Searching for Privacy: A Brief Adieu

Update: This lasted all of two days before I was going crazy wanting my blog back. Anyway, it was a really heart felt and appropriate post (at the time) so I’m leaving it here.

It may seem contradictory for a blogger to want privacy. After all, we put our lives on display-often with photos. We talk about our pets, our sexuality, our day jobs, dating, and our religious beliefs. Over the course of this year, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I not only want privacy–I need privacy. I feel…not overwhelmed, but irritated by all the noise. The idiots. The shoddy journalism. The debates about everything and nothing. The inauthentic displays. I’m quickly becoming tired of the of “my perfect life” posts. You know who these people are and you have your own set of ‘friends’ who do this. They fill their social media profiles with such perfect status updates that you’d think they should live in a 5th Avenue storefront display. They never have a bad day or get acne. They’ve airbrushed out the flaws and the moodiness and the failures and left us with their vacuous self-image to stroke.

Yet no one is perfect. With the illusions we create online, we strip away part of what is real, vulnerable, and authentic about ourselves. The struggles, the tears (or holding back from tears in order to be strong), and the moments of great tragedy that we would love to share with caring people–if they weren’t preoccupied with Instagraming their vegan omelets.

I do care–rather deeply. Many of you have noticed that and reached out to me. Over the years, I’ve formed some of the most priceless friendships with some of you.

***

I’ve created an entire blog about a subject I was passionate about for years. When I first started, I wanted nothing more than to give all the people who had really twisted their power and greed into an abusive machine a big FUCK YOU. I’ve done that–rather successfully. Each and every person I wanted to have that message now has heard it loud and clear. Some have even pleaded that I let up, and I feel pity on them now. I also realize that there is power in telling your truth. I never realized how powerful my message would be until it was capable of making change. Yet, I don’t wish to destroy anyone completely and I never have. I have ethics–far superior ethics to those I write about and yes, I will gloat about that.

I hold their fate at the tip of my fingers and yet I won’t destroy them completely. This is my one fault; my one weakness. They destroyed me completely for a time but I will show them pity and release them. 

 I’ve rebuilt myself. I am strong. I have spent two years realizing my strengths and abilities vastly outweigh my weaknesses, and I am confident in them. They don’t belong to some deity or to anyone but myself. Stella got her groove back. My anger is gone. My introverted side is back. I’ve been happily reunited with my pensive nature.

Over the course of the year, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting. I’m fortunate enough to live near some really pretty places:

Copyright by Lisa Kerr, 2011-2012
Copyright by Lisa Kerr, 2011-2012

Through that refection, I’ve realized my work here as a blogger on cults is done. You are stronger than you know and you don’t need me or anyone else to tell you that or to guide you through the steps. I never set out to be anyone’s leader or guru and I will never take on that title or position in your life, but if I can be your example now, I want you to be strong and unapologetic about your strengths. Yes, people will always be escaping from cults and coercive groups, but there are people who have made full-time careers out of helping people recover. They are called therapists. I am a writer. There are also great people I’ve met along the way whom you may find with a simple Google search, or you can get in touch with International Cultic Studies Association.

My hope for you is that you own your weaknesses fully-be honest about them and apologize to people you hurt-but experience your weaknesses. Don’t shun them and don’t beat yourself up because you have them. Do you assume it’s abnormal to be weak?

Don’t criticize yourself for being different than other people, for in your differences you’ll find your greatest assets and strengths. Don’t set out to be anyone’s hero or guide. Instead, instill in people the idea that they will be strong, too.

 

Of course many people will return to this website and over the course of time, I would love to expand the content to include things that are new in my life. I’d love to include inspiration, recipes, and pictures of pretty things. Yet, I’m not entirely sure I will rebrand at this point because I need a hiatus from giving and I need to give back to myself. I miss spending hours outside in nature, not worrying about ‘checking-in’ or my blogging schedule or returning emails. I miss spending days mulling over writing a single sentence–making it beautiful. In Internet time that’s old news-but you know me: I don’t follow the rules. I break them.

