Ha! Hello, Mommy Dearest!

Hey mom,

Guess you discovered tGGtH yesterday…  You spent all of an hour on my site, right after someone from Flagstaff (yes, Britt, I’m looking at you) spent a nice chunk of time here too.  Welcome to the madhouse.  Does this mean you’re going to be a regular reader?  Not that I mind, every visit from you just drives up my traffic and reduces my bounce rate.  I’m just saying, the boys in charge might take issue with you “misusing” the internet to read *gasp* opinions outside of the WTBTS and all.

…What, no congratulations on my impending nuptials to a nice slice of smexy English hotness?  ;)

Apologies to My Regular Readers…

…if you don’t understand the post below, it’s because a lot of it contains the obtuse religion-specific terminology I grew up using, and it is unfortunately the only way to communicate with anyone else inside the cult (any who are fellow survivors and have successfully deprogrammed might even get a nostalgia kick out of reading it).

Obviously, I’m having issues with my family members seeking out my personal business and spreading my “shocking tale” like wildfire… which I guess I can understand; when you’re a fundamentalist religious zealot there’s nothing better to do than dig up and spread the juicy gossip, even at the expense of your own flesh-and-blood.

Main point being, sorry if it freaks anybody out  ;)   I’m so lucky to have found a “family” of kindred spirits (I love Anne of Green Gables!) who does love me and care for my well-being.

~Bri

P.S. I should probably mention for the benefit of anyone religious; my personal beliefs, whatever they may be, do not include a grudge against god or religion in general.  Religion has its place, and many feel the need for it in their life, in some form.  My beef is with any human (in any religion or non-religion) who  intentionally lies to their followers, deceives them, or exercises mind-control techniques to keep innocent victims under their thumb.  My beef is also with those who refuse to think for themselves and use religion (again, any religion) as an excuse to plug their ears, close their eyes, shout “la-la-la, I can’t hear you!!!!!” and ignore blatant contradictions, misbehaviors, and atrocities.

Hey, Little Sister… Shotgun!

Hey Brittany,

You’re not welcome at this site.  Never mind how you found it, why are you reading it anyway?  At this point, this site would be considered “apostate literature”, right?

I mean, you wouldn’t want to read this site and find out that, say, your beloved Watchtower Society was a registered member of the U.N. for 10 years, from 1992-2001 (the same U.N. that they have preached for about 80 years is the loathesome “wild beast” of Revelation).  Or that your beloved Watchtower Society has the names of 23,000 accused JW child molesters on file, and has attempted to cover-up the pedophilia rampant in the organization for years, even flagrantly flaunting laws that require accused crimes to be reported to the police.

You would not want to know that perhaps if you were to be raped, the first question the ‘elders’ you’ve loved and trusted since you were a child would be:  “Did you scream?  Were you wearing anything that could have provoked it, brought it upon yourself?!”  You wouldn’t want to know that if you had a knife to your neck and were paralyzed with fear, you would be considered to have submitted to and even enjoyed “fornication”, and thus have sinned.  You wouldn’t want to know that your trusted elders are provided with a handbook from the Society called “Paying Attention to Your Flock” which is not allowed to be seen by rank-and-file JWs (guess who has a pirated copy, complete with WTBTS copyright on the index page?), and which provides them with such similar gems of love and understanding for those under their care.

And I’m sure you’ve never heard of Beth Sarim, although it’s common knowledge to the rest of the world outside of the Society, but few JWs know about it because you’re discouraged from ACTUALLY delving into your religion’s history.  Because it’s lies, all lies!  Right?

There is so, so much more but the point is, you’re anxious to see me shunned because your Watchtower Society (I’m not going to say your god, because I can’t see a loving god heading something as sick as this) is more important to you than your family.  And that’s fine.  To an extent, it’s all I could expect of you.  You always were the type who would rush headlong to shun me at the first sign of “sin” so that you could be a martyr and show family members that you were the perfect little JW china doll.  Asking no questions, doing as you were told, at the expense of all that you are supposed to hold dear.  Jesus said that he wanted mercy and not sacrifice, but boy do those JWs offer up their families on the altar of Jehovah pretty quickly once their eyes are opened to what’s been going on behind the scenes.

