Friday, August 15, 2014

Our Empathy Can Change the World {Thoughts on #Ferguson}


I couldn't think of anything but Ferguson this week.  My eyes glued on Twitter, my chest aching with the knowledge of profound injustice unfurling in terrifying tableaus, my brain, my heart were with the people of Ferguson.

Those who should be the peacemakers, the upholders of law and justice, ran roughshod over peace and law and justice and turned the streets of their community into a war zone.  Worse still, those whose job it is to report truth instead report half-truths, suppressing information, demonizing the victims, until nobody was allowed to report anything at all, with journalists arrested, their equipment seized.  

Did you feel it?  The earth trembling under the feet of people on the move -- no, on the march, for justice, for answers,  for change?  Did you hear their words?  See their faces?

I felt them, heard them, saw them.

And now, now that the insanity that possessed the police officers of Ferguson, MO, has abated somewhat, now that the law is no longer assaulting peaceful protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets and fire, now that we can all breathe again as names are released and the FBI asks questions and the hypocrisy of the police becomes more and more obvious, although things are far from settled --

Now, will I forget what I felt, heard, saw?

* * *

The fact is that that Mike Brown's senseless murder by a police officer is not unique.  Horrifyingly, it is something of a matter of course in this country for unarmed black men to be killed by the law for no other crime than living.  For every 28 hours that passes, another African-American man is extrajudiciously executed by police, security guards, and vigilantes.

But I'm not black.  I'm a white woman living in a very white city in a very white state, and Ferguson (or Chicago, or Seattle, or Detroit, or Austin, or . . .) can feel very far away.  

I could go back to my insulated life, keep my eyes on the non-militarized streets of my community, and forget that I enjoy unearned, unfair benefits thanks to my color.

But there is the matter of my son.

* * *

When I look at my son, his skin confronts me.  

I look at my son, and understand that while there are many, many ways I fear for and covet his safety and well-being, I will never fear that he will be assaulted by a police offer for wearing a hoodie, or driving, or asking for help when he needs it, or messing around with toys in Wal-Mart, or having a bad day in kindergarten, or doing any of these normal-everyday-life things -- he will never be attacked and/or executed by the police for doing those things and more, only because he's white.  

Which means that there are children and teens and people who will be attacked and/or executed by the police for doing those things, and that just should not be.  Because black people are people.  Imperfect, flawed, glorious people.  Just like you, just like me.

When I look at my son, I see the people who will be treated like not-people because they were born a certain color.  

When I look at my son, I understand that he only escaped living that ugly day-to-day reality by pure chance.  That he is privileged for no good reason at all.  Like me. 

* * *

Did you know that African-Americans have been dealing with the horrifying reality of racial profiling for decades, for centuries, for far too long, on a daily basis?

I didn't.  I didn't.

Oh God, how could I not?

But I didn't. 

And now that I know, now that I finally stopped shutting my eyes to the reality of so, so many people, what will I do with that knowledge?  What can I?

I don't know that racism is for me to fix, for me to find the answer to.  As a white woman, there are many, many facets of a black woman's reality that I cannot and may not ever be able to understand.  And honestly, I'm not even sure that I should be writing this post at all.

But, as one of the folks I follow on Twitter so piercingly stated, to say silent about these matters is abusive*.  So here I am, speaking, very imperfectly, and refusing to stay complicit, trying to remove the only enabler from the problem that I can -- myself.

* * *

So, now what?

For what it's worth, I think that it is my responsibility to see, to open my eyes and look to where it's hard and where people are hurting, even if it might make me terribly uncomfortable.  It is my responsibility to understand as best as I am able, to learn, to feel.

It is my sacred duty to see the humanity the people of Ferguson, in all African-Americans, in the people of Gaza, the immigrant children asking for help at the border of the U.S. and Mexico, the homeless men and women who live on the streets of my city, and more.

Because, in the end, the African-American community of Ferguson?  They are people.  They are you, and they are me, and we are they.  We are different from each other, yes, perhaps vastly different, and yet we still belong to one another.

