Why I Reject Religion – Part 2

The same house with the same people that I posted about yesterday that were trying to get the devil out of me when I was in my mid-20s (Part 1 of Why I Reject Religion) – this is part of what I remember as a kid, from Chapter 9 of my book Unheard:

“Our church is called The Four Squares. It’s a small Pentecostal church, the same one where Daddy met Bianca. I think Four Squares is a dumb name for a church, but I figure it has something to do with the family of four that runs it. I have to attend church every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night.

Gertrude, Bianca’s mother, goes to our church. I have to spend a few days with her while Daddy and Bianca spend some time together alone. Gertrude is an overweight lady with pretty skin, and she constantly preaches about the Lord. She yells and cries for no reason, calling for Jesus and praying to him to save her marriage from her unfaithful husband. Her yelling and screaming scares me at times, especially when she tells me that the devil is inside of me. That’s only if I say or do something she doesn’t like. More than anything, that makes me mad, and I feel like telling her the devil must be in her since she yells and scares kids away.”

For a child to experience this is pretty frightening. It’s like using the boogie man to scare children, but instead they use their god and hell and damnation. The thing is – I always questioned everything, but their answers never made sense. For example, I asked about dinosaurs not being in the Bible. I can’t recall the answer I was given at the time, but it didn’t make sense. I asked about timelines and relevant things that were contradictory in the Bible, but every answer I was given was also contradictory or made into some other uneducated explanation. I asked about children dying or people getting cancer, and I was told that was God’s will, which wasn’t an acceptable answer for me either. And this is a good one – why do women have to serve men? Because that shit didn’t fly with me, even when I was a child. Nothing made sense to me whatsoever, and I thought that “God” sounded like a total misogynistic, selfish asshole. By the time I was a teenager, I had made up my mind that church was not a place I ever care to go. If you’ve never experienced something like this in life or as a child, let me tell you – it’s not only weird, it’s pretty damn creepy! But not as creepy as what I’m about to share.

A girl I’d been friends with since fourth grade lived down the street from me. Her parents were very strict Christians, and even being only about nine years old, I noticed some very strange behavior. One thing was her older brothers pissed their beds (I believe they were either in high school or close to it), and looking back, that is a sure sign of abuse, whether physical or sexual. My friend was rarely allowed to play outside much, but sometimes I was allowed over when their father was there. Now this is where it gets really weird, and today I am 99.9% sure he was a goddamn pedophile. From Chapter 1 of Unheard:

“[My friend] was never allowed at my house, and I stopped going to hers when I was ten because her father kept making me sit on his lap, facing and straddling him as he held me close. He gave me the creeps. When I tried to scoot away he forcefully continued to pull me forward. He also liked to hug me a lot, which I also thought was creepy. I wasn’t used to hugs much from home, but I knew that my grandparents never hugged me like that. I knew in my stomach that something was wrong about it.”

Around the time I wrote and published my book, I was getting in touch with old friends on Facebook, including the friend mentioned above. I’m pretty sure she read the book but didn’t know if I’d written about her, because I kept her details and identity fairly private. I know she was going through a lot of her own difficulties, and at one point she did ask me about her father holding people too close, mentioning that people thought it was weird. She made some excuse about his actions, but I wasn’t buying it. I am certain that man probably did a lot of disgusting things to children.

These people that I had experience with in the religious sector had to be some of the craziest, sickest people a child could be forced to interact with. To this day, the only time you will see me in church is for a wedding or a funeral. But this still isn’t the end of my church stories just yet.

Why I Reject Religion – Part I

While I appreciate and accept other people’s paths in life, religion is not for me whatsoever. Even when I was a small child, I had interest in the occult, which major religions seem to despise.

If you’ve followed me long enough or read my first book, Unheard, you’ll know that religion was a big part of my childhood that led to the ultimate demise of the relationship with my biological father.

This is an excerpt from Unheard: a Memoir – as told from a child’s point of view:

Grandmaw got Daddy to go to a big church called Calvary where Aunt Marylou went, and he became born again. That meant that he loved Jesus, who was the only person to show him how Daddy was getting to Heaven. They told me I should be born again too, but I decided that I would be baptized with the Holy Spirit. The spirit part scared me, because I thought that God’s son was a ghost. One night I was baptized in a big bathtub at the big Calvary church in front of a big audience. That’s when they handed me a microphone and I told them I love Jesus, even though I wasn’t sure I trusted Him, because I was afraid that I wouldn’t go to Heaven with the rest of my family if I didn’t do exactly as He said in the Bible. I think that water must have been dirty because I got sick a few days later. Maybe it was because my sins were still washing away. I wasn’t sure I liked the Calvary church because it was boring and they made us read like they did in school instead of color and do crafts like some of the other churches we went to. Besides, they made me feel stupid when I didn’t know what some of the Bible meant.

