Breaking the Taboo

We’ve alienated each other from the conversation about fiscal policy, corporate policy, and shamed ourselves into silence. Either you’re a temporarily embarrassed rich person in the job and car and house and clothes of a poor person, or you’re too rich to ever disclose what you make, and feel guilty for amassing wealth that’s just pennies to the few people doing most of modern exploitation.

So, in the spirit of breaking taboos, I will reveal how much money I made last year: $12,000. Without unreportable charity, it would have been completely impossible for me to have kept a roof over my head during that entire time.

You and I will never be rich. Unless you’re in the 0.01%, but hey, there’s only a 0.01% chance that you’re in the 0.01%, right? You will always make exactly amount of money you need, by statistical chance. Never more, never less. Because inflation means every step forward keeps you exactly where you are. Let’s say you want to be earning $70k by 2023. That’s a valid goal for anyone to aim for five years in the future. My friend Matthew used an inflation calculator[1] to determine that $70,000 will have the spending power of $61,869 in 2023. That’s what a gridlocked economy looks like.

What are our chances of getting incredibly wealthy, and making the ranks of billionaires? The number of billionaires has doubled in the past seven years…from 1,011 in 2010[2] to 2,043 in 2017.[3] Interestingly, none of that wealth was spread from the original billionaires to the others. Each of the billionaires who’ve joined the list have apparently built their “own” (I’d say stolen) wealth. This is demonstrated in the fact that the amount of money they all have has also doubled.

So, just to guess: if this trend continues (double the number of billionaires and double the wealth between them in the next seven years), there will be somewhere around an even 4,000 billionaires in the world by 2025. That means that compared to everyone else in the world, you’ve got a 0.00005714288979593702% chance of becoming a billionaire in the next seven years. That number is so astronomical, it looks like it’s straight out of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

And yet I will guarantee you that people who are stuck in the mentality that the American Dream is real, that it’s not false hope to believe in those kinds of chances, will say one of two things in response. It’s either “well, I don’t need to be a billionaire,” or “you can still work really hard and get there.”

Yet I have numerous friends who nobly claim that they will someday get rich, so that they can join the ranks of philanthropic heroes. I urge you, please, consider the fallaciousness of this dream. You and I need to stop pretending that we are rich, that we’ll someday be rich, or that we identify with the rich. Unless of course, you agree with Congress members in thinking that $450,000/year is “middle class,”[4] in which case you are equally dissociative toward facts.

[1] https://smartasset.com/investing/inflation-calculator#LmeRPSsb5q

[2] https://www.forbes.com/2010/03/09/worlds-richest-people-slim-gates-buffett-billionaires-2010-intro.html#4d128eb141ab

[3] https://www.forbes.com/sites/kerryadolan/2017/03/20/forbes-2017-billionaires-list-meet-the-richest-people-on-the-planet/#2a71d4fa62ff

[4] http://www.newsweek.com/tax-cuts-republicans-middle-class-trump-701094

Why Trump’s Executive Order Is Very Bad News

Big content warning for in-depth discussion of the recent executive order from President Trump on choosing to imprison families together instead of separating them. More links and context were added 7/2/18. If you have any updates on this developing story, please leave links in the comments and I will update accordingly.

I don’t feel that any coverage of yesterday’s executive order properly addresses the most alarming element of what it actually says. For context on the story leading up to this, however you can find good recaps here and here. To my surprise many of my (mostly Christian moderate liberals) Facebook friends were sharing the story excitedly, saying it was “a step in the right direction,” or a “tourniquet to stop the bleeding at least.” 

But when my man read the actual text, he pointed out something that I haven’t been able to shake since he said it to me last night. It orders that all illegal aliens are now committing a crime, rather than, well, whatever it was before. I seriously cannot find any clear literature on a national law (prior to the executive order of June 20, 2018) that declares illegally entering the country is a crime. What level of crime is it, exactly, to attempt to enter the country? Comparable to degrees of murder, theft, etc? All I can find out is that this was previously not a crime. The most recent sources on this are from 2013 and 2017, but they merely speculate on this question.

Okay, Trump is using big words to sound smart and keep the American public wrapped around his finger. The key words to pay attention to in section 1 are these: Rigorously enforce. Committed. Crime. Subject to fine or imprisonment. Detaining alien families together.

Here’s the first sentence (don’t worry, there are only six) (emphasis mine):

       “It is the policy of this Administration to rigorously enforce our immigration laws.

Hmm…I thought this was supposed to be about how we’re…not taking children from their parents and keeping them in cages anymore?

