Thursday, February 26, 2009

Beginning to Tell the Past

I mentioned I was reading I'm Perfect, You're Doomed: Tales from a Jehovah's Witness Upbringing. I also mentioned that, having been one of Jehovah's Witnesses, I can relate to a lot of what the author talks about.

I've been wanting for so long to write about that part of my life but every time I sat down to do so, my head would start spinning, my stomach got knotty, and I felt like throwing up. There is so much I want to say, so many stories to tell....but I don't know where to begin. I don't know if I should write the sad things or keep it funny. Honestly though, no matter how funny I try and make it seem now, so much about it was sad. I can only spin it so much.

I'm going to tell this in the best way that I know how, and I'm going to start in a very random way. Today I'm just giving you snippets, but I may eventually go into more detail. I'm not real sure where I'm going with this. I'm going to mix in facts about the organization with my own personal experiences. My personal experiences are just that, personal experiences.

*I was born and raised one of Jehovah's Witnesses. I'm not now and haven't been one in a while. I haven't gone into a Kingdom Hall (church) in about a year. But in my heart, I haven't been a Witness for even longer than that. Before I quit going altogether, I had what I can only describe as mini panic attacks whenever I would get ready to go. I felt like a truck had landed on my chest and I wanted to cry. Eventually, it just became too much and I stopped. I never plan on going back. There are many specific reasons why I left, but simply put, I just no longer believe what they believe.

*My mom is no longer one of Jehovah's Witnesses. My father is. If he were ever to find this blog, he would be forced by the religion and his own conscience, to never speak to me or my family again. Writing my opinions about the religion makes me the most evil of sinners. Essentially, I would be dead to him. I'm taking a risk. But sometimes you just need to say what you need to say and there is no other way around it.

*Jehovah's Witnesses don't celebrate holidays. No Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthdays, etc....I've never celebrated a holiday in my life. This past Valentines Day I sent in candy/cupcakes/valentines for each of the kids' class parties. If I were to believe what I had been taught my whole life, God now hates me.

*I don't know if I'll ever really celebrate holidays. The idea is foreign to me. Within a family, I think that so much about holidays is tradition based. I have no such traditions. Although Jay celebrated holidays as a kid, his childhood wasn't all that great and he doesn't really have any fond memories. Essentially, we would be starting from scratch. The idea is daunting. (Having said that, we love the Thanksgiving/Christmas season. We love cooking and being with our family. It's a beautiful time of year.)

*Jehovah's Witnesses believe they are the one true religion. Yeah, I know all religions believe that, but they really, really believe it. This is why they go knocking on doors and handing out copies of The Watchtower and Awake--they don't want to just convert you, they want to save you.

*As a kid, I had my Jehovah's Witness friends and my "worldly" friends. Time with my "worldly" friends was limited because they were considered "bad associates." Besides, when Jehovah brings an end to the world and destroys the wicked, they'd be gone anyway so why bother making friends? (Ironically, my oldest, dearest friend, was one of the "worldly" girls. She is amazing. I love her to death and am forever thankful that she's always been in my life.)

*Jehovah's Witnesses are only to marry "within the Lord" aka other Jehovah's Witnesses. Also, we were to date only with the sole purpose of getting married. There was no casual dating and (obviously) no sex before marriage. I knew a lot of people who got married very, very young. I know a lot of people who got divorced within a year or two of marriage. I also know a lot of people who stayed unhappily married for decades because they thought that was what God wanted.

*My first real date was with a man from the congregation. I was 19. He was about 25. We went to Perkins with about eight elderly people, our chaperones. When I ordered a Belgian waffle with whipped cream, the old lady next to me told me that my skin would clear up if I cut back on the sweets. I never went out with that man again.

*Although Jay later became one of Jehovah's Witnesses, he wasn't one when I met him and doesn't consider himself one now. When I married Jay, I was only 20. He was the first man I loved, the first man I kissed, the first man I had sex with. To this day, I still like him, I still love him and I don't regret marrying him. There are times I wonder if I've always been a really good judge of character and even at 20 I knew what I wanted---or did I just get really fucking lucky? Possibly a little of both.

