Celebrate Yourself! Part 2

iamphoenixby AJ cross posted from her blog I Am Phoenix

I love music. I play the piano and just started learning to play guitar. Animals. I am drawn towards them. I feel more comfortable around them than I do around most people. I feel like I am grounded around them, and I draw energy and peace from being around them. I like to think that I bounce that energy and those good vibes back to them. I was holding my nephew’s bunny Alfie the other night. I was at a dinner party and I was on the verge of passing out and feeling sick. But if I concentrated on Alfie, I could re-center myself and not go as deep into a crash as I otherwise would have.  Alfie’s nose just kept wiggling and his whiskers kept time with the movement, and it made me laugh. Each time I laughed, he twitched nervously in a knee jerk reaction kind of way, so I would relax my body and stroke his head and put him into a bunny trance. Not the deep bunny trance, just a mild version of one. I was giving him a bunny massage, so that if he had any aches or pains or worries, I could ease them away.

Our cat Maggie is still getting to know me. I don’t know why she doesn’t seem to bond with me… yet. She has been the only connundrum as far as me jiving with pretty much any animal. Maybe this is just how cats are. I wouldn’t know because she’s my first official cat. But I just love her to bits. She likes to be held upside down, and she stretches her front and back legs out as far as they go in either direction so she looks like a skinny rocket. That’s her way of saying, “Rub my belly. Now.” I lay my face on her belly and rub my cheek on her fur and listen to her heart beating.
A few people have told me that when I talk, I sound like I’m speaking poetry. Like I speak in metaphor, use similies, don’t finish my sentences, and speak of impressions, nuances, subtleties. It’s true. I don’t like speaking about facts. It feels too direct, too bald, stark, naked. I don’t like getting to the point in a direct way. I’d rather circle around intuitively and let people draw their own conclusions, since I’m sure they are smart enough to do so without me doing it for them.
As far as careers go, I was an elementary school teacher. Most of the time, I loved it. But in a way, I didn’t always fit in. I remember we would have meetings where the principal would focus on a discipline such as academic rigor. Ugh, that those words drove me nuts. Then she would have us brainstorm in groups what academic rigor meant. Then we would have to share out loud, and then write it down with these colorful markers on a huge sheet of paper taped to the wall. Or her smart board if it was working. It was tiresome and monotonous pinning those facts down. I wanted to focus on how “academic rigor” personally affected the children in our particular class and each of us as teachers and how we could change it to fit our own unique teaching styles. I didn’t like the depersonalization in those meetings.

So in some ways I was resistant to the typical teacher stereotype. But in other ways, being a teacher suited me quite well. I loved being the one responsible for teaching 28 children each year how to read. What a priviledge! My favorite memory from childhood is the very second I first realized that I was actually reading, and that I could read anything I wanted to from then on with no help from an adult. I was seven years old, and I was leaning against the lattice of our porch in the shade because the sun was too bright in the center of the porch. I was wearing shorts and I had goosebumps on my legs because I was reading “The Ghost of Windy Hill.” Well, I was actually just looking at the pictures, which were drawn in charcoal with these mysterious dark strokes. Even the wisps of hair of the children on the page were waving in the wind spookily. The folds in their clothing and the thinness of their legs was spooky. The dust poofing up from their stage coach as it pulled away from their home on the hill was spooky. I don’t know how many countless times I sat and “read” that book by falling into the story through the portal of those thinly drawn, whispy pictures. I didn’t know how to read, but I remembered the jist of the story from when my mom read it to me, and I had the first few lines of each chapter sort of memorized.

That afternoon on the porch, I was planning to just treat myself to a spooky session with the illustrations. I would run certain cryptic lines through my head like, “On a dark and cloudless night, when the moon was full and the hoot of an owl lingered in the wind….” Then I found myself looking at the lines in the book, and suddenly, the words were flowing and it wasn’t the pictures telling the story. It was me….reading the story. Suddenly, I was in the book for real, and I was the reader, not my mom and not my sister. I started getting goosebumps on my legs again. So I hugged myself really tightly, then scooted over to the slant of sun in the center of the porch and stretched my legs out. The goosebumps were going big time, and I felt a warm chill of excitement and sun. I was reading on my own! I was unlocking the mystery of the Ghost of Windy Hill all by myself! I felt such power, like I was on top of the world. Finally! I can’t remember a childhood thrill higher than what I felt that day. It was like the wealth of the world suddenly spread out at my feet, and I was master of all I could see. I had the key now, and I could unlock a book and the richness of the world anytime I wanted!