He starts with reinforcing the lie that ICE has merely been enforcing the law. Many conservatives I’ve interacted with online believe that Trump was simply continuing the same border detention actions as the Obama, Bush, and Clinton administrations. His opening line is meant to calm everyone down. He’s still down to be a hardass to those bad, bad border-crossers. Victim blaming is exactly what the rich have always used to encourage bootlicking. Classic ‘Murica, but I get ahead of myself.

:cough: President Trump continues:

“Under our laws, the only legal way for an alien to enter this country is at a designated port of entry at an appropriate time.”

I would love to have more specifics here, but it’s Trump. I’ve had to pay tolls and cross borders and shit. White America thinks that’s all this is, not running for your life and stretching to feed and travel with your children to hopefully reach a safe place (because they can’t imagine it). America offers a place where these migrants can grapple with poverty under capitalism instead of war and terrorism that the US is largely to blame for, and whatever other reasons innocent people would seek sanctuary.

This is the part my boyfriend deserves credit for pointing out in Trump’s wording (emphasis and link added):

When an alien enters or attempts to enter the country anywhere else, that alien has committed at least the crime of improper entry and is subject to a fine or imprisonment under section 1325(a) of title 8, United States Code. This Administration will initiate proceedings to enforce this and other criminal provisions of the INA until and unless Congress directs otherwise.”

Congress has the opportunity to respond, but they most definitely won’t if voters are appeased by this law. When I read the text in that link, my heart rate went up. Imagine spending 5 years in prison, and having to rebuild your life afterward, because you got a marriage license to stay safe and alive.

Up next, the part we’ve all been waiting for! The bit where he says we’re not going to separate parents from children anymore! Let’s see what kind of harsh, choice words the Commander in Chief has for this atrocity against human rights. Here’s the second-to-last sentence of the Executive Order (the rest is definitions and details) (emphasis mine):

It is also the policy of this Administration to maintain family unity, including by detaining alien families together where appropriate and consistent with law and available resources.

Hold the phone – so the solution is to now, rather than putting innocent children in cages, we’re going to put their parents in the cages with them?! This does absolutely nothing to remove these for-profit camps that the children have been placed in thus far, and simply says we’re keeping the families together now.

The expectation is that the American public will be pacified with the idea of labeling innocent, asylum-seeking children as criminals. After all, criminals deserve what they get in this country.

As per usual, the unclear text to appease the American people is buried in editorialization (as if writing their lie into an executive order makes it true somehow based on the constitutionality of previous actions). The last sentence of section 1 snidely blames Congress:
“It is unfortunate that Congress’s failure to act and court orders have put the Administration in the position of separating alien families to effectively enforce the law.”
Bernie Sanders has called Trump out for failing to clearly define deadlines and parameters for his plans, leaving these families vulnerable to indefinite imprisonment together. The leaders of the American people think that if they make us angry about something and then pretend to fix it, we’ll stay quiet and quickly move on to the next headline.

But the backlash was not exclusively about separating children from their parents. It (still) is about treating innocent, desperate people in an inhumane way. This executive order does not fix that.

A of all, Americans seem to be generally okay with the idea of separating abusive parents from vulnerable children, as demonstrated by the shock over several case of severe child abuse were unearthed earlier this year. B of all, children being taken from parents in various ways is a familiar thing to minorities all over the US, and this widespread outrage is a slap in the face for people who’ve already lost children to systemic violence in its many forms.

If you’re listening to the minorities who are actually affected by being separated under American law enforcement’s violent rule, you know that none of this is new. Children are suffering, it seems, in every corner of the American system. African-American children are the most likely to be victims of murder (10 times more likely to be fatally shot with a gun than white children) and suicide (twice as vulnerable as white children), the direct result of merciless systematic violence: These children are separated from parents who are targeted for mass imprisonment/poverty for their labor. Just 100 years after genocide under the Jackson administration, Native American children were snatched from their homes to be brainwashed by white “values” and “language.” To this day, indigenous people are left in a double bind: on the one hand, few resources are allocated to their education to compete in a westernized society. On the other, who would want to be educated in how to be like these violent colonizers who’ve taken so much from them? As for “immigrants” from central America, we pushed the borders of Texas back into Mexican territory over slavery, harming both indigenous and enslaved people of the southern present United States. ICE has been terrorizing migrant families for MONTHS and arresting parents when they come to pick their kids up from school, to far less outcry. Voices all over the internet have been speaking up to say this is how it has always been. This is the United States, from genocide to slavery to concentration camps or internment camps.

It’s not just the US that has been and is committing genocide. Aboriginal people have been the target of Euro-centric violence all around the world since before America was “discovered” by white people. In Australia, politicians pay lip service to making amends for genocidal action, but families are still being separated.

Imprisonment is the historically effective solution for dealing with marginalized and oppressed people in the US. The violence against these people to this day is the prosecution of so-called “criminals” after successfully defining them as such. Thanks to this new executive order, children under the age of 18 are expressly labeled as criminals, and punishable as such, by previously defined laws. And they will be imprisoned and prosecuted, along with their parents.

