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Spiller, Phebe Ava (D&R)

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May 23, 2011

Phebe Ava Spiller

Summary of My Life’s Story

I am a 58 years-young female and have moved around over the course of my lifetime. I have lived in Utah, Washington, Illinois, North Carolina, Oregon, Montana, Idaho, Texas and two different times in Florida where I reside now. I was raised in a professing home, part of the third generation on both parent’s sides and with several relatives in the work, which put the “standard bar” quite high in our home. “What will the workers think” was a recurring theme of my childhood. I’d go so far as to say that each of us kids were groomed from early on –for the work – but only one sibling made it into the work and she had to leave after a few years, due to her “nerves.”

I spent most of my growing up years in Washington State and went to both Miltown and Silverdale (Canada) conventions as we lived near the border and my father’s parents lived in Canada along with numerous relatives. I felt at home in both places and one of my girlfriends lived in Vancouver, B.C. and I spent many a Christmas holiday at her place up there. Then, her little sister married one of my cousins and thankfully, they are finally out of the 2x2’s. Two other of my cousins in Canada are also out, and several in the States are free of the bondage we lived with and under.

My parents were authoritarian, punitive and could be emotionally and verbally abusive, especially my mother. I often thought they had a mandate to make sure I was going to have eternal life, as if it was their personal duty and if they failed; their own identity as a parent would also be “failure.” I had happy times in my childhood but much of it was clouded by depression, which could not and was not recognized, so much of what I remember was no fairy tale.

We had company often, including the workers and I thoroughly enjoyed helping prepare for these visits but was also puzzled over the disparity I saw and felt regarding how different my parents were when company was present and when just family was home. I had some fierce resentments about not being allowed to be a child and it took years of personal work before I could bear to hear or be around “happy kids.” Their laughter and liberty just reminded me of being cheated out of a childhood and forced to become a grim little version of an adult as early as eight years old.

Some of the workers I adored and looked forward to them coming to our home or field, others I found stiff, formal and boring, especially in gospel meetings. I learned how to “emotionally check-out” and run happier scenario’s in my head until the worker was done and then I’d come back and go through all the motions, as I had been taught, or rather coerced into. Getting taken out of meeting and have your bum beat was no fun and the embarrassment was part of the punishment, as if I deserved it and everybody needed to know about it.

I decided to profess when I was nine years old and after informing my parents of this choice, that I thought would garner some attention and approval, I was told that I was too young and would have to talk to the workers about it. This made me furious, as I knew God had told me to and it was not the workers business but they came to me and we talked and later they gave me a chance to stand up and profess, in one of their gospel meetings. This “having to talk to the workers” never did set with me and caused the second bit of disparity to be lodged in my heart, Another time was when I asked my mother how I would know if I was a hypocrite and she laughed at me and dismissed my concerns. At one point, she told me that one of the reasons that the workers decided to let me profess early was because of my rebellious, stubbornness in learning to comply with the “standard set” in our home and if they didn’t get the reins on me early, they might not be able to, later. (Well, later came and I busted the hell out of the group.)

I took “professing” seriously and over time became very devout and conscious of the need to study, pray and be ready for the meetings with my part. I did love being able to turn my keen intellect in to something besides reading and became a student of the bible, finding it a treasure-trove of stories that fed my heart and were often guidance for me, especially when adversity started coming into my life and I felt like the only source of support I had was god and the bible. I also had a belief that “being faithful was my ticket to heaven” which I got from my parents, grandparents and worker relatives.

For several years, Sunday morning meeting was held at my Grandma’s house, which was on our little farm and my Dad was the elder after Grandpa passed away. I watched the solemn way my Father treated “the emblems” as he prepared them and also how he disposed of them, which I asked about. He told me the grape juice or “spiritual wine” was poured on the ground, after meeting, to symbolize Christ shedding is blood for us and the bread that was left over, was wrapped in a napkin and burned in our fireplace. This was mystical to me and as I was already somewhat of a mystic myself, I was fascinated with this symbology and sought to find other ways to apply this principle to my life and study of the scriptures. I spent a lot of time in the woods that surrounded our farm and there found solace, order, and many answers in how nature worked together, falling in love with Gaia –Earth Mother but I didn’t know this until much later.

Disillusionment continued to come over the years, in the people, but not in the way but finally, it was my severe depression that began to liberate me, even though I did not know it yet. I went on medication and after getting medically stabilized, it was like a window shade was raised on the inside of my soul and allowed the sunlight in again. I had been journaling for over five years prior to medication, about the growing disparity I was feeling but could not identify or understand, however, my journal entries began to change. I started asking myself some hard questions and found poetry spilling out into my journal about issues I had with a lot of things.

It took going through a very ugly divorce for the scales on my eyes to fall away and I became more and more conflicted by my growing inner life and the drama I saw myself acting out by continuing to profess. I got to the place where I could not stand to hear negativity towards outsiders, especially since it was some outsiders and not the friends who stood by me in my adversity and afflictions following the divorce. Some of those unprofessing people asked me questions that were a mirror of my own and became a sounding board for me to bounce beliefs and other issues off of.

