here I am, breathing…

I got to spend some quality time outside for the first time in a while. Just being outside and away from people helps me breathe better. Lately, I’ve felt like my mind was on fire. And I couldn’t stop the pain from coming–nor could I get it to leave.

I am so tired. all. the. time. Maybe it’s the residual effect of finally being free of fundamentalism and less influenced by my parents.

Either way, I don’t know how to rest now that I’m safe. Why can’t the world stop for one second so I can catch my breath? And yet, it spins on–the news cycle continues to be exhausting, bad things keep happening.

But still, here I am, breathing. Breathe in. Breathe out. In this moment, everything is ok. I am ok. And it’s ok when I’m not ok, too. Everything hurts, but for a moment, it doesn’t hurt quite as much.

I can hear traffic but it’s just background noise. A few moments ago, I heard church bells off in the distance and that was calming, too. Maybe because I’ve found God more in the middle of the woods than in a sanctuary.

I’m…not ok. Will I ever be ok? What does being ok look like? Doubt has wreaked havoc again in my soul. Am I…good enough? Am I…good? Does the God I believe in–does that God hear me? How can I pray for others and pastor others when I need those things myself?

Will people still love me when I’m like this? Everything hurts. Will it ever stop hurting?

Maybe if I stopped asking so many questions, I’d be better off…

My subconscious has been screaming out for everything to just stop. I find myself lying on the floor curled up in the fetal position crying for no reason. Or for every reason. How can I help others when I need help myself?

And it’s not like I don’t have really good friends helping me. But yet…I still feel like I have to hide the darker parts of my mental illnesses. Because maybe you wouldn’t understand. Or if you do understand, will you run the other way?

All I know is…I want to walk alongside you hand in hand. And I won’t let anyone hurt you. They’ll have to deal with me if they do. And I know…somehow I still know God is for us. You matter and you’re loved and worthy of love. And I’ll keep fighting to keep you safe. But yet, I doubt that you’d all do the same for me. Because…maybe I’m not good enough. And imposter syndrome is a thing.

Still. Here I am. Breathing. Breathe in. Breathe out. Just keep breathing. Just keep loving.

only a crack in this castle of glass

(Content Note for discussion of gender dysphoria, purity culture, and religious trauma)

It’s officially been a week since I moved out of my parents’ house. Into a space that I still can’t believe is my own. It’s both freeing and terrifying. I’m not used to taking up space that’s for me. I’m used to taking up someone else’s space and just being allowed to exist in that space other people occupied.

Now that the space is my own, I’ve been reflecting on why I’ve more often than not never felt like I could take up space–that I could never be comfortable in any physical space including my own body.

If you grew up in fundamentalist culture, you’re probably also familiar with purity culture which I’ve talked about several times here.

I am so used to feeling small. Feeling like I had to make myself small for others’ comfort. When you grow up being taught to be afraid of your body and its effects on men, that does a number on your psyche. Especially if you’re taught as I was that you’re responsible for how men view you.

Even as a little, pre-pubescent kid, I was keenly aware of how men perceived me. Comments were made like, “Isn’t she a pretty little thing? She’s gonna be a heartbreaker when she gets older.” or “Come here and give me a hug, sweetheart.” That last one was more of a command and was never an option to refuse. And as compliant as I was, I never did even when it made me uncomfortable (which was almost always).

Our bodies are over-sexualized and over-scrutinized before we can even name what’s wrong with that.

Purity culture aside, I grew up being very uncomfortable with my body anyway. I was aware that I was born a girl. But I was also aware that I liked boy things and sometimes didn’t feel like a girl or a boy. Rather I felt somewhere in between.

When I DID hit puberty, I wanted to hide my developing chest at all costs. I would wear baggy shirts until about 15 and before that, around age 10, I fought my mom a lot on having to wear bras. I hated my body and I hated how people looked at me when my body started changing.

And Joshua Harris DID NOT HELP. If you don’t know, and didn’t read I Kissed Dating Goodbye, god bless you. Dating is awkward when you’re not interested in boys. But you do want their clothes and their flat chests. If that sounds weird, welcome to my world. I swear, he “apologized,” but nothing can undo the damage.

Sometimes, I would pretend I didn’t have a body and that I was more of a shell. The real me was simply existing in a body that didn’t feel a part of me. There was a disconnect. I just felt like I was a “crack in this castle of glass” as the Linkin Park song goes. Being sexually abused as a child and later assaulted by a boyfriend made me hate my body even more. Like I was something wrong that caused men to do wrong things they couldn’t help. Even my dad would look at me a certain way sometimes that made me feel like maybe I only existed to “sit still and look pretty.”

Turns out–not much has changed. I’m working on loving myself and loving my body and seeing it as a part of me. That it’s not something to be ashamed of. That being non-binary is valid and still referring to myself as female is more of a default. I’m comfortable with it but being non-binary is also me.

