My dad is the smartest - the wisest - man I know. I am so blessed that he periodically sends me (and my brothers and sisters) his reflections via email. The other day I was reading something he had sent to me out loud to my husband when one of my twins (I forget which) asked if I was reading Apologetics. Now, my dad is a former Catholic seminarian (I guess God thought he had a different vocation!), and he was my first apologetics teacher. That comment actually made me think, though, that sometimes my Dad's words should be shared. To that end, here is a snippet of the email that he sent my my siblings and me a little while ago.
"Hope all is well with you and your families. Naturally, each of you, and what I perceive to be your needs, are daily in my prayers, even multiple times each day. There is a wonderful bible quote on this subject, if you want to look it up - Lk: 11, 5-8. Any bible will do. Which reminds me of something that I wanted to share several times over the past 6-8 weeks. Each of you have significant problems in your lives and I am constantly talking about praying for you. Some of you may wonder what I must be thinking when I tell you that. I do not expect your problems to go away, although the human side of me wishes that I could make that happen. Clearly, none of the problems that our family encountered over the years went away, but I wasn't fired, although my job was threatened twice, and we survived, although imperfectly, and each of you have your own families. F. Scott Peck (The Road Less Traveled) says that life is problems and that we grow through problem solving. He doesn't say that problems go away. A Cal Tech physics prof says that we control much less in our lives than we think, that 90% of life is chance. Prayer in that context makes so much more sense than the problems one would encounter, if prayer is a matter of asking God to change what is, to cause a miracle. Prayer in my context is about asking God's help (grace) to be imparted to you to galvanize your own personal resources, be they rational, emotional, spiritual, etc. to deal with the problem in the best way possible. I like to think of grace (God's help) as always being present, within your grasp, and prayer as the vehicle to access the grace. In other words most of the time we have the resources to address issues, even if it is simply accepting what you cannot change. Grace energizes those resources and it is because we are all part of the Communion of Saints (we are all in this boat together) that one person can have an impact through prayer on another. It is not a perfect explanation, but at least now you know what I mean when I say I am praying for you. In reality life is all about how we cho[o]se to respond to what life offers. We don't always understand it and we don't always act in our own best interest, but as the British say "We muddle through." Or as Christ did on the way to crucifixion, we fall and we pick ourselves up again and again as we march towards our journey's end."
So, just a piece of what my Dad imparts to his children. I love having him to advise and comfort me. There are parallels in my life and his, so the fact that 30 years ago, he was where I am now is immensely helpful to me.
I know there is no good way to say this, but I think about cheating a fair bit. No, I don't consider engaging in the act. I think about why it happens and the frequency with which it does. I think about the, "It just happened" rationale. That's crap, by the way. That's one thing that doesn't just happen. As with all other things sexual, you place yourself in situations where things may or may not happen. You conduct yourself in certain ways. And if you're married, then you sure as heck have to jump through a few hoops for an affair (or a fling, or one night (who are we kidding - a one afternoon) stand) to happen.
I read a short piece yesterday by a Christian blogger about the need for married women to guard their marriages. This guarding was operationalized (sorry - I talk like a social scientist) as not riding alone in a car with a man, not having a man as a best friend, not going out to eat alone with a man, etc. I couldn't help thinking how utterly simplistic that piece was! By that standard, the women serving in the military don't have a prayer. Guarding your marriage is about so much more than those things. Do they matter? Yes. If you carpool with the same man every day, you risk developing an intimacy that might be inappropriate. Of course, you might not. Much depends on whether or not you're open to it! If you're open to it, you have bigger problems!
As for going out to eat with a member of the opposite sex? How often are you going? Are you deliberately exclusionary? Would your spouse be welcome if he wanted to go? Is the friendship based on a shared interest? Is it a friendship that predates your marriage? Is your marriage on solid ground? The answers to those questions matter. More than anything, your spouse's opinion matters. Some people are more comfortable with other-gender friendships than are others. When my husband and I first started dating, I was 18 and he was 24. A male friend of mine invited me to see a high school play and I thought nothing of accepting. We were friends, nothing else. My husband's response was, "So you're going out on a date with him?" It didn't matter that it wasn't. My husband (then boyfriend) wasn't comfortable with the idea, so I didn't go. Those respect boundaries were set early on.
My husband has a strict policy of an ex is an ex is an ex. There is no such things as being friends with an ex. As his wife, I really appreciate that. It makes my life so much easier. In my own life, it's really a non-issue. I dated the same guy pretty much all through high school and only broke up with him when I met my husband. He died when I was 22. There were plenty of guys who had crushes on me, etc., though, so I don't use my maiden name on Facebook. (Wow - that sounds like I think fabulously highly of myself, but it's so not like that. It's just that everyone knows about the stories of the people who find each other on FB - I'm not about that drama.)