I’ve also learned that being online can be a bad thing for a young writer brimming with ideas and a marketable story because people willfully steal those ideas, even when they’re still in formation (shocker!). I’m not talking about small things but there was a time this year when I suspected this TV show was influenced by the video interviews I did for DiGa Vision. Those interviews included all the secret workings of my own investigative journalism, cult advocacy work, my own personal struggle with PTSD, and my blog’s sphere of influence. The timing of the interviews being shown to the CW executives and the development of Cults was all too coincidental. The CW offered me a six year contract for my own reality TV show and then, when the Cults pilot was announced, they scrapped the show. I may never know, but I won’t ever share that much again with something that isn’t green-lit or bound contractually.

 

Yesterday I Googled “going offline for a year”. I wanted to see if anyone had done it because I wanted to take the leap and I wondered if any bloggers had. I came across Paul Miller, a tech blogger, who announced his departure from the Internet for a year this past April. The comments were atrocious and hateful as usual. My particular favorite was “Jesus Christ, these hipsters now have themselves convinced that going to the library is underground.” Paul is a tech blogger and gamer. In no way did he strike me as a hipster. He’s a bit too smart for that. I shared the link on my Facebook along with the above comment as a bit of an experiment and got responses like “I have no words” and “Pretension has no realistic self-image.” Disdain. Of course. Miller has the luxury of having an editor who will post his articles for him, so he will continue to post throughout the year. I do not. I also have no real intention of going offline for good, but I do aim to spend less time on social media–trimming my personal Facebook down to just people I know in real life (shocking!) and actually speak to intimately. Or maybe I’ll delete it altogether. I haven’t decided. I want to go off the grid, so to speak. I envy people who don’t feel obligated to be online. Novelists like Cormac McCarthy who shunned interviews and remained relatively unknown for years. I’ve learned that I don’t operate well in the spotlight and I think it’s best to operate within your own strengths and space. Like McCarthy, I relish intellectual conversation above being acquainted with the masses:

Novelist Cormac McCarthy shuns interviews, but he relishes conversation…[He]…has proved more elusive. He won’t be found at book festivals, readings and other places novelists gather. Mr. McCarthy prefers hanging out with “smart people” outside his field, like professional poker players and the thinkers at the Santa Fe Institute, a theoretical-science foundation in New Mexico where the author is a longtime fellow.

McCarthy became commercially successful in 1992, with “All the Pretty Horses,” a National Book Award winner. Journalists did write about him then, but a quick glance at their tone and you can tell they despised his desire for privacy.

The question on every writer’s mind these days is (or should be): Can you be successful if you don’t have an online presence? I’d argue that you can’t. You certainly can’t sell books. If you don’t generate your online presence and cultivate it, someone will have to, but you’ll notice most established authors now run their own social media and many do so from their personal accounts. This is smart marketing. People are attracted to writers because they personally identify with them. For young writers still finding their voice I think social media is far less important-something I wish I’d known a few years ago. I don’t regret becoming successful at it–the skills I’ve learned are invaluable. Although I will say, I’ve learned I prefer the technical side of social media and websites as opposed to the content building. Online content as you know can often be garbage.

My favorite movie of all-time has to be “You’ve Got Mail” with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. I can quote much of it and even had a friend send me a ‘bouquet of newly sharpened pencils’ one Spring. You may remember moments of Cathleen Kelly happily reading to kids gathered around the storytime rug:

When Cathleen Kelly shuts down her store, The Shop Around the Corner it is so sad. She leaves this sign:

This is how I feel. I’ve loved being part of your lives for the past two and a  half years–walking many of you through my own story, my healing process, and my thoughts on religion. I’ve relished in our many conversations over the years and have grown to adore you. I’ve loved seeing so many of you grow into strong people–getting your voices back, finding yourselves, creating beautiful lives around who you are today (which includes the pain you went through). We have all developed this intimate community where we have gathered strength from one another, asked genuine questions and have accepted that we may not have all the answers.