So I ask you, look at your life.  Look at your children, your spouse, your lover.  Look at your coworkers, your friends, the clerk ringing up your items at the supermarket.  Look at them, and understand that there's no reason why it wasn't them that the police murdered, innocent and unarmed.  Look at your child and understand that it was only not him, not her, not you by pure, nauseating chance.

Think you can't muster up any bit of compassion for someone who is "other"?  Look to your pain.  Look to where you expect understanding and empathy, or at least sympathy.

For me, this is the death of my daughter.  I showed my anguish, people looked.  You looked, and you witnessed the pain of birthing and mourning a dead baby, and that was a powerful gift of respect, of love, one that I treasure.  Look to the empathy you have received, and consider whether you might be able to extend the same gift to someone aching from a situation you have not experienced, but is no less worthy of people who witness.

And don't do this to be macabre.  Don't do this to shame yourself or your loved ones.  Don't do this to harm yourself, or to wallow in the darkness.  And definitely don't do it to make yourself feel better without changing your ways of thinking, or to earn a bit of applause.  Because that makes it about you, when it's really about them.

Instead, do this with a mind to understand, with a heart to see, with commitment to not look away.  Do this to bring light to the shadows.  Find what awakens your compassion, and go there.  Let it flood your veins and synapses, overflow into your words and actions.   

Because when we can see the injustice, truly begin to see it and experience it via empathy . . . well, I think that is the beginning of change.  Not the end, not the whole solution, but a beginning.

There are many awful things in the world, things that we cannot do anything about.  But injustice done by one human to another human, or by one group of humans to another group?  That's we can do something about.

Please don't look away.  Look where you can, as you can, and hold the joy and beauty and horror and pain that you discover there as the sacred knowledge that it is.  Look, and let your eyes be light piercing the darkness.


"We think that by protecting ourselves from suffering we are being kind to ourselves.  The truth is, we only become more fearful, more hardened, and more alienated. . . .  Yet when we don't close off and we let our hearts break, we discover our kinship with all beings."

- Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart**
(I think this book is required reading.)


"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." 

- Edmund Burke 


There are lots of people writing and sharing about Ferguson and racism waaaay better than I am.  Like these folks . . . knowing and/or following many of these people has been truly life-changing:

(Okay, so I feel I have to end this with a caveat -- there is real, hard, excruciating work to be done to bring about racial reconciliation.  There is.  But the seeing -- that's where it starts.  Because how can anyone fix a problem that she is blind to?  So let's start there, and see where it takes us.)

   *unfortunately, I have no idea who said this.  I'd love to give credit -- let me know if you know!
**this post contains affiliate links. thanks for supporting this blog!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Sex and Marriage: Thoughts on Waiting

https://www.flickr.com/photos/stolensnapshot/3827502237/
 image by Sam Davis via Creative Commons
I am angry.

This is a portrait of the woman, angry.

Because I was made certain promises, promises that did not come through.

Because every day I hear of more and more people who were handed those same broken promises.

Or -- dare I say it -- the same lies.

And I am angry.

I wonder if you will be angry, too.

* * *

I trusted.

This is a portrait of the girl, trusting those words spoken by others as certainty.  

Perhaps you've heard them, too.

Save yourself for marriage.  
True love waits. 
Resist the devil and he [and his sexual temptations] will flee from you.  
Sex is dirty.  
Your body is dirty.
You are dirty if you think/want/wonder about sex.
Save yourself for marriage, and you will never regret it for a moment.

I listened.  I waited.  I saved myself.

I will regret it for a lifetime.

* * *

I feel betrayed.

This is a portrait of the woman, betrayed.

The betrayal, the regret, was born on my wedding night.  The night that finally -- f i n a l l y -- after twenty six years of life, it was acceptable for me to be a sexual being.  Not too sexual, of course, but sex was finally permissible.

My husband and I came as virgins to the marriage bed.  And -- 

we walked away virgins.

We did not have sex until four months after our wedding.
I did not enjoy sex for years after our wedding.
And we didn't learn why we couldn't have sex until many weeks after our wedding.

This wounds us, wounds my husband and I to this day.

* * *

I was broken.

This is a portrait of the woman, broken in body.

Or really, not broken.  Not breakable.  That was the problem, you see.

