Thursday, June 9, 2011

I know this probably reflects poorly on me, but I think one of the reasons I got married was because I desperately needed someone in my life who could tell me, "Everything is going to be OK," and mean it, and I would believe him. I'm independent and opinionated and very unlikely to want anybody infantilizing me 95% of the time, but once in a great while I absolutely need that and there is no substitute.

I never had it growing up. Of course my father would say it, in the gravest of tones, and he made lots of very serious promises that were meant to reassure us, his children. That didn't work, because when he originally made most of them we were way too young to understand them, and by the time we did understand them he generally had broken them. (Oops.) My mother never made promises; she was just a walking disaster.

So insecure was my experience of growing up and so little hope did I have for a stabler future that at some point during the twelfth grade I realized I had shied away from all those shiny magazine spreads about kids decorating their college dorm rooms for the first time and the like - intoxicating stuff for high school upperclassmen - because I truly did not believe I would ever go. I didn't believe I would ever be anywhere I wasn't a social outcast and a freak, I didn't believe I would ever be anywhere more fun or exciting or free or even normal than in my unhappy existence. Fortunately, I was wrong about all of that, and college was, as I expected it to be even then, the happiest four years of my life.

But I was afraid of how things would go, and hated a lot of things about myself, and by spring of my senior year of high school I had gotten all the way up to 117 pounds (gasp), so I started starving myself. Oh, I was never a really hardcore anorexic, not the kind they put in the hospital, and I ate every day, but by the time I started college I weighed a mere 108 (I claimed 112). I did it for another summer (to get rid of the freshman 15) before I stopped (though by the next summer I had taken up ascetic fasting, which, judging by the health results, was worse). I didn't start dieting again until the end of my senior year of college. I was afraid of where I was going next. My family had long since proven entirely unreliable as a source of support, and had no idea what I was even up to. I was debating between entering the religious life immediately (for which I was outrageously unprepared) and going to law school, and I was still heartbroken over my sophomore-year boyfriend, who was even then clearly the wrong person for me, but whom I had convinced myself (as a college sophomore) that I would marry. Trying to give up the dream of marriage and a big family for a religious vocation was killing me. (God got the last laugh there, of course.) I was having anxiety attacks from the stress of all the campus organizations I was supposed to be leading (well, two, but with a full course load and no support system, that's a lot), and I started curtailing my food intake sharply. I started thin and rapidly got thinner. After a few months I stopped myself, but I realized slowly that I had been terrified of the changes in my life, and thought that if one of my two best guy friends - my only real emotional support - noticed and said something about my unhealthy weight loss or my obvious depression, then I would feel safer.

Of course neither of them said a word. They were struggling with their own issues. I'm not sure they even noticed.

I got married just two years after I graduated from college. I believed that God had blessed our marriage - two dysfunctional crazy people who couldn't live without each other and were somehow going to work through all their dysfunction through their marriage, as they'd already healed from some of their long-standing wounds through their love for each other - and I received my precious sign from the Black Madonna of Czestochowa that this was to be my vocation.

But I calculated wrong if I was looking for someone who could make everything OK. Maybe if I had looked for someone even-tempered, someone placid, someone whole, someone unlike me, maybe someone like that could have been the rock in my storms. But with the arrangement I chose, I returned to my childhood role, the one I was ill-equipped for then and am ill-equipped for now - the person who, when push comes to shove, must make everything OK.

I am 29 years old. In a few short months I will be 30. And it is well past time to stop harboring the delusion that someday the instability of my childhood will be rectified, that the world will be safer for me when I am 35 than it was when I was 5, or that other people will be able to give me what they manifestly do not have for themselves. I am a big girl now, and when I look at myself in the mirror, I have to tell the truth: it's never going to be OK.

7 comments:

  1. I know I keep waiting for life to be what it is 'supposed to be' - I always thought that by this age (38 yo, gasp!) I would pretty well have it figured out, I woudn't have bursts of tears, or so much uncertainty. Uh, no.

    Again, I am in awe of your courage and thoughtfulness. You have been through such difficult times. I hope the future holds some easier, more secure times for you.

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  2. I went through a period of inner turmoil early in my university studies. I didn't have the full support of my parents, for many, many reasons and I learned quite early that I had to save myself (in retrospect I can see that's what I did). Therapy helped me so much, as well as the anti-depressants. Perhaps it was all in God's plan to have me go through all of that in preparation for IF?

    You are so self-aware and your posts are always so thoughtful. I believe that you will find your happiness, and hopefully soon!

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  3. I absolutely need someone to say "It's going to be OK" to me, but unlike you, I need to hear it A LOT. Not that that person actually DOES anything to make it OK, mind you, but hearing it makes a difference. Sometimes. Besides having to make an unwanted career switch, IF and problems with my father's age-related personality changes, everything in my life has turned out well, not the way we originally planned it, but more than OK. Nor is the following something I acutally practice, so. . . *scatters salt grains throught the air*.
    Given crappy cards, you have done some amazing things. One only needs to read this post to see that. You got through college. You got through law school. You have enough insight to realize when your weight control issues are getting out of hand, before they got much too far out of hand. There are so many people who would have gone swirling off the deep end many times, and to read what you write, I am inclined to believe that you caught yourself time and time again. You made it OK. Maybe not great, maybe not desirable, but you made it survivable. I believe every word when you say how exhausting it is and that that's not what you want. But please don't lose sight of your own strength, and if you have only enough of it to take care of yourself, well do like on the plane - put on your own oxygen mask first. You also shouldn't try (and can't) fix the past. It wasn't your job to make it right then. The people who should have couldn't, but that doesn't make it your job now. I have faith that can make those things over which you have control today passable and I will continue to pray that those things you can't control will cease to be such major sources of distress.
    Thinking of you often,
    hedwig

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  4. It totally sucks when the blinders come off and you realize that this is the hand you're dealt. I really admire all you do to succeed and persevere in spite of everything ... sometimes it would be nice to step outside of your own life, wouldn't it? I think that sometimes.

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  5. OK is a tough one. Waiting for life to be OK, whatever that means, equates into waiting for something to happen. But you're taking life straight on, making something happen. This makes you strong, and not in need of someone to make things OK. Sending you a hug...

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  6. We all need to be able to lean on someone. It's impossible to always be the strong one...not with the crap you've been dealing with your entire life...and not feel put upon, or as if you've been dealt a pretty shitty hand in life.
    Okay, this comment pretty much sucks, as it's surely not cheering you up any. I just wanted you to know I was reading and thinking of you...

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  7. If I may, since I'm over twice your age, can I say that you're right, it's never going to be okay? Doesn't matter if you were married to St Joseph. That'd be better, no doubt, than the spouses we currently have :-) but, bottom line: "Our hearts are restless till they rest in Thee." Even St Joseph can't change that fact.
    This used to make me sad but now it makes me happy. When I was 32, I was on a weekend retreat & I remember telling the Lord in prayer, "I'm 32 (He didn't know that :-) & I'm supposed to be past this (whatever it was I was praying about, can't remember now) etc." He replied, "32 years is just a minute compared to the time I'll have to teach you..." In other words, I was (am) just a baby when it comes to "learning Christ", like St Paul says.
    Like the previous comments, you can look back on your 30 years & see where God has kept you from running aground like so many others have. The more you trust Him to keep doing that, the less you'll have to look to others to reassure you & the more you'll see that it's really going to be okay in the end!

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