Are Weddings The End of Friendships?

I recently saw this article “Why I Won’t Be a Bridesmaid” and loved the honest take on weddings from a non-bride perspective. Let’s face it, the wedding is all about the bride and rightly so. I love weddings, but there’s a lot I hate about them, too.

I’ll be honest, I’ve been a bridesmaid almost as many times as Katherine Heigl’s character in 27 DRESSES. I’ve had so many dresses and shoe styles and must-wear hair that finally, a few years ago, I decided I would never stand in another wedding again (unless of course it was my little brother getting married before me). There are multiple reasons I said I wouldn’t stand in another wedding again: the rules, the chaos, the Bridezillas, the selfishness of it all, the money, and of course, because I was starting to feel like I’d stood in far too many. “Always a bridesmaid, never a bride,” everyone loved echoing in my ear.

But a close college friend got engaged so I said yes. I couldn’t imagine not standing in her wedding and was so happy she’d asked. And then a close family member got engaged, so of course I said yes. Another friend actually didn’t ask and it was (to me) a sign she just didn’t care about our friendship anymore. Our friendship was over shortly after that.

Weddings are fun and they’re a great ritual in some ways, but this quote below strikes an all too familiar chord with me–about the fact that bridesmaids are expected to stand next to our friends as we begin to step aside and sometimes lose our friends. Things aren’t ever the same, regardless of whether our friends try to keep them that way:

I can’t be your bridesmaid because I think bridesmaids shouldn’t exist. l think it’s cruel to expect your fellow besties to invest considerable funds and time into proving we’re your friend…at the very moment you’re entering a union that, by definition, means we’re stepping aside for your new “best friend and partner.” – Faran Krentcil for ELLE

I speak from experience. Always having been the bridesmaid, it feels like some people use marriage as their cue to forget their old life and friends and forge ahead with someone new (and great) into a space where single friends aren’t as welcome. Especially single women. We aren’t a threat; we’re your friend. If your husband can only hang out with couples, might that be his issue? Or is it that you’re threatened by me, your friend? Why is it that men usually keep their friends but women sometimes abandon them?

I get that I’m the oddball and not chained down. But still, have you ever been a bridesmaid? If not, hear us out. We said yes because we love you and are happy for you. We wish you nothing but every happiness in the world. But after the wedding is over and your gifts are packed away, we will miss you. We’ll miss the nights we drank together, the trouble we got into and the laughs we had before this moment-that-changes-our-friendship. And even though we want to stand by you to celebrate the change in your life, we’re faced with the fact that things won’t ever be the same and the older we get and the more married you become (and the less married I become), the less we have in common.

I’m not advocating for the no bridesmaid law, but I am just telling you this: If you are married or “consciously coupled” and you feel the Stink Eye coming from your friend, consider that maybe it’s not jealousy or resentment but the pain of slowly losing a friend she will greatly miss.

At the heart of the “bridesmaid” concept is an inconvenient truth: If you’re getting married, you’re gaining another half…and also have less time for people who aren’t your One and Only.

 

Leaving Los Angeles For Good

When I was a kid, the first thing I wanted to do after graduating high school was leave my small town and move to a big city. Los Angeles was the closest city to me so it seemed only natural that I would end up there. In 2009, I moved to the L.A. area and settled in for a few years, two jobs, and a college graduation later. This past December I started to really question whether I wanted to stay in L.A. or not. I loved so much of the city but the one thing I couldn’t get past were the people. It seemed so hard to meet really good people who were warm and caring. I’d met a few of them but they were so far away from me that even though we still considered ourselves living in L.A., it was an hour plus drive to see each other. I think the warm, caring types stay hidden from the rest of the city and as a result I met mostly self-centered, fake people who had a really hard time being honest about themselves and life. L.A. wasn’t where I found a good confidant. It was where I discovered the city was cutthroat and you had to hide your secrets from people who would use them against you.

Being a small-town girl, this wasn’t entirely foreign to me. I dealt with the Mean Girls of my high school and junior high while growing up. I didn’t confide in everyone. But after I moved away and joined a cult, I returned for college and reconnected with some really great friends. Friends I could tell anything to and friends who were supportive of me. When I moved to L.A., I did so to start my career as a professional writer. I didn’t realize I would miss my friends so much, but every year I was gone, the ache of not having them to talk to and share life experiences with really hurt.

I saw some of those friends this weekend and on the drive home with one of them last night, my heart felt like it wasn’t dead anymore.

hollywood

In my time in L.A., I’d forgotten just how awesome it was to have friends you can be honest with and can tell things to. Friends who see the best in you and support you no matter what. I’m crying a little just thinking about my talk last night and what it felt like to have my good friends back in my life.

