hard to say: I’ll go first

extreme-athletes-around-the-world

I am currently living and interacting peacefully with my Christian parents. I spend quality time with my Christian siblings and their Christian spouses; my Christian sister is my best friend. When I put my niece to bed, I say a prayer with her because she is being raised Christian. I go to my weekly appointment with my Christian chiropractor and then I hang around the office to chat with my lovely Christian friends who work there. I go to my new job, where I happily work on behalf of a Christian organization. And to top it off, I pop in to see my Christian therapist to discuss all of my atheist troubles.

How the fuck did this happen?

I remember a time, not too long ago, when I could not be in the presence of a Christian for long without saying something intentionally offensive and rude. A time where I picked fights with Christianity for sport. Now many of my favourite people are Christian. Hilarious!

Growing up in a family and community whose fundamental beliefs did not match mine was not easy. It feels as if I have been fighting for personal acceptance my whole life. All I ever wanted, all I ever asked for, was to be accepted for exactly all that I was. I didn’t want people trying to change me or praying for me to be different. I just wanted to be allowed to be me – whatever the fuck that meant.

This frustrated me. Who am I kidding, this really pissed me off. I became angry and aggressive. I actively expressed my anger toward the Christians to anyone who would listen, and many who wouldn’t. I really am a good person, they just don’t accept me! Wherever I went, without being asked, I would explain myself. I was always explaining myself; it was getting repetitive and dull. Nobody wanted to hear my opinion anymore, yet I was persistently and adamantly expressing it.

If everybody had already heard my opinion and had long stopped giving a shit what I had to say, why was I still explaining myself? Who was I really trying to convince?

An annoying truth I have learned after years in therapy is that much of what I say in anger, especially in repetition, is actually the reverse. So all those years of repeating how much I hate the Christians were untrue. I love them very much. So much that I could be deeply hurt and disappointed by them. All that preaching about how they didn’t accept me and I wasn’t good enough for them was inaccurate. In actuality I was the one who didn’t accept me; I didn’t believe myself good enough.

The acceptance I was after – the acceptance I truly needed – had to first come from within. Once I accepted exactly all that I am – whatever the fuck that means – I didn’t need to fight anymore. What point is there in fighting when I am happy and secure in myself. Consequently, once I accepted myself first, I inadvertently began to accept others.

I truly love the Christians in my life. Not despite this or that, but for all of it. I love everything that makes them exactly who they are. Once the cloud of anger lifted I was able to appreciate what wonderful people they are and all the good they have to offer.

Do the Christians accept me now, exactly as I am? A Godless, churchless, premarital-sexed, potty-mouthed, progressive-thinking sinner. I don’t know… maybe. But that’s not the point. The point, after having said all of this, is that it doesn’t matter. Because I do.

-EC

hard to say: I want more

Checklist

I look like garbage, on paper. I am a single, unemployed 30-year old occasional blogger, living in her parents’ basement, and driving her parents’ car. Love me! It’s not shocking that online dating didn’t go well. Men with profiles saying “I have a stable job, a nice car and a big house; I really have my life together!” just couldn’t relate to me at all. I deleted my account and vowed to avoid this smorgasbord of fuckery. As most vows I’ve made to myself go, I broke this one too.

In a moment of loneliness, watching bad Saturday-night TV movies by myself on the couch, I signed back up. Pajama-clad legs bouncing in anticipation, I answered the mandatory questionnaire and began late-night perusing a database of weirdoes. Then morning came and I remembered I am a wonderful person, not a shitty profile. I wiped the residue of shallow, unsatisfying banter from my tired face and deleted my account, again.

“What was it about the loneliness, that night, that made you run away from it?” asked my therapist after my confession. Oh, fuck you, dude. Sometimes I really hate (read: admire) that asshole (read: genius). He is just the worst (read: best ever in the world).

Here’s the thing: being unemployed doesn’t bother me; I know I’ll find a job. Cars do not impress me in the slightest; I can get around without one. I can handle living with my parents; I know it isn’t permanent. But I’m supposed to be in love by now!

For years I pursued the “really having your life together” checklist: job, car, house. I graduated college with honours, I found a good job, I got a nice car, and I had my own place. So why was I so deeply unhappy? Running away to Australia did not fix things. Ooh, maybe I’ll get a better job, a nicer car, a massive house! I came home after a year, more lost than ever.

“I just want to be in love!” I shouted in my therapist’s office one day. Finally, my fundamental truth. I would gladly sacrifice a job, a car, and a house. I want more.

“Good, then do it!” he shouted back. No, don’t do that thing where you say something so simple and obvious it makes complete sense. “I want you to be in love. I want you to fall completely and madly in love, with yourself.” God dammit.

When I returned from Australia, the last place in the world I wanted to be was at my parents’ house. The home where anger lived. Thankfully I had no other option. Uncomfortable as it was, I was exactly where I needed to be. In that discomfort I gained acceptance, I learned forgiveness, and I let go of my anger. Back home is where I finally found myself.

So yes, I fucking hate being single. It is the farthest thing from what I want. It is the last place in the world I want to be. Yet it might just be exactly where I need to be right now. Perhaps in the discomfort of loneliness, I will find love.

-EC

to him

Every once in a while, I am contacted by a man from my past. Despite my best efforts to leave this person behind, I am still affected. How disappointing. Instead of jumping back into an endless argument, I have always chosen not to respond – until now. The last time he contacted me, it was through the Contact Me portion of this website. Congratulations sir, you’ve found me, and after all this time, I was rattled by your message. I will address you now.

Dear you know who you are:

After it was all over, I tried to be your friend – against my better judgment. But the truth is that I never wanted to be your friend at all; I wanted you to love me. I hadn’t fully accepted things between us; I hadn’t acknowledged or understood what had happened. I still believed that if I could just prove myself to you, maybe you would love me.

By the time you and I met, I had already developed a deep hatred of myself. This had nothing to do with you. You certainly didn’t help things, but the problem was there well before.

From the moment we got together, I lied. About everything. I never gave you the opportunity to learn anything real or concrete about me, because my underlying belief was that I was not good enough for your love. How could I show myself to you when I was so certain I would be rejected. And I was at first, which only made me need your approval more. I became a person that you might want to spend time with, and it worked for a little bit.

Then you became mean. Not just mean but also cruel. A healthy person would have walked away at this point. Instead, I willingly accepted that your cruelty was entirely my doing, and I worked tirelessly trying to please you. Only it wasn’t my fault, I realize now, because you were just as damaged as I was. Hurt people hurt people, and you were hurting too.

The longer we stayed together, the worse we both became. I became weak and desperate. You became angry and violent. I am not an idiot, but I was doing my best impression of one. I don’t believe that you’re actually a heartless asshole, but your portrayal of one was impeccable.

I am not hurting anymore, nor do I hate myself. I have no impulse to hurt you, or anyone else for that matter. You did not deserve my lies and I am sorry for them. I did not deserve your anger or your violence, but I forgive you for them.

I am thankful that I met you though. 2011 was easily the worst year of my life. It was also the most important. It was the year I was knocked flat on my ass and forced to take a long hard look at myself. It was the year that ultimately forced me to stop.

You didn’t understand when I abruptly stopped trying to be your friend, when I cut off all contact. My attempt at an explanation was inadequate because I didn’t know why yet either. I just knew I couldn’t do it anymore. I needed to figure myself out and I was finally taking the time to. It has taken years of hard work, but I know exactly who I am and I love everything I have found. I am a beautiful, strong, and kind woman who is worthy of love. I don’t need to lie anymore; I accept my truth, including my past.

-EC