Learning Not to Feel So Guilty

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“Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death” -Auntie Mame

Today would have been Reg’s and my 8th anniversary. As things went, we would not have made it to this anniversary as we were well on our way to divorce when he died. Even though I lived it and even though I know why things disintegrated, I still wonder if somehow I could have done things differently. And the answer is, of course I could have, but would it have changed things? I sincerely doubt it.

You see, like a lot of women, I took on the responsibility of trying to make a marriage work that the other party was not taking as seriously. It was always going to be a losing game for me. I could have been the model wife, but without a commitment to change on his part, it would have been for nothing. It’s hard to keep reminding myself of that NOW after he’s died, when all the memories are good ones and I’m waxing nostalgic about how things were. Things were a little unresolved as well, and that never helps.

I am like that, though. I feel guilty STILL about being mean to a kitten I had once! I still feel guilty about mistreating my kids when they were younger even though I’ve apologized, they’ve forgiven me, and in some instances forgotten completely! The problem, I think, is that I can’t forgive myself. How does one forgive oneself? How does that work? Do you wake up one day, take yourself by the collar, and say, “Look, you’re forgiven!”? For some people I suppose it’s that easy, but it’s never been that easy for me.

I need to acknowledge that for 7 short years (although some seemed eternal), I lived an adventure I wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t taken a risk. That risk didn’t turn out so well, but I learned much, traveled much, and loved as much as I could.

So, on our would be anniversary, my present to me is a big old package of forgiveness for not being perfect, for making mistakes, and for failing at a marriage with the cards stacked against me at the get-go! Now stop your wallowing and get your ass out there!

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Somewhat Better & on the Brighter Side

Okay, thblackdoge black dog has retreated a little and in my good periods I can see the practical side of everything that’s happened over the last 6 years.

For all of the minuses attached to a marriage where one spouse is unhappy with the situation, there are always pluses, if one can find them.  One plus is that I am a person who never gets bored. I can entertain myself endlessly with writing, reading, watching movies, playing video games, putting puzzles together, and coloring in adult coloring books (yeah it’s a thing).

Therefore, I am fortunate that I do not have a 9 to 5 job. I can get up when I like and go to bed when I like. I am my blind husband’s support worker, which means I support his job by being his eyes when he needs them. This has given me a lot of freedom. It also means, however, that we are together 24 hours a day.  While being extremely grateful for NOT having a job in an office cubicle, it is tiring to be ‘on call’ all the time for his assistance needs. Even though I shouldn’t be, my job and being a wife become inextricably entwined. Having another interest for him to focus on, frees me up from the constant feeling of being on the job.  That also means more time for me to do all of the things I listed above.

Another reason it’s good for me for him to have other interests, is that we are not very sexually compatible.  Not to put too fine a point on it; he has fetishes that I don’t share. I tried to share them, but they did nothing for me. Yep, I am a plain vanilla kind of woman when it comes to the bedroom.  My simple need for just the basics puts undue pressure on him, or so he tells me. I’m not sure what ‘pressure’ I’ve exerted except to say that when I first came over I was gung-ho for some bedroom play. The more gung-ho I was, the more he retreated. But that was before the evil specter of menopause showed up.  I know waning of sexual desire and other physical ailments is normal for women going into menopause. I know my hormones are decreasing and my body is wearing out.  I also believe that issues from my past are at play here and I resent the medicalization of women’s sexuality. Not interested in sex, they ask, let’s fix that with a pill or with psychiatry. Nope. Let’s not. How about we let things be? How about we don’t assume all women want to have sex whenever and wherever men do, or (gasp) maybe not even with men at all?

This has also been a time to actually discern whether I WANT sex or whether I am conditioned to want it. This is a very complicated issue stemming from my past  It’s true that I have personal issues of my own when it comes to sex, and I do not obsess about it like he does. I do not turn every bodily function into a sexual action. As a blind person I understand his need for touch and sensuality, but it seems to drive him relentlessly. With my history (which one can probably read on past posts on this blog), I am at the point where I don’t want or need anything that puts the main focus on sexuality. I have begun to wonder whether I was actually feeling desire or I was conditioned to make myself sexually available to anyone who came along. My focus has always been on the romantic, and I think that’s where our problems began. I yearned for understanding and someone to romance me. My husband could talk a good talk before I became his wife. I fell for that immediately. I do love a man of words. However, it can make me blind to other things as well. That makes two of us. Perhaps all I wanted was the chase and not actually being caught.

