on.

I went years without knowing what was wrong with me. Yet I knew something was. In college, I was given a diagnosis of extreme ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). I scored off the charts even to the point where the health profession said that I may have Bipolar disorder. So I did what I thought I should have done and went to a psychiatrist with the diagnosis and got on medication. And while the pills worked. My concentration was such that I could hear a mosquito fart and be able to describe it to you – it kept me up for days on end.

ADHD medications aren’t supposed to do that.

But I didn’t know any better. I thought they were just supposed to help you concentrate. And another thing I wasn’t aware of was that the symptoms of ADHD look a heck of a lot like the symptoms of PTSD  (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). And even at that point I thought PTSD was a soldier’s illness from being in war. Well, I had deployed to the middle east for Operation Iraq Freedom but the unit I was with was in Kuwait. And that was an experience that was long, and hot, and I missed home, and yes it was a little intimidating – but nothing bad happened there. We were never involved in any firefights, no I.E.D’s went off, and even though we got there when Saddam was still bombing Kuwait (Sharq Mall got hit (If I remember correctly), it had been a couple of hours prior to us showing up.

So there was a part of me that was unable or unwilling to see what was in front of me. Or maybe there was a part of me unwilling or able to associate my PTSD with something that hit very close to my heart and was personal. My family. My life growing up. And the idea that a church or a doctrine of a church could be the culprit was something I was again unwilling or unable to put together.

Church is supposed to be a place you feel the safest. Our Family is supposed to be the place you feel the safest as well. And neither place was safe at all. Added on to the stress of living in a war zone like Detroit in the 1990’s, it’s a miracle I’m not a heroin addict. Or not permanently locked away in some psych ward somewhere (although I did do a stint in Detroit Receiving Psychiatric Ward an indigent care facility, at one point after I returned from the service, but that’s a story for another time). I can’t just put event after event on here, because like I mentioned in blogs before – I’m afraid there would be so many that no one would believe me.

For fifteen years of my life, the physical abuse starting at an early age, the slaps, punches, beatings with extension cords, belts, switches, watching my older sisters get hit and/ or kicked out of the house – things that I’d witnessed and was powerless to stop- at young ages went on like clockwork. Saturday nights before church were always hell on earth in our family. The explosions in tempers, the skanky inner workings of the church that thought it was appropriate for a sixteen-year-old girl to marry an almost thirty-year-old man, the lies, deceit, the cover-up of a rape, the usury of another sister to pay bills as she killed herself working whilst dealing with an eating disorder…all of that was inside of the house. Detroit would be and do other things.

All these things were ingested like poison to a child scared out of his mind waiting for what was going to happen next. And it was pure insanity. It was all based on a fucked up version of Christianity. It was all enforced with rhetorical flourish, emotional manipulation, spiritual manipulation, fear of the wrath of God to stay quiet, and physical violence.

And maybe its self-preservation in moments like this that tell me to stop. To let sleeping dogs lie. Or maybe it is cowardice or fear that says I could be stirring up a hornet’s nest. But I know the moment i see something that triggers a memory – I know I’ll wish I’d have started something like this. Started talking. Some kid will get killed, some young lady will have to apologize to the wife of her rapist for him taking advantage of her.

I know I am pussyfooting around the main event. The actual diving into the heart of what happened to me and my siblings. And I think that too is based in fear. Not fear of anything I may cause, but fear of all those emotions rushing to the surface and me descending into expletive-laden rants about what fuck shits, what cowards, the people involved were.

I don’t want to do that.

But what I have learned is my reaction to those things that happened is not unusual. As a matter of fact, as research is expanding in the field of psychology concerning what’s called Adverse Childhood Experiences (or Aces). I’ve come to realize just how much an impact what had happened had on me. Aces is a way for doctors to test how adverse experiences can effect a child over a lifetime.

(Watch Nadine Burke Harris give an approx. 16 min talk on the nature of ACES, here)

(Read up on Aces and take the quick test:  here)

So it’s the realization that even though this happened fifteen years ago it is still impacting me in a very serious way today – even physiologically. So I’ll take a moment, at fifteen minutes past the Witching Hour, to be grateful for some clarity and some peace.

Goodnight

I’ll write more when I can

 

 

Message in a Bottle (Part 3)

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My husband is my primary source of inspiration. His presence, his love, his patience with me, his dedication, his tenderness, his faithfulness, and his desire for me has pulled me out of the shaded gray area that I lived in all my life.

Also, his intelligence and wisdom satisfies my wandering and inquisitive mind.

