First day of school!
It’s been a long time since I’ve felt like this much of a failure as a parent. Self portrait
I got a call from Vincent’s principal this morning. My soon-to-be-four year old son was sent to the principal on his 3rd day of school.
Regardless of the situation, how can any parent say “Not my fault.”
On some level, it’s my fault. I did or didn’t do something right that caused him to act out in a negative way.
Friday afternoon, I was stopped by Vincent’s teacher and warned about his behavior. He was acting out by swatting at children and screaming at his teacher. He refused to follow directions and insisted on going off by himself over and over again.
When she said that, my heart practically tore itself in half.
“Going off by himself over and over again.”
Immediately images of him playing by himself in a room full of children as I picked him up from daycare flooded my mind. You guys have heard me talk about this before. I can’t help but feel responsible for my son’s social immaturity.
Aside from the fact that he was hearing-impaired his first two years (which stunted his speech and comprehension), he didn’t have much interaction with children his age outside of daycare. Why? Because he was never given a sibling.
I feel so angry and so guilty for this. When I heard the teacher cite the same exact symptom I was so keenly aware of every time I’d pick Vince up from daycare, I knew in my heart just how disadvantaged Vincent was made by the situation between my husband and I.
I immediately became livid. After putting Vince into the car, my blood pressure must’ve soared as I had visions of tearing into John for his selfishness… his thoughtlessness. How could he not see the damage he was doing to Vincent? All I wanted to do was scream and yell at him, myself. I wanted to punch and kick him. I wanted to do everything that Vincent had done as if John feeling it would somehow make him realize how incredibly wrong he was.
I quickly realized I needed to cool down. I almost felt like I wasn’t in my right mind. On a logical level, I fully understood that my rage was simply masking the root of my emotional maelstrom. I felt guilty and depressed; sad and hopeless. All of visions I had in my head of creating the perfect family environment for my children was taken away from me and I’d let it happen. I never provided Vincent the sibling I wanted him to have. Little Myla, the sister he has in Heaven, slipped away under my watch. All of the anger and rage that I was directing at John was simply a bait and switch. If I was able to focus on him, I didn’t have to realize how much of the blame I shouldered for his deficiencies.
Logically, I fully understood all of that. Emotionally, however, I didn’t give a hoot. I wanted to call him and tell him that if he was home, he should leave. Maybe find a friend to spend the night with ‘cause I didn’t want him home with me. I wanted so much to lash out in the most spiteful, angry way I could to make him feel just a fraction of the hurt I carried.
Thank God my logical side fought back, because my emotional side was gunning for separation. It really, truly was. That is not, however, the Christian way of handling problems, and I really have tried so hard to grow myself into a better example of what it means to be truly loving in my actions, especially with John.
Plus, in my heart, I know that’s not the answer. It’s not fair to John who is not entirely to blame. So I forced myself to calm down. I forced myself to refrain from spewing lava the moment he walked into the house.
However, he could quickly tell I was upset. I said we’d talk after Vincent went to bed, and he backed off. Somehow, by the grace of God, he actually backed off. Normally he will push until his curiosity is satiated, but in this instance, he did not. That gave me enough time to collect myself and slowly vent, alone, until I was ready to discuss things in a manner that was fair to both of us.
So after Vince went to bed, he asked. At first I didn’t know how to delve into it. I was really worried I wouldn’t be able to restrain my tongue. I wanted to be fair, but I was still emotionally raw. I have no doubt I didn’t handle myself perfectly, but I can say I made the right decision. I’m glad that I waited until Vince went to bed, and I’m glad that I resolved to talk things through with John rather than remain dedicated to heaping blame and anger on him without his knowledge.
I explained what the teacher said. I explained my experiences picking Vince up from daycare. I then explained that I truly believed Vince wouldn’t be as socially behind if he had a sibling. I felt guilty for not providing him one, and I was angry that John couldn’t see how damaging that was to him. I explained why I didn’t say anything earlier, and I also explained how incredibly angry I was on the way home. However, I also explained that I understood anger is my self-defense mechanism, so it’s the emotion that crops up most strongly when I feel sad or guilty.
In fact, it’s pretty safe to say that the angrier I am about a given situation, the more upset I am about it. Anger, to me, is a controlled force. I feel empowered and in-control when I am angry. I’m able to speak eloquently and my mind is razor sharp. However, the second I allow the sadness, guilt or despair creep in, my eloquence goes out the window, I feel as if I’ve lost control and I am left weak and vulnerable.
Doesn’t that seem strange? But it’s true. Angry Gina is like a brilliant lawyer poised to tear into a guilty convict. Upset Gina is the babbling convict who wants to cry in the corner. Very, very seldom does Upset Gina come out to play.
So through my conversation with John, I felt a tug of war going on between these two sides of myself. I knew that in order for John to understand that I didn’t hate him or fully blame him for everything, I had to be honest about my feelings of failure and guilt. However, in order to get my thoughts across in a clear manner, my words were edged with anger – not to reprimand John, but to help me keep my composure.
To my surprise, John did not defend himself or try to make me understand that my view of siblings was wrong. Instead, he apologized. He said that he understood I was in a terrible situation. He sympathized that I felt guilty for having failed Vincent in this manner. He did point out that there were other ways of giving Vincent the experience of other children his age, but he didn’t counter me when I said the experience of siblings is without equal.
He just apologized and said he wished he could change his mind on the matter. I waved him off, not because I didn’t appreciate it, but because I was still caught between Anger and Upset.