So, looking to the plus side of things, I think a combination of my mourning for a fantasy romance that never was, my feeling of being betrayed with secrets and lies, and my hormones have all contributed to a whirlwind of hostility that I cannot seem to control at times. I also believe that what drives him forward is precisely what drives me backwards and into retreat. I am just now fully coming into realization about what I may want in a relationship; sexual or not. I think this is important to work through. Fortunately, in my calm times I can remember the good that comes of it all. Perhaps I shall explore this in future posts.

 

 

 

 

 

Sadness, Thankfulness, and Changed Lives

I was surfing the ‘net and found this incredibly sad blog. I don’t know if she’s alright. My gut says no since she was on hospice care at that writing, but her tale about her life at home with her husband and her childhood sweetheart and her children made me think about how we waste so much of our time doing things we wish we didn’t have to do and not doing things that will make  us happy.  We make choices, we make mistakes, we hopefully learn, and move on. I hope she has found blessed peace at the end of her days. We all deserve that.

Another Thanksgiving has passed and I am most thankful for being alive– here today– exactly where I am. I’m thankful I got my kids raised without serious incident for them or for me. I really can’t say I’d do anything different than what I have done. Despite going through a divorce (it’s incredible how many women are also going through this right now), I am happy, happier than I’ve been in a long time. After years of trying to please others in my marriage and at work, I decided not to do that anymore. What I thought I wanted 30 years ago turned out as well as it could have, but it has not led to what I want now.  I must say that now, I’ve grown closer to my kids, closer to my husband (yeah it took separation and divorce for this to happen) and I’ve found that I can take care of myself. The fearless woman I used to be 30 years ago is slowly coming back.  My husband (divorce not final yet) is happier and can tell me so without fear. I was a bad wife. I was bossy and pushy and I lacked respect for the man my husband is. But he can also admit that he was a bad husband when it came to giving me what I needed in a relationship. He refused to truly know me, converse on an intimate level, and felt that being a good provider was all he had to do.  I’m glad we can both admit our failings. Sooner or later, it would have come to an end. Now, just happens to be the time.  He’s gained new confidence without me and rather than hurt me, that makes me feel  that we are both on the right track.

The blogs I have read and in which I write, the meds I now take, the counselor I now see, and the new love of my life have all taught me invaluable lessons about myself that I would have never dreamed about 10, even 5 years ago.  Change can’t help but come with some pain.  I’m not responsible for the decisions others make, only the decisions I make.  How we handle those decisions is entirely up to us.

Some blogs on change:

The Change Blog

Love Appetite Lost

Rumination on Ending a Marriage

Love and Freedom vs. Fear and Possessiveness

The Naked Soul has a most excellent post about love and possessiveness that is a very old “new” lesson, but one that needs to be learned over and over again, especially in today’s world where people feel they have a right to just about everything. I find it sad that the most possessive of people may use coercive forms which may include violence to keep from losing what they fear.  However, this fear is not love, but a desperate need to fill some void in our lives or to keep somehow what we think the other brings to us; something that perhaps we wish we had but that we don’t find in ourselves. Tobeme writes:

This attachment that we form feels like love, however it is not love in the purest sense. The other person becomes a possession, a possession which we begin to fear losing. In our fear of possible loss we become insecure about our relationship. When we become insecure our thoughts and behavior change and often as reaction to our fear of loss we begin to tighten our grip and seek more control over the other person. We become suspicious of the behavior of the other person, we worry about them straying when we are not around, we may even sabotage other relationships that they have with long time friends and even family in the name of “love” which really is in the name of attachment and our fear of loss.

Who hasn’t felt this at one time or another? I think as we grow older and hopefully wiser, we can learn to express our feelings for others in ways that give the utmost freedom to them and to ourselves.  The rest of the post is well worth reading and re-reading.