It’s a great feeling.

It’s nice to know that I don’t have to worry about them using me or pushing me down to get ahead. When I have issues with falling in love with men who aren’t good for me, they don’t judge me and tell me I’m stupid. They don’t tell me to get over it. They listen and if they can’t say anything else, they say “I’m sorry, friend.”

Of course I do miss L.A. I miss the food, the weather, the beach. I miss the shopping and the mixture of city and desert landscapes. I miss the culture rich with music and film and all things artistic. But for me it just wasn’t the whole package.

2012 in Review (Fuck that shit)

This year has been both very, very shitty and very, very productive. Like life, 2012 has been a dichotomy for me—nothing is ever perfect and one minute I felt like I was celebrating the higher points of my career and then being brought down by a wave of grief or anxiety. This post feels a bit dismal, but I’ve done quite a bit of celebrating over the great things that have happened this year and to be honest, some really incredible things have happened for me. I feel I’ve been successful in many ways and I’ve even had some great successes in writing lately that I’m very proud of.

But, as you know, I’m the type of person whose biggest flaw is her honesty and authenticity. So, I don’t want to write a flowery/happy post when I just really don’t feel all that great with some of the things that were heavy to deal with. I have chosen to share some of the darker times of the year here, though, in part because it may help you understand certain choices I’ve made throughout the year and also why I’ve slowed down from blogging.

The Worst of 2012

Anxiety
I have never felt more anxious, and paralyzed by it, than this year. I’m not sure I can explain the way it makes me feel to people who aren’t troubled by it, but anxiety can be a difficult feeling to deal with. I have been so open while writing this blog and I think knowing what I’ve actually shared with the world (and most importantly, that people keep reading it) really has put me into a panicked state.

Top that with the amount of arguments and confrontation I’ve had with friends and family and the amount of friendships I’ve lost, and the anxiety just grows. It feels like no matter what I say, someone is going to take it personally, or be offended, or judge me harshly. I’ve had fights with people who I thought cared about me greatly and have come to find out that many of them wanted me to live my life on their terms. It’s painful to feel that people may not quite love you as much when you are who you truly are.

I’ve learned a bit of balance in all of this, and certainly have learned to be a bit more diplomatic when I care about someone. It’s far better to preserve some friendships than it is to be right—whether it’s over politics or religion. Of course I’ve also learned how to rein in the private side of my life some, to the point where I feel a bit safer saying things online. I can either stop blogging or I can keep working on finding boundaries that work well for me.

Blogging is such an interesting hobby/job. Readers respond most to a blogger’s vulnerability and unique voice; but it’s those qualities that also get the blogger in trouble with trolls and hateful people. As much as you may feel you understand what it’s like to be trolled, unless you have a well-established blog I can’t say you truly understand what some of us go through. Unfortunately, there is no one way to deal with this issue and it seems everywhere I look, writers and bloggers and even journalists are openly talking about the harsh critics online. There was a solid year where I woke up to comments and emails that made me cry every single day. I happened upon a talk Lindy West (writer at Jezebel.com) was giving where she talked about this very thing. Lindy is chubby, and Jezebel encourages their writers to post photos of themselves occasionally. As Lindy talked about the amount of hate mail and hateful comments she gets (and reads), I started realizing there are some people who understand how I feel. Despite non-blogger’s advice to not read the comments, we find ourselves reading them. We have to moderate them, actually, so we can’t just ignore our comments or emails. For some time, I decided to close comments down completely and stop answering email. If you haven’t received a response during this year, and many of you deserved one, I’m sorry. I simply stopped reading some of my emails because I was being barraged by the same thing every day, and very little of it was good.

About my blog:
I feel like I’ve neglected this blog quite a bit and that’s partly due to the things I’m going to write about below, but it’s also because of the amount of hate mail and the overwhelmingly stressful job it’s been to read through emails and comments of people who just really detest me. I needed a serious break and to be honest, I feel like this some extra hateful stalkers have imagined me to be famous and have really gone all out to try to get to me. The sad thing is, it really did get to me and I needed some space in order to feel safe. I didn’t even feel safe, as a few of them made me feel like I was being stalked and harassed anytime I went online. I felt that way, because I was. There seemed to be an irrepressible group of people who were blasting me at once. Of course, they were different groups of people and yes, I had picked fights with their cults or with their political viewpoints or their religious beliefs, but damnit, a girl needs a breather sometimes.