I trusted the church, trusted the people who said to wait, wait for sex.  I told them I was worried, because I couldn't even wear a tampon.  It wouldn't go in.  It felt excruciating.  They told me this was normal, that all would be made right on my wedding night.

It takes a penis, I figured.

But they were wrong.  I was wrong.

Because what it really took was a surgery.  Did you know that a woman's hymen can sometimes be not-mesh, not-breakable, can be skin?  Skin with holes in it so she can menstruate regularly, unsuspecting?

I didn't.  And mine was. 

My gynecologist was shocked that I got to my wedding night without knowing this about myself, my body.  She said this condition is not uncommon, but quite rare to remain undiscovered in the way mine was.

One surgery, a complicated healing, and a full season of the year, we consummated our marriage.  And when we did, it hurt like hell -- for years.

But what hurt even more is that I had done what the elders of the church told me to do.  John and Stasi, Shaunti, the few women in my life who were talking about sex and such, the leaders of the local and global church -- you promised me that the wait was worth it.

And it wasn't.

* * *

I am hurt.

This is a portrait of the woman, hurt by some of the very things she was taught would save her.

It's not just about my irregular hymen.  That makes for a dramatic story, of course, and it was anguishing to live.

But even if my husband and I had fully, awkwardly consummated our marriage on our wedding night, I would still be angry.

Because my sexuality is mine.  It is a part of me.  It is mine to know, to enjoy, to create life with.  

And the church made it not-mine.

I believed that if I waited to have sex, I would be handing my husband a priceless gift.

But the reality is that I gave my sexuality to the church -- or to God, if that sits better with you.  And therefore it was not mine to give to anyone else.  I didn't have a clue about how my body worked, about anything but the very basic mechanics of sex.  

And I think that for a woman to reach her marriage bed without a working knowledge of her sexuality -- without knowing what makes her tick, sigh, moan, orgasm -- she has nothing to give to her husband but a passive piece of flesh.

An unknowledgeable, fearful woman lying flinching on a mattress is not much of a gift at all.

* * *

I am embodied.

This is a portrait of the woman, embodied.

Because now, I know my self.  I know my body.  She is mine, I have learned how to inhabit her fully.  

Did you know that I only recently had my first satisfying orgasm?

My husband and I will be married for seven years.  It took me seven years of idling passive in bed, certain that a woman wasn't "supposed" to be alive, active, asking, needing in terms of sex and the having of it, to finally throw all that garbage out the window.

And let me just say -- seven years is too damn long.  

I didn't -- couldn't -- enjoy sex for seven years because I didn't own my own skin.  I didn't own my own sexuality.  Because I was not fully at home in this luscious body.

Both my husband and I agree that we regret waiting to make love until after "I do."  Not just because of the hymen thing, although we both would have really, really (really) loved to have dealt with that before our honeymoon.  

But because sexuality is an aspect of embodiment, of personhood, of compatibility that should be taken into account when deciding whether to marry a certain somebody -- one that the church not only does not value, but ignores at best and demonizes at worst.

I think that if my husband and I had come to our marriage as whole persons, sexuality included and embraced, our early years as one flesh would have been, could have been different.  Better, if not in all ways, then certainly in some ways.

Not because we would have slept around, not because we would have mindlessly fucked anything of the opposite sex that moved our way.  But because we would have shared all of ourselves with each other, and known more fully whether we loved each other.  

* * *

I am speaking.

This is a portrait of the woman, speaking about what does not get spoken of often enough.

Because it's not just me, not just my husband and I struggling still because of how the sexual  realm was handled when we were younger.

No, there are many -- too many -- other couples whose marriages are on the rocks because of this whole sex thing.  They lacked that certain something, that special spark that forever lovers share, but they didn't know they lacked it because they didn't know each other fully before they wed. 

I know couples who felt a blaring lack of spark before they got married, and were told by trusted pastors to marry anyway, that it would come -- and, years and years and children later, it has not come.  

I know couples who are living in turmoil because one spouse has finally, finally awakened to his or her (more often it's her, intriguingly) sexuality, and now needs to the freedom to explore it, to own it, but the other spouse will not or cannot meet them there.  And so the light of growth, of embodiment, that had finally begun to truly burn is doused. 

