Strange and unprepared.

This is a post that I don’t know how to write, because I am afraid.

I see them in my mind’s eye, wary, expectant, probably judging already. They’ve noticed that I’m not the Dani they used to know and like. I’ve changed, and they are not okay with the change. I share things and say things and write things that they think are seriously wrong. Maybe they hold onto hope that one day I’ll “come to myself” again, like the prodigal son did. The ones who try to talk to me appeal to God, to the Bible, to the tradition of the Plymouth Brethren in which I grew up, to the memory of the Old Dani who was so devout and sincere and earnest in trying to live a life pleasing to God, the Dani that they looked up to or at least respected in some way.

This is a conversation I don’t know how to have.

How do I write about no longer identifying as a Christian in a way that won’t turn my entire world upside down?

I guess I’m doing it something like this. But I’m not holding onto hope for keeping my world aright.

The language of Christianity is still my mother tongue. The culture of Christianity is still my hometown. I don’t know anything else.

This is a strange place for me to be.

I plan to explore my deconversion further in future posts as I continue to work out how to interact with my world in a meaningful, constructive, honest way. In fact, that’s a large part of why I’m writing this. I need a space to document my thoughts and experiences honestly. A large part of what has been holding me back from writing on this blog is the fear of what will happen when people I love find out that I do not share their faith. And I can’t keep living with that fear. I can’t keep hiding.

While I’m not going to talk about the whys now (in part because I’m still working through things and in part because it’s just not the time for it), I am going to set some boundaries.

Continue reading

Always. Choose love.

Dear 16-year-old Dani,

16

Happy birthday a day late! And let me just say right now that you completely and totally ROCK that hair cut. Seriously. Enjoy it. Don’t listen to people who tell you that they’re afraid that it makes your face look fat. It doesn’t. You look amazing. You won’t have hair that short again for a really long time, and you won’t find a style you like as much as this one for even longer, so savor it (even though you’ll get convicted in a few months that you’re disrupting God’s order by having short hair. I wish I could say don’t do that, but we both know that time travel doesn’t really exist).

This picture, ten years later, embodies for 26-year-old-you all of the sheer awesomeness that you possessed at that time in your life. Sophomore year of high school was your year, though you probably don’t realize it. You have a group of friends with whom you hang out regularly. You’re almost popular — at least, the popular kids no longer make fun of you. You are at your musical height — I wish I had your vocal range, and man do I ever wish I was as fantastic of a pianist as you are. Your biggest regret is not-quite dating that loser who swore to you that his girlfriend wasn’t actually his girlfriend and you believed him. You’re doing pretty great. You will look back on this year of your life with tremendous fondness and longing.

There’s so much I want to tell you. Like your current crush really isn’t worth it. (Really. I promise.) And homeschooling is not going to be a good experience for you. Even little things, like don’t get your cartilage pierced at Claire’s…twice. Seriously. Don’t do it.

But if there’s one thing and one thing only that I could impart to you right now, it would be this:

choose love.

Always. Choose love. Continue reading

When Beauty and the Beast are both within.

This project from Dove has me so introspective today*. Please take a few moments to watch the video.

I don’t have the words at the moment to explain why this speaks so deeply to me.

But part of that is because I’ve sort of started a project semi-similar to this, inspired by a chapter of bell hooks’ “Feminism is For Everybody” in which she talks about the importance of changing the depiction of women in media.

I’ve decided to illustrate the women in my life that I greatly admire.

Mostly because I don’t know a single one of my friends who hasn’t struggled enormously with body image. And I want to capture them, their beauty, in artwork that they can look at on those days when they feel like they’d rather just disappear for good, to remind them that they’re their own worst critic.

But…I’m starting with me.

Because even though I was able to embrace myself for a few short days back in January, by and large I still hate myself. I’m still cruel to myself. I think of myself as monstrous, hideous to behold, an ugly eyesore to all who know me.

I feel very much like the Beast, when perhaps if I were to step back and be honest, perhaps I have more Beauty in me than I thought.

So here’s the beginning, trying to set a style of illustration to follow through my project with. If you like, I can update here as I go.

Initial illustrative style exploration. More to come until I settle on a technique I like.

Initial illustrative style exploration. More to come until I settle on a technique I like.

*While the video meant a lot to me, that doesn’t mean that it and other marketing campaigns of Dove are free from reinforcing the very narrow beauty definitions they decry. Read this article for a very balanced explanation of the more problematic aspects of this video in particular.

In which I am hesitant to call it abuse.

SpiritualAbuseWeek

This week is Spiritual Abuse Awareness Week, a synchroblog hosted by Hännah, Joy, and Shaney (along with Rachel and Elora). Today we’re all linking up with Hännah, and I’m so thrilled that this is happening. And yet…

And yet.

I am so hesitant to add my voice here. Surely abuse is too strong a word for the things that have happened in my life, I think to myself. No one meant any harm. Everything was done in love, everything was said in love. They didn’t know that they hurt me.

There is so much to my story — my life — that I feel unable to share. Or perhaps simply unable to share at this time. So instead, I’d like to share the bits of my story that I’ve already shared, until I can find my voice to describe the rest.

Please understand that in each and every one of these instances, I believe with all my heart that the people involved intended good for me. But as I am learning, good intentions don’t always mean good actions. And in fact, sometimes the people who mean the most good do the most damage.

Continue reading

We don’t have to be okay.

I have this constant internal monologue that critiques every decision I make throughout every day.

Maybe it’s part of being an INFJ. Maybe it’s a by-product of growing up in a sub-culture that teaches that you cannot trust yourself. Maybe it’s part of being a perfectionist and an idealist. I don’t know.

But this internal monologue is exhausting. Sometimes it’s my voice. Sometimes it’s the voice of a mostly-forgotten teacher or mentor or elementary school friend or preacher or person on the street even. But it’s rarely actually their voices so much as a twisted version of them.

I have this idea that I have to be okay all the time.

I have to smile, even when I’m trying not to cry.

I have to socialize, even when I need solitude.

I have to only talk about positive things, never the things that hurt.

I have to pretend that I’m not depressed or panicked or triggered.

And you know, I used to be really, really good at it.

Okay, probably not really good at it. People have always sensed that I’m an old soul, that there is a well of sadness within me. But they’re usually blind-sided the first time I decide to be honest about it.

Now, I’m tired. I’m so tired. Fighting the sadness is a daily struggle for me, and sometimes the sadness just wins no matter what I do to fight it. And the internal monologue I have just drones on about how weak I am, how selfish I am, how inconsiderate I am, how stupid and heartless and childish and petty I am. My internal monologue is basically a never-ending stream of verbal abuse.

So sometimes, like today, I have to take a step outside of myself. I pretend that I am someone else, that I am a friend. A friend who is emotionally worn down and weary and weepy and going through a really intense cycle of self-loathing.

And while I’m pretending this, I realize that I’m sure there are friends of mine going through similar battles who, like me, are trying to hide it so desperately.

So here I am, talking to you, too.

I speak softly, but make sure that I’m heard over all the voices that are raging in my head about my worthlessness.

I say,

You don’t have to be okay.

You’re allowed to be sad.

You’re allowed to cry.

You’re allowed to be overwhelmed.

It’s okay. Really.

Not being okay is okay sometimes.

You don’t owe happiness to people when you don’t feel it.

You don’t owe happiness to people at the expense of your emotional and mental and spiritual health.

It’s okay to take care of you, and sometimes that looks like not being okay.”

And I wrap myself up in a robe, then swath myself in a blanket, then wrap my cold fingers around a hot mug of coffee, and I breathe. I just breathe.

Because I’m not okay today.

And I don’t have to be.