The Collar

A word of explanation about why this week's SB is several days late:

Life has been being Like That around here. Specifically, but without details, assorted family members are going through assorted large-scale emotional crises, me included. It's all very promising and quite necessary, and nothing for anyone to get their knickers in a twist about, but as I said, it's been Interesting. As in "may you live in Interesting Times."

But because I was brought up to behave nicely in public, I thought I'd find something pleasant and low-key to write the SB about, so I tried to put together something about my older son's driving lessons, without reference to what's been going on. And I found what I should have remembered: the Holy Spirit does not like it when I am not being honest, and when the Holy Spirit isn't with me, the writing goes pbhhht. The writing duly went pbhttt, and the piece now lies there on my computer screen, as lively and worth your time as your average sodden dishrag.

Okay, God, so what do you want me to do, already?


Then, driving to the city yesterday for an appointment, I found myself stewing with all sorts of anger and resentment. I know, I know: as Scott Peck said, "Life is difficult." But this difficult? and for so many years? and is it ever going to get any easier? It feels as though it's just been one goddam thing after another (forgive my language!) for as long as I can remember. That's the problem when you've got big dark stuff in the background, as our family has: the big dark stuff itself has to be dealt with, but so does all the fallout from being a family with big dark stuff: all the choices that families shouldn't have had to make, all the collateral damage. There's been a lot of that. There's more coming--how much more, I don't know.

I thought as I drove: I have had it with Interesting Times. I want to turn my family over to the Humane Society and run off to Cuba with the circus. I want to have some fun for a change. I want things to be easy for once, just for a change. Is that too much to ask, God?

I struck the board and cry'd, No more!
      I will abroad.
What? Shall I ever sigh and pine?...
Have I no harvest but a thorn
To let me bloud, and not restore
What I have lost with cordial fruit?
I'd like life to be like the end of the Book of Job: Job gets everything he'd lost handed back to him twice over (which isn't really true; you don't get over the loss of your children by having more children). But certainly Job gets peace and prosperity for the rest of his days. I've done my level best to be good, God, and if I've blown in at times, so does everyone. I'll do without the fourteen thousand sheep, but I could use a little peace and quiet for a few years.

Ha. Fat chance. I've always known that the end of the Book of Job is fairy-tale stuff, added on to make the rest more palatable. Job really ends with God's words, which are (loosely paraphrased): "*I'm* the creator, and this is how it is. You gotta problem with that?"

                .... Forsake thy cage,
                Thy rope of sands,
Which pettie thoughts have made, and made to thee
        Good cable, to enforce and draw,
                And be thy law.
What's the point of trying to be a good Christian if life just goes on being Interesting? Did faith get me out of my abusive marriage? No. Did it protect my children from the fallout? Not that I can see. Has it healed me of the damage? Maybe some, but some of the damage is permanent. Is it making life easier now? Absolutely not: it just holds me to a higher standard of behaviour and makes me all the more aware of my own failures and failings. Yes, I do believe in the Life to Come, and that "all manner of things will be well" in that life, if not necessarily in this one, but isn't that "pie in the sky when you die" thinking? As a friend of mine in similar circumstances said, "I was trying so hard to be holy that I forgot to be human." Well, I'm feeling thoroughly human now.
Call in thy deaths head there: tie up thy fears.
        He that forbears
      To suit and serve his need,
         Deserves his load.
Strongly religious women are at higher risk for abuse than secular women, did you know that? This is because they've been told to love and forgive and go on loving and forgiving whatever happens, and look where that gets you in time. Maybe I should be looking after myself for a change, instead of always trying to look after others. At which my conscience pinged mightily: do I really look after others all that much? or is this a delusion I cherish about myself?

I hate my conscience when it does this. It started reminding me that compared to the rest of the world, I am marvelously well-off: I have safety (a big deal these days!), good health, food, shelter; my kids have not gone off the rails; my bloke and I are fiercely devoted, even when we're at loggerheads; the new book is getting good reviews; I have loving and supportive friends for the first time in a long while; I live without physical pain or debility. As for the crises, what family with adolescent kids gets off scot-free from those? What, really, do I have to bitch about? Shouldn't I be counting my blessings instead?

And where's my obedience to God's will? Shouldn't I accept whatever crosses I'm handed to carry without whining so much about them? And what about my own contribution to the problems we face? After all, I'm no innocent either. (Yes, Bildad. Yes, Eliphaz.)

But if Job had given into his friends' persuasion, he would have been submitting his will to them, not to God. If I rationalize my way out of my state of resentment, I'm not submitting my will to God either; I'm submitting it to my own spiritual pride. Good Christians do not simmer resentfully. Therefore if I want to consider myself a good Christian, I will refuse to simmer. But that's only my ego aching.

If you're confused now, you should have seen how confused I got myself. It's a very good thing that my driving skills are as good as they are or I'd have been in real trouble.

But as I rav'd, and grew more fierce and wild
            At every word, Me thoughts I heard
  one calling, _Child_!
            And I reply'd, _My Lord_.
Okay. We'll do this your way, God, and if that means Interesting Times, I guess they haven't killed me yet. But Lord, if you don't mind, I would like to reserve the right to bitch, if for no other reason than it makes me aware that I do have a resentful side. Much better to keep it upfront, where I can keep an eye on it.

Shall we get on with it, God?

Copyright © 2001 Molly Wolf. Originally published Wed, 31 Oct 2001
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