Friday, March 21, 2008

Plain Endings

I'm amazed when a friend tells me she thinks she's found the guy she's going to marry. Even if they've been dating for six months or a year, I'm amazed that anyone is able to predict whom they will marry. I had no idea I was going to marry Bob when we'd been dating for six months, nor when we'd been dating for a year, nor after we'd been living together for several months. Three months into our engagement, I still find it hard to believe we're going to end up married. How can anyone possibly have the optimism to say, way before the guy has even talked about marriage, "I think he's the one?"

When someone who longs to find a life partner asks if I believe it will happen for them, I don't know what to say. Do I believe there's someone out there for everyone? No. I believe finding a life partner depends on persistence and luck. If you don't give up AND you have luck, you might meet someone you can be happy with for a long time. But plenty of people never have that luck. And many people give up before they get to it. I've heard the following many times, "If it can happen for me, it can happen for anyone." This is said by people who never thought they'd find someone, but then finally they do and they take this as evidence that it can happen for anyone. That's crap. Just because one pathetic loser, such as myself, finally makes it to the altar, doesn't mean we all can. It just means one pathetic loser made it.

This blog has clearly stated in the past that I am an atheist. My wedding ceremony will have no mention of "God." But I also don't believe in the concept of "forever." "Forever" is a theoretical construct, often invoked to express intensity of emotion, as in "I'll love you forever." But in practice, no one living can ever experience eternity and I doubt anyone who's dead does. People experience their lifetimes and this is often what they're referring to when they mention "forever." There's a common notion that marriage lasts for the rest of your life, although I don't know why since the divorce rate is so high. Do I believe marriage lasts for life? Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. I believe every marriage could go either way, including mine. So it goes.

My earliest concepts about love came from my family and from the Catholic church. Church was very confusing. I remember learning that I was supposed to love "God" and Jesus, but I never understood what that meant. How could I love someone who was completely absent? How could I love a person or an entity who was invisible, who was dead, who I'd never seen? It was easier to work with the idea of loving my parents or my sister. They were real people that I saw every day. I had had experiences with them, I had history with them, feelings about them. Whenever I heard that I was supposed to love my family, I might or might not feel like it, but at least it made some sense.

But if love was also supposed to be something I could feel towards an invisible being with whom I had no history or experience, then this love idea was just too confusing. How could I love an absence? Maybe other Catholics find, in the church service, rituals and traditions, an experience of "God" that invokes a feeling of love in them, but I never did. Maybe I took the teachings too literally. Maybe I failed to grasp the idea that through other people I could experience love and those experiences would lead me to a perception of a greater power, which would be "God's" love. I just know that as a little girl trying to give this god concept my best shot, I remained confused about how I could feel an emotion as big as love, for a Jesus who had died millenia ago.

Loving my parents often didn't go much better, but I knew "God" disapproved of me if I did not love these people, so I did my best. Ironically, I was working for the approval of a god whose presence I had never felt at all.

I eventually became an adult who is apprehensive about everything, never surprised at disappointment and easily discouraged. In my parents' house I learned that marriage was conflict, silence and distance. I think this is part of why I've taken so long to get married. Marriage did not look like fun to me. In fact, for a long time I thought love required giving up all my boundaries, all my oxygen, all my personality. I thought love meant being whatever the other person wanted. I thought I'd have to give up who I was for the payoff of being shackled for life to someone who might never stop yelling, or who alternatively, would never have a conversation with me.

Soon I will shackle myself to a man who has lots of conversations with me and treats me better than I'll ever deserve, and I'll see if we do any better than my parents. I hope we will, and maybe that hope comes from the success I've had at -- luckily -- winding up with him at all. As I accept him as my husband, I am willing to commit to him and to this marriage completely, one hundred percent, with everything I have. For today.

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