Vyckie's Story: I Am Not Trapped!

Okay ~ I’m finished posting the part of my story which I wrote for my uncle ~ and before I start writing “the rest of the story” ~ I want to share part of the last letter that I wrote to Ron. (Warning: my letters to Uncle Ron were always way too long!) After nearly a year-long correspondence in which we wrote almost 1,000 letters back and forth, my uncle and I managed to cause some serious upset with the relatives. It’s quite a remarkable story filled with a whirlwind of intensity, obsession and drama ~ and in the end, Ron decided it would be best to end our letter writing ~ I haven’t heard from my uncle in almost two years. I miss him.

Although I understand and respect Ron’s reasoning, his cutting off all communication was very poor timing for me, because I was just beginning to “get” what Ron believed (didn’t believe) ~ and it made sense to me. At the same time, everything was coming together into a “perfect storm” for my family as I had brought Angel home from the psych ward in Nashville ~ Warren reacted almost immediately, causing so much stress that I felt like I had to choose between him and Angel ~ I am ashamed to say that I chose to support my husband ~ sending Angel to live with another home school family in town. The distress in our home stirred up concern for my health with some friends which led to a visit from social services … two different case workers came and neither of them found cause for concern so they closed the investigation as “unfounded.” I explained all that to my uncle ~ and that’s where my letter picks up:

… It could have been a real hassle ~ but the whole thing was relatively painless.

Except that I used the incident as an excuse to move Warren out of the house ~ he’s staying with our home church friends in West Point. I just do not have what it takes to deal with him anymore. I used to have endless patience because I thought that working with my husband and supporting him was something that God would have me to do ~ I thought it was required of me as a good Christian wife. Only I’m not so sure about God these days and I do wonder if I could really be considered a Christian given how little of it I believe now. Without sufficient motivation, I just don’t have the energy to continue on with him….

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[I'm very afraid because I just know that I don't have what I need to set things aright with Warren. And, ... I'm going to have to tell the children something, but what can I say, "I made your dad leave home because without a firm belief in an eternal reward, there's nothing to prevent me from being the selfish person I am"?

I know that Warren is in a total panic about me moving him out of the house. He's always been thoroughly dependent on me and since I'm pulling away from him, he's feeling like his whole world is coming apart. (Just try to imagine what it must be like for him.) It kind of parallels how I'm feeling in the spiritual realm ~ like the bottom's been yanked out from under me and I'm left, like a cartoon character, running in mid-air. I know the longer Warren stays away, the more I'm going to like it and pretty soon, I won't want him to come home ever. That's not good. So ~ I need to take care of that situation, but I just don't have the energy for it. Truthfully, I don't think I actually I care. It is dreadful to think that I could really hurt a lot of good people by my actions and I'm feeling so hard-hearted right now ~ like it wouldn't really bother me.

Guess I'm depressed, huh?

I don't know what I can do about it ~ I've been trying to find some strength within, but all I feel is empty. I don't know who or what I am anymore ~ maybe nobody and nothing ~ but I know what everyone else thinks I am ~ a Christian wife and mother, a strong person and a survivor. When the truth comes out, it's going to be very ugly.

Something else that's pretty scary: if, as I kind of suspect, it turns out that I don't actually believe in a personal God, I know I'm going to be exceedingly pissed ~ knowing that I've done my best with the hand I've been dealt and it's cost me a lot and it's worn me down ~ only to discover mid-way through that the game is rigged and there's no way I can win. I'm not going to just keep playing as though it doesn't make any difference....]

I am trying, really trying, to do my best for [the children] ~ but I pretty much believe you now about the war at home being unwinnable and I do not want to keep fighting in a futile attempt to save my family from the crap and the creeps (especially if I happen to be one of the creeps they need protection from).

I’ve said before that I could have kids in the psych ward for a lot less effort.

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After seeing what Angel’s going through, I’m convinced that everything I’ve tried to do to make things better for our family has been misguided and doomed to failure. So I’m going through the motions … all the while having no good answer to the question which keeps running through my head, Why am I doing this? When the social workers were so easily satisfied, I was almost disappointed that they didn’t take the children away. I am just sure that someone else ~ anybody else ~ could do a better job with them.

