I swear now. I haven’t always swore. I started swearing more -in jest- when I started Seminary and met a more liberal Christian than I’d been used to. But it’s been the past two years that kicked it up a notch. It wasn’t a big deal until I started being more free with my choice words online. Today, I’m linking up with Bethany Suckrow’s Explicit Realities, Explicit Language post about how she was confronted on behalf of my language.
“That’s not how a good Christian girl talks,” her friend says.
The next day when I saw the comment below on a post detailing my childhood sexual abuse my heart sunk.
Joy was one of several who jumped in, thankfully.
On one level I understand this. The post had 6 swear words. It’s forward, blunt, jarring. When I say a man looks at me like he “wants to f*ck me,” that’s exactly what I mean. They certainly aren’t communicating “I’d like to make love to you,” or “sex would be fun!” Some of my language was simply reporter language. Some it was ironical. When I say an 8 yr. old gives a “damn good blow job,” I’m trying to emphasize the sadness of that reality not only for me but child sex slaves around the world. When I say, “his nasty ass has nothing to do with me,” I’m trying to communicate how defensive I MUST be FOR MYSELF otherwise I may continue to welcome unsolicited attempts to belittle me through my sexuality.
I didn’t grow up swearing though I grew up in a swearing household. My brother, an emotionally stunted rageaholic was always angry, always awful. He swore ALL THE TIME -every other word. Ma swore in anger occasionally but for the most part no one told me not to, so I didn’t. Anything really, to set myself apart from my blond-haired, blue-eyed step brother.
In my somewhat sheltered friendship circle before I married young, most of my peers felt similarly. None of us swore. Not even my out-of-control friends swore. Not even when I took 8 months and went CUH-RAZY at 19 did I add swearing to my list of Stuff To Do Wrong in 8 Months.
Fast forward to 2003, one of my Besties went through a traumatic, life-altering ordeal and she came out with a mouth. It was so ugh. So ‘ungodly’ of her. I was, like, so holy-roller about it. I remember once pridefully telling her she didn’t ‘sound as intelligent’ as she used to. I was a jerk. Eventually her life stabilized and her days of cussing like a sailor were reduced to a moderate amount while I continued my regular life pace of one swear word per year.
But then 2 years ago.
An old friend came back into my life who swore a lot. I followed suit. At first, it may have been a slight case of regular old peer pressure. It was fun and hilarious to swear together, and felt an appropriate way to release a need to “live on the edge” without the awful consequences. Somewhere along the line it became something else entirely.
Swearing began to have a beat-the-pillow effect for my brain. Marriage in shambles. I’d lost two people. I was depressed, overwhelmed. I had a crying infant attached to my friggin’ hip. I felt the weight of poor financial choices. I felt very, very, very trapped in my circumstances. Caged animal trapped. I was, after all, the godly woman, the gifted Minister, the engaging preacher, the Seminarian in pursuit of the Mastering of Divinity, the one with all of the college students depending on me. All of it, felt more of a burden than a gift.
I had no idea how to say I was angry about any of it. I felt myself drawn to people who could say it for me. People like Tupac.
I leaned towards Tupac because he was always able to communicate how angry he was about the the hardships of inner city life, red-lines, gentrification and injustice. Only now, I related to the soundtrack of my youth in a different way. This time, that sense of HELPLESSNESS drew me in not only for my brotha’s but for ME.
One morning, in early 2012, on a long drive to a staff meeting, I listened to Tupac’s So Many Tears over and over and over and over again. And then I cried on and off for about 4 hrs: how the hell did I get here? I was a very hot, suicidal mess.
Swearing became an outlet for the bottleneck. When the factors of life shoved and pushed themselves into one small window of my existence I learned to cope. I couldn’t escape the nightmare of trying to save a marriage, leaving Ministry, trying to find and redefine my sense of identity in the midst of that, postpartum depression and this whole other story which I can’t share yet because it’s coming out in this book (<–insert shameless plug here). Again, bottleneck. Anger. Swearing.
Am I a wee bit defensive and protective over swearing? Really? Well yeah. In some bizarre way it actually became a tremendous gift for me.
Would you rather me put my finger down my throat -something I’ve never done to deal with my anxiety and anger?
Would you rather me starve myself? Something I’ve never done intentionally.
Would you rather me pick up a drink each night and soothe myself that way? Something I’ve never turned to.
Would you rather me run out and screw some random dudes?
Would you rather me keep my sin private and fixate on porn for a little while again??
What would YOU rather I do when I’m coping? What coping mechanism would make YOU happy for me? It’s not a threat, i.e. ” I’m going to do one or the other!” This is reality. People cope. Every day, hurting people just like me, are facing rejection, depression, anxiety, divorces, losing children, mourning the losses, facing the brutal, awful reality of being a human being and they LEARN TO COPE.
Thankfully, I have found a way to cope in the last few years in this unexpected, mildly life-giving source of healthy anger. I am using choice language to deal with the jaded, jaded, jaded parts of my soul still figuring out how to live and breathe in this world as the daughter of someone who’s father abused them.
