Wednesday, November 13, 2019

My Coming Out Story

Happy Pride month!!!! Oh right, that was a while ago. Quite a while ago. And I'm not gay. Yes I know I dress myself in a very stereotypical lesbian way. It's comfortable, dammit. But I did learn that technically I am part of the LGBTQ+ community (I'll give you a hint, I'm one of the +'s. Also let's be honest, there are sooooooo many letters now, I'm fine being a +. Also also, it's positive. ahah hah hah yeah...*cough*). There's even a flag, just for me.
But this isn't about a sexuality or gender coming out story. It's a religious one.



So uh... I'm not religious. *gasp* No. How could you. How dare you.

Yup, I said it.

If you're a reader of mine, or know me personally, like, for realsies, then you would know that I've been dabbling in the dark arts. As in (insert movie trailer guy voice) a world in which I choose to live and dictate what I want and need to believe in. And sorry to everyone who helped raise me to be that good Christian girl, but now that I'm middle aged, I have the guts to rebel, I will. And say, uh no. I don't believe in that god, or that other god, or that one over there either.

Besides all my aunts and uncles with whom I don't have a strong interpersonal relationship with, through no fault of their own mind you, all of my familiar elders have passed, except my dad (he's a cool dude). My mom and all four (and a half) grandparents are gone. So in a sense, there is less guilt to be felt because there are less people to disappoint.

This idea of "coming out" came to me because of a YouTuber I occasionally watch asked his viewers a particular question. A very important question. One that everyone should know the answer to. And one that sometimes takes many many years to figure out. Took me 20+ some years. Some never do. Some never ask the question of themselves. But what I noticed was, was that no one really answered. Only one did, and it was very superficial and quick. I only looked at the comments about 4-5 hours after he uploaded so perhaps there are answers now. Maybe I'll go back and check before posting... Maybe not. Yeah, nope. But also in their defense... that's a hard question to answer short and succinctly. I'm using this post and look how long it is. Just look! Scroll back up now. Scroll back up!

I wanted to comment. But I couldn't say what I wanted to say in just a comment section of a YouTube video that would ultimately get lost in the thousands that this particular YouTuber gets. Perhaps he'd see it, perhaps not. But I very well can't write an essay on my life experiences and questions I've been asking myself and figuring out since I was a pimply awkward bumbling teenager in a YouTube comment now can I. But I can here. Yay.

What's the question, you ask? (or not) Well, it has to do with the lyrics of a particular song by a particular band that I happen to have become a sort of groupie of. And I can honestly say groupie now because I really did follow them to another country, so yeah. I've seen them three times this year now, and will once more in December. Yeah, total groupie.

The song: The Hype
The band: Twenty One Pilots
The basic gist: There are internal and external pressures on us all, and it's both a "I wish someone had told me to believe in myself and my dreams when I was younger" and don't believe in your own hype. It's an encouragement to keep going and a cautionary warning to also let things go that need to be let go.
The lyric: No, I don't know which way I'm going/ But I can hear my way around.
The question: What or who do you hear?

So after thinking about this question and how I would answer it, it forced me to confront myself and made me put my workout clothes on and go for a run. Because part of answering that question is doing what I need to do to answer that question. That doesn't make any sense does it. The act of going on a run is part of the answer. And while on this run I thought about it some more and basically wrote this whole thing out... in my head... and then lost most of it because I didn't want to sit down and take the time to even outline it.

Butt, one of the points was this. I grew up in the church. I lived it. Breathed it. Drank the kool-aid. I believed it. All of it. With every fiber of my being. I took my bible to school. I highlighted scripture. I wrote in the margins. I wrote religious poetry. I wrote religious songs. I was in the religious scouting program, went to Christian summer camps, I was a member of the worship team, church musicals, went to the whole U.S. youth conference, joined the christian club in high school, did the pray at the flag pole thing, even went on a mission trip. I wore a cross necklace, wrote "Jesus Saves" on my backpack, had a "rapture" license plate thingy on my car. I tithed. I had all the cool christian rock CD's. Even went to a Michael W. Smith concert. I was in his fan club!!!!!! Oh my this is getting embarrassing.

All that to say, because I grew up in that environment. It was my world. All my family was part of it and therefore all my friends and family friends were/are of the same religion. So when I finally had the guts to stop going to church, I felt extremely guilty. Like I had failed them all. I let them all down. I thought that there must be something wrong with me. Why didn't I ever feel like they said I should. I never felt "the lord" move me. Or feel a presence. Or ever feel that when I prayed, I was heard by anyone, let alone some supreme being. I never felt comfortable. Never liked the rules, guidelines, or expectations. Didn't believe everything that came down from the pulpit. I took issue with what was being preached and taught sometimes. But like the people pleaser I am, I never spoke up and just hugged the walls like a good wallflower and stuck it out.

And I feel like, just like LGBTQ+ people feel like they have to "come out" in our hetero-normative culture, I too have to "come out" to my religious friends and family, so that I can be my true and authentic self.

Crying to god, pleading, asking for guidance, reassurance, forgiveness, strength during the dark or painful times or rejoicing, celebrating, praising during the good never felt true or right or work for me. And it wasn't through a lack of trying. I studied. I began asking questions. I asked god why I doubt him. Why can't I accept him? Why don't I believe? Where is my faith? What is wrong with me? You're god, fix it. Fix me. Why won't you fix me?

