My ninth class is over; I have one subject left to complete my Graduate Diploma. Two weeks of holidays, then six weeks of class, then I’m done! I can’t believe how quickly it’s flown by. I remember applying for the course and thinking I probably wouldn’t get in (“Of course they’ll take you,” said Alan, “They want your MONEY”), and then when I was accepted I thought I’d fail everything and make a fool of myself, and then when I did okay I thought it wouldn’t last when I reached statistics or the third-year-equivalent subjects, and then I made it through those subjects too. And now I tell myself that I probably won’t get into honours anywhere, because apparently I remain convinced that setting “crushing disappointment” as my benchmark for achievement is the wisest plan of attack.
I’m proud of myself for making it this far. I’ve surprised myself by doing well, I’ve met fun and lovely people (all online, although there are grand plans to meet in person sometime, at graduation if not before), and I’ve been reassured that pursuing my dreams is important too, and all while juggling non-study life stuff as well. This year study’s been particularly intense, thanks to having to face serious, yukky, adult-y-feeling issues, like addictions to both Nashville and bubble tea, and a new pair of boots that require two people to remove from my feet. Oh, and considering separating from my husband.
|Photo - Douglas Sylvester|
When Alan and I first met in 2005, we were both evangelical Christians with mission on our minds and the contented warmth of self-righteousness in our hearts. In 2013, Alan was an assistant minister at an Anglican church, and we hosted two Bible studies in our home every week. Now, in 2016, we attend no church, Hazel couldn’t sing a Bible song to save her life, and I get weird-feelings about the word “Christian.” I know that all relationships change over time, but ours has changed a lot. We’re not at all the same two people who married each other almost 9 years ago, in our 20s and still convinced we were right about everything and most of the rest of the world was wrong.
I’ve spent the past few years deconstructing the theology I grew up with, but I’m only now coming to notice the deep and harmful ways that theology infiltrated every aspect of my life and being. I’m realising that believing I was deeply depraved and unworthy of God’s love did not mix well with my fragile self-esteem and depressive inclinations. I’m realising that purity culture was an unhealthy lens through which to learn about gender and sexuality. I’m realising that I’ve felt incredible guilt and beaten myself up for years over the fact that I still fervently dislike the man who molested me. And I’m wondering now about marriage and whether, if I was me-now back in 2007, I’d have actually chosen to get married?
Did Alan and I marry because it was the only option left for a couple who weren’t allowed by their church to live – much less sleep – together otherwise? How would our relationship have differed without the extra, stress-inducing (for me) chains of matrimony tying us together? (Though, given Alan’s passionate pro-marriage stance, and the fact that I thought he was the bee’s knees, would we have married anyway? Probably.)
The question of choice is one I keep coming back to. How much autonomy’s involved when the choices have already been limited for you? It’s like when I say to Hazel, “Would you like to wear this jumper or this jumper?” Wearing a jumper’s not optional (it’s freezing outside!), but she gets to pick between two. (She replies, “I want to wear my singlet.” She always takes an option that wasn’t offered to her. And then she folds her arms and stares at me.) I spent many years ignoring my gut and going with what I thought was the best acceptable option, convinced that my gut was evil but my head was mostly trustworthy. Ditching the rules has been liberating for my body.
Anyway, whether or not marriage was a choice for us in 2007, it’s a choice for us now. Alan and I cope with uncomfortable emotions in completely opposite ways (flight vs. fight), which makes it difficult to figure out things like parenting together and agreeing on how best to clean various surfaces. So often it seems like it’d be easier to part ways and stay safe and avoid confronting the truckloads of baggage which have contributed to each of us feeling triggered by these conversations. We’d make awesome exes. But growth feels like a better – more right, more mature – option for now, so we’re staying and growing. It’s painful and wonderful all in one.