Finally, I decided to conduct an experiment in order to answer one of the big questions I had: if this was truly the only right way, why didn’t more people find it? And, if I didn’t go to meetings for awhile – what would happen? Nine months went by and in that time, I didn’t hear from one of the friends, I saw one lady across several lanes of traffic as we were driving and I was so amazed that the world didn’t end. During this time, I had borrowed a book from a friend called: A Hunger for Healing by Keith Miller and found many answers and a lot of guidance in it. It was a twelve step program for Christians yet many of the issues coming up for me to deal with were not covered so as I read through this book, I wrote a twelve-step program for myself that did cover the issues of someone raised as a 2x2, along with scores of poems about these issues. I went to Alanon and AA meetings with some friends and began to learn about choices and options, two things that I had not experienced much of and my eyes were opened even more, to why I had been feeling such disparity about the dishonesty and expectations that were put on professing people. I came to believe that God was everywhere, and gladly gave up the inclusive mentality that I had come to really dislike.

Fifteen months later, I had a call from one of my former roommates and she told me about William Irvine and a book called: The Secret Sect. She offered to send me some literature and I timidly accepted the offer, thinking I might not read any of it. She also asked how I had managed to “stay out” with no knowledge of the origins or connection to other ex-2x2’s and I told her about the twelve-step program I had written. She asked me to make a book out of it -- with the poetry that I had written and offer it to others, in order to facilitate a positive way to make the transition. I had not planned to go public with what I had written but she convinced me that there was a need for this program and I eventually did what she asked, writing "On the Rungs of a Ladder: Steps out of Darkness," and a companion book of poetry called: "Snapshots: Moments in Recovery."

When the documentation and the book: "The Secret Sect " arrived, I started reading the book and could not put it down until it was finished and then I devoured the literature as a flood of emotions opened up for me. All the doubts and contradictions I’d been experiencing came up and out and I knew this book was telling the truth about “the truth.” I resisted writing an exit letter for over a year but finally did and sent it to a few people that I had been close to, and to the last two elders that I had. I was working through the stages of grief during these months and that took up a lot of my energy, and I was not surprised that I never received any answer back from any of the people I sent the letter to.

My faith in the bible being a guide for me never wavered in those years and I continued to search for guidance and answers and was given just the next right step and the courage to do that one thing and I look back and see how I was led out and away while people were being brought into my life that could and did befriend me, stand with me and encourage me so that I never felt “alone” even while going through the ex-communication phase of leaving the 2x2 world behind.

My journal and writing poetry continued to be a link to sanity, not realizing that my oldest brother and youngest sister were also making an exit from the group during the same time that I was. It was helpful, later to be able to share our exit strategies but while going through the really tough times, it was God alone and a few unprofessing people that helped me through it. None of these folks knew the extent of bondage that I had been in and I had no language for it myself, so could not verbalize it for them or myself.

Generally, I was experiencing so many losses that most of my energy in the first couple of years went into mourning, except where my three sons were concerned and they turned out to be a big help. They had observed the craziness before, during and after my divorce and the way the friends and workers had handled the situation so their take on my exit was “relief” that I was no longer participating in something “so messed up.”

Now, sixteen years later, I continue to write and talk about my experience and I do have language to describe how bizarre yet valuable my years in the 2x2’s were. I developed some strong attributes that I can and do use in my own adult life but must admit that I also had a lot of skewed ideas that didn’t serve me and with the help of Alanon, my twelve-step program, a weekend workshop called “More to Life” and scores of self-help books - besides individual and group therapy – I am now relatively free from my past, for which I am very grateful. It was a long, painful process but entirely worth the effort I put in to my recovery.

As to my spiritual path, I went to a Lutheran Church for ten years, where I had the experience of main-stream living and a family-community that I cherished and am now attending a Unity church which supports my growing edge of “being seen and heard.” This is a stretch as I learned to be the “rose on the wallpaper” early in my youth and it pushes on that old drama -- to share my poetry, writings and workshops. My parents and one sibling are very threatened by my writing but they no longer control my self-worth or destiny. I am free and fully present in a life of liberty and service.

By Phebe Ava Spiller
May 20, 2011

Click Here to go to Phebe Spiller's website about her books.

The following poem is contained in my book: On The Rungs of a Ladder:

Hoyden Ways

I painted my
toenails today
did battle with
the demons of
my past still

Present in my head
with mocking voice
berating me
for hoyden ways

Gypsy lust
no less
shadowed eyes
chopped hair and
ears pierced through
with holes

I stand a
modern woman
courage in
my heart to
shoo those
phantoms away

Brandish my
sharp wit
like bayonet and
saber spears
pierce them through
and through again

take that
and that
I say. . .