… With all the struggles that we’re going through right now, I know my family needs me desperately ~ they are all so upset and confused. But I have nothing to offer them. I’m too confused myself. All the presuppositions which I’ve used to interpret the world and order our family have been swept away and I’m left in that “dissonant world of emergence and transition” of yours which once seemed so foreign but now is fairly obvious to me. You’ve somehow found comfort in that world, but to me it’s a barren place devoid of any real meaning or purpose.

And I’m all alone there. I wouldn’t think of telling anyone that there’s been a radical change in what I believe (don’t believe) ~ it’s dreadful enough for me to think about, but I don’t want to panic my loved ones who would be sure to fear for my eternal well-being if they knew ~ especially not now when things are such a mess anyway and they need their worldview intact in order to make sense of things and find purpose in these difficulties.

So I offer them my assurance by saying all the right stuff ~ but it’s just empty talk for me right now. I’m thinking of Christopher Hitchens’ words about Mother Teresa in a recent Time magazine article (I’m sure you’ve seen it): She was no more exempt from the realization that religion is a human fabrication than any other person, and that her attempted cure was more and more professions of faith could only have deepened the pit that she had dug for herself….

Of course, I’ll be okay. I always am ~ which everybody knows…. It’s just a matter of time before I recover my equilibrium and rescue us all from the latest situation ~ at least that’s what we’re expecting based on repeated experience. And it’s probably true ~ although I can’t help but think of the standard financial disclaimer: Past performance is no guarantee of future results….

I’m just tired of trying. And I can’t think of any compelling reason why I should keep trying. I know I will try some more ~ it’s kind of hard not to when Lydia and Wesley simply expect it of me and have no doubt that I’ll always do what moms are supposed to do.

I’ve been trying to keep in mind what I said to you, that I need to focus and “do what I already know to do for Warren and the kids whether or not I have a neat little system of belief to serve as incentive to do the right thing. In other words, I need to get to work on the practical matters and trust that all the big questions will take care of themselves.” But I’m finding that it’s not possible for me to stop thinking about ultimate questions ~ I really don’t have it in me to press on solely by sheer grit and determination.

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I’ve lost my enthusiasm and not even the children’s need for their mother’s love and care is enough to motivate me ~ I’m not convinced that whatever I might do is the right thing. After all, I’ve been wrong before ~ and my family is suffering the effects ~ so there’s nothing to make me think that I won’t be doing more damage and digging a deeper pit for all of us….

[I know ... it was probably inevitable that I would outgrow my "ignorant, atavistic and irresponsible" faith in the goodness of God, with or without you. But it so happens that I did it with you ~ and that's what makes me want you to know what it's like for me now.]

I’ll just close this by saying, “Goodbye” ~ but I also have a little parable to share with you which I’ve been rehearsing in my imaginary theatre:

 

This is the story of a creature. I’ve not yet decided what sort of creature it is. Sometimes, I imagine it’s a great bird. Maybe not so exceptional a fowl as an eagle ~ but still, a fine bird, like a falcon or a hawk. If indeed my creature is a bird, it is one born in an atrium ~ or a zoo. Okay, maybe not a zoo ~ because it’s not like the bird’s wings were clipped, but only that it had never been in a free environment so, pathetically, this majestic creature had little more than a suspicion that it could fly. Until recently. Somehow, to the consternation of many, the bird was released from captivity and immediately spread its great wings and flew away.

Well … it didn’t just flutter off like a little finch or a sparrow ~ this was, after all, a very fine bird which soared high above the trees. Giving in to its innate ability, the bird could feel the exhilaration as it effortlessly caught a current with its great wings and let the wind carry it along ~ so naturally, so very easily drifting through the blue heaven, lofty and glorious in its flight. This was the thrill and the pure pleasure which the creature was made for!

But alas, I fear my creature is not a bird released into a clear, cloudless sky, but rather some sort of wild animal which had been captured in its youth ~ maybe a panther, or a wolf. Yes, a wolf. Though raised in captivity, the creature was never fully tamed ~ it was restless and easily agitated. Having a vague feeling of being detained in an unnatural environment, the wolf often behaved like the wild beast it is ~ howling, pacing, pawing at its cage.

