Welcome to our Pride and Joy Queer-ative Writing Series where we provide a space to post our OUTWrite Authors and Keynote Queers grads creative writing. This aligns with our theme of YOUR Voice, YOUR Power and we are excited to share creative writing with the community. All writing submitted is original work by the author and belongs to the author. The Pride and Joy Foundation does not own any publishing rights to creative work submitted. All work posted is edited for grammar and spelling only. The views and opinions contained within our guest blog belong solely to the contributing writer.
This week's post is by one of our OUTWrite Author 2022 grads, Lauren McMullan, who wrote a fragmented series in 4 parts. Here is the third part of "The Making of a Burial".
You can read all series here:
Digging holes to accommodate a forced view of the world is tiring. But this does not matter in the religion that raised me. To acknowledge the struggle resulted in two main conclusions depending on the state of mind I was in.
If I was feeling insecure then the conclusion was that the pain was to be read as a sign that Satan tempts everyone by whispering or leaning heavily on them and speaking to them through emotional pressure and exhaustion and despair that the things of God are too hard or difficult to keep up.
If I was feeling confident in my spirituality, or in a state of higher resilience, rather than read this pain as reason to revolt, I was expected to reconceptualize the pain - misappropriation of the human spirit - as sacrifice. To do the will of God was meant to create pain because it was the sacrifice of one’s own will, the only gift noble enough that a person could offer God, and I was not yet an eternal being, able to hand over that gift without emotional or physical sacrifice. So while it wasn’t a sign of sin, it was still a proof that my child self - as a body of man - was weak, too weak not to feel pain over the breaking of my will to the service of God.
I was taught it was a noble person who had faith in God through pain. I knew that to be noble was admirable, both to God and to my community in the faith. The way to stay noble, I understood, was to answer the pain in two ways; either by working harder OR putting more focus on distracting myself from the pain by focusing on what existed other than the pain.
Working harder meant scripture study, prayer, and in dire cases fasting - methods of undermind digging, tunnel reinforcing, and begging my mind to find feelings of safety, contentment, and satisfaction that I could apply to the experience of dwelling in them. External work involved acts of service, attending temple or church, finding ways to volunteer my time to church work, and trying to find missionary opportunities.
Distracting myself from the pain looked like asking myself; What did I like about digging holes? What was I grateful for? Wasn’t I gaining mental muscles? Wasn’t I showing my commitment to God? Wasn’t I learning daily the demands and blessings of a microcosm of labor in which - if I could just view the labor of digging and constructing this undermind of righteous existence as the full measure of my existence - then wouldn’t everything eventually work together for my good? Was that so hard?
Eventually I found that if I covered the same grateful ground too often it started to fail at soothing. Like an addiction I became desperate for that next piece of life that validated and affirmed that hurting and digging as I was actually felt good and uplifting. But the further I cast out in my mind, and out in the real world for ideas to bring into my mind - for new places to start new tunnels from to link me to the ones I’d already made - the higher the risk that I would encounter feelings or pushed away evidence that what I was doing was not actually what I believed or wanted or was effective at what it was claiming to be. To keep leaving the tunnels to keep myself present in life was exposing myself to the logic in open air that every “blessing” of relief from the pain and struggle only existed because I remained at the task, a task that was only made meaningful if I believed in its immutable nature.
So I had a choice to make. Keep trying to exist, present, in my own mind, or make the shift toward existing entirely in the undermind I had now spent my childhood and adolescence constructing? Keep trying to live exhausted and pinballing between emotional highs and lows and feeling constantly at risk of failure trying to balance it all together? Stop, leave, try something different?
That last one may seem like the obvious choice. But maybe not, maybe I have done my job well here and you - my reader - resonate the seeming impossibility of this to me then. The loss of every relationship norm, self-management practice, understanding of how the world is put together. It was no big deal on the face of it perhaps, just walk away, find a new faith, or find a new life. There are other religions and other commitments allow a person to maintain their agency to do this without it feeling like emotional and physical self-destruction, but it was not a space or allowance in the one that raised me. It was walking away from everything that I had built, everything my family, my community, my state even, held up as THE standard of existence. The ONLY way to find happiness and fulfillment in this life and the next.
Alienating myself from my own brain rather than choosing to hold onto myself was the only way to prove to the Gods and the people I wanted loving me that I was worth loving. The only way to prove to myself that I was worth loving. I took a deep breath and I entered my undermind and I went to college not looking back.
About the Author:
Lauren (she/they) is a late in life fence jumper and an early in career writer. When she's not processing her world through words she makes her living helping instructors manage their online classes and has the heart and degree of a librarian.