Hello, dearest Ex-C friends! I logged in the other day and responded to a few posts, I was so happy to see some familiar names and received a few messages of greeting from some old friends. For those of you I have not met or interacted with, this post will hopefully bring you some hope, peace, and encouragement. Here is my original post, so long ago. I have had years now to really sift through my upbringing and some of the lasting scars I will carry with me because of the brand of Christianity that was imposed on me. Everyone here was right, it gets so much better! If you are where I was so long ago, take comfort that it does get better if you stick with it. It is completely normal to face all kinds of stress and physiologically anxious symptoms over the bizarre things you might have been taught and "time heals all wounds." I KNOW how much you might want to rush things, but you just can't force it and that's completely okay. Just breathe. Here are some thoughts and advice from my experience that you are welcome to take, if interested.
So. I'll give y'all an update from the post above and then I'll share some things I've learned along the way. Sorry in advance if this is long, I've always been wordy and I'm not about to stop now, HA! You don't have to read it! Now that I am on the other side of some serious shit, I am SO GRATEFUL that I was raised by that well-to-do lawyer. Since starting my deconversion, I have owned my beliefs wherever they may lead, held to being myself, and insisted on my own right to my life long enough that my parents have just accepted that "my faith walk is my own." I told them that they were welcome to pray for me, but that it was not Christian of them to try to speak for God or tell me what was or was not God's plan for me, I used their language and assumptions against them, my mama taught me that. My mom has even started to change now, she will make disparaging comments about how women are treated in the church and I think she might be in a place I was four years ago but with so much more to lose. It almost seems as though she believes she has made her bed and now must lie in it, but I have no way of knowing that. Either way, suffice it to say, I bet my mama did NOT think that pairing heavy Christian indoctrination with homeschooling and learning to think for myself and argue like an attorney would bite her in the ass so hard. I haven't feared hell in years, but I have known "hell" on this earth and I have also known "heaven." Make heaven for yourselves, y'all, no need to wait for another life after this one for which you aren't guaranteed. I am reminded of the parable of the talents....the person who was given the least amount of talents buried them in the ground and was punished. Same goes for Christians.
For those of you who remember that I wanted to make my parents proud, I continued to work at my main 9-5 job and started decorated cookies on the side, opened a little business for a couple years and everything. My parents voiced how proud they were of me many times, I think they had their own growth to do and recognizing my right to my life was part of it for them too. For those of you who remember that I was very worried about my marriage, Mr. ag_NO_stic has renounced Christianity for some time now and we are both in a very good place and happily married. We celebrated 5 years this past year and are finally in a good place to begin discussing children and how we want to raise them. My terror over child-rearing is almost gone, I have gotten to a point where I realized how controlling it was to strongly fear "how a child would end up," we just need to provide love, safety, encouragement, and discipline.....my future children will make their own mistakes. Mr. ag_NO_stic and I have had battles of control over the years, both of us being taught that wifey needs to submit was NOT an easy thing to take on....long fights, unkind words slung, tears....we never brought up divorce though, we love each other and fought all the bullshit through it....we've battled unemployment, death of a friend our age, political perspective changes, debt, financial hardships, only one car in the middle of COVID (particularly shitty), I'm getting ready to close my little decorated cookie business I started......what a crazy journey it has been. We never gave up, though I have cried myself to sleep many nights now, and I have grown exponentially as a person, I feel like a truly gritty motherfucker. Y'all watch me take over the world now, mwaahahaaa. What's more, I respect myself and own my failures. Mr. ag_NO-stic and I both "died to ourselves" and our egos (funny, right?) and have learned how to put each other before ourselves of our own volition, making it a truly beautiful relationship. I found love, y'all. I will be sure to keep you in the loop with children, they are certainly on the horizon and it's a crazy thing to behold.
