Friday, March 13, 2009

Contemplating my Husband

I struggled hard throughout my 20s with a desire to marry. It is not an exaggeration to say I dwelt on this desire every single day. And truly, I was a mess. There was so much I didn't know that I didn't know -- like, what it meant to love, for example. All I knew was that I desperately longed for someone to love me because instinctively I knew this would make my life better. Big caveat: I was terrified of people, and especially closed off to real human interaction with men. I just sort of expected it all to work out somehow.

I'll spare you all the stories of the initial steps toward healing through which I stumbled, and fast forward to my time in Japan. God was with me, poorly discerned as my decision to go there was. God rescued me from the inevitable intense emotional pain I was headed into, given my social prowess and my isolation in the country. Well, you know, maybe He didn't rescue me, if you think of a rescue as taking someone out of a scary situation. He didn't. He was with me. Where else could He have been?

You see, I pulled out and used my full arsenal of self-salvation. Working hard at my job failed (quickly!). Attempting to ditch my shyness and adapt a new personality failed. Being intensely religious failed. (And I had had such high hopes for that!) Isolating myself failed. Attaching myself to those more pathologically needy than myself failed. Reaching out to random strangers and random social settings failed. Many of these failures were of an incredible soul-rending intensity. When I prepared to return to the States I had a profoundly strong sense of myself as a complete failure in every dimension of my person. I went, believing I could save the world (or at least a small sector of it), and I returned feeling like vomited food.

One truth that this experience seared into me is that one human is about the same as the next. I knew there are no human saviors, and I felt cured of looking upon certain individuals with awe and being overly impressed. For the first time, this realization opened me up be able to relate to others as equals.

I haven't forgotten this post is about my husband.

Before I met Erol, every other romantic attraction of mine focused on my self-perceived ability or capacity to fix my other. I was always attracted to needy people. My husband was the first attraction where I had no compulsion -- not even the slightest interest -- in fixing. Instead, as we got to know each other, I found myself with my needs being met. I remember one moment of being overwhelmed with this realization. I choked out in a whisper "You make me feel like a princess!" And how did he respond? "You should feel like a princess!" Talk about a completely new paradigm for me.

Pre-hubby men had always been volatile in one way or another: unpredictable, hiding, angry. Erol is the perfect picture of loyalty and stability. I remember going out with his family and some friends when he graduated with his MBA. The restaurant had seriously flubbed some details with our reservation and getting us seated. I was riveted on Erol to see his reaction. He politely but assertively told the waiter the trouble and asked for the situation to be fixed. I was speechless! No tantrum, no swearing, no huffing and puffing, he just handled it. It's almost funny to me now that this made such an impression on me, but I was not used to this. Eleven years later, Erol has made me forget all about fearing being tossed about by moods and circumstances -- even my own.

We do have some differences which didn't seem so marvelous to me at first, but I realize now that my deeper needs are still being met in these dynamics, too. My Master's program was Theology, and I had thought it would be really wonderful to do lots of reading and debating of theological texts. Uh, sorry. No book discussions at our house. Doing a ministry together sounded very romantic to me. But I wanted to teach in RCIA, and he wanted to raise money for charity and serve people food. Honestly, I felt like idiots could raise money and serve food. While I went off to learn by experience that idiots could also teach in RCIA, Erol went about mastering his quiet fraternal service with the Knights of Columbus. I finally realize that the Knights as a lay vocation fits Erol very, very well. And I've gotten my intellectual head out of my intellectual rumpus enough to realize that Jesus sort of likes the service approach more than the "let me impress you with everything I know" approach.

Without my husband I wouldn't have a shred of the ability I do have to plan, to use my time, to have self-control. Without him I would not have pursued many of the hum-drum paths to self-mastery, though I might have read more about them in books and highlighted all the parts I admired the most.

The gift of a spouse is amazing, when you think about it. Do you suppose this is why St. Paul talks about marriage being like Christ and the Church? Not necessarily (just) to line up the man with Christ and the woman with the Church, but to think of how Christ's salvation comes to me through sticking with regular folk in the Church, and specifically sticking with this sacramental vocation to marriage with this one other person, sanctified for me. Marriage is about accepting all of who the spouse is, not going buffet style, serving myself some bits and leaving the rest. Doing this in faith is an amazing adventure.

Thank you, Erol, for sticking with me.