My New Blog

As you may have noticed, my last five posts (one, two, three, four, and five) have been quite different from the usual cult/religion writing I’ve done in the past on this blog. For about two years now, I’ve toyed with the idea of closing this blog and I made several attempts to do so. I’m a writer and not all writers stick with the same genre their entire lives. I felt it was time for me to explore my pre-My Cult Life love of art, romance and other subjects, but I never felt like this blog was a good space for that. I was sad to see this chapter close, though.

I wasn’t quite ready to move on and I also needed to spend more time in the creative zone with my ideas to see where this new desire was taking me. Taking a new direction blogging can be a complicated endeavor. One that shouldn’t be done in haste. So, after two years and a lot of planning, I’m ready to move forward with my new blog. It’s simply called Lisa Kerr: Life, Chronicled.

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The important thing for me was to have a name that didn’t box me in (like “My Cult Life”) to a specific subject. It can be very hard to change directions when the spirit of the blog (and readers) expect one niche topic all the time and that’s what happened here. (Not that this niche topic wasn’t insanely interesting. It was.)

It was also important that the new blog helped me do what I’ve loved doing sometimes on this blog and other times on Facebook: chronicle my daily life. I think I’ve found the perfect way to move forward.

Of course I’m excited to discover where my writing will take me and what new skills I’ll discover as a writer–reporting and writing about cults has been limiting creatively. While I don’t regret starting this blog or where it’s taken me, it hasn’t been an artistic outlet; it’s been a therapeutic and healing outlet. Those things are essential to life, but sometimes we need to close one chapter before we can discover the full beauty in another chapter.

I hope you’ll join me on this new blog journey, even though it will be void of religion, cults and politics. Here are a few posts to start you off with:

  1. Clarity
  2. A Few of My Favorite Things
  3. Finding Your True Talent
  4. The Great Outdoors
  5. A Few Mini-Disasters We Handled in Stride

And you can find my updated social media accounts on the new blog, as well.

 

If I Were Being Honest

heart windows

I might say that I were running from some of the best things that have happened to me.

I might say I was running from my readers.

I might say that I was running from the intimacy of this place.

I might say that I’m afraid of people watching, speculating, critiquing me from up close and from afar.

I might say that I’m so afraid of making mistakes, that I don’t do anything at all.

I might say that I haven’t felt any emotions for the past two years and I kept myself that way on purpose–because the ability to numb myself was far easier than to see myself publicly fall apart.

I might say I hid.

I would definitely say I hid.

I’ve been hiding from every request, every reader, every “fan”, every person who is exactly like me–just sitting on the other end of the screen.

And for that, I’m sorry. I’m sorry I couldn’t give you more. I’m sorry I ran when it got hard. I’m sorry I didn’t have the answers you needed, or that I needed for that matter.

I can’t say definitively that I’m back, only that I think about you and about us nearly every day. I talk about you often. I bring you up in job interviews, in therapy sessions, in conversations with my mother. And I try to cry, but I couldn’t cry until today when I read about another blogger wanting privacy in her life and I realized that there are no right ways to pull back from the public once you were so intimate with them; but sometimes it’s the healthiest thing to do. Sure, I put my career at risk and I’m not sure it will ever fully recover, but I had to take a break. It wasn’t the threat of suicide that was the problem–it was the threat of living with this suffocating paranoia and anxiety.

I had to breathe again. I had to learn to trust real humans face-to-face again. I had to learn to sit on my mother’s couch and talk about something OTHER than this blog and my issues with it. I had to walk into her kitchen–hearing the sound of the pan sizzling and smelling the roasted vegetables in the oven–and sit down on the bar stool and know that I was welcome again; because whatever hit me over the past two years did so like a fast train and I haven’t been able to recover friendships and relationships that  matter to me so very much.

If I were being honest, Blog, I hate you. I hate you so much. But if I were being more honest, Blog, I love you. You’ve taught me so much. You’ve forced me to grow through the pain. You’ve forced me to make mistakes in public. You’ve forced me to retreat, to be silent, to simmer. You’ve reminded me how much I love poetry and the Great Outdoors. You’ve reminded me who is important to me and how to hold them closer than I ever have before. You’ve helped me hope for love and find it. And most of all, you’ve helped me come face to face with the woman in the mirror and realize that she’s not so bad after all.

