Making Sense of My Stage-5 Post

WARNING: This post is long. Over 5,000 words. It’s a braindump of something that’s been stewing in me for over 4 years.

Christchurch earthquake damage
The bridge on Spencerville Road crossing the Lower Styx river, in the aftermath of a 2010 earthquake in Canterbury (including Christchurch City) NZ. Photo: Martin Luff

“I’m warning you, if you proceed to Stage 5, and you’re not ready to be ostracized from the relationship—the larger relationship, perhaps the family, the job, the social group—then you’re not ready for Stage 5.” (Ross Rosenberg, “On Becoming a Psychological Orphan: When Losing Your Family Is Good, But Hurts,” 7:29.)

Ross Rosenberg is an author and psychotherapist who specializes in codependency, narcissism, and trauma. He’s developed a 10-stage Self-Love Recoveryâ„¢ treatment program for victims of narcissistic abuse. Stage 5 is the climactic act in the story, in which the victim sets boundaries with their abuser, sometimes for the first time in their life.

This never goes well.

But it is always necessary to cross that mountain in order to reach the fertile plains on the other side.

No, it’s not a mountain. It’s an earthquake.

And that’s how it was for me, too.

And then there’s the rebuilding afterward.
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I’m disabling comments on my blog

I’m disabling comments on this blog, and eventually on most or all of my blogs. Eventually, I’ll migrate over to a new blogging platform, and I may enable comments via either Disqus or some other service. But most likely, I’ll follow Seth Godin’s example and just not do comments. I write for me, to express myself, and I don’t need the stress of dealing with the public on this site.

If you are interested in commenting or discussing, I usually share these posts on Twitter and Facebook. I can’t guarantee that I’ll reply in a timely manner—or at all—but social media is probably the best place to have those discussions.

I have several posts in the oven. Every time I sit down to write, the words come pouring out, and I need to take a step back and reevaluate where I was going with that thought. Just a warning.

And some of it is quite snarky.

The Wonders of That Particular Time

Have you ever woken up in the morning and that song is going through your head? I’m not referring to any particular song, just the particular song that happens be to be going through your head when you wake up in the morning that that’s been an occasional earworm for the past two days, and you have no idea why or how to get rid of it.

This morning for me it was Alanis Morissette’s “That Particular Time,” from her album Under Rug Swept.

I was introduced to Alanis with her breakout album, Jagged Little Pill, in the mid-90’s. You live, you learn, naked in your living room, one hand in my pocket, and all that. “Would she go down on you in a theater?” I don’t know. But I do know that “Ironic” is literally the least ironic song on the entire album! What’s with that?

Hey! Maybe that’s the true irony. (Whoa! I think my brain is going to explode.)

I wore out that poor CD listening to it.

Then she promptly disappeared from my radar.

Until… Spotify!

And some very special people entered my life.
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Five Harmful Religious Ideas I Had to Unlearn about Sex

This post originally appeared two years ago on Removing the Fig Leaf.

Original image by Harry Gouvas on WikiMedia.

I was born a Pentecostal.

My background was not as extreme as Kim Davis’s Pentecostalism, but I did grow up on Jimmy Swaggart and “That Thing” and homophobia and overt misogyny and stories of demon sex spirits imprinting pornographic images on my mind and shoving me into a pit of fornication and adultery and infidelity and shame and misery— But I’m jumping ahead.

More progressive religions—UU, Reform Judaism, Buddhism—don’t necessarily have these problems. But I didn’t grow up in any of those traditions.

When I lash out, I’m lashing out at the person I used to be, at the stories I tell myself about me and my own sexuality. I hate those stories. My life improves every time I leave another behind.
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The Turn That Saved My Life

Master Sgt. Steve Horton, ISAF Joint Command, stands on top of “Ghar” Mountain, a 1500 ft. mountain on Kabul Military Training Center in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 20, 2010.

“But I come here today to look across this world of threats to a world of peace. In that search we cannot expect any final triumph—for new problems will always arise. We cannot expect that all nations will adopt like systems—for conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth. Nor can we expect to reach our goal by contrivance, by fiat or even by the wishes of all. But however close we sometimes seem to that dark and final abyss, let no man of peace and freedom despair. For he does not stand alone. If we all can persevere, if we can in every land and office look beyond our own shores and ambitions, then surely the age will dawn in which the strong are just and the weak secure and the peace preserved.” (John F. Kennedy, Address in New York City Before the General Assembly of the United Nations, September 25, 1961.)

Today is an anniversary of sorts. March 16, 2009, was the day that I discovered salvation and started digging out of
my big depression.

One of the reasons I’ve not been writing here over the past four years is that I’ve been processing. These last four years have represented a dramatic climax in my life, a climax that began with that discovery nine years ago. I’ve completely changed the way I look at religion and relationships. I’ve dropped my faith. My kids’ mom and I have parted ways. And I’ve finally been dealing with many of the family-of-origin issues that had been pressing on my mind. This is all good news. But all of it also dominates the thoughts and emotions, as I forge a new path through life’s jungle, leaving little time for blogging.

