Way Back When

Whether it’s a helpful habit (or more likely not) I tend to put a show on in the background when I do planning stuff. Not writing, but when I’m doing meal plans, washing dishes, and homeschool stuff, I put something on. Often it’s every season of the Great British Baking Show on repeat, but I also enjoy The Grand Tour, and then I like to sprinkle in various British contests I watch on HBO Max. Like “All that Glitters” or “The Great Pottery Throwdown”.

Today, as I was planning out home school stuff and wondering how on earth I was ever going to schedule some field trips when the weather here is constantly asking Mother Nature to hold its beer, I put on a new show. “Clarkson’s Farm” because in all honestly, not only do I enjoy “The Grand Tour” but I enjoy Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May and keep up with whatever they put out. While “The Great Escapists” was delightful nonsense I have no plan to re-watch, “Clarkson’s Farm” has hit a note in me that has rang so deep and loud that I am now here, writing about it.

Not only do I delightfully get to watch baby lambs being born, but I was reminded of when the pandemic began, and what that looked like. I know it was a horrid global pandemic that has now killed 4 million humans and I don’t long for that to be back in any way, shape, or form. No. What I miss, though, was that for a few months, for almost a year, really, the societal expectations of me shifted. I wasn’t expected to be running around with my head cut off getting groceries and planning trips and running errands and visiting friends and going to play dates etc. I was expected to be at home and to be happy about it.

And I was.

I could *breathe*. And as of late, I have found myself once again going way too fucking fast. I am out of breath, constantly. Not because I am literally running, no, in fact I wish I was in better shape. Rather, I find myself so stressed out I am actually holding my breath to try and slow down.

The kids and I are going out almost every day. Just for this quick or that quick. Run errands here and there. Grab this. Do that. And suddenly the day is gone, and I’m completely wiped. There went the week. The month. The time slips through my fingers and I cannot seem to get enough sleep to make up for it.

And I feel an ache for when we did not. When I did not run to the store if I forgot something, but made do and waited. When days at home were filled with everything we had already being enough. When going out was planned and we did it consciously and effectively. And being home was the *norm*.

I have too easily been led away from that peace. Too easily pulled back into the stream of never ending needs that aren’t actually needs at all. No. No. I’ve had enough now.

I’ve had enough of the running. Of the constant pull. That’s not what I want my life to look like, or what I want my kids’ lives to look like. I’m not going on lockdown again, by any means. One kid is signed up for soccer this autumn and the other is to start gynamstics. We have home school meet ups once a week, plus field trips. But I am going to be more intentional. On days we are out, we can run errands. So that every day is not an out day. Instead, they can be limited. And we can truly rest and not let our time be stolen by pointless comings and goings. We can spend time with ourselves and each other because shockingly, I like us. I like our home.

Magic starts here, at home, with me. So I’m bringing back the magic that was the “permission” to be contented at home. But this time, without a global pandemic and without anyone’s permission. I mean, I’m a witch. If I wanted permission, I’d go to church.

Always Two Minutes Away From Dying

The thing about life is that it’s insane, really. Especially our lives, moving at the speed of light, hurtling everywhere at dizzying speeds with over 150,000 deaths per day and a population that continues to increase. We are anxious sacks of meat supported by wet bones that are controlled by flashes of light sent from a wrinkly grey mass on the top of it. Lives are made and destroyed by strangers taking pictures and a few of the wrong chemicals can kill you, get you high, put you to sleep, or give you a hot flash. There is literally not one single thing about any of this that makes any sense.

Except love. Trite, I am aware. Over said. Over produced, certainly. But when I look at the passed out form of my children (it has to be asleep – lately they’ve been tiny bodied assholes during the day) and feel every last ounce of love that I have for them I accept that I am an anxious cucumber that takes sanity pills every morning and drinks magic bean juice to wake up and am surrounded by energy and wavelengths and data I cannot see and am always two minutes from death if for some reason I stop breathing and know that I would do it all again just to love them more.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

Biggest and Best

I have always been a little person. Always. Since pre-memory I have taken pride in hiding in spaces that should be too small for me to fit in. I didn’t weigh over 100lbs until I was in 6th grade. Puberty didn’t strike until I was 15 and I was 19 before I got my b cups. I look back and realize I should have worn a bikini absolutely everywhere.