Maybe it’s safe to say that I’ve become afraid of my own blog. It hasn’t been a very safe place for me—and if I were a bit better at the business side of things I would probably hire someone to weed through emails and comments and help me sort through the hard ones. I write exposes and piss off a lot of people off, yet this blog is also a place where I’ve been incredibly candid and talked about falling in love, losing my job, and what it feels like to be depressed.

I can officially say this: sometimes I have no idea what to do with my own blog. It’s such a mixture of thoughts and subjects and it’s sometimes driven heavily by those of you who have continued to read (and things you email me). It’s a lot of fucking work, but as hard as it is (and I believe many bloggers feel this way), it is something I’ve grown to love. I love connecting with so many of you who contribute back to my life and I love feeling like I’m helping some people regain the strength and courage to live their lives freely again. I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

Which leads me to my job. I haven’t blogged a lot this year because there’s simply no way to keep up on top of what I do for my day job. After losing my job in 2011, the highest priority of mine was to get working again. With losing your job, as many of you know, comes a lot of debt. Work was where I needed to shift all my energy and on top of all that, I was actually fortunate enough to land a pretty fantastic job at a great company. Just today I was doing an interview with a private investigator (for a friend’s job) and when asked where I worked, the guy said, “Whoa, nice.” That’s a pretty standard response in my community who know a) how hard it is to land a job there and b) how great a company it is.
Fortunately, what started as a four month contract position has turned into a twenty-four month contract. I’m now in a really good place but none of this came easy. In fact, this winter break was the first time in a very long time where I finally felt my creative energy coming back. My company works on very high-profile, confidential projects. Everyone works long, hard hours and it’s safe to say we’re all really invested in the work we do. This comes at a cost for people like me who are writing books and blogging at night, but it’s the price I have to pay to be an artist. (Side note: I’m not a fan of being a “starving artist”. I have good taste and I like really nice things, so I’m not at all happy getting by on pennies and scraps for some romantic notion of suffering or to claim moral superiority. Actually, as you and I both know, many of the “starving artists” are just trust fund babies who do have money but pretend not to. Those of us who have been in difficult places financially know the real pain of dealing with hard times.)

Where this blog is going?
Can I start by saying I don’t know?

I’d like to continue blogging about everyday life, but it’s clear from my Google rankings and various reports that most people come here for information on cults and spiritual abuse. So, there’s that. These resources are clearly important for people and I hope to improve them with time as I can.

If things go well and I figure out how to integrate a new content management system on my site and my site mapping is successful, then in 2013 I should have a whole section devoted just to cults and religion news, including my own research (which has been on-going on top of everything else I do-yeah, I work nonstop, actually) and survivor stories. I’ve been working with some really great survivor groups and definitely want to highlight their stories. It’s also important to make their stories, and facts about their groups, more accessible. Usually the groups we all go up against have hundreds of thousands of dollars to devote to marketing, so the stories of survivors can easily be hidden and this means they’re silenced.

But, let’s face it, I can only write about this topic so much before I need to get back to what this blog really started as—a memoir blog. So, in the spirit of memoir, I will continue to blog about my life and write essays about things that are important to me. I’ve also started writing about my writing process and personal lessons I’ve learned on my website because there are quite a few people who reach out to me about writing and the process.

So, without further ado, I present to you the worst of 2012.

 

My Health
(Disclaimer: This post is about ovaries and lady parts.)

A few months ago, I discovered I have PCOS. Actually, my endocrinologist discovered it through a series of exams and blood work, but you get the idea. PCOS stands for polycystic ovarian syndrome. From the internet, “Polycystic ovary syndrome is a condition in which a woman has an imbalance of female sex hormones. This may lead to menstrual cycle changes, cysts in the ovaries, trouble getting pregnant, and other health changes.” (Source: PubMed Health)

In essence, PCOS contributes to weight gain and can prevent weight loss, but it also causes extremely painful periods which feel like a knife is jabbing you in the ovaries (in my case, just one side) every month. This picture illustrates (warning: that picture is gross) why it feels that way. A woman with PCOS grows cysts and sometimes they rupture.

My worst symptoms aren’t pleasant. I sometimes feel like I’m going through menopause—I can break out into a sweat on a 45 degree morning faster than anyone I know. It’s a bit awkward and it’s also really uncomfortable. I did happen to find a great endocrinologist a few months ago, and since starting treatment I do feel a bit better. I don’t necessarily feel like I’m dying when I have my periods anymore, but many of my other symptoms persist.