I know there are many atheists on this site; all of you have my respect and I celebrate that you have made a life for yourselves and foraged your own happiness. You will not find me trying to discourage you in your individual pursuits of truth. That being said, I have always been up front about thinking "something" is out there and I still do, I just don't try to label it, speak for it, or force it on others. This has worked well for me, most people don't care too much as long as you do you and don't try to force yourself on them. One can forsake a brand of Christianity or a particular religion and still be very content with the spiritual aspect of our lives, if you choose to see it that way. The reason I say this: it can be easy to leave Christianity and try to force yourself into the opposite camp and feel just as out of place by those who don't believe in anything. Don't force yourself, there is no pressure here! Whatever you're inclined to believe, you have perfectly valid reasons, just seek after truth and challenge your own beliefs, if you want to. People all over the world and all throughout history have given the mystery of "something out there," various names. You're not weird for sensing something and you're not weird if you don't. We're all different. If anyone wants to talk with me more about this and is not comfortable on the public forum, DM me, please.
Here's my advice:
1) Get comfortable in your skin, with who you really are, and start taking care of yourself the way you need to. I had NO awareness of myself, as in who I am, in the way others could see me, because I was just a sinner in my own view. I had "died to my flesh," and thought that almost everything about me was sin, I spent so much time seeking after God that I NEVER FULLY REALIZED that I am the only one who has to deal with my body, my choices, beliefs, etc for the rest of the time I'm alive. I never got to know WHO I AM or really realized that some of my quirks, preferences, and thoughts were ME, as silly as that sounds. You, the one who wakes up in the morning, are in control. I like to refer to it is as your soul, others prefer consciousness, it's whatever you're comfortable with. In a job you hate? Quit! Or OWN that you are choosing to stay for the reasons you see fit. Don't like your appearance? Get a hair cut you like, lose or gain the weight if you want to, buy clothes you like, create a routine you like, choose things you like. You choose what to do with the life you have, you choose how to respond to irritating or hurtful things, you have the say in if someone is going to hurt your feelings or not, and some of your painful sufferings in life are due to some decisions you've made. Own that, grieve the injustices committed against you (however long that takes,) and move forward not taking other people's shit anymore. Look around you, at others, and YOU DECIDE whose advice you take or what to believe. Who gives a RAT'S ASS what some other human thinks, they've got all their own issues and are just as clueless as you! We're all winging it, own your voice and your life!
2) No one is going to take care of everything for you or make you feel whole except you. Sure, people can try to help. They might hug you, say it's going to be okay, buy you dinner. The religious try to say ______ has a plan and to just obey or to find identity in a certain deity, others throw themselves into work and think money will fix it, others say it's family that will take care of you so live for them, others say the government as long as you give up whatever freedoms, others say a spouse or friend as long as you make them happy...... NO. You can be spiritually alive, yes. You can have a wonderful family or spouse, yes. You can have whatever opinions about politics, yes. You can seek after money or work and be rich, yes, you can find identity in whatever label you want, but there will be both rewards and consequences for your choices, no matter what you choose. You will have to sacrifice something, whether it's yourself or others, a dream, a current habit, etc. Weigh these decisions carefully. With your newfound freedom comes a heavy responsibility and the will to do right by what's important to you. You're also free to choose to stay trapped and "safe," but will your life be wasted by the end of it?
3) Go out and live, y'all, we have AMAZING SIGHTS to see on this earth and there are all kinds of things to do. I can't afford to go travel and see the all of the world just yet, but it's free to take a walk around a neighborhood or in a park and look at all there is to see. Breathe in the fresh air, enjoy being alive for every minute you have it, and go look at beautiful things, listen to beautiful sounds, taste amazing foods, smell amazing smells, experience this life fully. The bad gives meaning to the good, the colors around you only have meaning because of the other colors. Go out and meet amazing people, learn to knit or bake or write fancy calligraphy or make furniture, give someone a compliment, smoke a joint, drop the F bomb, have amazing sex, get a little tipsy, cook an amazing meal or go and camp on the beach, laugh a lot, cry a lot, get good and mad, allow yourself to be disgusted by the things that disgust you, embrace feeling scared or safe. If someone judges you for that, fuck 'em. You don't want to be on your deathbed, whenever that may be, and wish you had done these things when you no longer have that opportunity.
Live. Laugh. Love. (I have never seen that movie, but now I want to......) Love y'all, thanks for everything, it's going to be okay! Just breathe and take this life one step at a time towards your goals.