Betty Duffy

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Please Pour Me a Glass of Pinot Noir

My husband had to go out of town this week, and it makes me unhappy. If there is an ebb and flow to marriage, cycles of distance and closeness, we are on the shore at the moment, probably still on a high from our trip. I feel close to him, even though our literal distance from one another is about a thousand miles.

I do fine when he’s gone. As I’ve said before, I’m capable of handling the household: Bending, scooping up the pieces of the day, bathing children and putting them away. I’m a machine. But I’m reminded of a Bjork song I used to listen to in another life:

while you are away
my heart comes undone
slowly unravels
in a ball of yarn
the devil collects it
with a grin
our love
in a ball of yarn

he'll never return it

so when you come back
we'll have to make new love

I can’t help feeling resentful of our dependence on corporations that force us to be independent of one another. I had this sensation returning from Williamsburg as well, the first time I made lunches for my children. I was hyped up on the idea that there is nothing that people need in this life that God doesn’t provide, until I realized we were out of juice boxes, and I had no spare change around the house for the kids to buy milk at school. What fates dictate my dependence on these pre-packaged beverages? Why must I leave my home to go buy them? And why am I sending my children to school anyway? It’s the school’s fault we can’t just go get our water from the well. And this is, of course, fodder for a different post because it’s not really school’s fault. It’s my fault I’m too fearful to school my children at home.

But the example makes an important point: I want to blame the corporations for separating me from my husband and making my life less authentic, but it has just as often been something in me, fear, selfishness, that drives a similar outcome.

I keep thinking about a poem read recently, “The Entrance of Sin” by Scott Cairns (from his collection, Recovered Body ). The poet describes the events leading up to Adam and Eve’s fall:

…Sin had made its entrance long before the serpent spoke…
sin had come in the midst of an evening stroll, when the woman had reached to take the man’s hand and he withheld it.

...One supposes that even then, this new taste for turning away might have been overcome, but that is assuming the two had found the result unpleasant. The beginning of loss was this: every time some manner of beauty was offered and declined, the subsequent isolation one conceived was irresistible.

Even if my husband did not have to leave home this week, would I not eventually have succumbed to the idea that I need to invest in my own interests a little? The serpent whispers: “This has been great togetherness and all, but I’m ready to get back to my things. I don’t want to lose my identity. I don’t want to be so dependent that my happiness hinges on you being here.”

I do remember once, very early in our relationship, praying to God for detachment from my husband, something I probably needed in order to put more faith and trust in God. But it’s easy to confuse detachment for independence, and then wonder—what happened to our love? Some wicked devil has been collecting it with glee because we ourselves allowed it to unravel, by turning away, rebuffing, and withholding, in order to maintain this irresistible self.

I heard a homily last weekend on the Wedding Feast at Cana, about how the wine represents the “spirit” of the marriage, both the Holy Spirit that sanctifies the union, and the spark of spousal unity and attraction. When we feel our marriage has lost its spark, in either the spiritual or the physical sense, we should call on Mary and ask for her intercession. She urges Christ to perform miracles for us, to transform us, to turn our water into wine, to give us a spirit and a spark.

And then Christ, of course, keeps the best wine for later—when we’ve exhausted those early, superficial highs, when we’ve subdued the irresistible self, when we’ve asked for a miracle. He grants it.

My husband and I have always positioned our bed under a window, and one summer night, the bats were out, flying very close to our screen. We both jumped up to our knees to look out the window. It felt like we were two children, suspended for a moment by our mutual fascination in something other than ourselves--matrimonial innocence, like two lovers before the fall.

It was just a little taste of the sweetness that ensues when we quit treating one another like a trick pony: I’m here. Talk to me. Other couples talk. Why don’t we have anything to talk about? If we can look outward together, we are bound and united by our mutual experiences and labors. We don’t need to talk so much.

For now, my husband is away, united only by a phone call each night, and the pressure is on to make it count. Stay close, keep close, talk, talk, talk. When he comes back, I’ll fight the urge to leave the house pleading for some time off after a week home alone with the kids. I want to remember to ask Mary for a miracle, a little nightcap at the end of the day: to keep giving when I feel like I’ve given enough. Reopen the home and my heart to his headship. Take up the yoke again, with him at my side: Make new love, every day, new love.


nicole said...