Fast forward to 33. Two children have given me stretch marks on my stomach and thighs, an uncontrollable eye roll reaction, and the beginnings of laugh lines around my eyes and mouth. They have also stretched out my boobs to look more like udders and eating their leftovers and running on spiritually empty for a *while now*, plus quarantine and keeping a handle on my depression – I have gained some weight. Not a significant amount. About 25 lbs. But when you’ve been told your whole life how small you are – not fitting into adolescent clothes as an adult seems like a game changer.

But instead of falling back into starvation and self loathing and over exercising (because I promised my body I would honor her instead) I have spent the last year just letting her be. Loving her through my insecurities. Finding new voices to listen to. (Specifically the voices of my partners telling me how sexy my juicy booty is, how worthy I am, how good I look.) And understanding that if “getting skinner” is my goal, I’m always going to fail. Not because I can’t diet or exercise or lose the weight – I have absolute faith in my ability to do that. But because there is no gain in getting skinnier. There is no reason to be other than to fit into a set of criteria that our society has dictated that has no place in reality and puts a buttload of mental energy into looking… thin. And like… thin? That’s it? Not like a warrior goddess here to kick ass and heal? Not a full heart nor aligned chakras nor knowledge about myself nor a healthy appreciation for the body that has brought me this far? Just. Thin.

Fuuuuuuuuck that. Fuck it all the way to purity culture and back. And what would that teach my daughter? Sorry honey, mama is barely holding on so I can get a brief and insufficient hit of dopamine because I can fit into a size 4 again. Sorry honey, it’s not that ice cream makes my body feel bad, or isn’t healthy, or that I don’t enjoy it but because I have to listen to these rules to look a certain way or I’ll spend our story time trying to burn off these calories. Fuck fucking nope.

Things I want for my body: increased strength (my kids are getting fucking heavy!), increased endurance (wheezing after 2 minutes of tag is not something I’m particularly proud of), flexibility of any kind really (I am mildly ashamed at the amount of work it takes to keep my back from hurting now that I’m in my 30’s), and honestly I’ve always wanted to do a handstand and have the core strength to hold it. If those things cause weight loss – okay. If they don’t – okay. Because, and I’m going to say it again, thin is not a goal. Thin is a way some people are and some people aren’t.

And I… I want to be me. All of me. Even if it’s the *biggest* me. Because right now I am the best me. The most realized me. The most whole me. The most healed me. The most genuine me I have ever been. And maybe it’s because that in this season, this is my way of learning that there is nothing inherently holy in being small, no matter what I was taught.

Oh how I longed to be small and quiet and docile, as a true holy woman should be. Instead I was quick witted, sharp tongued, inquisitive, and loud. I did not do as I was told, I needed things to make sense, I had things to talk about and wanted to be heard. I had interests. I had enthusiasm. I was not demure in any way, shape, or form.

Maybe, my body is just changing to look like my mind and be okay with taking up space. I’m not afraid of it anymore. I’m not afraid of being big and bold and loud and inquisitive and enthusiastic.

Because why the fuck not. Because why is taking up space a bad thing? Why is being squishy a negative? It’s not. It never was and it never will be. So I’mma go put on my bikini and wear it everywhere. Behold, world. Look at my pale ass perfection and be blinded by my white ass cellulite. Watch me jiggle as I chase my kids and behold the glory of my laugh lines. Swing my little batwings. Bounce my juicy booty. Shimmy and shake and clap those thighs with the movement inherent in a full and glorious life.

