Advice

Over the years, I’ve given out a lot of advice to you, my dear readers and friends. I think I’ve covered everything from suicide to sexuality to how to argue your point with a Christian. I never set out to do this but I will say it’s a natural extension of who I am and this trait comes from my mother. My mom is the best at giving advice and seeing situations for what they are.

So, in an effort to embrace what I’m good at, I’m going to post an occasional column here that talks about issues you want to the know the answer to. A sort of “Ask Lisa” place that people can look at down the road, because I assure you for every question you’ve asked me, a dozen other people have asked the same one.

Some basics: you can email me (mycultlife@gmail.com), Facebook or tweet to me your question. If you email me, please include “Ask Lisa” in the subject line and a keyword on what it’s about (depression, religion, fundamentalism, etc.). Example: Ask Lisa about depression. You can include a story or anecdote, just make sure you’re okay with it being posted online.

As a rule I won’t use your real name, but if you would include your state or country of residence, that would be great.

Your identity will never be revealed but please note that your emails WILL be published. All identifying names will be removed and replaced with fake names.

Some Thoughts About Dating Women

I’m not one to beat around the bush, so here goes for my confessions of the day year: I think I’m ready to start dating women. I’ve never actually been in a relationship with one and I know I wrote a lot about questioning whether I was lesbian or bisexual or just confused (ha!), but I never did much about it. It just sat there like this great big canyon left unexplored and I was a bit terrified to go there. I still am. Most of the people I know are homophobic and would probably disapprove, or even worse, my girl friends would think I liked them. I don’t. My family definitely wouldn’t approve and they’d be all weird about it. I don’t even not want to date men. I’ll date men if I find one I like. The problem with labels is that people get all weird about them. I am still the awesome person I’ve always been and that wouldn’t change at all if I changed who I dated. But people can’t see past that and I’m sensitive. Not to mention, I’m not about to join a flag waving rainbow crew dancing down the street. I just want to see if I’d be happier and more understood.

It's my blog, I do what I want
It’s my blog, I do what I want

But let me break it down for you. Every few years one (maybe two) women come along that leave me thinking about them. A lot. These women are intellectual, sometimes feminine, artsy, beautiful and just downright sexy. Maybe a year ago there was another one added to the list (this list has four, maybe five women on it). She was in a serious relationship and she was a tomboy (not entirely, but for sake of needing something cute to call her, it’s stuck). I’ve always been the kind of person who didn’t understand the attraction to the tomboy lesbians, but color me wrong. She has a motorcycle and tattoos and drinks beer. I was in love lust. But the funny part is, even with these feelings, I wouldn’t let myself go there because of the fear of what people would think. And let’s be honest: lesbians move fast. So if there’s any interest, you’re basically married in 24 hours. That’s just not something I’m used to. And on top of all of that, there’s the risk of not knowing the person too well. So you hope they’re the kind that wouldn’t cheat on you and would treat you well, but you just never know.

The Tomboy ended up breaking it off with the serious relationship and was single for a bit. Then she started dating someone and not long after, she was engaged. The funny thing is, I’m so self-absorbed I didn’t notice she wasn’t talking to me until recently and I missed talking to her. And then I had this moment where I was like, “I wish I was engaged to her.” Which is weird…when you self-identify as straight and always have. So I gave it some thought and realized what was going on really was happening, so I should go with it. Except when someone’s engaged, you don’t really “go” with it anywhere because that would be rude. Although I actually did think twice about saying something and then my friends convinced me that I should wait it out.

The thing about dating men is that it’s so last year. Just kidding. The thing about dating men is that they seem to misinterpret lady things as negatives: if you’re emotional, you’re needy; if you’re outspoken, you’re a bitch; if you are direct, you come on too strong. I’ve had straight men tell me that dating a woman wouldn’t solve that and that women they know who date women fight nonstop, but that was literally based on one relationship. And so what if they fight? At least they can communicate with each other. I’ll tell you one thing: I have zero idea what it would be like to date a woman but I’ll let you know if it ever happens so you can try it out too.

It’s my blog. I do what I want.

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.