This is not a step forward. It is an appalling attempt to make the American people believe that imprisoning entire families indefinitely, and prosecuting them like criminals for possibly years, is humane. The cages are not going away – though they are apparently funding “shelters” that these people will not be permitted to leave until their cases are handled. This effectively means concentration camps are still in operation today.

I am not in any way saying it’s okay to separate parents from immigrant families and put their kids in cages – that needs to stop immediately, and apparently has. Others have done much more significant work than I in coming up with ways to help these families and children. Here is a comprehensive list of organizations that are working to provide resources at the many complex levels of the restoration process.

Imprisoning entire families together by the thousands is exactly what you get away with by defining all of them as criminals, regardless of age. As long as people “deserve” what they get, it’s fine. Prisoners deserve their punishments. Who cares if we give them a little work to do while they’re in there, and let their families and resources crumble under them while they’re imprisoned? Dead children tell no tales – and the children who get sold into slavery? Well, their parents shouldn’t have done the Bad Thing that’s Against The Law.

The American public has believed its government over and over again whenever it Otherizes a group by calling it criminal.

One of the original lies that Trump told to try and dodge responsibility for the policy of separating families was, “The kids aren’t criminals, and we can’t prosecute them like they are, so we have to take the parents away.”

The outcry has continuously been, “Stop separating families!”

And the answer was, “Okay, fine. We’ll imprison the children and prosecute them as well.”

New Book Title: Music in the Dream House

I’m known for having fifteen brothers and sisters, narcissistic parents, an upbringing in a house of chaos, and an education rooted in fundamentalist religion. No, I’m not the only one. No, I’m not from the Duggar family on TV, but I have been on The Learning Channel and a few other spotlights.

One by one, my parents have kicked out all of their adult daughters, and have lived in quiet denial of my story. Their aim was to have as many children as possible, so that those children would participate in dreaming up a reality of their own making. It was a dream house, with no reality but what our parents wanted us to believe.

My oh-so-perfect family had hidden a life of misery under my very nose and commanded me to pretend that I was happy, and I obeyed. Recovering from the gaslighting was like waking up. So I’ve decided to go with the title “Music in the Dream House.”

The thought process behind this is several years in the making. Notably, the Duggar sisters wrote a book called “Growing Up Duggar” since I announced my tentative book title. I didn’t want my story to simply be a reference to another large family.

People want to hear a success story, a win for the underdog, and about triumphing over circumstances. My tone has always been a little different. See, I haven’t escaped. The nightmares haunt me to this day. My lack of education directly impacts my financial stability, which is why I live on about $12,000 per year. The outside world that I escaped to when I fled from my family feels like a much bigger cage. My understanding of what it’s like to start seeing through the cracks has made me incredibly skeptical. So Music in the Dream House will include quite of bit of discussion about science, psychology, education, and infrastructure gridlock.

I’ve also been reading a lot of memoirs, and noting that my story is far more universal than just being in a big family. This year I finished “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou and “The Dance of the Dissident Daughter” by Sue Monk Kidd, and both impacted me deeply. I loved singing and dancing in the title of these books, because it gave them an ethereal sense of stepping into a world of visceral feeling.

The themes in these books were also far broader than merely writing an expose about abuse and cult-like lifestyles. They encouraged me to sense that while my story has many unique details, my experience is not a spectacle, but a perspective on common experiences. Coming to terms with our childhoods and culture, religion and emotional development, relationships and illnesses – all of these are subjects I hope to treat with care in my book.

I’ve always written with descriptors from the music that has shaped my life. And I’ve always been a dreamer, and my siblings were dreamers, so the illusory nature of our reality in a world of sheltered gaslighting is naturally described as a dream. My parents’ book was titled “Love in the House,” which was a far-off dream compared to our reality. So I call it the dream house.

Writing this book has been slow. My draft document, with an innumerable amount of notes gathered as I think of them, is over 42,000 words of JUST NOTES. They aren’t complete sentences or stories. I had to make peace with the idea that it will not be a quick read. There is simply too much to tell. So far, the book has been an emotionally draining process, but rewarding in my trauma recovery. I’ve also found countless subjects that can’t be covered in a memoir and keep a constant flow, so I’ve been saving those notes for later projects.

If you’d like to support me in writing Music in the Dream House, you can find more details on my Patreon page.

‘Working from Home’ While Homeless

A very kind person has made sure that we aren’t sleeping on the streets. They didn’t have a room to spare, but on hearing that we were facing homelessness, figured a garage would at least provide shelter.