The Chosen

Full moon rises outside the window
Two deadweight bodies radiating body heat
Legs across mine
Claiming me as their own even in sleep
I don’t mind
I have been theirs since the moment I could finally hold them in my arms instead of vaguely curse at them to get the fuck out of me

Tension rises outside the door
Voices raised as emotions are expressed
Two people learning how to love each other again
How to belong to each other
And themselves
I don’t mind
I have been there, walked those exact steps, been overcome and overwhelmed and desperate
And came out the other side with more love than I ever believed possible

Words rise inside of me
Always wanting to get out
Past my tied tongue and my half open eyes and stiff fingers they demand release
I don’t mind
Racing across the page they are the wind in my sails
Pulling the weight from my heart and pouring it on the page they are my anchor
They are my breath in good times and bad

We rise out of expectations
Insisting on making our own way
Laying down the burdens of antiquated ideals
Ignoring the calls for self sacrifice from the same lips that call us entitled
I love him I love her they love me we love
And I don’t mind
The side eye when I introduce my partnerS
Call myself a witch
Or hear my child drop the f bomb at story time
Because at the end, when I walk into the light again, I will never wonder what my life would have been like if I had chosen it instead of accepted what I was given

Leave It Un-Done

Today was a day. Today I had many thoughts that need to be written down. About how waiting for sex until I was married wasn’t what fucked up my brain, but the purity culture that fueled it. About how romcom love isn’t actually love and living life together while still enjoying each other while you have young kids and fuck tons of pressure on every side is the best thing ever. Literally. It is freedom. It is joy. It is looking at your person and knowing that there is nothing life can throw at you that you won’t make it through together. Because it’s not about what the journey looks like. It’s not even where it’s going (that vision will change many, many times). It’s about doing it together, and discovering yourself along the way. About how I once read about a “pious” woman who worried, constantly, about getting grilled about her time on earth once she was in heaven. And how it’s taken me years to begin deconstruction on this bullshit but today, while watching IG reels and laughing my ass off, I thought that if anyone on the other side of death had the *audacity* to ask me if I thought today was well spent I would respond with “Well fuck yes it was. Actually. Thanks. Had a great time. 9/10. Would recommend.” About how people in the middle of doing the work don’t get enough fucking credit for how difficult it is in the middle of it.

But it’s the end of the day. My babies need cuddles. My brain needs a break. My shoulders need to come down from my chin. And I just do not have the capacity to give any of those topics the attention they deserve.

So, instead, I’m going to do this. I’m going to talk to myself (and you). Just a quick little message. Here we go.

Everyone deserves rest. Even writers. Even moms. Even people who haven’t gotten out of bed because it was just too much today. Here is your permission to leave it un-done. To try again tomorrow. To celebrate how far you made it today, against all the odds. Play the game on your phone. Binge the show you have watched a million times. Let your brain shut off, take a deep breath, eat the donut, and love yourself.

Perfectly Alright

Community. A term I have known, longed for, been deluded about, and rediscovered. I have been told since before memory that church was community. And since I could remember, I didn’t fit into it. I was not cool enough. I used to think it was holiness or piousness, but upon reflection, that’s fucking absurd. I did nightly devotionals, memorized scripture without anyone telling me to, read theology books for fun. The “accepted ones” had… other hobbies. No, it was definitely because I was an awkward, anxious bitch who couldn’t be chill for her life. Oh and poor. Adopted by some of the rich kids, sure, but definitely the charity case.

I don’t know if American Christians are even capable of community. Because community is impossible without whole-hearted acceptance of the “other”. Unless there are people who are not like you in your community, it’s just a club. And like any club, it is defined by it’s exclusivity.

Whereas witches… I’m not saying there aren’t exclusive, gatekeeping white witches out there. There are. I’ve met them. They suck. But most witches I know are the most welcoming people I’ve ever met. There is no one way to be a witch. There is no one color of witch. No one aesthetic. No one sexuality. No one pantheon (or lack thereof). No one path. So many that overlap and mix and mingle.

