Just Like Fire
In my last post, I likened the ways diet culture, or the pressure to look a very specific way and how your whole life is supposed to be dedicated to getting there, is like an awkward school dance with a popular boy you hope will make you his and change your entire life. Next week my plan is to keep this writing rhythm of Tuesdays and Thursdays, and for all you wanting to know what I’m actually doing, I intend to share the eating portion Tuesday and the body movement portion Thursday. So doncha worry, Boo, I’m not stringing you along forever. But I still maintain that the “do” part isn’t just those things; it’s the emotional portion, the mind and soul work about which I have been writing.
When I’m ready I plan to write more openly about why my experience with evangelical Christianity was a net negative. It was extremely traumatic and harmful. But what I have realized recently is that I’m ready to allow bits of where I am now to permeate my writing. When you leave evangelical Christianity, at least the cult-esque kind I was in, admitting aloud that you aren’t coming back is scandalous. But to admit you now aren’t even sure there is a god is both devastating for some and a source of triumph for others.
Here’s what I mean by that: for those who loved me, whose experience of Christianity was better because of my influence as a Christian, for me to now be “lost” is devastating. At very least they question any good thing they learned from me. Could that have actually been Jesus? It puts their own beliefs into question. And to imagine me possibly keeping my word, never coming back, and then burning in hell for eternity is worse than if had I died back when my words and behavior gave them confidence that my post-terrestrial destination was heaven.
The other part regards those who never liked me. I was pretty outspoken about grace and how much I hated legalism, the practice wherein people get so caught up in God’s rules and laws that they treat people horribly. In particular, a lot of women’s husbands didn’t like me. Pastors, too. They saw me as overstepping my bounds by being an outspoken woman in a world where men and women are purportedly equal yet women are supposed to be submissive and quiet.
As an example, I had one friend whose husband was very controlling about her dyeing her hair or getting tattoos; when I told her that it was unhealthy for him to say he wasn’t stopping her, yet to guilt trip her and suggest that she wasn’t entrusting her body to god, I could see that it was soothing to her soul but would piss her husband right the fuck off if she told him what I said. I have no doubt that finding out I no longer identify as a Christian seems like a confirmation to those like that husband who didn’t like me or what I had to say. My exit from the faith affirms that they were always right, I was always wrong, and God showed them his truth about me way ahead of the curve.
The sheer disrespect and smugness of that has had more influence on my silence about my truth than I would like to admit. And you might be wondering what the fuck this has to do with my body and my health. It’s all intricately connected. Let me beat my worn ass drum here, okay—you cannot have partial health and be whole. As I told you in This One Fucking Life, my soul—my personality, who I am at my core, my deepest sense of self—wasn’t allowed to be a part of me for basically 30 years of my life. I lived only in my mind. There was a shadow of my soul, so I remained a compassionate empath of a person who has always cared about injustice, inequality, trauma, and suffering…for others. I really had no idea who I was, nor could I feel for the trauma and suffering I myself had endured.
Last fall, when telling my therapist an anecdote from my Christian experience, her face had a look of horror. “You weren’t allowed to have any sense of self,” she said. At the time her shock caught me off guard. She’s very real but also very professional. But in all honesty, I didn’t really get it at the time. I knew it was a big deal, I thought I understood, but I really had no idea how important having a sense of self is.
I get it now, though. I shared that with her this week, as well as the things I have been writing and how something in me has changed. I hate the cliché, but it’s like a light switch in me has been flipped. I thought my house was just fine, that I could see and live as well as anyone, but when I invited my soul to move in she walked through the door, hugged me, and immediately said, “Why are you living in the dark, bitch?”, as she reached around me to turn the lights on. And then, as my readers know, Soul pulled away from the hug and informed me that Body was on the porch and coming in, too.
Are you with me here? I thought I knew who I was. What I valued. What I wanted. I knew I was smart and figured I wasn’t missing any big pieces as to why I had various struggles. But generally speaking those struggles always boiled down to, “I’m fat,” and I felt fatness, being a size 24 to 28 basically since I was 19 with dips down to 22 here and 18 there, was the source of all of my problems. I was lonely because I let my fatness hold me back from pursuing relationships. My chronic pain was due to my fatness. My struggle to find a career where I had a sense of purpose was because no one would hire a huge fat woman because obviously I wasn’t a hard worker or very smart.
It’s worth noting here that I have all kinds of stories and anecdotes to support why I believed these things. It was certainly in my head, but it also wasn’t only in my head.
Once I realized at 35 that I was dissociative, and then discovered that I have repressed trauma, I thought that was enough to pursue healing wherein healing equalled dealing with my trauma which would then release the stress. I assumed my body would immediately begin to heal and let go of the fat.
The fat, the fat, the fat. It was always the fucking fat.
If I weren’t fat I’d have confidence that my efforts were enough. I wouldn’t get unfairly judged, passed over for jobs and positions of visible leadership due to my size that screamed, “GLUTTON! SINFUL GLUTTON! NO WAY DO I TRUST JESUS!”
The problem, my loves, was never the fat. The source of my struggles was that I had no sense of self. I wasn’t whole, and I hated my body and refused to do anything other than try to force her into submission. I have always just been looking for the fix, for the do, to get rid of the fat. So yes, at 35, I woke up. I began to learn I had a self, a soul, and that she wasn’t actually an integrated part of my person.
But anyone with any modicum of wholeness in their own life can attest that awareness does not equal wholeness.
Wholeness is not a do or a fix. It’s a be and your life.
In reading this post, some of you might be thinking, “Why is the title ‘Just Like Fire’? This has had nothing to do with fire. That’s kind of some poor writing there, Tami.”
But I withheld the fire on purpose. It’s analogous to my life. There’s all this story, seemingly endless pain and darkness, but only now, at the current moment, am I coming in blazing hot and alive.
So the fire is coming. I decided to halve this into two posts. I’m wordy, and I like it. Sometimes it’s just a lot to absorb in one read and I don’t want minimize the impact of my words by trying to cram too many in at once when it makes sense to break up the posts.
But I won’t make you wait long—come back tomorrow!
Do you want to know more? Are you inspired to learn how to fight for yourself? Stay with me. I know some of you are dying to know the "how" piece, and I feel you on a spiritual level, but also the "why" is the how, and without it nothing else matters. See you with more tomorrow, Saturday, 08.18.18!