We don’t make it to Hungry Hearts soup kitchen too often lately because I don’t like to stay in situations where Bonnie is cranky. I’m feeling guilty about it, though.
There is a good tension here: the tension between family and world. In some monasteries, a monk’s first task is to learn to close doors quietly — not to slam the door on the outside world. Our little house is like a monastery based on Bonnie’s need for stability, comfort, and security. My child is my strongest loyalty, my instinct, my first concern — she dominates my consciousness. Then there is my obligation to my deepest self and to the connection I find there to God and the world. I think of Jesus’ demand to be ready to give up mother, father, sister, brother, husband, wife. (He didn’t mention children, did he?) But Jesus doesn’t want us to give up our family to find ourselves; he wants us to give up ourselves to find God.
I’m drawn back to Hungry Hearts again and again, dragging Bonnie along with me, but then we leave after only a little while. I want her to feel comfortable there, to recognize those people as her people. “Servanthood is bad” is the latest buzz going around the soup kitchen. Instead, we want to think of ourselves as all one community. I’m not helping; rather, I’m a presence, another person. Am I slumming at Hungry Hearts, as some of my friends seem to think? I don’t think so. The place is “open to all.” And I need it. So I’ll keep schlepping there when I can. I’ll stretch myself and pull Bonnie out of her cocoon a bit now and then.
What do I want from prayer? I want the will of God. I want to know God. I want God to guide me. It’s too self-indulgent to ask God to reveal herself to me — but that’s what I want. God gives me so much (and I am very thankful), yet God does not give me the greatest gift: herself. Maybe God has given herself to me, but I just don’t realize it. I haven’t experienced it lately. Remember: “Ask and you shall receive.” So maybe I should just ask. Meister Eckhart writes, “God gives nothing so gladly as the greatest gifts.” And the greatest gift is love, not visions.
Mea culpa, mea culpa. I’m my own worst enemy. I was impatient and short with Derek after dropping Bonnie off at the baby sitter’s. First, I ordered him to cut my hair, then I ignored him when he started to tell me a story about the rock group the MC5, because I wanted to go upstairs and exercise and pray and try to write before I had to pick up Bonnie. There’s always this danger of keeping score — how much time do I have to pray, to write? But what use is it if I’m a bitch? Derek’s right: I interrupt him to talk to Bonnie. She needed most of my attention the first year, but she’s more independent now and I need to wean myself away from her. Derek says I take on Bonnie’s traits: she’s demanding, so I become demanding of him. The other day he blew up at me for yelling, “Pick her up!” after Bonnie fell and screamed. He was closer, so I expected him to get to her first. Then I was sorry I’d yelled, but it was too late.
I prayed. Better. Today I asked, not for visions, but to be aware of God all the time — especially before I open my mouth, so that my words come from where God dwells in me, and not from superficial desires.
I love order and routine. But I know order becomes sterile if it isn’t based on an inner peace, if I’m not willing to let go of the outer order when maintaining the inner order demands it. It’s a rough balance.
Derek was unfaithful Thursday. He told me today. It hurts. OK, they didn’t do it — just kissed. But he asked her to go to bed and she refused (because he was married). But still, it could have happened. In a sense, it did happen. Is it just a cultural constraint that makes me so bothered by it? Am I just the defective offspring of a defective culture?
Dear Abby: Here’s a way to avoid Christmas gluttony. Have your husband tell you he’s been unfaithful.
This is such a taboo subject. I don’t know if I’ll be able to tell anyone. I’m scared. Yet he assures me he won’t leave me — he doesn’t even intend to do it again. He’ll try not to, anyway. Believe it or not, it was at an office Christmas party.
I needed something to shake me up. I never wanted this, but this is what I got. So why does it floor me? It brings me back to the essential question of what’s important.
He loves me. He doesn’t feel it’s insulting to me. Of course, that’s a male excuse: “It has nothing to do with you.” Fortunately, he didn’t say it quite that way.
“You say you love me,” he says, “but what you love is an imaginary Derek, not the real one.” He doesn’t believe in monogamy. I am beginning to understand what he means. I’m also beginning to understand that giving him permission to have female friends — “There’s always an erotic element,” he says — isn’t likely to result in him having an affair. This is the first time anything like this has happened to him.
Sometimes you have to say yes before you really feel like you want to say yes. It’s a slow process, but at least now I can see it in more spiritual terms. Love: that’s what it’s all about. He wants to be able to love. Loving other people doesn’t take away from his love for me. I hope I can believe this of him; he deserves it. He has always been truthful to me. He promises not fidelity, but love always.
And this comes just when I was trying to understand love myself; when I was reading Meister Eckhart, who says love is its own reward. When you love other people, you share their joy — so it multiplies your own.
Derek started talking about his job, wanting to cut his hours, but he says we can’t afford it. I told him I didn’t want him to give up his dreams. “Yes you do,” he said. “You don’t want me to love other women. You want me to dry up.”
I’m enrolled in a school for love, with Derek as my main teacher. Sometimes the lessons are hard. But it’s satisfying when I feel that I’ve learned something.
I’ve been depressed, but it’s abating. The hurt comes and goes. I acknowledge it, but don’t admire it. It would be better to share Derek’s joy and love. But I don’t share his wanderlust. I won’t ever trust him again in the same way. Yet love grows stronger, I hope; maybe my love for him can become more unselfish. Certainly this incident has made me fall in love with him again. I guess I should tell him.
Hard to fall asleep again last night — thinking of the worst possible case and what I’d do, worrying about the nights he’ll be out late playing with his band. Then I realized I’m going to be worrying when he goes back to work: Will she see him? Will he see her?
But I changed my thinking a little while ago. Instead of trying to determine where I would draw the line and get a divorce, I’ve decided that he’s basically a good and sincere person trying to do his best, so why don’t I just love him unconditionally?
Was it the greatest night of my life? I think so. We stayed up until 5:00 A.M., loving. I’ve never felt so close to Derek, so in love. I feel reborn, sexually awakened, in love on a whole new level.
The worry is gone. What was really bothering me was the fear that I would have to leave him if he went too far with another woman (whatever “too far” is). He told me he’s been obsessed with my body since before we were married. He told me he’s got a neurotic dependence on me. He told me how worried he was the other day when I was too upset to have an orgasm, how he thought, “Oh no, if Jenny can’t come anymore — what have I done?” I was surprised: “You mean you care more about that than you do about hurting my feelings?”
“Yes,” he answered. He didn’t think his experience with this woman would hurt me. It had just felt like the right thing to do.
He told me I was his “polished gem,” that I was “pure of heart.” He’d love to pimp me, he said — get “lots of money” for me — I was so good. He called me his “goddess,” said he worships me, started chanting, “Praise God, praise God, praise God through you.”
I told him I finally feel integrated sexually and spiritually. It’s like Jesus is drawing me past the law into the spirit. I started loving myself and suddenly, at last, I can look Derek directly in the eyes while having orgasms as intensely and easily as water pounding over a falls.
“Maybe I was sent by God to you to give you pleasure,” I said.
I realized last night how selfish I am. I have a double standard. If I were the one who had met someone, who had had an exciting encounter, then I wouldn’t feel so bad. Yet I begrudge Derek. I am still far from being able to love unselfishly. Why does our culture encourage such selfishness?
Forget order — I mean, outer order. My rules are falling by the wayside. Nothing makes sense. I have to listen to my heart but it’s all conflicting noises. At least I know that out of pain sometimes joy arises.
Last night was a disappointment: no orgasms, but more than that, I didn’t feel the intensity of love and trust I felt the other day. I wanted to hold on to it. I wanted it to last.