Sunday, May 29, 2011


The rapture didn't happen. As far as I am aware, there were no major intercontinental earthquakes, and if Jesus did come and take people away, he didn't do it on a very large scale.

And so the world goes on, and as it does, I still sometimes find it hard to understand even the simplest things. I often ride the subway and notice young men with wedding bands on, and I think to myself 'how does something like that happen?' I look at their clothes, their build, the thickness or thinness of their wrists, their haircuts, shoes, and I wonder how people get into, and then stay in relationships? When did they make that decision? What does it take to want to share one's life with someone else, and how does anybody negotiate the kind of terms that that kind of arrangement would require? I imagine the kind of person that they're married to, or how long ago they might've met. I wonder if they're happy, if they communicate well and talk freely, or if they are uncomfortable when they go home, and perhaps even feel trapped, stuck, locked into a kind of melancholy existence; committed to staying with someone that they've grown apart from - in sickness and in health, till death do them part. Indebted to their word; to an idea of what they believe they should be.

I imagine their families and their in-laws, and what holidays look like for them. Are there children? Are there pets? I picture them in their pajamas eating breakfast, or checking in with their wives from the office, or making love in the shower. I imagine that they're probably so used to each other that they can anticipate one another's movements and physical responses, even finish each other's sentences, and it is all just beyond my comprehension. It's not just one particular type of person that I notice that makes me think this way, but all different types from every different classification of imaginable socioeconomic background - good looking ones, homely ones, well-dressed ones, fat ones, young ones; it just seems foreign to me - alien - not like something that other people have access to that I don't (which I guess is true, it is still illegal for me to be married in most states), but actually something that I just don't understand - like calculus - I know it is real, I know that there is probably a practical application for it somewhere, but I can't for the life of me figure it out.

It's not as if these young men are people I imagine myself being with, it's not like that, I'm not sexually fantasizing about them (not usually anyway), or even envying their position, it's that I can't wrap my head around how people work out their lives in this manner; married, sharing everything about themselves, intimate - for me it is implausible, mind-boggling. It's like people who abuse their children or their pets - I just don't get it. Certainly I can understand frustration and anger and lashing out at those closest to you, but only as the occasional, shameful, and much regretted, wrongdoing or outburst, not as a daily practice. For me it's the same thing with marriage, I understand it in theory, but not in practice. And of course, the fact that it happens to most people makes me feel very different and apart from. Even when I'm in a good mood, contented and happily going about my business and enjoying my day, I can see a guy on the subway, notice his wedding band and this thought process starts, and I begin to feel isolated and withdrawn.

Many married people that I know are unhappy, or are at the very least troubled and challenged in their relationships with their spouses. I find this puzzling. Happy marriages are certainly not something I'd ever had as an example in my childhood (apart from my grandparents, who were from an entirely different generation, and who were married to each other almost a hundred years ago). Successful and happy marriages are not even something I've seen a lot of in my adult life, and yet this paradigm of legally and religiously sanctioned pairing-off continues to be the social norm for most everybody despite relative proof to its success being improbable.

Do these observations suggest that I'm depressed? Possibly. Do they suggest that I'm cynical? Probably. And while difficult and often uncomfortable, this introspective, pensive, downward and darkening spiral encourages me to seek spiritual guidance and comfort. These dark questioning moments strengthen my relationship with an ever elusive Higher Power. Interestingly, it is often in these dark spots that I am most reassured of the intangible existence of that Power. It's easy to say that I am being carried and protected when all is light and effortless, but being brought through darkness with an unswerving knowledge that I am cared for and safe, regardless of my recurring feelings of separateness and isolation, strengthens my spiritual connection. In the same way that beauty can be found in what may be dark or disturbing, I often find grace in times of isolation and doubt.


Steven said...

Jeff, all that was beautifully put. I think most of us who are not in a long-term relationship feel this way. The big What? How? of it. Sometimes it does feel as though the world is speaking a language we can't quite understand.

Ilene said...

It's incomprehensible to me as well and I'm in one! It certainly isn't anything I've "figured out". I don't have a plan of action. I think it might be the ultimate example of "one day at a time". We have no children so that part of it isn't shared. Much of the time it's just that the good feelings outweigh the bad. I could read your writings forever!

Julia said...

Only recently have I been through a dark time in which I realized that God was there and that I was supposed to learn something from the days of frustration and anxiety. That I would be carried, and the darkness would lift, but that I should not just wait it out but pay attention and listen for the message in the darkness. An odd feeling, to understand all that while it was going on, rather than looking back in dawning awareness. Gave a new depth to prayer.