Losing Friends

A few years ago, when I first moved back to the LA area, I got another job in another office, but this time my boss was Jewish and he was not a big fan of Christians and their “killing a living thing to celebrate the birth of Jesus”, aka Christmas. It was great. I had just started my blog and he loved talking with me about fundamentalists. When I had my first radio interview, he was so accommodating, let me take time off to do the interview and even set me up in an office.

Around that time, I was a new blogger and very similar to a new mother, I wanted to coddle my blog and be with it every minute of the day. I had to feed it daily so it got big and strong and I had to clean out the spam-germs so it stayed disease-free. ha! Sorry, I’m getting a little carried away with my metaphor here. My point is I woke up early to blog nearly every morning and then I blogged daily at lunch. When I wasn’t blogging, I was working on my manuscript, but the blog was a writing exercise for the manuscript so they complimented each other.

I got a little burned out after year one of that schedule and then my second year I decided to slow down, maybe write daily for 3 months and then take a month off and repeat the pattern. I was flexible with myself and forced myself to rest. I also had anxiety so nearly every day I would log on to my email and see a new “You need to get saved” or “Are you saved?” or “I’m praying for you to get saved” email and I’ll be honest–I spent most of that year in tears. Over the course of time, and with the support of a lot of great non-religious friends and some very nice religious family members, I realized that the issue I needed to just brush it off. All of it and all of them. Sometimes that meant losing old friends, like the other day. I won’t go into it too much but someone who used to say she loved me and I was her hero went bat-shit hostile on me the other day. I personally think it was my lack of religion (and lack of respect for pseudo-intellectual fundamentalists) that did her in, but it might have to do with the fact that her dad believes pharma companies planted AIDS in the world and I just think that’s a bit insane.

Even when I act tough or hide it with humor, losing friends hurts. Even when I know they are stupid or weren’t that supportive of me in the first place (or when I know it was bound to happen).

Have you lost friends or family members? How did you cope? Or are you coping now? If you need to talk, email me at mycultlife@gmail.com. I’d love to hear from you.

Well this is awkward

I’M BACK!
Remember being a pre-teen, unsure and awkward? That’s how I feel about blogging. I want to blog. In fact I think about it daily. I just don’t want to blog about cults…daily. I can’t even tell you how things spun out of control here, but I’m reining in my blog and taking it back to happy places. Places I want to go.
INTERRUPTING LLAMA: (h/t to the Amazing Mr. Morck for the image)
I “quit” blogging about a month ago after a pretty severe panic attack mixed with paranoia. RELATED NOTE: I was not murdered during this time. The day after I “quit” I sat down to the SITS GIRLS forums and poured out my heart. Yet, no one really understood because blogging is a bit of a “pave the way as you go” kind of job.
So for the time being, I’m going to try to settle in to blog right here. No new blog name (yet?). No mystery identities. No “niche” only posts. Why do all that? I’ve realized most of you like me for the outlandish, offensive asshole that I am anyway. That’s why you follow me or add me on Facebook. And for those of you who want to see the “softer side” of Lisa, that might happen here, too.
Here’s to a new start! I guess I’m a little early…it’s not quite 2013 yet. Just consider me an early bloomer.

Got Dumped?

Friday night was a night like no other, except that the boyfriend and I had been fighting a week earlier. That being said, he and I made up and I was looking forward to a long night of romance and sex. I even had a romantic night lined up–dinner sea-side watching the sunset, eating his favorite dish of shrimp pasta.

I’ll skip all the gory details mainly because I don’t want to retell the story. It just makes me depressed. What is important is that he dumped me after a big fight and I do believe it was partly because I had been more forthcoming about my struggle with depression during that time in an attempt to BLAME myself for our fight so we could move past it. Lesson partly learned: I will not take the blame for something I didn’t do.

In his breakup speech he said something about seeing things in me during our fight that made him “uncomfortable” and he mentioned they were things I couldn’t change or he didn’t want to ask me to change. I had just recently written this blog about my struggle with depression.

Depression can’t be cured but it can be managed. I’m extremely forthcoming about my depression because I’m just that way. I’m forthcoming and honest about most things. I’m direct, sometimes when it hurts. I learned to be direct because I spent almost a decade being pushed over and hurt and not speaking my mind.