We hoped to save enough quickly to get a place to rent, but for six weeks now we’ve been sleeping on a stage block in that garage.

It’s become a little makeshift home, and it’s oddly the most welcomed I’ve ever felt in my years of forced wandering. Once my shock wore off, I had to accustom myself once again to the process of waking up each day. Being in the rainforest that is the Pacific Northwest has done wonders for our mental health. The air is cleaner here, the people are kinder.

For the past six months, I’ve been fighting hard to make writing my primary source of income. I’m a virtual assistant, a marketing content specialist, and a writer. The more I work at it, the better the pay and projects get.

Such work happens to be sporadic, so I don’t always get consistent paychecks. I generally research and describe products and services, still serving industries I ultimately find futile. Though my rapport grows with my clientele, I am living an odd irony of working from home while homeless.

People like me are seen as non-participatory in the workforce, so we don’t really count as unemployed or employed. I feel abandoned by the system as a rather privileged person. But my little chunk of injustice is only a taste of how many human beings are made to suffer. I am not angry for myself, but angry that my situation is so commonplace, so invisible, and so stagnant.

Here’s what I’m working on and how you can help:

Most authors don’t really involve their audiences until after the book is published, but because I’ve had so many people check in on me over the years, I want to reveal a little bit of the process. I’m putting up a full announcement later this week on where I’m at with my book, but you can read more about it on Patreon. It’s called Music in the Dream House (former working title Growing Up Jeub), it’s been four years since I started working on it, and much of the process is done. I’m finally ready to draft the proposal and full chapters. I have several agents picked out, and I will contact them once I have something they can work with me to finish and edit.

As for the blog, here’s what you can expect from my writings: Though the majority of my traffic flow comes from people who are curious about my family background, the majority of my reflections on child abuse and large families will be saved for my book. One aspect I’ll be discussing at length from my past, though, is in relation to current events surrounding homeschool families. Namely, the Turpin, Hart, and Allen-Rogers family cases have brought to light a very ugly loophole in homeschool oversight in the US.

Oh, also: last time I sat down to work on researching the details of inequality and injustice, I wrote a 30-page essay. I trust that you are all quite dedicated, but I want to break this information down into pieces slightly more bite-sized.

People who have been following my YouTube channel as well will want to hear about my religious stance, so, fine, I may also reveal some of what I’ve been working on in my practice as a solitary witch.

I want to finish this book. I want to post more on the blog. But unless I have more support for my own work, I must focus primarily on work for others for the sake of feeding this machine of capitalism that I cannot beat by turning its gears. Please don’t pledge if you do not have funds to spare. We’re in this together, and unfortunately the system demands a tax to be alive, much less to criticize it with candid content.

This is not a request for charity, this is asking a group of people to sponsor me in writing the content I’m endlessly drafting and piecing together, rarely with enough time to finalize and post anything. My aim is to treat my patrons with the respect of clients, people who are consistently receiving updates on what I’m working on, and able to answer polls about what topics are most interesting to them.

I’ve gotten this far thanks to the gifts and support of so many people, in unexpected times and places. Apparently there many kind people out there who want me to stay alive long enough to say what I am here to say. I am simply asking, will you support me so I can write?

Me, irl

I wake up and walk to a quiet oasis, sit down, load a bowl, and light a cigarette. This is my morning routine, it is the only medicine that calms my anxiety enough to work, and calms my stomach enough to eat. I’ll be putting in a few hours of work from my laptop after a high-protein breakfast. Then I’ll be walking down to the store or an appointment, and spending time with my partner in the afternoon.

It sounds normal and even desirable, but this is day 45 of homelessness for me. My partner and I thankfully have access to food, shelter, and friends. Friends are a luxury – I hadn’t visited with any in person in nearly a year. I walk most days or get rides, take a bus, or order a lyft, because we don’t have a car. I smoke because I haven’t seen a doctor in months, and it helps with the pain, the anxiety, and the depression. I’m out of meds until I get my paperwork together and work my way up a wait list. I paid for the protein drink and fruit with my carefully budgeted food stamps. The laptop was a gift, sent with no strings attached, six months after my last one was stolen. I don’t know where I’d be without this trusty laptop – I’ve never saved enough to spare funds for a laptop in the 18 months I’ve had it. The worry and guilt and wondering if we’ll possibly have enough to feel stable is familiar now.

My partner and I worked the anxiety out by vigorously cleaning the apartment. A kind supporter of my blog had sent us a big enough donation to get tickets out of the desert we’d felt trapped in for the past ten months.

We turned in our keys, barely nursed the car to be disposed before we carried everything we own onto what is known as hell on wheels, or a Greyhound. Over three days of travel, there are no stops long enough for sleep, or places to sleep, for that matter. My boyfriend keeps a watchful eye and watches the luggage while I smoke a quick cigarette. We check that the bus is still being prepared, and he takes his turn. By the time we arrive in the Pacific Northwest, I’m in a haze of exhausted mirth that there’s rain and tall, green trees in my rainforest home.

