My mother wrote me finally, after so many years. I was a little startled, since she had not contacted me for so long.
She also wrote a letter to my husband and sent along childhood photos of me, but Jehovah's Witness literature was also enclosed.
Her words were lovely, though with an air of desperation.
My mother wanted my husband to know that she brought me up as a Jehovah's Witness (JW) with certain beliefs, and then asked what his religion was.
I decided to respond by telling her about my beliefs and what they have always been.
I had never shared this with my mother before. Nor told her about the detachment during my youth, which ultimately led to my disfellowshipping.
Those inner silent struggles as a child eventually split my personality in two.
What was expected of me as a young person in this religion didn't express my feelings or beliefs. And accepting it was torture. So I learned to somehow preserve and protect my inner life and light, and show a different face to my "Witness family."
My mother never knew that.
When I went to the Kingdom Hall to worship like the Witnesses did, I felt guilty because it wasn't praying in my own words from my heart. Later, I would apologize to God and say my own private prayers.
As I grew older, I felt connected to the universe and more loving.
Nevertheless I went door to door to please my mother and my congregation. But I was never really happy as a JW, nor did I become the missionary of my mother's dreams, which must have caused her pain.
At 19 I left home abruptly. I was sincerely sorry for hurting my mother, but didn't want to be a part of her religion. I avoided telling her that though, because I didn't want to break her heart. It was a struggle to explain these feelings during my years as a JW.
However, I chose an easier way and said that I was going to go party and be with boys. Looking back now, it was easier to say that then to tell my mother the truth.
I do wish that I had managed the courage to tell her what I had always believed and that what the JW religion essentially stands for is dangerous.
Their concept of one religion, one people, one way of worshipping God and one path to Him, in my opinion is detrimental to experiencing life in its entirety.
Life as I see it is means acceptance, and that acceptance leads to a kind of unity, which equals peace.
The Witness way, which always rang false in my head, declared instead a type of segregation that ultimately allowed for only one true religious organization to exist.
This fundamentally resembles racism and racism equals judgment, division, fear and hatred.
I figured this out as a child, when I wasn't allowed to have friends from school.
Because the kids from school supposedly lived in "Satan's World," which meant they were "worldly," and therefore a "bad association."
And that was my first introduction to segregation.
"Bad associations spoils useful habits."
However, that teaching never made sense to me. That is, the JW belief that if you associate with bad people, you'd end up doing bad things.
My friends never made me do anything. If they dared me and I did it, it was me doing it and not them. The Witness interpretation seemed to ignore individual choice and responsibility.
Simply understood you could not be trusted with, or trust anyone that was not a Witness.
That type of judgment made me question their teachings generally.
I decided to take personal responsibility for my behavior, but if I were to have lived by JW beliefs, perhaps "bad associations" would have become an easy excuse every time that I made a mistake.
In dealing with Mother again, I became more aware of how I had chosen to heal after leaving the Witnesses and how that choice had affected my life.
Growing up as a Witness my life was within the JW world, no outside "worldly" people allowed! That is, unless they might become a Witness.
I was raised to believe that the world would end soon, so finding the true path was essential until the "New System" came about.
Study with the Witnesses was supposed to be the only true path, but deep down I never identified with any of it. I was fortunate to hold onto a peace and love inside myself, though a sense of confusion gripped me at times. It was like "brainwashing" that took place 5 times a week for many years.
I didn't want to live in constant fear of "The End and what about right now? What about life today, I'm here aren't I?
That dark future tense that ran rampant in those bible studies made me want "now" so badly and created a subtle "live in the moment" philosophy that stirred deep within me.
I yearned for living in the moment.
It's funny how being in the present begs to surface when faced with any myth. And every mishap, accident, mistake that takes place has so much to do with being "present" for an experience. Even at a young age I felt desperate to break out.
But then I'd hear it all again, "This is "The Truth" and there is only one way!"
Only one way?
My brain is so imaginative, so I naturally think of different ways. In daydreaming and wandering in thought my mind created alternatives, a plethora of ways!
It's natural for the brain to operate that way, different people, different minds, and many ways of thinking. Many ways of doing things and different levels of comfort.
The whole "One Way" mindset just seems to contradict the human condition!
What about all the different levels of intelligence or perception?
Humanity exists on so many levels of understanding and intelligence.
So what about those that just don't get it? Somehow they're doomed because of their stupidity?
What about people that are mentally challenged, who can't conceive of what "The End" is, or maybe they can't even read?
They just die because of their disadvantage?
What about the freedom of will, which is our spiritual birthright?
Why should Jehovah's Witnesses hold the exclusive means for judgment and everyone else is given death?
Why would we all be created in His image, which is loving, compassionate, understanding, free, non-judgmental and forgiving as the bible says, but then be condemned to die in the end because we served and loved Him as a Mormon, Protestant, Catholic, Muslim or Jew?
These and many other questions were never answered. My only response was, "Don't question the Truth. The Truth just is." However, that answer only diminished trust in "The Truth" that they taught.
I hope that a discussion of how my beliefs shaped my desire to live a compassionate life will bring peace to my mother. That the things that made me long for a different life than hers were not too far off from what she is. Her constant love for us, her intense desire to be there out of love, how much she had to give and still has to give.
All those same qualities she passed down to me, but I wanted to apply them in ways her religion would not allow. I wanted to travel and explore other paths, not just with one path and people. And to live without the fear of others being under Satan's thumb.
My childhood was spent in a structure of fearful restriction, within a sad and scary religion. I couldn't wait to burst out of my cage and let my spirit be free to love the people I wasn't allowed to love as a child.
I no longer live in fear of "Satan's World" and everybody in it, but instead live with immense appreciation for the world and everyone that inhabits it. And for the opportunities that exists to joyfully contribute by making my time here a joyful time. I wake up happy every day free of fearing "The End."
I've been blessed to feel love for all of God's children and freely connect to people without judging them.
It is a blessing to live and love joyfully without boundaries imposed regarding religions and traditions and to live with an open heart.
My hope and prayer is that everyone, regardless of their spiritual practice, may find hope, strength and a joyous life.