The upset side of me wanted to reassure him that I didn’t hate him for how he felt. That side of me fully understood where he was coming from and wanted to let him know that he didn’t need to “wish” he could change his mind.
The angry side of me realized it was about to lose its edge and decided bypassing that statement altogether would be a safer course of action than responding, because how can anger respond to love?
That is, after all, how John answered me. He listened to me, really heard me, tried to understand my point of view, and sympathized. He didn't agree, and he didn't have to. You don't have to agree with someone's perspective in order to sympathize. THAT is the response I've been waiting for.
I never wanted to force John to change his mind. I'd like him to, sure, but that was never the crux of my frustration. It was always his stubborn refusal to even give my point of view air time. I was wrong, and that was that. This is the very first time I felt as though he'd not only heard me out... he'd allowed himself to accept that my point of view wasn't entirely off-base. That doesn't mean he agrees with it, and that's okay. However, it does mean that I'm not the outright manipulator that I think he felt I was regarding children.
Thus, the conversation petered off. John apologizing for his part in my sadness, me accepting that I was stuck trying to figure out a way around this for myself and my family. As a mother, I have to figure out a way to help Vincent grow into a more socially adept little boy. I accept his current difficulties on account of his verbal / comprehension deficits, but I do not accept that these are permanent limitations. They are certainly not excuses for bad behavior.
So today I vowed to work with both the teacher and the principal on getting Vince better transitioned into his new environment. I’ve enlisted the help of his previous teachers, and I’ll be talking to my mom (a kindergarten teacher) later this afternoon. Obviously I also talked to John and we both agree that we’re giving this at least two weeks before throwing in the towel.
Maybe we find out that Vince really is just too young to begin. I, for one, will not make that decision without giving it a real try. Two days is not enough to judge a child’s ability to meet the expectations of an entirely new environment. The principal agreed with me, and we’re going to see what the next two weeks bring us.
Keep us in your prayers, folks. It’d be much appreciated. This entire experience has been so much more challenging than I’d ever imagined.
UPDATE: Since I was asked - Vincent was practically deaf for the first two years of his life. Given that therapy only got him so far, he's still behind his peers when it comes to communicating his fear or frustration. As a result, he relies on physical outbursts sometimes. Physical outbursts include swatting at others or stamping his feet. Both are negative behaviors that could potentially hurt someone, so they are serious. However, he's not maliciously threatening anyone and is reacting, in my mind, as a child of his cognative level would respond. Our job, as parents, is to teach him new coping skills and help him develop beyond physical response. We also need to work more on his willingness to share the attention of adults with other children (again, something a sibling would've helped with). He consistently demands the attention of the teacher, and if he doesn't get it, he simply shouts louder and louder until she's forced to give him attention (even though it's negative attention).
My background is education. I fully understand the dynamics of what is going on and why my son is acting out in the manner in which he's acting out. It makes sense, but my difficulty is how I can help re-teach him better behavior.
Anyone have any tricks or tips?
I wrote this out several times. None of them quite stuck. I'm always so concerned with saying the wrong thing or having folks unfamiliar with the situation immediately view John in a negative light.
Truth be told, my wonderful husband can be a bit of a rockhead when it comes to my emotions. It's not entirely his fault given I rarely show them. I'm normally a very even-keeled individual whose emotions range from happy to happier (to stark raving mad when I'm driving through traffic). I'm not prone to falling into crying fits or getting depressed or staying miserable. It's just not who I am. I really have been blessed with an inner peace and joy that anchors me no matter what's going on in life. It's why I'm so good at masking my emotions in times of grief. So long as I focus on that tiny spot of joy, I can be okay.
So again, I don't fault my husband for his less-than-stellar handling of me in the aftermath of the miscarriage. In addition to the situation being foreign to him, my own emotional response was foreign to him. As a result, instead of confronting them or trying to handle them, he shut himself off from the situation and just ignored it in the hopes that it would rectify itself.
As I stated in previous blog entries, I'm trying really, really hard to break him out of that habit. A man (or woman for that matter) cannot simply ignore a huge issue in the hopes that it magically goes away - ESPECIALLY in a marriage.
So I cornered him in the car. He had no method of escape and was forced to handle the conversation for a limited amount of time (which I know was helpful because he'd've panicked otherwise). I explained what I felt and what I believed he felt. I explained I understood his reasons for ignoring the situation... for dismissing my insistence that I was pregnant... for walking away from me when I was visibly upset. I also explained that I didn't hold it against him as I understood that's his MO when handling foreign situations.
That being said, I told him he could no longer just ignore things in that manner because doing so was hurtful to me and to our relationship.
He tried to defend his actions. He tried to say he wasn't dismissive or insensitive. He just "didn't believe what I believed."
This, mind you, is in reference to the fact that even had I been pregnant, John wouldn't have concerned himself with that child being a real life. Babies, to him, aren't "really real" until they show up on a sonogram... at the very least on a home-pregnancy test.
I responded, "John, you don't have to believe a child existed in order to help me through my emotions. You don't have to believe she's in Heaven in order to help me come to terms with what I know to be true."
I mean, does he have to lose a parent, himself, in order to comfort a friend who just lost his? Of course not. In that analogy, he realized his mistake.
He was so worried that I was trying to change his mind about children that he blinded himself to my very real, very intense emotional struggle. I was forced to "go it alone" when I should've been able to rely on him to help.
