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?

Broadcasted Needs

Over the past seven years, I’ve had tremendous support increase with each year. Despite how messy 2020 was, we even managed to raise enough funds to move and never miss rent. I am so grateful to all of you for seeing our needs while so many needs are not being met.

While I am extremely grateful for how massively generous my supporters have been, I cannot help but think that things shouldn’t be this way. The people around me shouldn’t have to scrounge up spare cash to help me make each little expense. At the same time, I shouldn’t have to broadcast every need that comes up. When you have exactly enough income for rent and utilities, every additional expense is a financial emergency.

Navigating the “gift economy” is becoming familiar to me personally, but the sheer number of people who are turning to GoFundMe and other such platforms is troubling. It shows that the people in this country are being failed in every way. We don’t have medical access or good housing access. Charity is like first aid in that it is necessary for immediate emergencies, but it’s far from sustainable.

I’ve written before about how charity is reversed in our society. Wealth flows upward steadily into the pockets of the rich, and the rich only “give” enough in return to benefit themselves further. I know that most of my supporters are not rich, though. I’m not reversing the trend of upward flowing funds, because I rent, and 76 people contribute to that rent. The more people who pledge on Patreon, the more I can breathe financially, and the closer I get to being able to help others in addition to supporting myself and my partner.

I don’t want to complain for myself, so much as I want to complain for all of the people who don’t have a platform like mine. What are your options when you have a financial emergency, and even if you ask for help, nobody cares enough to fund your campaign? I have so many friends who are in the same boat, desperately asking for each need to be met, only sometimes having the luxury of a place to sleep and shower.

I don’t know if I will be able to work outside of the home again. My body is in too much pain, too exhausted, on a regular basis. At my last job, people twice my age were able to do more heavy-duty tasks than I was, and it’s been nearly a year since I worked there.

I use a stool in the kitchen now. It’s a tall bar stool with a rotating cushioned seat, duct taped in two places. Sitting down preserves my energy and prevents pain later. My partner and roommate are unable to help with housework, because while my capacity is limited, theirs is more so. Perhaps someday soon I will have to think about getting help.

I don’t have a good conclusion here. I just know that I’m doing all I can, and that apparently looks like writing posts occasionally while struggling to keep up with basic household needs. It is all I know how to do to make ends meet right now.

If you want to pledge toward my monthly or annual budget, you can do so on Patreon.

I also have PayPal paypal.me/CynthiaJeub or Cashapp ($CJeub) if you want to give once.

My Amazon wish list link is also below, for those who’d like to give direct gifts instead of funds. It’s difficult to organize everything on the list itself, so I’ve made a list of priorities. Perhaps someday I won’t have to do this anymore.

(Edit 3/16/2021: Nearly all of these needs have been met, and I’ve made the wish list private again due to some shipping issues. Thank you all so much for your overwhelming support and kindness!)

  • Most pressing need: A wagon for transporting trash and groceries
  • Work
    • Printer/Scanner: this is a very expensive item and would replace a smaller, less reliable printer. The main thing is I don’t have a scanner for preserving my paintings digitally.
    • Flash drive: small expense for digital storage.
    • Stapler: We may have found a stapler that’s a bit whimsical…perhaps someone can appreciate sinking a dragon’s teeth into each project.
  • Pain relief/therapy
    • Voltaren gel
    • Light therapy lamp
    • Elbow braces
    • Wrist brace
    • Naproxen
    • Omeprazole
  • Kitchen
    • Kitchen worktable/shelf
    • Rolling stool
    • Step stool
    • Blender
    • Food processor
    • Vegetable peeler/scrubber
    • Garlic press
    • Grater/slicer
    • Glasses
    • Spices
  • Art supplies
    • Colored pencils and coloring books
    • Canvases
    • Acrylic Paint
    • Watercolor brush pens, watercolor paper
    • Gouache set
  • Household
    • Iron
    • Humidifier
    • Mattress topper
    • Pillows
    • Essential oil diffuser
  • Bookshelf: I have one just like this, it would be mirrored by the other one, which is full of books.
  • Books: finally, all the things I’d like to read.

A Year Spent Surviving

I’m going to keep this short because 2020 has been so chaotic and exhausting, it’s taken me several hours to come up with those two words to describe it.

First, of course, I want to thank everyone for everything you did to help us get through last year. I left my retail job in March and have been relying on the help of others to make bills and meet needs since. The anxiety has been immense without a steady income, but I’m so grateful for everyone and every gift.