For the first week, I was in shock. This isn’t my first time being homeless, but my first experience of it was something I never want to face again. I slept on a friend’s couch for many hours, and switched between violent sobbing and stone-faced repulsion for life itself.

I thought I would die, surely I would die, if I had to face that horror again.

Of course, my not-at-all-white boyfriend called me out on my privilege, seeing as I so feared homelessness that it felt worse than death and made me fantasize obsessively about suicide. He’s been homeless many times, and he was gentle and caring as I spiraled, helping me to endure until the instability had become normalized.

It took several days of adjustment, but I realized I was not dead. I also realized I was not alone.

Realizing that life goes on, even when we feel like we’re going to fall too hard to survive, made me more determined than ever to discipline myself and pursue writing.

Or maybe I’m just off my meds? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

All year I’ve been trying to get to a blog relaunch, and my boyfriend has encouraged me to just say what’s really going on. But as with everything I’ve written about that strips away a new layer of my internet visage, I’m afraid.

I’m scared to reveal this to you, my blog readers, while also job searching and trying to put on a professional face for my professional success. But I’m tired of the pretense. Being brutally honest about my own insecurities has never failed to bring a sense of welcome to this little corner of the web.

A Cry for Justice

“Don’t you speak over my voice!
I will return from the shadows.” –Aurora

This blood-stained land has not known justice in centuries.

When I look to my own future, I feel both powerless and as if all hope is lost.

How can I hope for a place to rest my head, children from my womb, shelter from the elements, and food to keep me alive?

I suffer with all of humanity, and I know that my voice and my pain are but whispers in a whirlwind.

I am not protected from violence when innocent people are killed mercilessly by police. I am not protected from exploitation when it is the very thing that is rewarded. I am not free in a country that has colonized, killed, and still fences in and impoverishes its original inhabitants.

I hesitate to speak on any particular issue, for they are all of equal importance.

As trees scream when they fall and flowers longingly look for bees that are growing ever rarer, so children raise their voices to beg that they might not also fall victim to a system that devalues life.

Where are words in the impulsive web of miscommunication, and for how long should I hold my breath in the name of diplomacy?

The bitten tongue of the powerless becomes the bleeding mouth of the dead, and still wealth is hoarded with callousness.

When I was a very young child, I wished to join in the suffering of the most unfortunate. Allow me to be tortured, I begged a god I no longer believe in, in the place of those who are victimized. Allow me to take their place, I will take it all, so that they might suffer no longer.

These prayers proved as lifeless as the innocents around the world who are punished for living on a planet rich with black gold, too precious to tap without destroying her.

As I descend into the shadows of myself, I try desperately to find remedies, but hope dwindles as the void envelops me. I wonder if I will ever return, or if my descent has any end, crushing me in blackness darker than any light can reach.

Yet others in the same unjust world close their eyes, as if the darkness can be shut out and pretended away. I face the darkness and know it, but even the absence of fear is no promise of victory. Is my refusal to dissociate at all superior to who I once was, the girl who forced a smile to manipulate her own mind?

The curse of understanding is a double-edged sword. One glistening blade says that which is known cannot be again unknown, unless by the soul-insult of self-deception. The other slices with the truth of the ever-expanding unknown.

These things I knew at a young age as well, and I knew that if I lived by the sword, I would also die by it.

It cuts slowly, and I wish it would bring me the release of death, while mourning the death of other innocents. What good is it to mourn for myself, when justice has not touched so many others?

To muster the strength to cry out and hope to be heard is a fallacy.

The Pity Accusation

“When I was poor and complained about inequality they said I was bitter; now that I’m rich and I complain about inequality they say I’m a hypocrite. I’m beginning to think they just don’t want to talk about inequality.” –Russell Brand

Lately I’ve been getting a lot of backlash for being so open about my struggles with illness and income.

I’m in the process of writing a quite lengthy post, with over 100 footnotes of research on why I am not alone in this. But in the meantime, I want to respond to the people who see me as a willfully lazy complainer.

I could go on for pages upon pages of anecdotes and explanations. How when I’m afraid every day of losing my job, all stability is temporary – and why lack of job security isn’t something I can control. How I dropped out of college immediately when I realized my parents hadn’t filed their taxes, leaving me in needless and unplanned debt. How every solution I’m presented with is one I’ve already thought of and tried.

Going back to school? Countless applications and meeting with advisors revealed that no grants would be awarded, and education isn’t free.