That really, really bothered him and he was silent for some time before grabbing my hand and apologizing.
But I wasn't waiting for an apology. I'd forgiven him before he'd even responded to me in such a manner. I understand my husband and what he needs from me. It's why I didn't press the issue and only gave him what I thought he could handle.
Even in my grief, I sought out the response from me that he'd need. As his wife, I expect him to try to respond in like fashion. Even though he might be struggling to handle things on a personal level, his job is to seek out a response that I'd need. After all, that is what marriage is about... each putting the other first so that both people's needs are looked after and taken care of in a loving manner.
I'm very pleased with the flow of the conversation. I felt heard and validated, and I think he felt understood and loved. I also believe that should an emotionally taxing situation arise again, we'll both be better equipped to handle one another.
In the end, that's all I can ask for, because this sort of loving reciprocity is the foundation for family life, and that's what marriage is all about!
For good measure - the little munch.
I was talking to my best friend, Mary, yesterday. She wanted to check in and see how I was doing since we hadn't really been able to touch base since everything happened.
I explained the situation and, as usual, she gave sound logical support. Good thing I fell in with the chick who grew up to be a trained psychologist, huh?
Anyway, in speaking with Mary, I found myself coming to a very clear understanding of how I was handling my husband in this situation. Some folks have suggested I lay off bringing up my emotions to John given the precarious situation we find ourselves in. My mother wondered if I might be pushing too much... some of you wonderful readers suggested via e-mail / commentary that I might want to reign back my expressiveness... even Mary thought it might be a good idea to "get myself sorted out" before attempting to wrangle the Elephant in the Room between John and I.
However, let me assure folks that I haven't really been pressing the issue with John. I've brought it up in tiny bits and pieces. We've spoken about Myla three times. Once when I told him I was sure I was pregnant. Once, a few days later when I told him I was sure I had miscarried. Finally, I spoke of her when I told him I'd named her.
The longest of these conversations was the first. That lasted about 10-15 minutes and it consisted of me explaining the changes in my body that assured me I was pregnant, him going off about a vasectomy and how another baby would be the implosion of his world, me countering with all the wonderful things a baby would bring, and finally his acceptance that he'd be a good father to this one just as he is to Vince.
The second conversation was less than half that time. After a day of the cramping and nausea, I realized what was happening and told him. He said, "I don't want to say I'm happy, because I know you're upset, but I'm honestly relieved."
Even though it hurt to hear him say that, I understood his point of view and didn't hold it against him. However, I couldn't really say much more to him on the subject given how incredibly emotional I was. He left me to my tears and I left him to his video games.
Finally, the night I spoke to him of her name was the shortest of all. Two, maybe three minutes.
Each of these conversations was difficult for me to start, difficult for me to have, and difficult for me to walk away from.
But I realize in my conversation with Mary that I did it both for myself, and for John.
For John? How, you ask?
Remember that 3 Part Series I did involving my mother-in-law? Secrets Aren't Secrets Forever was the title I went with. Brief synopsis, John had ignored his mother's prodding for more grandchildren for YEARS. Finally, she took matters into her own hands and asked me directly. I then handled the conversation John couldn't and eventually explained to John the importance of NOT ignoring situations in the hopes they go away.
The best way of handling problems is to work THROUGH them.
Well, what you readers don't realize is that not even one week later, he did it again.
We were out with one of his clients and his client asked us when we'd be having more children. John PROMPTLY walked away from the table we were at, knowingly leaving me in an emotionally vulnerable position. However, I took that opportunity to model proper behavior for him. I called out to him, "John, wait a minute." He stopped, hung back, and listened to me respond. After we left the client's presence, I explained that it felt terrible for him to leave me stranded in such a way, ESPECIALLY after we had just had a conversation about how to handle these questions since they're so hurtful to me. He acknowledged I was right and resolved to use my response as a guide for next time.
"Next time" occurred about two weeks ago. He proudly came home and said, "Another client asked about me having more kids and I actually answered him. I handled it!" Then he proceeded to tell me the conversation which, to me, proved he COULD learn if someone was willing to patiently teach him a strategy outside of "IGNORE."
So as I was talking to Mary, I pointed that out to her. She felt he might've been too stuck in his ways to get past his "Ignore" defense. However, as his wife, I feel it's my job to help him develop beyond such a juvenile response. So I've brought it up in tiny snippets so that if he ever feels ready, the door is open for him to look at this situation from a different perspective - one that isn't drenched in the culture of death.
As I was thinking more on my conversation with Mary, magazine covers kept popping into my head. They looked a little something like this:
Notice that every single one of them has a headline about sex?
We've all seen these magazines. Cosmo isn't the only one guilty of it. However, this particular screen shot served my purposes.
Women are CONSTANTLY bombarded with how to express themselves sexually by getting men hot and bothered, by feeling sexy, themselves, and by being vocal about what she likes and doesn't like in the bedroom so that both partners come away feeling "satisfied."
Barring the stupidity of most Cosmo-type trash, they do have one thing right - women need to express themselves (and their likes and dislikes) if they're going to have a fulfilling sexual relationship with their spouse.
However, if we need to be upfront about our sexual desires, how much more upfront must we be about our emotional and spiritual ones?
Or do those not count?
I say they count just as much (and more) than sexual desires. So if society is telling women they need to coach their men into being better lovers, it should be telling women they need to help men be better listeners, supporters and friends.
