Sometimes life throws unexpected things at us and it truly is up to us how we respond in that moment. I am astonished at times, by how different I am now, to the person that I used to know. Although, if I am honest, I feel more like me than I ever have in my whole adult life. Who knew that I would find a whole different way of thinking underneath the layers of excess me and how different my responses have become over the years really just astonishes me. There was a time when I was incredibly influenced by the validation of others. I needed to know that everyone else thought I was doing okay and that they saw something of value or worth in me because when I looked at me all I saw was all of the broken things. Back in those pre weight loss surgery days didn’t understand how people could ever come close to liking themselves, let alone loving themselves and wasn’t loving yourself a bad thing to do anyway? Didn’t that mean that you were prideful and full of your own self importance?

Let’s stop and unpack that for a minute. I am a child of the late 1970’s – and while that time is known mostly for its bellbottoms and strange disco vibe, so much was going on under the surface. It wasn’t a time where tolerance was becoming more common – it was actually an awful era. It was an era where bullies reigned supreme. It was an era of great mistrust! Governments were keeping secrets and pointing big scary weapons at each other – as they always have done and the looming threat of nuclear war hung over us all. I can remember, as a small child, staying in a penthouse apartment with my parents and one morning, asking my mother if a bomb had gone off. It was just the sun rising like a huge liquid orange ball over the water, but it was enough to make her cry about the kind of world I was going to grow up in. I was probably more concerned with those type of things than most little children, I am quite certain it is not a normal thing to be concerned with 🀣 but ‘normal’ was never really a me thing. But the goings on in the world did not influence my formative years anywhere near the amount that religion did. And that was probably something that should have been more feared than the possibility of nuclear war.

I grew up in a devout Christian family – with many values and beliefs that I continue to hold dear, to this day. The transformative power of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is truer and more real to me than it has ever been. HOWEVER, ha! If you are close to me, and know me well then you saw that “however” coming. I started writing this three weeks ago and those that I have read have all chuckled when they came to this part – because they know my feelings on this subject. HOOOOWEVER the stick of religion that was firmly thrust …. hmmmm perhaps not – that is probably a bit too offensive. How about we say it like this, I am not as I once was. I am thankful that
I am not the same. It would be perfectly impossible to go through life, with everything that has taken place over the past decade in our lives and remain in that rut….. Actually, I suppose it would be possible to remain the same but as I am not a believer that it is wise to do the same thing forever and expect a different result, I changed. I needed to changed so I did – I have changed into the person I always was on the inside. And because of that, I want to preface the rest of this with a disclaimer. I am not and will not be sorry for the way that I feel, or for my experience. I am not seeking to offend or hurt anyone, so if you think that you may be offended then this is not the post for you. I have been asked over and over again in many emails and inboxed messages on my socials if I have lost my faith. And to that question I always reply “my faith in whom?” My faith was never up for debate so this is to answer those questions – nothing more or less πŸ’•

My misgivings about the machine that is often wrapped around the sacred and Holy began a long, long time ago. I am referring to the systems used to manage people – because the structure, denomination or venue are not the church! People are and when the structure becomes more important than that, yeah thats when I’m out. As a small child I wondered and questioned everything. I remember wondering why certain people got more attention than others at church. I remember the tears my grandmother cried in numerous situations and my Pop’s softly spoken “ah Doll, Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I saw patterns in behaviour – over and over again – to the point where I lost faith and trust that would never be regained in certain branches of the machine. I saw the same things happen over and over again throughout my childhood and into my teen years. My parents were great at shielding us from the majority of it but after a while there are parts that were so obvious that it was laughable. That crap does damage – it damaged me. The judgemental shit that I hate now was something that I always hated. I knew that my broken parts weren’t viewed favourably. There was some small comfort in that fact and during my teen years I was able to shock and horrify whomever I could with them. The real truth is that I was not a bad kid, I was a hurt kid. But thankfully we grow up and grow past those things and eventually my very own Mister McDreamy came along.

That smile and those blue eyes did things to me and happily it was mutual! I remember very vividly, a conversation had back when Stephen and I were newly engaged. I was trying so hard to shed my “bad girl” image and do everything just so. Stephen was told by a pastor that he was going to have to bridle me. 🀣🀣 For a long time I was angry, hurt and confused over that statement. I needed to be a good little cog and fit just so into the machine. Now the depths of that kind of misogyny make my skin crawl and it also makes me laugh because he didn’t even mean bridle me in the kinky, arseless chaps kind of way! (Come on now, that was at least smirk worthy – I know you kept reading even though you were warned) That beautiful example of arrogant, patriarchal thinking meant that I was going to need steering. That I was unable, as a person, as a woman, to make my own decisions or my own way in the world. I was going to need to be controlled and brought to heel. I was too much. Too passionate, too enthusiastic – I was always too something. Too thin, too fat, too intimidating, too quiet, too too too too too flipping too!! Of course these glittering assessments of my ‘flaws’s were made by people that were in possession of perfect characters themselves πŸ˜†……… but sadly, at the time, I didn’t see how absurd it all was. At the time I was a hurt young woman trying to do what was expected and I couldn’t see what was happening to me. I wanted to do the right thing so I began a really harmful process. I just reduced myself down more and more and more until I had let my me-ishness drown under the weight of the opinions of others. I have moments when I look back at my 18 year old self and wish that I could shake her into believing that she could and would chase down her dreams. I wish that I could explain to her that she would one day rise up and be her own hero, change her life and learn how to clap for herself but I don’t think it would have made any difference back then.

