Now that I've been out almost six years I realize what a load of utter bullshit that was. Never in my life have I walked around feeling quite so guilty, unworthy and fearful of just about anything you could imagine. I had a panic attack once in those days while at Disneyworld because I was afraid of the loud noise the ride made and I felt guilty taking a high dollar amount vacation as a committed Evangelical Fundamentalist Christian.
If something bad happened my uncomfortable feelings of not being good enough or authentic or just plain old having doubts would land on me twice as hard. Instead of sucking it up and dealing with whatever the problem was I'd frequently be frozen in fear, like a deer in the headlights, able to do nothing and allowing the situation to get much worse. Or I'd do something preached as the 'right' thing that was completely the 'wrong' thing.
Example? When my daughter from my first marriage left her first husband for drug use and physically abusing her she came home to Fundy Me. I told her she could not stay in our home unless she agreed to go to church with us and sign a pledge that she'd not hook up with any guys.
I look back at that me and wonder why being right was more important to me than simply loving my hurting daughter where she was in that moment and welcoming her home to heal. Being gentle instead of judgmental and demanding. If I could rewind and redo I would because I finally realized that love is more important that religious rules.
Oh of course I had my little ecclesiastical cheering squad urging me to not back down, be a Good and Righteous Christian Mother (tm), forcing my older daughter back into the family to toe the line before God. I'd be saving her soul, they all howled. Living with a fear of man, fundy-man and woman, instead of my own conscience. I quelled my inner voice that pleaded with me to not be judge, jury and executioner, to be a mother and a healer.
Yet I know and knew then, that those I was around at the church were always happy to take those roles. For example, it came out once towards the end of our time in fundygelical land that we'd gone to the local firemans carnival that happens every late July. They whispered to me that it was a foolish waste of money that we're supposed to be handling like good stewards, it exposes your children to foolish time wasting things like the games and rides. We didn't go back to the carnival for some years after I was approached about it being inappropriate for believers.
Do they have wholesale gambling, two-headed freaks, prostitutes or the occult there? Nope, just the Tiltawhirl, balloon popping, pig racing and junk food galore. We never did more than let the kids ride a few rides, eat corndogs or funnel cakes and pop a few balloons. Harmless, harmless, harmless fun under a still summer nighttime sky lit with the garish shades of the carnival lights. A memorable evening with the few dollars we spent going to support the local volunteer fire department budget for the next year.
In the last few years Jim and I have started to return to that carnival once a year. I've concluded that I have nothing to feel guilty, unworthy or fearful of. I've decided instead of life being this continual drudgery and Bible babbling there has to be room for fun, for relaxation, for joy. Life is more like The Spider ride at the carnival than anything else.
Another great thing about the carnival is the people watching. I always see the oddest folks and chuckle over their shenanigans. Walking through the surging crowds just watching people and the things they indulge in.
Three years ago Jim started a new family ritual at the fair and he continued it this last Saturday night as we were on the midway. He always plays the game that allows you to win a goldfish. He always wins one and it immediately goes into our rainwater reservoir tank in the backyard. We use that water to hydrate the garden and having goldfish eliminates the need to treat the water with chemicals to keep mosquitos from laying eggs in the tank. The fish eat the eggs immediately.
We have three carnival won goldfish, and one large koi fish given to me by a friend. Saturday night Jim managed to increase the fish population in our tank by another fifty percent by winning two goldfish.
For the first time in my 53 years I managed to win a stuffed animal at the games, which is going straight to my grand daughter Bella.
I've come to see that joy and love are the two real fruits of the spirit and if that includes going to the carnival once a year it's perfectly fine. Even if you ruin your shoes in the mud.
I feel like I'm in my second childhood and I'm loving it!