vixenmage: St. Francis wiv a bird on 'is haid! (Default)
Lately, this has been on my mind rather a lot. I've been thinking about writing something and submitting it to TBAT for Slacktiverse, something about how the focus on obedience and submission... basically fucks people up, probably with an emphasis on women-- the only initial reservation being that, although I read every post there, I comment once in a blue moon. The slightly more worrying reservation is that every time I start writing it in my head, it gets so personal I change my mind, both about publicizing it and about it being able to help other people. But I'll sketch something out here, and see if I can figure it out. After all, the more I find out about my childhood, the more I realize how much I have in common with other people raised in RTC households.

So here's the thing. I am, by nature, incredibly submissive. If you know me in person, you might find it incredibly hard to believe, though-- in a weird subversion, evolving Fundamentalist culture has beaten the submissiveness out of me. My family remembers it. My dad has jokingly told my sister not to worry about being a brat when she was younger, because obviously she'd look like one next to a goody two-shoes like me. I hate confrontation, always have, and as a child, I rarely questioned the adults in my world (which was very small).

See, here's how my siblings and I, and all the kids in our church, were raised. Obey. Obey your parents, for that is God's Will. Obey God, in all things. Submit to the authorities that God has placed over you; questioning that authority is disobedience in and of itself. The only time this is incorrect is if an authority gives you a command that is clearly against God's commandments-- and in that case, God's direct authority trumps the earthly ones. Over time, and talking to others raised in this subculture, I've learned that for a lot of people, this was what drove them to question. They asked questions, and got smacked down repeatedly, and this only made them question harder, and in the end, rebel. My older sister is one such woman. I am not.

Obedience and submission were overwhelmingly easy for me. Obviously, since I was a kid, fairly smart and active, I got into trouble, did stuff I shouldn't have, snuck around with my brother, etc. I'm not saying I was Elsie Dinsmore or anything like that. It was just that, although I questioned the physical world around me, I never even considered questioning authority. If my parents, or the pastor, or the church adults, said it, it was true. Always. If the Bible (KJV, of course) said it, it was true. Always. This was a fact of the world, as surely as the Sun came up every morning and rain fell from the clouds and mulberries were delicious. (We had a tree in our backyard. One of the happiest memories of my childhood is climbing that tree to sit and read, and daydream, and eat mulberries until the ripe ones were all out of reach.)

Then my mother lost her mind. She fell, so gracefully nobody noticed until it was too late, from average, run-of-the-mill RTC paranoia, into Paranoid Schizophrenia (and, as we found out years later, Bipolar Disorder). I'll skip over the more painful details of that. Most of it went over my head at the time-- I have a lot of memories that had very little meaning for me until I was years older. But suddenly, authority became pretty absurd. My siblings disobeyed because it was the right thing to do-- sneaking my father's ammunition and vital parts to his guns out of the house, to him, because they caught on much faster than I did and realized that my mother should absolutely not have access to that stuff.

This became a running theme. I was blind to the abuses of authority that were going on around me, because in my mind, authority was never wrong. My siblings, the natural questioners, the rebels, were always on the ball - they grasped that my mother was not in her right mind, and they acted to prevent things from going wrong. I did not. It wasn't until years later that the questions were catalyzed in my mind.

One of my mother's decisions was to enroll us in a private Christian school - she managed, if I recall, to get scholarships for the older three of us. This was a nightmare for all of us; we were the weird kids, the outcasts, the ones who never fit in. Even at eight, the feeling that there was something wrong with me came through loud and clear. But I was good at classes - I could read very quickly, and had excellent reading comprehension, and I grasped concepts pretty well. Even terribly broken ones, like "The world is 6,000 years old, and dinosaur bones/Mesopotamian culture can be used to prove it."

But in fourth grade or so, something changed. When I was much younger, probably six or seven, I'd read The Hiding Place, a book by Corrie ten Boom about her life, focusing on her family's efforts to hide Jews from the Nazis. I'd read it a few times since, loved it, and had certain parts memorized, so when it was assigned in class, I was ecstatic. There's one passage - one of the ones I'd memorized - about a failed romance in Corrie's life. She falls for a man named Karel, he falls back, they spend days walking in the garden, talking, and then she doesn't see him for a long period of time. The next time they see each other, he's with his fiancee; he tells her, "I can't marry you. My mother would kill me." Corrie is, of course, heartbroken, and her father consoles her not with the 'false words' that 'there will be another,' but with sincerity and love.

