Poetry

Poem: The Cult of My Family by Mark Tulin

 

I learned to take my family
in small doses
or else they would feel like
a religious cult, toxic
to my system.

The more I worshiped my family,
the more I went to their church
of traditions and beliefs, and
the more dysfunctional I became.

They hypnotized me with guilt
and persuaded me to let go
of my own free will—
To ignore my intuition.
To minimize my feelings.

I feared my family as
I feared the church.
I worried that I would be excommunicated
if I didn’t toe the line.

The more I repented,
the more I pleaded
for my absolution.

Then, by accident,
I discovered the word “no.”
It was magical.
It allowed me to have the space
to find what I wanted
and to be in control
of my journey.

Without the family’s interference,
I took back what was mine.
I stood separately.
The more freedom I found,
the more solid was my foundation.
.

Freelance writer, poet, yogi and photographer from Santa Barbara, California. I write and take pictures about a variety of topics, from my early childhood in Philadelphia, to my years as a family therapist, and finally to my soul-searching years in California. The things that move me may have a humorous or serious content or both. Either way, I hope my poetry, pictures and stories resonate with you.

40 comments on “Poem: The Cult of My Family by Mark Tulin

  1. oh my goodness Mark, this is so good. it spoke to my soul and gave me words i have been unable to verbalize…….thank you!

  2. We must be related. I tried my first “no” just this year. In a restaurant hoping the scene would be minimized. (It wasn’t.) I’m the good, middle child, but there’s hope for me to get disowned yet. My parents are getting even more fanatic in older age, it seems. I wish a hand to hold when I go into the lion’s den each time. My avoidance is awkwardly apparent. I’m glad you wrote about this. I’m too scared, too, lol.

    • (Whoa. Typos up there from my trauma, lol…)

    • TT. It’s definitely a challenge, and a scary one. Parents hold on because of their fear that you might get lost or go astray or they become useless in your life. Keep this poem with you as you continue to journey forward. Peace, Mark

      • Theresa Ruiz

        You kinda read my family too, Mark. Both of them have difficulties expressing themselves or admitting to their “faults”. I hope they take to heart what you write. I know they both love to read them.

      • Thanks, Theresa. Good insight. Fear keeps people stuck on bad habits. 🙏🏻🎅🏻

  3. Wow I love how this is written. It’s dynamic and relatable in so many ways. Nice work here.

  4. Yip, families can be funny like that 😖

  5. Useful word that, ‘No’. Once you learn to open your mouth and say it, strange things start to happen. You find yourself growing just a little bit taller as your independence begins to grow…

  6. I can relate, Mark, coming from a born-again super-religious family. So glad I started thinking for myself.

  7. I felt the peace you found within yourself in your poem, simply beautiful.

  8. Theresa Ruiz

    Yes, we sometimes have to remember that we are the products of our parents now that we’re adults. We are strengthened each time we overcome and hopefully can love them as the souls that our parents are. Thank you so much for expressing this sentiment.

  9. I find it interesting that this can be read in both a literal and metaphorical sense. It is not only religious families that can suffocate, but any kind of toxic or intolerant family. In this way, any kind of toxic group could be referred to as a “cult.” This is beautifully written and definitely rang true to my own life situations. Thank you

  10. Then, by accident,
I discovered the word “no.”
It was magical.
It allowed me to have the space 
to find what I wanted 
and to be in control
of my journey……I so know what you mean😎

  11. muskaanmalhotra7862

    Family is indeed precious. And, yes, I myself have difficulty in saying ‘no’ to my family members. I’m trying to overcome it . By the way, nice poem. I hope you check out my post too. Suggest changes if necessary.

  12. muskaanmalhotra7862

    Family is indeed precious. And, yes, I myself have difficulty in saying ‘no’ to my family members. I’m trying to overcome it . By the way, nice poem. I would be happy if you checked out my post on family too.

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