There’s also the disparaging part about possible infertility. To be honest, after speaking with a lot of women who have PCOS, it seems like PCOS might not be a complete roadblock to having kids, but it requires a lot of work, medication and weight loss. There’s a whole cocktail of pills a woman with PCOS has to try for months and then of course, this seems to work after awhile with some people.

I’ve never tried to have kids, though, so I really don’t know how much of an issue this will be for me when I do decide to start a family. Or if I do decide to start one.  It could turn out to be a non-issue or it could become very complicated. My mom keeps telling me that women in my family haven’t had a single issue having kids, but PCOS does have a genetic component to it, so perhaps since the women in my family all had children at a younger age than me, their symptoms hadn’t hit yet. Either way, I’m 32 now and just a few years ago, I told myself I would start having kids somewhere between 32 and 35 (after the publication of my first book, of course). I read so much about women my age pushing back the age to have kids until we no longer can have kids and I know that’s what is happening with me. A lot of women are getting married later, or never really finding a suitable partner, and we’re often focused on our careers, social lives, and traveling until we finally realize it’s too late or almost too late. I have come to the realization that I have to start trying to have kids in the near future if I do want to have them without a lot of medical intervention and possible complications, especially in light of my reproductive issues. I may not become pregnant as easily as younger women who don’t have PCOS. Sure, some women have children around or after the age of 38, but if you think it’s easy to do, you’re mistaken.

Like many women in my shoes, I’m not married to anyone, although I have mixed emotions on this subject. On the one hand, many people give the impression that they’re happily married when I know this certainly isn’t the case in many relationships. Despite knowing that many people are in loveless marriages with partners who don’t give them enough attention, I sometimes envy the façade. As one friend asked the other day, “Is your idea of happiness mutual love?” I think in many ways it is, because I have everything else in life. On the other hand, I feel a bit like Edith from Downton Abbey. She tries and tries, but can’t seem to find luck with men. While her sisters are in love and becoming mothers, she is [SPOILER ALERT] jilted at the altar and then later courted by a man she realizes is married to someone else. Some people have all the luck; others just don’t.

Whether you know it or believe it, everyone has a few offers on the table. Someone has a crush on you and wants to be with you, even if you’re too insecure to believe it. Isn’t that sort of the nature of love, though? We want what we can’t have and we want those who play hard to get or who act uninterested (in many cases, they act uninterested because they aren’t interested).

So, I guess I want what I can’t have or what I haven’t had. That “I’ve fallen in love with my best friend” feeling (or maybe, I have fallen in love with my best friend. I don’t kiss and tell…yet). I want to get cozy and settle down with someone who makes me feel comfortable in my own shoes, so I don’t have to put on a big show and starve myself and spend a shit ton of money looking a certain way. You know, falling in love with someone like your best friend: someone who who sees you for who you are and can see right through you but doesn’t care too much if you’re kind of weird and moody. Or someone you can snore in front of. I don’t know. Things. Like that. Someone you can have fun with, who makes you laugh and knows that you are kick ass enough to accomplish the stuff that you dream about doing.

There are rare moments in life when you can connect with someone like this. I do know a few people who have this, or some relationships that have developed into this, but I don’t always feel understood by many people so I’m kind of unsure if it’s a realistic thing to hope for. I have kind of an odd temperament: moody sometimes, often depressed, and other times really happy. Outspoken, polite but not a charmer, and not afraid to stand up to someone who treats others with disrespect. You know, that’s not really the “perfect” girl for many, but I’m happy with who I am.

It’s rare to get involved with someone where things are both physical and just…comfortable. Those rare moments and rare connections are what I look for in a relationship, and no, they don’t come around very often. So, I haven’t “settled” down because I really didn’t want to live with someone who didn’t make me feel great.

 

I’ve written about freezing my eggs and using a sperm donor to have a baby, but to be honest, the closer I get to “that age”, I’m not entirely sure I’m ready to be a single mom. Or want to…As I get closer to my “deadline”, I feel okay with it all. While my life certainly isn’t the same as everyone else’s, it isn’t a bad life. I quite like it. Sure, I’d love to spend holidays pushing a stroller around Disneyland, but on the other hand, my life is much better than I anticipated it would ever be at the moment and I don’t want it to change.

Do I even want to give up my sleep? What about the hours upon hours of free time I have on weekends and evenings to write, or watch TV, or have sex when I want to? Let’s be honest, people with children are often miserable because they suck the life out of you. They are cute, but they are selfish little pricks who wear people out. According to the Hallmark channel, having a daughter is the most magical thing that can happen to a woman. Apparently motherhood turns you into this supernatural creature who cries over every moment. I think I’m fairly happy with my moodiness at the moment and don’t want to become vulnerable, so maybe I’ll skip the kid-having thing.

