I think it’s hard to blog through changes when you don’t hardly have words for most of them. And I’ve done that haphazardly these past few years. There’s also the fear of saying the wrong thing that can silence you. The Internet has changed a bit in the intervening time. Social media bullying, often gender based, has become so pervasive that it seems better to just back off and have a simpler life.
Still, I do miss the engagement, working on the issues, connection with people who come from where I come from. And sometimes I wonder if I do a disservice by quietly switching gears, leave out the voice of moving on. But how do you move on and share about it in spaces that were and are there to catalogue the struggle, document the fact that what was done was so great that despite your most valiant efforts, it has precluded moving on? A bit paradoxical, right?
But I’ve faced something else. Where I come from and where I’m going are different enough that there’s a disconnect, a “wrong side of the tracks” feel.
There’s no winning in survivor wars and no way to stay gold, Ponyboy.
I have this little green lacquered silver bowl on my dresser. I put earrings and bracelets in it when I’m too lazy to hang them back up on the organizer. The bowl is lovely, not only because it is so pretty and I got it at a thrift store for $1, but because it sings when I drop earrings into it, like a little resounding gong. So I love it.
But after a couple weeks of piling costume jewelry into it, it no longer sings to me. It is too full to resonate. It is cluttery and seems unnecessary and like it would be better for it not to be there and me to just clear it out and hang up my stuff straightaway.
And I realized this bowl was a metaphor for me. I cannot be filled with all the things and still sing. Even if the things are beautiful jewels. And I have to be cognizant of the frequency I vibrate at. If I am taking on too much and vibrating at a low frequency I need to offload the extra things I’ve absorbed and be more careful about how much new stuff I collect, and how much self care and replenishment I need.
But it’s hard for people with an overinflated sense of responsibility to say no, to feel like we can’t be involved or that things might break without us there or that we could ever maintain respect and relationships if they do. And I had to accept that at the core, that stuff is bad boundaries, at best setting you up for invasive, lopsided connections, and at worst, fearful and narcissistic behavior.
Sacrificing yourself for a cause means you do not love yourself as much as a cause. Think about that. The do not love yourself part.
I had a friend recently tell me something that gave me the heebie jeebies. He said “scratch a martyr’s skin and you’ll find a narcissist.” And I had to sit with that for a while.
I am a Quiverfull daughter and I care deeply about the other Quiverfull children and the homeschooling problem, but I could not be a mascot for this. Abuse survivorship is only one darker facet of the jewel of my life. It will always impact me but it will not have a hold over my present or my future. And I was always willing to do the work to get there.
In fact, if I’m honest, I’ll say that the beginning of my survivor and advocacy work involved a lot of seeking others like me was because I was looking for tips. I was struggling and I wanted advice on how to get out of this. And connecting with other survivors definitely helped. It was an unofficial support group. I think on the aggregate, I got as much as I gave. But like all support groups, the time for therapy comes to an end, if you’re doing it right.
And I think that was one reason I have chosen to move on from homeschool abuse and QF/CP survivor and advocacy spaces, even the ones that I helped found. I was unloading these pieces of the past and I was starting to vibrate at a different frequency. I began to look at myself, even the parts that I did not want to look at and that had been bathed in shame and bad memories or repressed, hidden away. I began to reclaim them, see my flaws as quirks, decide that other people’s opinions of me were none of my business, and curate who I let into my life more selectively.
Then I realized that it wasn’t just people who dealt with their struggles by bullying and trolling and scapegoating that I had sought distance from. I also didn’t have as much in common with people who were still full of the pieces of their trauma.
I think the losses that come with moving forward are always a surprise to me. I am eternally optimistic, like a Labrador that wants to jump on laps and love everybody. And then I don’t know why everybody doesn’t love me back or why it isn’t easy to remain in connection, share a wavelength. But you lose people when you change, people that based the relationship on you being a certain way that you aren’t anymore. It can feel like a betrayal, to you or to them or to both.
I lost a lot of relationships because I wasn’t vibrating at the same frequency as people had been accustomed to me doing or at the same frequency that they were. There were a lot of changes as I went through that process. It was assortive, like with like, so I gained and lost and gained and lost more friends and relationships that had high emotional resonance for me in the past half dozen years of my life than I ever did before. It was pretty horrible and tumultuous for someone who is (was?) a bit of a friend hoarder and has always tried to keep on good terms with everyone I’ve ever loved.
I have had to learn to let go. And to not keep harsh words to heart. Both of them difficult for someone sensitive like me.
And now I think maybe it’s settling out. I have let go and I have moved on as best I’m able. I pursue my dreams, carrying hope and optimism beyond the trauma. I sometimes resonate as a little full or a little empty, but never overflowing and never packed away.
I’ve built a life that I generally like. One that isn’t super interesting or dramatic or overly counter cultural. It involves a lot more “whatcha wanna eat for dinner?” and a lot less “I can’t even.” I have mastered the regular waking up at 6:45 to catch the morning train in to work. My job is respectable but definitely not glamorous. My apartment is nice but small.
My boyfriend and I have been living together a year and in a relationship with each other for 3, so we’re finding talking long term, marriage and babies, to have this appeal it didn’t before. The interesting thing is that this isn’t the most significant event of my life. It’s just the natural progression of two people who live together, like each other, have good sex, and see that there would be significant tax benefits to putting a ring on it.
Marriage and gender roles and religious activities are not near the core of my being. Neither are any specific education methods. But it’s not something I vehemently avoid anymore either. They have become afterthoughts in my hodgepodge little life.
So I guess the Quiverfull way failed. At keeping me and at indoctrination. But we all already knew that. In fact, that’s why most of you watched that doggon Duggar reality tv show. Like people watch cheerleaders and professional cake decorating competitions, on pins and needles, waiting to see one fall.
And fall they did. And fall the others did. And the falling still hasn’t stopped. It has felt like a tornado blew through all the moral underpinnings of everything my parents and the insular Christian homeschool world once held dear. Even the data on online charter schools came out and was damning and said a year in an online charter school is like a year doing no schooling at all.
And I feel sorry for them. These practitioners and acolytes, followers of Christian patriarchal authority and family-worship. It ran them ragged, ruined them. Attracted maggots and vultures to the fresh meat. And they are shells of what they could have been without these teachings and us kids who made it out (and not all of us did) are picking ourselves up with the resilience of youth and doggedly moving on, each at our own pace.
But I want to be clear that when I say all this, don’t think I’m standing here on my own two feet making a “no harm, no foul” argument. There was a lot of harm. And a ton of foul behavior disguised as family values and sanctimony and quality learning. And I am not saying I don’t still sometimes have nightmares or flashbacks or issues with hypervigilance or flash rage. In fact, maybe I always will.
But what I do know is that I am in the process of taking back what was stolen from me. I can sing when I’m touched and I can say no when I’m full. I can dance without worrying that anyone wants to watch me fall.
I figure this is what progress looks like. And I wanted to tell you about it.