It makes me sad for you.  I do pity you, because you will never venture beyond your veiled-off life to discover the real truth behind what you’ve been taught.  You’ve been taught that it’s heresy, apostasy to question the Society, even as they spout hypocritical rhetoric in the July 2009 Awake such as “No one should be forced to worship in a way that he finds unacceptable or be made to choose between his beliefs and his family”.  Really?  How exactly do you reconcile that, Britt?  And for that I feel for you, and for Dad, and possibly even for Mom, despite everything.

I challenge you to research your organization fully.  Not just what you are told in the Society’s history books (although these help prove my point, as they contradict themselves all over the place as well), but real history books, court transcripts, legal documents, everything.  Not “apostate” websites, if you so consider them, but legitimate, unbiased sources.  Then justify to yourself and to your god the atrocities and lies that have been committed in the name of the Watchtower, Bible and Tract Society.

But do not come here looking for reasons to spout off righteous indignation to my family, my friends, or myself.  I am not the one who is too far gone to be saved.  I have finally found freedom, and life, and a man who loves me in all the non-warped, healthy ways my family and the Society will never love me.  I would rather be homeless living in a trailer, homeless living on a park bench – hell, I would rather be dead (and according to you, I will be) than waste one more second  of my life working for an organization (a BILLIONAIRE PUBLISHING COMPANY, not a RELIGION) of GREEDY OLD MEN who are in no way inspired by any god, and have desperately changed their lies so often and all the way up to the present day, it is blatantly obvious to any who would take an hour to research it rather than accept a lifetime of dogmatic spoon-feeding.  If your Jehovah is a god who would choose a band of liars and hypocrites as his mouthpiece, a group of chauvinists who have misled and deceived their followers for over 200 years, then why would I want any part of him?  If you can answer this for me, then my hat is off to you.

Cheers, and please leave now.

~B~

No one should be forced to worship in a way that he finds unacceptable or be made to choose between his beliefs and his family.

EDD Hatred Level Escalates; Awesome Book; Religious Past

Today was a day that was mainly frustrating and exhausting, for personal reasons.

In addition, yesterday I gasped with joy as I opened my P.O. box.  A beaming, glowing ray of light fell upon the envelope from California EDD.  The angelic chorus sounded.  For a brief moment, the world was so very lovely.  Finally, finally after hours of fruitless phone calls trying to get through, several e-mails begging for a response, with only maddeningly robotic (and clearly deceptive) “we will get back to you within 48 hours” automatons to appease me…  FINALLY!!!!!!!  My claim forms for my extended benefits had arrived (in case you haven’t yet read my previous post on this subject, I am now owed several months’ worth of retroactive extended unemployment benefits, prior to my getting a job.  Sat down recently and tallied up the amount owed from the day that I filed.  Turns out I’m owed in the vicinity of a little over $5K at this point, which would take me 1/4 of the way towards accummulating the $20K I recently found out I need to pull out of my bum to get this house so that I can then start the whole fun part of seeing what’s involved to use it for transitional housing purposes to take in other homeless women/children (that’s a story for another post, but soon, I promise).

Ripped open the envelope to find… a (second) “approval” notice letting me know that yes, I am eligible for extended unemployment benefits (well, duh, same exact notice I already received waaaaaaaay back when this crap saga started)…

There were no claims forms included.

None.

Zilch.

Aaaaaaaaaand………… yeah.

Seriously.  I know they’re backed up because CA is now like the poster child mascot of insanely skyrocketing unemployment rate states (OK, besides Michigan), but what the eff?!?!?!?!?!

WHERE are my UI benefits?  With those I could at least start the process, combine those with the money I have on me now and I’d be $6K down, only $14K to go.