I have nothing to say to contribute to the depth of your excellent post. Instead, I wanted to just say that it is in these situations (travel taking a spouse away) that I think things like text messages and Facebook are actually good. Little ways to pop in on each other's day without interrupting work. A flirty text message can go a long way in maintaining that closeness you speak of, in my experience. :)

wifemotherexpletive said...

thanks. i needed a reminder of allofit, i guess.

Young Mom said...

This was a good reminder. My husband and I have joked about how we are like kids at a sleepover at bedtime, didn't have anything to talk about all day and then once we are supposed to be going to sleep we are giggling and whispering instead.

Karyn said...

I still love listening to Bjork. And homeschooling rocks - take the plunge if you feel called to do so! Many blessings on your reunion with your husband!

:-) said...

I am not married, so I have nothing at all to contribute to the actual subject of this post... however, How amazing is our Church that I have never met you in my entire life and just started reading your blog about a month ago(fabulous by the way), have no clue where you live or what parish you attend, yet I can completely relate to your mention of the Wedding at Cana reading because I heard it two weeks ago too!?! ;) I love it!! Sometimes it's nice to get a little reminder like that just how big our Church is... we don't talk attendance numbers in the thousands.. we talk in MILLIONS!!! :) God is Amazing!! :)

jen said...

The part about bending, scooping pieces of the day almost had me in tears. It seems all I do anymore. Bend and Scoop. Bend and Scoop. You're a role model for wives, Betty. I've asked Mary for a miracle on your behalf. This has been my meditation today - from the song by Aaron Shust: "I'm not skilled to understand, what God has willed, what God has planned. I only know by his right hand, is one who is my Savior."

confused homemaker said...

The end of your post has me in tearing up in a way that is so good. Thank you for reminding me, every barrier toward intimacy that is broken down in our lives is done so because of the grace of God.

Emily G. said...

Excellent post. I have no idea why you think you are not equipped to homeschool-you are a very very intelligent woman. I'm sure your children would get a high quality education.

Sometimes in the evenings when things are quiet I have sat beside my husband and begged him to talk to me, "we must have SOMETHING to talk about". We end up griping at each other instead. Until we look at our daughter, and in our silence wathchig her play, we are more unified than if we babbled mindlessly about silly stuff.

Kimberlie said...

I just wanted to let you know that my husband is away for business too, except he is 15,000 miles away in Australia. To say that I resent the corporation is an understatement. I feel "they own him from 8-5, M-F, after that, he's ours." But for the next 9 days (whew 2 days down already), they own him 100%. I get a measly phone call every few days when we can figure out the time difference.

On the other hand, the one or two times per year that he travels for 2 weeks, it makes me stop to appreciate how much he lightens my load around the house. He cares for the dog and the cat, even when the dog is being a nuisance and wants to go out at 3am. He bathes the kids because its time he gets to talk with them. He gets up first in the morning and feeds the kids breakfast because he knows I am not a morning person and that letting me sleep just 30 min more makes a huge difference. He walks the older two to the bus so that I don't have to go out in the frigid cold weather. It's those little things that I appreciate in a big way when he is gone. Especially the dog, that darn pooch had me up 3 times last night letting him out and bringing him back in. ;)

Am I capable doing this life without him? Sure. I do it. But I don't like it. Recently he was indulging my fascination with the Amish and reading a novel out loud to me in the evenings. I think what draws me to these stories is the way the family works where they live, they live their lives together, and no one can do what they need to do without the support and encouragement from each other. They aren't independent or dependent but interdependent. I think that is a great way to live out a married life.

And as for not having the courage to school your kids at home, welcome to the club. I instinctively know that it would be beneficial to my children for various reasons, but I am really worried I don't have what it takes to do it. Take heart, if God wants you to homeschool, He will equip you and give you peace about it.

Anne said...

Love the quote from Recovered Body, but more than that this is what I love: "suspended for a moment in mutual fascination in something other than ourselves." Breathtaking!

