I got a very unexpected phone call the other day - unexpected like after the caller introduced himself, I still thought he was someone else, and tried to pass off the call to my husband. It was a dear friend from college. He and I dated for eight months; we broke up when we were both in discernment for the religious life. I ultimately went to a very Catholic law school. He ultimately went to a very very strict religious order. He's taken his final vows. (So have I!) He'll start major seminary soon - it's been years and he's been doing lots of stuff, but he hasn't been ordained yet. Anyway, I rarely ever see him. Six months after he entered, and I started law school, I did see him at the March for Life. He was happier than I had ever seen him and I was so happy to see that he had finally found home.
When I say strict, anyway, I don't just mean that they don't have internet, cell phones, or even a land line. I mean that even the order doesn't have any possessions. So they don't own any land. Or buildings. Or even food. They beg for their food. They live where people will let them stay. Or outside. If they need to go somewhere (say, 1500 miles), they walk. People do give them rides, but if not - then they walk. So you see, it's not like he texts or sends gchat messages. That's the first phone call I've gotten from him in well over six years. (He sends letters, and I, on an extremely delinquent schedule of which I am ashamed, send letters back.) Anyway, he found out through mutual friends that my husband and I (with my husband's family) and he (with his order) will be within 30 miles over Christmas - and another friend from college, along with his wife and their two kids (yes, of course, they got married after we did. You had to ask?). So we should get together.
OK, so, my husband and my friend have never met, so that will be interesting, and I admit to the odd bit of nerves in case there is a genuinely serious case of not getting along. I love my husband, but easygoing is only sometimes his thing. And my friend is (was?) a handful too. Actually, they have more in common with each other than either of them has with me. Of course, this is also true of my husband and my father, and that went so well that my father literally (and I use this word in its dictionary sense) did not speak to me (with one two-minute exception) for three years after we got engaged. Have I mentioned that? Yeah, it's true. My nineteen-year-old brother gave me away at my wedding. I didn't meet my smallest baby brother until he was two. Anywho...
But since that conversation, I've been jumping out of my skin with nerves. When I think about seeing these people, I want to puke. Who is this? This isn't me. What do I have to prove? And to whom? What's wrong with me?
And I've thought about it. I am trying to figure out what on earth is driving me crazy, why I would rather my car explode in fiery inferno en route to New England than see a bunch of really wonderful priests I have always loved. I'm not sure I have it all sorted out. But I have some ideas.
First of all, my friend's wife (Irish girl from Boston. No doubt the genuine article. Probably gorgeous. And thinner than I am. With a baby on the hip. And I bet she DOESN'T HAVE ENDO!), I have never met. I hate her...now. This girl is probably an angel. (Not so yours truly...arguably I was in college...) I have run through all sorts of horrible conversations with her in my mind, in which she says something hateful and dismissive about infertiles, and I tell her that she's ungrateful for her blessings from God and her children will consequently go to Hell, or something. I get quite passionate about these imagined conversations. I was almost crying in the Trader Joe's. (Sanity check: still missing and unaccounted for.)
But this girl I have never met, who must be the eleventy millionth Catholic mother of two I know of who was married after me and seriously what do I even care any more, is obviously not the problem. What's the problem?
Well, I guess my friend is the omega point of all the values I used to have (and, um, several that I never had). If I had a beautiful family and were a long-skirt-wearing doe-eyed Catholic girl in childlike awe of all the religious - this is what I expected to become, mind you - I would be fine. I wouldn't be intimidated, I would be looking forward to meeting this girl and introducing our kids, and the idea of getting special blessings for my babies from some friars would probably be foremost on my mind.
But by my own standards - by my hopes and dreams for my life - I have failed. Not just because I don't have the babies. (They would help - they would help with most things.) But because of all that that's engendered. By the end of law school I had stopped saying three Rosaries a day. Then I stopped saying any. In the last year I finally stopped going to daily Mass. For a while I was reading the Magnificat, but I stopped caring. The prayers started to be annoying rather than speaking to me. I intend to start going to daily Mass again, but I need an angle on that that will work, first, and I don't have one. I'm bitter, still, if getting better. I'm angry with God, still, if growing merely distant. I'm not passionate about my job and I would have a hard time explaining that I'm really doing God's work. My husband, whom I love, periodically claims not to believe in God. (I know it isn't true, but he does say it. And he's not much of a spiritual leader of the household right now. I could really, really use that, but it's not available.) I don't know where I'm going in my life. My sister is doing well, my brother is doing well materially, and everyone else in my family is a complete ruin and arguably getting worse, rather than better.
You know, I don't feel as though my life is a disaster. I actually feel reasonably good - you know, for me. But I can't think of a single question he could ask me (he is unlikely to ask, "Where did you get that scarf?") for which I could offer an answer that wouldn't cause him to make a face I'd want to hit.
I DON'T feel like my marriage is a failure. I love my husband. He's a good man, and he loves me and takes care of me. My marriage, while not perfect, is one of the few obvious and consistent blessings in my life. My devotional life is absolute crap, but I am trying. I feel like I am doing my best. I don't have holy serenity about my infertility, but for heaven's sake. There are quite literally women out there with PTSD symptoms when they hear children crying. I am a survivor. That's my biggest achievement - life pounds on me an awful lot, and I just keep getting back up. That right there is an olympic accomplishment. So why can't I think of anything good to say about my entire life? Why do I feel as though everything I've ever done has been entirely wasted?