Thankfully Stephen didn’t believe that I needed bridling for even one moment! He never did care about the opinions of others. “You are meant to be who you are Tash” is what he said to me over and over. For years I was desperate to prove that I could be good, obedient, submissive even! πŸ˜‚ The submissive part makes me laugh – have you met me? That whole bridling thing was never working in the long term. It was a sad sad thing that I would try so hard to conform to for more than 2 decades of my life. One day, a few years back, I decided that the watered down version of me was done and that was the day I stopped playing that BS role – it was about 6 weeks after that when I decided to have weight loss surgery again. What happened in all those years is not the most important thing, we all have lives and things that happen. What matters is how we allow our lives to be moulded through it all and who we are becoming and that journey was worth taking and it is something I do not regret.

Now I will not play performance based games under the guise of servitude or humility. I will lovingly give whatever I can, with no expectation of anything in return. When I love, I love and I give unquestioningly but there is a line and I don’t go beyond that anymore. I will not be a part of anything that seeks to reduce the Christian experience to something for the talented, the young, the wealthy or those that fit within a certain demographic or that want to try and live up to a particular image. The saddest part is that often this really is not what the intention is at all, but somewhere along the way it becomes that. Overwhelmingly people do have good hearts and good intentions but it is easy to feel used up and spat out if you are doing things for the wrong reasons. It is also very easy to be cynical of the process and systems that are in place, especially if you question what the outcome is.

The other thing that came out of my years of experience is that I refuse to be fake and pretend that all is glossy and golden in my world when I am hurting. I will not pretend that everything is together if I am heartbroken and falling apart. I don’t spew my hurt or pain onto others – I tend to withdraw and speak to a professional – bound by professional confidentiality! Because I have found that people love to do the “I will just tell you this so you can pray” thing 🀣🀣 The psychologist and psychiatrist get well paid to listen and they are qualified to give platitudes which I have to say, have helped me as much as most of the cliches I have ever heard. I was taught in ministry circles to “Talk Up” to those on a higher level, more highly developed or better equipped to be of use to me in whatever situation that may be in. That is probably one of the most dangerous and manipulative things that I fell for. I will never give anyone that kind of power over my life again. No one should ever be that to us and if they want to make a role for themselves like that in your life, then RUN away, don’t walk, don’t jog, RUN like your life and sanity depends upon it, because they do. No one else can run your race except you and even running coaches don’t actually run the race with us!

Imagine my shock and horror when I started to realise that I had spent years trying to do what everyone else expected of me. Would they do that for me? Would they be that stupidly loyal person – ummmm no, no they wouldn’t. And that is when the cracks between me and the Machine that is slick religion, started to show. Is my faith still in tact? Yes it is. I am more sure of the unquestionable truths that I KNOW in my heart, than I have ever been? Absolutely!! But I have zero tolerance for anything that diminishes others and makes them feel that they don’t measure up, or that they don’t fit in or that there is something wrong with them if they have questions or if they are not whatever everyone else expects. Oh but Tash, I have read some of the things you write on pages you manage, I am worried about you, you are a bit sweary now and your humour seems to be a bit off, you laugh at things that are a bit rude…… yeah guess what – I always did. I just used to be fake about it – just like most everyone else πŸ’• What has changed is that I won’t pretend to be something I am not. All I am doing is being myself and I am finally really good with that but I do hope and pray that I live my life in a way that honours the ones I love.

There have been a couple of influences in my life that have dramatically impacted me – besides Steve – which is a complex, complicated and private topic that I will never blog about! My relationship my Nan was probably one of the most impacting ones that I have ever had. The thing about my Nan was that you could hurt her, but she would just keep on loving. She loved to her own hurt all the time. I hope that I live the rest of my life in a way that brings honour to her memory. Without ever judging me, she made me want to be a kinder and a better human being and I will do everything with my power to honour the things she whispered to me the last time I saw her this side of eternity.

Thankfully prior to Nan leaving this earth, a really incredible person came into my life. Honestly it has been one of the most life changing friendships that I have ever made. I believe that we were destined to cross paths. There is something about her, and just because of who she is, again, I want to be a better person. Without judging me, she has loved me at my lowest lows. And, when I have done my very best to push her away, she refused to give up on me. She is the kind of friend who has said to me “well, we will see” When I have been telling her “NOPE never again!!” over whatever issue it may be and she just smiles at me πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚!! She has held my hand when I was ugly crying and couldn’t even speak for the sobs. She has been there on my mountain tops and she has never once bashed me with the Jesus stick. Besides my immediate family, I have never had a friendship quite like this one in my life. There are very few people in this life that I worry about disappointing these days but she would be one of them.

I can say truly, from my heart, that we each of us, need to learn the good lessons from those that we love but we need to learn to be our own hero’s. We can wait around for thing to happen, hoping that something will change, or we can change! I needed to change. I got tired of that feeling in the pit of my stomach, that knowing that I was always holding a bit of myself back. Now………………..well I am all the way in. I am passionate about what I get to do for a living. I am passionate about my family and I am passionate about living a healthy, balanced life! This fish does not need a bicycle and I really never did. All that I needed was to be my own hero and be brave enough to swim. Faith in tact, broken and battered by life but still good. Thats me.

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