In fact, that's what a marriage is. It is a husband and a wife consciously helping one another develop into more mature, loving human beings. It is our JOB to coach one another through times of confusion, discord and strife, even if we're not entirely sure of the way ourselves.
So I'll keep on keepin' on with John, just as I'm sure he'll keep on keepin' on with me. I'll keep chugging along trying to teach him coping mechanisms that exist beyond ignoring issues, and he'll coach me into being a more financially sound adult.
Thus, even in the midst of my own struggle with grief, I find it necessary to push him just far enough to see past his own "comfortable" perspective. I don't push him enough to have him run for the hills, but I push him enough to widen, even a smidgen, his own comfort zone. In doing so, it widens my own comfort zone because I'm forced to confront my own dislike for emotional confrontation. I am forced to make myself vulnerable to him, and even though he's not the most delicate with me right now, I can see that he's making a good effort.
And again, I love him for trying. At the end of the day, that's all I can really ask - that he loves me enough to try.
I almost cannot believe a year has passed. I think it's because I'm in such an entirely different place in my life. When the bells rang to welcome 2013, it almost seemed they were for me.
At this point last year, my marriage was ravaged. We were both depressed, incredibly bitter and mostly unhappy with our lives. Everything from work to friendships to our personal lives seemed to be dead set against us finding any joy. So to look back and realize how far we've come... what a transformative year 2012 has been... it's mystifying. It's like I'm looking back on someone else's life.
2012 was the year John and I pulled each other, many times kicking and screaming, into loving one another again.
You see, no one tells you this during marriage prep courses. No one mentions the all-out war you sometimes need to wage in order to build and maintain a relationship that seems so easy to new couples. They say marriage is hard work, but they don't tell you that this particular brand of hard work has the ability to take you to your deepest breaking point, smash it into a billion pieces, and then introduce you to the even deeper breaking point you didn't realize your other breaking point lived in fear of.
So 2012 was the year we confronted those breaking points. It wasn't pretty. In fact, it was terribly cruel, ugly and painful. I’m still not entirely sure how we survived such a traumatic reconfiguration of our marriage. I attribute it to the prayers of those who understood the heartache. They were the likely source of strength the two of us unwittingly fed from as we endured the agonizing process of cleaning house and facing the truth of our own destruction.
Most people are unaware that there were tremors unsettling our nest. I’ve always kept such things very close as I don’t believe there is benefit in airing dirty laundry to family or friends. I never uttered a word to my family as I didn’t want them to view John in a negative light. I also didn’t want anyone worrying over my relationship when there were more pressing things to keep them occupied.
So I turned to my spiritual director and my best friend. The only two people who knew the full extent of the emotional agony I endured, I held nothing back from them. I was candid, frank and colored. I would spit fire one moment only to fall into a river of tears the very next. I also poured myself into writing. Venting to my two trusted confidantes and banging out article after article on my keyboard – those were my coping mechanisms. Some folks might be upset to hear I didn't turn to them with my emotional tidal wave. May it suffice to say that voicing that wave to one person - let alone the two I chose - was difficult enough.
I’m still not entirely sure what John did. He eventually told his family. It was a huge mistake – and he fully admits that now – but I don’t fault him. His family dynamic is vastly different from mine, so while I was afforded the distance necessary to keep my personal life adequately private, he was not. I know he vented to his friends a bit (because it had the direct effect of once close-friends pulling away from me), but again… I understand he needed to cope in his own way.
We mucked along in this awkward venting dance, but it was a temporary fix (if one can call it a fix at all). We knew we needed to seek professional help, and John surprised me one day by agreeing to see a counselor. He even came up with a list of folks he felt would be good. We found one we liked and began to see him twice a month.
We only went a handful of times - not because we didn't like him (in fact, he was great) - but because John and I had really committed to trying to work things out ourselves. All of the advice the doc gave us were things we were already accustomed to doing. He helped us tweak things a bit so we didn't keep hitting the same walls over and over again, but it felt good that a professional was able to walk us through some of our darker areas and point out that we had, in fact, done a lot more for ourselves and each other than we had taken credit for.
So yeah, having spent over a year battling the demons of our marriage, I look back and almost cannot believe that the same marriage is now back to being happy, satisfying and loving - maybe even moreso than when we were first engaged. I'm incredulous, really.
This is the reason I felt the urge to post my experience online. No one likes to admit their marriage isn't perfect. No one in their right mind wants to admit that their spouse wanted to divorce them. I sorta hate the fact that this is going to be out there now with people judging me or John one way or the other for whatever ridiculous things they'll conjure up to judge us on.
The end result is something important enough to highlight, though. I see several of my friends (now that they're marrying off) coming to terms with the fact that marriage really does suck sometimes. For as amazing and wonderful as this vocation is, there are some seriously challenging and downright terrifying aspects of it that make you think you're slightly insane for having ever said "I do" to begin with.
I'm here to tell you that even through the most terrifying and horrible moments, you can and MUST fight for your marriage.
Every time John brought up the "D" word, I'd let it roll right off me. I never for a second gave divorce a thought because I simply do not believe it exists for us. When you can show me the seam that binds two souls united at the altar, I'll show you divorce papers. Until then, the only recourse is war.
So I went to war.
And I told John I was going to war.
And all of you out there who love your spouse but feel the pressure to divorce mount against your sacramental union - you must go to war.