I went to a witch’s market today and it was glorious. A) there was cool shit everywhere. The talent of these witches! The art! B) The compliments! Everyone there was admiring everyone else there. “I love your dress!” “Your shoes!” “This is divine!” Short witches, fat witches, skinny witches, tall witches, goth witches, fairy witches, stone witches, card witches, fire witches, old witches, baby witches, atheist witches, goddess witches, green witches, and every other type of witch I could imagine. And we were *jiving* with each other. Celebrating. Lifting up. Supporting. Amplifying.

Honestly, I think it’s because everyone there has one thing in common: finding our own way. Or at least trying to. Not the mysteries of the universe. Not the secret to success, or the key to the afterlife, and certainly not an arbitrary list of rules written and rewritten by white men in positions of power. We are each on our own path and acknowledge and celebrate that rather than trying to get people on our path, the goal is to help them on theirs.

My favorite part though, has to be the style. No one has styles like the marginalized. The expression. The sheer, blissful audacity. The *authenticity*.

Oh, right, and I forgot the very best part. *No one there gave a single shit if anyone else was a witch.* Not a witch? Cool. Don’t need to be. No pressure. Want to talk? Want to do *this* witch thing but aren’t feeling *that*? Cool. Whatever you are comfortable with. Have questions? Have emotional baggage? Awesome, we all do. Let’s begin unpacking it together. Maybe being a witch isn’t for you. And it is for me. And that’s perfectly alright.

Maman

An explanation, followed by a thought: how I have to begin almost every conversation because *my brain*.

The explanation: So recently I rediscovered my love of all things Star Trek. Okay, not all things. My love for Shatner (and right here, I’m sorry George Takai, I think you are a phenomenal human being but hoooooly shit Sulu in TOS is creep af. Fight me.) and Pine as Kirk, and my enduring love for Capt. Jean-Luc Picard in all of his 1990’s glory. *Of note, it seems there is a glitch in my brain somehow related to Chris Pine. I can go literal years without crying, but put on one of the Star Trek reboots or god forbid WW84 and boom – waterworks.*

Hold up. Mama needs to google something. *sips cold brew with trepidation* Oh thank goddess. He is older than me. Praise. Life is as it should be. I’m not cougar-ing Hollywood hunks yet.

Anyway, now that I am an adult and decide how I spend about 30-45 minutes of each day not currently consumed by kids – I plan on watching my way through all of the Star Trek series, so I’m warning you now, there are going to be random thoughts about Star Trek for a whiiiiiile.

The thought: Last night I was watching TNG Season 1 Ep 5 and in it, Capt. Picard sees his long dead mother. Due to the fact that it was a 90’s drama set not only in the distant future and of course, outer space, the dialogue is not always the most natural. That being said, there was an exchange where his mother tells him, “But I’m always with you. You know that.”

He responds with, “Yes, I’ve felt that.”

And I’ve heard this more times than I can count in pop culture as well as personal references. The ones we love don’t really leave us. They are always with us.

And I find myself desperately hoping it isn’t true.

I love my kids more than the English language has absurdities. I love my children more than I could ever, EVER possibly hope to convey in pixelated words on a screen. It is too big. It is not physically possible. Love is an anomaly in the universe and my love for my children could consume the entirety of all matter and energy whole and still have room for more.

And yet, haunt their asses? Spend double my life span here on earth to send them the occasional butterfly?

The thought of my father, trapped by his love for me, forced to watch my life in minute detail without influence or comment makes me almost physically ill. (Not to mention mildly creeped out. I have a healthy sex life, I do not want to imagine a cosmic audience of even one. Especially not that one.)

No, fram, I don’t believe that’s how it works. I don’t think their love ever leaves us. My father’s love will never leave me because that was the only part of him that was mine. The rest of him was his.

And love… love is one of the great mysteries of the world. It is more than a feeling. More than a direct flow of oxytocin into the brain. More than a tender touch. More than the sleepless nights. More than the fear of a life without them. Love changes us. It changes us on the giving end as well as the receiving. It is transforming. Whether it’s the love of a parent or a partner or a friend, we are not the same.