I think that's all I want to divulge about this at the moment. I definitely plan on talking about this more, as I feel comfortable, but it is in no way going to be the main theme of my blog. That would just bring me down way too much and it isn't my style to be serious for so long. As always, comments are of course welcome and so are any questions.

21 comments:

Aleta said...

Thank you for sharing what you did and being willing to open up the world that seems like a closed book. I want to ask questions, but I don't know where to start. I think I'll just wait and read what you are willing to offer.

Nowheymama said...

Wow. Thank you so much for sharing. I had a college friend who "converted" from Baptist to Jehovah's Witness to get married. They are now divorced. No kids, thank goodness.

Miss D. said...

This is so interesting and somehow moving, and I thank you for being so open about it -- I'm inspired to read more about it (although not at all inspired to join! I'd probably burst into flames at the doorstep of a temple). You have an important story to tell and I'd love to hear more as you feel comfortable sharing.

kraftykash said...

Isnt it weird how parts of your past are just sooo not you anymore.I run into that alot. I HATE running into people from my past, because I have changed so much. Im glad you blogged about this. I dont find it weird at all. Im glad you and Jay found each other. :) :)

Mari said...

Tammie, this is so fascinating. I really don't have much of an idea about Jehovah's Witness beliefs. I think you are so brave to write something so personal, and look at all these responses, you've obviously touched everyone. Right on!

CT said...

Tammie, thank you so much for sharing this. I too probably would burn at the doorstep of the Kingdom hall... shame on you, befriending a Catholic girl! and an active member of the congregation at that!!! :D

Thanks again for sharing this. I'll hold your hand from all the way down here, while I "listen" to what you have to say. :D

PD: how odd. the verification word for me today is "UNLYING"

Tammie said...

thank you everyone for all the positive feedback you've given me on this. it really means so much to me. i was so worried i'd bore you people or sound like some kinda freak.

ct: very weird word verification.

Layrayski said...

HI Tammie, you know how weird it is when I started reading blogs, becoming friends with those who you read and who read you. It's weird to me because these friends sort of becomes a part of me. Like I have all these voices (you're one of them right now) inside of my head.

I just bought my twilight book last night. A luxury for me. Anyway, I thought of you and your un average reaction to the the writer's religion. I knew there's a story there somewhere. Thanks for sharing your story. I'll be checking back when I can. I'm still out of town. Maybe I'll be writing my experience too when I get back =)

jessieearthmomma said...

I'm so glad you shared. I have so many feelings about religions and I know how challenging it can be to voice them.
You deserve to, T.

Love,
JEM

jessieearthmomma said...

Ps. Whenever a reader publishes a comment on your posts, it says: "Your comment has been saved." I laughed out loud when I saw it just now!
Ironically yours,
JEM

hester said...

You're very brave to be so open about such a sensitive topic. Sometimes when Jehovah's Witnesses come to the door, I can't help admiring them for being so dedicated. But of course, I know very little about it.

I'm glad you found Jay too - you sound like a great match.

DysFUNctional Mom said...

This is fascinating to me. I had a friend as a child who was one of Jehovah's Witnesses, and she's now a missionary and goes all over the world.
I'd really like to hear more of your stories.

Maria Rose said...

Wow, it's really interesting that you are sharing your journey through your blog. Hopefully you are finding the right path for yourself! Thank you for sharing.

Betts said...

I find this so interesting. My daughter has a boy in her class who is a JW, and I've curious about his life beyond the obvious holidays not being celebrated. I look forward to hearing more about your experiences when you're ready to tell them.

Tammie said...

thank you again to everyone who took the time to comment on this post...you have no idea what your encouragement means to me.

Bridge said...

Oh sweetie, thanks for sharing. I too struggle with the religion I grew up with. It feels like such a wedge for me. A wedge in the area of my family of origin and a wedge in my own spiritual path.

Its so nice to know more about you.

Tammie said...

yes bridge that's how i feel too. like no matter how hard i try, i can't shake the past, even though i have nothing in common with those people.

i have a feeling it will take me a while to really come to terms with all this.

thanks for listening:)

spiritualbrother said...