I stopped liking the Sunday school after they asked us what we knew about Abraham. I raised my hand. I knew all about Abraham from school.

“Abraham was the sixteenth president of the United States!” I proudly announced.

“No,” the teacher scrunched up his face. “We’re talking about Abraham from the Bible.”

I guess he thought I was a dumb kid because he never called on me again. I liked the story about the president Abraham better anyway because he freed the slaves.

I was an impressionable child that believed what adults told me as truth, because that was what I was taught (even when my gut said not to). There was another portion of Christianity that I was exposed to but thought it was not only horse shit, but outright nuts – the Pentecostal church. This is another excerpt from my book Unheard:

Grandmaw stopped going to the big church because they asked for too much money and started going to the new small Pentecostal church next to her house. I wasn’t sure I liked that one much either, because the music was old and boring, and so were most of the people. Most of the congregation was a bunch of people raising their hands and talking in a funny language they said was their tongue, even though I thought my tongue looked the same as theirs. The preacher would call up people to the front of the church and start yelling at them and push them on the head until they fell over raising their hands in the air and crying for Jesus. All of that yelling made me want to vomit sometimes because it scared me. The only part I liked about going to that church was meeting other kids and when Grandmaw gave me mints out of her purse when I sat next to her. The other part I liked was when they had food after the service because I was always starving by the time it was over.

Once I educated myself and had a mind of my own, I realized that religion is complete and utter bullshit that was invented by men to control the masses and take property from single/widowed women they deemed as “witches.” One college class I enjoyed most was World Religion, where I grew to learn about and respect other religions, which I feel pretty much all have the same basic beliefs and values. I gravitated towards Buddhism, Paganism, and anything considered “occult” because none of them were religions; they were ways of life and not defined by rules like Christianity or any of the other major world religions. Plus, they made sense.

One of the last times I visited my father was when I was in college. My daughter and I went to my stepmother’s mother’s house for New Year’s Day dinner. During the visit, my father asked me about what I’m doing in college, and at the time I was planning to become an art therapist, but first my plan was to become a high school teacher before working my way into art therapy. Both he and my stepmother discouraged me from teaching in public schools (my stepmother homeschooled all of their children), but I was determined to do whatever I wanted. (This was in the late 90s when schools aren’t what they are today.) After explaining how art and psychology helps people, my father basically told me psychology was a bunch of “hogwash” or whatever Southern term he came up with. That hurt me more than anything, because he has never helped me as an adult, nor have I ever asked, and I was doing my best raising a child and going to college and working on my own. He gave me no credit whatsoever. Everything I said made me wrong in his eyes. I was never good enough, no matter what I did for either him or myself. His words also made me angry, and they saw it. And then things got really fucking weird.

At that point, my stepmother said, “Let’s pray for Susanna!” … and they put me in a chair in the center of her mother’s living room and tried to “take the devil out” of me. By that, I mean they were praying loudly and speaking in tongues and putting their hands on my head and saying things like, “Let Susanna believe in God and let Susanna believe in Jesus! Rebuke the devil in the name of the Lord!”

I was pissed and wanted to get up and scream, “What in the holy HELL are you people doing?!!” But I also didn’t want to scare the small children, because it would “prove” to them that the devil was surely inside of me, and I didn’t want to be a part of the children witnessing “the devil” that only exists in their small minds. They had never even asked me what my beliefs were, and at the time, they were probably a little different than they are today.

My daughter was probably about eight at the time, and I believe she was scared for me and scared of them. It was confusing and weird and a total WTF moment. She and I have a bond like no one else, because it was just her and I for several years. I was fuming mad that they humiliated me like this in front of my young siblings (around her age) and my child. I left so angry, and I vaguely recall my daughter and I speaking about it on the way home, and she said that was the weirdest thing she’d ever seen. No shit. To this day, it’s one of the weirdest things I’ve ever experienced. This was only the beginning of the end of my relationship with my father – by his choice (although there are other theories I’ll write about later).

Making Name Changes

You may have noticed that I’ve made a few changes to the blog, including its name. There are a few reasons for this, the first being that I want the name change to reflect the current content I share. It took me a while to come up with something that wasn’t already taken but also relevant, so Free the Burden is it!

The second reason is when I created this site more than 10 years ago, my original intention was to use it to promote myself as an author using a pen name. I had chosen the first name of Susanna, the story in the Bible in which she was minding her own business when two perverted elders came along and spied on her while she was modestly bathing, then  blamed her for being beautiful and making them lustful and attempted to force her into having sex with them. When she refused, Susanna was accused of being promiscuous, which was a death sentence for an adulterer. Proclaiming she’d rather die than have sex with these jerks, she cried out, drawing attention to herself. Eventually, the lying pieces of shit elders are tried and found guilty, mainly because they couldn’t get their story straight –  and thanks to Daniel, Susanna is finally believed.

