An Open Letter to Our Families: Esperanza’s Thoughts

christmas

HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Esperanza” is a pseudonym. Also by Esperanza on HA: “Cookie Cutters and the Power of Secrecy.”

Dear family,

The holidays are usually a time of great joy, spending extra time together as a family, laughing, sharing precious moments and building memories. The holidays seem perfectly designed for family togetherness, and yet, we, your adult children sit here in the midst of the most dreaded season of them all. Because at every turn we are told that holidays mean having this perfect Christmas card worthy family scene, and that is so very far from our reality.

We, your children, your brothers, your sisters, face a Thanksgiving where we’re not sure how to be thankful because of the huge amounts of anger and hurt being thrown our way. Your words wound us until we are unsure how we’re even supposed to keep from crying into our turkey and cranberry sauce. We face a Christmas sitting alone at home, because that was the only option that didn’t involve being hurt over and over again by your cutting words and judgments. We can’t afford to go somewhere nice on our own because we have to fend for ourselves in a world we were woefully unprepared for. Trying to pay for our own education while working to the bone to create a decent life for ourselves is no easy task, yet it is one you seem completely content to have handed to us.

Most days we are able to bury the hurt we have experienced at your hand just below the surface, simply so that we can continue surviving.

We have to be the strong ones, because we are on our own.

There’s no time to let your words sink deep enough to break us down. However as the holidays come, it seems that every year it is just too hard to ignore that pain. Perhaps it is because for those of us that are still in our families’ lives, the hurts continue year after year. And for those of us who are gone from your life, the absence and quiet becomes just too loud to shut out today.

So today, and perhaps just for today, let’s talk about how much it hurts to be a broken family.

We are your sons, your daughters, your brothers, your sisters. We are part of that great idea called family. Friends you are born into life with, people you share DNA with, all part of the same group that is supposed to stick together through thick or thin. And yet somehow, somewhere, our perfectly preserved little family fell apart.

Some of us have experienced the complete and utter rejection from our families outright. Too many children have been turned out on the streets by the very people who gave life to them. There is hardly anything worse you could ever do to your own child. Some of us have moved forward with our own hopes and dreams only to hear in the midst of our own joy and freedom that the doors have been slammed shut behind us. Yet others have met the one that fills their soul, and you, our family; say “we want you to be happy, but only by the happiness we define for you.” Sadly, our dreams, goals, lovers, and futures do not line up with the harsh lines you have drawn in the sand.

We are told in no uncertain terms that we are not a welcome member of your family any longer.

While resolute rejection is a heartbreaking thing to experience, there are also those of you that call yourselves our family and project this pretty little family togetherness image to those around you, yet when it’s only us around the dinner table the gloves come off. We are expected to act as if everything is perfect and wonderful, yet all the time hearing words that tear us down to our core. You say we are unworthy of your deep love and affection because we don’t share the same view on all issues. We are only to be tolerated and condescended to spend time with.

This kind of “love” is, to put it nicely, a lie.

There’s not much we know to be true from our childhood teachings, but the one main message we heard loud and clear is that God is Love. You may put a pretty spin on it, call it tough love, but when your words are poisonous to the soul, this is not the love of Jesus. When we cry ourselves to sleep because of this deep separation from our former closest confidantes, this, dear family, is not the unconditional, agape love you preached. Whether you like to admit it or not, we may have actually absorbed that lesson better than you did. Perhaps in the midst of the Greek and Hebrew studies you lost sight of the hearts of those you were supposed to be teaching about this simple love.  Whatever the reason, we know better. Love is not love when it changes or has qualifiers. This “love” you tell us about as you hurl your dagger words is not love, but rather you trying to comfort your conscience with excuses.

And finally we come to the third kind of broken adult child. Those of us who have had to walk away from you, rather than the other way around. To be fair, all of us have had to do this to some extent to pursue our own dreams and move forward in life, but there are those of us that have had to put the walls all the way up, for our own safety and sanity. When the messages of attack and hurt come wave after wave, it takes its toll. You know that saying “death by a thousand paper cuts?” Well the same could be said about your words, family. There is only so much pain and heartbreak we can endure before we are simply done.

As much as it breaks our heart, it also saves our heart.

In our community, the stories of suicide, depression, self harm etc, are far too common. Sometimes, for our own safety, we have to shut you out, because there are only so many toxic things one can handle until the pain becomes too much.

Please family; take us seriously when we tell you how badly your words hurt. You would not believe how much your preaching, lying, manipulating, guilting, attacking, and judging tear us down. If you are still in our lives, do not take that for granted. It is by our choice, and our choice alone. Heed this warning, because you never know which word will be the thousandth painful word that causes us to walk away forever. If you have shut us out, please think about the relationships you are missing. Grandchildren, cousins, nieces, brothers, nephews, sisters, and daughters.

