Monday, September 14, 2009

At Sea At Home

Those of you who know me well in real life know that the last three years has been a journey toward integration and toward feeling right in my own skin. I have never felt so right and so sure-footed as when I was at orientation at ML last week. I knew in my soul that I was right where I was supposed to be - physically, emotionally, spiritually. I have never felt so right in my skin as I did in those three days, that were the culmination of three years of planning and soul-searching and discernment. Many conversations with many people close to me, with the career center, with my ministers, my family, my children - they all point to the fact that this is where I should be going and where I should be, right this minute.

Those of you who know me well in real life also know that my husband and I have a wonderful love story. I know that we are so in love with each other - deep, deep within our hearts, we are connected. But we also have had tremendous struggles in the six years of our marriage - three moves, two children, death, job changes, life changes; and the last half of our marriage, this transformation of myself into seminarian, seeker, and whole person.

What has been most transforming is that my life has become intentional - chores are still chores and occasionally drudgery, but the choices I have made about what I do and what I embrace are daily acts of intention and attempts to be kind and loving and open. This month's worship theme at church is hospitality. What do we need to let into our lives? Over the summer of the assignment to think about this, it was pointed out to me in many subtle and overt ways that I need to be open to having needs. That I have to make time to take care of myself. That it is OK for me to take up space and ask for help. That I need to tell my own story and not let others tell it for me, or make assumptions because I am not speaking my truth to them out of fear of judgment. That is a hard and ongoing lesson. However, right now, I am struggling most with how to offer hospitality to my spouse.

Everything seemed well and good; supportive and understanding; until my third day in Chicago last week. Since that Friday, 10 days ago, I no longer feel the deep and abiding comfort of soul and body in the presence of my husband. He is rejecting my path; he resents it, and he doesn't want to walk it with me. The waves of resentment are almost tangible. The paid work that I do in RE, the unpaid work that I do raising our children and caring for our home and property, the volunteering I do in our community, the leadership roles I am taking on at church and the spirituality I embrace there - he is rejecting all of it. He doesn't see any of it as meaningful, or even want to listen to me try to explain it. He is running away from me because he is afraid that he is losing me to (God?). He is afraid of the person I am, as I become more whole; that that person won't want him anymore. He refuses to participate in the household in even the most simple of ways; last night, he spent the night elsewhere. I respect that he needs some space, but that hurt.

He is not interested in engaging in discussion about any of it; he has purposely and actively closed that door in my face. My inner and outer lives - my work, my thoughts, my beliefs, my community, my academics - I can speak of none of them in his presence. Anything but the most banal of topics is met with stony silence or his absence.

I am not looking for comments, or pity, or support. I just need to work out how I can continue to be open and hospitable to him. My minister say that it is hardest to be spiritual with your own family. My husband doesn't want me to be spiritual - his closing insult in our last (failed) conversation was that, "You are so spiritual all the time!" I can laugh about that with my fellow seminiarians and travelers, for those that know me know of my intensity, my sometimes short temper, my failings. But in some measure, he's right - if you want to call intentional and thoughtful living "spiritual all the time," then I guess he's right. But I'm not pretending to be better than, which is how he seems to see it.

I don't know to do - I couldn't go backward to whoever he seems to think I *was* and I wouldn't, even if I could.

I expected seminary to be hard, and for crying out loud, it just started. He and I know how to survive adding classes and studying to our lives - I just spent 18 intense months finishing my BA. But I didn't expect this added component of him feeling threatened by this journey. I thought he would be on it with me, as my soul mate and life partner. Not to walk on my journey, but on his own journey. My questions are not his. He has to find his own path, but I thought we would walk next to each other. Now I'm not so sure. He has limitations in communication that I don't know how to build a bridge across.

Oddly enough, he really started to get connected to a small group ministry last spring but it didn't meet over the summer and now he is resistant to going. I hope it's not wrong of me, but I asked one of the members that he seemed really connected to, to call him and check in with him about coming. They had talked about hiking together, and he needs a friend.

I wonder if there's something like a seminarian-spouse support group? ;).

Honestly, my initial gut reaction, out of hurt and fear, is to shut down, and shut the door right back in his face, as he is doing to me. But that is wrong. But I don't know how to remain open and loving and have him see that that is what I'm doing,without it being wrapped up in his resentment of me being so damn spiritual all the time .

I want home to feel like home. I want to feel like I can share all of me, and not be walking on eggshells, afraid to say the wrong thing, whatever that is (most of what I would say, I guess). How can I be hospitable and keep the door open when the way I live my life is what is pushing him away and scaring him?

It's just a circle my mind keeps chasing its tail around. But I'm going to keep trying. Again, I don't need or even want support or hugs - I am doing alright - but I would welcome experiences from others who have chosen life paths that have created hard struggles in their closest relationships. Not advice - just stories. Because there is power in our stories.


Jennifer said...

Hi Kelly!
This might sound strange but I am living OPPOSITE (on the other side) of your struggle.
My Tom has become so very spiritual that sometimes I get scared. I never experienced any religious upbringing. Both my parents are I first discovered scripture through and in Tom.

He has a very fatalistic vision of what the future holds. He thinks our world and the "end time" is very close. He feels confident that he and Jaye will be lifted up during "rapture" and threatens that if I don't get on board with him at his level of understanding that I will be overlooked.

I find myself with a new skill...hearing him spout his negatism and being able to listen to music, T,V. or even while reading. My mind filters out most of what he tells me. Mainly because I hate to envision the horrendous world he has described.

In any event, I ACT like I am listening but I do not ACT on the things he suggests (like reading the scriptures or watching the Trinity Broadcast Network) It is forming a wedge between us...palpable at times.

After reading about your wonderful weekend, I asked myself...perhaps I could find a healthy balance if I PURPOSELY listen to his ideas. I am going to try steer the conversations into positive spins because my vision for our future is rather delightful.

Thank you for opening up..this may help my relationship with Tom & Jaye

Kelly KH said...

Jennifer, first off, how lovely it is to hear from you! I feel for you; I think that would be very hard to hear. I just want to clarify that as a UU, I am certainly not spouting fire and brimstone and am not concerned about end days yet, and believe that we are all saved, if there is such a thing, which I'm not sure there is.

Maybe if your Tom feels more heard, he may be able to reciprocate listening. I will say that people that suffer from bipolar disorder/OCD can get tapped into this kind of religious structure; not that his belief isn't real, but it is a tendency. That may help you put it in context as well.

Please keep in touch; I'd love to see pictures of Jaye!