So to believe that love stays when the person moves on… that makes sense. To believe that love compels them to remain in a strange half life while awaiting the death of their progeny? Perhaps their grandchildren? I’m not entirely sure at what point said ghost would decide they were no longer interested in haunting their descendants, not to mention the relative complications in haunting more than one generation as they multiply.

On top of it all, as a mother consumed by love with her children – I am more than their mother. I cannot say it any louder or any clearer. There is more to me than being a mom. I existed before them and continue to exist outside of them. It blows their little minds that I have an entire set of preferences, hobbies, humor, and relationships outside of them, but it’s true. I will have a full life when they no longer fill up 95% of my conscious moments. I will continue to create, think, laugh, and have immense amounts of meaning whether they are present or not.

I realize that watching through a window for the rest of my children’s lives would be but a blip on the vast landscape that is eternity. I also realize that the only thing I could do from that window was love them. And that I will love them, endlessly, eternally, consummately, whether I am watching them or not. And that even in eternity, especially in eternity, there will be more to do than watch.

A Eulogy for my Perfectionist Child Syndrome

*Pro tip: if you ever delude yourself into thinking you’re so far along in your healing journey that you’re running out of things to address say, out loud, to the Universe, “But what would I even talk to a therapist about?” And just wait. It’ll come. Like a goddamn dump truck.

*Based on a true story.

Today, in a partner meeting in which topics of budgeting and cost saving procedures were brought up, I felt my anxiety spike. SPIKE.

Was the blame placed at my feet? No. Was pressure to solve the issues put on me? Nope. Was anything brought up in any way that could be considered remotely accusatory? Also no. None of those things. And I have been begging and pleading for budging for…ever. For always. I am the cheap partner in a bougie triad. I should be joyous. Busting out the excel spreadsheet and entering data sets to my heart’s content.

Instead, I was forcing myself to breathe without hyperventilating. Why? I took the time to ask myself. Why am I feeling this way? This is what I wanted. Changes proposed would actually take things off my plate, reduce my stress, and pad the budget.

If you must know, the answer seems to be two fold. The first is due to Perfectionist Child Syndrome. This comes when your parents are so stressed (or other things, for my parents it was stress) that if your parents notice you, it’s because something has gone wrong. No attention means you are doing well enough to not break through their other stressors. Your teachers tell them how wonderful you are in class. You have straight A’s. When you’re at home you keep your head down, and eat what is given to you, and smile when you are looked at to reassure them that all is well.

If they bring something up, or want to talk, or need to show you something – it’s negative. Grades need to be better. Manners need to be minded. Rooms need to be cleaned. Something is not good enough.

So when *anything* I do, or have a hand in, is brought up to be changed in any way, my immediate reaction is “if this task/pattern/chore/emotion is getting noticed, then I have done it poorly” which brings intense anxiety.

A less than helpful problem solving response.

This brings us to the second part. Namely, my ability to blow shit way out of proportion based on irrational and crippling fear. Because if I am doing something poorly enough to be noticed, then what value do I bring to the relationship? And if I have no value, will they let me stay?

I am secure in my partners love, and so I thought that I was wholly secure. Turns out not. Turns out I have deep insecurities about my value. I know my partners love me. BUT. But if I keep the house clean, if I make elaborate meals for dinner, if I homeschool the children to excellence, if I single handedly maintain the budget, if – if – if – then they won’t leave me. Then they will decide I am worth keeping around.

And let’s not mince words: I am wholly dependent on them. I bring in not a single dollar to our bottom line. Oh, don’t bother quoting me the math. I am well aware. We would bleeeeeed money if I were to try and work outside the home. Childcare, increased car, food, and clothes cost. Increased stress for all parties. In no scenario do we gain money by having me work outside the home. If anything, it can be considered that for room and board, I am a 24/7 nanny, decent housekeeper, and quite a good chef while also being an errand runner, laundress, grocery shopper, personal assistant, teacher, and bookkeeper. Which, based on industry averages, is a HELL of a deal.