Susanna was the name I’d chosen because of being wrongfully accused of things, which was a common theme when I was growing up. I was accused of lying when I wasn’t, because I had a difficult time expressing myself verbally. I was accused of miscellaneous things just because of not being liked by both adults and peers. Even in my adulthood, I have been accused of some pretty bizarre things – but I don’t know what is more bizarre – the accusations themselves or the people making them.

Like many authors, I wanted a pen name in order to protect not only my identity and safety, but the identity and safety of my family and others that I’ve written about. Some family and friends and people that have known me for a majority of my life know my true identity behind this blog.

However, some people are complete dicks and think it’s okay to violate people’s privacy, even by going as far to do something illegal to gain information for their own selfish and sick purposes. It’s not a game to me, because some of the content I share with the public on this blog is extremely sensitive information that I wish to remain between myself and the reader, not the rest of the city and certainly not any of my exes unless I care to share it with them directly. To be “outed” by someone that I have never even met is akin to being emotionally raped or having your home burglarized, and that’s a really awful and indescribable feeling. Obviously, that person has severe issues and needs to do a lot of introspection, not to mention getting a life and keeping me out of it. I will be looking further into this matter and seeing what legal action I can take.

Eating Alone & Depression

I have a lot of work to do with myself. Writing down my thoughts has been extremely therapeutic for me, and the more I write, the more realizations I have – the patterns, the negative thoughts that were ingrained into my system that I didn’t even know existed. I’m doing my best to pinpoint the things that have been causing depression and doing whatever I can to lift my spirits.

Whether you’re an adult or a child, eating alone all the time can be depressing. When I was trained to be a home health care aide, we were told that it’s important to eat meals (or at least sit) with our elderly clients, because they tend not to eat as much when they’re alone, and they’re happier eating with other people. What is it about eating alone vs eating with others that somehow determines our happiness? Studies have found that people enjoy the general social aspect of eating with others. The only times I didn’t eat alone throughout my adult life was when I was in the army, married or had a boyfriend, or when my daughter was young and I had a regular schedule. Studies show that people who share meals with others tend to eat healthier and live healthier lives. I suppose that would explain one of the reasons I have been depressed for much of the past six years.

Except for eating at my grandparent’s houses or with my father when I was a child, I often ate alone growing up. If I didn’t eat alone, I was usually separated from the adults, or dinnertime was so miserable I’d opt to eat alone. It was either literally get yelled at for breathing or something else that is considered normal to anyone. Here is an excerpt from Chapter 7 of my book, Unheard:

“Since dinnertime is dreadful, I hate evenings. Even when I am starving, I prefer eating by myself. I hate looking at him and watching him sit with his head tilted down towards the plate and scraping the food from his fork into his mouth without ever looking up. I try to speak and make normal conversation; he makes a point to say something to upset my stomach or tells me to shut up and eat. He finishes his food, gets up without excusing or cleaning up after himself, trots into the living room, lights a smelly cigarette, watches TV, and drinks beer. I guess he thinks it was a woman’s job to keep quiet and clean up after him.”

When something is “normal” for a child, they don’t always realize it’s not normal or healthy as an adult. I knew that what was happening to me didn’t feel right, especially when my friends did “normal” things, like eat with their families. I have never purposely separated myself from eating with others as an adult; it’s just that I don’t exactly have a choice when I’m single.

My daughter visited me a couple of weekends ago, and for the first time in a while, I cooked up a delicious shrimp and pasta dish. It was the first time I’d cooked a meal for anyone other than myself in months, and it was nice to share. When I was regularly dating, I cooked more than I was taken out, and I was perfectly happy with that, because I was happy. I realize that some of my happiest times are when I’m cooking and sharing meals with others (not being expected to, but wanting to), and that hasn’t happened regularly in two and a half years. (If you follow my blog, you’ll probably guess with whom.) I’ve also been more depressed in that two and a half years than ever, and I eat alone almost 100% of the time.

I try to take myself out to eat for lunch or dinner just to be in a social outing, even if I’m out alone. However, eating out gets expensive, and I feel that I can cook better than what is served in most restaurants. Plus, I love sharing my culinary skills with others. Like the studies have shown, it’s the socialization that I’ve been missing at mealtime and probably another reason my friends keep telling me I need a boyfriend. *eyeroll*

How I Lost My Virginity

Seeing the patterns of sexual abuse…

Free the Burden

This is probably going to be somewhat disturbing to some readers, so this is fair warning.

When I was 16, I worked with a guy that went to my school. For about a year he begged me to date him, but I wasn’t interested. Eventually, I gave in to him and he was my “first love” so to speak. He had a car, so we’d sneak off and park in wooded areas or parks to make out and have sex.

