I’m an Alien.

“Sensitive people are the most genuine and honest people you will ever meet. There is nothing they won’t tell you about themselves if they trust your kindness. However, the moment you betray them, reject them or devalue them, they become the worse type of person. Unfortunately, they end up hurting themselves in the long run. They don’t want to hurt other people. It is against their very nature. They want to make amends and undo the wrong they did. Their life is a wave of highs and lows. They live with guilt and constant pain over unresolved situations and misunderstandings. They are tortured souls that are not able to live with hatred or being hated. This type of person needs the most love anyone can give them because their soul has been constantly bruised by others. However, despite the tragedy of what they have to go through in life, they remain the most compassionate people worth knowing, and the ones that often become activists for the broken hearted, forgotten and the misunderstood. They are angels with broken wings that only fly when loved.”
Shannon L. Alder

For the majority of my life, I have felt alienated.

I can recall moments on the playground, unable to navigate complicated friendships and instead seeking solace in my books. I attempted to trick myself into thinking this was my choice – to stick out like a thumb tack, alone and propped against the brick wall of my elementary school; re-reading the same sentences over and over again to maintain composure and grasp a semblance of invisibility. The truth was that I couldn’t find anyone who wanted to spend time with me. I tried to maintain a friendship in which I only saw the friend during the summer. By the school year’s start, she seemed to forget I existed. Every single year. I became tired of pretending I didn’t know the girl who I’d shared midnight laughs and Dollar Store candy with. Words on a page were safer than any human contact.

Before I understood that normality wasn’t a necessity, I used my preteen fingers to claw around, searching for stability, acceptance, and understanding. My own mother was strapped with stress that couldn’t be added to, so I often suffered in silence. My mother did the only thing she knew to do in response to a sensitive child…she left me alone. I was allowed to ride my bike to and from the library of my tiny town in Illinois. Sometimes, if it was a special day, I could stop at the DQ after retrieving my freshly-ordered literature. I learned sugary foods triggered the feeling of love, and for that, I went through a chubby phase for several years. The other pleasure chemicals were released while reading books. Subsequently, many summers were spent inside, reading at Speedy Gonzalez frequency ( a Goosebumps book a day) and checking the back of the book for other titles I could order. I moved onto Fear Street a year later. I had a fixation for darkness, for I couldn’t verbalize or connect that I had my own darkness inside of me yet to be released. I learned to cry until my throat ached, a flood of peace following thereafter. I did not learn to regulate my emotions.

In 8th grade, I found momentary acceptance in a crowd I didn’t belong to. These people had parents who were addicted to drugs. The peers learned the coping mechanisms of their parents, and were participating in things too mature for their age. I finally had a place to release this darkness. I threw myself into macabre literature and poetry. Anything below the status quo spoke to me in a way as if to say “you are not alone.” I could never measure up to the demands that normalcy placed onto me, so I rebelled instead. I learned my emotions were burdens to those who didn’t understand (which were the mass majority), so I repressed through cutting and solitary crying spells.

I remember feeling a comfort in my alien nature when I became a Christian. I’m not so sure now that Christianity was what made me feel better, but the fact that I finally found friendship that gave back. Christianity always created an emotional conflict inside of me — for one moment, I could feel I was god’s daughter, perfect in his sight. However, a convicting Sunday morning message would leave me feeling like chewed up bubble gum on the bottom of a shoe. I could never regulate the two. So I seesawed between loving and hating myself, sometimes simultaneously. Most people didn’t even know I was going through this, for to confess it would alienate me further. I also thought feeling perpetual guilt was a healthy symptom of heavy conviction, so I didn’t think to try and correct these cognitive distortions. If I was ever aloof as a child while apologizing or meeting consequences for my actions, my mother would often unintentionally use a certain tone or words to manipulate my emotions and give her the reaction she thought I should have: shame and guilt. I learned through this that every negative experience was associated with these same two traits. This made it difficult for me to bounce back after a personal defeat.

Adulthood has a way of bringing on certainty, or at least the illusion of it. Things finally seemed to be falling into place by my early 20s – a stable job, a husband who appeared to be good for me, and minimal financial struggle. Following my heart into foreign missions put a major strain on my finances. Though I felt connected to Thailand and Asian culture more than my own country of the United States, I couldn’t linger there for as long as I’d like due to income. I returned to the states, and the alienation seemed to return as well. Marital issues in the midst of intense involvement with my church was enough to make me feel like that little girl with the bookmarked Goosebumps again. I did just enough to “fit in,” but I never felt connected.