Yet. Despite all I bring to the relationships, I feel deeply inadequate. Like I have to earn my place in the home, a seat at the table, and the privilege to homeschool our children.

And to be extra-ordinarily clear: my partners say, if not daily then multiple times a week, that they see me, and what I do. They see the effort and the work that I pour out. That they value me and appreciate me. In no way have I *ever* been made to feel as if my place was precarious, my value dependent on my cleaning lady/chef/teacher output. This is something that I wholly put on myself because I have drank deeply of the poison of capitalism. I have gargled that stank until I reek of it. And I hate it. I can rail against it until I am blue in the face. That no one should be broken down into only what they can provide in monetary worth. That productivity is not the golden standard to what is or is not worth my time. That everyone has a place at the table, regardless of their ability to bring tangible gifts to it. And that emotional labor, child rearing, house work, and general life maintenance are valuable labor and deserve recognition and inherent worth. And turn around, look at myself in the mirror, and feel terror that I haven’t done enough today.

Maybe it’s because the fear of god (literally) was put in me as a child and I feared for my eternal soul if I didn’t do enough to prove my faith to a god who watched me all the time to judge my every thought.

Maybe it’s because we live in a society that literally drowns us in messaging that the most essential labor (and therefore laborers) are replaceable and therefore not worth living pay, basic human consideration, or any kind of meaningful recognition. Let alone dignity, honor, and contentment.

Maybe it’s because only women are ever asked if they will choose children or careers while it is an assumption that men can have both, because their partner will shoulder the extra burden – for free.

Probably it’s all of that and an (un)healthy dose of trauma passed down by ancestors and a (not) fun glitch in my brain that requires a daily dose of prozac.

What matters is that I name it. And then strike a match and, much like capitalism, the patriarchy,  and the idea that America is a Christian nation, not stop rooting it out and burning it down until there is no trace left.

What matters is that it stops with me. And my kids do not toss at night wondering if they did enough to earn their place in this world, or their home. As if a place in a home is something to be earned. As if love is a currency to be traded on.

What matters is that I tell myself a truer story – that I am worthy. Of love. Of a home. Of safety and security. And then I tell everyone that truer story.

So here it is, this is the match struck: I am safe. I am worthy. My value is not dependent on my output. Period. I’d say may my perfectionist child syndrome and irrational fears rest in peace but fuck that. Fuck that hard. Let’s burn those bad boys to a crisp and then piss on the ashes. Let’s dance naked around the grave, shoot silver bullets into casket, and let out a string of curses that would make my racist grandmother blush and my gypsy ancestors proud. Let’s show them a full moon full of glorious cellulite as we twirl, sexually satisfied and shameless about our jiggle, while swearing oaths that those who come after us will never see the fears we conquered.

Let’s just… live.

Functionally Alive

Okay, here’s the thing. To everyone on Forbes’ 30 under 30 list – bra-fucking-vo. You are the gifted and talented and frankly, I am in awe. Look at you, you wild sons of bitches.

To everyone else already in their 30’s feeling like they blew it and are now stuck in whatever hellscape being a millenial in the US *is* – I’ve got good news. You are not in your 30’s. I mean sure, your body has been chugging along for 30+ years now. But can you really call life before say – 15 – living? You have almost no agency, no critical thinking skills, and due to us living before the internet – very limited access to information outside of your adults. I realize libraries existed but if you have ever visited a rural library in the late 90’s – then you know about how white bias can affect libraries. That and funding. Anyway. Was what we did before that really forging our path through life? No. Not here, anyway. I had been to a few different states. I had been force fed a whole lot of toxic Christianity. I regurgitated beliefs like facts on a test, both of which I did exceedingly well. I had kind of exerted a little influence over my sense of style but much of that was due to being unable to get many new clothes, but the other part was again, living in rural Iowa where I was not bombarded with advertisements all day.

