Standing in front of the altar cloaked in an ivory wedding gown, sewed with generations of my maternal ancestors’ dress fabric, European lace, and hand-sewn beads sprinkled around my shoulders, I faced my adorable to-be-spouse, clutching his hands. I paused during the ceremony, with my childhood Pastor quietly adjusting me to move closer to Jim, a surreal nudge prompted me to pray & speak directly to God. I lifted my chin towards the soaring pine ceiling, towards heaven, I thanked God for marriage, my Jim, my future and for all the guests who traveled across the U.S., to celebrate our union. My beloved Grandparents celebrating their 60th anniversary, my brothers and sister doing silly pranks all weekend, my supportive parents..all seated in the pews that I had grown up in….I whispered, ” God, I promise you that I will fulfill my duties as a loving wife & daughter -in- law, sisters- in- law, honor the preciousness of marriage and if you so feel I am suited to mother children,I promise every cell in my body will be given to you, your will”. I added, “Help me be strong, I did not know how to be a wife, in-law or mother”. Funny, 27 years later, still wonder about that! Standing in front of relatives, neighbors and new family members, who represented all my seasons of life on earth, they lent me strength & made me feel capable that I had the courage, smarts and strength to honor God in this most sacred covenant. It was a huge promise made with God, I promised NEVER to violate my vows, never did and I am very proud of adhering to my prayer. I was marrying this handsome man, until death do us part. God forgot to show me that promises and covenants sometime do not last. Accepting my immaturity and co-dependence that I contributed, leading to the broken marriage, pisses me off.
My mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother possessed intelligence, humor, love of travel, the theater and were passionate women who suppressed their innate gifts to be homemakers, and to comply with society’s expectations of motherhood, suburban happiness and false fronts for the neighbors. My grandma and I bonded early, during health issues with my sister born months after me with birth defects. Mom had her hands full, an only child, she was lonely, depressed and struggled with the 60′s expectations, little college education and confidence, around career women. I am identical to her. My mom didn’t hang with my friends parents at restaurants, nor join the country club set however, she and my Dad always had the ingredients tucked in the cupboard for a tuna-noodle casserole, for our church pot-luck suppers. My parents volunteered, served, supported and loved an entire Vietnamese family, snatched at the end of the war, from certain death…we picked up from the airport, each person with a small plastic bag filled with patriotic info about their new country. They did not know a word of english.
Church events: my entire family attended, all drove together and there were never sport event conflicts or my dad working late, that interrupted traditional church pot-luck suppers.
The cement block basement located underneath the church sanctuary, was aglow with panels of ultraviolet lights, scents floated up the stairs of warm vinegar and bacon potato salads, ham croquettes, ground beef with mashed potatoes layered Shepard’s Pie and many Corning Wear dishes of meatballs, floating in creams and sauces, finished off by Jellos, and desserts. Jello rings with mandarin oranges, pineapple, green, yellow, red shimmering, and the icky cherry red jello filled with pretzels, celery and cranberries. There was always the teeth sticking slices of white bread with patties of butter, finished off with lots of hot coffee, always caffeinated. Desserts included home made breads, strawberry and rhubarb, apple, blueberry and cherry pies. In the winter time, one older German couple always made mince meat pie, lots of brownies made by the teen girls.
The familiar corning wear glass dishes filled with traditional Lutheran German, Swedish and Dutch concoctions were loaded with Cream of Mushroom and Chicken soups, topped off with whole sticks of butter, crumbled potato chip toppings sprinkled with cheeses. The pans were always scraped empty, no leftovers. I anticipated the suppers, left well fed, happy and connected. The tables held entire families, couples, singles, the Pastor and his wife. I grew up at those tables, listening to my parents discuss, argue and be held accountable by their peers. Looking back now from a more sophisticated and organized religious experience, my parents were in a ‘small group’ of fellow Christians, that to this day, are their friends, furniture- movers, hospital & illness caretakers and counselors. I have to pre-qualify at my mega-church to be in a geographical selected small group with single women, as I am divorcing. Am not part of the ‘couples’ group and segregated by ages. Mr. and Mrs. Darrow were the elder statesman of the supper pot-luck tables, no sign-up forms or age requirements or family size were ever a part of the church fellowship….we were all part of one body, and I felt and knew and loved on that fact. I miss it, tremendously.