And that is how it must be in a marriage. If your relationship is of any worth - if there is anything of value there (and there must be... you married one another once upon a time after all), you will wage war to defend it... even if you must defend it from yourselves.
That is precisely what John and I did. I explained to John that I would never - NEVER - sign divorce papers. He, exasperated, asked me why. I told him the truth. For as much as I sometimes wanted to punch him repeatedly in the face, I still loved him. For as angry and as bitter and as resentful as I sometimes felt towards him, I would always still love him. I would always be able to see the good-natured humor in him. I would always respect the responsible and hard-working man he is. I would always see the light of love in how he raises our son. Thus, in my mind, divorce can never be an answer. I was confident that one day we'd look back on this miserable point in our lives and be better for it.
And ya know what? He needed to hear that. I knew it all along, and I assumed he understood it, but no. He needed to hear that from me. He needed to hear me lay it all out there - to place myself out in such a vulnerable, honest position. I think it was then that he realized we had something to fight for after all. It wasn't just a "Gina's being a stubborn Catholic who doesn't believe in divorce." It was Gina being a stubborn wife who doesn't believe in throwing away a husband of value.
So night after night, day after day, tearful yelling session after tearful yelling session we somehow reached a fuller understanding of one another and our needs. We were no longer the same people we were 8 years ago. We had changed, and we needed to recognize that, appreciate it, and nurture each other in all new ways. We needed to learn about one another again and in trying - really, truly trying - we little by little learned to love each other again.
And it's been quite the experience.
So to those of you facing down what seems to be the barrel of a divorce gun I say there is hope. Be the hope for your marriage if you wish to see it succeed. Pray, pray, pray and work towards finding the common ground necessary to build from again. 2012 was our year. Make 2013 yours.
Banana? Of COURSE I want a banana.
That's right. I got "The Look."
Ya know... the one you get when the person you're talking to says something that you're supposed to understand on some innate, personal level?
It was a look that said, "C'mon, Gina. You're married. You've got a husband. You know how much it sucks to always have a man around."
I was absolutely dreading it. I didn't want to laugh them off and join in the man-bashing they were so keen to take part in. I also didn't want to ruin the dynamics for the rest of the day by telling them that the only reason they were having this "yay divorce" session was because they were still - after 10 and 6 years respectively - attempting to get past the fact that their divorces STILL hurt and weren't as rosy as they kept trying to convince themselves they were.
But that look was like a line in the sand. I saw the line. I understood it for what it was. Crossing it meant I'd be on their side. I'd be a woman who understood just how much being married sucked. I'd be in their club - the one reserved for angry vent sessions about men and all the things they do to make women miserable.
If I stayed on my side, however, I'd be the enemy. I'd be the naive, young and pompous twit who rode her high horse around the world because I was too stupid to understand that in a few short years, I'd be joining their ranks. And then... oh... staying on my side of the line would ensure their constant vigilance for the day I'd wake up and find myself alone and miserable. They'd both be waiting to pounce on my broken, bleeding heart with a victorious "I told you so, now come with us so we can tear into men together again!"
That pause - it only lasted a moment. It felt like forever because I fully understood the war I was about to wage by speaking the truth of my feelings. I was trying to calculate the words and what effects they'd have so I could do the least amount of damage while still conveying my point.
"I can't really complain about John. My marriage isn't perfect, but I'm pretty sure I'd be up Crap's Creek sans both paddles without him. He's a good guy. I'm happy to be 'chained down' with him. I even got a cute kid out of the deal."
Chained down is their term, not mine, but I figured I'd hit home the point that even though I understood their feelings, I didn't share them. I then tried to buoy the response with our shared love of children - their living reminder that once upon a time, their marriages were good, too.
Unfortunately, it didn't work. Go figure.
As I had anticipated, I was immediately seen as the enemy. What did I know? I've only been married 5 years. That's all honeymoon. Just wait until he gets that 7 year itch. I'll see. And when I do, they'll be there with margaritas and cyber-dating for me to chase off the self-loathing.
After that stellar session with the Cynic's Crystal Ball, they physically turned their backs to me and continued their husband / marriage bashing.
Our culture is replete with these Divorcee Clubs. Every divorced woman gains automatic entry while every other woman is assumed to simply await the day they, too, become part of the club - because even if you don't divorce, you'll still know enough about men to think they're generally terrible.
I get that sometimes it's fun for girls to get together to poke fun at the guys. I partake of it myself. However, I tend to limit it to slight jokes that don't actually call into question my love for my husband or my appreciation for my marriage vocation. I'll roll my eyes at some of the more ridiculous things his mind wanders off to while I'm trying to have a conversation about Honey To-Do's, but his eyes are probably rolling just the same as my eyes glaze over when he starts talking about football.
There are inherent differences between men and women. I enjoy poking fun at the stereotypes or even pinpointing some of the more ridiculous highlights that John and I play out in our marriage. I don't like the conversations that devolve into hating on ex-spouses for the sake of hating on them. Venting is one thing, but when you start bragging about how awful he was and how much better you are without him (several years AFTER the divorce), the entire conversation just comes off as pathetic.
Ah well. I hate those situations. I never know how to properly extricate myself from them.
Divorce shouldn't be something we strive for. It also shouldn't be something we accept as joyous celebrations. Again - as Dom so rightly put it, divorce is a terribly painful, life-altering act that defies the very act of God who brings forth the union of two souls.