When John and I first met, our fights concerning God were epic. I mean bad. I believed in a God of Wrath and Anger and John believed in a God of Love. We are both Christians, he was a Catholic (to fundi’s that isn’t a real Christian) and I was an escapee from Fundi Land still wrapped up in the hug-me jacket of that religion. Needless to say, he and I had very different religious experiences.

He’d been a monk at one point in his life and wanted to be a Jesuit Priest. But for circumstances pertaining to homophobia and an associate of his, he was shamed for his sexuality and he made the choice to leave. It was an experience that hurt him.

But looking back on both our lives it felt like something (god, the universe, the source) had put us on a collision course toward each other.

The differences in our faith came down to the intellectual foundations of those faiths. John’s Catholicism believed as St. Thomas Aquinas said,”..Mankind is a pile of snow. And every once in awhile the snow gets dirty. And every once in a while we need the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ to cover that snow.”

Essentially, their belief is that mankind is inherently good.

However, Martin Luther – the founder of Protestantism took Aquinas’ words and ideas and inverted them saying, “Mankind is a pile of shit. And the grace of the lord covers that shit to keep the stench out of God’s nostrils.”

Not only was he a foul-mouthed man, Luther was a notorious Anti-Semite who later penned a book called, “The Jews and their lies,” After the Jews rejected his new found faith.

According to Luther – mankind was inherently bad.

And that viewpoint is strengthened and promoted to the nth degree in Protestant Fundamentalism. And sometimes it’s taken to an extreme. Coupled with the King James Version of the Bible that was translated by a King with an authoritarian agenda – the agenda of fundamentalism becomes clear.

Convince the world how bad it is, paganize God and make him a god of anger, wrath, and war, and the power you can wield becomes unlimited. Grow strong enough, your power goes unchecked. Unchecked power and influence become inherently corrupted and people suffer. Abuse of that power – runs rampant. But those abuses aren’t likely to be reported because the pastor or head of that organization is the ultimate authority, by divine right, and you are seen as someone trying to usurp that power. You are a trouble-maker and probably under the Devil’s influence.

And they accomplish all of this, by cutting people off from the world. Isolating them. Using 2 Corinthians (Two Corinthians ha- ha) 6:17: Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.

Well, that unclean thing is the world and everything of the world. Including laws and those who enforce them. The natural mistrust of government – which I believe is inherently an American trait given the nature of our founding- was substantially increased to the point of paranoia. And looking back I realize it would have been hard for sociopathy to hide behind the cross should someone fear that a member of the church would go outside of the church to tell on them.

Now to most people that sounds ridiculous. Chief Justice John Roberts in Snyder v Phelps ruled that the signs and website of the Westboro Baptist Church while disgusting were so extreme that they became hyperbole and the rational person would see it as such. And in that regard, I agree with him. People would see it as such.

If they were rational.

But the question I have, is what happens to those who are inside and a captive audience to so said speech and authority? Children for example.

Here is Nate Phelps talking about leaving Westboro.  ((Now some see this church as an extreme church for what they do. But the views aren’t far from what other fundamentalist churches believe.))

There were two brothers in upstate New York recently who were subject to brutality and even torture. There was a nineteen-year-old and a seventeen-year-old and they wanted to leave the church. The nineteen-year-old was beaten to death over countless hours of torture. The seventeen-year-old was put into a hospital in critical condition. As far as I know – he survived and the people responsible were arrested.

Follow the link to read about it here

However, their defense is that they had the authority granted by God to do what they did.

Now we know in a court of law that would never fly. I  believe the standard is the ‘Belief-Action distinction’, you may believe a certain thing but you can’t act on it because the act is against the law. And that’s great.

IF YOU’RE IN A COURT OF LAW. However, that amount of ‘Will Breaking’ was not only viewed as okay, it was expected. And even if the state (the state in this case being the government) were to have stepped in – all it does in confirm the paranoia that the government is trying to surpress their free excersice of religion.

The brutality that I and my siblings endured (and thousands more like the two aforementioned young men) would have NEVER flown in a court of law. But we were not protected by the laws of this country as we were not citizens of this country. We were citizens of a kingdom of preachers who while they maintain their Independence of each other – were and probably still are – ideologically linked. And we weren’t governed by a President, we were governed, lorded over, by the doctrine of a King. And all roads, for us, led to Crowne Point, Indiana.

America has it’s own problems with fundamentalism that it refuses to address to the physical, emotion, psychological, and even spiritual detriment of many.

I’ll write more when I can.

P.S. John taught me more about the love of Christ than any of those churches ever did.

 

 

 

 

 

Message in a bottle (part 2)

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It’s hard to sleep at night when voices of the past come back to talk to you. Like ghosts stepping out of the wall, they kneel down by my bed to whisper memories of what had transpired in my life. And like the little kid in the Sixth Sense, I used to close my eyes and wish them away.

