I was raised as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. For those that understand the lingo: I’m a third generation born in. This means that my generation is the third generation to be JWs and I was born “into” the religion. I didn’t know much of anything else for a long time. I had a superiority complex, something I’ve discovered is quite common with those of the religion. When you’re in a group that calls itself “The Truth” and claims to have “The Truth” and that we, meaning Jehovah’s Witnesses, are the only ones to have “The Truth” it is kind of inevitable that you’re going to encounter a major superiority complex. One of my memories from early childhood is when I was in about the 2nd grade, maybe 3rd. It was around Christmas time and I was, once again, in a new school (my mother and step-father moved quite often, I have only attended the same school once and only for 2 years, every other year I was in a new school), and my classmates were asking what I wanted for Christmas. As I remember this experience from my youth, I cringe. I feel embarrassed for the young girl I was because my answer isolated me from all of my classmates. You see, you’re taught as a Jehovah’s Witness to take every opportunity to witness to those around you. Spread the Word, speak of Jehovah’s greatness. I proceeded to inform my classmates that Santa was fake, that celebrating Christmas was akin to worshiping Satan and that real Christians didn’t celebrate holidays and birthdays. Yeah, going to a new school was a good way for me to “hit the rewind button”… too bad it took me until my early preteen years to learn to just shut up about the beliefs because the kids were only going to make fun of me and make my life hell for the entire year. I hated school for that reason, but I always loved to learn. I found that learning was what set me apart from them, that was the only way I could get any kind of recognition was through my lessons at school. Unfortunately that didn’t endear me to my classmates either because I ended up being “teacher’s pet”.
I stopped being one of Jehovah’s Witnesses when I was 16. I was disfellowshipped for those that understand that. For others… I was excommunicated and am shunned by the Jehovah’s Witness community including my family. While I do have some contact with my family, it is strained and kept to an extreme minimum… their wish, not mine. They would say it’s not their wish but the way that it has to be because I choose to not return to the religion and my being disfellowshipped is a punishment. The shunning, in my opinion, is emotional blackmail. If I want anything to do with my Jehovah’s Witness family, I have to go about proving my repentance for my actions of my youth that got me disfellowshipped and getting reinstated… which is not a simple thing, remember… actions speak louder than words. You have to attend the meetings, you still cannot associate with anyone because you’re still a spiritual leper, you have to live your life just as you did as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses before. There is nothing unreasonable about how one goes about getting reinstated. But I do not wish to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I was baptized because I felt pressure from people in my family (while I must insert here that members of my family claim that I only got baptized because a friend was getting baptized, a friend that I was no longer very close to so that argument on their part actually holds no water), but I had planned on “fading”, just riding it out until my 18th birthday when I could move out on my own and begin my own life. Things didn’t work out that way; everything changed when my grandfather died. But… I do not believe in god. I have become an agnostic atheist as I’ve grown older. I have a love of learning about religions, I find it very fascinating and intriguing. I just do not believe in any kind of higher power. But because I am disfellowshipped I am to be shunned, I am to have close to no contact with my own family, my own parents. Like I said, emotional blackmail.
In recent years I have gotten fed up with how I’ve been treated by my JW family. I handled being shunned and ignored by them from the time I was 16 until I was in my mid-30s just fine. It bugged me but I shrugged it off. They had their life, I had mine. That all changed when one family member decided to indirectly attack me on my niece’s Facebook post back in 2011, trying to “throw mud” at me about something they didn’t have any information about, just had heard a couple things, they didn’t have the whole story. But because I was no longer one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, because I had battled drug addiction, homelessness, had been engaged in illegal activity in my past, this family member decided to pull up something from my past that had occurred before the majority of these above issues and use it to make me look bad and irresponsible and that any advice I could give was bad. This during a time when I was trying to get my life back on track (which I was successful in doing and have maintained stability since then), after I had left an abusive relationship that left me disabled, this family member felt the need to drag up something that had happened years before, something that had nearly killed me inside to the point that I had been suicidal, all because I was no longer one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. This family member has never once apologized for what they said. This same family member I found out later had a habit of going onto my Facebook wall and checking out my Instagram account and telling the rest of the family of all the things that I was doing, causing problems between me and my mother, one of the only people in the family that really would speak to me. I’ve heard conflicting stories since then that this individual in my family was never stalking my Facebook page while I’ve been told by others that the person did stalk my page. I cannot say one way or another but I do know that my Jehovah’s Witness family raised hell with my JW mother and JW sister for coming to my house when my daughter who none of us had seen in nearly 10 years came to see me. And then I found out that my JW family wanted my JW mom and JW sister to take my daughter and her at the time boyfriend (now husband) all the way out to their place, well over an hour’s drive from my home. The family that had no time for my children at all when they were little wanted to take my time with my daughter who I had not seen in almost a decade away from me. And then they wanted to berate my mother and sister for being at my home to see my daughter, their granddaughter and niece. And they wonder why I became vocal about my feelings about their religion? Because everything they do is dictated by their religion. Because being one of Jehovah’s Witnesses is more than belonging to a religion, it’s a way of life.
You cannot cry out against injustice and demand things change if you do nothing to show you want that change.
Boycotting was once how we forced change against injustice. No one wants to boycott because “it doesn’t do anything”.
We once marched across cities to show solidarity against injustice. Today we are ridiculed and attacked if we march.
We once held court on a soapbox in the public park, speaking to our neighbors about injustices we have seen and how things must change. Today those people are ignored or sent to jail for disturbing the peace (not to mention at times assaulted by those sworn to protect us).