Applying for loans? Done it. I can get a few hundred dollars at a time, and I am very good about paying them off quickly. In fact I regularly pawn our (outdated and nearly worthless) electronics to get through a few days of necessities.

Moving in with someone to help us get on our feet? Did that. It only wasted time and left us stranded, because the patience of the rich wears thin when faced with the reality of illness and limited opportunities.

Many friends have offered to get me involved in their pyramid scheme and commission-based jobs, and when I explain that I can’t afford to gamble, they throw up their hands, saying “I tried to help, but you’ve turned down my solution.”

No number of anecdotes is going to convince people not to judge me. My own sister called me “pitiful instead of powerful,” and I’ve had countless friends say that I’m too negative, I’m not getting better fast enough for them, and I just want to have a dramatic pity party for myself.

This is what it looks like to break the cultural taboo surrounding common issues.

My situation is truly not much different than that of most Americans living below the poverty line. Whether the circumstances surround displacement, loss of family members, illness or disability, or just the plain old lack of opportunity in this economy, the results are the same.

I want to make this abundantly clear: I am not living under the assumption that my life is particularly more difficult than that of most other people. I know I have access to clean water and the internet, and millions don’t. I know that my childhood can easily be found mild by comparison with what others have endured. I know that I have much to be grateful for.

But I also recognize that everyone who wants me to shut up about inequality and injustice is going to be disappointed.

For anyone else who is struggling: you are not alone. You don’t have to be grateful that it’s not worse. You are not obligated to be in contact with toxic people just because they are less toxic than others. You are also not required to live in shame over what you cannot control.

And no list of advice from people who are lucky – nothing more and nothing less than lucky – will solve your own personal situation.

Perhaps I will eventually be more stable. Perhaps I will someday be able to live without the need for charity. Perhaps my hard work will produce different results than it has so far. Even if these things happen, I hope that it will not stifle my passion for the many people who don’t get lucky.

Because the system of the modern world, if it does not change, will always leave more and more people in constant anxiety and struggle for a basic quality of life.

The so-called American Dream is a myth, and the few people who make the leap from poverty to wealth are the exceptions, not the rule.

In his 2004 book A Short History of Progress, Ronald Wright paraphrased John Steinbeck saying, “In America…the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat, but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”

I refuse to pretend that things are different than they are.

I refuse to dissociate through my everyday experiences, acting like business as usual in this society is acceptable.

I refuse to believe that keeping a roof over my head and nutrition in my body should be this difficult.

And I know that it is this difficult. I’m not exaggerating or ignoring the obvious jackpot of whatever get-rich-quick scheme or piece of perfect advice that will solve everything.

I’ve found that people who are healthy think that they’ve done something to deserve it. The same goes for people who are wealthy. Even if they don’t say it in so many words. The judgment and avoidance, because I am failing to meet the impossible standards placed upon me, are very real.

I refuse to be the perfect victim I’m expected to be. I will say exactly how wrong things are, and how to change them, and work to change them.

The accusation that I am just being negative and living in self-pity is not one I take personally. It is simply the reaction of a culture that is shocked at the idea of being open and outspoken about finances, mental illness, and a very broken medical system.

Nothing will change if the taboo is not broken, if the victims of a totally unjust society remain silent.

My power is in speaking up.

Obviously, I’m going to.


Further reading

Elephant and Mouse: A Fairy Tale by R.L. Stollar

On Being a Perfect Victim

The Diversity of Human Thought: A Project

My wonderful man is fascinated with psychology, and often collects books on the nature of the human mind, along with neurology. Recently he put a project together called “The Diversity of Human Thought,” in which he sends people the same set of questions to demonstrate how different people see the same scenarios. They range from the simple and silly to thought-provoking, and he has finally allowed me to put a link to his first questionnaire on my blog. Click here to read it, and feel free to send him a message on his Tumblog if you’re interested in this kind of thing and would like to be a part of the next questionnaire!

Recovering from Devotion

أَنِ اغْدُوا عَلَىٰ حَرْثِكُمْ إِن كُنتُمْ صَارِمِينَ

“Go early and rush to your orchards and crops if you wish to gather all their harvest and plentiful fruits.” -al-Qalam 68:22

“She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.
She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.
She gets up while it is still night;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her female servants.” –Proverbs 31:13-15

Almost three years ago, the wonderful Jennifer Mathieu gave me the honor of her time for an interview. When her book Devoted was released, I was a newly agnostic apostate. I distrusted dogma of any kind. Anyone who claimed to have answers and solutions was automatically someone who I thought would hurt me. I have still not recovered from the shock and grief and inability to function that indicate a traumatic childhood. Jennifer took researched and got to know some people who grew up in the same world I did, and delicately told a story about what it would be like to escape.

I want to look back on what I’ve learned in the years since I’ve been out in the world, experiencing its injustices for myself.