Settling into a new place has been fantastic for all three of us living here now. It has meant freedom and acceptance to have a space to ourselves. I am grateful. Grateful that I have this opportunity, and angry that it is such a rare privilege. Housing is a human right and homelessness kills, and none of you should have had to dip into your own pockets to keep my partner and me alive, but you did, and I’m so thankful to all of you for being willing to do that.

I can be angry and thankful at the same time. Thankful for the people who care. Angry at the many who don’t, for the many who get overlooked. This year has been complicated like that. At the time of writing I haven’t received my stimulus check, but I expect I will get something, and I’m angry and thankful about that, too. It’s not enough for the many people struggling, but it’s something. It’s so close to nothing compared to how much people need help right now that it’s insulting and infuriating. But I’m going to use it as wisely as I can with the needs I have.

My writing is in flux right now. I’m figuring out what I do and don’t know about the world, and that influences what I’m confident in writing about. I’ve been trying to write about economics, for instance. I learned how to research through homeschool speech and debate, which in my personal experience was not a solid foundation in research. I also learned most of what I know about economics through capitalist propaganda. I think I am justified in my anger about the injustice of inequality. My understanding of it is simplistic, however. I want to better inform myself so I can write with greater credibility.

I think it’s a good thing to recognize one’s own ignorance as the years pass. The universe is more complex than I will ever be able to comprehend, and the more I learn about it, the more I realize I don’t know. I’m exploring and working to educate myself.

Making it through this year would not have been possible without all of your help. Thank you all so much. I long for a time and place where avoiding homelessness isn’t this hard.

Future Focus

From what I have read about trauma recovery, the process can take a lifetime. The damage done over decades cannot be overwritten in a few years. I’m looking to the future with cautious hope. While a new year may not be a magical reset, I am reflecting on my priorities. I want to improve my writing, pursue better mental and physical health care, and continue to heal.

I need a new approach to writing. I generally sit down and start typing without anything in mind. Trying to stick to a specific topic, or starting with a title in mind, is too rigid and I can’t produce enough words. I can write endlessly if I’m free to write about nothing at all. This is lazy writing. I am not challenging myself to better master my only language.

Now that the move is finally over, I am taking steps once again to properly treat my mental illnesses and trauma. I may have uncertainties, but I remain radicalized to the deadliness of the system. Trying to take care of myself has been a fight, and the more I talk to people who’ve found good therapists and the right medications, the more I realize that I have not yet. Since I started seeking care, my housing and life has been so unstable, I’ve had to switch therapists many times. It took me a long time to realize how unhelpful the attempts to get me on track to recovery have been. I’ve only been seeking professional recovery for six years to deal with 22 years of complex trauma, and it is simply not enough to overwrite the damage done.

Someone dear to me has explained that grief turns from a fresh sting to a familiar ache over time. Healing has not been a clear process. I’m not even sure if I am healing, or if time just widens the gap between now and then. The charts say my depression and anxiety and C-PTSD haven’t changed much. I don’t claim to have figured it all out, but I am not optimistic about the world. This is because I look around and see so many people trapped with nowhere to turn.

The people who have power and resources are using it to deprive the rest of us of the basic means to live. People are dying from a failing housing system, a failing medical system, a failing economic system. This is apparently the best it’s ever been, and injustice is rampant. My brain tells me that everything is hopeless, and I can’t help but think that maybe depression and anxiety are proper reactions to the world as it is. I am just beginning to appreciate the fact that maybe my brain is lying to me because the chemicals aren’t working right.

I’m lucky to be able to have a few inexpensive surprises for my loved ones this season, along with the gifts you all have sent from the Amazon wish list. Soon we will celebrate something like Yule and eat something special and exchange these gifts. We don’t have the spare funds to decorate but it will be a festive time to appreciate winter and the safety of a place to shelter in through it. Thank you all for helping to make it possible.

What I Do and Don’t Know

The older I get, the more I realize how inadequate my education was. My writing, my strongest skill, is littered with grammatical errors. I am passionate about the injustices I’ve discovered in the years since I’ve started educating myself, instead of relying on my parents to inform me about the world. When two people are your only constant access to information, your window of what the world looks like is very small. I am amazed every day to the point of emotional overwhelm by the things I learn, simply by watching documentaries about the universe and world.

