Survivor Stories

As the regular reader might know, I love to research.  I have been doing so since childhood, when I would spend hours amongst the stacks at my local library trying to figure out the mysteries of the universe.  Now, as a writer, one of my favorite parts of the process is the research part.  You get to find all these little puzzle pieces, and then you put it all together.  I like finding the pieces, it’s kind of like hunting for clues!

A common joke amongst writers is the Google search history.  We like to tell each other what crazy things we have recently researched that would make an FBI agent raise an eyebrow.  With my current WIP, I have Googled such things as “Bahamian police uniforms,” “the weight of a 9mm. gun,” and “what kills you faster, the belladonna leaves, or berries?”

Now, Google is a great place for information on places, items, time periods, and even plot points, but it has nothing when it comes to characters, in my opinion. For instance, my current WIP has to do with a cult, and those who have escaped it.  I can read every article and book, but that doesn’t show me the people themselves, and their emotions and thoughts in regards to the situation.  I would consume documentaries to find what I was looking for, but there are only about a dozen or so about cults.  Yes, I’ve seen everyone I can get my hands on, most recently a bit about the Turpin family, which wasn’t a cult but was absolutely crazy (do not click this link if you’re squeamish.) Then, one day, on a whim, I found TikTok.

I don’t follow many people on there, but there are two folks I have found that have inspired my writing.  One, Jilly, I found first.  She didn’t have a cult background, but she did have abuse in her past, specifically of the narcissistic variety.  As my antagonist is somewhat narcissistic, and most definitely abusive, my interest was piqued by her account.  I wanted to see how a survivor of such abuses could speak out and fight back, and I have been watching Jilly for weeks now, doing just that.  I was inspired by her bravery, and I poured a little of her courage into one of my MCs (main characters.)

Then I found Candid.  I don’t know if that’s her real name, but it’s what it says on her page, so it’s what we shall call her.  Candid grew up in a homeschool cult.  It wasn’t “organized” in the way the cult in my WIP is, but again, I’m not here for plot; I’m here for personality.  Her youth was somewhat similar to my characters, so seeing the way she has grown and changed since leaving home has inspired me to work harder on my two MCs development as they escape and discover the outside world.  I am also taking note of her trauma reaction posts, as it pretty much goes without saying that anyone who came out of a cult probably has complex PTSD (another thing I’ve been researching…that hasn’t been as fun, because it makes me confront my own traumas, and that’s just…well, it’s just for a different blog post, is all.)

Anyway, I am watching these two women who are survivors in the way my MCs are, and I am inspired by their journeys.  I think I learned more about the human condition in relation to my WIP since joining TikTok than anything else…except that Ludacris audio.  That’s in my head all damn day.  (If you’re on TikTok, you know what I’m talking about.  Luda…BACK AGAIN!)

I have included a graphic here with the national suicide hotline number.  I looked around for like a crisis service number or something, but those are only local.  If you need help, reach out!  Use this number, go Google your local CS, or call 911 if you are in a really bad spot.  Someone will help you; someone wants to help you.

In the meantime, I hope we all stay strong, together.  Everyone is a survivor of something.  Wear that like a badge of honor.

God Does Not Hate

Two posts in two days?  What?!

Got a little riled last night learning about a friend who has gone off the deep end, religiously.  Now, I have some super religious friends, and they are pretty cool.  Sure, they post a lot of Jesus or Allah quotes on Facebook, but mostly they are a “live and let live” sort of crew of varying beliefs that have never once tried to convert me.

See, I am fascinated by religion.  I was raised Catholic, with a mother who was a former nun and an aunt who was one for most of her life.  I went to Catholic school from Pre-K to Senior year.  I taught religious education.  I know a thing or two about Catholicism.  I also went to various Christian youth groups, so I know a little about Baptists, Lutherans, and Born-Agains, too.  Atop all this life experience, I also have a love of learning about other world religions, and find myself mesmerized by cults and the like.  I’ve read a great many books, even more articles, and when presented with something unfamiliar regarding religion, I always do my research.

Which is why I don’t understand the blind believer.

Now, I consider myself to be Christian.  I believe in Jesus, and God, but I don’t subscribe to any religion because I’ve yet to find one that isn’t at least 50% bullshit.  Trust me, I have been looking.  But there are two kinds of Christians, you see.  There’s the kind that I was raised to be, as someone who had a loving relationship with God, who spreads the good news when appropriate, but never judges or forces or hates, because do unto others and all that jazz.  Then there’s the kind of Christian that seems to think God is capable of hate, and thus they should be, too.  They blindly believe that God will forgive all their sins and that they must strive to be more God-like, but refuse to forgive the sins of their neighbors themselves.  These people are hypocrites.  These are the people who will quote you the bible but have never picked up a chemistry book. These are people who will believe God forgave them for their out of wedlock child, but if that child grows up to be gay, all bets are off.  No forgiveness there.  If that child needs an abortion someday, nothing about that’s gonna keep you out of hell.  Hypocrites.

The worst, I mean the WORST, is the recently reformed.  The ones who never had a relationship with God and thus dive in head first, unaware that you don’t have to follow the bible to the letter to be a good Christian.  Unaware what it means when we say Jesus died for our sins.  Unaware that these were laws for a society that existed over 2000 years ago, and we have brand new laws now, because maybe things have changed a little over the years.  These are the people I fear the most, because they are most likely to cut themselves off from the people they love who are not in the church.

And just a reminder, being forced to cut people out of your life is not religion business, it’s cult business.  Don’t think that because you aren’t following a guru and living on a commune you aren’t in a cult.  Most cults are Christian.  Westboro Baptist Church: Christian cult.  Moonies: Christian cult.  Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints: Christian cult.  Sure, maybe you don’t have child brides and mass weddings and funerals to picket BUT if you’re religion does not allow you to love and respect all people equally then it is not a religion, it is a cult.  But I digress…

I’ve had several friends “find God” and I am happy for the when they do because they all seem to find something they had been looking for.  I am not looking for this intangible thing, so I don’t quite understand it, but I take a “what makes you happy makes me happy” approach to it.  Unless they go crazy Christian.  I just cannot.  I cannot have you talk to me like I don’t know shit about the bible, because I could school you.  I cannot tolerate hatred or bigotry in the name of God because obviously you are reading the WRONG book.  I will not be seen as a lesser person because I do not subscribe to your particular belief system.  I won’t do it.  I don’t talk about my relationship with God to you unprompted, so do not think you are invited to discuss yours with me.  (Conversion is also cult business.  Real religion is happy to have a new member but won’t make you force it on unwilling subjects.)  I know it may sound harsh, but I have spent the past fifteen years deprogramming myself from Catholicism, and I’m not about to jump aboard your train.

In closing, I am totally tolerant of all religions, but if you are ignorant of your own beliefs, or your “church” seems much more like a cult than a religion, I’m going to object to it.  I will love you from afar if I have to, but I will not support exclusion, bigotry, sexism, or the sheer stupidity of having forgotten that God does not hate.  If you believe in these things, I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to cancel my subscription to your life.  I’ll renew when your values change.