If in 300 years I was to be pronounced a patron saint, I would want to be there for the opinionated.
The people who not only have thoughts and feelings about things, but want to express those thoughts and feelings. The ones who try to make sense of the cognitive dissonance within and between ourselves. And who aren’t afraid to back it up when it comes to the crunch.
I grew up in a house where speaking your mind got you hurt, excluded, and punished. I call it a house, not a home.
It was a building that kept our lives from spilling onto the street. A vessel of angst and conflict, until a crack formed.
The irony of this is that I became the black (lost) sheep over the matter of religion.
My middle name is Cecilia, so after the patron saint of the blind / church music / musicians. A blind muse, in a way. This makes me the second ‘Ilene Cecilia’ in the family, after a harsh Catholic Australian who had so much emotion for her religion that she left room for little else. I never met her, but I bear her legacy in a nominal way and in an emotional way.
She was my father’s mother.
She raised my father to never speak out of turn, to reject novel ideas, and to punish dissent in any way he could.
And in turn, he tried to treat me that way also. It’s what he thought parenting was. And he found a like mind in my mother, although she was (and still is) a follower of the Mormon faith. Sadly for him, he was too used to following the orders of a domineering female, and fell in behind my mother as she projected her own brand of abusive, abrasive piety on to us children.
Problems my parents faced whilst raising my brother and me:
- this is not rural Tonga / Southland
- logic and critical thinking are held in high regard in this day and age
- their children were made aware of their rights, which are a thing now
and a few more things I don’t want to get into right now.
Basically, times were changing and they were not. The flipside is that my brother and I were ‘allowed’ to still mix with the outside world. We weren’t home-schooled like some of our peers. We were encouraged to have part-time jobs whilst schooling. We were pushed towards higher education and therefore exposed to diverse educational materials.
The crack started forming.
As with all abusive situations, something’s gotta give. I still remember it like it was earlier today.
I woke up one Sunday and decided I was not going to chapel. The cognitive dissonance of it all was too exhausting for me to face up to that day. I couldn’t keep up with my thoughts. I read a verse saying ‘men are that they might have joy’, but church is miserable. They talk about ‘christian love’, but I’ve never before encountered such a horde of malicious gossips (keep in mind, I was attending a girls’ school, complete with kilts and blazers and UGHHHHHH). Every time I question something, I’m somehow punished, which leaves me to search for my own answers. And what I’ve found makes you guys look like a bunch of insulting, hypocritical liars. So I told my mother in no uncertain terms.
After the beating, I was locked out of the house until further notice. Somehow, I thought far enough ahead to have my wallet with me before the kick-out, which was a huge relief. After dodging a few leery drunks left over on the pavement from the night before and checking if any of my friends were home (of course not, they were at chapel DAMN IT), I managed to make it to town square (which is actually an octagon, but never mind), ambled to a bench and sat for a spell, admiring a statue of the poet Robbie Burns. What would a literary genius do? Within seconds I saw a bunch of uni students climb Burnsie to put a 2.25L bottle of Fanta in his writing hand (perfectly to scale, looks like a regular-sized person holding a 300-something-ml). Security staff from the nearby cinema were coming quickly, so I gave the students a quick heads-up before they scattered.
I strolled off laughing before anybody had the chance to involve me with the ‘incident’ and got myself something to drink from a nearby-ish supermarket. The library was about to open, which is on the other side of town octagon so LET’S GO. Wait, no food or drinks inside. Soda ninja. Shhh.
As I sank into a beanbag in front of the Nonfiction Stack, this thought hit me – things aren’t going to be the same for me after this. The master of the den now knows this cat wants to leave. My motives are no longer hidden. And what’s more, I’m prepared to follow my word even if – especially if – something changes. This makes me better than the people who like to tell me what to do, and this is what makes them fear me. I’m on to something.
I’ve also found somewhere warm and quiet to go when I don’t want to be judged. When I want to know more and don’t want an argument over it. When nobody wants to talk to me and I don’t want to talk to anybody who would. When I want to make sense of something. When I want to establish some semblance of control over my rapid, erratic thoughts. A sip of sugar-carbon-water and a giggle on behalf of ol’ Robbie.
I’d like to be there for anyone wanting to be different without hurting anybody. For anyone who knows that their thoughts say enough about them and now want to let the reactions of others speak for their own hidden selves. For anyone who feels like a catalyst just for simply existing.