Celebrate Yourself! Part 1

iamphoenixby AJ cross posted from her blog I Am Phoenix

So I have been comparing my old beliefs and new beliefs a good bit lately.  I guess there was one old and new habit that I haven’t explored much yet. Maybe I haven’t explored it because I haven’t settled comfortably into the new habit even as of now?

I used to believe that it was sinful to have a hobby, likes and dislikes and even a personality. I also believed that it was sinful to love yourself, since you were at your deepest core a sinner. Can you believe that? I can hardly believe it either, but somehow it was a way of life for me. I was taught that the only God approved pursuits in life included Bible study and prayer. All else was bordering on the slippery slope of being worldy. Working, eating, speaking, interacting with people, simply being OK for even a moment with being in the world… these were carnal activities that were to be limited strictly. These activities would bring punishment from God if indulged in, and were supposed to be engaged in as rarely as possible.

I learned early on to remain as quiet and colorless as possible. That was the safest course of action at the homestead where I grew up. I obediantly shunned development in my personality. I learned to avoid developing likes or dislikes. I learned that I was supposed to float in a dark and quiet, joyless world that included only stictly religious thoughts and activities. I did question this particular belief and fought against it in my mind, but out of fear I gradually bent closer and closer to the will of God and my father and I became a colorless soul. Mild as luke warm water and safely bland. I carried this belief unfortunately throughout my life, up until today. Even right now it is a part of my make up. I am glad I’m writing this post so that finally today I realize that this is a groundless, false belief. I have had a hard time being brave enough to identify in public, in conversation or even to myself what I believe in, what I enjoy, what makes me tick. But I plan on exploring who I am further. I want to learn to openly celebrate me without fear of punishment.

I know now that the best way to celebrate God is to celebrate your own colorful self in the world. So I’m now going to practice focusing my energy on celebrating me without shame or fear.

Where do I begin? What do I love? What makes me smile? I feel hesitant to even answer these questions. I feel guilty taking up the time and space on this blog to focus on  me. But I should remind myself that this is a new page in my life. This is actually a healthy process! It’s alright to do this.
I love the warmth of the sun on my skin. I love the second of transition between the freezing chill before the sun drapes suddenly on my body and the goosebumps that instantly sprout up the second I sense the warmth of the sun spreading like a glow, like warm butter seeping through toast.
I loved laying on my bed looking through my bedroom window screen as a child during the late afternoons after school, watching the sun highlight the curve of hill in our backyard. The screen pixilated the yard into thousands of tiny dots, each a different hazy shade of green. I would squint my eyes to make the view more blurry and dreamy looking, then I would open my eyes to make it crisp and neat again. Over and over. No wonder my mom thought I was autistic, right? I would get lost staring at the dotted variations of green, trying to replay them in my mind as if I were going to paint each tiny shade on a canvas, dot by dot. My view would change depending on the slant of the sun, time of day, and season. Sometimes golden yellow, with purply green shadows. Sometimes almost bleached out when the sun parched the grass in summer. And autumn? I would sit for hours on my bed leaning against a pillow, cuddling with my safety blanket, sucking my thumb and contemplating the colors outside my screen window. Those were good times.
When I was a kid, my ears looked like elf ears, and I was little and thin. My parents jokingly told me I was part elf and part angel. The angel part because my shoulder blade bones stuck out when I moved, and they told me those bones were angel wing stumps. I half believed them. I got mad because my dad would try to “pull” my “angel wings,” which meant he tried to touch my shoulder bones to check if they were wing stumps or not. I used to spend a lot of time in the woods behind my house in a kind of quiet contemplation of nature. I would swing on a swing up there by myself, thinking up stories and poems, getting lost in appreciating the sun glancing off the trees and reflecting on the meaning of life.
As a child, I didn’t talk in school. At first, it wasn’t necessary because I was so busy observing and storing up images in my mind of what was going on around me. One day in maybe third grade, I was standing in the recess line, and I turned and said something to a girl who was playing jump rope with me earlier. One of the boys in my class heard me, turned around, and let out this loud whoop, yelling “She talked!!!!” I was mortified, because that was the boy I had a crush on. All eyes in that recess line turned slowly toward me in slow motion. They were asking me if I was going to talk again. I didn’t like the attention at all, so I clamped my mouth closed. If it was this big of a deal to say something, then I  certainly was not going to talk again anytime soon. So I didn’t. The only time I said something the rest of elementary school was when I spoke very quietly to my almost friend Jennifer when no one else was paying attention.
So I had a blanket when I was little. It was cream colored with silk edges. I used to take it everywhere. Even to dinner. I would sit with it in my lap at the kitchen table. To fall asleep, I would rub the silk part and suck my thumb. I did this until I was eleven. I kept the edges of the blanket until I was 24. I was good for a few years without it. Then when things got stressful for me when I was 27 or so, I had to go buy another blanket with silk edges, so I could sleep. When I was under severe stress, I cut the edge off the blanket and kept it in my pocket so I could feel it there. It got to be a habit, and I still have an edge in several of my coat and sweatshirt pockets. It’s kind of like a lucky rabbit foot that people keep in their pocket or on a keychain. Except it’s not a rabbit foot, and it doesn’t make me feel lucky. I’m not sure how I picked up this blanket habit, but I’m going to celebrate it, because it makes me unique, and it is what makes up me.

SASBN member AJ blogs at I Am Phoenix

Hi! I’m AJ. I grew up in a spiritually abusive cult. It was based on the teachings of Bill Gothard and was heavy on patriarchal control. I have two brothers and three sisters, so six of us in all. We experienced emotional, psychological, physical and spiritual abuse, but thought it was normal because it was done in God’s name. When I became an adult, I moved far away from home and finally was able to breathe and live a fairly happy life. But because I feared what would happen to me (God’s wrath and my family’s judgement), I still held onto the beliefs I grew up with.

Over time the stress of repressing the trauma from childhood built up in me and I developed severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Chronic Fatigue, and Adrenal Burnout. I had to move back home, but my parents turned their back on me and wouldn’t open their doors to me or help me. I was shocked. I was the black sheep in their eyes because I wasn’t going to church or following the rules of the cult, but I was their child. I couldn’t believe the cult had them so blinded that they couldn’t help their own child. At that point, I started seriously evaluating this religion of theirs. Over time, the blinders fell off my eyes and I began experiencing truth. I am now so free and joyful.

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