Now this entry was not to say that all divorces were created equal. This is not delving into abusive relationships or marriages that took place when there was something fundamentally wrong with the couple. This is more about negative trash-talk than divorce itself. It's more about glorifying what is essentially a terrible thing in order to overcompensate for the desecration and destruction one feels at the hands of such a travesty.
My prayers are with all of those couples who have experienced divorce. They are with all married couples who daily struggle to take the hard road of their vocation. May we all be granted the strength to find the Will of God in our lives - and in our spouses.
I've been sitting on this post for a week now. Actually, it's been brewing for longer than a week, but last Wednesday really sparked up some irritation regarding a few divorced women I know and their overt "We're awesome because our ex-husbands are evil people" pride.
I was at a meeting that devolved into a debate over our deacon's homily the previous weekend. I'd gone to a different parish that weekend on account of being sick (I missed my normal mass by an hour), so I was all sorts of curious to know what the hullabaloo was about.
Apparently our deacon preached about the sanctity of marriage and decided to use his God-given vocation to state, unequivocally, that homosexual marriage goes against the Law of God, and that to participate in such unions is a mortal sin. He also delved into the murky area of divorce and why those who sought Communion with the Church after such civil proceedings were dealing with mortal sin. Considering so many people are unaware of this, it's important to teach these things from the pulpit every now and again (especially with divorce rates being as high as they are).
I must've had the most confused look on my face. At first I thought the person relaying the "problem" was joking.
I actually said, "So people are upset that he's speaking the truth?"
I looked over to my council-mate who gave me the same stunned look of confusion I knew I was wearing. He said, "I was there. I heard the homily. I have no idea what the problem is, either."
This was met with the response of "Deacon Strong (as henceforth I'll call him) needs to learn to be more politically correct. You don't just alienate a bunch of parishioners by throwing that stuff in their faces all the time. He didn't need to talk about marriage at all. It was pointless, and he upset a lot of people. A LOT of people."
Now, you need to understand the dynamics of the table at this point. I was sitting at the head with our pastor, a great and wonderful priest. He was relatively silent at this point since I think he was genuinely trying to understand the complaint being lodged. On one side of the table, there were a few council members who seemed to agree with the complaint being lodged against Deacon Strong. On the other side of the table were those of us who were confused that there was a complaint at all.
How strange is that? We all ended up sitting in such a way that we actually split ourselves down the middle regarding supporters and not-so-supportive supporters of Deacon Strong ('cause everyone loves Deacon Strong - just not that particular homily).
Anyway, still being completely confused, I pointed out the fact that all of the readings for that weekend were, in fact, about marriage. Of course his homily would reflect that. Of course he would want to talk about the sanctity of marriage in light of those readings. Him speaking the truth in light of the readings is not "throwing it" in anyone's face.
Plus, I've heard enough homilies between he and our pastor... that would've been the first peep I'd've heard from either of them (from the pulpit) regarding homosexuals marrying / divorcees lining up for Communion. So to accuse Deacon Strong of "throwing it" in anyone's face is absolutely LUDICROUS.
I then pointed out that we were in the middle of the 40 days for Life event that's been pushed by the Bishops. Marriage is considered the foundation for life. It is through marriage that the gift of life is supposed to be given to the world. It is through marriage that this gift can be fostered and nurtured into another vessel of love which can continue the cycle of love through marriage and subsequent children. In fact, to hit home that point, many parishes throughout the country were doing special blessings over married couples during the Mass.
So yes... again... MARRIAGE WAS THE POINT OF THE HOMILY THAT WEEKEND.
After pointing that out, the response was "Jesus didn't come to condemn anyone. We need to love everyone as God made them."
I immediately retorted with "Jesus came to DIVIDE. And He did! He said some really hard things that got a whole lot of people angry. In fact, it's why He ended up dying on a cross."
And to her credit, the woman lodging the complaint was simply trying to do her job as a council-member considering there were "lots" of people upset with the homily. I wasn't upset with her so much as the fact that people were getting this up-in-arms over something that EVERYONE KNOWS.
Catholics don't believe in homosexual marriage and we don't believe that divorce is copasetic in the Eyes of God. As this entry so clearly expresses, divorce is a painful, messy business. Homosexual unions very obviously undermine the sanctity of true marriage. These are basic truths of our faith. They shouldn't come as surprises to folks. I mean, do people feel as though the Blessed Mother's virginity is thrown in their faces every week (considering it's part of the creed and all)? So when these issues of homosexual unions or divorced Catholics come up once in a blue moon, why all of the sudden the theatrics with storming out of the church or declaring yourself an Evangelical?
You have no right to act surprised, offended or indignant that no one told you about this part of the faith.
I'm all for walking out the door when you come to terms with the fact that you don't believe in what we preach. But attempting to vilify the person who is telling you what you already know simply because he's saying it out loud and not pretending like the Church teaches something different?
No no, good friend. Methinks you're at the wrong party.
And what finally solicited this particular entry was the fact that one of the women at the meeting took this opportunity to glory in her role as a divorced Catholic.
I've heard jokes in passing on several occasions, but I typically keep my mouth completely shut when it comes to folks talking about their ex-spouses. I, like most people, I'm sure, steer clear of that topic like it is the Plague.
However, the joke was timed to coincide with the bragging of a different woman altogether. This woman is someone I speak to often. She divorced about 10 years ago and was - that very morning - bragging about how she was so glad to be rid of her husband, how much better she was doing without him, wishing him nothing but misery, and touting herself as free and able to be with who she wanted, do what she wanted, and not care one way or the other. Oh, but isn't it so great to be divorced???