What I’m saying is this: I have been doing this living thing with the choices and the agency and the relationships and the responsibilities for, at most, around 17 years. And that is giving myself a solid 14 years of adolescent cushion because it has been about 3 years now that I have been actively addressing my mental and emotional health, finding information at the source for myself, unlearning toxic spirituality, and pursuing the life I want instead of the one that was wanted for me.

So I’m not 32 and late to the game – I’m 17 and right on time. Or, even better, I’m 3 and precocious as hell. Either way.

It’s not that I’m 32 and will probably die between 80 and 90 and thusly have 2/3 of my life in front of me. It’s that my life, my ability to make my own choices, the ability to heal myself from what happened as I was forming, etc just started. I’m just getting the hang of this. Literally everything is in front of me and I’m barely past the tutorial.

Let’s make our lives what we want them to be. Starting now. Let’s build a foundation on which to stack the next 50+ years and not assume the shitty one that was given to us is our only option. Or our best option. Or the most secure. I refuse to say that because I have not had wild success at 32 that I am not going to get it.

I know we cannot just will our circumstances away. I know that we are millenials mostly and that we are trying to claw our way out of wells we never wanted to be in while the older generation remembers, loudly, how wells were only 2ft deep in their time and they could just step right out and how lazy we must be to not do the same. And then continue to be extremely bad at math and write and pass legislature that keeps us buried. I know. I also know how my only two options are to marvel at the injustice of it all or to keep clawing.

But I can always change me. I can always get better at something that brings me joy. I can always continue to heal. I can always reach out to others and tell them they are not alone. I can always remind myself that we are more than what we are dealt – or even the first couple of hands if we’re being honest.

I want to be very clear as I wrap this up that this post was never intended to be a ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ and ‘hustle harder’ etc. Fuck that shit. Medicare for all. Housing is a right. Tax the rich. Defund the police. Free college. We all deserve to rest. Living wages. Freedom from high interest debt. What I am trying to say is never listen to the voices that tell you it’s too late to change yourself. That you can’t learn that new skill. That it’s too late to be the person you want to be. That you can’t try again. That you’re too old to get in shape. Too old to learn to code. Too old to try that tiktok dance. Too old to tell off your racist relative. Too old to change your political party. Too old to heal. Too old to change your mind. Too old to change your religion. Too old to say sorry. Too old to say “I was wrong”.

We are only just beginning. Every moment, every choice left is always in front of us and it is NEVER too late.

Freedom

“We are FREE in Christ Jesus!” Is a sentence I have heard more times than I have had sex and I’m almost 8 years into my marriage soooooo. A lot. I’ve heard it a lot. And frankly, even if you weren’t raised evangelical – I bet you have too.

Freedom is thrown around by the church like a tie die hacky sack at a shoegaze concert in Colorado. Or, like how my son used to shout “Frog!” loudly at the top of his lungs while not being able to pronounce an r and his g’s definitely sounded like k’s every single time he saw another person for almost 4 months. That’s right. It was my favorite. However, when the church uses it, it is neither entertaining nor does it brighten my spirits. Almost entirely because they are saying it wrong.

Again, this is not a thing I have against Jesus. I like Jesus. It’s the church who claims him that I have a problem with. Because things freedom does not look like:

Heavily policing what women wear in order to enforce a strict code of modesty and begin the indoctrination that their bodies are dirty, dangerous, made exclusively for the enjoyment of men and of bearing children for those men, and that male happiness and indeed thoughts and actions are dependent on our ability to cover up skin.

Being taught that any hobbies that would not have a place in a new Little Women reboot are useless, and indeed sinful because they waste time and women’s time is never to be wasted – by her – on something she enjoys that does not have an element of productivity for others in it.

Being taught that women are obedient first, and everything else that is good and quiet second. The only way she will be blessed is to be submissive to a man, indeed many men, including her pastor, father, future husband, and sometimes brothers and sons depending on denomination.