We are your children.

You raised and cared for us. We trusted you the most. We trusted you first, before anyone else. Please, take a moment this holiday season to think about us, your adult children, and consider changing your attitude toward us. We aren’t asking you to change your convictions. We wouldn’t want you to ask us to change ours (even though you have). We don’t seek to convert you to our “side.” We don’t want to debate, discuss, or disagree. We just want to be a family.

We just want to be purely, unconditionally, forever loved.

Christian Culture and Fake Love

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Caleigh Royer’s blog, Profligate TruthIt was originally published on November 11, 2013 with the title “When did Christian Culture become a culture of fake love?”

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Disclaimer: I realize this does not cover all Christians, I’m not writing about all Christians, I am writing about what I have seen and what I have an issue with. Do not accuse me of accusing all Christians of being like this.

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I am completely caught off guard when a post of mine gets shared over 10 times, but when it’s quite a lot more than that, I just don’t know what to say. I didn’t expect my response to the marriage post that has been disturbingly viral would get so much attention. For me, it was a lot of attention, and I say thanks to those who took the time to comment and share.

It’s always difficult to come back after a post of mine gets a lot of attention. I don’t write to get the hits, I write to process, I write to give myself freedom and permission for my own voice, and I write because I know I am not alone.

I know how important it is to have someone come alongside and say “I’ve been there too. I know what this is like.” 

What I’ve been through has been hell for me personally and it’s the type of hell that makes me feel isolated from everyone and everything. To me, this is a fact. That’s all it is. The feelings aren’t as painful, the anger, blind pain, and suffocating brokenness aren’t my constant companions anymore. But, as I’ve said time and time again, I still have a long way to go.

My writing has been in a slow downward spiral of sorts, I’ve been really tired and not been sleeping well as my body struggles to adapt to sudden changes in the weather. This time of the year always affects me poorly when the weather goes from balmy fall weather to frigid temperatures in the course of a few days. Even though my body is struggling to stay afloat my mind has not stopped mulling over things and trying to continually piece things together. Something that keeps tripping me up is a culture/community I have a part of since I turned 7 1/2, was baptized, and took communion for the first time. I have serious concerns about the Christian community and the more I see the more I no longer want to be a part of it.

I can’t reconcile the fact of Christians turning away and not accepting people who do not believe their exact beliefs.

I can’t come to terms with how vicious Christians get when someone challenges their beliefs or practices, even if the challenge comes in the form of sincere genuine questions. I can’t get over how obscenely rude Christians are about putting down someone who finds a small strand of courage and admits they’ve been struggling with whether God exists or not. I cannot for the life of me understand how Christians, who claim to have the love of God, can so harshly shove verses at and shun someone who participates in an activity or practice that goes against their moral beliefs. Or the same Christians who say they love someone but then cruelly do not accept someone. I can’t reconcile the love Christians say they have with the very lack of acceptance that I have seen time and time again. I can’t reconcile how Christian culture treats those who come out publicly as homosexual. 

I cannot reconcile tearing down someone who is speaking out about abuse and sharing their horrendous story. Those people who have been severely damaged by the church are the very ones who need true love, true acceptance, true willingness to come alongside and say “I don’t care what happened, I’m here now and will not leave.”

I don’t want to be a part of a culture where people claim the love of a higher being but who then horrifyingly rip someone apart who is ever so slightly different than them or who is asking questions.

Love is accepting someone unconditionally, their minds, their hearts, their very being despite what they think, despite not seeing eye to eye, despite their choices.

When I see parents say they love their children but then tell their children how pained and hurt they are over their children’s decisions, I see pride in the parents’ ideas of child rearing. I see pride that has been hurt and being taken out on children who are their own unique individuals who have to make their own decisions and live with their own life. I see parents who are not accepting or truly loving their children. “If you love God you will do what I say” is not something that seems to me to be true love. That’s manipulation of parents who are pushing their own agendas, not loving and accepting their children’s decisions and who their children are, body, mind, and soul.

When I see Christian snub and turn away people who are questioning their faith, who are working through seriously difficult questions about their own sexual identity, I see Christians who don’t want to get their hands dirty and who want to keep their own little sets of predetermined rules. I am still working through my own beliefs about same sex marriage and relationships, but I can say this at the moment:

I hate what I have seen among Christians on this matter, and I don’t want any part of their actions.

No part.

When I see Christians gang up and push down an abused child in order for the parents to gain further control over a nasty situation, I see children being silenced and people being shut down who need to have a voice. When I see Christians turn away people truly in need, I don’t see love, acceptance, I see uncomfortable people who don’t want to have their own beliefs shaken.

Want to know the truth of what I’m actually thinking?

I don’t really know if I want to believe in God anymore. I don’t really want to be associated with being a Christian.