One night when I was babysitting he came to the house. We were on the living room floor (the person I was babysitting for was in her room asleep by then) making out. He was acting like an asshole, which was typical of him anyway, but here’s where this gets disturbing… All of the times I thought we were having sex, he wasn’t actually inside of me. I think maybe the…

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Dealing with Abandonment in Relationships

Looking back, I suppose I’ve always had some type of abandonment issue. If you’ve ever read my book, “Unheard,” you’ll have a general idea of my childhood experiences with abandonment. Beyond that book, I had never written much about my adult life, and writing helps me to examine things that I have played over and over throughout my life.

I moved to the Florida Keys in 2003 and was told by a family member that my father thought I had moved there to “become a lesbian.” This was a surprise to me, considering I’ve only dated men and believe that no one just “becomes a lesbian.” I thought that was absurd and ignorant, as it only went to show that my father knows absolutely nothing about me, nor does he bother to care enough to ask me a thing about my life. In fact, the last time we spent any time alone together was when I was about 12 years old.

My father hasn’t spoken to me verbally or seen me since my grandmother’s death in 2003 – and currently, we only live about 10 miles apart. I can only guess it’s because I don’t live the lifestyle that he would choose for me – even though I’ve done nothing wrong – and he just assumes untrue things about me. Religion has played a huge part in this, which is why I have rejected religion since I was a teenager. My father and I don’t share the same beliefs, and I do believe that my stepmother is an extremely huge influence on his decision making or lack thereof. The reason I partly blame her is because my invitations, addresses, and the same phone number I’ve had for 15 years have always been “lost”. The last time I heard from my father was in 2007 when I sent a wedding invitation that he declined. I never even received a card. And to top it off, he has also avoided his first grandchild, my daughter, all of these years.

Bringing all of this into consideration, I can see that many of the relationships I’ve had over the years have replayed the theme of abandonment. It seems to have either gone that way or the complete opposite – the suffocating type. I have yet to find that happy middle with anyone, and now that I see things for what they are, it’s difficult for me to allow myself to get close to anyone.

After reading this article, “The Five Signs of Adults with Abandonment Issues” – I recognize that I exhibit all five of these signs. I know I have insecurity issues at times, but I never understood why – and people have commented to me and often question me about this. I spend a lot of time alone, more so than most people and a lot more than most people think, especially since my divorce. I’ve made some pretty bad decisions or started having panic attacks after being dumped (“heightened emotional response”) or rejected in some way – or even having thoughts of being dumped or rejected. I definitely have commitment issues and fear getting too close – or quite the opposite of attaching to someone too soon, only to get dumped.

I mean, I always knew there was something wrong with me and felt like no one would ever love me, but this really clears up a lot. Wow, do I have a lot of work to do, but how do I fix these things? At least for now, I’m glad I can recognize these traits.

Excerpt from Unheard: a Memoir – Chapter 8

Excerpt from Unheard: a Memoir – Chapter 8 – told from a child’s point of view

Even though the visits become less frequent, I look forward to visiting Daddy, and I have already forgiven Bianca for butchering my hair. Their house is always warm and cozy. Bianca has down comforters and nice pillows and warm beds, and they have a warm fireplace for the winter, air conditioning for the hot months, and things that I’m not used to having. I am even allowed to take hot baths and sit in the tub for as long as I want!

I have wanted to shave my legs since fifth grade, because my friends are already shaving and making fun of me. Mom says I have to wait until I’m thirteen, but when I speak to Bianca about it, she gives me a razor and tells me to go at it. It must have taken me an hour or more, and I cut myself a few times, but I am grateful to be able to do at least one thing all of my friends are doing. Plus, I don’t have boy legs anymore.

By the middle of the summer between sixth and seventh grades, I decide that I want to live with Daddy and Bianca. They convince me that living with them will be better than living with Marcus and his drinking and drug habits.

I agree, but know that I will miss Mom. I hate the thought of leaving the babies and her alone with Marcus. What if something happens and she needs me? I hesitate calling Mom on the phone because I fear her reaction.

“I don’t want to tell her,” I say to Dad and Bianca.

“You’re the one that has to tell her, not us,” Bianca says.

I pick up the phone. Mom answers. I’m crying.

“What’s wrong?” she asks.

“I don’t want to come home,” I say. “I want to stay here.”

I can tell she isn’t happy. But I also know that I might be in trouble if I do decide to go back home.

“Why don’t you come home and we’ll talk about it?” she says, but I feel that it is more than a suggestion.

My stomach knots. I can barely swallow. My heart races. I am scared to death and know I cannot turn back now. I cry harder. Daddy takes the phone from me. Bianca hugs me and says everything is going to be all right.

All I have to do is go back there to pack.

UNHEARD: a memoir Now Available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble!