Cultish Behavior

Religion is one of those things that you aren’t supposed to mention in small talk. You don’t ask someone about their religious affiliation after you’ve introduced yourself because it is a hot topic. In the last few years the gap between myself and religious affiliation has widened significantly. A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak at an international conference the focused on cultic organizations. Very interesting stuff. As one of the few people of color in attendance, I shared a bit of my personal experience with a branch of a religion that had a leader who dictated what to wear, what to eat, and where to go and expected to be obeyed. While the peacefulness of country living was present, it was overshadowed by oppressive rules that kept the leader in charge. During the duration of the conference I had the chance to attend seminars and meet other attendees who had once been in cults but left at some point. Many were born into various organizations that their parents had joined years ago. After the conference I wanted to read more about the experiences of individuals who had become caught up in cults and religiously abusive organizations. After meeting a few of the contributor’s at the conference, I read a book called Whispering in the Daylight and the author wrote about the cult led by Tony Alamo. It was fascinating and bone numbingly sad at the same time. One thing that was particularly sad was the fact that parents surrendered their children to be beat mercilessly and starved. They also allowed their girls as young as age 9 to be the “brides” of the leader. All in the name of religion and doing what they felt to be right. The question that always seems to be asked is how do people end up in these type of situations? The truth is that people tend to want a sense of purpose. Having a charismatic leader who seems to have found the meaning of life or claims to have some exclusive relationship to a deity can appear to be a good thing.  It’s fairly easy to forsake all when one believes that not doing so would lead to eternal condemnation. By the same token, believing that your actions can earn you eternal bliss is an attractive idea. I think that it’s even different for children who grow up in that type of environment and have never known anything different. Reading the book about some of their experiences and how hard it has been and continues to be to adjust to “regular” life was eye opening. One thing that I believe is important to remember is that wanting to believe in something or someone isn’t a bad thing in and of itself. But it can become problematic when one consciously decides to yield their free will without reservation to another individual. It’s a strange dynamic that I find intriguing.

Another date story

One of my goals since moving to the east coast a few months ago has been to be more social. I decided that I was going to make an effort and go on some dates. I set a personal goal of going out with someone at least once a week. So far it’s been going pretty well with the exception of that one time I caught feelings too fast and ended up rather heartbroken. But that’s another story for another time. This one is about a date that I had last week. I’m on a rather popular site for dating that will remain nameless and there was a guy who had been messaging me for a while. He would write the occasional greeting and ask for a chance to get to know me. Regular stuff. So night I was bored and decided to respond (bad idea). He wrote me back almost immediately and asked for my number. I sent him the one that I give to people that I don’t know. Yes, I have one. Too many years of working in mental health and medical settings will have you protecting any little bit of privacy you can have. But I digress. John (definitely not his real name) called me right after I sent my number. He asked me what I wanted in a relationship and I gave my usual response of getting to know someone and seeing how it goes. He told me a bit about himself. He was from Nicaragua and worked in a blue collar trade job. He was in his early 30s and had never been married and didn’t have any children. He enthusiastically told me that he had just gotten his drivers license back after having it taken away for unpaid tickets and that he didn’t have his own place and was crashing at his own place. “But that’s ok baby, we’ll just hang out at your place,” he said. First of all, I don’t appreciate the assumption that I’m going to invite you over at any point. That’s a privilege reserved for a select few. John said that he wanted to spoil me and prove that he was the best man for me. He asked me out for dinner the next night to a Peruvian restaurant that was fairly close to my house. I could tell that he was hoping even at this early stage that he would get an invite over to my place after dinner. So I promptly crushed his hopes and dreams (very nicely of course) and let him know that I don’t get down like that. Because you know, standards and everything. So we agree to meet up the next day. Tomorrow comes and I get the generic “good morning beautiful” text message which never ceases to annoy me unless it comes from someone I think is beautiful and then it’s ok. He sent me a picture of his face as well and then asked for feedback. I don’t think I responded because sometimes the best answer is no answer. So the evening came and I arrived at the restaurant on time and parked. No John. He called me to say that he was running late. No biggie. So in order to make the best use of my time I checked in via text message with one of my other friends and caught up on what was going on in their life. John arrived about 20 minutes late and blamed traffic. Whatever. We are immediately seated by the waiter and we sit. John starts conversing with the waiter in Spanish asking about the drink options. I order water and politely decline his offer of alcohol. I try not to drink with people I don’t know plus I know I’ll have to drive home and it’s a weekday so I have work in the morning. Then the interrogation begins. He asks me multiple times if I like what I see. In the true spirit of avoidance I reply that he looks just like his picture. He shows me the obnoxiously big cross that’s hanging from a chain on his neck and declares (somewhat loudly) that he is a follower of Jesus Christ and a die hard Catholic. Instant turn off. I’m not particularly religious but I can appreciate the value that religion brings to the lives of millions. He then follows up his profession of faith with an extremely graphic description of the things that he would do if we were behind closed doors. He talks at length about how happy I’d be if I would just give him a chance and take him home. He promises that once I’ve had a “real man” aka him I’ll never go back. Now granted I haven’t been in the game that long but I do know that the more someone talks about their abilities and skills in that particular department, the worst they are at actually following through. It’s like their insecurities do all the talking and when push comes to shove their actions can’t cash the check their mouth made. Small pet peeve of mine. While the waiter at the table was semi-attentive, the food took a while (40 minutes) to get to our table. So John amused himself by talking to the couple at the table next to ours. One of which was a doctor. John immediately proceeded to ask a diagnosis question about some radiating pain in his neck that he had been having for a while. I wanted to crawl underneath the table. This is why I rarely introduce myself as a therapist because then people stay asking questions and sometimes I just want to be off the clock. But I digress. Finally the food came and John proceeded to eat his food loudly and messily. He chewed with his mouth open as he talked about his childhood and told me how much money had made last year. Then he started to ask me if he would see me again and I gave the most noncommittal answer known to man. “We’ll see.” However, technically it’s just a nice way to say no. The meal is finally over and he decides he wants to walk me to my car. Once we’re there he proceeds to try to put his hand down my pants in broad daylight and kiss me. I quickly extricate myself and get into my car and drive away. Date over. Never to happen again. He texted me the next morning and messaged me on the site. John also took the time to include a picture of a certain part of his body telling me that I didn’t know what I was missing out on. I could clearly see that I’m wasn’t missing anything whatsoever. I was actually winning because once again my theory about big talkers had been proven true. So after a few other pictures and messages about all the things that he had planned for me, I blocked him (thanks google voice). Case closed.

