I’ve been thinking quite a bit over the last nine months since I last dropped some words in this space. Things come up that I want to say, then I can’t work out how to say them. I’m stung again by the nagging lie of perfectionism . The kind of thinking I’ve been doing has mostly been about how I feel so caught in the middle. Still, after all these years, strung between the seemingly opposing forces of faith and doubt.
This perfection still claws at my throat. Not wanting to say the wrong thing. The need to say things the right way. The fear of incompetence and incompletion. It’s paralysing. I begin typing and all of a sudden there are a thousand voices in my head: “He will have something critical to say about that”… “She will laugh about you behind your back” … “People will talk”… and so on. It’s so old, so tiresome. I don’t know how else to beat this demon but to write. I don’t want to write for the critical voice any more. I want to write for you: for the one who needs hope in the darkness. For you: the one who is staring down a long, bramble-covered track, without so much as a sturdy pair of boots or a compass. I want to write for you: the one who is ready to give up. I want to write for you, my sister, my brother: the ones caught like me between two worlds. And most of all, I want to write for me: for my own satisfaction, for my own sense of achievement, for my own healing.
I remember when I first had this revelation – that it was OK to have questions, that it was OK to venture beyond the bounds of the easy answers and ‘The Bible Clearly Says So” finger-waggings of my youth – I was so thrilled! I felt this enormous weight lifted from my chest. Freedom. I wanted to share that with others, which is the main reason I started writing in the first place. I knew I didn’t have it all figured out (still don’t, newsflash to some of you I know), but I knew I wanted to embark on that journey of discovery, and I decided to put away the fear of where the questions would lead.
I think I was pretty naive. I figured that others would want to know and experience a wider world beyond the kind of lazy fundamentalism that surrounded me. The beauty that I was beginning to see in the world beyond, and in the people beyond became so astounding, so paradigm-shifting, that I just wanted everyone else to experience it. The critical voices put me back in my place pretty quickly, and I became small and afraid. The power of the man and a book is still a trauma I haven’t quite recovered from – perhaps I never will, and perhaps that is a good thing.
Growing up in fundamentalism taught me that there is more to be feared from straying beyond its bounds than there is to be gained outside of it. Growing up in fundamentalism taught me that there are easy answers to all of life’s questions, we just have to read the manual. Growing up in fundamentalism taught me that my life is worth nothing unless I am saving souls. Growing up in fundamentalism taught my that my body was a temptation that would lead men to sin, that I should keep it covered lest I cause a man to stumble.
Growing up in fundamentalism – once I had escaped it – taught me that a Man Of God is not to be trusted, simply because he’s in charge.
The further I get from fundamentalism, the more the world seems to make sense, and – somewhat paradoxically – the more complicated and intricate and beautiful and confusing this whole thing called life becomes. I guess I just wanted to write here today for a few reasons: one, to prove to myself that it’s OK not to have a grand purpose or profound message to share every time I want to sit down for some keyboard-therapy; two, to say hello, I’m still here. I see you, you are not alone; and thirdly, to give myself permission to stop writing for the critics – to stop that hamster wheel of thoughts that says I have to please everyone, I have to make everyone agree with me, I have to make everyone like me! Fuck the critics. It’s just you and me sister, we are in this together. There’s a pot of tea on the table, and we are going to unravel this whole thing and see what kind of glorious mess we can make.
[Images via Canva]