Lost Letters

As I was going through some boxes that have been packed up for some time, I came across a bundle of letters. There were nine of them. They were all dated throughout the year of 1993.

I had just left college in Tennessee and moved to Washington State. I was in a foreign culture and in varying states of emotional trauma. I was pregnant with my youngest son and had a four year old child to care for. I felt alone and scared. Morning sickness was rocking my body. I was in deep need of support. The life I had imagined I was moving to was not as I had pictured.

I sat cross legged on my bed the other night, excited to read the letters. I couldn’t remember their context so they were new to me. During that time was the first that my sister and I had been separated by miles, since we’d left the cult. She was now married and off living her life.

I must have been writing to her about the despair I was in, based on her responses. The first couple of letters from her contained the average “Hi! How are you doing? I am fine.” generic theme.

Then I read on and became internally disturbed. My first irritation rose at her continual referring to my unborn child as “Shanaynay“, due to he/she (the gender of my infant unknown then) is a multicultural child. Every letter had the same line in it at some point.

So how’s Shanaynay doing?”

I cringed every time I read it.

I opened the sixth letter.

Hey Bitch! Relationship this! Relationship that! Don’t you have anything else to write about other than your fucking relationship?”

No, I thought. I didn’t. I was alone in a strange city. I had left my whole life, family and friends in Tennessee. I was in cultural trauma. I was having panic attacks. I was arguing with my partner. Things weren’t as they were supposed to be. I was rocked to my core. I had no one to talk to except her.

Letter eight made me wince even more. It bothered me when she called my unborn child Shanaynay. This reference felt intentional and racist.  I had obviously expressed this to her at one point.

So how’s Shanaynay? (Does that still bother you?)

I sat reading all of the different jobs her husband was going to have.
Refinery. We’ll be in the money!”

Job after job, fake happiness after fake happiness, to the point that she had to continually say it in the midst of my own churning hurtful life.
I am so happy with my husband.”

I sat with the letters in my lap. Twenty five years would pass by. She would call me panicked, vomiting out the years of verbal abuse she had taken from him. She would leave and go back. She would ghost everyone who ever fought for her. She would do it in the same coldness from which she had written these letters.

I sat on my bed realizing why I had held my family at bay in those later years, always feeling different, set apart, standing in the shadows of my own broken heart. She had chosen the other spectrum; the one filled with things that make people feel they have worth, and I chose to face the hurt.

I am wistful for dreams we had of lounging on beaches with drinks. I hurt for the cruel words thrown out in spite and the loss of a sibling who is still alive.

I have come to live in acceptance. I keep my spirit attached to my tribe, growing, healing and expanding. Yet, when she drifts my mind, I wince a bit. The cult broke her into pieces, and she walks behind a mask, unable to gather the shreds of her own greatness.

And I hope. I always hope, that she will return to who she was before they stripped us and tore our family apart.

How I Was Trauma Bonded With God

I was introduced to a man named God when I was just a little girl. He was a massive figure emerging from the clouds, often with furrowed, gray eyebrows, pointing a finger at the sinners below him. He was a magician who created a planet with a wave of his hand. He had a dramatic story, with a top soldier who abandoned him and took part of his army. But he protected the ones who were loyal to him.

and if I was a good girl, God would love and protect me too. If I could become clean of the sin through which I was born, God would love me forever and ever. Yet, if I could not become pure in his eyes, God would set his rage on me, dooming me to burn and scream in pits of fire.

So began my journey into being the victim of a learned love/hate relationship with my apparent spiritual father and the only man to whom I should ever be the most loyal. One day, though, I would begin to reason in my mind.

“How are there pictures of someone whom no human has ever seen?”

“Why is it, no matter how well I behave, I am still molested and beat?”

“Why won’t God fill me with the Holy Spirit so I can understand his tongues language?”

“What have I done wrong that God is not protecting or loving me?”

“Why is God so mad at me?”

God made me walk on eggshells, wishing I could hide beneath a blanket or a tree so he couldn’t see me, but he allegedly spies constantly and has eyes so big he can see everything at all times. There was no hiding for me. Humans watched me, and so did God.

I yearned for God’s love. I longed to fit in with the rest of the cult children. Yet, there I was, feeling as if I always stood on the edge, looking in on a fervor I could never quite achieve. So then…

I must be bad like the adults say I am.
I can’t identify the badness.
It’s my fault I’m scared.
It’s my fault I don’t say no to Brother Ray.
It’s my fault because I take the cookies.
It’s my fault I talk loud.

It’s my fault. It’s my fault. It’s my fault. Those words will stay, long after I grow up and escape God.

But I’m only eight, and right now God owns my mind. God started owning my mind when I was three.

I will strive for God’s love, beg for His forgiveness for whatever I may have done wrong, even if I don’t know what it is. I will accept his hatred of me. I will teeter on this wire, traumatically, mentally fragmented, long after his illusionary existence shatters into a million pieces.

I have escaped a plethora of narcissists in my lifetime, but of all the trauma bonding that was injected into my journey here, God’s ripped me apart the most. God’s ego left caverns of echoing scars, repeating threats in my head, leaving me to battle his aftermath even after I came to know that the idea of good behavior buying a golden ticket to a fantastic resurrection show was a hoax.

I would forsake him proudly, but the words of his messages, spoken through the mouths of vile humans, would remain the silver balls traveling the ping pong game that my brain was molded into.

I have a little coping skill I use. Whenever I begin to doubt myself or speak negatively to my own existence, I tell God to shut his imaginary mouth. His ghost doesn’t get to manipulate me anymore. And he does. He shuts the fuck up, because the echo of his programming is under my fingertips now.

Control. Alt. Delete.