I don’t want to be grouped with people who are known for their vicious attacks on people who need love and acceptance, not the strange version of so called love that spews from the mouths of those who claim to have love. I don’t understand how Christians can be so proud of their “defense” of their beliefs when they are razing hurting people in their path. I don’t understand why my own questions with my own beliefs have been so easily brushed aside as “just a season,” just something I’ll get over. I’ve been shunned by the very people who claim to have a “heart of love for those who are hurting.” I have been silenced and brushed aside by people who claim love but deny acceptance because I’m suddenly a black sheep for asking questions they would never think or even dare to ask. 

There is a massive group of us who are trying to recover from the denied acceptance and love from the Christian community.

I just can’t reconcile any longer the very lack of real love from Christian as something Jesus did or didn’t do. I don’t see the connection between how the Christians I have been around and grown up with act and how Jesus acted/acts. I don’t understand where the disconnect happened, I don’t know where the puzzle piece is missing, but I do know i don’t want any part of it anymore. Maybe one day I’ll come back, and my opinion will change, but that’s not where I’m at right now. I make no promises. 

I can’t understand how the Christian culture has become a culture of defending their faith like sociopaths and turning away people in need of real love. 

Crosspost: The Strongest Woman I Know

Crosspost: The Strongest Woman I Know

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kierstyn King’s blog Bridging the Gap It was originally published on May 7, 2013.

I had intended to spend the day painting my dragon (Archangel) for my Horde army that I need to pick up the rest of on Thursday. But while in the shower, thinking about the meaning of life (as you do, and then quickly do that thing we call “washing” 2 minutes before the water turns cold) I realized that a large reason that I’m not bat-shit crazy, and the reason I attribute to my marriage being awesome and not abusive, is because my grandmother on my dad’s side was my rock.

I struggle and have always struggled with feeling worthless, like I’m nothing more than a broom with a brain and octopus arms for doing my mother’s bidding (or now, cleaning my apartment like there’s no tomorrow). I wonder, sometimes, why I’m not with some asshole of a guy, someone who is manipulative and mean, I wonder why my story is different. Why am I with this guy who’s been nothing but a catalyst of/for freedom and acceptance of me in all my nuances and idiosyncrasies. Who loves me for my intelligence and heart (as well as my boobs)?

I think, it’s because of her. My parents did a lot of lip service to self-worth and not settling for people who don’t treat you right, but they proceeded to treat me horribly. My Gramme?

She is the strongest person I’ve ever known. She was the second-youngest in a huge family, and the “all bad” child in the eyes of her mother (even though, like me, she spent her life slaving away for her family), she was neglected and abused and the most loving, accepting person I’ve ever met. She was brave and unafraid of anything, she was my original escape plan. She was the one, who, by her unconditional love and acceptance instilled in me this sense of I-deserve-to-be-treated-well-by-my-friends (family I was kinda screwed with, but my circle, I deserved to create to feel safe in).

She was the type of person who wouldn’t sit quiet if her kids were wrong, if her grandkids were hurt she would fight for them. She was my defender. I knew that if things got bad enough, I could run to her and trust her to protect me (not that I would have, but she was that kind of safe place).

When she died I was devastated. I’ve grown up around death – my first funeral was at 6 months old. My great-grandparents have passed, my uncle, two siblings, friends…my Gramme is the only one that still affects me. I still cry and get choked up when I talk and think about her (so I usually try not too, because there’s a huge gaping hole where she should be). Sometimes, 5 years later, I still do a double-take on the street because I see her dopple-ganger. If I were spiritual, I’d take it as a sign that she’s looking at me (instead of just some random elderly lady with the same haircut).

When I think about how she’d feel about me, I feel so so secure in that she’d still love me – that I could still tell her anything and she’d keep it between us, that she’d be supportive, that she’d be proud, she’d tell me I’m brave, and she would understand.

My gramme is the reason that I am so strong. She’s where I got my stubbornness from, she’s where I got my I-will-protect-the-shit-out-of-the-people-I-love-screw-you-if-you-hurt-them impulse, she is why I value acceptance and completely unconditional love.

She is why I am so lucky. Because without her just loving me? I would have been so different. She taught me, without either of us realizing it, that I am worth loving because I am me – that people who don’t accept me for me are not worth my time. And that’s why my marriage looks the way it does, that’s why I’m lucky, that’s why I built a circle of friends who genuinely cared about me, a circle that my family couldn’t penetrate.

I am lucky because as a child, I had a tether – and when all hell broke loose, when the shit hit the fan, when the abuse left crushing and devastating imprints on my soul – I knew that someone loved me unconditionally and that was right.

That’s why my story is different. That’s why my marriage is actually healthy – the healthiest relationship I’ve ever had.