 

It is painful to realize that your body and yourself cannot exist without changing to fit into spaces that were never meant for you. Clothes that were never meant for you. What IS meant for you is to take up some space, god damn it. You exist and you’re allowed to take up space. MORE THAN ALLOWED. It is ok and it is good to be who you are and love your body for what it is–a part of a whole person who is lovely and good. Now I need to remind myself of that. We are good and the kids will eventually be alright. We will be ok. We are lovely and good and we can and do take of space. Our bodies are good and holy even. We are good.

announcing your place in the family of things

I know I’m usually a night owl but good morning! I’m having deep thoughts and there is not enough coffee here. It’s been a rough few weeks of family tension so I’m reflecting on that a bit this morning.

I present to you, morning thoughts that happen before the coffee kicks in. Slightly streams of consciousness so…sorry if it’s a bit rambly. (also this is a reflection on Wild Geese which you should totally read:¬†http://www.rjgeib.com/thoughts/geese/geese.html)

I don’t know how to do this life thing. I’ve only ever known how to survive, and I don’t know what it’s like to be ok.

I used to think that was living. It turns out there’s more to living than just existing.

Also, what is home anyway? We’ve explored this a little bit in other blog posts. But I guess I’ve always connected the concept of home with a physical location and with my biological family.

But the concept of home is much broader and better than that. And so is family. I’ve been searching for both of these things for a long time.

Maybe to be home is to be loved. But then, what is love? I’ve mostly understood more about what love isn’t. I’ve fleshed this out a little bit before but my understanding is that love is to be safe and cared for. To be seen. To be listened to and valued.

And love is to be home. It’s not so tied to a place or a person. It’s so much more than warm fuzzy feelings or romantic attraction.

I strive to be home for the people in my life. To love in such a way that people feel like they’re at home with me. Because no one should have to feel unloved or unwanted. No one should be without a home.

I’ve learned more about love by experiencing it. You’ve probably been told, you’ll never find love or know love until you can learn to love yourself. I don’t think that’s completely accurate. My experience has been the opposite. If you don’t know what love is, how can you learn to love yourself?

I have learned how to love myself by experiencing how others love me. Not in the sense of someone saying “I love you,” but in the sense of proving that by seeing me and letting me be who I am. By the care I’ve been shown that I do not have to be good. I already am. And I’m deserving of love just like anyone else is.

When you first experience love as it’s to be experienced, it’s hard to settle for less. Or to be told “this is love,” and know there’s a disconnect. Learning to outright reject these types of love is a big step.

Once you have found your place in the world…once you find your home, you discover that a love that manipulates and controls you is not love.

A love that seeks another’s version of good for you to “keep you safe” is not love. Safety is not found in compliance. Neither is love. To be truly loved is to be truly safe.

Compliance is about yielding control just to survive. If someone is only concerned with letting you simply exist and survive in the world, they do not love you. If they’re only willing to let you exist on conditional love and not in your own space, they do not love you.

You have a place. You have a home.

Love is not only to have others’ best interests at heart but also your own. If someone is willing to hurt you before they’ll challenge the status quo–I’m pretty sure they do not love you. At least, not as they should.

You should not have to “be good,” to be loved. You do not have to be good. You already are everything you need to be. Accept nothing less than a love that lets you have “your place in the family of things.”

 

 

moving out of the closet

What is it like to exist in your own space instead of someone else’s? What is it like to not simply exist, but to live–truly live as your whole self?

I don’t really know. I’ve only had small glimpses of this and most of them were recent experiences. I’m so used to feeling like I only exist in someone else’s space. That I only…exist.

That all I am here for is storage for someone else’s hopes and dreams for me. I feel like I have been used for storage for hate and fear. Like I am just a closet of fear that is constantly crushing me and I can really relate to Sisyphus. Up to this point, life has only felt like carrying a boulder up a hill to keep it from rolling on top of me. And the cycle repeats.

How does it feel to get out? To finally BE out. To finally BE. How does it feel to breathe–as if you’re breathing for the first time–the air filling your lungs without suffocating you first?

I don’t know…but this week I’m beginning to move out of my parent’s house into a house that’s going to be my space. I need to move out of the closet into the house–the house that is becoming me. I’m not just a closet living in someone else’s world. It feels like I’m coming home to myself. Soon I’ll actually know what being home is like.

What. does. it. feel. like. to come home. I’m not sure I can imagine it. I’m told it feels amazing. That I’ll be able to be more myself and grow.

Seriously though. What does it mean to make space for yourself? To take root somewhere and just. grow. Grow like a tree planted by the rivers of water….with roots running deep. With branches growing up and out and existing in a space that it is mean to belong in. What does it mean to belong?