01/17/21

“You have two cavities,” the dentist says, and I feel a catch behind my ribs.

My dental habits this year were the most dedicated and disciplined I’ve ever managed. Even though I avoided flossing most of my life, I haven’t skipped a single night in a solid year and counting. I worked really hard to build healthy habits this year, and this was one I thought I’d nailed. If not 100%, then at least 99%.

I ask the dentist if the cavities are big or small. She just reminds me where they are, and I’m still too stunned to push it. I leave the dentist office in a disappointed daze. I want to know: crap happens, especially with soft, cavity-prone teeth like mine, but didn’t my efforts make any difference at all?

After the kind of week I’d had leading up to this appointment, with heart-shattering relationship implosions ending in denial of progress or closure, I just wanted a perfect reward in at least one area of my life. Wasn’t partial perfection too much to ask?

But life isn’t like that. It is filled with imperfection and disappointment as much as reward and fulfillment. The significance of the one can’t be felt without the pain of the other.

So I’ll pick myself back up, adjust expectations and strategy based on new data, take comfort in how my mental health progress this year proved strong and healthy under pressure, and take myself back to the dentist to get my dental caries filled.

Deconstruction Journals ii

Forgiveness is not the same thing as accountability.

It is not for lack of faith that my trust was deeply broken, and that I can’t seem to find it again. It’s not for a desire to sin freely that I choose to hold space for the grief and anger for the ways I was wounded in the name of revival, for the things that were stolen from me in the name of holiness.

“The church is made up of imperfect people,” they say. “It isn’t like that anymore. Forgive, re-assimilate.”

But boundaries continually crossed and emotions suppressed is not healing.

Forgiveness is not the same as accountability. Both are important, but the kind I’m continually asked to assume just feels like a call to loyalty. My betrayed devotion buried, forgotten. Unresolved.

I was born a storyteller, an old soul hardwired to watch the world with eyes wide open, and to tell about what I found. I hold no ability to be untrue to myself, and the things on my heart are the very things the church wishes I wouldn’t talk about.

I take a break, I let it cool down. I go back, yet the environment is the same as when I was a teenager. We can be friends so long as I stay quiet and play along.

And I think, if God put this heart in me, why would he ask me to betray it again and again and again? To shove it down into the dark and watch it sicken and wither?

I was raised to believe compassion has to have the last word, always. We, the children of the fallout, still believe that.

Deconstruction Journals i

The kid’s not alright.

She pushed herself down and cut off all the living pieces. She convinced herself that if she were minimal, she would be perfect and likable, and people would stick around.

But they left anyway, and it’s hard for a robot to make friends.

The kid had convinced herself she was better now, but now she’s just filled with cold, bitter rage. Angry adults destroy their lives, but she still wants hers to work out.

As she dons a brave face for the world, the angry child inside her tells her all this has been pointless. All this striving, minimizing, playing along. She broke her heart for their ideals, became inhuman for their so-called divinity. And now it’s still her who’s in the wrong.

I’ll just keep up this charade for the rest of my life, she tells herself. It’s not like I’ll ever get what I truly need. 

It’s not like I’ll ever know what that is.

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A/N: Some journaling.

Most of my fiction writing these days is attached to a long form project I can’t put up on the internet, while most of my current nonfiction writing deals with this: post-evangelical deconstruction. It’s messy and always changing, which makes it so hard to talk about publicly, or to be honest about in any meaningful capacity. But I know I’m not the only one out there dealing with this.

I used to think I knew what the end goal to all this was supposed to be, but now I think just “healing” would be good. Identifying the unmet needs and figuring out how to meet them. Seeing what I find on the journey.

PTSD

I’ve only recently realized I’m still drowning.

I used to live in a season where my environment was so big, so noisy, so relentless, that the only choice I had to survive it all was to cram myself smaller and smaller. Minimal, numb.

For three full years of overwork and isolation, I still felt strongly it wasn’t time to go home, and I refused to give up. Attempts at breaking isolation fizzled, one after the other.

Too tired.

Too scared.

Too busy.