She was doing this with a mutual friend of ours, another divorcee. I was in the room, and was by default assumed to be part of the conversation. I simply kept my mouth shut. Both women were gloating about their freedom and how much it sucked to be married to such terrible men. Then they turned their attention to me - silent little Gina - and I got exactly what I'd been dreading.
I've been blessed with several artistically inclined friends. Being someone who can't draw a straight line with a ruler, having these artistic friends has always given me a bit of a boost. I can live vicariously through their skill set. Ha!
Long-time readers of this blog know that I absolutely adore paintings. I'll try to sneak them into most entries and sometimes I'll even go on wild tangents trying to figure out their layered symbolism. I just really, really enjoy that sorta stuff!
Anyway, an old friend of mine dropped me a line this weekend. (I've already had this discussion with her, so no worries about wading into a public battle of wits. We've reached an understanding and she gave me permission to post this.) This friend, "Lilly," is a pretty incredible painter. I've linked to her material on my page in the past, and I've attended two of her shows in the last year. We don't really talk much, but I tend to comment on her albums as she posts new work. Every now and again she'll comment on a pic or two of Vince, but that's about the extent of our communication.
I was thus happy (and surprised) to hear from her this weekend when she called. She said that she'd been reading this blog for about a month and has been debating asking for my help with selling her paintings. She said that in exchange for selling her artwork on my page, she'd share my blog with her friends.
Now at first glance, that's not a ridiculous offer. However, I admit that I took offense to it simply based on a conversation I'd recently had with John.
Let me explain:
I've been posting to Facebook about my husband's upcoming movie release. Many of my readers already know that he sold his first movie to Lionsgate and the release is this week. In my attempts to support him in his dream to make and sell movies, I not only agreed to be in the movie (with Vincent), but I helped make the food, solicited help from my best friend, Mary, and have been plugging the movie left and right for it's various screenings, releases, and news-bytes.
Now, what most of you don't know is the name of my husband's movie. The reason for this is that the content in the movie. It's rated R, but it should really be closer to NC-17. It's very "The Hang Over" in content. Thus, I've never promoted it on my page, even after John's begged me to write up a horrible review and rile all of you fine readers up into a tizzy so you'll buy it and yell about it, too.
*Shakes head* My husband - "No publicity is bad publicity." Ha ha!
Anyway, I've made the conscious choice NOT to promote his movie on this page based on principle. He was feeling slightly unsupported because I didn't want to use this medium to promote what I was already promoting through Facebook, Twitter, etc.
As I pointed out, however, I was supporting him in every other way known to man. I was telling folks about his project, I was linking to the various news articles about it, I cooked for the cast / crew, and I agreed - against better judgement - to take part in it. That's about as supportive as it gets, right?
Then, on top of that, I pointed out that for all the unsolicited support he got from me - publicly - he had yet to link to my jewelry page. So I really shouldn't hear word one about being unsupportive.
(Mind you, pointing this out promptly solicited a "Check out my wife's page" post to his feed; I was quite appreciative).
I go out of my way to support the various projects he or our mutual friends get involved with. I'll re-post teasers, I'll comment on promotions, I'll share tasting / jewelry events. Why? Because that's what friends do, right? Even with stuff I'm not entirely excited about because it's not about my excitement regarding a project - it's my level of excitement regarding the success of a friend.
So I re-post - ad nauseum, I'm sure.
Yet I have not received similar treatment and the answer is always the same. "I'd totally repost your stuff if it weren't so religious."
Now this is not an entry whining about how little my friends repost my store. I'm honestly not looking for that. You fine readers have done a wonderful job of spreading the word, and for that, you have my prayers and appreciation. However, I take offense to the fact that there are those among my group who have the audacity to claim I'm unsupportive or unwilling to help because I'm embarrassed by X, Y or Z when they refuse to help me out because they're embarrassed by God, or who would have no problem reposting my jewelry so long as they're getting something out of it. As Lilly pointed out, she'd "make the sacrifice" of posting about God in order to access my "audience."
Something just doesn't really sit too well with me when you put it like that.
I don't mind coupling up with others who want to reach a broader audience. I've had similar discussions with Dom, a wonderful artist, and even my friend, Mary. I don't mind sharing wonderful items that I think my readers would be interested in.
What I DO mind, however, is being used and then allowing my readership to be used. Looking to ride the coat-tails of the year and a half I've spent churning out entries, battling against mean-spirited trolls, and pouring out my personal life for what I hope will be the benefit of others... it amounts to being used.
Telling me that you'll "make the sacrifice" of sharing my hard work so you're able to make good off the readership I love, appreciate and respect? I'm sorry, but that just seems downright arrogant.
And I explained it in those terms. If my page isn't good enough for you to "like" or share on its own - or even just because you would like to help me find success - your artwork isn't going to make it any better. Your artwork isn't going to somehow change or overshadow the fact that this blog is Catholic, and everything about me and what I do is firmly rooted in that Catholicism.
So again - this isn't a pity party asking folks to share my page. I don't want it shared by those who simply feel guilted or shamed into sharing. I want it shared by those who either enjoy my work (both written and crafted), or who believe others will find value in this calling.
I apologize for the long vent. It's just that I've been approached by so many folks over the last week or so who were interested in utilizing this page either for ad-space, sales or information (and no, I never have and never will allow 3rd parties to take your information).
