Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Belated Birthday...

I turned 40 on June 20th. As is customary, I count my birthdays from when I left the cult in 2005. So this year I turned 9. These are the developmental milestones for a 9 year old, with my comments in red. Let's see how I measure up.

Thinking and reasoning (cognitive development):

Know that objects have uses and can be classified into different categories. For example, they recognize that a carrot is something to eat and is a type of vegetable. I know it's a vegetable. But I still hate it.

Can read and understand longer sentences up to 12 words. Up to 12 words, eh? Hmm...that might be pushing it.

Can add and subtract 2-digit numbers, understand fractions, and are learning how to borrow and carry values. For some reason, this one sounded philosophical to me. Adding and subtracting relationships and priorities to/from my life. Learning how to borrow and carry values sounds like some of my recent life lessons. But fuck fractions. No one understands fractions.

Like organization and planning, such as making plans ahead of time with friends. I am the queen of organization and planning. Good thing, because I get paid to do it.

Think independently. Most children are improving their decision-making skills. I'm the independent thinker the JW's warned you about. My decision-making skills are advancing; have made some of the most difficult decisions of my life this year.

Can accomplish increasingly more complex tasks and projects in school, such as book reports. Goodreads FTW!

Emotional and social development:

Recognize basic social norms and appropriate behavior. Recognize? Yes. Comply with and exhibit? Not always.

Can control their anger most of the time. Funny this should be a 9-year-old milestone. For most of my life, I've had a hard time with anger, both my own and that of others. My usual response is to repress anger and flee conflict. This year has really brought me closer to responding in a more healthy way to both.

Have caring, solid friendships. Here's a group shot from my 40th/9th birthday party. Caring. Solid. These are my friends. This is my family.

Have gained a strong sense of empathy, which is understanding and being sensitive to the feelings of others. I've always had that. Too much so at times. It's much more balanced now.

Have more stable emotions than in the previous year. Mood swings may still occur, but not as frequently as before. Good meds, good therapy, good friends, good times.

Have overcome most fears that were common in earlier childhood. But they often start having more anxiety from common stressful situations, such as school performance. Substitute work for school and yup, that's about right.

Are curious about relationships between boys and girls. Few will admit to this interest—most will insist that they are horrified by the opposite sex. I like boys. Boys are stupid. 

Language development:

Read frequently and enjoy books. I run two book clubs and am finally reading Harry Potter. Wahoo!!!

Often read with a goal of learning about something of interest. My book collection is still mostly made up of non-fiction titles. Once a nerd, always a nerd.

Have speech patterns that are nearly at an adult level. Nearly.

Sensory and motor development:

Enjoy active play, such as bike-riding, swimming and running games (such as "tag"). I started jogging this summer. I look like an awkward giraffe.

Become increasingly interested in team sports. Do orgies count?

Get dressed, brush hair, brush teeth, and get ready without any help. Yup. I'm a big girl now.

Use simple tools, such as a hammer, by themselves. This is actually kind of funny because I've been doing more of the fix-its around my apartment this year.

Like to draw, paint, make jewelry, build models, or do other activities that use their fine motor skills. Crochet...look what I can do!

So, looks like I'm on track. I hit 10 next year. I'm growing up so fast!

tall penguin

Saturday, March 29, 2014


In the Spring of 1999, long before I made the choice to officially and permanently leave the JWs, I was excommunicated. I was 24, at the end of a wearisome, disastrous 5 year marriage, made more wearisome and disastrous because it should not have taken place to begin with. But when you’re a horny, confused teenaged JW with no sexual outlet but to get married, that’s what you do. 

Then one day, you wake up to realize you’re married to someone you don’t love, and probably never did. And then an inevitable chain of events begins to unfold: 

You fall in love with someone else. 
You end up seeing that person secretly. 
You end up doing things with that other person that breech the dogma of your religion. 
You confess. 
You face a JW tribunal who decide your fate. 

18 months later, I was diagnosed with PTSD because of the things the elders asked me in that 6 hour closed-door meeting. Every Spring since this happened 15 years ago, my body remembers. It remembers the coldness of those elders, their leering glances, how obvious it was to me that they were getting off on the details of this brief sexual interlude with a man I truly loved. How they were quick to decide that I was an evil, plotting, master of deception trying to escape an unfulfilling marriage. When I was just a 24 year old in love with someone not my husband, exploring a sexuality I didn’t even know I possessed. 

And so, I was excommunicated. Kicked out of my religion and shunned. During which time I had to do penance, which meant attending JW meetings three times a week while being shunned and looked upon like I wore a scarlet letter. In hindsight, if I’d only known then what I figured out later at the age of 31, I’d have left the JWs permanently at that point. But I still believed it was the true religion. So I did my time, and a year and a half later, the elders let me back into the JWs. 

As difficult as that year and a half was, there was also something incredibly freeing about it. Since none of my JW friends would speak to me, I spent a lot of time alone. Reading, writing, listening to music, seeing movies. For the first time, I went to the theatre to see movies by myself. One of which was ‘Magnolia’. It was a matinee and if I recall correctly, I was alone in the theatre. It was just me and the characters on the screen. 

And this was the first time that I consciously recall seeing Philip Seymour Hoffman. Which brings me back to 2014…February 2, 2014…the day Philip Seymour Hoffman died. Something in me broke when I heard that PSH died. I instantly remembered sitting in that theatre seeing him for the first time. And I remembered how he, and all of those characters, spoke to me. Spoke for me. 

When you grow up without a mirror for the deepest emotions you feel, when you grow up with the message that your emotions are to be controlled as harmful, and further, can actually be manipulated by the devil, well you find it hard to know that those emotions are in fact normal and okay. Magnolia gave me that. PSH gave me that. 

Up until that point in my life, I’d rarely seen a man cry. And here PSH was, on this big screen in front of me, crying. And then everyone starts crying. And singing. And crying. And their emotions are real to me. They’re real to me. More real than most of the people I’d yet known in my life. 

So, when PSH died, I remembered all the portrayals he gave that spoke for me. That shone a mirror up to some part of who I was and said Hey, it may be ugly and hard, but it’s real and it’s yours and that’s okay. It’s all okay.

I cried for PSH. I cried as though he was a friend who’d stood by my side during some really difficult times in my life, holding the space for everything that I was feeling. Because he was. 

I still have flashbacks of that period of my life as a JW. 15 years later and I still can’t get through Spring without some recollection of it. I can’t say it gets easier with age. ‘Time heals all wounds’ is a lie the old tell the young to disguise the fact that nothing actually heals, the mind just slowly forgets. But the body...the body remembers everything. 

tall penguin