Friday, May 5, 2017

Walking in the Light that we have {ten things about what it's like to grow up in a cult}



The other night I met with some friends and I mentioned that I grew up in a cult as part of the discussion and of course my friends wanted to know more. It was hard to find the words in the moment. But I have been thinking what it means to me to grow up like that and how it affects how I view life. I don't know if I really want to write about this, but oh well, here's a few random thoughts about growing up in a Christian cult.


  1. I often say I had a sanitised childhood. This is because we didn't have tv, go to the movies, listen to music or read books. There is a whole lot of cultural references that I don't get and I'll never catch up on that one.
  2. We didn't socialise. We went to church, we went home. We did chores, went to school etc. Sometimes I'm socially awkward, maybe it's because of my upbringing but maybe it is just who I am anyhow! 
  3. It was really really really lonely. Loneliness that felt like it would kill you. To be so alone and so isolated. To have no one to share life with, no one to discuss life with. I can't even begin to explain how awful that was. That's one of the worse things I think about my upbringing.
  4. We wore funny clothes. This is the easiest thing to talk about. We didn't wear trousers or t-shirts and we were always dressed modestly. We didn't cut our hair. 
  5. We wore dark colours. I have a memory of being in the car with my mum and looking at all the wattle trees flowering in the spring. I said to her, look God must like yellow because it is everywhere. She said, but He didn't want us to wear it. (It's ok mum I would have looked awful in yellow anyhow xox)
  6. We had a pretty shitty education. The girls were going to be wives and mothers apparently and so we did lots of clothing and textiles and home economics. The worst part about that education for me was that I was always being told that I wasn't good enough, not smart enough. We had no benchmark so I believed it. Turns out I do have brains but it took years to learn that. This is why education is such a precious gift to me.
  7. There was a lot of punishment. Because of the nature of cults, there is a strong focus on power and control. There are a lot of ridiculous rules and consequences if you break them. These days I hate being punished. I particularly can't cope if someone shuts me out, doesn't talk to me or similar. To be honest I'll do almost anything to stop that from happening. It is probably the biggest thing that I still deal with because it means I'm a complete pushover when it comes to conflict.
  8. People left without warning. They were excommunicated and we were never allowed to speak to them again. It was awful and terrifying. 
  9. I was never good enough. That's the point of a cult. To make sure that you feel that way. To this day, it is super easy for me to feel like that. Self doubt is probably the second lasting legacy that I have.
  10. When you grow up in a cult, you grow up with a definite knowledge of who is in charge (and it isn't you). Once you come out of that, it is really really hard to trust others. This is because you trusted these people and then found they were fallible. 



We used to hear the leaders talk about people who "walked in the light that they had". What they meant is that those people didn't have the knowledge that we supposedly did. But with the gift of hindsight, I can see that we also were walking in the light that we had. We were taught the rules over and over again. They became part of who we were. I don't blame my parents or my younger self. The nature of a cult is that they get you when you are young and/or vulnerable and a Christian cult has the added draw card of a charismatic ideology. My parents were both young and vulnerable with a strong desire to find faith. They were just in the right place at the right time to become part of something which appeared welcoming and inclusive.

It took me a long long time to find my way to being a whole person after I grew up. I'd like to think that my past doesn't define me anymore. It shaped me for sure. I think it made me a strong, resilient person. I learned compassion. I learned to endure the hard things and I learned to hold on in those times. Everybody has a story. It's not good or bad, it is just what it is. This is my story. It is my past but not my future. I have hope in a future for myself and for my family. It's going to be good.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Is it safe to come out yet? {a follow up to the post about my damaged faith}


So my last post nearly broke my blog! I had been trying to write that one for weeks and it finally came together. I deliberately posted it late on a Saturday night on a long weekend because that's the best way to bury something. That didn't really happen. The post about my damaged faith gathered more messages, comments and views in a short time than any other post I've written. I fully expected about ten people to comment and tell me to get my backslidden self back to church quick smart.



But what really happened was a whole lot of people from as far away as Belgium and the UK, who told me their stories. I was really unprepared for that. I was really unprepared for the outpouring of pain that I received. I was stunned and shocked and really downright sad about this. I don't even know where to go with this.  I still don't really.


One of the things that stood out to me, was that not one of the people who commented, messaged or emailed had given up on faith, they had just gotten disillusioned with organised religion. How interesting is that? Now before you get all upset there, I'm definitely not saying that all churches are bad, in fact like I said, I am aiming to find a church to belong to within the next twelve months. But I do think there are a lot of churches that find it difficult to deal with the messy stuff in life.