To sense that someone I loved deeply may have broken up with me because I struggle with depression is incredibly hurtful, and naive on their part. It’s hurtful to know that I worked hard to forgive him and his shortcomings but he didn’t have the same love or respect for me to forgive mine. It’s also naive for him to think that my depression is unmanageable and also that he doesn’t have any flaws or things that make me feel “uncomfortable.” I felt uncomfortable when he told me he was going to film a TV pilot with these 2 girls and he might stay in their hotel room. But that’s beside the point. Asshole.

 

Blogging and writing is a tough job. A writer must be honest with his or herself in order to be able to draw a reader in. A memoir writer like myself has to be able to talk about her own life transparently. She must see her own flaws as they are, take responsibility for things she’s done to hurt others and have the ability to create art from them. The art may be flawed or rigid or beautiful or painful but it will be art if she has the skill and insight to create.

My partner may not have been able to see his own flaws as well as I can see my own. Part of living with depression, in my case, is living with incredible self-introspection. In fact, as we talked Friday night I realized he couldn’t see any of his own flaws or at least wouldn’t admit to them. That’s not the toughest part of a break up though. It’s having someone you love deeply tell you they don’t love you anymore (with their actions, even when their words say something else), realizing you won’t spend every day with them anymore, and know that everything you trusted and held important in moments before that is all coming crashing down around you and you can’t stop it.

They want out. They’re leaving.

Bloggers Getting Bullied: You’re Not Alone

I write about one of the most divisive subjects in the world-religion. Not only that, but I write with snark and am not afraid to share my opinions of working with some well-known ministers. They’re not always flattering opinions of these people, and that infuriates their followers. I do, however, write with intelligence, confidence and I have a strong sense of ethics. I don’t feel bad for what I do. Because of my unapologetic attitude, and like many bloggers I know, I get bullied and harrassed often. Opening up comments on this site and providing my email address often helps many people, but in many cases it opens myself up for a slew of harrassment. Morning. Noon. Night.

Recently a few blogger friends have opened up about bullying they’ve received and one has been driven from blogging completely. Some of their hate mail has come from trolls, anonymous (they think) readers who make up a fake name and email address thinking this covers their asses. It doesn’t. Not entirely. Although the standard troll may not know this, your IP address is visible to anyone who hosts a website. We know where you live, and sometimes we can pin point exactly who you are just with a general search and the evidence you’ve left. Even if you troll on Facebook, your information can be found. Facebook knows who you are and will release the info to authorities if needed. So, just because you hide behind lisakerrsucks@yahoo.com, doesn’t mean your identity is invisible to me. It just makes you look uninformed and inexperienced. Other hate mail my blogger friends receive is from friends who disagree with them so vehmenently, they make the argument entirely too personal.
Other bloggers, like myself, use their public identities, which puts us at greater risk for being physically harmed or harrassed, sometimes by people we know. It’s been over a year since I had to ban an old friend (and fellow blogger) from my website and all social media accounts. It’s hard to say why she snapped, but it was evident when: I was tipped off on some details of a major story within our community (we had a similar community of readers, with some overlap). My informant wanted to be anonymous, but I knew the person well, so I knew the source was reliable. In this case, I chose to leave the informant anonymous, and did some fact checking. When I confirmed the story, I published it, and then the old friend came unglued. I received texts and phone calls as early as 6 am demanding I share with her the name of my informant.

The harrassment escalated until she threatened to share “fat” pictures of me on the internet. The irony in her threat is that we were the same size and I wasn’t fat. I was deeply insecure about my weight gain, though, and it really stung to have a ‘friend’ threaten to expose your weakness.

Christmas came around and I was sitting around the Christmas tree with my family. I heard my phone beep-the sound of an email. I was getting recurring messages from the ‘old friend’ on Christmas day. This person wasn’t alone for the holidays-she had a family and a child. In addition, she was a well respected member of her local church. She was a leader there, too.

When I returned back to work, I spoke with my boss who had practiced law before going into consulting work. He sent me next door to a large firm we worked with and I sat down with one of the partners. I’d printed out all the emails for him to read. When he got to the emails blackmailing me for information threatening to expose my ‘weight gain’, he looked up. “You’re dealing with a potentially dangerous person here. I would be very careful.”