When our English teacher reached this passage, she told us that the point of it was that Corrie had gone against God's will by 'dating' a man not approved by their families. The point, she told us, was that courtship was the only Godly means of finding a spouse, and the heartbreak was God's way of punishing Corrie for disobeying him.

This made me unspeakably angry. I sat there, trying not to betray the thoughts in my head, which were screaming at how wrong that was. I'd been telling stories for years. To entertain my siblings, friends, or myself-- or simply because the story came to me and wanted to be told. To hear this-- to hear an authority someone who I trusted, lying about a story... it broke something in me. Worse yet, the story was about her life! This was a woman, brave, accomplished, truly amazing, and this teacher, who I trusted and respected, was lying about her life story.

I was utterly furious. I never said anything until years later, but it burned in me, and it burned through the walls I'd built up around 'authority.' My mother had been wrong, I knew, because she was sick, somehow, in her head. This made it different. But now, other things showed up. My dad said things that weren't right. He wasn't always fair. My grandparents, in whose house we were living, were not always right. The teachers protected the school bullies, because they were usually their children, even when they were blatantly lying. The teachers lied about stories. What else were they lying about? My father started dating, and he sometimes didn't come back at night. He didn't keep his promises. My grandmother lied to us about some things. Sometimes she was unjust. My grandfather was unjust sometimes. The youth pastors said things that I knew not to be true.

After a lifetime of trusting authority implicitly as an extension of God's Will, something inside of me snapped. I stopped obeying. I stopped submitting. I stopped trusting. Lesson learned: authorities always lie. People in power cannot be trusted. Everybody lies.

I intentionally went against the grain in highschool, and middle school. I was smart, and shy, so teachers liked me. And I hated that. They were liars! They said things that weren't true, they used their power to hurt-- freed from those walls, I now saw that everywhere-- and I didn't want their, or anybody's, favor. There were some exceptions - the music teacher, who talked about his experience playing in bars, and the biblical references in so much music. Our English teacher, who was pretty fair and sparked my continual interest in mythology. In highschool, things got worse. In classes where the teachers were honest with us, I worked hard and tried. In classes where I could tell the teachers didn't really care about questioning, truth, learning-- especially where they were openly dishonest or showed favoritism-- I actively worked to earn their dislike. I snarked openly. I asked questions, usually because I wanted to know the answers, but also because it drove them crazy. I did my work, and did it right, and so couldn't simply be failed. I was just a Problem Student.

In my senior year, for an English class that I loved, with a teacher who taught me, more or less, how to write, I wrote an essay about the role of Guildenstern, in "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead." I called it 'The Questioner,' and drew the conclusion that some of us in life-- such as myself-- could not help questioning, no matter what, even when the answers made no sense, even when there were no answers, even when the answers led to death. We questioned, or we died. We questioned even if we died.

In that respect, the breaking of that trust made me a better person. I like being a Guilenstern. It's important. It's not always fun, and it sometimes gives you a lot of enemies, but it's necessary.

A less enjoyable result of that is the loss of trust, and this is where Fundamentalist subculture seriously messes kids up. If you are raised thinking that all authorities are infallible, if you are trusting enough to believe that, you are screwed as an adult. Because someday, somehow, you are inevitably going to learn the truth. And it is going to hurt. And if you're lucky, you recover and realize that people are fallible, not malicious. And if you're unlucky, the lesson you learn is that no one can be trusted, ever, for anything. And no matter how hard you try to rid yourself of that, to be more trusting, it is internalized pretty hard. And no matter how hard you try, you now know that to submit to someone's authority, to obey someone, for any reason, is a trust. And you can't do it. You can't not question. Even someone you do trust, which is hard enough to find.

I can't figure out a conclusion to this. It ends on a pretty bleak note. My friends are some of the people I trust most in this world. One of them is a guy I work with, who has been my boss/supervisor for about three years now. He's one of the most trustworthy people I know, in most ways, and among my closest friends. And I still question every mundane thing he asks me to do. And I still find it hard to obey him. He says "We don't have time for that now," I look into the bag anyway, without even realizing what I'm doing. And then reality smacks me upside the head, and I put it aside. My brain's immediate response to 'obedience' is a visceral, snarling rejection. Same with submission.

