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.

Unfuck Yourself: Co-Dependency Edition

Stumbled across an instagram post yesterday about how Christian women are raised to become co-dependent on purpose. And that hit hard because it’s true. *Please note, in this blog, whenever I refer to christianity I am referring to White American Evangelical Christianity.*

Being asked to be a wife is the #1 priority in a young woman’s life. Honestly, the sooner the better. She is available once she becomes 18 and the most blessed often have proposals before 22. Those who don’t are often reassured that their lives will ‘begin soon’ and they are encouraged to continue ‘preparing themselves’ for marriage. From the time they begin dreaming about Disney princes they are directed onto a path of strict, though confusing and often contradictory, path of purity in which they ‘wait’ for their future beloved and do little else but attempt to prepare for that time. Prayer for one’s future beloved, purity for one’s self, and the continuing pursual of selflessness – the only crown a woman can wear once she gives her purity away for the ability to have children.

The more burnt out the better. She should be so satisfied by her life and her Jesus that the thought of keeping any of herself for herself is anathema and her entire focus is her children (god willing) and her husband. She should rise before him to pray for him and prepare for his day. The day should be spent as much at home as possible, keeping the home while the man works, and to prepare for his arrival. Once home, because of his sacrifice to leave the home for her and thusly blessing her to stay there, everything should revolve around him.

She is most likely his sole emotional support, and this is as it should be. Male emotional intimacy is closely tied to his sexuality, and thusly he usually only leans on those he is having sex with. Or wants to have sex with. All other relationships are most likely superficial, or, in the cases of deep feelings for beloved parents or grandparents, often muted in their emotional give and take.

I have been married for going on 8 years and while I realize that there are many who have been married longer than I, I have been married long enough to say, “Oh, dear daughters. It’s all bullshit.”

Your life starts the minute you begin making cognizant choices. (Not trying to say it has no value before then, but no one is going to look at floppy necked babe and think that woman is living her best life.) There is no waiting for any part of it. It is all relevant and amazing and painful and no part of it is any less potent or valuable.

My life did not begin when I married. My life did not begin when I had children. My life has been roaring strongly for decades even if I had a really hard time seeing it until a few years ago. I can’t say I’m shocked that it took my husband being polyamorous to snap me out of it, because I was deep in the Koolaid and anything less than that I would have somehow blamed myself for and became an ashamed divorcee with even more self esteem issues than before.

Daughters, live your life to YOUR specifications and only your specifications. If someone wants to come into your life and join you, great. But frankly, look at your best friend and realize that is the most important relationship you are ever going to have and build your life with them. I promise you it will be a more authentic life than one built with a man who thinks he has to ask your dad for you.

We are not chattel.

And we are not responsible for our partner’s emotions. Partner had a bad day? That sucks. It is not your job to drop your life and make it better. It is their job to communicate their needs and recognize your right to meet your own needs first. Kids having a bad day? They have a tendency to do that while learning how to navigate the entire spectrum of human emotions. Doesn’t mean you need to put your self worth into their behavior and invest every ounce of your energy into their fleeting happiness.

Put. Yourself. First. It is your life. And I’m not saying think ONLY of yourself, I’m telling you what I wish I had been told when I was but a breastless child wondering when boys were going to stop being gross: it is your life. Do what you want with it. You want kids? Great, have kids. Don’t want kids? Embrace it and fuck your extended relatives that tell you when you are old you will change your mind. Know yourself, and give a giant middle finger to anyone who wants a version of you modeled after their own expectations and experiences. You want to get married? Awesome, go out there and learn about romantic, partnered you, and flirt because it is so fun. You want to make your career or life ambition your number one priority and your romantic relationships second? Or even third? Or just way down there on the list? GO FOR IT.

Please. Yourself. First.

There was a time, before polyamory, where I thought it was better to be able to look those in church in the eye, look my mom in the eye, look my extended family in the eye – at the expense of being authentic to myself. At the expense of being able to look myself in the eye.

And the weird thing is, young ones, it was when I started looking myself in the eye that I realized that I was my very own key. I thought I would lose the ability to look everyone else in the eye but I didn’t. My dignity increased. Why wouldn’t I look them in the eye? Why would I ever be worth less?