Australia trip

Last week I had the amazing opportunity to visit the beautiful country/continent of Australia. It’s been on my bucket list for years after watching the 2000 Sydney Olympics and seeing the Opera House over and over again during the commercial breaks. I finally made it and it was a lot of fun. The food was amazing and there was so much to do. I quickly realized that I’ll have to come back sometime because a week just isn’t long enough. Next time I visit I want to see the countryside and some of the tucked away places. But all in all it was a raging success and I’m glad to have had the experience. Highly recommended! Here are a few pictures.

How to get over it

I love the practicality of this article. It’s something that you’ll probably experience at some point if you’re human. The truth is that we can’t love anyone into loving us and accepting that is paramount to moving on. I personally have my own strategy for getting over people that I found works well because constant rejection tends to wear on you after a while. I think that it’s important to realize that life still goes on regardless of who loves you or not. It also doesn’t hurt that I’m also cited in it.

Qualifying

I admit that I struggle with the general idea that one has to “qualify” in order to get married. There’s this list of things that single women are given and expected to accomplish before they are ready to get married. We tell our girls that boys will always be there and to get their education first. You’re expected to work on yourself, do fun things, finish school, pay off debt, and get a decent job among other things before you qualify for marriage. Now granted, my story is different in that while I’ve always wanted to get married, I had a feeling that I would be on the road less traveled for a long time. I just didn’t anticipate how long it would be. I was hoping for 25 but now I’m pushing 30 without any actual potential mate on the horizon. I find it frustrating when I’m told that there’s something that I’m doing wrong or just haven’t done yet that makes me unqualified to be married. I see people all day, I’m a good listener, I can hold an emotionally safe place and challenge the perspectives of others in a way that is non-threatening and supportive. I’m the sole provider of my household of one and while I’m not rich, bills do get paid and I travel once in a while. I recently completed the highest educational level one can achieve (PhD) and yet the Universe still apparently sees me as unqualified for a mate. I’m all about doing the work but shit, being alone gets old after a while. I’ve learned how to self soothe and what to do to calm myself down but there are times that I’d sell my soul for a hug and the knowledge that someone has my back. Yes, I’m approached by guys but so far they aren’t ready for anything serious or want me to finance their lives and take care of them. Neither is an option I want to live with. It sounds corny but I want to matter to someone. Really matter. I haven’t found that yet and the older I get the less optimistic I am. It’s just exhausting and tiring doing it alone all the time and while I’ll always do what I have to do, I wish things were different.

Commitment these days

I think that if you ask a millennial what their dealbreakers in a relationship are, the chances are high that you’ll get quite a list. The truth of the matter is that marriage isn’t what it used to be. More people are getting married and changing their minds about it afterwards. There’s also the trend of getting married later in life so marriage is not seen as the only avenue to financial stability. We see better examples of co-parenting and amicable splits. Our parents and grandparents may have stayed married because they felt that they had to but millennials don’t feel the same way. We know that life is too short to be with someone that you can’t stand and that you can’t put a price on peace. It’s one thing to be married but another thing entirely to be happily married. No relationship is worth keeping at your own detriment just to say that you “hung in there.” Lately, I’ve met quite a few middle-aged people who are staying in relationships where their partner is actively sabotaging their goals. Their sole reason for staying is because “Jesus hates divorce.” And at the end of the day they have to make a decision for themselves or for the relationship. I personally believe that being alone is better than being alone in a relationship ESPECIALLY when it’s not healthy.  Regardless of age, it’s important to put yourself first because no one else ever will.

Loving Deeply

While I’m not as eloquent as this particular author, I think that her words accurately describe an experience that many people can’t relate to. Beautifully written. 

God & ManLet me tell you about people who love deeply. They are wells of feeling. Storms of hope and heart that never know when to stop the downpour. People who love deeply are both soft and strong, they are whirlwinds of rarity that will only ever know how to empty themselves out for the…

via Let Me Tell You About People Who Love Deeply — Thought Catalog