Hello to all! Well, I guess I work bass-ackwards sometimes. I started posting on here about a year ago when I was moved by some threads. I even helped to organize a local apostafest last May through the forum, but have never formally introduced myself. Sorry!
"The Guilty Fish"
My parents found the so-called "truth" in the late 60's. They (especially my father) had been looking for the answers to life's questions, and fell for the line given about the hope of a paradise earth. My mother was pregnant with me when she was baptized; therefore I was dunked twice. She had been a 2 pack a day smoker, so that was a very good thing for my health at that time...
I was brought up basically a "redneck country girl", but my father loved to travel so that influenced me from an early age. We went to Mexico when I was 3, and there were many unforgettable experienes I had with other people that influenced me despite my young years. Although my parents had inherent prejudices (their upbringing), our travels allowed us to see and intereact with a wide variety of ethnicities and religions.
I learned to swim at 2 years of age, and about a year or so later learned to read. Thank goodness for those 2 things--they are an integral part of who I am. Because of my reading capabilities, I learned to answer at the meetings very young. I believe now that I took such pride in that because it made my parents happy, and as most children do, I wanted to please them.
I got baptized at 17 years of age, despite all of my girl-friends doing so at the ages of 13 and 14. I knew myself better at 13 than I did at 17, but I think I chose to try to make my parents happy instead of myself and so I decided to get dunked. At about the same time in my life (not a coincidence), I was starting to feel my hormones kicking in. I explored as much as I possibly could without having sex, but of course the guilt ate me up inside.
I decided to pioneer after high school, despite the earnestness on the part of my business teachers to either get me to college or into a high-ranking office job. I am positive that my decisions to pioneer were a way of escaping what "I" really wanted to do--even though I didn't really know what that was (other than normal sexual feelings). I had never had lofty goals of Bethel or pioneering when I was growing up, so I'm sure guilt over my emerging sexuality and wanting a different life influenced my decision greatly.
So, I pioneered for 6 years. During that period, I went to pioneer school, started "dropping" less spiritual friends, got married to a closeted gay man, visited Bethel, the farm, and Patterson. I studied with a few people, but that wasn't my strong point. One person I studied with became a witness, but she had been turned over to me by someone else (I guess I don't "count/blame" that one on me....hmmm making me think here). I learned a lot about people during that time; not only at the doors, but the ones we went in service with all the time.
As time went on, I started at some point "remembering" how I felt in high school when I would try to witness to others. I remember the conflict inside of liking all the kids in my class, but feeling guilty because "they" were going to die at Armageddon (which of course was right around the corner in the 70's, 80's, 90's...). I know that was a huge part of my own cognitive dissonance. I was aware and recognized that each person is unique and deserving of life, but then I would tell myself that because they didn't believe (insert theory here), they were going to die.
By the time I had been married a couple of years, I was very disenchanted. So, I did what any normal person would do--I moved to another area, hoping things would be different. My husband was fluent in Spanish as well as several other languages, and I had taken 2 years of high school Spanish and still had an interest in learning more. So we decided to leave our 150+ acre farm in the country and move closer to Cincinnati and help form a Spanish congregation. We traveled up to Dayton OH (about an hour away) for most of the meetings until we had enough support to form our own local congregation. I knew by this point that I was doing all the "right" things, but things were going very wrong inside me.
If any of you have ever been around other cultures, you realize how vastly different other people live, hope, believe etc.; but at the same time, that we all have the same basic needs to be loved and accepted no matter what. I started realizing how gullible most of the people were that we were able to help convert (none of our studies got baptized to my knowledge). They were people from a foreign land hoping for a better life, and then they got sucked in by the false hopes doled out by the witnesses. This point was pounded home for me when our best friends were trying to explain a biblical theory, and used a wrong word in Spanish. He basically told her that Jesus was from the moon; and the sad thing is that she believed them and just started repeating it. He realized he could have told her anything, and she would have believed it. (this is not a generalization, just a specific experience)
By now, life and lots weird experiences had really started smacking me in the face to wake me up. One night my husband came to me in tears after he'd given a part on the service meeting. His personal readings of the bible and the literature were not fitting together. He was very honest with me (which I am eternally grateful), but I (at first) tried to be the good witness wife and ignore what he told me he discovered. Meanwhile, I was staying home from the meetings, usually because I felt "sick". He continued to go to meetings, and I threatened divorce if he continued with his doubts. He also continued reading Cof C as well as many other things, and even wrote to Randy Watters for advice. (((((((((((((((((((((RANDY))))))))))))))))))))) His advice? Be patient and encourage me to be myself and find things I like to do. It worked.
Meanwhile, our best friends at the very same time were having doubts of their own. The wife was a dear friend whom I had admired for many years (she pioneered as a young teen, followed the rules and seemed happy doing it). She and I were talking one day, and I don't remember how the conversation even started, but she ended up telling me about her "doubts". I was floored--because she was one of the few people whom I truly respected (in my mind, she was the only one who wasn't a hypocrite); and so for the very first time I allowed myself to accept that I had doubts too. Which in turn led to my husband and I being able to talk openly, and he truly had the knowledge based on the facts--he has read EVERYTHING that the society has published. We eventually were able to be more open with each other, and he admitted he was gay.
Now let me say this--having to deal with my religion being a lie and my marriage based on a lie at the same time was quite the challenge. I sensed that I had a huge decision to make and I could go only one of 2 basic ways--I could either show love or fear. So I decided to believe that I truly loved my husband enough to let him go--because I knew we would not be happy together. And foremost in my mind, I believed that I wanted us to be happy even if we weren't together as a couple. From that point on, my life has changed dramatically. It has been rich with experiences and love from people all over the world, and so much more precious because I don't care what they believe, worship, celebrate, look like etc. I accept them as they are, and don't feel like my life as a human is any more important than someone else's.
Over the years, I have been a witness to the shunning my own little sister received at the hands of so-called life-long friends of the family, to the shunning myself and my now ex-husband and other close friends have recieved, to the covering up of sexual abuse cases (I know of several personally), to the guilt that we all have had to live with for so many years, to the lies and hypocrisies that's been fed to us, to the death threats of my own brother to my husband because he's gay, to the death of that some brother a month later--and many more things that were destructive. But at the end of the day, I know that a huge part of who I am today--fun, people loving person that I am--is a direct result of my background. I, at times, wish I could have lived a more "normal" life, but then I realize that nothing is normal, because what is normal?
I only know for sure that each day I wake up is another to live, love, forgive, and enjoy life. I cannot change what came before, but I can live each day to its fullest without the constant feelings of guilt. I am happy with who I am and where I am in my life. I am now living in Rhode Island with my wonderful boyfriend Jonathan. Although I had to learn to be happy without him (because I believe you can't love others until you truly love yourself), I am finally able to give and receive love without all the bindings that the religion placed on it. His patience and unfailing love over the past 2 years have allowed me to continually grow into the person I am today, and I love him very much and thank him for it.
I am surrounded by many friends (including my ex-husband, who with his partner are very good friends of ours) who have more than made up the difference in what I've missed with family. I have 3 beautiful big dogs who have taught me more about unconditional love than anything I've ever read. I live within 30 minutes of the ocean (a personal dream of mine), and I have beautiful works of art (yet another dream) that friends have given to us. So I guess what I'm trying to say is I'm happy--and it's because I finally figured out that all I needed for my own happiness was my own approval and willingness to learn and be open.
A very dear friend (an ex-jw also) just gave me a birthday card that says "happiness is a journey, not a destination." I certainly believe that now more than ever.
I apologize for the length--I guess I had more to say than I thought I did. But thanks in advance if anyone reads it!