Not long ago, the wolf discovered the door of the cage was open by a little crack. This opening was brought to the creature’s attention by a timber wolf ~ a free animal inhabiting the woods which had been drawn to the creature out of curiosity and kinship. I suspect there was a sort of divine presence which mysteriously opened that door ~ and only for a little time, but in an instant, the wolf rushed heedlessly towards the crack and pushed its way through into the wilderness which lay just beyond the cage.

It was twilight ~ the pale sky was faintly lit by the eerie glow of a great celestial sphere just below the horizon. I don’t know if the sun was setting or rising. Since this is my story, I ought to be able to tell ~ maybe I can even decide ~ but so far, I just don’t know.

Instinctually, the wolf bristled as it sensed its danger in the wild. Just as the wolf was ready to run for dear life ~ as it must do to keep ahead of the other wild beasts which were eager to kill and to devour ~ the sound of frightened whimpering reached the wolf’s ears. You see, as it turns out, the creature in my imagination is a she-wolf with a litter of pups still confined to the cage. Only to them, the enclosure is not a jail to limit their freedom, but rather, it is a safe haven providing protection from the harsh and unforgiving wilderness ~ it is their home.

Realizing that she had been separated from her babies, the she-wolf felt a stab of panic in her heart. Could she return to that cage? She tried desperately to get back inside, but alas, the structure would not yield to her. Could she guide her pups to the opening by which she had escaped and bring them out into the wilderness with her? Since anything is possible in my imagination, I think she could do that ~ but would it be to their benefit, or their peril? After all, they are only half-breeds ~ a few may be partly wild like the she-wolf, but they are only pups raised in captivity and accustomed to being cared for and sheltered.

The she-wolf hesitated ~ should she run as she must for her own wilderness survival? (She could sense the danger closing in around her.) But she couldn’t leave her babies. She lingered near the cage, confused and conflicted.

“I can see where you would feel trapped,” the timber wolf observed with a cool indifference as he backed away.

“I am not trapped,” thought the she-wolf with her usual bravado. “Something will come to me ~ it always does.”

The rest of that script has yet to be written. And since it’s my story, we could expect that the ending will be something like, “and they all lived happily ever after.” Only today, it is a little beyond my imaginative powers to envision how to get from here to there.

  • Anonymous

    I can’t seem to find the words to verbalize my feelings as I read this! I admire your spunk, and tenacity as you move forward. As a former christian (homeschool mom) one of my biggest mistakes was to adhere to the biblical standard of not trusting my heart or leaning on my own understanding. With the help of a wonderful phsychologist, I am learning to do just that. You have more insight, love, wisdom, strength than you know! Thanks for your transparency. Wishing you all the best, Jody

  • Arietty

    Vyckie this was a very interesting post. I read the Mother Teresa article with my mouth open, I had so many responses to that I cannot pick which one is “right”, lol.. and indeed it isn’t really for anyone else to say, other than the woman herself.Your parable was very gripping. I have found the majority of deconversion stories, whether it is from christianity or just fundamentalism are written by men. I have not read before about that fear of leaving one’s children behind in the cage or of dragging them into the terrifying world that we strove so hard to protect them from. I think I was spared too much anguish over that because I was so burnt out and uncaring, as you describe, that they were forced to just stumble behind me with me refusing to look back. My poor daughter spoke of her anguish at the time of how her “perfect life” was now “destroyed”. All I could really say was, “I understand how you feel this way”. She was the most distraught over our leaving and is now the most vocal in her disgust at what living with her father was like. That not caring and “hard heartedness” you describe was a necessary thing I think, or at least I see my own experience as having been so. I remember once we were out I experienced a re-bonding and a re-caring towards both the people in my life and towards my own thoughts and ideas and interests (many of which had been deeply buried).A song line that speaks to me of that pulling away: “and the further I get, from the things that I care about, the less I care about, how much further away I get.” (The Cure). And lo, we wake up so far away that we are in a new country.

  • Susanne

    I’m not so sure about a “God” but I have observed in my life that teachers come along when I am ready to receive them. God bless your Uncle Ron for being there at a critical time in your life, for being your Moses, leading you out of bondage.

