Tomorrow I will celebrate Thanksgiving for the 7th time. Out of my 34 years, I have spent only 7 Thanksgivings seated at smooshed together dinner tables over-eating turkey and mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce with my family on the 4th Thursday of November. Only Jehovah's Witnesses could find something satanic about such an innocent celebration - eating delicious food and expressing gratitude for the myriad of life's blessings.
Indeed, my Jehovah's Witness childhood was full of what I could not do. Traditional celebrations were forbidden:
New Year's Eve
4th of July
St. Patrick's Day
I could not participate in after-school activities, such as sports or drama. Because my participating in these things would bring me into contact with people who were not of my faith and thus under the influence of Satan and destined for eternal destruction. I could not attend school dances, homecoming, or prom for the very same reason. I was not permitted to go to college because Armageddon was imminent and I needed to concentrate my efforts on preaching the so-called "good news", which was really an ultimatum: join us or die. Saturday mornings I spent out knocking on doors, dreading that the next door I knocked on would have someone from school behind it. When this inevitably happened there are no words for the humiliation I endured, the gut-wrenching shame I experienced.
My thoughts, my feelings, even my dreams did not belong to me. It is so painful to visit that now, the memory of those empty years. I was forced to make so many sacrifices and it was all for nothing. What they called "The Truth" was a complete and total lie.
Who knows what I would have become if it weren't for that fucking cult and it's brutal influence over my family. I struggle with so much anger and grief. I think about the little girl that I was, so full of potential for great things. And then I look in the mirror at what I have become and I want to spit in my own face. I have spent the past 10 years trying to make sense of what happened to me and attempting to undo the damage. I don't know that this is possible. I can't go back and retrieve memories of what never was. I can't have Christmas mornings tearing open presents. I can't have dressing up in a princess costume for Halloween. I can't have exchanging Valentines with secret crushes. I can't have sparklers on the 4th of July. I can't have pictures of me in a terrible, taffeta dress arm in arm with my prom date. I can't have living in a dorm and figuring out how I'm going to change the world over a dozen cheap beers.
What I had was not enough. I feel like I have these huge gaping holes inside of me, paths not taken, wounds that won't heal, abilities never realized. This emptiness is nauseating. I wonder what it would feel like to be a whole person. What does it feel like? Tell me. Somedays I want to crawl into the skull of someone else. Just for a little while. So that I could know.
Tomorrow I will pretend to be whole as I dine with my family, celebrating Thanksgiving as if it always was this way with us. Pretending we are normal and that we have memories tucked inside of us of so many Thanksgivings past. My daughter will never know any different and sometimes I resent her for it. I watch as she circles things in a catalog. "I want all these things for Christmas, mom!" She doesn't notice the tears gathering, the deep breath. "Anything you want sweetie. Santa knows what a good girl you've been."
That's all I can do now - Live through her. And I know that despite my past, I do have the present to be thankful for. My wild Liv, two babies having a party in my womb, a mom who's cancer was caught early enough to treat (stage 2), a husband who loves me despite what I am. I guess most of all, though, I am thankful to have control over my own mind and freedom from psychological tyranny. I know how precious that is. I will never take it for granted.
Happy Thanksgiving to you all.
7 hours ago