by AJ cross posted from her blog I Am Phoenix
There are a number of life events that I have arrived at quite late in the game. The biggest life event has been marriage. And there are a few milestones in life I have avoided altogether, such as motherhood, even though most females my age have looked forward to and reached this milestone long ago.
Being a late bloomer hasn’t been a problem for me. Probably because I’m so used to it. It’s like I’ve been dragging my feet in life as long as I can remember, and I don’t know any other way to go about living. It’s like I’m going as slow as possible and not dipping my toe into life on purpose.
Here’s a hodge podge list of a few things I’ve done late, or skipped.
Kindergarten. I was too shy to go to kindergarten, so my mom homeschooled me. She told me I wasn’t emotionally ready for school, anyway, and I figured that was fine by me if I got another year to play. So she homeschooled me. But she ended up being too busy nursing my younger sister, then pregnant with my younger brother, so she didn’t get around to teaching me to read. So I repeated kindergarten with her a second year. Still didn’t learn a blessed thing, but was put into first grade anyway… a couple years older than my peers. Thankfully, I was tiny when I was a kid, so they couldn’t tell I was old.
Swimming. I think the learning gap has closed for me here. I tried to take lessons a few times, but just couldn’t get the hang of floating. Hmm. Swimming was outlawed in childhood because bathing suits were immodest, and even a full set of clothing was immodest when wet.
Socializing. The critical development period for learning this skill closed up some time ago. Talking to people was “sinful” unless they were model Christians who wouldn’t tarnish us. No model Christians were found, and we were beat with a rod for attempting conversation with any others, so I’ve eagerly skipped the acquisition of this lovely skill. I mean, who wants to get beat with a rod, right?
Making life decisions. That one is explored more below.
Reading. Because books other than the Bible, even devotionals in Christian book stores…. could be just the foothold the devil needs to work his way into your mind. So even holding a book felt evil. Walking into a Christian book store felt like the ultimate rebellion for me. The thing is, I used to love to read when I was a child, when books were generally innocent and weren’t in danger of being confiscated. Once I hit about age 8 or so, books started being taken from me because they were too risqué, too ungodly. Once I worked hard to purchase a book I’d been drooling over. It was confiscated before I got to chapter two, but I saw literally nothing sinful in that book. What, was there some kind of pre-teen romance brewing in the next chapter? I would never know. I was heartbroken then. And countless times afterwards, each time a book was taken. By the time I was in my late teens, I reached a point where I just gave up. The pain of having them taken from me was not worth the effort of trying to smuggle them.
That was when I started dumbing down my mind on purpose, being oblivious and airheaded, staying in my mind and not trying to reach out to explore and learn. I had been crushed one too many times trying to open up my small world through reading. So, reluctantly, I gave up on books. Completely. Since reading was deemed as more evil than holy, I would become the holiest airhead of them all. A head of mush, an obedient and naïve female, exactly what my father wanted. I was sick at heart but at least he would be pleased.
Turns out, he wasn’t pleased, but I kept my mind closed, uninquisitive, and naïve anyway. For most of my life. I hate that I did this. I hate that today I can barely bring myself to buy a book. I hate that I feel like I’m still going to be punished by the Man Upstairs when I’m reading. I hate that I can’t breath normally, in a relaxed fashion while reading. I hate that I adore the feeling of the heaviness of a good book in my hand, I melt in the luxury of getting lost between the pages, but I jump in guilt with a sudden startle reaction anytime I hear someone approaching on the steps, or banging a door like they just got home. Quick, hide the book under the cushion! Breath normal! Oh. Wait. It’s OK. No one’s going to yell at you.
What else did I give up, or achieve late in life?
My first kiss. It was at age 24, incidentally with my first boyfriend.
Going through a drive through. Age 24. Fast food was considered evil, and eating in general was something I also put off as much as possible for decades of my life. I was scared to eat. Still am quite often, but am getting better at it.
Marriage. It was at age 36, and I didn’t want to get married at all. I was so afraid, and was dragging my feet.
Living. Doing things that make me happy. Finding out what makes me happy. Acquiring things. Letting myself go shopping or purchase things. Eating. Breathing in a relaxed way. Being silly. Joking. Going after what I want. Knowing what I want.
Why have I been afraid of so many normal things?
I’ve decided to sit down and figure out the reasons I’m so hesitant about… living a juicy, full, vibrant life. If I can figure out why, I can make changes and start living a fuller life. Right?
So far, I attribute the hesitancy and slowness to perhaps three factors.
1. As a child and young adult, I simply wasn’t allowed to reach certain life milestones because they were considered worldly and evil. Instead of embracing life and being adventurous, I was taught to fear life and shut down in my safe little corner of the Christian life, being bland, safe and colorless. I was taught that females don’t have the God given right to make lucid decisions, since females are emotional, and satan works through the emotions more than reason. So whenever I had a choice to actually go and do something in life, I knew that Satan could sway me, being the emotional female I was, so I hesitated and then never actually chose to do anything but just sit there in fear.
Even after I was an adult and was free to make my own decisions, I still only dabbled in a few of the normal life processes that most people go through without a question. Much of life was still off bounds, too evil to participate in. The list of allowable activities were slim. Even normal things like gardening, singing, laughing, and eating were each a shade of taboo in certain circumstances.
2. My hesitancy to actively engage in life may have to do in small part to being shy in nature. I’ve always naturally been an introvert. But I think there’s more to my hesitancy to actively engage in life than just introversion. I’m seeing now how the psychological trauma in my early childhood has caused me to be hyper cautious and fearful. I’ve always chosen by default the safest course of action without realizing it, and I’ve always sat in the dark and quiet corners watching but not contributing, always alert in case an authority figure tried to catch me doing or thinking something sinful.