Being taught to ignore your own experiences and suppress your own intuitive connection with the divine. Granted, this is more like a part b to the point above, but distinct enough it needs its own paragraph. If you have so much as a conversation with the divine that one of the men over you would find questionable, you are to immediately dismiss that conversation and assume you are being tricked by the devil. IF what you believe/realized/received/connected to was REALLY the good one, then He will reveal Himself to the man in authority over you and thusly give you blessing. Otherwise, trust any man in authority over you more than yourself. Always. Else you will most likely burn in hell.

Rejecting any personal aesthetic that involves attention or an affinity for any color not prominent in the rainbow or an Easter palate. Self care is a small list that begins and ends with prayer and might have ‘eat a salad’ or ‘drink some water’ or ‘exercise’ in between. Any sort of indulgence is a waste and selfish.

Peace is more valuable than truth. Especially when that truth is personal and the peace involves anyone else. There is only one truth that should be proclaimed whenever possible, “Jesus is Lord” and I swear there is a secret but well known rule that you get brownie points if it’s written in cursive on a T shirt bought from a grocery store. But seriously, racist grandpa? Shush yourself, he is Jesus’ problem. Petty aunt who passive aggressively compares the grandchildren in a ranking system? Smile and nod. Gropy uncle who aggressively hugs every kid and strips them of their personal autonomy? Children don’t have any say over themselves since they were born sinful, manipulative little turd nuggets so you should blatantly encourage them to not listen to that voice that tells them to stay away from dangerous people and hug their uncle.

Importantly all of these truths can be boiled down into one: do not be yourself. Be a quiet, giving blob of selflessness that constantly allows yourself to silenced while forcing yourself into a cookie cutter mold of a fictional woman from the 1800’s with an endlessly sunny disposition and a penchant for getting walked on.

*side note* Men do not have it easy either. They are discouraged from having emotions, showing emotions, wearing color, being unique in any way, showing weakness, displaying anything other than americanized masculinity, or having close friends that do not attend the same church, or are on a team together, or are women they do not intend to marry, or are not appearing masculine enough. Also the happiness, financial stability, and eternal souls of their nuclear family rests solely on their shoulders. Like they get to enjoy sex but have to keep themselves locked away too.

And locking ourselves away is the opposite of freedom. It is why we are depressed, lonely, and secretive. We have to be secretive because otherwise we die and we don’t actually want to. We want to live. We want to be free. We want to be everything we are. We want to be everything we are made to be. Because deep down we know we were made this way. We’re just told it’s wrong. That we’re wrong. And we’re not.

We’re not. We’re not. We were not born sinful turd nuggets. We were born impressionable, adorable whole people with likes and dislikes and intuition and curiosity chock full of wonder and questions. We internalized so much because we wanted so badly to be good and loved by the man in the sky who said he loved us so long as we were nothing like he made us to be. Or for parental approval. Maybe both. Kids are complicated.

The point is: it’s hard to realize all of this and live out the unlearning because our very vocabulary was fucked with. We were taught freedom and loyalty and unconditional love (agape, you’re welcome) and wholeness and clean and safe and all of those things were somehow twisted into meaning other things.

I am still working on it. Daily. To untangle all this garbage in my mind. Sometimes, doing so feels absolutely absurd. Because it’s often just pointless rebellion, like laying on the floor of my living room that desperately needs to be cleaned and vacuumed and instead shouting “I am more important than this!” at the top of my lungs while spread eagle in over-sized sweatpants. (Truly, I am a *joy* to live with.) But doing that kind of absurd rebellion always reminds me how absurd it is that what I am doing is rebellion. And that helps me breathe a little easier. And get my shoulders down from my ear lobes. And see that the divine truly does not care if I wear black on national holidays.

And that goddess is not in a building. But goddess also isn’t in the people in that building either. That goddess is everywhere and absent all at once and no one can tell us about ourselves (unless they are well trained therapists, in which case my advice is to listen) and life is half of what we make of it and then literally half advertizing (thanks capitalism) and half all of the shit that happens to us and the people that happen to us and how we definitely happen to them. And it’s messy. It is all so fucking messy and THAT is so much more pure than the people shaped cages we are told to be.

Be free. Really free. And really messy.