I had to tell somebody. So I ran into the kitchen, banging the screen door behind me. I tugged on my mom’s sleeve while she was cooking at the stove. “I can read! By myself!” My mom barely turned her head. “I thought you already could read?” she said. I knew she meant that I could read the simple little boring, basal book that I brought home for homework. “No,” I said, “I just read The Ghost of Windy Hill’! I never could read that by myself before. Now I know I can read anything!”

My mom was happy for me, but it was not monumental news for her. She had dinner to get on the table. I wasn’t deflated by her inability to see how amazing this event was. I walked on air the rest of that evening and week. I remember when I was 17 and I took my own car out for the first time by myself. I was completely elated and felt like I was set free. I could go anywhere I wanted, anytime, without asking. Talk about freedom. But as exciting as that was, I remember thinking… this doesn’t even compare to how amazed I was that day I learned to read on my own.

Looking back, I remember that I actually didn’t go to kindergarten. My mom asked me one year if I wanted to go, and I said, “No. I want to stay home and play.” She said, “OK,” thinking that I was too shy anyway. The next year she asked me again, and I said, “No.” She said that I would have to go, but I had missed kindergarten, so I would have to go straight into first grade. I went into first grade not knowing my alphabet and not knowing how to read. I remember my first grade teacher showing me these flash cards with words and pictures on each card. Most of the cards I could guess just from looking at the picture. But then there were two cards that each featured a purplish jar on them. One card said “jam” and the other said “jelly.” For the life of me, I couldn’t get them straight and I was mortified each time. My teacher asked me to sound them out, and I had no clue what she was talking about. I was such a people pleaser that it broke my heart to see my beautiful teacher purse up her lips in a slightly frustrated way. Many years later when I became a first grade teacher, I would always remember how lost I was, and how much I wanted my teacher to smile and be proud of me. It makes teaching such as honor, to be entrusted with such impressionable little people.
OK, so what else do I like. I like when men speak in quiet, calm gentle voices. I feel so validated when I see a man helping a hurt or crying child, animal or helpless person. It is quite healing. When I witness this, it is like everything suddenly becomes right in the world, and my brain goes, “Ahhhhh.” I feel energized when I see a man choosing compassion and love over a “rule” or tradition that would indicate otherwise. I like when people ask “why?”
I like when people see past the written word to the idea underneath. I love when others see the big picture with me, or show me the big picture. When you can see the forest and the trees in crystal clarity both at the same time. It’s also great to have a connection with someone past the spoken word. It’s neat to run into people who I “get” in an instant, even though we don’t exchange an ounce of conversation. Sometimes I can even tell from a photograph. It doesn’t matter what their bringing up is, their nationality, religion, or life experience…. I intuitively can read people and make connections on a level where speaking isn’t necessary.
You could say that I am a day dreamer. People can tell me pretty much anything, and it goes in one ear and slightly out the other. I have to focus to catch on when people are talking. But if I read something in print, I grasp the concept effortlessly. Which is why I’m interested in sharpening my auditory skills. So I can be more in tune with the rest of the world. Listening to audio books might be helping, so I’ve been investing time with them and my ear buds lately.
Most times, I feel like I have the mind of a teenager even while I’m in an adult body. I don’t know who I am, so I still try on different ways of being. I’m a chammeleon, changing to accomodate who I’m around, who I’m speaking to. Afraid to commit to being anybody, with any kind of thoughts of my own.  Trying to wear bland colors and blend in, trying to act like I don’t exist because I don’t have the right to a place in this world. Not asserting myself in conversation. Listening, absorbing, and deflecting what people say to me, making them feel good about themselves. Leaving my opinions untouched, because I feel I don’t have a right to them.
I’ve been practicing saying what I really think to those closest to me. Those closest to me are mainly my family members caught in the religious web, and let me tell you, I get guff from them. Resistance, averted eyes, shame, guilt. And yet I don’t back down like I used to. I always feel my temperature rising, my heart beating faster, my adrenaline pumping. I know I’m standing up for myself, and it takes effort. I feel their judgement of me, I feel the heaviness of their resistance towards me. I feel like a caged bird beating it’s wings very fast and hard against the bars of a cage, banging the door and almost popping it open. I feel like a half smothered bird trying to peck at whoever is holding me down when I express myself to these family members. I know I must speak up in order to keep my head above water. To stay silent anymore is detrimental, and something deep inside of me knows this.
I’ve let others decieve me long enough. I’ve ignored who I am long enough. Well, those days are gone. I believe in myself now, and I want to discover more of who I really am.
~~~~~~~~~~~~

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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