Yeah, I doubt this is ever going anywhere but into my own journal. Fundamentalist subculture is fucked up, yo.

PS: This song is what originally triggered this memory, some years ago, and that's what eventually helped me connect the dots as to how, with the personality I have, I have become the spiky-haired, defiant, untrusting coyote that I am.
vixenmage: (existentialist)
Well, ten-till I have to leave for work. So I don't have time.

But I have this long post I've been meaning to write, about the private "Christian" school I went to (Yes, I will continue to put that word in quotes whenever I refer to that school), an experience I had there, and the book The Hiding Place, by Corrie ten Boom. I'll try and get it down when I come home from work, but in the meantime, it's summed up by one verse of the song "I Will Follow You Into The Dark" by Death Cab for Cutie.

Catholic school, vicious as Roman rule
I got my knuckles bruised by a lady in black
And I held my tongue as she told me, Son,
Fear is the heart of love-- so I never went back
vixenmage: (icarus)
Slacktivist always makes me smile-- sometimes, looking back, I realize that parts of my childhood weren't weird at all. (And then there are the parts that really, really were.) Like apparently, not celebrating Christmas is a Done Thing. When I was... very young, maybe three or four, I remember going caroling with our pastor's family. And spending Christmas Eve or Day at our grandparents', seeing all the aunts and uncles and cousins and dogs. So many dogs-- my grandpa's big lab, my aunt's Labrador, my aunt's Newfoundland, my uncle's German Shepherd, and our own mutt, Jumper. Doesn't seem like so many in retrospect, but Nicky the Newfie was big enough for three dogs, and between them all, they filled my grandparents' little house up to bursting.

Anyway, about the time my youngest brother was born, maybe a little earlier, we stopped doing that. My mother became obsessed with the idea that Paganism was infiltrating all of America, and would talk about how the triangle of the Christmas tree was a symbol of the universe from Ancient Germany, which was the same symbol on the dollar bill-- also, see the star at the top. Heresy, I tells ya. And she disapproved of angels, mostly the way they were portrayed. They have no wings, she would say-- they were shining men, not chubby baby girls. Lights were gaudy, Santa was a devil, and the idea of giving gifts to each other to celebrate a Pagan holiday, even one that stood for Jesus' birth, was outrageous. After all, why give gifts to each other to celebrate holiness?

I always liked Easter better, anyway. Even as a kid, and more as an adult. (Holy crap, I'm an adult. Or will be before the month is out. That's weird.)

My father theorized that it had to do with Christmas being such a symbol of unhappiness in her childhood-- her parents were very rich, and her father was the type who really thought money could buy anything, a very selfish man. After it came out, years after my dad had won custody, that our mother's father could not be trusted around young girls, other things began to make sense. But my father told us, at some point, that he remembered her talking about how her father would spend all this money at Christmas, lavishing her with gifts and treats-- almost as if to make up for the fact that her life was hellish. It didn't surprise us, in retrospect, that she would hate to be reminded of that.

Anyway, working in retail will give you an enormous callous where all your seasonal goodwill used to be. My younger coworker was shocked at how cynical I seemed at the start of the season this year, but by the time January was getting started, he admitted he could see my reasons. So Christmas is sort of a bust for me. There are points of beauty-- I will never be unable to delight in winter, even under the most miserable weather, and being with family is almost always a joy-- but overall, it continues to feel like an excuse to Buy Things. And eat.

My friend Serra always said she'd rather receive random gifts at meaningless times of year, and I am inclined to agree-- they're more fun to give, too. There's nothing quite like sneaking up to your friend's house in the middle of the night to drop off the little thing you saw that reminded you of them.

At any rate, I have to get some stuff done today-- and there's something of a rant building up about this summer, and plans, and work, and how is it possible that I went from having seven days with Dann, two of which would be driving, to having five days, only three of which involve being in Acadia. And the worst part, of course, is that there's no one I can really be angry with, excepting possibly myself, because I really should have seen this coming.