But by the time my husband goes to bed until sometimes after The Witching Hour has passed. I am in a deadlocked argument with these memories while I stand in my kitchen and my eyes see the faces of those memories from long ago. And instead of clenching my eyes shut I open them wide and receive those spirits into my presence and we do battle.

And every night it’s different scenes. A different cast of characters who step out of the void and between the hours of midnight and three a.m. I do battle in silence with them. Sometimes I write poetry during these times and post them on social media. Bits of the conversations with dead things that I’ve had with rhyme and style.

But there are other times when I look over at my sleeping husband and I am so moved by him. By his love for me. By his willingness to show me who God really is. And his presence in my life gives me the courage to face down all those ghosts. And then I’ll write a poem for him. I’ve never known love of another person or the love of God so much so then when I started to leave the old ways I’d been taught. There is this old Muslim poet who once said, “Do not seek love. Remove the things in your life that keep love from you.”

And for me, that is a constant, daily, nightly, endeavor. I feel like some kind of monk in a monastery somewhere saying his prayers and reciting his scripture and singing his hymns.

It’s such a strange thing for me. I should hate God. I should hate everything he is and stands for. But I don’t.I just don’t think the abuses men wage on each other – even in the realm of religion – has anything to do with God.  And I don’t mean to be sentimental, but I feel God put my husband in my life to show me who He really is. That wherever love is, he is. And I know that goes against Christendom in its majority, but like Dr. Angelou once said, “I have heard, and I believe, that one with God constitutes a majority. So I commend you on your courage to come and face me.”

I survived fifteen years of physical abuse which I believe was tantamount to torture. I’ve watched in horror as my sisters were hurt or thrown out of the house. I suffered in silence in their absence. And lived in dread as each one of them departed and like a prince in the midst of some white trash Shakespearean play, I would be the next in line for my crown of thorns. And my parents didn’t disappoint.

See, in our religion which is the Christian equivalent to Brokovich’s Hexavalent Chromium, there is a pecking order. The man is the head and absolute authority in the house, the women are to be silent and obey her master, and the children’s WILL should be broken. Some of the ‘intellectuals’ in our brand of fundamentalism – people like Dr. Jack Hyles – believed that you could beat a child as early as infancy to accomplish this. He even wrote about it in his book, Rearing Children. It’s available on Amazon. It’s similar to the book written by Michael and Debi Pearl called, To Train up a Child. This book has resulted in three known deaths of children due to torture. Torture that includes:

  • Using plastic tubing to beat children, since it is “too light to cause damage to the muscle or the bone”
  • Wearing the plastic tubing around the parent’s neck as a constant reminder to obey
  • “Swatting” babies as young as six months old with instruments such as “a 12-inch willowy branch,” thinner plastic tubing or a wooden spoon
  • “Blanket training” babies by hitting them with an instrument if they try to crawl off a blanket on the floor
  • Beating older children with rulers, paddles, belts and larger tree branches
  • “Training” children with pain before they even disobey, in order to teach total obedience
  • Giving cold water baths, putting children outside in cold weather and withholding meals as discipline
  • Hosing off children who have potty training accidents
  • Inflicting punishment until a child is “without breath to complain”

I went through some of that, including the infliction until I couldn’t breathe to cry anymore.

I was not a Martyr (willing or otherwise) for my faith because I didn’t die. I am a Confessor for my faith. And because of what had happened to me, to my siblings, I despise those who did what they did.

Like Henry the Fifths daughter,I think,  who when asked how much she loved her father told him: “I cannot heave my heart into my mouth,” words fall short in describing the loathing I feel toward these people. Perhaps this would clear some of this up, If there were an Anti-Christ with his eyes set on these people. I’d gladly hold his coat.

I’ll write more when I can.

F.E.

(P.S. It’s relevant to note that both children of Jack Hyle’s kid David, are also dead. I guess it could have been worse)

 

 

Message in a Bottle

 

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There is no pain so profound as a story waiting, inside, to be told. I believe that is quote by Dr. Maya Angelou. But I haven’t the will to sluice through Google to find out.  It doesn’t really matter anyway since it’s the truth.  I fell in love with that woman on the day she passed away.  And it always feels that way. That I’d missed my chance. I’d missed my opportunity to get to know her.

I have always felt like I’ve arrived in life a day late and a dollar short.  Born in the concrete jungle in a city that used to be. A city on the edge of a river that flows down to Lake Erie in Michigan’s handprint state. Detroit was a city that used to be, more Roman Ruins than American Exceptional. The gothic towers of old churches pointed heavenward amidst the broken down and bedraggled houses built during the world wars.