We should have known who we were as fully as possible before rings were exchanged.  We should have made our marriage choices based on whole persons, and we didn't.  We couldn't.  We were told to do so was bad -- no, was sin.

And now I see an epidemic of failed marriages of those who perhaps never should have married in the first place.  

* * *

I am thinking.

This is a portrait of the woman, thinking about sex and lies and how to start fixing this big damn mess.

It's not just about sex, this mess, this epidemic.  But sex and the vilification of sex is a big part of it -- and an even bigger part of the rape culture that we live in (and yes, we do live in a rape culture -- and while the church is not the only one responsible for rape culture, the church is also a major encourager of it).

Do all Christian couples experience this disappointment in waiting?  No.  Definitely not.  And for those couples, I am sincerely glad.  I truly delight in and celebrate the uncomplicated nature of sex and sexuality in your marriage and your life.

For the rest of us, however, I demand alternatives -- an alternative vocabulary for discussing sex and sexuality, for exploring one's self before and after the wedding day, for embracing sex as the beautiful expression of love and intimacy that it is.  Because I believe that such alternatives will create more mature, responsible, and healthy people -- and marriages.


Here are some starters for sexuality-related alternatives I would love to see:
  • sex and the body embraced as the lovely gifts and works of art that they are
  • a discussion of what masturbation is and how it can be helpful, healthy, and fun
  • parents encouraging teens to appreciate their sexuality while also helping them to be responsible for it in a way that won't make them scared of it (i.e., encouragement for youths to know all of themselves, and be responsible for all of themselves)
  • authentic conversations about what sex is for, and how to decide for one's self when to have it
  • "sex = dirty" talk ditched
  • an end to the objectification of women and women's bodies, and, relatedly, an end to the overtly communicated lie that men are victims of their bodies' naturally functionally mechanisms of arousal
  • the glorification of virgins and virginity
  • abstinence-only sex "education" eradicated; it has been proven not to work
  • gender equality, equivalent rights and opportunities and respect for women in practice, etc.

As for my husband and I . . . well, we're making it work, or trying to.  We're becoming more and more whole, each of us more and more of who we are -- all of who we are.  This is hard to do when you're married and have a kid, hard to do now this work that was made for young adulthood.  But we're doing it anyway, because the alternative is soul death.  And we've had enough of that.

Your turn -- how has your experience of sex and sexuality and related discussion, vocabulary, indoctrination, education/lack of education impacted your current sexual/marital/personal health?  What would you like to see change in our culture, and in religious culture?  What do you think should stay the same?


*this post contains affiliate links

Friday, July 25, 2014

When We are Wanted


When you spend long enough doing a certain thing, no matter what it is, I think, you put down roots.  You meet people.  And you find things you might not have been looking for, but now would never, ever trade. 

Blogging has been like that for me.  I'm not sure why I started that first LiveJournal in 2004, exactly, except that I enjoyed writing, enjoyed being read, and thought making money off of blogging was a thing (uh, yeah).  And while I haven't exactly hit the financial motherlode, I have discovered exquisite treasures that I never expected.

Story Sessions, an online community of writers run by Elora Ramirez, is one of those things.  A few of my online friends had taken Elora's intro ecourse, Story 101, and I like what I saw of them and their writing enough to give it a try myself.  I enrolled in 101 in the spring of 2013, and have never looked back.  I went on to take Elora's next course, Story 201, and participate in online retreats and workshops. 


The writing part of Story Sessions is good.  It's really good.  Like, really good.  If you want help discovering your voice, discovering your why, pushing past fear, and finding your legs in the publishing industry, then Story Sessions is for you.

But that's not the greatest treasures that I've found here.

No, for me, it's the community itself, these amazing women, that are the unlookedfor diamond that fell, shining through the dust of excavation, into my lap.


So many people roll their eyes at me when I tell them that I met some of my best friends online.  That's not real community, they think or say.  Remote community can't ever compare to local community.

For a long time, I thought the same thing.  I thought that online community was lesser, less than.  I ached because I failed to find the in-person kindreds that I'd found in the women of Story Sessions.  I thought there was something wrong with me.