...That wasn't the conclusion I intended. It doesn't seem to fit with the whole theme, y' know? Anyway. Christmas is nice, don't hate it for being Pagan. Pagans are nice, too. And I kinda doubt Jesus would care much that we got the date wrong, and giving gifts to each other quite frankly seems like the best way to honor His birth, really.
vixenmage: Beautiful bird which people dislike because it is a crow-related animal (grackle)
When I was about... ten or so, my middle school class went to the Mohegan museum, up where Foxwoods is. The guide actually explained to us at some point that Fox-woods was a literal translation of the name of the area. We oohed, ahhed, and I discovered for the first time that no, not everyone can trace parts of their family back to a Native American tribe. This was a strange, strange thing to my young mind; I'd always assumed "Melting Pot" meant that everyone was literally a little of everything. Anyway, at that point in my life I was beginning to outgrow an obsession with wolves; they just weren't filling a gap in my mind anymore, and the Noble Wolf Tribe Fantasies were wearing thin. But when we saw the polished stones, with animals carved in, for sale at the gift shop, I grabbed what I thought was a silhouette of a howling wolf; it turned out to be a coyote. After lunch, the small group I was in went for an outside tour, to see the way food was kept, and shelter was built, etc. We got lost. On a little circuit that never left sight of the museum on the map, we wound up in an unspecified woods, with no significant landmarks in sight.

The following summer, my family went up to Mt Desert Island, and camped in Acadia National Park for a week. It was a sort of tradition, or became one-- I think that was the first time we'd gone as a family in my generation. I remember thinking it was the most beautiful place on Earth; I was totally enchanted. I also remember hiking along with no particular ambition or thought, admiring the beauty of the world around me, and suddenly realizing my family was nowhere in sight. Usually if I sat down and had a drink they'd be coming up behind me in a few minutes, but still; it was quite funny, especially when I got into the habit of finding a decent hiding place and scaring the crap out of my siblings when they caught up. My dad, at some point, bought a book of Native American Myths And Legends. Terribly thick, heavy, and altogether awesome. My siblings and I all perused it from time to time, but I was probably the most into it.

Which is probably why I was the one who found The Story. The Story, of which I don't remember the name, the origin tribe, or the ending, had a few key components that my young brain collapsed beneath. First, there was a witch who had a special power: She had teeth Down There. Second, she used them to devour warriors by having her beautiful daughter seduce them. Third, in order to do this the warriors put their Thingie... uh, Down There. Which was apparently how they got around to baby-making.

Confused, disgusted, and altogether horrified, I summoned up my courage and asked my dad if that was, indeed, how babies were made? (Prior to this, I had been starting to refuse to swing on the rope swing with my brother, in case I accidentally got pregnant, which would be a sin because he was my brother, Ew. This is probably because the K-12 RTC Pentecostal (Yep! They're out there!) school I went to forbade all physical contact between the sexes, even for games of tag. Nonetheless... I have to feel bad for my father. That's an awkward conversation among awkward conversations.

Anyway. When I was eighteen, we went back up to Mt. Desert for the fourth or fifth time; it was my dad, step-mom, step-brother, little brother, and sister. We went on one or two family hikes, but my favorite hike was the one I took myself-- which was also one of the hardest things I've ever done, physically speaking. Nine miles, between ninety-five and one hundred degrees Fahrenheit, and I ran out of water 2/3 of the way through. I'd had a little foresight and drank from a clear stream earlier (yes, I was that desperate), but the last three or four miles were pretty crazy. I broke off the trail at one point, deciding to cut along the shore of a pond, which was a shorter route to my destination-- but off the trail(s). I made it about 1/4 of the way, realized if I collapsed from dehydration I probably wouldn't get found, and returned to the trail*. I remember this one hill, it felt like 60 degrees up. I was literally chanting prayers under my breath because I was certain I wouldn't make it. But I did-- all the way to the top of that hill, and the next, and then down the mile or so of road. At some point I found a wild blueberry bush and devoured every one I could reach.

That night I couldn't sleep. I eventually left the tent, walked outside and down the path, to where there was a clearing in the woods with no camp spaces, and looked around. Overhead, there was the biggest, brightest shooting star I have ever seen-- you know the ones that are actually green? Yeah. It was breath-taking. I went back to the tent, and fell asleep, and had the wildest dream-- and I do mean Wild. I don't remember it-- all I remember was waking up with Coyote on my mind. I'd been doing more research into spiritual journeys, and shamanism, and no matter how I tried I could not shake the thought of Coyote from my head. (It probably didn't help that you can hear coyotes howling in the night, up there.) All week, I felt freer and happier than I had in a long time. I was full of this wild joy, this energy, and it didn't go away. Eventually the laughter faded, after we'd come home, but... the feeling lingered. I thought about it a lot-- I was relatively unchanged, but... not. The restlessness at night was not so miserable; laughter came more easily; I started running, spontaneously in the night, for the joy of it. There was no sudden realization, no turning point, no spark of understanding. Just a gradual change of heart and mind, as I went from "Christian who's interested in mythology" to "Christian who believes in shamanism." This is not to say I don't still struggle with it, from time to time. I've wondered if I'm being led astray by an evil spirit, or somesuch. Pretty sure that's not the case, though.