He explained to me what my options were-if it escalated. He then suggested I start with the basics-sending a cease and desist letter (email) to the person to see if it put a stop to it. In the letter, I should mention that I was consulted by legal counsel and would pursue action if necessary. My boss had also given me the name of the District Attorney in our area, saying he was a close, personal friend and would be more than happy to help. It turns out my boss was very concerned, and it helped that he was very well-connected.

Were I to blog all over again (about religion and cults), I would chose a pen name and web identity. The topics I cover induce vitriol from a group of very vocal extremists. I’m thankful that (so far) they’ve only been verbally abusive, but I take precautions to protect my safety none-the-less.

On the other hand, the benefits of meeting people who I’ve met by proxy of blogging have far outweighed the hate. I’ve met two people in particular who I consider very close friends-people I’d have never known without blogging. I’ve also gotten reality TV show interest in my blog, publishers and agents interested in my story, and other professional benefits.

I’ve come across some interesting cases of trolling and harrassment lately. One such story was a very heartbreaking even where a gentlemen was getting anti-Semetic death threats from a friend of the family’s teenage son. Leo Traynor writes “The day I confronted my troll“,

When I left Twitter numerous people thought it was as a result of an overreaction on my behalf. That my departure was a kneejerk reaction to a couple of “trolling” or “flaming” incidents or that I was attention seeking. The reality of the situation is that my wife and I were targeted for over three years.

Traynor writes about meeting and confronting his troll in person:

We had a chat. I told them about my wife and son. I told them about my recent illnesses and bereavements and about the builders having been in. I asked after their business and asked The Troll how college is going. All bright and breezy and a trip down memory lane. Then The Troll’s dad tipped me the wink and I opened my bag and took out my manila folder.

I showed The Troll’s mother and father screengrabs and printouts of his handiwork.

I showed them pictures of ashes and dead flowers.

I pointed out that one of the messages my wife received wishing me dead had arrived when I actually was gravely ill.

I told them of how I’d become so paranoid that I genuinely didn’t know who to trust anymore.

I told them of nights when I’d walked the rooms, jumping at shadows and crying over the sleeping forms of my family for fear that they would suffer because of me.

In Traynor’s case, his Troll broke down crying and apologized. Traynor didn’t press charges, but left the Troll with a weighty list of items to complete in order to stay out of trouble with the law.

Another recent story caught my eye: a news anchor being told to get off the air because she was overweight. Her critic wrote:

“I was surprised indeed to witness that your physical condition hasn’t improved for many years,” wrote the viewer, who said Livingston was not a “suitable example” for young girls. “I leave you this note hoping that you’ll reconsider your responsibility as a local public personality to present and promote a healthy lifestyle.”

The anchor, Jennifer Livingston, shares:

“The truth is, I am overweight,” she said. “But to the person who wrote me that letter, do you think I don’t know that? That your cruel words are pointing out something that I don’t see? You don’t know me… so you know nothing about me but what you see on the outside and I am much more than a number on a scale.”

Livingston continued, “That man’s words mean nothing to me, but really angers me about this is is there are children who don’t know better — who get emails as critical as the one I received or in many cases, even worse, each and every day.”

Livingston’s case resonates with me, as I shared above. Trolls and harrassing readers will find whatever they can, typically to make the insult more personal knowing it will hurt worse than a general insult would. They often research and calculate what they’re going to use against you–othertimes it’s just a random hit.

But what Livingston shares with her audience, is what’s important to remember:

“I leave you with this: To all of the children out there who feel lost, who are struggling with your weight, with the color of your skin, your sexual preference, your disability, even the acne on your face, listen to me right now. do not let your self-worth be defined by bullies. Learn from my experience — that the cruel words of one are nothing compared to the shouts of many.”

I’d like to add to that: To all the adults taking a stand, personally or privately, to be who you are, to share your beauty, your voice, your opinions with the world, remember that you are not alone. Reach out to someone when you feel the personal attacks cutting you deeply before the bullying drives you into a dark place. Look to other bloggers for support, or other individuals from the communities you find peace in. Do your best to ignore what they say, discard their emails, take a break from moderating when you need it, and remember that what they say is insignificant and a sign of the hate filled within their own hearts.

