Monday, January 08, 2007


Yesterday would have been my fortieth wedding anniversary.

If I had stayed married to my first husband. I read today that marriage and raising children are two of the most difficult jobs we can attempt. It strikes me odd that, if that is true, we expect those jobs to be accomplished with no training.

We were both twenty-one and in the Navy. We were both young, lonely, insecure, and finding each other was something of a miracle in itself. I didn't really love my husband that much when I agreed to marry him, which says a lot for why arranged marriages can work. I grew to love him, simply by being married to him.

I was fat then. He told me "all the men in my family marry fat women with glasses." It wasn't true, of course, but he said it to be kind. Our first year together I lost over twenty-five pounds... melted off, because I was happy... and because I couldn't cook. I remember an early meal: I served him a pork chop for dinner. He looked confused. "Where's the platter?" "What platter? There are two of us... so there's one for you, one for me." His mother had raised three hungry boys, so there was always a platter, sometimes leftovers. It was just my mom and me, so there was never a platter, never leftovers. Little things like that I remember now with a smile... the clash of upbringings and cultural conditioning, as we two tried with all our might to become one.

It's true for the convent as well. We come from many walks of life, with many preconceived ideas about what monastic means. We clash over little things and argue our points. We compromise and accommodate. We have a rule to guard us, Christ to guide us, and God to help us, and still... the same dynamics we were exposed to in early childhood play themselves out. Yet in the convent there is a time of training, a period of discernment and evaluation. What is working? Not working? Where are the growing edges?

I asked a priest for a miracle to save my first marriage.( I certainly had done my share of the bungling, and had no resources left.) The priest told me "God helps those who help themselves." As far as I could see, God must not have thought I was doing much to warrant His help, and my husband and I eventually separated. I know there are couples who weather storms like ours and stay together. Sometimes they're made stronger, and sometimes that storm just becomes an old scar that never heals, and it gets dragged out from time to time to add emphasis to current disagreements.

We went on with our lives. My husband eventually remarried a lovely woman. They are still married.

I too remarried and thirteen years later divorced. I did not attempt marriage again, although the possibility crossed my mind a couple of times. Right now I have enough to do.


Anonymous said...

Maybe the third time would be a charm.

2 things:
1. "as we two tried with all our might to become one" -- certainly that was part of the problem: you TWO, not THREE (God).
2. "We come from many walks of life, with many preconceived ideas about what monastic means" -- you're kidding yourself if you think that what you're doing there now is "monastic" in any true sense of the word.

Claire Joy said...

I thought you were going to move on.

Richard Lamb said...

some people move on and some don't. Thanks for the memories.They were good times and times of learning. I would not trade any of them. God is still working in your life and don't give up. The important think (in my opinion) is to continue to pray. Remember it is a discerning process. I think you are where you are supposed to be. Was it you who said God answers all prayers.
Not now
I have bigger things for you.

cgssis said...

In my dictionary, monastic means "of, or pertaining to a monastery; resembling life in a monastery". And monastery means "a community of persons bound by vows to a religious life". That sure sounds like the life you are living now. Wonder what anonymous uses for a dictionary....
Glad to see that you can keep a sense of humor in the face of persons like that. It keeps me laughing. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Your priest should have known that it was Ben Franklin who said "God helps those who help themselves" - or somebody like that. It isn't in the bible!
That said - marriage IS hard. It amazes me that one can get married and have children so easily. Both should require learners' permits!

Son said...

Good does come from things that dont always work. If you remember if you did not get divorced and move back to my home town, I would not have met my wife of 15 years (still married) and had 4 beautiful children.