I did not seek nor have an accountable family during my marriage of potluck loving, basement buddies and the nurturing wisdom of of members of all ages, couples, singles, families that helped me grow into the person I am, during my marriage. The people sitting in the pews during my wedding, did not support nor nuture us as a couple. I put on my false face and pretended to be the happy wife I promised God, while hurting inside. I pushed the embarrassingly simple church gatherings of my youth with like-minded neighbors, similar values and morals… aside as small town, unsophisticated and non-intellectual events to gossip about….oh, how so wrong I was, and am. I yearn for a church basement potluck filling my soul, with a church family, hearing about local business deals, insurance issues, car part deals and the best place to purchase yarn for winter mittens. No parents of my youth, spoke of ACT tutoring or high school rankings, only speculation for the high school football teams. Looking back now fondly, the Lutheran husbands and wives taught me lessons deeply ingrained into my DNA. It is my responsibility to find a circle of like minded folks with values, morals and jello recipe now. At a late age, I need to reinvent my playgrounds, my social life, and seek new friendships.
Ignored my values, too long. Kept quiet with alcoholic relatives ruining holiday after holiday. Kept mute over unresolved conflict, failed to set firm boundaries. Did what everyone told me to do, with the hopes of being accepted. Didn’t work. Time to embrace my morals and accept only those people in my life who would gladly join the plastic- covered Sunday School dinner tables, with heaping plates of European home-y recipes. Bread slathered in butter, with big hot cups of coffee. German chocolate cake, warm pies and Dutch cookies filled with almond paste.
God loves food, especially in church basements. It is good and right.
Here is what I learned the past 3 years: I need to promise God to do the hard growing up work necessary to be a mature, God loving person who currently, sends smarmy emails, wants to piss off lawyers, gain revenge on the spouse I adored and parade around town as a self-righteous victim, re-playing the betrayals to anyone with ears. Pissing off people doesn’t give me power, and although some of it fun, time to adhere to my promises. Pissed off that my kids still like their dad, even though I regularly point out his glaring flaws.
from Dr. Cloud’s Boundary book:
Relationship insanity is doing the same things over and over again, carrying the same baggage, revisiting the same issues, and doing the same willing, hoping, and waiting, and expecting different results. This is defensive hope, and the person is avoiding reality and the pain of ending the relationship. Grieving this loss is important, and is a key ingredient for successful relationships post-divorce.
I kept giving him one chance after another,begging, pleading as he bull-dozed over my wishes, grasping onto the 10% positive change he was willing to make as sufficient ‘glue’ to keep our broken marriage together. I had settled for so little from him, for so long, had hidden behind my family, kid activities and wished deeply for a partner, a friend and a spouse. After years of his career work- a- holism, his continued financial betrayals, it began to dawn on me, he had no intention of seeking a deeper relationship with me. His wedding promises? Despite my repeated pleas, his value, promises were all wrapped up in dollars and cents. He is psychologically distant, unless drunk. Jim is a fun, handsome and smart man who has a fragile ego, unwilling to expose flaws, unwilling to seek honesty and has betrayed me so many times, God wants me to have trust, love and equality, in all relationships. Jim has boasted that he is now in a ‘healthy relationship’ with a woman, which is hysterical as he is married, she is nothing but a rebound band-aid. It is his life, now.
“God, soften my heart towards this man I have spent most of my life sleeping next to him, birthed his children and loved, as he has pursued other women, and committed adultery publicly, is an acceptable practice for him, while he is married. Help me, Lord, soothe my anger, close my lips and promise me that I will be whole, happy and strong once I have broken the covenant I promised to uphold”. I am very sad that not only is our marriage over, any chance of forming a friendship is gone. At no time, will I ever allow myself to be vulnerable around him, as he quickly stabs, broadcasts faults and gleefully parades my foibles pulically.
And find some Jello recipes.