Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Great Escape...

When I was a child, I had this recurring dream where I was being chased by a giant spider through a department store. I couldn't just run away though because for some reason I was naked and had to make my way to safety while hiding under one clothing rack after another, so I wouldn't be seen by the spider or anyone else.

Ten years ago today, at the age of 31, I left the cult I was raised in. Naked, exposed, vulnerable, I ran. I was shunned by my community. I kept running. Everything I believed came crumbling to the ground. I kept running. Who I thought I was disappeared like an apparition in a breath of wind. I kept running.

Ten years ago today, at the age of 31, I left the cult I was raised in. And it saved my life.

Today, when I meet someone new and they discover that I was raised in a cult, one of their first responses is, "But you seem so normal." And I smile. Because that is the best compliment anyone can give me. All my life I was different, other, separate. And while I relished the sense of specialness this gave me, it also alienated me from life, from connection, from reality. So, if I have somehow, over this long decade, managed to recreate myself into a being that on first impression seems 'normal', well, I think I've done a pretty damn good job.

As I reread my early blog entries (like the entry above), it's clear how long it took me to feel like I was part of this world and not outside of it. Feeling like an alien coming to the planet for the first time was harrowing and exciting. And traumatic and wonderful. I remember that person---that struggling, feeling, hurting person. She is me, and she is not me. I've come a long way from there to here.

I don't think much about suicide anymore. Although it was once my constant companion, it is now more of a passing glance by someone I once knew.

Being alive today is a gift. I am honestly not sure I would've lasted another decade in the Jehovah's Witnesses. Or lasted in this life at all. If I had, I believe all that would be left of me is a shell. A hardened husk of a human waiting for the end of the world. Waiting for judgement. Waiting for a new world I was never sure I would be deemed good enough to be part of. Waiting. Waiting. Forever waiting. 

I don't wait anymore. 

I wake up. I work. I love. I breathe in. I breathe out. 

Everything else is just details of a story not unlike so many others that share this planet. One of survival. One of resilience. One of hope. But I do not wait. I live.

And so, here I stand, ten years later. Ten years out of the cult I was raised in. The questions and the constant ponderings are still there. But they no longer overwhelm me or drive me into a depression wondering why I'm here or what I'm supposed to be doing. Instead, they drive me forward, aware that there is always more to learn, always more to experience, patient, as Rilke says, with all that is unresolved in my heart, loving the questions themselves.

In the words of my wise father, all I really know is that I am here. And that, finally, is enough.

tall penguin

Sunday, August 16, 2015


Well, I turned 41...err...10 in June. 10 years old. 10 years out of the cult. 10 years. I can't believe it's been 10 years.

My official anniversary date for leaving the cult is coming up in a week. I'd like to save my reflections on that for a later post. For now, it's time to look at the developmental milestones for a 10 year old and see how I'm doing.

Thinking and reasoning (cognitive development):

Know the complete date (day of the week, day of the month, month, and year). This is where my real age and post-cult age diverge quite a bit. Once I hit 40 I began losing track of time. Days blur into months. Months blur into years. I like this new sense of time. It's refreshing not to be so conscious of its passing.

Can name the months of the year in order. Believe it or not, this is still how I keep track of the months and their days. It's amazing what sticks with you from grade school.


Can read and understand a paragraph of complex sentences. I'm reading more neuroscience research than ever. Can't say I understand all of it, but I is getting there.

Are reading books with chapters. I've started reading Harry Potter for the first time ever. I really am a 10 year old!

Are skilled in addition and subtraction and are building skills in multiplication, division, and fractions. I can create a pretty kickass Excel spreadsheet with relatively complex formulas. Does that count? (pun entirely intended) Also...Vlookup FTW!

Have learned to write in cursive. Cursive is for losers. Actually, I envy people who can write beautiful cursive. I have neither the patience nor the skill.

Can write simple stories. If this blog proves anything, it's that I can write simple stories.

Emotional and social development:

Enjoy being with their friends. They often have a best friend of the same gender. I am fortunate to have many besties.

In case it's not obvious, I'm the tall one.

Continue to enjoy team and group activities. *resisting urge to post yet another orgy joke*

Continue to insist they are not interested in the opposite sex. But they may show off, tease, or act silly as a way of getting attention from or interacting with them. I'm pretty sure this behaviour continues until the day you die. It's called flirting. 

Like and listen to their parents. Some children, though, will start to show irritation with or lack of respect for adults who are in charge. Hahaha...still showing irritation with most of the adults in charge. Sure glad I can vote now!

Language development:

Enjoy reading. They may seek out magazines and books on subjects of special interest. The Atlantic, The New Yorker and The New York Times are my friends.

Can converse easily with people of all different ages. I definitely can, although, it's been a pattern through most of my life that I've been out of step with my own age group. Either ahead or behind, I've found it hard to relate. When I was a 25 year old JW, my friends were all married and having children. I, on the other hand, was childless, getting a divorce and being shunned.

Now that I'm 41 and out of the cult, those in my age group are almost all married, raising kids and nesting. Me, I'm having fun hanging out with the 25-30 year olds who are just starting their lives. Alas, I am still being shunned. I guess some things never change.

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

Sensory and motor development:

Have developed control of their large and small muscles. They are able to enjoy activities that use these skills, such as basketball, dancing, and soccer. I suck at motor skills. I trip over things that don't exist. 

Have developed endurance. Many can run, ride a bike, and enjoy activities that require a degree of physical conditioning. I can't say I've ever had physical endurance. I can mentally tough myself through many a challenge, but physically, I start to wear pretty darn quick. This has been an obstacle through much of my life. I have a brain in high gear but a body with its foot on the brakes. I often imagine how wonderful it might be to be a brain in a jar à la Futurama.

All of that said, I have been working with a trainer once a week and am probably enjoying the best health and fitness I've had in my life.

Continue to advance their fine motor skills, such as those needed for clearer handwriting and detailed artwork. As mentioned above, motor skills have never been my thing. Having had Fibromyalgia most of my life, my muscles have never been very good at coordinating movement. It's been tough having a body that doesn't move very well, but I've managed to have a full life in spite of it. 

The only time I feel truly in control of my body is in water. Water is the place where I don't have to fight gravity to control my body's movements. I love water. 

Me combining two of my favourite activities in the Dominican Republic, 2014.

Well, there you have it. I'm on track for the age of 10. I still can't believe it's been 10 years since I left the JWs. Stay tuned for my reflections on this upcoming anniversary.

tall penguin