It is hard to see how God is good; when you are talking to someone whose life has fallen apart. It is hard to see how God is our provider; when you are talking to someone who can't put food on the table. It is hard to see God is love, when you are talking to someone who feels alone, marginalised and abandoned. How do we get the reality of daily life to fit with what we are told about God?


Honestly? I do not have the answers to this. And that's ok. Much much greater minds than mine have been wrestling with this for many years. But this is my blog, my space and my journey. So I just want to acknowledge that first of all (as I said) I believe in two things:
  1. I believe in God, his son Jesus and in the Holy Spirit.
  2. I believe that if we can't love someone unconditionally, then our faith is wrong.
And secondly, this is a long journey; I don't know exactly where I'm going but I'm still going. The first thing I have done is message a good friend. I want to catch up with her and have a chat and see where this takes me. I have hope that I can find a place where I can live my real authentic life and love others in the same way. I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

a post about my damaged faith this Easter, try not to judge me.


So it's Easter this weekend obviously, arguably the most important date in the Christian calendar. Celebrated with spicy fruit buns, chocolate and a weekend off work. I've been thinking about what it actually means to me. I believe in God. I believe that Easter is about new beginnings and second chances. It's about having a future and a hope. But I won't lie, I'm struggling with how what I believe correlates with what happens in a church setting. So much of the rhetoric and harsh words that you hear on a daily basis, particularly from so called christian people talking in the media, are just incompatible with the unconditional love that you read about in the bible.


For lots of reasons, I don't have a place in a church that feels like home right now. In fact I can probably say that I feel isolated by church and disillusioned with it as an institution. If I could find a church where going along wasn't a performance, where everyone was welcome and judgments were not dished out with the church notice, if I could find a place where I wasn't judged for leaving a relationship that wasn't working, for getting an education and for making decisions for myself. If I could find that place and we found people with common ground there, well maybe we would try again.


My faith is not dead. Not at all. It is pretty pared back now though. I believe in two things:
  1. I believe in God, his son Jesus and in the Holy Spirit.
  2. I believe that if we can't love someone unconditionally, then our faith is wrong.

That's all I have right now. I'm holding tight to that.


I hope that by this time next year I've found a place where I can get my heart stitched up again, where I can learn to trust and feel safe. I want a place where I can have good conversations with people, to wrestle with the issues we all confront in a way that doesn't cast judgment. After all we are all flawed human beings, we need to give each other grace for this. I absolutely don't have all the answers, actually apart from those two things I know, I don't have any answers.

I'm kinda hoping that this Easter is as far away from God as I get. I'd like to think that by next Easter I will have found my way back to some kind of Church setting, a place of accountability and trust. 

So this Easter, maybe it's my new beginning, my second chance. We'll see. 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Current status: hanging in there.


It's a long weekend. This afternoon I dropped the teen off to the bus to go to Easter Camp. I told him it's a right of passage and all the kids go. It's true. I believe that, but I also really just wanted him to have some fun that I don't have to dredge up myself. The term has been long and frankly we all need a break from each other.  I'm really really hoping that he has a lot of fun, lots of laughs and makes new friends.

I feel bad sending him because it's pouring with rain, like pouring pouring. I made him pack all his stuff in a plastic rubbish bag inside his suitcase. He has a waterproof jacket that he magicked up from somewhere, a pair of gumboots we borrowed from his dad. The budget isn't balancing this week anyhow so I went and brought him a new polar fleece blanket to drag around the place and hopefully he will be warm. Quilts are not cool to take to camp when you are fifteen.

I had high hopes for the weekend, but I don't think they are going to work out. So my current plans are to sleep in every day and wear pyjamas a lot.  I need clean the house, do some laundry, to bake a cake with the dying bananas and to make some soup with the last of the soup mix. I hope to knit a bit more on the Sunshine Shawl for Sad People. That is actually it's name. How appropriate. I hope to help Annie have some fun on the (second hand) sewing machine I gave her for her birthday. We hope to make a dress. I need to bind a baby quilt and finish one for another baby.

Our original plans involved hanging out with my friend Mr W, but he is having a hard time on lots of fronts. Hopefully we can hang out but we will see. There is nothing that I find harder than giving someone space. I automatically think they are rejecting me. This is hard for both of us. I'm trying not to be all needy but it's hard. I don't know how a week which started out so good, ended up so shit. I'm kinda drowning in an emotional stew.