Anyone who has been educating themselves on the United States drug criminalization¹ is likely familiar with the cocaine rat testing of the 1970s. As told in the book Chasing the Scream by Johann Hari, lab rats were presented with two options: regular water or coke-laced water. The rats inevitably chose the coke-laced water until they overdosed. However, the rats were alone, with nothing else to do. So they redid the tests with things that would give the rats a good quality of life – plenty of space to run and play, companions, and toys. When the rats had a larger cage, they were content. These experiments have helped to enlighten us on the true nature of addiction. The rats in the fancier cage chose not to use the drugs because they didn’t need them to cope with existence.

(Okay, we haven’t gotten far enough into neuroscience to read minds yet, and we aren’t able to conclude whether rodents get existential. I digress.)

I always wondered, aren’t the rats just technically being pampered into accepting their imprisonment? As long as they’re fed and entertained, they just accept the cage and don’t need intoxication, right?

I’m skeptical. Because the more I understand what I once saw as the “outside world,” the more I see through the common tactics of people who lust after power. The same tricks I saw religious leaders and so-called patriarchs pull to gain mass followings are the same ones I’m seeing in politicians now. Yet for some reason I’m expected to believe that voting makes a difference, when I know exactly how this system works. I’ve seen it before. It’s just on a bigger scale.

Even if they’re trying to pacify me with entertainment and consumerism, I can still see the bars of the cage. I know I still can’t leave. I know I’m just a rat in a lab. I know my life is expendable.

I’m just a cog in the machine.

Now that we’ve set up some context, I can begin. The interview was published on the same day that Devoted was released, on June 2, 2015. I opened it by saying that I felt like living with my parents was playing an unwinnable game.

I still feel like I’m playing an unwinnable game. Every day I feel like I owe people money that I don’t have, and have no way of getting. The cost of living is so ridiculously high, that it’s hard to have the appetite for another meal of dollar store food. I’m ready for a revolution, because I can rattle the bars of this cage, and I refuse to be pacified.

Several therapists have suggested that I try to think more positively, and that’s been proven to just be bad science.² Jennifer and I discussed how large families like mine often “exuded happiness,” as she aptly put it, and how it was required that we smile at all times. I forced happiness and dissociation for years, tightening my grip on my Christianity hardest in my early adulthood, trying to prove to myself that I could believe in this thing that had failed me intellectually and spiritually.

Cages, coping, dissociation, devotion. My life as a stay-at-home daughter was a misery I could not accept as real. The days passed in blurs of exhaustion, herding children, working, trying to be a good student. I believed that I had to be happy, and I believed that this was what I wanted out of life, because there was no other way to be. Any other lifestyle – hindering god’s plan for your family with birth control, not being married, or being anything but cishet – was a sin to even entertain idle thoughts about.

Once while I was listening to the car radio, I heard a preacher giving a sermon about worship. He said that when it seems like something is too big to handle, we should just exalt god until we realize how small our problems are compared to him.

Terrible advice, I know now. Of course belittling your own emotions and blaming yourself for feeling them, and then distracting yourself with worshiping a deity so narcissistic he wants you to see only him and nothing else, is like a malignant tumor in the brain. It is well documented that abusers use gaslighting to make their victims believe that everything is fine, and they are happy, even if that happiness must be conjured from empty reserves of emotional energy.

But at the time, I took that advice to heart, and I know every person who is still trapped in that world does the same. I used to listen to a song that opened with the lines, “Take the biggest thing that’s got you down, and stand it up right next to god. Anyone can see who’s bigger now.”

As long as I, and my problems, could be made to seem small and insignificant compared to an ethereal presence of infinite proportions, I could survive.

I was devoted, like Rachel is in the book. I believed that the source of my strength was being pleasing to God, and that meant immersing myself in theology and scripture, a personal study in addition to my other duties. My intentions were pure. I wanted to love god with all my heart. I prayed constantly, always controlling my wandering thoughts.

Recovering from that level of devotion is a terrifying thing.

It is like being a frog, one who was nearly boiled alive when trusting a pot that started out as cold water, learning to swim in safe water again. What habits, rituals, controlled thinking, and relationship navigational skills still linger from the only upbringing I ever knew? How can I trust any level of dedication, interest, focus, or curiosity after being so hurt by belief?

In exploring other religions and having many mind-elevating experiences over the past few years, I have found no creed that doesn’t have the same fundamental flaws as all the others. Manifestation is just supplication with another name. The same can be said for positive thinking and delighting in the lord. Pop music is scripture, and scripture is contradictory. I find the patterns of humanity dizzying – we long for free will, yet we think someone or something is going to save us from that which we cannot control.