The Heart of God Rather Than The “Heart of Christianity”

On this blog, I’ve always tried to be completely honest about matters of faith and non-faith, my sometimes agnosticism, and other personal matters. I’ve wanted to show that despite how some Christians act in public and despite how some who have no faith act, there can still exist a middle ground in which these matters are by no means settled. I am uncertain most of the time about the state of my heart when it comes to matters of faith. There has never been a time, since my conversion in 1983, when I did not think about God, Jesus, or the church or when I didn’t think about matters of philosophy and how we all fit into the various views out there. That’s just me and the way I’m wired. You see, I see nothing wrong in asking the hard questions, in learning the hard answers, or dispensing with the nonsensical.

I’ve often thought I need a therapist to help me sort out all the conflicts I deal with on a daily basis, but who has the money or the time? Blogging seems cheaper, if not completely free of the wisdom of inflicting my weirdness on the public at large. Blogging is also missing sometimes that healthy give-and-take between people and also that naked honesty wherein only truth-telling can thrive. So yeah, there are those shortcomings. But, there are always weirder people than me out there in blog-land, so I don’t fret most of the time. Who was is that said “Don’t go looking for a spiritual director, one will find you when the time is right.” Well, the time is now, whoever’s out there willing to take me on! You can show yourself cause I really, really could use one. In the meantime, I just keep on inflicting it upon you whether you like it or not. I want you all to know that there are people who have faith out there, just maybe not in the things you may have faith in. There are those out there (me included) who believe that Jesus is the Eternal Christ and who came to spread the Love (kingdom) of God to the ends of the earth and that, mostly, men have severely botched the job. They’ve set up rules and conditions to keep people away from God’s love. I call them “the gatekeepers.”

So, in this mood today, I ran across something at explorefaith.org that got me thinking about how simple Jesus’ message really is. Someone wrote to the website and asked, “What is the heart of Christianity?” Dr. Marcus Borg and the Rev. Anne Robertson responded (the words in bold are their emphases):

For me, the heart of Christianity—Christian fundamentals for our time—would be, first, the reality of God. Without a robust affirmation of the reality of God, Christianity makes little important sense.

Secondly, the centrality of the Bible. To be Christian is to be in a continuing, ongoing conversation with our sacred scriptures.

Thirdly is the utter centrality of Jesus. Christians are people who find the decisive revelation of God in Jesus, in a person. That means when Jesus and the Bible [contradict] each other, Jesus trumps the Bible.

The fourth fundamental is that a relationship with God is known in Jesus. Christianity is not primarily about believing; a relationship involves a much deeper part of ourselves than simply the content of our minds.

The fifth fundamental is a concern for the transformation of ourselves and of society. I’m convinced that the Bible from beginning to end is both personal and political, concerned with both spiritual matters and social matters, and the life of Christian faithfulness involves both of those. —Dr. Marcus Borg

To me, the absolute center of Christianity is embodied love. In my reading of the Bible and in my experience, that’s it…hook, line, and sinker. In Genesis it is God’s love embodied in Creation, with every part dependent on every other part for perfect function. When human beings couldn’t seem to keep their part of the harmony going, God embodied love more specifically in human form, in the person of Jesus. Jesus thus becomes both the embodiment and the revelation of God’s love.

Christians consider themselves to be the Body of Christ…those who try to continue to embody God’s love in and for the world. If it is not done in love, it is a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. It matters even more than faith, Paul says. When Jesus is asked in Luke 10 what must be done to inherit eternal life, the answer is to love. Love is at the center of Creation, because God is love. Embodied love is at the heart of Christianity because that’s who Jesus is. —The Rev. Anne Robertson

I would agree with both of their statements except for one thing. In Borg’s statement I would put Jesus second and emphasize the point: “…when Jesus and the Bible [contradict] each other, Jesus trumps the Bible.”