In January I started working with some very special of young women at Mercy Survivors. I have seen them all become stronger than they already were. None of them are victims of Mercy. They are all far more powerful than Mercy and I anticipate that the next few years you will see some incredible stories come from their website. I would continue to watch them, if I were you.

One of my initial blogging connections was with the creator of Recovering Alumni. I am so incredibly grateful to her for introducing me to her fellow alumni. Their alumni network is so strong and vibrant. In many ways, the men and women I’ve met there have contributed to my own growth and healing like no other group has simply because Honor Academy was so similar to Master’s Commission. It was nice to ‘swap stories’ with people who KNEW how I felt and felt that same way. This is the best thing you can do for yourself as a survivor–find the community you feel most comfortable in and tell your story. Tell it over and over and over. This is what you need to do to heal. 

As for further help, or help for new readers who may come in the future, I compiled an eBook several months ago that I feel is a complete guide to sorting out the questions you may have. It’s not available in print. You can buy it on Amazon here.

As for cults, I’m done for awhile. I’ve definitely kicked ass whatever I’ve written about, but one can only exhaust a subject so much. Then it becomes forced. A writer can tell she’s lost her passion for a subject when she has nothing left to say about it. Trust me, I have plenty to say, but I’m ready to talk about something else.

As far as whether the blog will stay up indefinitely, not exactly. This is why I wrote the eBook. The blog will eventually be morphed into an inclusive website (not a blog) for information purposes only (excluding some of my personal writings which I may publish at a later date). It’s important that people know the truth about Master’s Commission and youth discipleship programs/residential treatment centers because they’re not going anywhere for the time being and I’ve always said if there had been anything available for me to read like this blog on Master’s Commission when I was applying, it WOULD have changed the course of my life. However, regardless of whether you shut a group down, the leadership will still start over somewhere else under a new name because they believe they are doing “God’s work”. So they need to be tracked.

I’ll still be updating my website here: www.thelisakerr.com and I started a personal blog awhile ago that I’ve enjoyed posting on about writing, creativity and inspiration. I hope to revisit that after I take this much-needed break. But first I need to feel refreshed and vibrant again.

You can follow me on Facebook here: www.facebook.com/thelisakerr  and here: www.facebook.com/mycultlife. I will have a more private Facebook account just for personal family and friends, which means several HUNDREDS of people may be deleted from my existing account. I do feel terrible about this, but I’ve come to realize this will serve me best. Some people will be angry at me for this, but if you’re really interested in keeping up with me, please follow those pages above. I will update those pages and my website as often as I’m able to.

I would love to hear from you in the interim. I will read all the emails you send, but I will not be responding during the holidays because I’m going to enjoy my family and friends, some jazz and all the Hallmark Christmas movies I possibly can. I’m even going to stop obsessing about writing my book and put it all aside to enjoy winter. And these guys:

The most adorable creatures on the planet, both of whom were adopted from high-kill animal shelters. Adoption saves lives and is rewarding. Just look at them.

So for now, adieu, farewell. We will meet again. For now, though, I leave you with this:

 

GO SOMEWHERE:

Spend some time with yourself, after all, you know yourself best.

Enjoy the moments you have to yourself to ponder about what is important to you.

So with that, GOODBYE. I’m off to find my new HELLO.

Putting Down Roots

I’ve got this thing against New Years Resolutions, but I’m very pro-goals. My rules are: they have to be feasible, and if they are large, I have to break them into a few smaller goals. Also, my goal setting has flexibility. If something isn’t working, or if my progress is slower, I constantly reevaluate and modify my goals.

Naturally, one of my goals is to own a house. I’m 31 and I’ve never owned a home. In fact, I’ve wandered a lot and lived in many different cities, all because of ministry. This is ironic because I moved a lot with this pastor who used to preach “rebels are mobile” and move a lot.

