For the past few weeks, I’ve been having really odd dreams about the church I grew up in. They’re kinda Bandersnatchy in nature because every time I try to say one thing, what comes out is entirely another.
I’ve been a lucid dreamer since I was about 8 years old. It took years before I learned that wasn’t “normal” because it’s the way I dream most often. Most of the time, I can control the narrative within. Every so often, however, my dream is stronger than I am and I get trapped. Those nights are incredibly rough for me and those around me know to wake me if they see me struggling.
At any rate, these recent dreams in particular have revolved around the two heads of the church I grew up in. They’re married and for the longest time growing up, I thought of them as my adopted grandparents. They referred to me as their granddaughter as well. We’ve lost touch a bit over the years, but every time I see them, I realize there’s a part of me that will always see them that way. So much of who I am is a direct result of their influence on my life – especially my love of words.
But I think I’m having a hard time reconciling the person I’ve become with the one who grew up idolizing them. For example, when I was about 16, a traveling group came to the church and helped us produce a play about and called Eternity starring the church members. At one point, I was an angel and at a different point, the sister of a man who was struggling with his sexuality.
I’m embarrassed by this for several reasons. First and foremost, I’m not entirely convinced there is a Hell but should a place exist, I’m pretty sure it’s reserved for the people who wield the name of G/god like a gavel passing judgement on anyone deemed too “other”. Certainly not for people just on the basis of who they love for how they identify their gender.
Secondly, the brother character was eventually “saved” from his homosexuality and “life of sin”. So, when he died, he was worthy of going to Heaven. This is so so so so destructive and dangerous. It is not possible to “pray the gay away” and those who try are just denying who they are at the expense of who they are. Religious conversion therapies are still one of the main reasons behind the suicides of LGBTQ youth. It doesn’t work and it’s not worth it. Especially, since the word homosexuality didn’t even appear in English translations of the Bible until 1946.
Thirdly, my sister character was pretty bratty. I’ve never said “what about me” so much in my life.
I know that there’s a part of me that’s been looking back on my childhood memories and realizing that I’d been seeing everything through rose colored glasses. Monique did things with a pretty homophobic stance while Monique’s alter ego, Sabrina, flirted with her girlfriend. It’s not an excuse now as much as how I realize I justified it then. I could only be my true self around like 5 people, so everyone else got the version of me I had been groomed to be. It was exhausting and taxing, but what I had to do.
These days, there’s only one me. I haven’t done church in almost two years (with the exception of taking my kids to an Easter service last year). I’m understanding some things about me that have always been true – even when I couldn’t see it. And I’m giving myself the space and freedom to grow into the person I want to be – not the person I was expected to be.
I guess that’s why these dreams are so conflicting for me. A lot of these people have known me longer than I’ve known me (well, the old me). That is to say their memories of me predate my own. The person they knew was a bit fixed from ages 3 to 34. So, now they’re all terribly worried for my immortal soul and concerned that I’ve had a mental breakdown.
Well, I did have go through a significant period of grief induced depression, but that’s not what they’re getting at. These are people who have heard me sing on that stage. They’ve watched me go on mission trips 6 times. At one point, they called me “a precious jewel in the golden crown of the church”. I was expected to go into the ministry and (at least on occasion) come back and “share my gifts.
My life is the complete opposite of that.
And yet, these people are my family. I love them and I know that feeling is mutual. I know that some of the people from my old life are truly concerned, but I also don’t know quite how to introduce them to my new one. So, in the meantime…