  • Vyckie

    As I was preparing to post this part of my story, there were several things going through my mind ~ but I didn’t want to include them in the post since I felt like the letter to my uncle was already long enough.BUT ~ this morning, I thought I’d pop in here to the comments section and share those thoughts with you.It’s been a little over a year and a half since I wrote this last letter to Ron. A lot has changed for me since then as far as being much more comfortable in HAVING NO IDEA what I believe ~ I’m finding that it’s not so impossible to keep going without having an incredibly strong purpose (the glory of God) as I used to have as a dedicated Christian.As I was re-reading the parable that I wrote for Ron (which, BTW ~ I’m going to toot my own horn here and tell you that I thought it was a pretty powerful description of the inner turmoil I was experiencing as a result of the upset of my beliefs) ~ I realize that at the time my great fear was that outside of Christianity was this big scary place ~ “The World” ~ full of terrifying creatures eager to devour me and my children.Turns out that what I’ve actually escaped to is FREEDOM ~ a place where I can be ME. I am able now to fully utilize my gifts and talents without having to worry about whether or not my every thought and action lines up with Scripture. And yes ~ I’ve brought my children outside “the cage” with me ~ and they are not just surviving, but THRIVING as they experience the freedom to learn, to explore, to discover what sort of persons they are ~ what are their gifts, talents, thoughts, feelings, ambitions. None of that was possible so long as they were “cooped up” within the confines of biblical Christianity.”The cage” which I viewed as a place of security and safety from the outside world, existed solely in my head ~ it was a pattern of thinking (which I’m going to get into in future posts)that focused (narrowed) my mind on only that which was biblical. [NOTE: If you disagree about whether I was interpreting Scripture correctly ~ don't comment about that here ~ I created a specific post for that discussion ~ the post: "Patriarchy IS in the Bible ... I think it's even in the Godhead which is part of the reason I've tossed Him out of my life" ~ I'd really appreciate if we tried to keep that topic over there ~ it's just a little organizational thing of mine ‹(ô¿ô)›]Also, looking back ~ What a mess, huh?!! All at the same time, I had Angel attempting suicide, the next three oldest all had surgery within 6 weeks of each other (which entailed 4 trips to the hospital in another state), Warren’s insecurity and subsequent abuse was escalating, we had social workers at the door, my health was quickly deteriorating ~ and in the midst of it all, I realized that I didn’t believe in the Bible and Jesus anymore. Ack!!I had lost all confidence ~ didn’t believe that I was capable of being a good mother to my children or making responsible decisions ~ I was pretty sure that I had totally screwed up all of our lives and maybe the way to make it all better was to take myself out of the picture.BUT ~ I noticed as I was re-reading, that even at that low point, I still had that feeling that everything was going to be okay ~ I would get through it all. “Since it’s my story, we can expect that the ending will be something like, ‘And they all lived happily ever after.’” ~ that’s faith, huh? Faith in what, I couldn’t really tell you (certainly not in myself) ~ but it’s obvious to me that I DID HAVE FAITH ~ still do.

  • aimai

    Vyckie,If you can why don’t you move our posts–which as you say should really be under a different heading, or copy them over there. Each of your posts has spawned some really, really, interesting sub threads and discussions and its pretty clear you are getting new readers all the time from the Salon article. You might consider closing some threads after 48 hours or a week or so, too. Lots of blogs do that. Its a shame, in a way, because I think people are excited to read all your early posts and its all tied together so its nice to have people reading along and getting the “full story” instead of jumping it. But I think for purely housekeeping reasons you might want to close a thread and then re-open it on a slow day as an “open thread” where you invite your readers to discuss some previous topic. Like “Open Thread: Is Patriarchy in the Bible and So What?”But on the topic of leaving your cage I’m reminded of a story from the period of British Colonial Rule in India. At that time one or two British officers would be sent out to rule over hundreds of thousands of Indian subjects of the Raj. Those officers would be responsible for everything–law, economics, religion, military matters, etc… The job was demanding and exhausting and finally the senior man gets so exhausted and depressed that he kills himself and the second in command, with fear and trembling, steps into the new role. But they can’t afford to send him out a secretary/second in command so he’s all alone in the new job. And yet, its easy. So easy! Because half the work was caused by his having to send stuff up the chain of command for approval, or the senior guy running things down to him to see if it made sense. Just one guy? Cut the work in half.And I always feel the same way when my (very lovely) husband is out of town. Its just easier just knowing in advance you have to do stuff by yourself, make up your own mind, cater to your own tastes.Its a wonderful world out there Vyckie and I’m so glad you are able to embrace it and see how fantastic it is for you and your children.aimai

  • Vyckie

    “HOUSEKEEPING” NOTE: I’m moving several comments which were posted here over to: “Patriarchy IS in the Bible … I think it’s even in the Godhead which is part of the reason I’ve tossed Him out of my life” because I’d really like to keep this discussion in one place. I know that all of these topics are really inter-related ~ but I do think it helps the flow of conversation (I really am enjoying the comment section) if we try to stay somewhat focused.So ~ if your comment is missing, that’s what happened. I’m hoping this is actually helpful and not just confusing!

