Marriage as I Experienced it

I just saw a picture of this sculpture by Beth Cavener and it hit.

This is marriage for the Evangelical woman, for the Fundamentalist woman, for those who buy into complementarian ideals.

This was marriage for me. I imagine it’s marriage for many women.

The White Hind by Beth Cavener
The White Hind by Beth Cavener

I photographed a wedding a while back. The bride and groom’s interactions reminded me of my wedding 20 years before. I tried to describe this to my assistant as we drove home. The way he leaned away when she tried to kiss him on their wedding day. The absolute poison of trying to meet the expectations of the parents, the patriarchy, the church, the “Bible clearly states” folks…

So much effort went into that laced veil of purity. It was the death of her.

Between the Lines

So many conversations we could have had. So many I wanted to have, about so many lines from any Josh Ritter song. Or about when you told me you had a happy childhood and I thought until recently I had too.
But then the words got caught in the back of my throat when I started thinking about how differently I see that now, and how much damage all those spanks did, and how it stops me from speaking. Like when you told me about your first girlfriend, and I thought about telling you about how I was a virgin on my wedding night, after 10 years of dating a man who would later become so emotionally abusive I lost any sense of self worth. It all felt like too much to speak out loud.

I tell myself all the words he surely meant to sayI’ll talk until the conversation doesn’t stay onWait for me, I’m almost readyWhen he meant let go                   -Sara Bareilles

I listen to Between the Lines and grieve the loss of something that might have been so good. How I wished we could have loved each other forever. So perfect it seemed. But I’m only beginning to work through the damage of not being allowed to develop my own autonomy as a young child. My “no” never had any power. Compliance was my only safety.
I have agency. I know this in my head, but not in my bones. Instead, my muscles ache and knot up with chronic pain. My body absorbed all those years of disdain and hatred from the man who slept to my right for 11 years.

11 years later, I’m still trying to work it out.

The words got caught in the back of my throat, and you never really knew me. Never knew what thoughts were in my head. Didn’t know much beyond my dad recently dying. And not being close with my mom. I never told you about the damage they did with their high-control religious fundamentalism, or my abusive marriage, or how much I needed to heal, which could really only be done in a relationship like the one I wanted with you. You hugged me once, so tight and long, I thought I might heal with you. Still, I could not get a single word out.
Instead, we traded physical for emotional intimacy, which was nice but didn’t last. And I think it was an easier substitute for something that could have been so much richer. So now I am here, devastated at the loss of something that could have been, but never was. Like a seed that sprouted, only to get scorched by the sun for lack of water. There wasn’t enough time or intention. I wasn’t brave, strong, or whole enough. You weren’t available or safe enough. What a tragedy.
You filled baskets of rocks as I worked to put a good face on it. We made a good team, I thought. Then it was over. 

Fresh Wound

We walked through the grass finding our way to the spot
Where the grass rectangle lay freshly cut like a wound that hasn’t yet scarred.
I stood there on top of the earth, my dad’s flesh rotting six feet below.
What a strange thing. I didn’t like it.
We propped the dying poinsettias back up near where I suppose his headstone will soon go.
The deer had their way with the flowers and the grass above dad’s buried coffin.
He has returned to the earth, though it’s blocked by that hideous box
And nature is doing its thing now.
As above, so below.
I couldn’t stay long in that place, where the sky touches the lawn.
It was gloomy and cold in all the ways it can be.
Pelican Point shorelineInstead we went to see the waves crash, and the surfers live.
We ate at Barbara’s Fishtrap, then I touched the water and the sand.
I stood at the shore, feeling it.
I feel more there. I feel better there.

Letting Go

Grieving is the process of letting go of attachment. When it’s done, all that’s left is love.

-Lynne Twist

So, all of life carries a bit of grieving as we let go, as things change.