Enjoyed reading about your JW experience.

Tammie said...

spiritual: thank you so much.
:)

John said...

I think that the Jehovah's Witnesses are more strict Christians and more serious about their beliefs than are most other Christians. The religion or structure isn't perfect, but the early Christians in the first century also had their share of problems. We are Jehovah's Witnesses, and try to keep a balance with our association with family, especially, who are not Jehovah's Witnesses. We visit them, they stay at our home, we take them out when they visit, we talk to them a little about the Bible, and have studied with some, but don't get involved in any practices which compromise our faith, but they are pretty good people.

I don't think that God hates a person who stops going to the Kingdom Hall, who was once one of Jehovah's Witnesses. The Bible says God is merciful and gracious. Psalms 103:7-14. Even persons who may be disfellowshipped, God doesn't hate, and I've seen elders treat some who were disfellowshipped so lovingly and kindly.

We can get bitter about any situation in life, our work, our mate, our health, aside from anything to do with religion, lot of it is our attitude and what we choose to think about.

As Christians in a Christian community, it's up to us to both make sacrifices, as Jesus did, he made the ultimate sacrifice, and also, to give to others in the congregation or elsewhere. Jesus said, there is more happiness in giving than in reciving. Acts 20:35.
Having been raised a Jehovah's Witness, my "worldly" association, and that of my sister, to be honest, didn't do us much good. Not all "worldly" people are really "worldly", but a lot are, and a lot of youth who aren't Christians, were practicing things, when I was young, which was a while ago, which were harmful, no matter if you believe in God or not, they are considered harmful, experimenting with drugs, premarital sex, pornograpy, it's the same today. So, the encouragement to try to limit these type of associations isn't necessarily bad. We have to be careful, sometimes, in the congregation also.
The Bible's guidance on things, even though it can be strict, is for our happiness and protection, to "teach us to benefit ourself." Isaiah 48:17,18. Premarital sex doesn't help anyone in life, even though it is a choice, it's fruitage isn't so good.
So, I was raised a Witness, my wife was raised Catholic. Becoming a Witness became a refuge for her, because her life before, was really rough, really rough. I've seen both sides, being a Witness, a true Christian, and being in "the world" as it were. My life as a Witness has been one with love and happiness, but one can also dwell on the negative, if one chooses. Doing without Christmas has not been or never has been a sacrifice, the same with other holidays, we never missed it growing up or now, we have so many other happy times. So, in your blog, if you look back, I'm sure not all of your memories as a Jehovah's Witness were bleak, and probably, to be balanced, there are some good things about having been raised a Witness?????
Hope you are well, and that God's love stay with you, and help you. "God is love."

Tammie said...

john:

i definitely appreciate your kind comment and you seem like a truly open minded, loving person.

unfortunately i just have a different life experience than you and i see things totally differently. you seem very balanced, and that isnt something i grew up with-not within my family, not within my friends families, and not within my congregations. (it should be noted that i lived in the same area for many years growing up so i went to basically the same congregation for many years.) i didnt have many happy joyous moments and really the only thing the organization did for me, was make me see what type of person I didnt want to be.

and yes, a strict adherence to the bible can keep you safe, but it also can keep you incredibly naive. and i really hate the term "worldly" and the assumption that everyone who isnt a Witness sits around watching porn and smoking marijuana. also, i didnt leave the organization because i thought the "world" had more to offer, i left because i didnt like the people, i didnt agree with the teachings, and it just wasnt a fit for me.

also, i disagree with you about premarital sex. dont get me wrong, i certainly think people should be careful and cautious but i think the idea of marrying someone you dont truly "know" is scary. i know of many many people who got married FAR TOO young just because they were ready to have sex and marriage was the only way. so many of these marriages end badly.

anyway, your comment is definitely appreciated and i thank you. as you can imagine, i dont actually get many Witnesses commenting here. :)

also, while i welcome any continued dialogue, please know that just as i doubt i can change your mind about your beliefs, you wont be changing mine.