Catching my breath in that place was impossible, but I tried. Choking and gasping, drowning but not quite dead.

When I finally escaped and had a chance to move on, I threw myself into trying, needing to be okay. But real life set me on a treadmill that is still a little too fast. A voice in my head tells me over and over that I don’t get to rest; I will never get it right, and the stakes are too high.

I feel like I can’t breathe again. I can’t fail, I can’t go back there.

But somehow, I already have.

Somewhere deep in my bones, I never really left.

+++
A/N: Thoughts from quarantine. This whole situation has dug up things I had preferred to bury as deep as possible, but finally (grudgingly) allowing it to have a name has been helpful.

12. 1. 2019: A reflection

A/N: Found a bit of old writing from a few months ago, decided to add to it. I definitely meant to write more publicly this year, but this year has been a lot of reclaiming, of writing simply because I love it, of journaling and life-living. Blogging used to be easy, but now it’s not, so much.

I figure that’s okay.

+++

This is the first year after moving away for college that I haven’t lived in a dorm or an apartment. I have been at a full-time job that I enjoy for the longest I’ve ever worked full-time anywhere. I am reasonably financially stable, making steady progress in my creative career on the side.

Five years ago, this journey was only just beginning.

When I was in college, I gave myself permission to study my environment more critically, and I found myself swallowed up by an envy of other people.

I would observe people from afar, wanting, bitterly, to ask them what it felt like to fit. What was it like, to be pretty and popular and outgoing? To not be questioning their faith, feeling betrayed by the very institution that taught them everything they knew about how to exist in the world? What was it like to not hate and fear their bodies? To feel comfortable presenting exactly the way people expected of them, according to their respective genders? To not be confused and frequently let down by their sexuality? To seem to be on a path that made sense, that everyone else was on and hit the milestones at the average times?

First I distanced myself from the church to gain some perspective.

Then I tried, slowly, carefully, to become comfortable in my body, to explore my sexuality. To decide that I wanted to change the perception of my gender by continuing to identify as it.

I took a long trip away from home, honing my craft, developing my stories, craving the frequent coffee date faith talks of my early twenties. For a time, I felt like maybe no one ever opened up, or that it was too dangerous to do that, now that I had graduated from the small private religious institution that had fostered those faith talks.

It was only later that I realized that while there were many ways that I didn’t fit with the perceived pattern and struggled with things that seemed to come so naturally to my peers, it is easy to connect with people through writing and art because, deep down, we all feel a lot of the same things.

We all crave connection. We are all trying to either ignore or disentangle the lies we picked up along the way. We’re all trying to find where we fit, and loneliness comes for all of us, much more frequently than we’d like to admit.

What we present to the world, in public, at work, in our professional spaces on the internet, is the safe, put-together versions of ourselves. The brave faces, the patient smiles. Commuting to work at 6:30 in the morning, it doesn’t matter so much that I’m still struggling to put my body into the equation of my life, to reach out into new social avenues and that I don’t want to stay in the same headspace I’ve occupied for too long, but that I’m scared of the ways trying to grow out of it will change me and complicate my life.

When I’m running errands, a distant observer couldn’t possibly glean from my presentation how much internalized misogyny affected me for how long, for how it still affects me, and the fears that I hold that it still holds sway over my writing.

But moving forward is in the day-to-day, isn’t it? Of making small steps forward, of outlining small, buildable goals, of holding space to break them and start again. Of holding the door open of my carefully closed heart.

This is one of the most sacred truths I have learned this year, that the places in me that I thought had reached their final form, even if I wasn’t happy with them, are still changing.

Seasons come and go, and joy really can bloom from ashes.

All the windows are open

in our bedroom on the fifth floor. The sharp steeple of a church peeks out between stepping stone roofs of apartment buildings. I can see the upper terrace of a restaurant, twinkle lights strung in the rafters. Most things are closed at this hour, but there are lights in windows, low and yellow in the hushed and misty air.

In the dull, punctuated dark of a bedroom shared with three other people, I lie on top of the covers and look out on the crowded, cooperative landscape.

And I feel lucky to have this view, even if it’s just for a little while.