I recognize that recent scientific findings support rituals like mindfulness, meditation, yoga, and other forms of intuition-affirming self-care. However, I cannot help but observe the prevalence of the placebo effect alongside confirmation bias and the Dunning-Kruger effect. Humans have brains that have evolved to assume that we are right, that what we believe matters, and we’ll filter information to confirm our beliefs, and we’ll think that we have a better understanding of things than others.

Nevertheless, I cannot deny what I have observed of the cosmic, the paranormal, and the psychic. So I tread very lightly and carefully, keeping my eyes wide open, knowing that my devotion is sacred yet free. The demons I was warned about are more vile than what lie in the Christian imagination, and the god I was supposed to love was a cruel jailer.

I know a lot of people who have abandoned faith completely. There are also many who have found another religion to devote themselves to. Ironically, the path of forsaking worship or ritual is an untrodden one.

It feels hypocritical of me to light candles and draw quarters on each full moon and new moon, and I doubt that it has any real influence that pervades reality. The calm I sense and the results I record are far too subjective, and the possible explanations too bizarre for isolated and consistent lab tests. I doubt myself doubly because I called myself a hypocrite when I was a Christian trying to go through endless dissonance to defend my faith, too.

Relating to the divine doesn’t have to be about minimizing my own experience, though. It can be about expression – laments and dreams and happiness deserve time set aside to be reflected upon. Gratitude and complexity. Grief and nihilism. Nightmares and visions. If it takes marking my calendar and lighting some incense to honor my human experience, limited as it might be, then I will endure the pain and ecstasy of this life.

There should be no suffering for the sake of devotion. Rather, to be alive is itself to suffer. We each choose every day whether we’ll close our eyes to reality, or if we’d rather be devoted than aware.

In my recovery, I honor my own experience instead of living in denial and suppression of it.

¹Recommended reading on the subject: The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

²Just a few sources for this include Newsweek, Forbes, and Ideapod.

The Archive Restoration Project

As many of you know, my blog was lost in late 2016. I had written over 500 posts since 2012, sometimes every day.

I was homeless, and it was time to renew my web host. I was able to keep my domain name – thank the old gods and the new, I can only imagine what my dad would do with it if he got a chance to buy it out from under me. But the web host was gone, and I didn’t have a computer, so I spent several hours talking quietly on the phone with customer service at the library. Long story short, when my wonderful friend Kieryn helped with restoring my website with a fresh layout, I had nothing to show for my years of work.

Writing has been difficult because survival is a full-time job in this economy. My Patreon has helped to free my time to dedicate toward the blog and my memoir. But uncovering the memories of trauma and pain, while my memory wanes, has been a massive task. How do you sum up what was an entire life, so different from the everyday life of the outside world? How could I know what people would read about, and wanted to know?

So near the end of 2017, I created an account on Free Jinger after years of lurking. FJ is a forum for snark about quiverfull families who’ve been featured on reality TV. Back when my family was on The Learning Channel, my dad called the many commenters on FJ “haters.” I’ve since realized that the people there are very kind and concerned, and the things they said about my parents were both observant and reasonable. I started a thread introducing myself, and was able to read many stories from other survivors. Most of the people who know my story don’t even watch reality TV much, as I learned.

When some of the users on FJ found out how my archive had been lost, they volunteered to help me gather all of the remaining content from the WayBack machine. Not every post was recoverable, but I now have a salvaged archive, and I want to give my profound thanks to Stephanie for volunteering her organization with recovering the old posts, and Jennifer for helping her to copy and paste hundreds of posts so I can reupload them.

Reading the old posts, though, has presented countless moments of scratching my head, finding myself avoiding the things I once believed, and feeling deep shame and grief.

I said a lot of hateful and ignorant things when I was younger. I also failed to be inclusive in my language, most memorably in my series on homosexuality, in which I expressed that I didn’t want to address LGBTAIQ beyond the first three letters. As Josh and Lolly Weed apologized for their former ignorance in a recent heartbreaking post, I’d like to give a similar apology.

To anyone who I excluded in my language, I’m sorry. To anyone who took my advice on suppressing emotions and being a good Christian, I’m sorry. And especially to anyone who felt they could do a better job of honoring their abusive parents because of my words, I’m sorry.

I know better now. But the problem remains about my old posts.

As I upload them, they will contain an original date, disclaimers, content warnings, and, where needed, commentary.

While I will do my best to honor my story over the years, and put back up the many writings that I’m constantly getting messages about, I don’t want to re-post whatever I find unhelpful to the collective consciousness. Certain problematic posts, though, will be worth sharing as examples of how deeply gaslit I was, as long as I add what I know now. It means so much that after all these years, I’m still getting asked for specific articles and having them referenced.

So enjoy! The posts will be coming back as I have the time and energy to post them.