So now my ministry days are over, and I’m finished with college. I’ve finally found the area of California I want to settle down in, that feels like home. And I’m ready for a home. Aside from my parents house, I’ve lived in apartments and dorms for most of my twenties. It’s time for a mortgage and a garage and some closet space that I don’t have to call up movers to move for me.

I just got a renewal notice on my post office box, which reminded me that I’ve been at my current apartment (a cute guest house near the beach) for over a year. It’s probably time to unpack the boxes, you say? Maybe. But I dread packing everything back up, so I’ve just got boxes around the house that probably won’t get unpacked until they are unpacked for good. I hope that unpacking comes soon. It’s my goal to have a house (albeit a very small condo) in the next few years.

Buying a house is such a permanent thing, which sort of excites me. After being essentially rootless, I’m happy to be putting down roots in one area. I’ve got the small things down: a post office box, a local credit union, and a local job. I’m in love with this area-the weather, the shopping, the small town feel, the way they decorate at Christmas, and yes, the proximity to Los Angeles which makes me feel connected to the real world whenever I choose to be. But best of all, I’m a short drive to Malibu or Ventura. I spent days there this summer, walking the beach, napping, and photographing the sunset. What better place to live?!

So I’m extremely excited to put down roots here. And for proof that girl power really does exist, I’ll be putting down roots alone, without a husband. This is an important step since my Christian days had me believing that a house wasn’t a home without a husband and wife and kids. But for me, this isn’t true. I don’t have a husband and that can’t be forced (although I have an amazing boyfriend of three months whom I love). So settling down will include me and the two cats, who are basically my children. I’m looking forward to what the next few years bring. I’ve got a lot of hard work to do but I’m excited to see where life takes me.

Sick or Pregnant?

Yesterday I started feeling it-what everyone else has been feeling for months.

The winter cold.

At least I think its a cold. Everyone around me has been sick with much worse, so if I just end up with a cold, I’ll be happy.

I filled my body with fresh veggies yesterday and today, fruit juice and vitamins. And then I sort of took a three hour nap.

Well, not sort of. I did.

And it was awesome, minus the sweats my fever gave me. Unfortunately, I think I need to go straight back to bed because I’m exhausted. Yes, from sleeping.

The funny thing about being a girl around my age (31 and proud) is that when anything happens to your body that’s abnormal, friends start randomly saying you’re pregnant.

Yesterday this happened on Facebook and it was pretty hilarious. I’ve got a runny nose and am craving veggies after all the holiday junk food and everyone starts saying, “Preggers!”

Babies are so adorable, but not something I’m ready for right now. Now that my cold is developing more, it makes me laugh even more. Can’t sleep? Pregnant. Grumpy at work? Pregnant. Can’t stop crying? Pregnant. Bad cramps? Pregnant.

We women seriously go through life always thinking we could be pregnant and when we aren’t pregnant, we get a little bummed out-even when we aren’t ready for a kid. It’s so contradictory, but who cares? I can’t wait til I have a little baby bump, no matter how scared I am of popping that little tyke out of my vagina. And regardless of my not being able to afford a little runt, I imagine I’d make it work pretty damn well. Being a mother is something that I try to act nonchalant about, as if I really don’t care, BUT seriously, if I could get a little cold and have it turn into a little pregnancy, I probably would.

Like a Boss

I’m interviewing for two jobs today…like a boss. On top of all this job hunting, I’m going to school and just started a holiday job. I’m so tired. Yesterday I skipped class just so I could revamp my resume, cover letter and LinkedIn profile. What I thought might take me an hour took me all day, because there’s a job I really want so I customized some of my profile to fit that job.

I’m usually too lazy to customize every resume and cover letter-mostly because I don’t just apply for one job. It’s usually several.

So I’m here, this morning, about to step into an interview. Class today was cancelled because of Veterans Day (Happy Vets Day!!), so I’m hoping to go straight home for some breakfast and a nap before my afternoon interview.

