Unlearning Restrictions

The first quarter of 2021 is almost over. My article from two years ago was featured again on the front page of Huffington Post this month, and more people joined Patreon to show their support – thank you all so much. I’ve received many encouraging notes and comments since I opened this month on a low note, discouraged and wondering what my purpose is. I’m still clarifying for myself what exactly this blog is about. I’m still in the process of structuring and drafting my memoir. Your patience and understanding with my need for time to do my work astounds me. Your willingness to join me on my journey of discovering the world is amazing to me.

At this point in my life, I am learning every day about how much I missed growing up. I’m tracking habits on my phone, and I get to work on art or writing every other day or so. I’m slowly bringing yoga and meditation into my daily activities again. I’m the only person in the apartment who’s capable of handling the housework and cooking. The people I live with are very supportive, though, and I’ve been learning how to adjust my expectations and not demand constant work from myself. This means I’m finally relaxed enough to learn how to play a few simple video games, something I’ve struggled with for years. Since the move, I’ve been practicing playing music on a game, and my accuracy and timing has improved with practice.

It may seem simple, but this is revolutionary to me. Practice was inconsistent for me growing up, so I never learned how to trust the process of taking the time to learn how to do something. I was expected to perform well and there was immense disappointment when I didn’t, but I received little instruction as to how to avoid failing. As a result, for the past several years since I’ve been out of my parents’ house, the smallest challenge feels overwhelming emotionally, and can leave me in tears of frustration. It feels childish, because it is a demonstration of a lack of development.

With each day that passes, I am learning dozens of new things. I’ve started over with learning grammar on Khan academy, and this month I learned the difference between common and proper nouns. It clicked immediately and it was easy to pass the quiz afterward, but I wouldn’t have known the purpose of certain capitalizations beforehand. Not only do I have limited knowledge, but my ability to gauge what qualifies as common knowledge is unreliable as well. I don’t know whether most people know what I’m just learning or not.

My education was entirely based on what two people wanted their children to believe about the world. That meant anything that wasn’t approved got filtered out – we didn’t watch many nature documentaries because they reference evolution too often. I once toured a museum with a group of other homeschooled kids, and instead of taking an official museum-provided tour, a man who called himself a “creation scientist” pointed out every display referring to evolution and declared it a lie.

I learned to self-censor information based on the worldview I was taught. I wholeheartedly thought that the outside world hated conservative Christians and wanted to either force us to give up our faith or kill us trying. It is shocking to realize that historically, the opposite has been true: conservative Christians have threatened and killed others for not joining in their religious views and practices.

There is much more to say about all this, and I will continue when I can. For now…I’m processing and learning a great deal. I appreciate you all for sending your support and kindness.

Safety to Heal

Since we moved into this place in November, I’ve felt somewhat free for the first time. I have space and many gifted supplies to work on writing and painting. I’m resuming therapy and pursuing treatment for my chronic and mental illnesses. I’ve had to restart this process too many times. It takes years to make small amounts of progress, especially when fighting to stay housed while trying to recover.

I appreciate the stability I have now because for most of my life, I was not secure. In my parents’ house growing up, my survival was dependent upon my obedience. Then as an adult, it would take years to find my footing. I am extremely lucky. I faced relatively mild housing instability from time to time, at least having a car or garage or spare room to sleep in when I couldn’t afford a place. Now I am called radical because I speak up often about the idea that it shouldn’t be this difficult for survivors to get away from their abusers.

It’s difficult for me to conceptualize my intention and expectation with my writing. There are so many intertwined issues involved in what I talk about here on this blog. Almost every aspect of my life growing up was in some way an alternative to the mainstream culture.

People are dying and falling through the cracks now, every day, all the time, and it weighs on me so heavily that all my artistic and emotional output goes into it. The people I love are being failed by a neglectful society. I want to imagine that the world can improve, but I am impatient. It seems like all the change that happens is so gradual, miniscule.

Part of recovering from instability is the fact that safety feels temporary. I will do my best to take advantage of the time I have to keep getting better. Thank you all so much for providing me with this opportunity to keep living and writing about it.

Gratitude and Rage

My emotions fluctuate between gratitude and rage. I’m grateful to have a home at last. I’m angry that I had to fight so hard for it, and that so many people I know aren’t so lucky. I am so thankful to the people who continuously show support with gifts, because it’s what helps me get by. I am simultaneously frustrated that this kind of dependence must exist, since I can’t hold a normal job anymore and must broadcast each expense.

I don’t have the resources to help the people I care for in significant ways. I can only listen with empathy as I watch people fall through the cracks. So many people trapped because their abusers have resources they don’t. So many people fighting just to stay housed. I know a lot of people who can’t work anymore, and those who still can are on their way to being unable to work. When you aren’t making enough money to meet your basic needs, exploitative work is an exhausting insult. When you can’t work anymore, you have to hope someone takes a liking to the tragic allure of your story, or…fall through the cracks.

