Saturday, November 6, 2010

Standing Alone

I was a shy child. More than shy, introverted.  I was the 7th out of 10 children.  I was lost in a sea of dysfunction.  There was no possible way my Mother could give all these children the time we needed to have our emotional and social and mental needs met.  There was no way possible my Father could possibly make enough money to support such a large family.  Did they try? In their own way, I think they did. I am not faulting them.  This is not the point, the point is about me.  How did a shy, introverted child who was completely suppressed in every way; who was overtly told and covertly raised to submit and not think for herself, come to think for herself, to actually have some semblance of a backbone, to go against everything she was taught; to leave the confines of her upbringing to become the person she is today?

When I was about 13, I did something to make my Dad mad (don't remember what is was) he told me to lay down on the stairs as he started to take off his belt to whip me.  I fundamentally knew this was wrong. I had already gone through puberty, and this felt a violation to my body and to a teenage girl as well as an excessive punishment to whatever I had done. He was a very scary man. I stood up to him and told him to go ahead and hit me, but that I would go into child protective services and show them my welts and bruises and report him.  He stopped and put his belt back on and he never hit me again.  A few years later, there was a trip the Mormon church was putting together for the youth. As it was announced in church, I wanted to attend, but after the meeting, my Dad pulled me aside and told me I had to attend, I had no choice.  I told him at that point that I would not be going. I didn't go.  I finished college-- against my families support, with a degree that was looked down on. What gave me the strength to do all this?  To this day, I still do not know.  This video comes closets to explaining:

Years later, I was able to also leave an abusive marriage; leave an abusive church organization, go out and get a job when I hadn't had one in 15 years, start being responsible for my finances when I wasn't allowed access to my own checking account for 10 years, and pay all my bills for the first time in 20 years.  It was like walking off a cliff.  I cannot even begin to express how scary this all was.  All my Mormon friends abandoned me, the only religious life I ever knew I was walking away from. I had to redefine my relationship with god and who I was as an individual and not as a couple. I had no idea, when I walked off that cliff, what was at the bottom-- the ocean full of raging water and ragged rocks or a cushion of pillows and an air tramp.

I now have a job that pays my health insurance, a life insurance policy and a retirement benefit. I feel like an adult for the first time since I was self supportive in my early 20's.  I'm an adult! It only took me 20 years to get here.

Here is a list of how my individuality was eroded:
*Submit thoughts to parents
*Do not disobey or you will be whipped
*Girls clean up after the entire family each and every day (servant-like)
*Must be in a certain time, but time is not clarified
*Girls are not equal to boys in the family; boys get motorcycles, bikes; girls get clothes; boys get scouts and sports, girls get to watch
*cannot wear jeans
*Get married and have 10 kids
*College is for men. Women can only go to find a husband
*Feel lots of guilt for not being good enough

*Must wear certain clothes
*Must attend Wednesday meetings, Sunday meetings and Seminary, be busy
*Do not think or act on sex thoughts
*Must listen and submit to the male authority
*listen, to not express your own differing thoughts
*Do not drink or smoke, do not drink tea or coffee
*Do not eat out on Sundays, dress to the nines for church
*Do not wear more than one pair of earrings, flip flops, or have sleep overs for the kiddo's
*Bow your head and say 'yes' I will obey my husband
*Have a passive mind, do not think for yourself
*Do not work, stay at home, have lots of kids, even if it doesn't fit your personality
*Feel lots of guilt for not being good enough

*Stay home, even though you told me you didn't want to
*No access to finances, checking account
*Contradiction in  everything; I love you, I can't be with you; I want dinner on the table at six, I won't be home till 7; etc.
*One way street; no assistance in problem solving, no time spent with girls and wife after dinner (head in computer), no engaging in conversation during dinner; no time spent with family in family time, wait till wife is in bed before coming to bed, etc.
*Feel lots of guilt for not being good enough

Deep down in my soul, I knew I could think for myself, I could act for myself and have it not offend god. That this was having personal integrity.  I just knew this.

I believe because I knew this in the base of my soul, I was able to make decisions, ultimately for myself and walk away from an organization that was telling me differently, from a family or origin that was telling me differently, from a husband that was telling me differently. Self esteem must be based on the internal, not the external to have the strength to make the decisions necessary to stand alone.

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