Shortly thereafter, alienation by stillbirth joined my many foes.

Some of this alienation I pursue by myself — not having energy to exist in a world without my daughter, staying up all night watching Netflix on the couch, unable to go to sleep in a bed that once held my pregnant body. Isolation was also placed on me by society and PTSD — expectations for me to return to work before I was ready, flippant sentimental quotations and half-hearted advice, pressure from my husband to have sex when I couldn’t even think of getting out of bed, guilt for my rage toward god and anything to do with that belief, anger for the abandonment I felt, nauseated any time I walked into my bathroom and remembered all the blood on the floor, haunted with images of her paper skin ripping as the stress of her tiny, formed bones poked through its barrier, the moment of  giving her back to the nurse for the last time echoing over and over until I was driven to insanity by my grief. I wanted to die, and I’m still not sure that’s gone away. I think when you lose something so precious to you, death is always a welcoming thought. My alienation continues — a mother with PTSD returning from the battlefield of loss. I lost a significant piece of my innocence, which I will never regain. I can’t pursue anything significant in my life without the echo of it possibly failing.

The next phase of alienation is a time I still linger in. I was abandoned by my husband, and left to deal with my grief alone. The fear I clutched in childhood was now made a reality with his absence. No one is permanent. While object permanence is something we learn as children, I always understood this didn’t carry over to relationships. However, being an idealist, I always hoped for more. The rise and fall of expectations verses reality was debilitating.

My belief system no longer brought me comfort. It tormented me instead. Each time I couldn’t agree or believe what I was reading in the Bible or hearing in church, I felt the voice underneath it all telling me what a horrible Christian I was. When I could no longer connect to what I felt was god, the voices in my head from Christians expecting me to persevere were deafening. I would be tortured with the thoughts of Christians who went through far worse, and could somehow bounce back. Why wasn’t I that strong? Why was there yet another thing wrong with me that couldn’t be fixed? Why couldn’t I pull it together?

Friends lessened the frequency of interaction while I went through this time. I don’t blame them, and not all of them disappeared. Their absence is understood to me. It is difficult to comfort a hurting soul when there aren’t words or actions to make things better. I myself am guilty of this. And I’m sure I pushed others away, for I knew my own burden would curl its adult fingers around the neck of the comforting friend and pull them under with me. I didn’t wish this pain on anyone else. I had grown comfortable in my alien nature, so it wasn’t anything I didn’t expect. The choices I made might’ve sped up this isolation as well. I’d grown so used to harboring these feelings and emotions inside of me, that I didn’t tremble at the thought of being alone. Not for a little while, anyway.

I’m reaching a new age of alienation. This is the alienation of living in the South and no longer believing in god as a being. If Christian friends ask me to explain this, I’m left fumbling for words and looking like a cult-following idiot. I’m still in the beginnings of this transition, but it has been just as difficult as the others. It’s difficult for me to accept invitations to talk or hang out if I know the person will use that time as a way to witness to me, as the person who has “fallen away” or is “back sliding” from god. I also develop social anxiety at the thought of explaining, as when I became a Christian at 15, I didn’t have all the answers — and yet I’m expected to have all the answers if I’m leaving the Christian faith. I don’t. Not at all. There are times where I even doubt if this is the right thing to do. Though meditation and healing crystals offer me more comfort than any organized religion, I am left alone in this journey. Christianity has the wonderful appeal of immediately connecting you with a support system. Not so when you are exiting the Church. I had someone in my life who kept pursuing me and checking on me until I told him I wouldn’t be attending a Bible study anymore; a Bible study he held at his house. Suddenly, I never heard from this friend again. I suppose I was checked off of the list of ‘people to pray for’ and introduced into the pile of ‘ will revisit when she reaches out for help again.’ There is no built-in support system when you say you don’t believe in god as a being. If anything, there is a wall of opposition waiting on the other side.

I have never felt more alone, in many ways. I’m an alien belonging to the highly sensitive, young divorcee, bereaved mother, and former Christian mothership. I know this place is not my home. I understand that I am a starseed, which makes things more challenging. I feel as if I have been tossed with the waves of this life — constantly searching for the shore of stability, yet never quite finding it. For this, I find myself increasingly tired and homesick for a place I long to return.

Above all, I desire, without any doubt or misconception, to be understood to my eternal core.

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3 thoughts on “I’m an Alien.