Now the topic I have assiduously avoided - the best friend of the opposite sex. I had the most amazing best friend anyone ever could have had. I didn't like girls very much and they pretty much had no use for me. J got me. I got him. We were friends for around a quarter of a century. He didn't cut me loose when I was the worst kind of friend one could be. He introduced me to some of my favorite bands and some of my favorite books ever. After we both got married, our friendship consisted of pretty sporadic emails, apart from the occasional spate of email frenzy. We have not had each other's phone numbers since high school. My husband was very aware of how much he meant to me.
8.5 months ago (but who's counting?), J told me that he thought that it would be better if we were no longer friends. I have never written about this. I have rarely talked about it. I likely never will again. I read his email once. I will never read it again. It's funny. I had never been broken up with until that point. Thank God I had my husband. When I came out from reading that email, I was crying so hard that my husband thought someone had died. In a way, someone had. Something certainly had. Again, thank God for Henry. Without a jealous bone in his body, he understood my grief. He still understands.
I know why J did what he did. I hate that he did it, but I understand. I still write to him in my head. I have been writing to him since I was 11 years old. I can't stop now. When I hear a spectacular pun, it's all I can do not to email it to him ("Look, I know we're not friends anymore, but you *have* to hear this one!"). I told Therese for years that I wished she had a J because mine was such a comfort to me when I was her age. I have stopped wishing that for her. I spent more than half my life touting the benefits of a male best friend. I have stopped doing that, too. I have actually come to the conclusion that a married woman can't (and shouldn't) have a male best friend (I've never thought a man should have a female best friend - I know, right? My consistency is shocking.). No matter how innocent and no matter how old the friendship, you will inevitably be diverting something from your marriage. It's almost ineffable, but you'll know it when you feel it.
I always thought it was just a case of not succumbing to the mistake of dating your male best friend, but that's not it. Not dating your male best friend will just allow you to maintain the friendship longer; it probably won't allow you to maintain it forever.
I know there are plenty of people out there who can tell me their stories of how their friendships have worked for them. I'm happy for you. I would still encourage any girl to form friendships with girls. I know it's hard (it's *still* hard for me), but you will still have those friends decades from now, if you're lucky. I came out of high school with one really good friend (whom, as I have shown, I no longer have). I came out of college with one good friend (who is...a guy! What good does that do me? And no, we don't have lunch.).
This has to be the world's most meandering post. A couple of disclaimers: yesterday I wrote that I was mulling a couple of posts but was hesitant to write them because of the people I knew would be reading them. This post is not one of them. J does not read my blog. He's not on FB (in case anyone was going to go check my friends - if you know me well, you know exactly who he is, even if you didn't know we broke up). He is a social media hermit. It's one of his finest qualities. The person to whom I was mostly referring yesterday is Therese's boyfriend (hey, Andrew!).
Second, do you ever wonder what prompts people to write what they do? For me, this post was prompted by three things: the blog post I read yesterday about guarding your marriage, the open wound that is J that is going to take more time to heal (which came to the surface because of thinking about the blog post on guarding your marriage), and, most immediately, I was listening to The The's 1989 album "Mind Bomb." Why that album made me write this post, I'm not sure, but, hey Armageddon Days (Are Here Again).
1. I didn't have all of my materials because I didn't pre-plan before vacation, so we couldn't do everything today. That offends my sense of completeness.
2. Nicky, who is the king of "I forgot" was cranking out Catechism answers like crazy. I was actually wondering if he had been replaced by aliens. Okay, I'm prevaricating. I totally wasn't wondering that. I was absolutely gobsmacked, though.
3. I had occasion several times today to marvel anew at my great good fortune at being on the Homeschool Crew. I can't BELIEVE the stuff I get for free. I can't believe the amazing curriculum that I now pay for that I never would have heard of were it not for the Crew. The Crew is the biggest blessing in my homeschool life. Heh - apart from my kids.
4. I miss having Therese at my homeschool table more than I can begin to say. She does school in her room now, and I don't really see that much of her. Today she was in the throes of a headache and didn't do all that much anyway, but one of the only problems with my kids being so close in age is that I don't get all of the one-on-one time with Therese that I want to have (the others are all about the same with where they are, but she is so far ahead maturity and intelligence-wise that she's in a class by herself (did you catch the pun?)).
BONUS!! Non-school related reflection: There are a couple of blog posts that I really want to write, but I keep putting it off because I would feel strange knowing that relevant people would be reading them. It's not that they would be unflattering or anything, just that I would feel funny talking about people. Does anyone else ever face that problem?