This June, though, those digital hands and feet grew flesh and blood.  I flew to Texas to take part in the annual Story Sessions retreat, and those women who were my "lesser" community, my "not as real because it's online" kindreds, stormed into my life and swept me off my feet with their unconditional love and caring.

I went into the retreat lonely, desperately lonely.  My soul has been leading me on walkabout, as you know, and to my dismay I've had to abandon the local friendships and attempts at friendships that I'd been selling myself to.  Not because there as anything wrong with those local people, not because they didn't or don't try hard to love me, but because (through no fault of their own) I felt wrong around them.

I went to Texas nursing this long-gaping wound of being different-in-a-bad-way, broken, of always being the outsider.  When I got to the retreat, I expected to be disappointed, to find myself the outsider once again.

And --

there were no outsiders.


These women, these women, they put their hands in my hands, rubbed my shoulders, pulled their fingers through my hair.  They celebrated my newborn book, and my heathenry.  They looked into my eyes and heard my words and found no fault there.

They saw me, and loved me -- as is.

No caveats.  No conditions.  No "I'm worried about you" or "you're on a slippery slope."

(Did you know that Story Sessions is a Christian community?  Doesn't sound like the "Christian" communities I hear way too much yuck about way too often.)

This condition-less love and acceptance -- well, I didn't expect it.  I hoped for it, but life had taught me that it was likely out of reach for me.

But it exists.  It exists for me, and for you.  It's out there, and it's powerful beyond the imagining.


In Texas, I found women who celebrate my quirks and eccentricities and odd little passions.  I found women who run after me, literally, when I run away, who see my soul weeping when I hide my tears.  I found women who reminded me of the sacred truths of my glorious soul, and who continue to remind me when I forget.  I found women who tell me that I am beautiful-in-all-ways, and mean it.  I found women who cry with me, who rage with me, who will not, cannot accept injustice.  I found women who I can snuggle on the couch with without wondering if I'm doing the wrong thing, and who love how I don't love small talk.  I found women who ask me to howl at the moon with them.

I found women that I'd bleed for.  I found the women that would bleed for me.

I found the artists and renegades and lovers and world-changers.  And because of them, I remembered that I am one myself.  
 

So -- if you're looking for a writing community, well, Story Sessions is a good one.  Story 101 is running for its final time, so this is your last chance to get in where it all began.

But be careful, because you're not only getting a writing education when you sign up.  You just might find that you've found your courage, and the holiness in the darkest places of your soul, and some of the truest friends that you could ever have hoped for.


Online community is real.  It is true and authentic and alive.  And the folks you meet online have the powerful ability to slip quietly into your heart and turn your life upside down in the best of ways.

I hope that this is the case for you, no matter what digital hook you may hang your hat upon.  It has been one of my greatest privileges and joys to discover it for myself.

If you're interested in the final run of the ecourse that started it all, you can learn more about Story 101 here.

https://www.e-junkie.com/ecom/gb.php?cl=176080&c=ib&aff=168836

*this post contains affiliate links

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Spotlight Interview at Story Sessions!

Today I'm getting interviewed over at Story Sessions, regarding the release of The Light Between Us.  Here's a little taste of my conversation with the delightful Suzanne:

If you could be a character in any story that you've ever read, what story would you want to join?  Why?

Oh wow.  What a question!  How can I choose?  Perhaps I could be Bastian of The Neverending Story, stealing away to a musty tumble of blankets in his school's attic to literally fall into the book he was reading.  Or Lucy of The Chronicles of Narnia, with her courage and goodness and faith, not to mention all her adventures. 

Check out the rest of the interview here.  

And guess what?  The Light Between Us is currently $0.99 on Kindle!  Nab it here.  Woohoo!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

On Bellies and Bumps and Body Love

I catch a glimpse of my own swelling belly as I dash about the kitchen from counter to fridge to counter again, preparing breakfast for myself and my toddler son.  Without thinking, I pause, cradle that belly with a tender palm, sending a smile its way.