Falling through the cracks looks like a thousand ways to die of neglect and indifference. This is a problem the United States uniquely refuses to solve. I find myself researching grim data: inequality in the US is getting so bad, life expectancy was already declining steadily before the pandemic, and in 2020 it dropped even more significantly. Literally hundreds of thousands of people are dying while waiting for a disability hearing. Millions are at risk of eviction if the moratorium is not extended beyond March 31st. In July 2019, Fair.org published a piece entitled, “Media Just Can’t Stop Presenting Horrifying Stories as ‘Uplifting’ Perseverance Porn”. Countless stories of people unable to afford basic needs and healthcare are praised for coming up with clever ways to meet their needs. The thing is, for everyone who has an inspiring story of successfully raising enough funds, there are hundreds of others who don’t. These are people dying because they can’t afford life-saving medication, mobility aids, and care.

Is it any wonder that I am hard pressed to feel lucky, grateful, and content with my position? It shouldn’t have to be this way. I am one small person – I cannot singlehandedly bring down an entire system. I can advocate for radical changes, though, because I think small compromises are not enough.

The stimulus package took too long and is not enough to ensure recovery. There’s nothing to recover because we were on a deadly trajectory before the pandemic even started. People were already falling through the cracks. The process has just been expedited.

Trauma and Justice

Writing about traumatic events is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. It leaves me shaky and dissociative for days afterward, as if I don’t have flashbacks and nightmares anyway. I want to tell my story and finish my memoir and share it with everyone. It’s just that it’s very difficult to do the work. I’m not actually sure whether writing it is helpful to my recovery or if it slows it down.

There’s also this…hesitation. I am not convinced that my story is as important as the other things I care deeply about. Yes, my childhood sucked, and I would like to prevent others from having similar experiences. However, I know that my childhood was privileged and mild in comparison to some. There are many factors that contributed to the ignorance I was raised under. I don’t think I could succinctly name them all off, honestly. I’ve got “abortion is murder” and “modern medicine is a scam.” I don’t even know how to succinctly define the religious stuff, because it’s all fluff. I feel like taking down god was like waking up from a nightmare to find you’ve stabbed a pillow. Feathers everywhere. Just kidding, I’ve never owned a feather pillow. That’s just the imagery in my head from that metaphor.

The stuff that contributed to my own story is the same stuff that keeps millions of others trapped, too. I’m not just talking about kids in a very specific group – not just large families, Christians, conservatives, fundamentalists, or homeschoolers – but about why people in all abusive situations are trapped. That’s why I talk about injustice and inequality in such broad terms. Abusers have financial power and charismatic clout. That applies to all kinds of relationships, not the least of which are children stuck with abusive parents.

It also includes dependency, and financial dependency counts. In a patriarchal society, the default is that (exclusively) cishet women depend on cishet men for the means to live. This benefits the cishet men because their spouses and children have no way to provide for themselves if they leave. It also means that those with resources and financial stability are free to leave their families, while their families are not free to leave them without the threat of poverty and homelessness and death. This is not to mention that when a dysfunctional family faces poverty, everyone suffers more. This is also not to mention that if you don’t fill an abled cishet role in the patriarchy, your chances of becoming financially stable in this society are slim. Even this ideal, which has never truly existed except in the minds of conservatives, cannot be attained because so many millions of people make less than what it takes to survive.

It comes back to finances because we live in a capitalistic society. It doesn’t all have to be based on financial capital, but that is how things are structured right now. To get away from an abuser, you need somewhere to go, and our society here in the United States is full of slammed doors. Nobody is willing to offer so much as a couch to sleep on for more than a few days without treating you like an intruder. There aren’t resources for people who need a place to live. Anyone who thinks there are, hasn’t needed to try and find these so-called “resources.”

That’s what I’ve got today: something of an explanation about how these things are connected to each other, and bigger than myself. I want to contribute to solutions that help a bigger world than the one I grew up in. That is why I write about injustice and inequality as concrete concepts, not abstract theories. Highlighting them might make for a more just and stable future.

Lessons

I have been showered with gifts and support, and I am so grateful to all of you. Your kindness has been incredible, and I’ve received so many kind notes of encouragement. I would not be housed and fed if not for the help of so many people who care. Thank you so much.

I want to reach a point where I can stop asking for help and say I’m settled and stable, but that time is still not here yet. It can happen if I keep working at my writing and building my Patreon support. Right now I make just enough to cover rent and my phone, and I have to wing it with the rest of bills. Thankfully, gifts have been making up the difference, as long as I have the courage to ask whenever I have another expense come up.

My last post explored that broadcasting each need, and recognizing that every need is a financial emergency, is exhausting. As if it wasn’t difficult to justify my budgeting to myself when I was working at a grocery store, now I have to justify my expenses to those around me. Nobody wants other people in on their finances, but that is the position that I find myself in, alongside many others. We are forced to either make our personal needs known or go without those needs being met.

The lessons I’m learning each day are difficult ones. I’m realizing constantly how inadequate my education was, and how little I know about the world. More than that, I was wrong for a long time about my conceptualization of the size of the world itself. I used to think my family was rather famous, and I know now that we never were. It was just my dad’s ego that invented this lie, which we all had to affirm as accurate when under his control.

My confidence in my writing has dropped significantly. I used to be so sure of myself, and would write far more often about each little thing that seemed so pressing. Now the issues are even more pressing, but my own role in the alleviation of pain in the world is less clear. Who am I convincing with these essays about injustice and inequality? I think people form their opinions prior to reading mine.

If you read here, can you leave a comment about why?