We have become indifferent to injustice. We have decided to stay in our little bubbles we live in while ignoring the plight of our neighbors, assuming that if they can’t succeed or be as well of as others, then they’re lazy. Quick to judge and slow to accept the reality of the situation that envelops the entire world and even slower to move to action.
And the saddest thing of this is that we have no one to blame for this but our own selves. We put others under a microscope to judge them for how they live, but we put blinders on our own eyes when we look at our own selves
*this is a post from my Facebook account.*
So, when I was at the Mother Cabrini Shrine I stopped into the chapel. I have often found going to a church and reflecting on things helps center me and lately I’ve been feeling like I needed a major recentering session. I think I was right.
It wouldn’t be right for me to sit and write about what I thought about while sitting there in the pew staring up at this image of The Sacred Heart of Jesus (I believe that’s the proper name for this type of image of Christ, his heartexposed in a way) but I can tell you that I was able to walk out feeling a little less chaotic in my head.
When I made the trek up the steps to the statue, I did a lot of thinking. Oh yeah, that trek is definitely made to make you reflect. Along the way are the Stations of the Cross (though one was missing) with depictions of Christ’s walk to Golgotha and I found it fitting that sometimes the steps were difficult to walk, my legs tired and ached a bit. But I kept on, because I was going to make the trek to the top. As I’m walking up these steps, that cynical part of me is explaining to me why the steps are the way they are… they’re a sort of imitation of Christ’s on His way to be crucified. Then the other part of my brain pipes in with the fact that “Well, if these steps are supposed to make us reflect on Christ and the Passion of the Christ, making us reflect on what He went through, maybe I should be reflecting on way I’m making this trek myself. Maybe I should be thinking about why this is so important to me. Maybe I should be looking at the lesson I need to learn for my own life, atheist or not.”
And that I did.
On the way back down after making it to the summit, taking a breather and getting a few pictures, I realized that the descent was less taxing than the ascent. Kind of like when you push yourself toward a goal. It can be hard, it can be tiring, it can hurt, it can make you want to throw your hands up in the air and say, “Enough! I’m done! I can’t do it anymore!”, but once you make it to your goal, it’s not so hard anymore. You realize how much you’ve gone through and how much more you’ve grown because of your experience.
“I know from experience that you should never give up on yourself or others, no matter what.” – George Foreman
I set my mind to being positive. I am actively trying to stop being so negative about things in my own personal life. And it’s odd…. it seems like a bunch of my friends are on the same wavelength of putting positive vibes out, of replacing the negative with positivity, almost like some kind of awakening amongst us.
I had so many reasons to be negative yesterday. My husband is the regional supervisor for the company he works for and there’s been an issue in the past month of payroll being delivered to him on time (it’s sent from out of state). The company has been working on alleviating this problem and had even started getting things ready to set up where payroll for this region is handled here, but a certain delivery service that I will not name delivered all of the necessary equipment to the completely wrong address and as far as I know (not being an employee) it still has not been located. The week after that screw up, the same delivery service delivered payroll to the wrong address again. Then this past week for some reason payroll was delivered a day late but due to a problem with the bank, no one has been able to cash their paychecks. My husband was so stressed out yesterday that his bad mood was affecting me. But I kept my positive attitude and by the end of the day, while problems still had arisen and new problems arose with an employee, my husband was smiling and laughing with me, enjoying the moment.
I received a message from a friend during the night that I saw this morning where she told me that she wished she had my experience with people. I had to smile at it, it reinforced the realization that people look to me for advice and I guess in some ways, a role model. I told it that it simply took time. But I wonder if it really does take just time to learn how to deal with people that are jealous, envious, hateful, etc of you. I look at examples around me, and I see people older than me that act worse than a toddler throwing a temper tantrum over something superficial, something that they probably won’t even remember next week. Why? This is the examples we are giving the next generation while telling them to stop being so fragile. A tad bit hypocritical I think. Probably why I want to “combat” that with positive energy, to give positive examples for the generation below us.
Lately I’ve been feeling a shift in my mindset. I’m not so quick to argue like I once was. I look to defuse a situation now instead of my knee-jerk reaction of fighting (never physically, I’m just not a physical person like that. *shrug*). I’ve come to realize that for some reason people on certain social media sites find me inspiring, encouraging, someone to look to for guidance. This really does surprise me because I honestly do not see why, I just do things and think along the lines I was raised (not 100%, but close).
You know, it really shouldn’t surprise me at all. I’m 41 years old now and a grandmother. I reflect on the Triple Goddess used in neopaganism, the Maiden, Mother, Crone. I tell people in a jovial way that I am in my Crone years. One of the aspects of the Crone is wisdom. (*I chuckle here*) I’ve lived an interesting life, have known very interesting people, have experienced things others haven’t and I wouldn’t wish them to, and during everything I’ve listened to the stories that were told by people older than me, I listened to the stories of people who have gone through things I hope I never have to go through and I learned from what they said. So I guess it’s my turn to impart some of my life lessons to others.
If there’s any kind of lesson I should pass on to others, I think it should be of tolerance, of understanding, of compassion. I said on a Facebook post today that instead of posting negative crap when we’re having a bad day to post positive instead. I mean, how do you end a bad mood? By engaging in something positive seems to work for me, whether it’s me jamming to some of my favorite bands or playing a video game or talking with a friend about anything but what’s put me in a bad mood. No, it doesn’t work all the time, but it works a good amount of the time. So that’s what I want to do, pass as many good vibes to others on this journey of life, cause honestly, life’s too short to be pissed all the time.
The letters started coming to Bo Juel’s house sometime in 2013, anonymous warnings about Armageddon being imminent and the need to get his life right. Some notes were handwritten, and others used letters cut out from magazines, resembling crude ransom demands. A few were mailed, but a few were left on the windshield of his […]