With broken concrete, broken dreams, and broken taillights the city’s skyline shined on the Detroit River like false advertisement.  Motown, HockeyTown, The Motor City – often vied for the title Murder Capital of the World along with Chicago and Washington D.C.

In the 1980’s, when I was young, the city to consisted of a few houses in a lower-middle-class neighborhood on the Southwest Side. Forbidden to the cross the street or go beyond the bushes that bordered my grandmother’s house several houses down, that had been my world.  Things were not bad then, or at least that’s what my brain tries to tell me, but bits of memory like so much smoke in an old juke joint rise up from in between memories of Christmas and summertime to make a liar out of me.

The 1990’s was pure hell. In summers heat gangs were restless and bored. And during the cold months leading to Halloween, they sometimes firebombed homes for the fun of it. We called that Devil’s night.

I am writing this today, mostly, as a sort of message in a bottle. Written down hastily, corked, and thrown out onto the sea of the internet in hopes that someone would read it. And once they’ve read it would sit down along the shoreline and believe the words that I’ve written. And in that belief wonder at how it was that a soul like mine could have gotten so lost. No, that isn’t exactly true. I don’t want your pity. I just want you to believe me.

Over the course of several years, I’ve tried to figure out what happened in my life to make me so sad. Why I carry with me this weight in my heart that stoops my shoulders and bows my head. And for many years I did everything I could to escape it. From joining the army, to going to the middle east, to coming home and running all over hell’s half-acre. But like a great shadow, a conscious creature, it followed me wherever I went.

The newness of my new world and new circumstances would wear off and there I would be.  Knee deep in my ‘me-ness’. When I lamented that to an ex-lover – he sniffed and shook his head with profound (profoundness purchased from his several shrinks he loved to keep on his payroll, I’m sure) seriousness and said, “Freddie, no matter where you go there you are.”

Now this sage wisdom came rolling off the lips of someone who cut hair for a living. Not that there was anything wrong with that. Certainly not. Many people make great money doing it as he did. But the statement was out of character for him. I had failed to been added to his thin concerns which were only for himself. Of course, until I wanted to leave and then he’d tell me he loved me, or he’d cry, or a million other reasons why I didn’t walk away. It would take me three years, and several random men who approached me to tell me about him, to figure that out for myself.

But that’s a story for a later time.  Right now I am focused on beginnings.  Where things originated. My Genisis, so to speak. As a writer, I have often pondered about putting all this down in book form. But the idea of making money off the stripes on my back make me curl inward as if I had just witnessed something obscene. It felt dirty that I would be airing my life out and more than ever I felt reticent about selling a book that would reek of scandal and be tantamount to some cheap ‘tell-all novel’ about the inner workings of fundamentalistic religion and  how I survived it.

Recently, I’ve even emailed four educators, professors, experts in fundamentalist religion and violence and offered myself and my story up for use by them or any student working under them who needed dissertation material, or thesis material for their Master’s degree. I figure someone somewhere ‘out there’ could use this information.

I received one reply email today from one of those experts. A nice man who informed me that the was no longer in fundamentalism and didn’t have any graduate students studying about it at present. He thanked me for my query and wished me luck saying, “I’m sure you have much to offer in the above regard by way of your personal experience. I hope you eventually find an appropriate venue for such discourse.”

See, that’s the problem. I’ve never been able to find so said appropriate venue. All I know is I’ve had stories rattling around in my head that would probably curl people’s hair. It’s weighed me down in ways that I can’t even begin to describe and as I said in my email to this man (and to three others)that, “… if I can’t relieve myself of the weight of them (my stories) then perhaps I can use it for the greater good.”

Again, a day late and a dollar short.

Not to say that I am unhappy. I am not. I am a happy guy. I have happiness in my life. I have a wonderful husband and a near-do-well writing career.  But I have sadness in me sequestered into a corner of my mind that every once in awhile – like a ghost- decides to raise it’s head and tell me stories I’d like to forget.

So, without any other ‘appropriate venue’ I think I am going to bring it here. A message in a bottle. Or a series of messages in a bottle from a storm-tossed soul. A man who’s gay, an ex- fundamentalist, an ex-republican, married, scary story/ romance writer who hopes that someone out there tonight – or in the following days, months, years etc. would believe him.

Because like most horror stories, novels, and movies out there – sometimes there is no answer to what happens to the cast of characters when the story ends. So, this is my S.O.S as I’m stranded on the isle of recovery from what would amount to an American Horror Story. Except the ghosts were real, and the monsters loved Jesus.

I don’t know how often I’ll write. But I will write as often as I can. Thanks

F.E.