But again, I never felt at home in a church. Any church. I went to different denominations, Catholic mass, charismatics, I tried Buddhism, went to a Hindu temple. They were not comfortable places for me. I didn't feel safe or contentment or any sense of belonging or "finding my people". None of the religious faiths, belief systems or constructs, philosophies, or teachings called to me or made sense to me on an intellectual, emotional, or spiritual level, to where I would say, Yes. This is my faith. This is what I believe. This is my religion.

This is just me and my story. My experience. I see nothing wrong with anyone believing in a god, making religion an important part of their life. If it works for you, and you truly believe and that truly helps you navigate this blue ball we all live on, then great! I'm glad. You found something you can latch on to. A foundation. For many, religion, spirituality, the belief in god is the answer to that question. Who am I to say there isn't a god, there isn't an afterlife, there is no heaven. I'm no expert. I'm still figuring this out. I'm not done asking questions. Remember though, this goes both ways. I have no right to tell you you're wrong to believe and practice what you believe and you have no right to tell me that not believing in your chosen religion is wrong either.

So what about those of us who don't have religion as a foundation stone? Are we lost to the winds? Hopeless? Just bumbling stupidly through life? No. Wait, aren't we all bumbling stupidly through life? It was always taught, at least in the church I grew up in, that we are all lost until we come to god and accept him into our hearts and becomes our lord and savior. So going to a non-believer or an ex-believer and telling them they are lost without god, to me is just so wrong on so many levels. But I won't get into that here.

So what do I hear to find my way around? Short answer: everything and nothing. Long answer: In my darkest moments when I realize I'm in a place I shouldn't be and need to leave, I have several tools. I turn introspective/inward. I can calm my mind and focus on a single voice (the one I like to call the quiet one). That one, that part of my mind is good. And I know it is good. I can focus on it. I know that turning external things off helps to calm. I find strength in the world around me. I will go to the ocean. I will go to the forest. I will go outside to some type of nature, some part of the natural world. That grounds me. I can recharge out there. I have a few people I can talk to, if that's what I need. And I have music. I have certain playlists that I can use to guide me. Certain bands, certain albums, certain songs, genres, styles, rhythms, beats, etc. Music with certain instruments, voices, or beats per minute can and does have a huge impact on me. And of course writing. This is my outlet, my catharsis. So what do I hear in the dark? I hear myself speaking to me, guiding me. I hear music. I hear the waves. I hear the wind blowing through the trees, over the grass. I hear my heart beating in my chest. I even hear the purring of my cats. And I hear nothing. Just quiet. Getting to the quiet is often the first step. Shutting all the external and internal things and alarms off. Focusing. And listening for the nothing. The quiet. Then and only then can I begin to hear what I need to hear.

Within the bands mythos, Tyler's inner voices could be the nine bishops and Nico/Blurryface could be his loudest and darkest voice. Who knows. His brain is very weird and complicated and we as listeners only get a glimpse of the inner mechanations of his brain. Many people (I used to be one of them) interpret the many voices as representations of god in that god is one of the voices, another is yourself, and maybe another as the devil. And which you choose to listen to is your choice/free will kind of thing. I'm not sure I have nine different voices. Maybe Tyler doesn't either. I don't know. But in a way it makes sense within the story the band is telling currently. He just has strange names for them. I just call mine the quiet one, or the loud one, or the mean one, etc.

Tyler's good at compartmentalizing. It's a very male brain thing. Everything has a spot, a compartment, a box. Everything has a place. And it is very organized and structured. I like to think that I too have compartments, but in reality it is more of an open concept mindscape in there.

So yeah. This has been gathering dust in my drafts folder for five months now. When I first started writing this, I thought I would send a link to the YouTuber, but then changed my mind. Why? Because I sussed out where he actually works as his day job/nine to five/real job. And I lost a bit of respect I had for him. I didn't always agree with what he was serving up on his channel, but this was a blow. Then I stewed on it for a while and time passed... okay a lot of time.

And just like Levar Burton always says in Reading Rainbow, "but you don't have to take my word for it".

I can't judge him for where he works even though I hate what that institution stands for and promotes. He may be trying to change it for the better by being there. I don't know. I don't know him. I only know what he shares in his videos. I mean, I work for a company that does environmental compliance work on oil and gas pipelines, and I hate oil and gas pipelines. I think they are not needed (new ones), are extremely hazardous to the environment and our cultural history. It's a fuel source that is dirty and should be phased out, not upgraded and promoted. But I know that no matter what, those lines will be built and the earth and culture destroyed, so it might as well be done by a company I know will do its best to mitigate and preserve what it can. Still hate it though, and still hate who this person works for too. But this is a lesson in humility and not knowing a persons true heart and desires and purpose and what they hope to accomplish within said institution and in life.

Still probably won't link this to him. More so because that video where he asked that question is ancient now in YouTube time. And everyone has already forgotten or moved on to newer, fresher content. Consume, consume, consume. And it takes me apparently five months to finish a freaking post now!

Here's something interesting. The band recently released a re-imagined version of this song and they changed that lyric line slightly. "No, I don't know which way I'm goin/ But I can hear the way, yeah." So does that alter the meaning of the song at all? Ehhhhhhhhh, naw. It's almost even more poignant or affirming. Like instead of stumbling around trying to listen, he can hear clearly now and can navigate safely.

I hope that was interesting for you. I have some ideas cooking. And maybe I'll be a bit more productive on here as the holiday season kicks into high gear. Because I know my mood will sour, and the mental state will get darker again. And when I'm farther down that hole, I tend to be more loose and forth coming in writing. That's just how depression and creativity works, yo.

*side/end note: If I scared anyone in my previous post. Sorry. Didn't mean to. I'm fine. Really. I'm just trying to explain and put into words what it's like to live day to day with this disease.

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