Of course, I haven’t been the perfect picture of harnessing anger for healing. At times I’ve been rageaholic. I pick myself up, apologize, go back to Therapy, cry, pray, face myself, face my pain, face another day. But know this, I don’t give myself over to my demons. I don’t throw up my hands and give up. I don’t call myself a “swearer.” I’m not resigned to a life of anger swears.
You don’t know that about me though. You might think I’m trying to be trendy or cool or millennial or whatevs. No Dahling. No. I only follow fashion trends, I make my own cool, and as a Gen-X’er I struggle with millenialist mindsets. No. It’s likely you don’t know me, don’t know why, but I hope that you’ll choose to love me the way I am.
I know it’s not convenient for anyone to think of me as merely ‘that chick with issues.’ I certainly don’t want someone’s first thought to be, “oh, she’s just that sexual abuse victim,” or even “oh, she’s just that sexual abuse survivor.” There’s nothing convenient about remembering why folks are coping badly or how folks are coping badly with the losses and heartbreak they are facing.
May I suggest something? Don’t. Don’t wonder, don’t pontificate, don’t judge and for God’s sake don’t leave belittling comments about how YOU THINK someone is dealing with their tragedy ALL WRONG.
It’s not convenient to bite your tongue, but it’s kind. It’s not convenient for me either as a sexual abuse survivor. I’m doing the very best I can.
“That’s not how a good Christian girl talks.”
Maybe I’m not going to be a very good christian girl in your opinion. Maybe I’m okay with that. Maybe it’s not me, maybe it’s you. Maybe you never seen a different version of what A Good Christian Girl is. Maybe you’ve never seen ‘A Good Christian Girl’ face the worst version of herself and win. Maybe you don’t know what it’s like to go into a war and make it out alive. What war does to people is violent, is angry. My childhood was war. You don’t get to tell me how to manage my PTSD. I’m sorry, y’all but you don’t. My trusted, invited inner circle does. No one else.
Jesus is my life. Jesus is my everything. Jesus is my all in all. ALL MY EGGS are in the Jesus basket. I have no other eggs, no other baskets. Everything about me lives and breathes and moves and longs for Jesus. I long to live life in the presence of God, faithful to the work that He’s given me. What I want you to know about why I swear, in light of allegiance to my faith is this:
I’m trying to fucking survive. That’s all I can say. That’s all I can tell you. I am just trying to fucking survive.
And by survive, I mean just what you think: not kill myself, hold a steady job, not cheat, not become a drunk or crazy-head (crack-head, meth-head, any-head) or get a divorce or be evil to my kids or give up on life or take off. Unless you’ve faced the war I have, the trauma I have, these demons or similar temptations you don’t know what the hell I’m facing and I don’t give you permission nor entrance into my life if you are unwilling to understand nor empathize. If you are worried about me, don’t. I have an inner circle. I have a therapist. I have Jesus. And thankfully, antidepressants.
I hope one day I won’t swear -in anger or otherwise. I hope one day, I will be completely resolved in a place of calm, safety and security. I’ll feel like I have ALL the reserves to handle my life in ways that don’t include emotional combustion. But for now, shit has fell apart. Because of Jesus, I get up every day and I face every challenge, every lie, every temptation. Because of Jesus, I’m still married even though these pain-filled, ridiculously unstable years of having young children have threatened to ruin my sanity.
People just like me are facing hard situations, hard marriages, hard parenting dynamics, addictions and they CHOOSE to stay in it. We CHOOSE to keep facing our inner & outer demons. We CHOOSE integrity and we CHOOSE vulnerability and we CHOOSE hope and sometimes we even choose love. And when we CHOOSE to wake up each day and face the grime that may have accumulated under the rug for 20 yrs. we cannot be expected to throw on some Maybelline and expect that shit to look pretty.
By swearing…occasionally, I know I’m going to lose people, I know I’m going to anger people, I know I”m going to disappoint people. I want to care more than I do. Yet, I have no reserves for negotiation.
I cannot handle that right now.
I CANNOT. Handle. That. Right. Now.
If your not with me on this life journey then don’t be. If you can’t accept me the way am -struggles and all- then don’t bother. When I’m expending all my mental and emotional energy just trying to survive the horror that is life and marriage and parenting and recovery do you think I have time for those who lack empathy and tact?
You can kick people while their laying on the ground and you might feel good about yourself for a moment, but it’s not kind. It doesn’t help. You can be confused, that’s fine. Then you need to ask. But you don’t get to be my judge. You can try, but I can assure you, I will kick you out of my life.
I swear now. I don’t hide. I’ve never hid from my issues or mistakes. I don’t pretend to be someone I not. It’s never benefitted me to remain silent.
This is where I’m at, I’m not always proud of it but I work to accept myself -struggles and all. You can choose to accept folks where they are or not. It’s your choice. I’m going to be here trying to get better, pursuing health no matter what. Whether or not you get to walk alongside the beauty of God’s healing in mine or others’ lives is entirely up to you.
I hope you’ll CHOOSE love, CHOOSE grace.