All kidding aside, I think I have finally come to the place where I’m happy with my situation in life—unmarried by choice and childless by choice. Oh, it took forever to get here, but I’ve made it.

 

Friends and Family
I’m not really “new” to my city anymore, but it hasn’t been the easiest place to make friends. I do have some good friends here who come visit me even when I’m moody and want to be left alone. I like them even though they are a couple and they’re in love and cute and stuff.

As for older friendships, it still hurts to know some friendships change, especially when you need those friends. It is a fact of life, of course. All of our interests change and who we see on a daily basis changes, too. Or little fights turn into monstrosities that no one wants to work through. I miss a lot of those people, or at least what we used to have.

I also moved away from all the friends I made in college. I hated the city I lived in then, but the people were some of the best people I’ve ever met. I miss them more than anyone, because they were there for me during the very hardest times of my recovery from the cult. They also made me laugh more than anyone. We partied and we had great conversation. But more than anything, when I needed them, they were there for me at the drop of a hat.

I don’t have that now. I feel pretty lonely most of the time. Without my family and a few individuals, I would probably spend most of my time crying because of it. It’s certainly been one of the hardest things about this year—and one of the few things I openly discuss. It is what it is, and when I feel sad I try to do something I enjoy; something that makes me happy. It still doesn’t change the fact that I feel incredibly alone and wonder if I’ll always feel this way.

I’ve also had a hard time reaching out to others to get to know people. I was pretty gun-shy about talking to people and trusting them and I felt pretty insecure for the past few years. I’m not entirely sure what happened (whether it was health related or otherwise) but I plummeted into a pretty dark place. I feel like I’m climbing out of it rather slowly and it feels nice to see the sun again. It’s taken nearly the entire year to get to know some people at work, and even still, my place of work is filled with very serious people so we don’t really hang out outside of our jobs.

I won’t expand on this too much, but it’s also been a really tough year for my family. Add that to everything else and I’m just not feeling up to being too open and vulnerable, because life has forced me to be quite vulnerable already. I feel the need for some quiet time alone to sort of retreat from the stresses of life.

 

Reality Shows/Producers

I’m not entirely sure I want to delve into this subject yet but here’s how I summarized it on Facebook:

As some of you remember, I spent months interviewing with and filming for a ‘reality TV show’ that may or may not have ever existed. There was a production company and we were working on getting the show on a major network. The network wasn’t known for reality TV though, so I should have known better. I should’ve never done interviews in the first place and NEVER should’ve done any video interviews without a contract. (Please learn from my mistakes.)

But, until that point, I never had any experience with production companies or TV contracts. I knew nothing about the business or about how they work. I suspected these producers was dishonest but just assumed that was “show biz”.

I’ve written some posts about it here and here.

If you are approached by a production company in the future, I highly recommend you do your research on the company, trust your instincts fully, and never grant a single interview until you have a written contract if you feel you have a marketable story. Under no circumstances should you give away your ideas. You owe nothing to them.

Unfortunately, some companies aren’t honest.

How was your year? What were some of your highlights (it’s okay to share the great things that happened) or low times? What are you looking forward to in 2013? Do you make resolutions? If so, what are they? 

 

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.

Tyra and Confrontation

I’m spending all weekend relaxing, watching America’s Next Top Model. Because that’s how I roll.

Of course, after 75 episodes, I had to wonder: Does Tyra Banks have a love life? I don’t think I’ve ever heard of her having a boyfriend, much less husband. But voila, she did have a boyfriend of three years until recently. She was dating a much older, powerful banker which I found fascinating. Totally my style (lately. I used to date baby boys. But I totally like smart, powerful men because they’re the only ones who can keep up with me.).

But what really caught my eye was when she said her whole mean girl attitude was just an act. She said: “In real life I’m passive aggressive…I’m even in coaching to learn how to be confrontational.” That’s kind of awesome to hear, because I’ve been really passive aggressive all my life and I was scared to death of confrontation. I would avoid it, and even burst into tears for years when someone confronted me about little things or big things.

Sans coaching, I’ve become very comfortable with confrontation, which I think is a very valuable skill to have. I’ve been in situations at work where this came in handy and it’s definitely helpful in girl-to-girl friendships.  Now I’m having fun with it–a little too much fun. It’s a bit addicting, because then I just start going off on all the people who treat me like shit.

You need a coach? I’m your girl.