If you are a blogger, or just a member of an online community, you’ll likely face harassment.

Here are Eight Tips to Silence Internet Bullies:

  1. Many trolls or emails may start out benign and escalate. If you find yourself engaging with someone who becomes harassing, end the conversation immediately. Don’t apologize. Don’t sign off with profanity. Just leave the conversation and ignore any future emails from that account, or any with similar patterns of speech or behavior.
  2. Use a plugin or widget for Banning IPs. You can ban a single IP or a range of IP addresses. Start with the single IP ban unless the issue progresses.
  3. Keep a log of bullies and trolls. Whether a complex record, or a file in your email, keep a written track of evidence, screen shots, location, etc.
  4. Keep your domain registration information set to your hosting site. Hide your personal contact information.
  5. Don’t use Facebook check-in or allow GPS tracking on your phone, Twitter, etc. Get in the habit of ensuring your personal privacy. If you do check-in, make sure those statuses are set to a close friends group only.
  6. Make lists on Facebook and other accounts. Create a list for people who are acquaintances or restricted individuals or strangers, and double check the privacy settings for those lists. Put all new friend requests there and weed through them later. Make sure your photos, location, place of work, etc. aren’t listed publicly or on those lists.
  7. Place a Terms of Use on your site notifying the readers of your comment and harassment policy. Refer them to the terms if they have questions. If they are particularly harassing still, ignore the emails/comments. They will eventually go away.
  8. If you allow comments on your site, or if your site is critical of religion, listen to David Gamble’s talk here. He got sued by some religious nutters for a comment on his blog.

If you’ve been bullied and would like to add to this list, please comment below or email me using the form on the top left.

And remember the motto you’ll hear often: Don’t feed the trolls! Ignore them. They will usually go away.

 

Afterthought (I always think of cool stuff after I hit “publish”):

Alternative ways to deal with bullies:

1. Beat every troll to the punch, like this guy, and troll them before they troll you:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Be more like The Oatmeal:

3. Monetize the Hate, like Heather Armstrong who posts the hate mail and monetizes it:

I’m just a little angry. I went to your website. I read from the archives. Something about wanting to tell your bishop something about “how many sex positions you were in before you got married, while drinking a coke and wiping your mouth with your bikini top”. Are you kidding me? Who are you? Satan’s mistress?

Where in “hell” and I use this word literally- do you get off trashing bishops and woops, sorry-the actual church of Jesus Christ?

Because let me let you in on a little secret little sister…it really is His church…I am not usually ashamed of anyone, but I am ashamed of you…

…And your day of judgement is coming. I hope He is more merciful than I would be. You are very fortunate that He still loves you. Ironically, He’s your best, and likely your only hope when the heyday is over.

Stop spitting on Him.

4. Turn it into a blog post, like Scary Mommy, who noticed on of her website pingbacks came from “Kidless Kim” who made fun of her entire post on Motherhood Badges. So Scary Mommy just wrote about it, and carried on with her badgemaking, granting herself this cute one:

Here’s How the TV Meeting Went

As I wrote yesterday, I had a meeting with someone at a television production company. ​They’re a major company and check out as Lisa-approved (and if you know me, you know that’s a big endorsement).

screenI met with Jen around 5:30 after I got off work. I had my Skype set up, photo finishing powder and my lip gloss popping. So clearly, camera ready. I’ll be honest, I was tempted to go pants-less and hair-in-ponytail because that’s how I roll every day after work but I stepped up my game and wore yoga pants. ​(Shhh! She couldn’t see them!)

So Jen and I just chatted for a few minutes and then we started the interview. It was the same basic questions most journalists or producers ask me, so it felt like second nature. In fact, I wasn’t even nervous this time around (lots of practice makes perfect I guess?). ​We talked for about an hour and then Jen said that she’d share a few clips to her development team later in the week and we’ll be in touch. Which in TV language means we’ll be in touch or we won’t be if something else comes along.