I’m not worth less because my partner is polyamorous. I’m not worth less because I am polyamorous. I am not worth less because I took sovereignty over my womb and closed it for good. I am not worth less because I saw through the bullshit and took away any mediator between myself and the divine. Nothing can make me worth less.

Not being born. Not being from another country. Not speaking another language. Not being kind. Not being educated. Not being uneducated. Not being an asshole. Tattoos. Less than flattering eyebrows. Revealing clothing. Modest clothing. Head coverings. Foul mouths. Sex positivity. Queer. Non binary. Young. Old. Somewhere in the middle. A sexual. Bi sexual. Gender fluid (you stunning beauties you).

I need you, just the way you are. Just like I need me to be me.

Let us unfuck ourselves, together. Sometimes the knots are tight and we need a little help to mentally unravel them. I am here for you.

Last thing ladies:

YOU ARE SO MUCH MORE THAN SOMEONE’S (FUTURE OR PRESENT) WIFE.

Better Smelling Bacteria

As an ex-Christian I find myself having rather strange knee jerk reactions. For example, if I am out and about with the children (pre-COVID) and I get a scandalized look from another mother when the word fuck freely flows from my lips, my immediate reaction is not to look down, or away, or mutter an apology. My immediate reaction is to look her straight in the eye and say it louder and clearly enunciate.

But I have a harder time navigating spirituality in it’s various forms and traditions because of this very kind of knee jerk reaction. The concept of “spiritual hygiene” for instance. I can hardly read the words without revulsion. If it’s immediately followed by “cleanse yourself after sex” I must immediate put down the book and come back later. Because after 28 years of Christian oppression, I won’t crack open the door, even the slightest bit, that sexuality, and the body, are any less holy or clean than pure spirit and energy. I will bathe in the sex juices of my partners before I will feel ashamed of my pleasure, my connection, or my body and all of its functions.

Even during the attempted brainwashing, some part of me knew it was bullshit. I used to get in arguments with my cousin about it all the time. We went to church at least 3x a week and every time I was expected to dress up to some degree and at one point I just refused. I was going to wear holey jeans and an oversized, paint stained sweatshirt. Because why on earth would the vast and sole god of the universe give half of a shit about what I, a twelve year old girl going to a rural church in Arkansas, was wearing?

It took me longer to see the through the gnosticism buried in the doctrine of female purity. Virginity is sacred and something to be lost or taken. AIt defines a woman’s worth until it is bartered away. Women have to cleanse themselves spiritually after menstruating, as if the act of not being pregnant is somehow dirty. Women have to cleanse after childbirth, and for absolutely no reason, have to cleanse themselves for longer if they birth a female child. As if the act of childbirth is not in itself a holy baptism for mother and child. Women have to be careful to not arouse men by constantly hiding their bodies. Women have to be careful to constantly arouse men by having those bodies fit male ideas of beauty so as to have any worth at all.

And just like twelve year old me, I refuse. Our bodies are gifts, not perversions. Their functions are mystical, spiritual, and frankly often hilarious. I will not wipe every trace of my humanity away before I approach the divine. I wear this soul garment proudly. I show off every scar, every stretch mark, every chunk of cellulite, every wrinkle, every laugh line. I am proud of my empty womb, and delight in the pleasure and moisture that I receive at any time I choose. I delight in my lips and the ability to speak, but also to kiss. Both are blessings. Hands are made for touching, arms for holding, skin for feeling, and clitorises for exploding. How in god’s name is it somehow more honorable to ignore all of those things, to not only pretend they don’t exist, but actively suppress them in order to be closer to the divine? Talk about spitting at the feet of the gift giver.

Because there is only one reason I have been able to think of that makes any sense. Control. Deny yourself. Denounce yourself. Hide yourself. And do what is mandated to save your soul.

And to that trumpet call of blasphemous patriarchy, I do what I do to judgmental mom’s at the playground. I look it in the eye, and I enunciate. Loudly.

“Fuck. Off.”

That being said, I do have to agree that if you are setting up an ancestor altar, your bedroom might not be the wisest choice. Not because sex is somehow dirty or wrong, but because in the same way I literally cannot wrap my head around the fact that my parents ever did that, let alone to each other, my grandma most likely does not have a kink for watching me do it.