And then I really pause, frozen in embarrassment even in the privacy of my kitchen.  Because what I am doing?  How dare I cradle the belly that's grown thanks to a flawed diet and a dearth of ab work?  How dare I show love to my round belly when it's not round from a baby?

And it's not like I don't want there to be a baby in there, growing from microscopy into miracle in mere months.  But my husband and I both agree that it's not the right time, not with all that we've got going on, no matter what that taskmaster of a biological clock might be screaming.

Maybe it was wishful thinking, that gentle cradling of my stomach, imagining that it really was full of life.  If I was pregnant, this growth would be just big enough to be declared "showing," an official bump. 

But no, that explanation doesn't seem right.  Because I haven't forgotten that I'm not pregnant.  I could never mistake that, not after all I've been through in the motherhood department. 

No.  I showed my midsection a moment of love because it is.  Because it is mine.

It is my belly, and though it may not be filling with another's life at the moment, it is full of life -- my life.  My years, my history.  It is where the nourishment of my mother's body met mine before I took my first breath.  It is where I cradled my babies before their skin kissed sunlight.

It is my belly, and it is rounder than society says it should be, but I say that I love my bump.  How many years have I spent rejecting my stomach, sucking it in, comparing its [non]flatness to other feminine bellies, glaring at its profile in the mirror? 

How dare I allow anyone, allow myself, to call the seat of womanhood, the core of my core of my core, this amniotic home of two and deathbed of one anything but holy, holy, holy?

I can't.  I won't.  I can't. 

Not for
one
second

longer.

Welcome home to your whole self, my darling soul, my dearest body, my imperfect person.  You are loved -- all of you.  All of me.  All of we.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Finding Home {Atlas Girl Blog Tour}

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0801016568/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0801016568&linkCode=as2&tag=kitchcoura-20
This post is part of the Atlas Girl Blog Tour. To learn more and join us, click here

I wanted to take a few moments to introduce you to a writer friend of mine.  You may already know her -- she is the author of several books and an award-winning journalist, not to mention a prolific blogger.  But just in case you don't, meet Emily Wierenga.  She is a sweet and kind soul who cares deeply.  While our theology -- or lack thereof -- doesn't always line up, I can't deny this powerful caring that Emily lives and walks and breathes.  I don't just mean in general, either -- I also mean for me, specifically.  And that means the world to me.

Emily has a new book out, Atlas Girl.  This memoir is the story of Emily's travels as a younger woman, her struggles with anorexia, the church, and family woundings woven in with her exploration of the world. 

As a person who carries within her a deep, deep longing for home -- or really, Home, although I don't know what that means or where I might find it, not as surely as I once did -- I appreciate this tale of the tension between running away and homeward yearning.  And you know that I love Emily's exploration of doubt and faith, because what is the light without the darkness?  And anyway, all life begins in the dark, so I'm glad that more and more faith writers are validating this truth.

If you're interested in reading Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look, you can nab a copy here, and add it to your Goodreads shelf here.  And if you do, I'd love to know what you think.
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0801016568/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0801016568&linkCode=as2&tag=kitchcoura-20

http://www.atlasgirlbook.com/

*this post contains affiliate links

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

On the Wearing of Wedding Rings {Living with a Spouse in Chronic Pain}

 

I spent this past weekend away, four days of sharing space and words and breath with some of the best and most kindred friends I've ever had the delight of knowing.  We fed each other food and wine and truth, shattered bottles in catharsis, pressed our bodies close. 

We talked about many things, but what stuck with me the most was the concept trying on new things, experimenting.  This is my fearless year, and I have tried on a great many things.  I have taken off perhaps even more.  So this notion is not new to me.  I have become quite practiced.

But what I played with this weekend felt anything but familiar.

This weekend, I took off my wedding ring.

* * *

My husband and I are coming up on seven years of marriage.  How has it been so long?  And yet, not very long at all.  

And regardless of perception of time, those years have been full -- of hard stuff.  Good stuff, too, but the bad stuff has been Very Bad, and Very Big.  Eating disorder, stillbirth, crippling depression and anxiety, a newborn struggling to thrive . . . and those are just the things I've written about here.