I think I'm becoming an ostrich because I can't bear the alternative. I'm holding on, taking one day at a time. Because what else can I do??

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Do not adjust your set... {hard times}


It's cold and it's dark. It's pouring with rain.
I'm tired and I'm a bit sad, but it's only 7 pm 
and I have chores to do before I can crawl into bed.

You know how sometimes you just feel miserable? 
You can rationalise all the the reasons why things are actually going to be ok
but sometimes your heart hurts and it's hard to rationalise it away.

I feel like I am walking an emotional tightrope between the teenage angst
and the very real problems that people I love are going through.
It's ridiculously hard when you feel so powerless.
I want to fix all the things but it doesn't work that way.

If I could love them better I would you know?
Ugh. Hard times.

It's weird because good things do happen,
but then you feel guilty because of the other stuff that
is always in the back of your mind.

I never used to cry, but now I feel like I'm always one step from tears.
I'm tired and (according to the aforementioned teen) short tempered.

The thing about hard times is that they will pass.
I remember how in the old days when I was young,
there would be static or something on the TV
and a sign would come up "do not adjust the set".
And eventually the picture would come back.

I think life is a bit like that right now,
we just have to wait a bit for the messy bits to pass
and the picture will reappear.

If you want me, I'm trying not to yell at the teen,
I'm trying not to let the sadness overwhelm
and I'm just getting through each day holding onto hope.

#thistoowillpass
#icandohardthings
#donotadjustyourset

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Seeing the World through Tom's eyes....




One of the main motivations to getting a qualification was that I wanted to find a place where I worked in a team. I wanted to be a small piece of something bigger, not the person in charge (I've done that, it sucked). I've been working at Big Boy Websites for quite a while now. One of the things that I hadn't realised is that not only do you have people to work with, you end up with a whole new family to share life with.

I spend more time with my work family, than I do with my relatives (well apart from James who clearly fits in both camps, lol). Its been so great to start getting to know a whole bunch of people who are all from different background and with different skills and different perspectives on the world.

I share a space with Tom. Tom has been a bigwig business owner and knows everything there is to know about business. At first I felt like he was slumming it with us here in our start up company, but I soon found out that Tom is not like that. Tom does know heaps about stuff, but he doesn't shove it in your face, he just kinda comes alongside you and dispenses his knowledge in a way that doesn't make you feel less of a person.


One of the things I really like about Tom, is that he makes no bones about the fact we are here to make sales. Coming from a background where being rich was frowned on, it is super refreshing to acknowledge that we are all trying to earn an honest dollar. I mean there isn't anyone in the Big Boy Websites making pots loads of money, but it does give perspective to what we do.

It's great to work alongside someone who might drive a fancy fancy car and might have a grocery budget bigger than your household budget, but someone who still values you for your skills rather than your status. It's also great to work along side someone with a great sense of humour and a different view of the world. It kind of makes you look at things through their eyes sometimes and really get a different way of making sense of the world.

I think it is worth every single one of those all nighters, all those weekends spent reading, all of those essays and assignments; it is worth all of the stress to get that degree to not just have a qualification -but a whole new bunch of people to do life with. All of that short term pain has been worth the gain of being a small part of a team. I'd do it all again in a heartbeat for this opportunity.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Is there anything that makes us feel more inadequate than parenting??


It was the harvest festival at Rudolf Steiner School this morning.
These days nothing makes me feel more inadequate as a mother
 as having to turn up on mass with the other parents. There are a couple of reasons why,
the fact I'm a single mum and the fact that I'm a working mum.

Nobody actually says anything negative, but it's me judging myself.
After all nobody can make me feel like rubbish than me.
Honestly I'm a pro at it.
Sheesh.


Being a working mum means for me that I never quite do either job as good as I want to.
When I'm working, I can't deal with the kids 
And when I'm parenting, I can't deal with the work.
It's a balancing act, which actually gets easier as the kids get older
but let's not talk about the school holidays......

And being a single mum just means I am stretched thin.
It's almost impossible to volunteer for all those things the school wants me to do.
It means that I remember every Thursday that I was supposed
to take two pears or two apples to school on Tuesday
and it means that the important school notices
have probably been used to wipe sticky fingers on in the car
because I keep forgetting to buy wet wipes.



Honestly all of those things are things in my head,
today my little darling was thrilled to bits to have me at school,
(I know because she waved to me from the stage).

So this is me telling myself to get over it,
I'm doing ok really. 

Here's to all parents everywhere doing the best they can.