The thing is, I find it hard to believe that God would have provided Eurasia with the prophets, and then Christ, to guide them to the light-- and utterly ignored Australia, Africa, and the Americas. It doesn't make sense. I think C. S. Lewis was right; there is a spiritual element to this world-- something between humanity and God. I think we blanket-label those beings as Evil at our own peril. In his Space Trilogy, the premise was that Thulcandra Earth was the Fallen Planet, and the eldil angels thereupon were all Bent Fallen, every one. I have to disagree with him there. Humanity is Fallen-- is every single one of us inherently evil? We have the potential for good, and the potential for evil. Why should we not assume the same of our brethren?

I don't worship Coyote. He's my brother, and he seems to alternate between looking out for me and pulling pranks, depending on circumstances beyond my understanding. I worship God, Jehovah, Yahweh-- Christ. And I figure Coyote probably does, too, in his own way, by his own means.

*(Unrelated: several times, I looked at the ground and went "somebody's done this before. and not that long ago, either." I was pretty psyched when I found out I was right.)


Jun. 18th, 2010 08:26 am
vixenmage: (it's a heron, most likely a great blue, from the shape.) (statue)
Okay, well, it's -been- summer. I know. (At least, for college students it has.) But I have been outright lazy so far, pretty much just working and occasionally throwing a few lyrics onto a page or something. This has gone on far enough!

Today, Rebecca and I got up wicked early (I accidentally woke up even earlier than planned, because my window was open and dawn is distracting! also, slept rather restlessly) and went down to the highschool to see our English teacher (freshman and senior year for me, freshman and junior for Rebecca), who is a really really awesome amazing just AMAZING person, for many, many reasons. And we talked, and hugged, and laughed, and talked, and squeezed a conversation that I rather wanted to go on for hours into about ten or fifteen minutes, because she had to get grades in before graduation. And she made Rebecca promise to travel so she can figure out where she wants to go for school, and me promise to keep writing.

She said something... she said to both of us that she thinks we can do well anywhere, as long as we have a drive, a push, a motivation. I jokingly mentioned the quickly-hidden flash of contempt that most people have upon hearing that I'm going to Manchester Community for the fall (I am totally distracted by the incense smoke from my windowsill-- I started burning it to get rid of my brother's horribly loud cologne smell, but it curls in such -interesting- shapes! I could watch it all day), and she said that either of us will do well anywhere, because we both already... get it. We just need someone to push us.

It made me pretty happy.

But anyway, she told me to push Rebecca to travel and find a -place- she wants to be in for college, and Rebecca to push me to keep writing. And I think I will. I just have to set a goal.

Right now, at any rate, with the memory of dawn fresh in my mind, and smoke curling up over my windowsill in the morning breeze, anything seems possible. I hope I can hang onto that.
vixenmage: (coexist)
I have a lover, a lover like no other
She got soul, soul, soul, sweet soul
And she teach me how to sing.

Shows me colours when there's none to see
Gives me hope when I can't believe
That for the first time I feel love.

I have a brother, when I'm a brother in need
I spend my whole time running
He spends his running after me.

I feel myself goin' down
I just call and he comes around.
But for the first time I feel love.

My father is a rich man, he wears a rich man's cloak.
He gave me the keys to his kingdom (coming)
Gave me a cup of gold.

He said "I have many mansions
And there are many rooms to see."
But I left by the back door
And I threw away the key
And I threw away the key.

For the first time, for the first time
For the first time, I feel love.

there's a long, long letter somewhere between the first time i read these lyrics, as if from a deep dark hole, reaching out to a single ray of light, five years ago-- and the first time i heard them, trying not to cry as the achingly gentle chords brushed up against my soul. but i don't think it's right for here. maybe someday.


vixenmage: St. Francis wiv a bird on 'is haid! (Default)

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