But another reason I’ve been silent is that I’ve been afraid to be genuine.

It’s time for that to end.
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3 Romantic Bible Stories

Jacob Encountering Rachel with her Father’s Herds
Joseph von Führich (1800–1876)
[Source: WikiMedia]

Around Valentine’s Day, Facebook thought I might enjoy this HuffPost article, entitled “Romance in the Bible?”. (Question mark in original.) I once knew its author, back when I myself also worshipped the One True God. This is why Facebook thought I wanted to read it. As it turns out, I was interested, but not in the way that Facebook thought.

It reminded me of several Bible romance stories. And my own reaction to those stories shocked me. I grew up a Christian fundamentalist, and I know those stories inside and out, up and down, backwards and forward.

Yeah, I know. Many Christians, including Evangelicals like I was, have never actually read the Bible. But from a young age, I had. I started with The Picture Bible as a kid, and before I hit adolescence, I was reading through the good-ol’ King James. Eventually, I learned some Biblical Greek and Hebrew, and collected shelves of reference books. None of this disabused me of my faith, because you can always examine those stories through whatever lens you want to.

I now see through a different lens.

I no longer live trapped inside the fundie bubble. It no longer distorts my view in the same way. I see those stories from a different perspective. The Bible’s deity isn’t always the hero. The heathen isn’t always the villain.

Three stories in particular stuck out at me.
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Living as Genuine Me

My most used words on Facebook (Sept 29, 2016)

Two years ago, on August 1, 2014, I wrote a page-long statement in my private journal, “Who Am I Today?” It contained paragraphs on religion, politics, personal values, sexuality, and personality. I was trying to sort through what I believed, how I identified, what I valued, what I felt and thought, to put this all into words.

Two years later, and I’m still trying to answer that question: Who am I today?

While I have a much better sense of the answer, with each new day, week, month, I’m discovering new things about myself. For the time being, I’m enjoying the journey, meeting new people, experiencing new things, stepping out of my comfort zone a little more, inventorying the pieces of life that stick to my personhood.

If you follow me on Facebook, you may have noticed that I’ve changed. Or at least my outward appearance has changed. And this post will probably reflect that change. The Me inside really hasn’t changed—a fact that showed clearly when I recently had dinner with an old friend from 25 years ago. But the freedom with which I allow that Me venture into the open has changed. He’s no longer caged up, no longer a prisoner in his own soul. More and more, he’s allowed to venture out and express himself without shame. He’s getting better at listening to the people around him, taking in the world. And more and more, he’s feeling more comfortable in his role as Me, and feeling more courageous, more able to set healthy boundaries, more able to stand on his own.

So who am I today?
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The “Good” about Friday

Christ on the Cross,  Giovanni Battista Tiepolo [Source: WikiMedia]

Christ on the Cross, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
[Source: WikiMedia]

I grew up in a shame-and-blame religion.

The so-called Good News, as taught to me, is that we humans are fundamentally evil, unholy, sinners, distant from God. And so to save us, God needed to execute the perfect blood sacrifice. And there was only one person perfect enough to serve as that sacrifice, God himself. So he came to Earth in the form of a man who was without sin, and allowed himself to be executed, the perfect scapegoat, in order to take upon himself the sins of us all. As a result, we can blame him for all the shame we feel about who we are.

When I’ve told this story, I have gotten shocked looks of disbelief. “That’s not what Christianity is about, is it? I thought it was a religion of love and peace and helping people.”

But I grew up in fundamentalist Christianity. I grew up an Evangelical. I grew up on Jimmy Swaggart and James Dobson and patriarchy and homophobia and the Holy Spirit über alles. And I grew up singing classic Evangelical hymns and praise & worship songs.

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Mourning My Faith

Last night began the Jewish holiday of Purim. This is a celebration of the book of Esther. The last time I celebrated it was when I was still a member of a Messianic Jewish congregation two years ago, before I came out as an atheist, long before I came out as polyamorous. It was even before all the private drama that separated me from my religious community. But not before my doubts: I had doubts about Purim even then.

But this year, I’m getting closer to the point where I want to be. I miss Purim.

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On the Anniversary of Losing My Religion

I was born into a Pentecostal family. My dad was the pastor.

All versions of my story start the same way, with that line.

For decades, I was stepping further and further away from the faith I was taught as a kid. But the emotional core of my faith was still fundamentalist, and I still thought of myself as an Evangelical. And I still believed in fundamentalism (kind of like Daniel Dennett’s “belief in belief”). By the end of 2013, there were two of me living inside my mind. There was the fundamentalist, who believed in some version of Evangelical theology. And then there was the rationalist, who would admit that it’s all just a story, a religious narrative, but—I believed at the time—a useful narrative. I thought of myself as an agnostic Christian, because I didn’t think you could prove whether God existed—all the “evidence” people cite are just stories—but I believed in him anyway, just because.
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