Labels are for Soup Cans

My friend Ashley (props to her for the blog title and other phrases) suggested a book to me called Same Sex in the City. My lovely Kindle Fire picked up the sample, I read it, and then I freaked the fuck out.

I’m a lesbian who likes men.

 

My friend Ashley (props to her for the blog title and other phrases) suggested a book to me called Same Sex in the City. My lovely Kindle Fire picked up the sample, I read it, and then I freaked the fuck out.

I identified with everything the authors said. By all estimates, I was a lesbian. Terrified, I closed that book and decided to work on myself one thing at a time. And that one thing would not include my sexuality…for a long time.

I mean, I’ve got other things to “work on” and discover. Don’t we all?

The sad thing is, I’m all enlightened and shit. It’s 2012. I’ve been blogging since 2010 and all of a sudden I’m scared of my sexuality? Yep. I still am. I’ve made major progress–coming out as non-Christian, then as atheist, then as a feminist. I suppose that’s all good.

After my last bf (boyfriend) and I broke up, and after I incessantly talked about dating women during our relationship, I was immediately happy. My first thought, “Now I can finally date a woman!” Then I spent an entire weekend with my family to “recover” and realized that they’d never accept me. They still insult me for voting for the n-word Obama.

Tied into the “Am I a lesbian?” panic is my difficulty getting along with men. My childhood was riddled with a physically abusive stepfather who beat the sh*t out of my mom when I was fifteen and then manipulated her into staying around for 27 years. I haven’t been normal since. Around thirteen, pre-beating, I became a feminist. It was fueled out of rebellion against my dad’s sexist, machismo ways I’m sure, but also by my desire to help others. (See also: Major Childhood Issues). But at fifteen, my dad was in Alcholics Anonymous and Spousal Abuse classes where he’d gotten “saved” and “given his life to the Lord.” So, he obviously had to sit me down one night and ask me if I’d been saved.

Long story short, I was saved, became a reverend, joined a cult, etc. The story in it’s entirety is in my website, which is currently down from being hacked. More on that later.

Being saved and having an abusive father definitely played into my fear of sexuality. For example, as a Christian, being gay is something that can rub off on you. It’s a choice. It’s a sin. It’s also something that qualifies you to be called a pervert. Being a pedofile priest does not qualify you, though, because they’re doing the Lord’s work.

My father is a tea-partier, Rush Limbaugh loving fundamentalist. To say we’ve clashed in the past few years is an understatement. I do try to keep the peace, though, and I’ve found that in doing so, I’ve been forced to lead a double life. Or chosen. Either way, I’ve started running away from family conflict and in an effort to keep the peace and not make the wife-beater’s temper flare, I just keep my mouth shut.

There are few benefits to keeping your mouth shut.

In the past few weeks, things in my family have drastically changed. My parents have split up and divorce papers have been filed. While each one of us have struggled with the difficulty of this, I think we’ve realized it’s best. It’s also radically shifted something for me: I’ve become a bit more liberated. No more walking around on egg shells, wondering when I’m going to get yelled at or picked on. No more Are-you-a-dyke? talks. No more cycles of violence.

At least that’s how it feels. It feels like a big burden has been lifted through this divorce, and although I’ve come to love my father as a complex human with a good side and a bad side, I’m happy my mom won’t be treated as sub-human anymore and I won’t be treated as a threat for standing up for her.

 

 

The other benefits to watching a terrible marriage end is a huge reality check. Marriage isn’t for everyone and preventative measures should be taken to protect your assets, your individuality, and your well-being before entering a marriage (if you choose to do so). I’ve spent the several years following my exit from a cult wishing I was married with kids, not because I wanted that, but because I’d been brainwashed by the Church that a woman’s place was in her husbands home.

I’m becoming excited for my new-found liberty. My life is fulfilling and so is my job. I think I’d like kids, my own or maybe to be a stepmom, but I’m sure as hell not in a rush. I think I’m actually pretty damn content for the first time in my life. Not perfect–far from it. Fuck, I have so many issues I need a personal assistant to keep up with them. But I’m finally getting over that goddamn pressure to get married in order to “be complete.” And I can thank my parents divorce for that.

As for my sexuality…this discussion is to be continued. If you’ve had your own coming out confusion and experience, leave me a comment or Facebook me.