3. I wanted nothing to do with marriage and children of my own because of what I experienced growing up. I was terrified of being bound in a marriage like my parents’ abusive relationship. And since I wasn’t going to have a life partner, I figured that I wouldn’t have children either. I wasn’t about to raise a child on my own. I had to nurture my career first and foremost, because my career had to be number one in my life. I had to devote most of my energy to supporting myself, since I didn’t trust a man to support me. Rely on a man, and he might trap you. Better to be self reliant and safe.
More importantly, I wasn’t about to trust any potential child of mine around any Christian man. I saw what Christian men did to children, and I would have rather died than repeat my mother’s mistake in allowing a man to terrorize her children, helpless to intervene because he was a Christian, and because submissive Godly women don’t question their men. No.
I used to have nightmares about what it would be like if I had a child, and he or she reached that dreaded “age of accountability.” I played it out in my head. My loving husband (God, how I hate that word! Husband. It has too close of a connotation to the word “band.” Like an iron band around me choking me into bondage and submission. Ughhh.) Where was I? Oh yes, I would always picture the future hubbie kneeling down and telling my child, “Now, you know you are a sinner, right? You must admit that you are a sinner if you want God to save you. You are a horrible, wretched sinner. You’ll go to hell without God’s intervention. Look, here’s a picture of the devil, and hell. Pretty scary, huh? Do you want to go there? I thought not. Now let me lead you in the sinner’s prayer.”
I knew I could not in good conscious bring an innocent child into the world knowing that he or she would be destined to such a talk about sin and salvation. I simply could not do that. And for that very reason, I knew I could not ever bare children. The world was not a safe or friendly place, especially the Christian world. I would never purposely bring a child into an unsafe environment. Additionally, I knew that if I ever had a child, I would probably be married, and if I was married, it would definitely be to a Christian man. If he wasn’t Christian, I would be cut off from family, and I didn’t want that. My concern was that despite him being a Christian man, I had no gaurentee that he might abuse the child. What if that Christian man was like my father? Or abusive like my Christian brother in law who is in ministry but who physically abused his kids, my niece and nephew? I would never subject a child to this possibility. And so by default, I would never have a child. Or get married.
This is why I’ve lived the majority of my life as an independent female, jumping glibly every two years or so from one long term relationship to the next, keeping particularly away from men who leaned towards the ‘m’ word. Marriage. I knew from early on I had to have a successful career because I would be the only one who I could depend on in life. I would have no man. This is why I plowed through college and grad school and moved far away from my family and lived on my own. I got what I wanted. Complete independence, the ability to provide for myself, a career doing what I loved, stability, boyfriends whenever I wanted or didn’t want, and no pressure to settle down and start a fa, fam, fami, Achoo! Family. I was allergic even to the word.
But now it’s like I’m waking up and I see suddenly that most gals my age have kids who are teens, and I have no kids at all. Oh my gosh! Was I asleep at the wheel all these years? Why didn’t I have kids? Suddenly, I remember all these reasons that I never brought into the light of day, except here in this blog. Yes. I know why.
Interestingly enough, it was after I went through an awakening of sorts and left Christianity that I started to want to have kids. Without the threat of hell and need for salvation, my child will never need “that talk.” And I can teach him or her how beautiful and safe life really is. How the world isn’t against her, and that there’s nothing to fear.
So, yeah! I would love to have kids now. But circumstances won’t allow that currently. I want to have better health first.
I want to grab ahold of life and live more. I’m tired of being on the sidelines, too scared to try new things. It’s like I’m afraid of life itself. I’m only tasting a little bit of it right now. I psyche myself out and don’t let myself try new things. I don’t let myself luxuriate. I live such a spartan, meager, quiet life. I used to be so adventurous, though, that first decade or so after I escaped from my family and moved far away from them. I want to get back to that state of being fearless. The more distance I put between my family and me, the better I feel.
Sometimes I just want to pack my bags and go. Someplace warm and sunny all year round. I want to start a whole new life that is completely free of any remembrance of my family. Trigger free. I’m so done with this life. I want a new identity. A new name. A new childhood, a chance to live life over again in some other family. Or if I can’t have that, I want to start my own family and get so busy and enjoy life so much that I won’t have time to reflect on the past. Sometimes I wonder if all this spare time, not working, and staying at home alone in this big, empty house contributes to the flashbacks and ruminating. I am so ready to get busy again with life, so that I’m not haunted by the past. I hate reliving memories from the past. They replay in my mind all day long, torturing me. I need to make myself busy so I’m not bogged down by them. I want a dog. I need a companion during the day to keep me company. I really want a dog.
- A Dog
- And Health
- And a Job (which would be easy with restored health)
- And Kids (again, easy-ish once I get my health back)
- And a Car, (again, easy once I have the health to drive it, and the health to start my career again
- And Freedom to come and go (easy once I start to drive again)
I want to be done ruminating on the past. No more feet dragging. I want to dive back into life again.
AJ was raised in a spiritually abusive cult based on the teachings of ATI’s Bill Gothard. She has five siblings. After enough time AJ developed Chronic Fatigue, Adrenal Burnout and PTSD from the stress of her childhood. Her parents refused to help her in her ongoing health battle. She is married to a man that has recently emerged from spiritually abusive religion and together they are healing and moving towards daily joy! She blogs at I Am Phoenix