BettyDuffy said...

Thanks everyone for your comments. Lots of good ideas.

Kimberlie, it's interesting you mention the Amish thing, because if the there were something like an Amish Catholicism, I'd be there. I was sort of wishing, when Tom Monahan set up his Catholic Utopia down at Ave Maria, that it would be less of a golf resort and more, well, Amish. I do think that that's the best way for families to work, side by side, for survival. If we had that critical need to work together in order to live, everything else would fall into place, the schooling, the whole foods, the rule of life. I fantasize about it all the time, but it's not really something you just want to throw yourself into alone.

Betty Beguiles said...

I share that dream, Betty. Actually, several of my friends and I have talked about buying a huge piece of land somewhere and trying to make it happen. We've even discussed donating a piece of the land to a religious order for a monastery. Wouldn't that be amazing? Of course, it's easier to dream than to make something like this a reality. First we need to find the funds for a huge land purchase. Small details like that. ;) I do love the idea, though.

Lizzie said...

I've recently discovered your blog and am finally commenting as this post is just so lyrical and expressive. I was welling up as I sat in front of my computer screen at work. Thank you for your posts - they're wise, funny, thoughtful and I have been really inspired by reading them. Like someone else has commented, it's brought home again the Universal nature of the Church. What a blessing! I dream of living a simple, community life on a big plot of open land...maybe one day. A Catholic Amish community sounds perfect...! I was teaching interdependence in science to 11 year olds today and thought it makes so much sense - we need to get better at it as humans. I still listen to Bjork too - I've always loved her creativity, honesty and passion. God bless you and yours from over the pond in London, UK

Margie said...

Betty, I've been reading your blog (I'm one of the ones who came over at Jennifer's recommendation), and finally decided to de-lurk. I was going to comment on the Elizabeth Gilbert post (on that same day I had decided she really bugged me, and I haven't even read EPL), but have waited until now. I found myself reading that marvelous poem and parts of this post to two other wives in our small group tonight; we're all in that same "love that independence" boat that always seems to wreak a little more havoc than it seems it should.

I'm likely to begin commenting more; okay if I link to you? Thought I should check.

BettyDuffy said...

Link away! Glad you delurked.

Jus said...

Are you ovulating?


Meredith said...

I admire the way you create so many layers in one post.

At the end, I found myself thinking, "Hmm. Maybe we should book a trip to Williamsburg, too."

On the comment discussion, did you ever read Better Off by Eric Brende? One couple heads to an Amish-like community to live without technology for a year. Later there was an attempt to create a likeminded Catholic community in the area, which fizzled. I had an opportunity to visit with our CSA last year. The Brende family ended up moving to St. Louis and living out an urban version of the story.

Now that's the book I'd love to read!

BettyDuffy said...

Jus, as a matter of fact...

Meredith, That book sounds very interesting. I'll have to look into it. I think there was a similar start up in Ohio somewhere --The Grail?

Anne said...

Betty, I hope you don't mind but I just had to quote you on the story of you and your husband watching the bats. I love that! You are brilliant!

Poetikat said...

Came to you through JenX67.

My dad's favourite Gospel was the Wedding feast at Cana. Every time he poured a glass of wine he would say, "If it was good enough for our Lord, then there's nothing wrong with us drinking it."

I am pleased to have been led here (and I do believe it is divine intervention). You might like my blog here:
Perhaps you can kickstart it for me. Since my dad died last year, I've been working through some things and my writing on that blog has faded out.

Otherwise, if you follow the "Poetikat" username, you can see where I am most days.


P.S. I can so relate to that "In another life" comment.

swaying mama said...

i loved the post. i agree that marriages aren't meant to happen long-distance for long periods. 2 weeks is maximum and even that is painful.

i've had an attitude of gratitude lately and i can't even count the many times i say: 'i love that man' because i am made aware of small things that will does for me/us.

i am excited to be celebrating 15 years of marriage this year and getting a whole week away with my honey to rekindle the magic.

i'm gonna go catch up on your other posts that i haven't read lately.

hugs to you, duffy.