So much has happened since the last time I blogged, I hardly know where to begin. So I will just blurt it all out. I had a blog reader recently write to me and ask if I’d stopped blogging suddenly because I was depressed. I wasn’t. But then I thought about it. It hadn’t occurred to me that people might be worried about me, but I can see how that might be an easy conclusion to come to. After all, I’ve blogged about my journey through PTSD and divorce and about endemic child abuse and child abuse denialism in homeschooling communities. I’ve talked about the gender disparities and the indoctrination that the Quiverfull life does to women regarding their roles and their purpose. All of these things, coming together, could easily prove to be a total clusterfuck of depression and misery, right? Well, yeah. Of course.
But I haven’t been blogging for another reason. I’ve been mostly happy. Exploring, rebuilding my life, putting the pieces where I want them to go.
Yes, there were horrible awful dark times during the divorce process. Yes, there were things that happened that I thought couldn’t help but permanently shatter my sense of trust and faith in any and all human beings, along with the one I had given my heart to and promised to be with for life in front of all the people we knew. But in truth I was writing during the worst of it. Writing helped me deal. It’s when things started getting better, started changing so rapidly that I didn’t know how to make sense of it or keep up that I stopped writing. After all, to write you have to know something about what your story is. And I didn’t know what my story was becoming. I was just there, along for the ride, as it unfolded like a kalaidoscope, never resting in one place for too long.
And the truth is that some very very hard things have happened lately, in the midst of it all.
One of my best friends died. I can’t listen to this song by Hozier without remembering how she looked in the hospital, Hozier’s record playing on repeat in the background. The last time I saw her before that was at her 30th birthday party a month prior, dressed as Alice in Wonderland, a costume party theme. I went as the tiger lily, green dress, flowers in my hair, because the tiger lily only talks to people worth talking to, and oh man, she was. She always really and truly was.
I reported my Dad to CPS because, after getting fired from his job teaching GED classes to prisoners, he pulled my half brother out of public school to homeschool him. That went over about as well as expected. I got “disowned” again. My half brother, who is 11 and has ADHD, is still at home, doing “online school” via computer, with that man every day.
My ex husband had said, right around this time last year, that we’d remain friends, like family really, and then I realized it couldn’t be. Because the things that had prevented us from being good spouses also prevented us from being successful friends. I could not even keep pieces of what had once been my closest relationship. He stopped talking to me, got engaged to a new girl, and is now planning another wedding.
In the divorce I lost other people I thought were my friends and some I had considered family for a dozen years. I found out the hard way that some people I trusted had their own agendas that didn’t include my happiness and wellbeing as priorities. I ran into quite a few others whose priorities didn’t include openness and truth.
I had a journalist from WORLD magazine, a homeschool grad himself, cover the homeschool child abuse issue and take one of my quotes completely out of context, put words in my mouth minimizing the abuse problem in a pull quote next to an awkward photo of me, no less.
The photographer they contracted with was a nice Christian lady who took several better ones, where I looked strong, sure of myself. But I guess that isn’t how child abuse survivors are supposed to look, according to the standard narrative. We get portrayed as tentative, our spirits broken, our outlooks damaged, limited by what happened to us, our stories extreme, unique, different. He also insisted on finding, interviewing, and quoting at least one of my parents for “the other side,” despite my request not to, for a (definitely not objective) piece that, despite all the soft-pedaling and abuse denialism contained within it, still got “pastor” Kevin Swanson calling them communists for writing it and saying there was something wrong with me on his radio show because I hadn’t obeyed my parents or taught myself math. Obviously none of that experience was fun.
I have also had financial worries and a stressful job search and plenty of time to be alone with my own self. In the middle of it I realized something. I had absorbed a lot of this crap, handled it badly, let my internal monologue darken to the point of where I was not proud of who I’d become. I had very little patience for anything and was pretty often a jerk to myself and anyone who got in the way, become someone who if she was my friend, I’d have kicked to the curb. But you can’t just dump yourself if you’re a bad friend to yourself. You have to teach yourself how to do better. So yeah. Navigating these things has been rough. The learning curve has been steep. There have been a lot of tears at times. A lot of yelling at others. There have been losses that will be lasting, lessons that have come via school of hard knocks, and experiences that have made me more cautious. There have also been some very beautiful and wonderful things.
I moved to an apartment where I live more or less by myself. Well, I have a roommate, but he’s rarely here. So now I am that career woman in her early 30’s eating solo homecooked meals with a glass of wine, perched on a barstool at her kitchen counter after kicking off her work shoes. And rather than it being a bad and lonely life, like I was afraid of, it’s actually pretty cool. I have my own room. I pay for my own stuff. I do my own thing. I come and go as I please. Freedom. Yeah, this is what it feels like.
I got a good job working on education and technology policy for state government. And sometimes it’s stressful and sometimes it’s hard and sometimes it’s cool, real cool, because I work with a team I respect and we’re building things that never existed before, improving things for educators and kids, making a difference while making a paycheck. And what more could you want in your work?
I also fell in love again. With someone very different than I ever expected. I won’t say too much about him here now, just yet, except that he’s kind and sweet and funny and good in bed and gives hugs that leave me feeling warm and fuzzy all over. He also keeps up with current events and likes craft projects and knows his way around a kitchen. It’s nice. Really nice.
So there’s been a lot happening and it has been hard to reconcile it all. But in the middle of it I have stopped feeling, like I’d told my ex husband towards the end, that I was a tree growing against a wall, flat on one side. I am me, all me. I am not one half of a relationship or only part of a human being. I am the whole thing, a full person. It has been a time of branching out, rounding out, learning and growing.
One of the things I discovered the hard way is that I can’t be immersed in the homeschool reform movement at the level I was. It’s too much on me. There isn’t just fight or flight responses. There’s an instant obedience response. There’s also a freeze response. And too much focus on these dark things triggers a freeze response in me. I dissociate a bit, numb to the horror I see. So I am still working as an advocate, still care deeply about the things that caused me to start this blog and an organization in the first place, but I have taken a huge step back and it’s proved good for my health and happiness, more conducive to my goal of being a well-rounded person, not defined by my past, and I feel a lot better not functioning as a mascot for homeschool child abuse survivorship in my daily life. I am living simply, present-focused, future oriented.
So I am sorry, blog readers, if I’ve worried you, or if you felt I bailed at a bad time, or in a flaky way. I didn’t mean to. I just had too many life changes going on. I wanna say thanks to those of you who are bearing with me, those of you who’ve had kind, uplifting, and supportive words during hard times. It helped keep me hopeful that there was a light at the end of the tunnel, and that no matter how much I’d been judged by certain family members and friends for divorcing and for speaking out about “family matters” in relation to the Quiverfull stuff, that following my heart and my gut instinct wouldn’t lead me wrong. And it hasn’t. A PTSD breakthrough crisis and divorce did not bring out the best in me, for sure, but both upheavals were the catalyst for reinvention and healing and saying no to things that were bad. I firmly believe in post-traumatic resilience, not wasting a perfectly good disaster, and while I have been a mess about it at times I think I have not wasted it. I look back and am proud of the things I’ve accomplished and the places I’ve been since I started this blog. They haven’t been easy. I’m also proud to be someone who’s words you found and decided to read, when you have the whole Internet at your fingertips. So thanks y’all. I will try to get back into the habit of regularly cataloguing my journey and my thoughts here, like I did before.>