* * * * *

In other news, stumbled upon this book called I’m Perfect, You’re Doomed, by Kyria Abrahams.  She was raised in the same religion/cult/whateveryouwannacallit as I was (won’t reference it here, you’re welcome to look it up if you like, but if you’re a reader and a devoted member of this religion, I’d really appreciate you skipping the part where you leave me comments telling me how wrong I am about the organization, wrong for leaving, assuming you know everything about me, assuming you know everything about your own religion/cult/whatever, assuming you know everything period, etc.)

I read the first couple of pages and identified so strongly with it (plus it’s hysterically funny – the chick has mad sarcasm skills, which is kind of my M.O. too, so I liked her right off the bat) that I had to stay up all night reading it.

It really brought back waves of memories for me – I left the organization at 18 when I moved out of my parents’ house, although while staying with them they insisted on dragging me back, which I put up with to the best of my ability… zoning out, which I’ve perfected the art of.

Kyria really got the language and syntax and feel of what it’s like growing up as a member spot on.  Many of our experiences were alike – particularly the one where she swallowed a bottle full of pills in a failed suicide attempt and her parents ignored it, didn’t drive her to the hospital, nothing.  Left her to either get over it or else face the consequences of her actions and die.  That struck me so because I had such an eerily similar experience – at 14, in a fit of hopelessness, I impulsively swallowed a jumbo bottle of Tylenol (yeah, go ahead and laugh – but ODing on Tylenol causes liver failure, it turns out!)  My family’s tenant found me in the bathroom and called my mother, who blithely told him “have her stick her finger down her throat”, hung up and drove to Palm Springs with my sister for the week, leaving me to be sick and/or die while said tenant, also a member of this religion, shrugged his shoulders and went back to bed (turned out I was just in agony all night and the next morning.  Nothing major.  I was lucky.)

Now, clearly I got over the whole idea of death after that… agony like that made me decide it really wasn’t in the cards for me.  Nope, never trying that again *shudder*.  But still, it was scary.  And finding out that there was someone with a childhood so similar to mine – let alone her writing a book that is breaking into mainstream literature! – was kind of an eye-opener for me.

The last part of the book is the darkest.  This is where our life experiences varied more (and Kyria admits she has some medical/mental issues such as OCD, etc. that didn’t help with some of the more naive/destructive choices she made in her desperation).  She married super-young to someone she had nothing in common with, as children with our upbringing are wont to do (no premarital sex, and no secular “dating”.  “Dating” = “Marriage”).  She was, unsurprisingly, miserable, and started cutting, using drugs, and sleeping around to escape her marriage (adultery is the only valid and accepted reason to divorce, in this religion).

OK, slightly different from me – I never dated boys from my congregation.  I didn’t want to.  Was never interested.  There were, as she points out in the book, very few prospects, and I never felt like settling for a pale shadow of the real thing, just so that I could have sex or play house.  I knew even then that I wasn’t wholly and completely invested in my religion.  I think to some degree, I was always looking for the time when I could bolt.  I was attracted to men and dating and life outside of my super-narrow, controlled little world.  I saw hypocrisy and abuse everywhere I turned; not only in my own family, but in others in the congregation.  To have admitted so would certainly have meant trouble for me – even complete shunning from all I knew, including my own family.  So, when I turned 18, I simply disappeared.  I didn’t take any of the complicated channels that the heads of the congregation, or “elders” pretend are mandatory.  I refused to be labeled, refused to be shunned, I simply up and left and nobody ever questioned it.  Nobody ever really wondered where I’d gone or why, or what I was doing.  Nobody cared to investigate, they just made their assumptions and moved on with their lives, zealously preaching to anybody who would listen.  One more fallen angel.  Oh, well.

