Maybe you’re wondering how mine went since Saturday was probably one of the most important days ever. Well, the verdict is in and according to the jury (the many little birdies and forest animals that surround me and follow me wherever I go), it went fantastic! The whole night played out beyond my expectations, even though I really didn’t have any expectations. Honestly, I just wanted to get through it. Which I did. It wasn’t as torturous as I thought it would be either, probably because I felt so incredibly supported.
So many lovely people appeared. People who meant the world to me; I can’t thank them enough for coming. I was even able to hug one of my biggest heroes, Tory Christman (above and below). She’s been famously known as “Magoo” on the Internet–Usenet specifically. She’s had a powerful role in my life’s story–especially around the year 2000 when I left the Church of Scientology. All this is included in my book if you want to read the full skinny. Tory is one of the first people to step out, loudly I might add, in opposition of Scientology. It happened to be going down as I was leaving too, and I watched it take place in real time at home from my computer.
I don’t like to read aloud. I mean who does? I was nervous, but when I felt that way, I was able to look up and see my adopted dad, Dennis Erlich, and he calmed me down. Dennis helped get me through my transition in the years leaving the cult. When reading the excerpt out of my book, he told me to imagine I was reading solely to him and that calmed me down immensely. Thanks Dennis. That worked. Dennis is a major trailblazer who I really look up to. I believe he’s received a lot less accreditation than deserved (of course, that’s my opinion–though he probably wants it that way. He began tearing back the Scientology facade in the early days of the Internet–on Usenet to be clear. He exposed a lot about them a decade before you’d even hear any jokes about them on South Park. You can read a little bit about it here, and even watch when Scientology’s special forces showed up with a police officer and raided Dennis’s home, confiscating his computer hard drives, files, books, as well as invading his privacy. You’ll be flabbergasted.
But while I was still nervous having to read in front of everyone at the gallery, I was able to get through it. It was a surprisingly big crowd too. Though, maybe it looked bigger than it was since we were all crammed into the middle gallery area. There was a long table where I sat, I had a chair, and I had to be very conscious of holding the mic a certain way or the people couldn’t hear me. That proved extraordinarily difficult. I had to read my pages and keep my arm suspended in mid air holding the heavy mic, my arms and hands already weak and shaky. And I have a tremor in my hand. I must’ve looked a nervous wreck (way more than I was), but there was nothing I could do about it.
There was nothing I could do about my size either. I was so mortified about being seen in public because of how much weight I’ve put on (a shit-load). I’d lost near 30 pounds when I moved last year. I gained it all back, plus ten. But that’s what happened. I’ll get it off when I get to it. I’ve had a stressful time these last couple of years, but I’ve decided to just give myself a break and stop beating myself up about it. Besides, my mom is no longer here to make me feel ashamed of myself for being over 110 pounds. I was never happy at that weight anyway! And you know, I don’t think anyone really cares. I didn’t feel like there was anyone around me feeling that way at all. I was happy on Saturday because I felt accepted and supported for the work I do, not my size. So many people genuinely wanted to talk to little ole me!
Me with, artist Pat Gainor (above).
So, I read a short portion from my book–a scene from when I was roughly 22 and traveling back home from Italy via New York. Because Scientology is strewn throughout my whole life in the book, I had to first school the audience on a couple Scientology terms so they would know what the hell I was talking about. I take care of this early in the book of course, but live and in-person, it was a little odd going right into that before I even began reading, but it didn’t go over badly.
When I was finished reading, people seemed engaged and I took a lot of questions. Despite being visibly nervous, I read the excerpt from my heart and that’s what counts. I hid behind nothing and there was no pretending about what a huge believer I was when I was involved with Scientology.
This is perhaps the biggest reason I haven’t spoken out about my involvement in Scientology. I mean, it was a really long time ago now. I’ve been out for 19 years. And I have to admit, I’ve been a coward to wait so long too. All these people that have come before me have spoken out, written books and have made it much easier for a person like me to finally speak. But I am not a celebrity. I am not a person who was a high-ranking officer in the church and am blowing a whistle on anyone. I am not a person of incredible wealth and a team of lawyers as large as the Church of Scientology (nobody has a team of lawyers that big by the way). But I’ve protected myself as best as I could within the law. Even with that in play, they terrorize people.
Then, there’s what people who were never involved think of you. Once you come out of the whole mind-fuck and get your barrings, it’s just humiliating and embarrassing. I made myself feel bad and stupid about it for so long. It was mortifying to let anyone else know. I was ever in in the first place. If they weren’t aware. Good. I kept it that way. Most people know little about Scientology. They think about Tom Cruise jumping on Oprah’s couch or other celebrity displays of oddities that I don’t even know. It’s like a joke to most. It’s not usually something people want to know more about beyond a curiosity. They also wouldn’t think it’s very dangerous. They certainly aren’t aware of what they do to kids.
But I guess I’m done with nodding along when people say, “only an insecure idiot would get involved with Scientology, or any cult.” I know I’m not stupid for being in it. Not even for the many years I stayed. Trust me, I’ve beaten myself up about it worse than anyone else could. I understand every bit of why it happened, and why it happens to anyone. There are a lot of psychological elements in play; a kind of perfect storm. Somewhere within the building of relationships, the manipulation, creating a strong sense of self, and contributing to co-dependent, dysfunctional reciprocation among the social culture of other Scientologists, put together, these things can insidiously reel you in and none of it feels like you are being mind-controlled or that it’s against your will. And don’t even get me started on the belief system.
As a kid, I wasn’t able to spot this recipe of sticky candy. I only knew it was helping me in the moment in order to survive what was happening to me at home. It served a purpose and solved a problem at the time.
As for the show, I was surprised to get a lot of positive reactions on the above weird-o painting called, Watch How I Wrangle that came out of my “Eye-Book.” I’ve been working on it–on and off–for over a year. It’s been something I’d work on, leave a lone for a while, and come back to. Now I’m very happy with it. It’s oil on canvas, 34 x 34 inches, and it is a prominent place in the show. I didn’t like it as much as I did as when I walked into the gallery and saw it by itself on a white wall.
I was able to sell a lot of books, and a few paintings to boot, but by the time I was able to squeeze my way out of the crowd to the front, I couldn’t go over the red dots on the price list before Carig started kicking everyone out. It was 7:00 P.M. and it was time to go. Everybody out! I was glad.
^ (Above.) Here I am with artist, Gay Summer Sadow Rick. She uses (bought) my old studio easel, which is massive, and says she loves it! 🙂
It was so nice to see all my work up in the gallery too. I hired artist/photographer, Alan Shaffer to take shots of the new work and he took a few installation pictures too–just for yucks.
Here are all the paintings I put into the show, plus I made a number of changes to my site. New links, and I categorized things slightly differently–all in the navigation. Now I only have a couple more things I’d like to update–like putting up the new pattern pieces/samples in the Journal Project that I also showed in the exhibit that were individually framed.
So now what?
I’m super glad to start a new life. A new life that I’ve no clue will be like. And until I find out what it is, I plan to slow way, way down til my show is over, then sleep for about a month (at least).
In the meantime, I beg of you. Help me! If you have read my book. Even if you’ve read enough of it to know you like it, leave a review on Amazon.com. I need those things! The more stars, the more visibility.
Also, check out my Virtual Book Tour to see what I’m doing today, or any day. 🙂
Again: Thank you guys who’ve been supporting me, for those of you that came out to the show, and to you who send me all the good vibes, good luck, well wishes, and love. I FEEL IT!!!! I really do! 🙂 THANK YOU.