It just really drove me up a wall and I ended up feeling very frustrated. Since speaking with Lilly, she agreed that she hasn't exactly been the most stellar at recognizing that my work was just as valid and time-consuming as hers. And maybe that's what folks who don't blog / craft tend to forget.
I've gotten a lot of questions about the history regarding John and myself. For those of you who are curious, here it is! An entire page dedicated to the history between John and I.
Click Here to Enjoy!It's also now a page under the "About Me" tab (in addition to my reversion story).
So last night was an impromptu date night for John and I. Instead of a movie, however, I wanted to do something active. We decided on bowling.
We were lucky enough that two friends, Jake and Jay, were able to come along for the ride.
I haven't been bowling in forever. I'm pretty terrible at it, but I always have fun. John's a stellar bowler, and Jake's pretty darn good, too. So it was fun times!
It was also a cute reminder of our dating days. I know John's pretty amazing at most sports, but it never fails to re-surprise me. He pointed out that I wasn't impressed with his litany of strikes (4 in a row now being dubbed a "rhino" with 6 in a row being a "double rhino") so much as his spares. His ability to aim for and knock down pins on the edge of the alley actually make my heart flutter with pride. Ha ha. He thought that was silly because in his mind, strikes are more impressive. For me, though, it's the control he shows by zeroing in on a singular pin and rocketing his ball along the edge of the gutter. I just find that incredible. Maybe it's the thrill of possible failure. I dunno. It's incredibly sexy either way.
But I digress.
We went to our old stand-by diner afterwards for a bite. I can't even express how much fun it was to simply hang out with my husband and friends like we used to. I felt a little silly for being so excited about it, but the small things like that are what made our relationship so wonderful. The jokes, the swapping of advice, and yes, even the talk about the effects of instant-porn on today's youth all create a tapestry of memories that blanket our relationship. This interaction between the two of us, then the two of us (as a couple) with our friends, and then the two of us individually with our friends... it's so much more worth-while, in my opinion, than seeing a movie.
Sure we have fun at movies and gain something from the discussions we have after them, but interaction through an activity like bowling and then actually communicating over dinner... it's so special. I really, really enjoy that sorta stuff.
My oldest friend from high school, Theresa, got married last weekend. I can't wait to see the professional pictures of her because none of the ones I snapped do her or her dress justice.
As a married woman who was over the moon for her own wedding dress, I can honestly say that Theresa's out-shone mine by at least 10 light years! Her train was beyond magnificent. The lace, jewels and satin made her look exactly like the princess she's always wanted to be. I was (and am) so happy she and John finally exchanged vows!!!
Vince was her ring-bearer. He escorted a beautiful little girl named Allison down the aisle. They were SO CUTE together!!!
Unfortunately, Vince was a bit of a terror during the service. During rehearsal, the priest allowed Vince to run around the sanctuary. I had specifically corrected Vince three times, but the priest told me not to bother each time. He said, "Don't worry - it'll make for a cute photo op."
I knew, as any parent of a toddler would, that allowing that behavior during rehearsal was just about the worst idea ever. Vincent doesn't understand the difference between a rehearsal and the "real thing." Thus, if it's okay to run amok in a church Thursday night, it should be perfectly fine to do the same on a Saturday.
As predicted, that's exactly what happened.
I wonder how long it's going to take me to re-teach him that we don't act that way in a church. *Sigh*
Luckily he didn't knock the candles over or rip Theresa's dress. He basically ran up and down the sanctuary steps a few times during the exchange of vows and climbed into Father's seat, evading the attempts of groomsmen to wrangle him in.
Ah well... at least he was attempting to mimic a priest. I can't be entirely upset about that prospect. Ha ha ha!
Speaking of priests, the one presiding at Theresa's wedding Mass was the president of our now defunct Cardinal Dougherty High. It was fabulous to see him. He looks wonderful and his personality is still gentle and welcoming. As I watching him go through the rehearsal, I couldn't help but think that his handling of people was the primary reason God chose him to be a priest.
He is so incredibly genuine when he's in priest mode. He goes out of his way to make sure everyone feels welcomed and cared about. It's rare to be able to pull that off with a huge group of people so effortlessly, but he's incredibly consistent (which is probably why they made him President of Dougherty).
Anyway, his homily was great. He should make it available to other priests as a general "go-to" wedding homily. He gave a lot of good advice - chief among them to remember that God blessed them with one another. In order to make it to Heaven, they NEED each other. They need to rely on one another precisely because God brought them together for the purpose of reaching Heaven. The unique challenges they each bring will compliment the unique strengths they have, and together, they will live a life which aims for Heaven.
Married couples would do well to understand this. Our spouses are NECESSARY. They are the ones we are given precisely because they will challenge us to grow in love. They will challenge us to sacrifice... to hope... to trust.
It was a wonderful reminder to me, and it made my heart sing a hymn of thanks for such a beautiful reminder that I've been truly blessed with John. He has challenged me to trust... to hope and to sacrifice. All of that has deepened my capacity to love and has very much led me down the road towards my rekindling of faith. I am a better Catholic today because of John (something he'd probably be loathe to acknowledge - ha).
So yes... your husband or wife is a blessing sent directly from God, Himself, for the express purpose of ensuring your soul gets into Heaven. How wonderful is that? :)
Believe it or not, this atheist will get me to Heaven, but I'll drag him along too!