On the few occasions my family dragged me back this year, I was generally regarded with unease and suspicion, which amused me more than anything else.  You could tell it was in everybody’s mind that I must have turned into some little Satanic whore (paranoia and fear are big there).  Nobody knew anything for sure, and I didn’t volunteer any information on that score, neither confirmation nor denial, even when prodded, but some form of “sexual misconduct” was widely assumed, it was quite obvious.  After spending several years away, I had come more to grips with the knowledge that these people didn’t truly have any claim to me or sway over my life (in stark contrast to the certainty I had held in my childhood, that they could ruin me – or rather, that they could have God ruin me).  Now, to a degree, I enjoyed being the boogeyman, responding cheerfully yet bluntly when I spoke at all and seeing the awkward shifting and furtive glances at my outspokenness, my complete and utter lack of “spiritual” thoughts and goals, at least as far as they define such.  I had always been something of an oddball, even when a child.  I was disarmingly perceptive and never quite took things at face value as much as I “should” have.  I had opinions and ideas of my own, questions even about things in the Bible that made me uncomfortable or curious.  I was mildly bothered by the idea of “proving” a scripture by reading another scripture.  To some degree, I wanted to look at and hear all points of view before coming to my own conclusions.  This was highly frowned upon in the organization – looking at outside points of view was considered falling prey to Satan.  We were only to accept what we were told at face value by the heads of the organization, all mere men who were supposedly being “inspired” by God.  Chastised often for this moral failing, I did what I could to sublimate it, bury it, bend my will and conform.  It was embarrassing to be scrutinized and looked down upon.  It was embarrassing to be different within the organization, and also to be different outside of it – in school, and at work.  But, when it comes down to it, I was never the conforming type.  Now, I can find humor in my role as fallen, sinful, devious skank-ho; even relish it a little.

It wasn’t always like this.  It took a lot of struggling and therapy.  And reading Kyria’s book brought a lot of it back in a flood; despite the barbed humor which had me laughing my arse off, the feelings and pain beneath it were refreshed.  I don’t think anybody who breaks free from that kind of past ever fully gets over it.

Anyway, it was just kind of crazy and surreal seeing that there was someone else like me; someone who fought back (although sometimes in different ways) and got up the courage to leave.  We both had to learn to live in the real world – you’re not prepared for it at all when you come from that background.  You’re taught to fear the world, flee from it, dangers lurk everywhere ready to pounce on you.  In an interview, Kyria made a point that struck me as all too true – you are told by your family, your friends, your fellow congregation members that life isn’t worth living outside the organization.  That if you leave, everything will go horribly for you because you’re defying God, slapping him in the face, and being punished for it.  The irony, of course, is that initially that does often happen, your life does go sort of wonky – but not for those reasons.  It’s not difficult so much because the real world makes it difficult and you are being punished.  It is difficult because, never having lived in the real world, you have no idea to go about it, and have to start from scratch, teaching yourself and painstakingly learning through trial and error.

Six years later, and I’m still nowhere near done learning to adjust.  I don’t think I completely ever will be.  But… it’s a start.

Food

Before I start today’s post, I just wanted to provide a link to this guy I just discovered: http://www.ihatemylife.us/. He spent a year homeless in Los Angeles County. He has a great list of free resources such as government programs, shelters, medical care, legal aid, etc (not all are in the L.A. area, many are national)! Check out his website, I am learning a lot from it myself.

Food and water. Besides sleep, they’re the most basic needs you’ve got. Water is pretty easy to find free – drinking fountains, public sinks, etc. Food can be trickier.

You’ll find that the cheapest items, that will fill you up the most, are not necessarily the healthiest for you. Which is fine if you aren’t particularly concerned about being healthy – knock yourself out! You’ll find that you can get über-filling fast food items for $1 or less at Taco Bell or those Burger Kings that serve 99 cent whoppers. If you don’t have any money, you can always wander streets and parking lots looking for change. A few coins can buy you some rice, pasta, or ramen. These items are incredibly cheap, filling, and will last a while. Sooner or later, though, you may find yourself getting a bit chubby, and your health is a valuable asset that can help you weather your homeless experience.