The place we’ve evolved in is an indescribably tiny world in an incomprehensibly huge universe. In the minds of fundamentalists, this universe can easily be held together by a human-like being who cares about what we do to pleasure each other but not about what happens in war. This has, at least, been my experience. I’m also not excited about January, and I haven’t talked to many people who are. I’m worried, and my anxieties are catastrophic. Perhaps my fears are unwarranted. People from my grandparents’ generation keep reminding me that these things take time. The generation after mine isn’t so sure.

Here’s the thing. I don’t know a lot of things, but I’ve been taught to pretend like I do. That was, in the end, the whole point of competitive Christian homeschool debate: to persuade through performance. That’s why a specific category of human almost always won the biggest competitions. My perception of the world has been altered drastically so many times in my life, that I cannot expect it to remain constant. What I know is that I know a lot less than people who had a standard education.

Writing a memoir about being deprived of a normal life is a complex effort. It is both about writing what I know and what I don’t know. Like I said earlier, the older I get, the more I realize I don’t understand, or I understand at a very rudimentary level.

For instance, the human body. I don’t know much about it. When people refer to organs, what goes through my head is memories of cutting out coloring pages of the organs so my little siblings could glue them onto silhouettes of their bodies that we’d drawn on large pieces of paper. The heart was in red and blue crayon, glued on behind the pink lungs, and below those are the organs I don’t remember very well. Mom read the same books every year, and it was my job to make the copies of the coloring pages so each of the kids could color them in while mom read from a book called “My Magnificent Machine” – a selection of Biblical devotionals about some basic interesting facts about the body that were palatable for children. The people I spend the most time with understand that I need to have common things explained to me every day. I have to be honest that I don’t know what a lot of words mean, and I struggle with conversations about anything medical. I edited this paragraph after some googling because it was more embarrassing than this, too.

While there’s validity in the wisdom of realizing that I ultimately know nothing, I think this problem is also unique. There is genuinely a great deal that I am ignorant about. I feel that the next part of my life looks like writing my way through educating myself. I am uncertain about many things and I want to learn and explore more, instead of trying so hard to recover the past in a way that makes sense to read.

Thank you all so much for reading and supporting me. It has meant a chance at a better place to live, and the opportunity to return to my work in earnest. This month I will be writing less about certainties and more about uncertainties. I’m feeling festive this year, so we’ll discuss seasonal things, like gratitude and depression. I appreciate you all so much.

Creating a Home

Wow. You all have given us so much in helping us move into a new place, and showering us with housewarming gifts. We now have a beautiful collection of kitchen and living room items, and we’re down to a few final needs, detailed below.

I’ve painted a few times since we moved, and this is the work I’m most proud of:

Image: an abstract painting with dark purple forms with white specks over them, resembling stars in space, outlined in white like clouds. Winding through the middle is a pattern of soft light blue and purple. Gold lightning bolts reach out from the dark purple starry cloud-like forms.

Our apartment is small but new and clean. We’ve decorated it with nerdy posters and paintings, and we’ve pinned up the gay and trans pride flags in our entry way. These past few weeks I’ve been recovering. For two and a half months we anticipated this move, and had to delay it multiple times.

I wrote in my last post about some of the generous gifts we received, and I am so grateful. Very soon I will resume my usual existential writings, but I have two last things to ask for help with. Please, if you have the ability to help others, consider helping with these two things:

Ryann’s Fundraiser

While we met our fundraising goal (thank you all so much again for your kindness!), my new roommate, Ryann, still needs to raise another $715 to catch up after the move and cover needs of their own. If you were willing to give to me and my partner, please consider giving to Ryann. They have the income to be on track to cover expenses soon, but this last push will help tremendously with giving them that stability.

Ryann also has a Patreon, and we are both writers. I write nonfiction primarily, while they specialize in epic fiction of many sorts. Their work is superb and deserves many more readers, in my personal opinion.

Amazon wish list

At the top of this list are our remaining home needs. We very much need a vacuum cleaner. We have one bookshelf that can’t hold all our books, and one to match it on the wish list. Also on the list are some pain relief products, holiday treats and gifts including games, and a few remaining kitchen/bathroom/household items. I also added canvases and paints so I can keep creating, and a gift card option so I can buy gifts for the people I care about. To those who’ve already generously given us gifts, thank you so much. For those who would like to explore the wish list, it’s here.

I cannot thank you all enough for helping us to survive through years of poverty and staying housed in a pandemic, and most recently helping us move into a better place for us. It’s small and imperfect but it’s home. I have a collection of supporters to thank for that, and I appreciate it so much.