My husband has been grappling with his own set of Bad Things.  Mainly, living for years with undiagnosed chronic pain, as well as other undiagnosed health issues.  And I'll be the first to admit that I haven't dealt with this facet of our lives very gracefully.  

I never understood chronic pain until I found myself living with one who lives under that heavy weight.  It is mind-boggling, impossible, and horrible in its invisibility, its lack of external physical markers.  So often those with chronic pain look completely normal, making it hard for those of us who don't struggle to fathom the depths of their challenges.

It is made all the worse in my husband's situation by the fact that he doesn't have a diagnosis.  Fibromyalgia,  chronic fatigue syndrome, Lyme disease, and more -- none of the symptoms line up, nor do any of the treatments work.  He's aching in the dark, and no method or drug can reach him.

* * *

We have also been doing quite a bit of growing this past year, both of us.  No doubt that at least part of that journeying was catalyzed by the above Bad Things: my dark night of the soul, his realization that he had shifted out of a lifetime of evangelical Christian beliefs into atheism.  My husband and I are different people now, exquisitely, terrifyingly, starkly different people from the ones we were seven years ago. 

This is not a bad thing.  To live is to grow, and if you're not growing, changing -- well, I would invite you to consider whether you are truly alive.

But our marriage is struggling as a result of our growth.  We have grown in opposite directions.  And again, this is not a bad thing, but it does bring us to a peculiar place, where we have become strangers to one another.  We need to date one another again, to meet each other anew.

* * *

We promised, on our wedding day, for oneness in sickness and in health.  And I honor that commitment.  

But we also need to rescue our floundering relationship, for each other and for our son.

And -- we can't.  Because of the pain.  Because my husband cannot (or struggles to) do the simplest of bonding activities: a walk around the block, grabbing a bite to eat, snuggling on the couch.  

We are faced with the seemingly impossible task of strengthening our bonds when one of us finds simply sitting a challenge.

Where are we to go from here?

* * *

I am living with a man that I love, but I am alone in our home, all of those needs one can reasonably expect to be met in marriage going achingly unfulfilled.

I rage.  I weep.  I rage again.

How can we rebuild when our hands are tied?

More and more, our conversations have turned toward separation.  Perhaps it would help, we say.  Perhaps it would give him a better chance for healing.  Perhaps it would tell me whether my deepening depression is born from our circumstances, or is sourced solely in my self.  If it's the latter, leaving would do nothing.

Some days I can't imagine leaving my husband.  
Some days I can't imagine not leaving.

* * *

And so this weekend, when I was folded safely into the care of kindred women, I slipped off my wedding ring and tucked it into my bag.  I was trying separation on by taking the ring of my commitment off.

I thought it would feel freeing, delicious.  I thought I would never be able to put my ring back on, that I would go home laughing and sure and determined to separate, and --

I lasted five minutes.  

My naked ring finger screamed, crawled for the familiar titanium band.  My already shredding heart threatened to rend well and truly in half, beyond repair. No amount of snuggling from my soul sisters could distract me.

I fled to my room, chest heaving in relief as I slid that silvery circle back onto its place on my finger

Because it belongs there, whatever the hell that might mean.  


* * *

There is no neat and happy ending to this post.  I came home, glowing from the retreat, to discover a sick man.  He was far more ill than I have ever, ever seen him in all our years together.  

It is now three days since my homecoming and my lips have yet to be kissed.  This is the reality of living with a spouse with [undiagnosed] chronic pain.

I don't know how to navigate All This Shit, only that in spite of our frustration and grief and sense of incapacitation, neither my husband nor I wish to divorce.  

But that doesn't make the staying easy.   It doesn't ease the loneliness, or the fear.  It doesn't dry my almost constantly flowing tears. 

I am here.  That is all I know.  And that is something, I hope, although I have no idea what.



I have been searching for quite some time now for resources on living with a spouse with [undiagnosed] chronic pain.  And -- there is nothing.  Nothing that I can find, anyway (let me know if you have something, I'd love to read it!).  There is quite a bit of support for those who are actually suffering from the pain, but not for their partners. So I am writing this aspect of our/my story, to begin to stitch together the beginnings this very needed kind of resource.  Watch this link for future posts on this topic.