There are soup kitchens out there that provide free food for the poverty-stricken. I’ve been to one once. A lot of these soup kitchens are run by churches, and require you to listen to a sermon or join in a prayer before you are provided with food. Only you can decide if you are OK with this. I was raised in an incredibly strict religion (I won’t specify which, but the initials are J.W.) that follows a very literalist interpretation of the Bible, and utilizes practices such as male dominance, absolute conformity, and shunning of those who doubt or refuse to conform. Some have called it a cult; out of respect to family and acquaintances who follow this religion and find happiness in it, I will not refer to it as such. I will only say that since learning to think for myself rather than being told what to believe, I have found myself incredibly disillusioned with organized religion in general. My personal feelings are that I would be a hypocrite to accept aid from a church organization, in exchange for sitting and pretending to listen to the religion that they are trying to force-feed me. You may have no such qualms. Or, you may actually be a Christian, so such methods would be in line with your beliefs. The point of this blog isn’t to criticize your beliefs, or to provoke religious debate. It is just to provide tips from my personal experiences that may help you in a dire circumstance.

Some soup kitchens and shelters are not religiously affiliated, so if that is of concern to you, look for one of these general community resources. Another thing that I have found helpful is looking up hotels and motels that include free breakfasts with their services. Find out what time breakfast starts and just show up. If you are dressed decently and smell clean, the chances are high that no one will notice that you are there, or that you aren’t staying at that hotel. Note: hotels and motels are actually great resources for other items, such as ice and hygiene supplies. I’m ashamed to admit this, but on family vacations, my mother used to send my sister and I from floor to floor in the mornings, when the housekeepers were restocking rooms. Housekeepers leave their carts full of shampoo/conditioner/soap/body wash/paper towels/toilet paper/etc. in the hallways while they clean each room. Despite my protestations, my sister and I would gather up bags of “free” toiletries from each cart – sometimes there would be two or more maids on each floor. To this day, my mother has bags and bags worth of hotel supplies in her closet, many years’ worth. There are also free ice machines outside of motels, if you have a tub or a bucket, you can fill up on ice for water, or just to help you keep cool on a hot day. Incredibly tacky? Yes, I suppose, but if you’re homeless and you don’t have any money, it’s an option. I’ve never been caught while doing this; it takes a maid a while to clean a hotel room. If you are caught, you may be asked to leave, but no one is going to prosecute you for taking a few complimentary toiletries. Like I’ve previously said, bend the rules a little if you must, just don’t do anything blatantly prosecutable.

If you do have a little money or a souce of income (such as a job or unemployment), then check out local farmers’ markets. They are generally held regularly, on certain days of the week. You can get fresh and affordable fruits and vegetables. Another option is checking out grocery stores and produce markets in neighborhoods that tend to have a high concentration of Latino residents. The produce in these markets tends to be very affordable and fresh – I recently found a produce market on the way to my gym where you can get 4 lbs. of tomatillos for $1.00, 3 lbs. of tomatoes for $1.00, etc. Come up with a dollar, and you could have enough fruit/veggies to last you for several days!

There’s also the 99 cent store. Some of the stuff in there is a real bargain, some of it is crap; if you explore, you can find out which. Sometimes their produce is several days old and starting to go bad; you can avoid this by asking them what day of the week and time they generally put out new stuff. Shop on this day. You can find everything in 99 cent stores – food, makeup, shampoo, conditioner, other toiletries, tools, car maintenance supplies, etc. You can get 8 packets of Ramen there for 99 cents.

I’m not big on the idea of freeganism (dumpster-diving), but there’s a whole subculture around it. I’m worried about germs, odor, plus the fact that going through a dumpster is generally a dead giveaway that you just may be homeless. People going through dumpsters attract attention, and you really do just want to blend in. However, if this is a viable option for you, by all means have at it. Good luck staying under the radar, though.

The simple truth is that there are a ton of options out there for food and sustenance for the homeless, you just have to know where to look. Resourcefulness. Cultivate it. It pays.