And also, if one has a tooty booty, like myself, and perhaps not get through an entire meditation session without releasing some healthy bodily gasses, incense might be your friend. Again, not because it is unholy, just because the smell might be.

Look, if the deities that be wanted it to be an act of worship they would have made better smelling bacteria. The end.

*Crack*

Can you be baptized by Ke$ha? Because that’s definitely what I feel like right now. I turned “Raising Hell” to max in my car and belted my lungs out every time the lyrics “If you couldn’t tell, we can always find the trouble we don’t need no help. Oh, my mama raised me well, I don’t want to go to heaven without raising hell!”

A flood of imagery came with each repetition – Rep. John Lewis and his ‘good trouble’. The ancestor altar I just set up to heal the spirits of my family line. Falling in love with Satya. Looking at my lifemate after we had dragged each other to hell and back and feeling like I was really seeing him for the first time – and loving him. Having sex long after the surgery that removed my ability to conceive children just. because. it. feels. good. Feeling the conviction of all the pain and destruction I have cause BIPOC just by “living my life” unaware. Telling toxic people in my life to fuck off.

And I swear to goddess, as I was rocking the fuck out to this song – something in me broke. I’ve been struggling against the chains I’ve felt weighing me down, each one inscribed with some bullshit doctrine about original sin, physical demonization, female subjugation, performative holiness, co-opted capitalism, etc for years. And every time I raised my voice to speak my truth it has shaken. I don’t like confrontation. I don’t like people who once liked me not liking me anymore. I don’t like disappointing family. I was a straight A, national debate champion, virginal good girl, over achiever for so much of my life. Arguments over text flooded me with stress sweat. But in this moment, I was overcome with the peace that passes understanding.

My family is my framily and we don’t expect each other to stay if we starting hurting each other. Humans are pack animals, we need our groups. But for too long the concept of family has been held over people like a guillotine instead of the safety net it’s meant to be. If raising my voice to speak my truth, to speak the truth of others, causes anyone to be ashamed of me – the doors are open. No one stays here unless they want to be here.

So here is my proclamation. The chains have fallen. They broke. And they’re not going back on, ever. I have two romantic loves of my life – and we are perfect just the way we are. My framily is my group and we do not threaten each other’s autonomy. We are activists and it is worship.

And while I do not believe in heaven, even if I did – that is NOT the goal, fam. The goal is to bring heaven to earth, to make earth a place of peace and justice – PEACE ON EARTH and goodwill toward men. NOT “close your eyes and wait until it’s over.” I rebuke that shit.

I have so many essays to write and points to make but this one, this one, is about me. This one is about my baby steps that have led me out of the darkness, each one in direct opposition to what I was told about truth and light.

Fell in love with a woman. Stayed in love with a man. Began healing my ancestral line, refusing to believe that we are beyond help after death. Stepping into my own priesthood. Began drawing healthy boundaries with people who shared pieces of my DNA (and held to them, even when they began to rail against them). Began to break the mold of the dutiful, quiet, obedient woman and embraced the wild, fierce, priestess that was my birthright. Threw out traditions that didn’t serve me and made new ones to my own liking. Smashed some stuff and gave a voice to my anger. Loved myself without permission and with total abandon (even and especially the pudge, wrinkles, stretchmarks, sagging, and body hair). Refused to believe I was cursed from birth, that my children were cursed from birth, and that our sole life’s mission was to save ourselves and await a holy reckoning. Danced naked in the moonlight around a fire. (Okay so not yet but its on my list.)

I am not ashamed of myself. The scales finally fell from my eyes and I was no longer comparing myself to what I was told I must be in order to be good.

I saw myself, exactly as I was made, following my own path hand in hand with my Spirit and it was good. It is great.

I am holy.

And I am dancing with my tits out, loudly and without abandon, breaking my own chains and howling at the moon while I reach across generations and through decades or murky trauma bullshit to build a new now, and a new future and continue to become the healer I am made to be, lit by the fire of all the lies and oppression and chains and pollution that have kept us quiet.

I am only getting louder.

And the fire is only getting bigger.