So much sleep. Why? My holiday job is EARLY hours. I was up at 6am Tuesday and tomorrow I get to sleep in til 7:30.  🙂

All this busyness is great but its still not paying the bills. It’s been a rough recession and I just hope to get back to full time work as close to mid-December as I can.

Next time I decide to go back to school in leui of work, please remind me that’s a BAD idea.

I Wish

I wish I had one of those mommy blogs where everyone talks about their kids all day and I gave away My Little Pony apps. But I don’t.

Instead, I have one of those blogs where the weirdo fundamentalists come out of hiding every once in awhile and act all bat shit crazy, misspelling their grievances about me and wasting my time.

I’m not gonna lie, it sometimes makes me want to quit. I have a great sense of humor and can think of a hundred ways to cuss them out, but sometimes I just don’t understand them. And who wants to spend all day cussing them out? I have a life. Remember yesterdays post about enjoying life? My life is filled with days at the beach and I like to keep it that way.

They want me to quit, though, right? They want to silence me, because I’ve left my “pastor’s covering” where I was silenced for years. So they tell me I’m narcissistic and “just like the church I’m writing about” and that I’m stupid.

But the thing is, I’m not stupid and I’m far more ethical than any church and I might be a tad narcissistic and I might even be angry or bitter or hurt but I admit all that to you. So that’s not news to anyone, and if it’s news to them and they think they’re making a huge claim that’s going to “out me” then they’re dumb.

And then there’s the “you won’t post my comment” bullshit. Hey, mother f*cker, I pay for this website, so I essentially can do whatever I want with it. But to be fair, read the comment policy because I have one and I follow it. Or check back later, because I do approve nearly all of the comments posted here (even the hateful ones). It just takes time to get through them–especially because I don’t get cell phone service on the beach.

 

Alternate Endings to Marriage

Yesterday I spent the afternoon with my lovely soul sister, Abby. We did the LA thing–Los Feliz, Weho and the Grove. We went to Palermo’s for pizzarosa and wine and wandered next door to Skylight Books. Of course we ended up in the Gender Studies/Erotica section, because I’m convinced all surviving cult members are interested in these subjects. Or, maybe just us.

We found a really helpful salesperson who actually recommended two books to us. One is Cunt: A Declaration of Independence by Inga Muscio. The second book was The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women by Jessica Valenti. I bought both of them and put a few more of her recommendations on my list of books to buy. She said we both needed to read The Ethical Slut, and I was really intrigued by the book. It seemed like a guide to being honest, respectful and healthy while still being able to get the pleasure you want out of life.

Do you see a correlation between all these titles? Sex and the young woman.

Sexual women are often labeled whore, tramp, slut by men and other women. But as Abby and I had dinner later, we talked about how our culture really pushes people into marriage, deeming it important, but marriage is just an exchange of property. Women have always been considered the property. Sexual women who don’t need to be married to have healthy, fulfilling relationships aren’t really accepted in our culture. And if we do carry out these relationships as satisfied people, we still find ourselves getting caught up in societies pressure to get married or to be the norm.

Lately, I’ve been going through this “I want to get married” stage. I feel like it’s the one last Christian trait that’s holding on for dear life. Marriage is definitely pushed by the Christian church. Alternative lifestyles or stories are discouraged and banished from the church. You can’t be say bi-sexual or transgendered without being banished from the church. Or in an open relationship. Or an ethical slut.

I’ve left the church and Christianity, though, and I’m just waiting for my mind to catch up. I’m ready to embrace some alternate paths for happiness besides marriage and babies. I’m embracing that now, in a way, but my mind hasn’t quite made the leap. There’s still the big “What will people think?” question that always stops me temporarily. It’s a struggle for me to dismiss that, but I eventually do because I’ve found it’s more important to be myself and be happy than it is to impress people I don’t give a shit about.

What are your plans Easter Sunday?