Of course, many will wonder how we can know that what Jesus said are really his words and not the newly forming church hierarchy’s own words inserted into early documents. Well, we can’t know that for sure, but what we can know is that Jesus’ overall life and mission are visible for all to see in the words that are there. He brought a message of inclusion for all those that humans deem undesirable. The New Testament is full of examples where he welcomes those caught in sin or those ostracized from communities. And I believe it translates over to today. Those we wish to exclude, he includes. Those we hate, he loves. There are no conditions. I would add to the above statements that the heart of Christianity SHOULD be: Love God (however that’s defined) with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength AND Love your neighbor (whoever that is) as you would love yourself. (Mark 12:28-31– Mark is the earliest and most reliable gospel tract).

Sadly, I don’t see too much of that love going on right now. I see more religion and rule-keeping more than love. If this makes me a deconvert from religion, then count me in. I am forgoing what passes for religion for true spirituality. Some people can’t seem to see the difference, but there is a huge difference. God does not reside inside church buildings. It is we who bring God to church and it is we who can take God back out of it again. God (however that is defined) dwells in the heart. Forgive me if I’ve not shown much of my heart lately. I’ll try to do better and thanks for being willing to be inflicted with my meanderings.

Blessings!

Liberal Women Are a “Cancer” in Evangelicalism

Every once in a while I need a good, swift kick in the pants for giving evangelicalism the benefit of the doubt. Granted there are exceptions to every rule, but come ON! Call me obtuse, but no sooner do I get all mushy and nostalgic about church and think that I’ve got my ire under control when I’m reminded of how truly evil and virulently misogynist fundamentalist evangelical churches really are. I mean, who ARE these women who listen to these men? Who are they who allow their husbands to rule their lives from birth to death? It’s sickening to me. And I understand the dynamics of abuse, believe me, but there comes a time in every woman’s life when it’s either you and your sanity, your children’s safety or your husband’s anger. For women today, defiance gets us killed, beaten, or raped more often than not, so there’s no easy solution. But this ownership attitude that some men have is born precisely here; in fundamentalist evangelical churches like these.

Thank Godde for men who value and respect women, not as walking uteruses or glorified babysitters of their offspring, but as full-fledged human beings with minds and hearts of their own.

Extreme Faith in a Small Town

It’s days like today that make me realize how much of a small town woman I really am. Today was “Miracle Sunday” at the Baptist Church I’ve attended off and on for over 4 years. It’s the same church I had problems with and it’s the same church with which I gladly resolved my problems recently. Today was the culmination of a campaign to raise funds to replenish a building endowment established by a long-time and now deceased member of the church. The fund was intended for renovating the Sunday School space, but had to be used for operating expenses. The woman in whose name the fund was established is legend here and the finance committee dreamed up Miracle Sunday to honor her memory by keeping the fund flush. Like me, the pastor was somewhat lacking in faith and a pessimist because when we discussed it, we both thought the event would be great spiritually. We were sure that the congregation would never be able to raise the $25,000 needed to bring the endowment up to speed.

Today’s sermon text however seemed to hit a nerve in all of us:

Mark 9: 14When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. 15As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.

16“What are you arguing with them about?” he asked.

17A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. 18Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”

19“O unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”

20So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.

21Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”

“From childhood,” he answered. 22“It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

23” ‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.”

24Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

Well, like all people of little faith and like the boy’s father, I was suspicious of a “miracle.” I was wrong. Today I attended Sunday school with loving folks who genuinely care about each other. They encourage me and show me what faith really means in a world that thrives on criticism and insults and how much dirt can be gotten about this or that political candidate. Today I was blessed beyond measure by hymn singing, prayers, a special collection received, and then a luncheon following worship. At the end of it, amid tears and prayers, and good food and company, it was announced that $25,570 had been raised! O me of little faith. It was an overwhelmingly generous gesture by folks, some of whom came especially for this event. We saw people that hadn’t been there in years. The overall atmosphere was so full of love, I couldn’t really wrap my mind around it.

Sundays like these are why I believe in small town America. Despite being despised by large city dwellers; despite being patronized by political candidates; despite all the bad press and stereotypes wrought by those who know nothing about what really goes on in these small town churches, people still go to church, love, laugh, eat together, and form communities that work. It’s not only possible, it’s done everywhere there are people of faith. I was proud. I drove home full of joy and humbled beyond measure. It restored my faith in what I had allowed myself to become jaded against the most. Blessings.