  1. I know that, at times, I’ve been a friend who has pulled back. At other times, I’ve been right there. Most of the time, I’ve probably been somewhere in between. I wish I could say I’d been right there the whole time. I think, in fear of saying the wrong thing, I’ve sometimes said nothing at all.

    Even with a post like this, I debated commenting, because I don’t know if there’s anything I can say that will be of help, of comfort, of use. I comment anyway because I want you to know I am listening. And that my friendship is not based on whether you attend a Bible study or believe in God. It is frustrating to me that Christians have failed you. It is frustrating to me for two reasons: 1) Because it’s inevitable and there’s nothing that could’ve prevented that because Christians are, like everyone, human (I realize you are not saying you left Christianity because people failed you, but it does come to mind), and 2) Because I wish we were all looking at Jesus instead of each other and, the truth is, we–even Christians–just don’t.

    I’ve encountered some truly horrible people in my life that called their anger Christianity. That called judgment Christianity. They forgot Bible verses like “let him without sin cast the first stone,” verses like “judge not, lest ye be judged.”

    It’s inevitable that some Christians, like me, will probably weave evangelism into their conversations with you. It will just be a part of your friendships with Christians if you choose to keep friendships with Christians. It doesn’t mean that they are using every conversation as an “opportunity” and they’re not seeing you, not just enjoying you, for who you are, right now. At least it doesn’t mean that for me. It just means that I know we are eternal and that I love you very much.

    I’m not interested in easy relationships or easy discussions. To address Mr.-I-Stopped-Calling-You-When-You-Said-No-to-My-Bible-Study, easy relationships are nothing but a lie. I guess getting involved with a young atheist divorcee coping with child loss was too messy? Perhaps, sir, your life is black-and-white. Wife, two kids, in church 3x a week, quiet time every morning. Do you really think your life is simple because of you? Because, by shunning this young woman, that is what you are saying. If she had been less messy, you would’ve persevered. Because you’re not messy. But if for some reason your life is unmessy– it is not because of you. It is because God has spared you of trial. But that, sir, can hardly be good; look at Scripture. Scripture says God chastens those He loves. Look at the book of Job. God punished Job because He loved Job. God punished Job because He wanted Satan to know– no, Job does not love me because I’ve made him rich and given him everything his heart desires. Job will love me even if I take those things away. Maybe you, Mr. Bible Study, have everything you want. But I honestly pity you if you do. Because you will never know God–not truly–until you realize He is all you have and He is enough in the trenches of war. He is more real to you in that moment than He was in all the surfacey moments leading up to that moment.

    I don’t take your supposed lack of eloquence in describing your newfound belief system as being indicative of anything other than the fact that you are a writer, an introvert, and speaking verbally of what is important to you is hard. I don’t expect you to have answers for this anymore than I expect my Christian friends to have all the answers to my questions about Jesus. We see through a glass darkly.

    If I can say this without sounding overly evangelistic/simplistic, I want to say– I can imagine it would be lonely. As a baby you endured the tragedy of losing your earthly father; you are now enduring the tragedy of losing the relationship you thought you had with your heavenly Father. You are both a grieving mother and a grieving daughter.

    About being a starseed– I have started reading the link you posted and will continue reading this evening when I have some more time. You know that this concept comes from Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah.

    “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:19)

    How, friend, did these things become untrue to you? Is it because of people, pastors even, who hated you– who condemned you– when they had no right to do so, no ability to forgive sin, no ability to damn, only a thirst to judge?

    “Oh, telescope, keep an eye on my only hope…”
    This is my favorite song at the moment:

  2. i love you, dear ashley. and i ache for you in your loneliness. i hope wholeness and peace for you– after all life has dealt you, i hope Rest for you. i truly believe that if you seek it, you will find it. maybe in places you never thought to look. maybe in places you thought you looked already.

    we just recently moved to a street that has several families who are believers all living in community. some of them attend church, some do not. but i can say definitively that this is the first time i have seen what the true church is meant to be. not a cultural phenomenon. no right or wrong things to say. no judgement. no hiding. just all of us recovering from life, being accepted right where we are and being encouraged forward. it’s rather like AA, only instead of only one addiction, we are recovering from the darkness inside of us. anyway, all that to say. if you ever want to visit, you are welcome. and not as a potential convert. only because i love you. and i have found great freedom here. if your current path ever runs out or falls short, or if it never does,
    or if you just feel like a roadtrip! you are welcome. i’d love to see your face.

    at the end of this day, and every day, you are LOVED. you are ACCEPTED. you are FREE.

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