Thursday, February 11, 2010

My deconversion story Pt 1 - my life as a Christian, and other things

After watching Evid3nce3’s videos on his deconversion process, and after reading all of the comments in reply to my short version of my deconversion over on the True Womanhood forum*, I’m beginning to think I ought to write my own story. If nothing else, just to get it clear and get it out. I’m going to use Evid3nc3’s idea of a network to structure my tale, even though it flows differently, simply because it’s so thorough and accurate, at least in my opinion.**

So, my life as a Christian, and as other things.

I was born into a family that was already breaking up. My mother is an Italian-American, who lived in a very close-knit, very cohesive, fairly traditional community. My father came from a family of hippies and free-spirits, whose mother was, I believe, one of the founders of the modern Neo-pagan movement. By the time I was born their marriage was already gone, Mother told me many times over the years that I wasn’t wanted, that they only reason why she had me was because her Mother insisted, that she only stayed married so I wouldn’t ever be accused of being a bastard. Within six months of my birth their divorce was final, and since it takes about six months to finalize a divorce in California, for years the family joke was that she stopped on the way home from the hospital to fill out the papers.

She moved in with her parents, and stayed home for the next six years to raise me. I was raised in their Italian Catholic tradition, which was fairly loose at the time. Mass on Sunday, no meat on Friday, little else worried about the rest of the week. I recall her spending a lot of time out, gone with her friends to listen to music, and do whatever else she was doing when she didn’t have to watch me. I remember my Grandfather, who was suffering with lingering PTSD from WW II mostly out in the garage, self medicating with vast quantities of beer. But he was also kind and loving, I remember him building me toys and taking me fishing. Most of the time I remember my Grandmother, who loved me so much, and wanted me around all the time, whether it was helping her in the kitchen or sitting next to her learning to sew while she watched her soaps.

Mostly, though, she read to me. Or rather, let me read to her. As an adult I would be diagnosed with hyperlexia, a very mild form of autisim that leads to developing reading skills abnormally early, at the loss of verbal and social skills. By the time I was in the first grade I was reading at the high school level. But I couldn’t make friends, none of my classmates made any sense to me. And I did not express myself well; I tended to stammer and suffered from aphasia, the loss of words while speaking. This also might have been caused by an incident that happened when I was four. I have dealt with asthma on and off during my life, and this one time I had a very bad attack and ended up in the ER. According to my mother they gave me adrenalin, although my husband now insists it must have been epinephrine. Either way, you’re supposed to stay calm for a time after, because your heart is already beating so strongly, and the risk of breaking off a blood clot and causing a stroke is so high. Either no one told my mother that or she didn’t hear it, or she just grew impatient and wanted me to run off what must have been a case of the jitters, but she let me run around my aunt’s back yard. Not long after, according to family lore, I turned white and fell over unconscious. I woke up in the emergency room again, and was soon sent home. But in pictures taken after, you can see the paralysis on the left side of my face, which lingers to this day. I’d had a small stroke. Regardless of the cause, I was also dealing with aphasia, and I had a very hard time relating to others, and I have ever since.

However, when the time came for me to start school, either because my grandmother insisted or because she was afraid of the bussing that was just coming into vogue, I was enrolled at the school attached to our local church, and she went back to work. From then on my education was left in the hands of the local Sisters of various denominations, religious and otherwise. This meant that I was cut off from any resources available to the public school students, and also meant that I was placed with well-meaning women who had no background in education whatsoever. School became a place where I read a lot, usually quietly, in a corner. As far as faith goes, I suppose it was a decent enough education. I learned all the traditional bible stories, how to say a rosary, what to do about the stations of the cross. When I was in the second grade I made my First Communion just like I ought. But even by then my world, and my faith, were falling apart.

My beloved grandmother was dying of cancer. And my body was starting to change.

Grandma has been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma five years earlier. It had been years of watching her grow sicker and sicker from the chemo and radiation. Now, that week-end she slipped into a coma, and a week later she was gone. I didn’t get to go to her funeral, it wasn’t considered appropriate for children. Instead I went to school like every other day. Since we didn’t have a sandbox or playground equipment at our school it was considered a treat when we walked the three blocks to the nearest city park for PE. On the way back we would stop in the school driveway to reform lines and calm down before walking past classrooms. I remember that day the teacher chewing us out because we were watching the funeral procession at the church next door. We weren’t supposed to pay any attention. She was too angry for me to be able to tell her that my Grandmother was in that coffin.

In the meantime I was beginning to deal with the wreck of hormones in my body. At the time nothing was said except that I was developing early, and to wait and see, but now we know that Precocious Puberty is a major problem that heralds further illness down the line. I was 7 years old then, already well over 5 feet tall, head and shoulders about my teacher in that First Communion picture. And my body was already starting to develop, taking my emotions with it. There were no resources for support, for grief, for teasing the concerns and tears out of a child who knew too much and didn’t speak well. All that happened was Sister Agnes leading the class in a rosary for my Grandmother. This was considered enough.

My grandfather retreated into his garage and his beer fridge. My mother, who was now working full time, took her salary and what she could get of my Grandparent’s money, and decided to go shopping whenever she could. She certainly didn’t want to be bothered by housework, and since she was perpetually on a diet, she didn’t want to cook either. By the time I was eight I was coming home every day after school to cook and to clean, in the hopes of making the house spotless enough to satisfy her. If she was happy, and it wasn’t long before she was all the time, I could go to the malls with her on week-ends. Not that she would buy me anything but books; those kept me quiet, but it got me out of the house and away from my Grandfather’s endless mourning. I remember wondering why God took my Grandmother away when I still needed her so badly? Why God didn't give me a normal Mother like everyone else, one who cooked and bought my uniforms instead of making me do it, and who took me to Girl Scouts, and every thing else? Why God couldn't help my Grandfather, who was clearly so not well? Why no one else made sense to me, why I felt like I had to be apart from everyone? But no matter how much I prayed or tried to develop a personal relationship with God, He was never there. And no one even though to try to talk to me about any of it. The local priests never came by. The sister’s never brought it up. I was pretty much left on my own to deal with all of it as best I could.

Two years later she met her next husband, and things got worse. But I’m going to split this entry, it’s already long enough.


* Who are some of the nicest, kindest ladies I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. Thank you all for your kinds words, and all the hugs. They mean a lot.

** And thank you for putting it out there.

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