There was a time that the feeling of not belonging was an ever present tangible thing in my life. A product of a destructive, violent and fearful home I retreated into myself, the only safe place I could find. My stereotypical protectors were too caught up in their own pain and dramas to be concerned with an overly shy little girl who had a menagerie of imaginary friends to make up for genuine human interaction.
My mother, raised a Jehovah’s Witness of course taught me that it was the only way to believe and to live. Seeing the results of not obeying Jehovah in her life, it very forcefully showed me that if I was going to get through this life, my only choice was to ‘make right’ with Jehovah. So I did.
I did everything I was supposed to, I climbed those slippery rungs of acceptance for years, until finally I had reached the pinnacle. Even though the rest of the world in general didn’t understand or accept me, my tribe was in that congregation – or so I believed. When I was quiet I knew I wasn’t happy, but I put that down to my depression and tried to just put it aside. I spent a great deal of time alone, even though I had friends and occasionally went out like a normal young adult, I still spent much of my time in my head. My safe place, constructing whole worlds, families, friendships and really if you come down to it – acceptance. I couldn’t forge it in the real world, so I fabricated one in my mind.
Who knows what those years of living in my head did to me – I do know it stunted my maturity to some degree, though I’m not entirely sure if it is the only cause. My abusive home probably played a part in that too. Being denied acceptance creates this unending need to find it. Yes, my mother accepted me, but I was an extension of her, I was more her confidant and support than a young daughter. My father didn’t accept me, he had rejected me at birth and even years later when I foolishly tried to gain his affection as a teenager he still rejected me. It’s not he left the family – on no, I think he did something worse. He stayed and made our lives a living hell.
When I gained acceptance with the Witnesses there was a brief time of ‘happiness’ some adulterated version of happiness that you get when you feel you have found belonging. At least there I wasn’t the only one in the class not celebrating Christmas, or the only one who didn’t celebrate her birthday. I did have to conquer my shyness and instead of learning to love how I am, shyness and all, I had to force myself to talk to strangers, give talks on a platform in front of an audience and be ready at a moment’s notice for demonstrations. Even with my fear I accomplished this and really believed that Jehovah was helping me.
Fast forward a bit and I’m sitting in Church listening to hymns being sung that are vastly different from what I was taught to sing in the Kingdom Hall. As I listen, tears sting my eyes because I can remember standing at the Kingdom Hall so acutely that I almost smell the wood polish. How many times did I cry silently during prayers because I couldn’t understand why I was so depressed? Of course I know now what was wrong. How could I possibly live a happy life indoctrinated in a cult? How many times did I beg Jehovah to please help me? Did he, or was it all in my head?
What I do know is that I still have an emptiness from what I lost, or perceive I lost. This certainty of belief, this certainty of my place in the world. Now I have very little, if any certainty when it comes to spiritual matters. Atheism doesn’t fill my void, it doesn’t answer my ‘why’s’ and ‘who’s’ so I look again to heaven.
I hold the Jehovah’s Witnesses responsible for much harm in this world, over many years. Many have suffered at their hands far worse than I. Giving people a false sense of belonging, filling the space in their hearts with all their counterfeit spirituality. Taking my trust, and abusing it – again, just like my parents. Since leaving, that space has being emptied, and now I often still feel like there is something missing inside. Could I compare it to a missing limb? You know it used to be there, but it isn’t anymore, but you still feel the pain and feel it itch. You dream of it as if it’s still a part of you.
An illustration I remember from the platform will help me bring this to a conclusion. He explained that children’s are like blank white walls, if parents don’t write on them, everyone else will, implying ‘bad’ graffiti of every kind. My ‘blank wall’ is that empty space and I’m terrified of nonsense and lies being scrawled on it. I’m determined to not be gullible again, or not be an accepting little fool again, but at the same time my blank white wall sears my eyeballs for all I don’t know and all I don’t have.