Ultimately the hard part is that we’re essentially talking about creating a television show based on my life, my work and my personality. It’s a little hard to look at yourself from a higher-level and see what your work now could become, I’ll be honest. That’s why I always say bloggers are entrepreneurs and innovators because this is where television and literary people are finding their talent: blogs. Our wheels are always spinning, even when we’re sitting behind our work computer hashing out data (oh, that’s me).

In reality, a year ago I thought I knew what I wanted and when the CW was interested, I laid it all out there–what I was doing at the time, what I wanted to do and why it would make a fantastic show. But then I realized it was dangerous as hell and putting myself in a precarious spot wasn’t worth the risk…even if I was crazy enough to do it. I was already intensely paranoid because let’s face it, there are a lot of weird people in my audience, and this actual show was going to put me in physical and psychological danger. Which would  make amazing TV and would send me straight to the psych ward.

So, with that experience behind me, I’m able to see things clearer. I want to work on a television show that will feel fun to do for a few years, not something that will give me burn out after one year. ​And yes, I want it to sell and be popular and I think my personality is just perfect for that, but I also want to live through it.

I also have some fantastic ideas for a scripted show but I’m not revealing anything to anyone, not even a writing group and literally 3 writer friends, until the manuscript is completely written and has an agent. It’s that hot and it’s unique. Ideas get stolen from me all the time (not that it matters–when you’re the creator they’re all just the generic version and it won’t come to life with the same vibrancy.) I’m used to it by now, but this one is my baby. I’m not rushing myself to write it, either, even if someone wants to see the script, because great writing takes time and also because you get more money selling the book. Duh. ​

The most interesting part of the interview was when Jen asked where I see myself in five years from now. I think that was something DiGa Vision asked, too, and that’s sort of the “How can we brand you?” golden question; because, let’s face it you don’t just invest money into making a TV show out of someone’s story or personality unless they can generate multiple projects and revenue sources. Television production is expensive and it’s risky because you could work so hard on something and it won’t get bought or it won’t make it past season one. So, as for branding, think Kardashians. They are the queens of branding and have done it well. They’ve secured their spot on the voyeurism lot and organically endorsed products, were the first to get paid to Tweet and have spin-off shows that have high ratings. And no, it’s not just because of the sex tape. Here’s how it works: Kim and all (maybe mostly Kris) are experts at marketing analysis and studying what worked with society’s obsession with celebrities and transferring it into their own marketing plan. So many people dismiss them, because those people are thinking too “in the box.” They are powerful women we could all learn from. I certainly do.  ​

Anyway, back to the five-year plan. ​I’ll be working on it and looking around for inspiration. If you have any you’d like to send my way, email me or put it in the comments below.

A Dichotomy: Public and Private Lives

The more public I’ve become (on my blog) and recently with some TV stuff, the more private and isolated I find myself. I set out to tell my story in hopes that others would read it and listen to what I had to say, having wanted to be a writer since I was a child, but now I am somewhere between being a dreamer and the one living her dream and I’ve been somewhat terrified of that success and the loss of privacy that comes with the territory.

In some ways, I think I’d cope rather well, having developed a thick skin and a public persona different than who I am (yet, rather the same). I can let a lot of hateful remarks and stupid arguments go, letting them roll off my back. I rarely think about them too much anymore, whereas a year ago, that stuff crippled me and made me cry just thinking about it.

In other ways, I want my privacy back and I think it’s too late. I don’t want to be obligated to social media updates like publishers insist we writers must be, but I am. I’m also obligated to blog posting, but as you can tell, I rarely do that anymore. At first, blogging was fun, but now my blog is something people DO read and that makes me uncomfortable from time to time. Has my boss read it? Has my landlord read it? Have my parents read it? I’m an extremely private person even to these people who are in my life daily. I only tell everything to one or two friends, and sometimes not even to them. So imagine my horror if those in my office, say, knew my innermost thoughts and personal issues.

Perhaps it’s just a little insecurity or perhaps it’s a true need for privacy. One of the surest ways to be famous in your lifetime (if you are my age or younger) is to put your whole personal life on display, the good, bad and ugly. If you have an interesting story and are unafraid to tell it, you have a good chance at fame. Fame relies very little on talent anymore, except that you must be good (really good) at marketing your personality (and marketing IS a talent). We’re in a personality driven world, which may not have been all too different from “the good ol’ days”, but it’s certainly an interesting phenomenon.