  • Anonymous

    All of you women are awesome! Is there a site similar to this for men?

  • LotusGeek

    Hi Vickie,I have found that many of my family and friends who have become nontheist/unbeliever also have a sense of “what do I do now?” You become so tied into your religion that it takes over your life. Now your life is truly yours – and it is precious. I imagine you now find that you are able to fully commit to your family and friends, and in a way that is truly YOU – not in a way that is prescribed to you by some book or holy dude.For me, I also have found that I truly appreciate the life I have, because it is the only one I’ve got. There is no afterlife, so I need to make the most of this life, right now.I also need to try to live the best, most honorable life I can because there is no god who will “reset” my transgressions. I am fully responsible for my actions, and my interactions with others – so I need to be the best person possible, and treat others with love, compassion, and respect.I find your life story fascinating, Vyckie, and I appreciate you for sharing it with us. I know reliving all of this must be hard at times, and you should know that this is understood and appreciated.I look forward to the next installment.Take care,–Rock, aka LotusGeek

  • aimai

    I second what LotusGeek says. Tolstoy asked “what shall we do and how shall we live?” and there have been many, many, many great answers to that question that don’t require a god who watches our every step or who punishes us for our transgressions. I highly reccomend the children’s book The Three Questions which explores three questions (also Tolstoy’s)What is the most important thing to be doing?Who is the most important person?What is the most important time?The conclusion, for people who can’t find the book, is:The most important person is the person you are with at the moment.The most important thing to be doing is the thing that needs doing for that person.The most important time is now, because it is the moment in which the person and the thing that needs doing comes together.aimai

  • Linnea

    I remember my mother once saying “I don’t need religion in order to be a good person.” One of the great (and scary) things about being human is that we each can work out what is important and what we are doing with our lives.

  • Richard

    Wait – so all this stuff happens – a book is written, the Salon article comes out, etc., and you haven’t talked to the guy who helped you open your eyes in over a year? Maybe sometimes letter writing isn’t the best medium when things get intense, because you just say all this stuff, and there’s no feedback to tone things down – but phone calls are pretty good for that…

  • Vyckie

    Yeah ~ I know, Richard. I have thought about calling my uncle … and that’s as far as it goes … just a thought now and then. UGH.

  • Anonymous

    When I was breaking free from a narcissistic relationship, God showed me a vision of the two of us being in a cage. The cage was of my husband’s making, all the bars were rules that protected him and helped him control his world. I was inside with him trying to help him with his perspective and issues and all the time crying to let me out of this cage. How could I survive an dlive a free person inside a prison?God showed me that all along the door of this cage was open. I WAS free to walk in and out. When my husband was reasonable and respectful, I could go in and live along side him and encourage and support him. When he was not, or when I could no longer handle the despair, I was free to open the door and walk out. I could converse with him from outside the cage or simply go somewhere else until I was strong enough to return and deal with his issues. He would stay in the cage on his own choice because the world outside was too frightening for him and reflected truth of himself and his relations which he could hide and deny inside the cage.I used this freedom until I became aware there was nothing I could do or say that would change his behavior and stop the harm that was happening to myself and my children. At that point, God unfolded a wonderful escape plan for us that gave us protection and provision. We are still learning to live in this freedom away from his rules and restrictions. We are still learning to accept ourselves and each other but it is so much better than before. Just slow progress. God is still with us. He still provides often before I know the need. With terminal cancer looming in my future, I trust he’ll have the net ready for my children and will provide them a means of survival as well. Living in the world, denying His existance does not mean He doesn’t exist or that His teachings are not valid. This is just denial, my friends. There is no other cause or start of this world and all of creation that makes sense. I am looking forward to reading more of your views of God as you entered this new life.Dove