Going to Seminary | Part 10

by Elouise

Cherish Children

In 1973 I arrived at seminary with an empty bucket. Indeed, when I married D I was already lugging it around. I thought marrying D would more than fill my empty bucket. I needed to be cherished.

Now it’s 1974. D and I have been married nearly 8 years. We have two beautiful children, and have begun a great adventure together–seminary studies.

My empty bucket begins to make a little noise. Nudge me. Complain slightly. Nothing big, but enough that I notice it.

I’m keeping a rigorous schedule: childcare, seminary assignments, housework, extra curricular activities and more. D is fulltime at the seminary, taking 2 years to complete his 3-year program. I’m part-time, taking 3 years to complete my 2-year program. Even with his loyal help at home, I’m exhausted by the end of each day.

D wants more of me; I want more sleep. I feel guilty and angry.

I never thought of myself as a wandering wife. I had a few infatuations here and there, but they were nothing. Yet even though I’m not looking for someone else, I’m vulnerable.

Along with my empty bucket items, I have admirable personal assets. The kind that count for good vulnerability. Put them together, however, and I’m in over my head.

Empty bucket items:

  • I don’t know how to cherish, honor, accept, welcome, listen to or take pride in myself.
  • I’m starving for affection—way more than D could ever give me.
  • I don’t know how to create safety for myself or others.
  • Nor do I know how to affirm myself as a woman or a scholar.

On the other hand:

  • I’m friendly, a good listener and conversationalist.
  • As a musician, I love a discerning audience of one or two.
  • I’m a poet at heart, lover of music and nature.
  • I’m an INFJ, eager to connect one on one with interesting people.
  • I’m trusting, empathetic and intelligent, a people person.

There’s one more item.

  • I believe my heart will never wander, the way men’s hearts do.

Yet in spite this, I’m drawn to a man who seems uncannily like I am. Especially when it comes to personal assets. Beyond that, he’s a free spirit, and recognizes in me a kindred spirit. Is this what people mean when they talk about soul mates?

I don’t regret our friendship. He’s still a friend of our family. Besides D, he was the first male friend of my age to see things in me I didn’t see. Somewhat like my Best Boss, but better. I become dependent on him for affirmation, smiles, intuitive understanding of me, and encouragement.

The person who paid most dearly was D. The more assets I saw in my seminary friend, the more deficits I thought I saw in D. Slowly but surely I slid into a fog of unhappiness about the way D wasn’t treating me. I felt misunderstood, unappreciated and under-cherished. I didn’t know this had deep roots in my childhood, or that it wasn’t primarily about D.

Was I ready for seminary academically? Yes. Relationally? No.

I didn’t know how to have healthy relationships with men. Most distressing, I didn’t know myself and I didn’t know D as well as I thought I did.

This poem, posted over a year ago, sums up a way of being that haunted me for years, beginning with my seminary studies.

Looking for Love

searching for myself
lost somewhere out there
in your eyes your smile
your listening ear
your approval your tenderness
your dream for me

are you an artist? a poet?
a musician? a sensitive soul?
maybe you can help me
find myself
I think I love you or do I see
a lovely reflection of my
still-lost self in you?

***

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 January 2015
Image from pinterest.com