Kitchen Curtains by Elouise
It’s late fall/early winter, 1965-66. I don’t know it then, but I’m slipping into depression. I have long periods of silence, unmotivated, disconnected and withdrawn. It’s like being in a trance. Sitting and staring into space for hours at a time. Especially in the evenings. At work I’m doing just fine.
Besides anguish about sex, I have a shadow identity (I’m D’s shadow), especially at church and in social settings with D. It seems people aren’t interested in me, except my colleagues at the law school and a small number of others who include me in conversation.
Now I have another anguish. Spirituality.
Not long after we arrive in Cambridge, D suggests we begin reading the Bible and praying together. He knows my family did this together when I was a child. He wants us to do this, too.
It sounds like a good idea, especially since I’ve left home. That means the weight of childhood experience around the dinner table and elsewhere is behind me. I’m a bit hesitant, but willing to give it a try.
At the beginning I feel slightly uncomfortable. I’m not wired for routine like this (with one other person). As a child, I had no choice. In Bible college this was required at a certain time every day, with bells to regulate the beginning and end of ‘quiet time.’ But that was by myself, not with a partner. This feels different.
I want to please D, and I’m still not sure about my status in this marriage. I don’t refuse or complain. I just grow increasingly withdrawn and uneasy.
For one thing, we often have this Bible reading and prayer time when we’re sitting in bed. From my perspective, sharing like this is deeply personal—somewhat like sex. This doesn’t sit well with me.
We talk about whatever we’re reading together in the Bible. I quickly discover that D processes what he reads differently than I do.
It isn’t that he’s wrong and I’m right, or vice versa. It’s about how we process and interpret what we’re reading. I like leaving things open, and ‘trying on’ different ways of looking at things. D does a bit of this, but not as much as I do.
Gradually I stop talking about what I hear and am wondering about in what we’re reading. It takes too much effort to describe it. D already has clear ideas and is verbally adept at expressing them. It’s easier to listen to him than to go through the agony of finding ways to express what I see, feel or think.
Each of us is highly verbal. Sometimes I’ve jokingly described D as having ‘verbal diarrhea.’ All that means is that once he gets going on an idea, he develops it fully, and the words just keep pouring out.
I also develop my ideas fully. I prefer talking them out on a listener. Looking at them various ways, trying them on to see whether they fit a larger picture. It makes sense to me, but I see D isn’t interested in this verbal avalanche called trying things on.
So I go into my ‘verbal constipation’ mode. I think about it on and off all day, but I don’t try to talk about it with D. I’m not sure he understands me.
Instead, I yield the floor to D. Sort of like swallowing my anguish about sex. This time, however, I’m swallowing my voice. My contribution to conversation about things that matter.
As for praying together, I pray, but I also feel painfully self-conscious. My mind is on alert–as though I’m watching myself. Voices make a ruckus in my head:
- Don’t do it! This isn’t safe!
- You’re being judged by how you pray!
- There’s no way you can pray the way D prays!
- You should be ashamed of not knowing how to pray with your own husband!
- Are you trying to hide something?
- Don’t you know that couples who pray together stay together?
As with sex, I didn’t have a clue how deep these roots went. I thought it was all about D and me.
To be continued. . . .
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 8 May 2015
Photo credit: DAFraser, August 1966