Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Pondering Marriage

Getting Married and Other Mistakes by Barbara Slate, this month's selection in my www.fromlefttowrite.com book club, is my first graphic novel. We would have called it a comic book in my generation but now there are complete books illustrated in this manner. If I were talented in the visual arts, I would do a graphic novel of how I met John Lynner Peterson. Alas, I am not, so what follows is the story in narrative. 

The story of how John and I met will give middle aged single women hope that the right person exists for all of us. For most of his career, John worked at the intersection of religion and media.  In 1998, John produced the Fiftieth Anniversary Party for the World Council of Churches in Zimbabwe at which Nelson Mandela spoke. Doug Smith, a young minister, who assisted him on this event said, “John, if you ever move into doing work on the Web, call me.” Within a few years, the Hallmark Channel hired John to start a website called faithandvalues.com. John thought the job required a move from Chicago to the Manhattan headquarters for this job. He then received the news that they had chosen to locate this venture in Lexington, Kentucky because of a random conversation that occurred on an airplane. (Are you getting the picture here about coincidences?) John responded, “You’re moving me where?” Familiar with Manhattan, he felt comfortable there. But Lexington, KY? He had never heard of the place.
  As requested, John called Doug and hired him to assist in development of the website. Lexington didn’t feel as strange to Doug since he had gone to seminary there and served Newtown Christian Church as Student Pastor. As the dominoes rolled, Doug hired Martha Johnston for faithandvalues.com, a young woman who attended his youth group at that congregation and had since graduated from college.
John, Doug and Martha busied themselves with a Web presence when one day a light bulb brightened above Martha’s head. She called me on a Monday at that same Newtown Christian Church where I served as her pastor. “Brenda, you need to meet the Vice President of our company.” Gutsy for a twenty-something to call her fiftyish pastor and suggest a hook-up.
“I’m game,” I replied. “I’m not dating anyone.”
Thursday evening of that week, my cell phone rang while I ate out with my sister. Martha initiated the conversation with, “Brenda, give me a pep talk. I know the timing is right because he’s still here and the work day is over but I’m nervous. I feel like I’m asking him out myself and he’s old enough to be my dad.”
“Martha, get your ass into his office. I’m not getting any younger!” (Ass is a biblically correct term.) So she did.
John emailed me and we made arrangements to meet on Saturday evening. But on Friday evening, as I sat around in day-old makeup, my sermon just finished, (see how exciting life is for single women in ministry) I decided to call the phone number in his email to confirm that I would meet him at the designated time and restaurant. I assumed I would get a voice mail since people with real lives go out on Friday evening. What a surprise when he answered his phone.
“I just wanted to make sure you received my email confirming tomorrow night,” I stammered.
            “Yes. But, hey, I haven’t eaten yet. Want to go get a bite to eat now?” he asked.
“I’ve already eaten but I will have a glass of wine while you eat.”
“Ok, let’s meet at Ramsey’s on High Street.”
I knew he was a Northerner, so I blurted out, “Don’t you Yankees pick your dates up?”
            A bare thirty minutes later, I had thrown on some walking shorts and was letting my dog do his business when John drove up and got out of the car.
            “Oh my god, you’re gorgeous!”
The photo Martha sent me so I could see him in advance!

            How could I not fall in love with a man who delivers that opener? I later learned his expectation could not have been much lower. Fifty-something unmarried minister translated to him as over-weight, hairy legs with a bit of hair on her upper lip, a few wild ones on her chin, no make-up, sensible shoes and a very no-nonsense hairstyle. He later apologized for his unflattering characterization of female clergy.
            After dinner and ice cream, we sat on my deck and sipped tequila until two in the morning. I had never “sipped tequila” in my life. We both knew that first night that this pairing felt ordained, serendipitous, divinely inspired and meant to be--take your choice; color your own dream. When John walked through a hallway of my house where I had hung photos of my life in the arts, he said, “I’ve been looking for you.” Our mutual love of a variety of the arts provides just one of the lenses through which we see each other. John’s genuine recognition of me satisfies an identity hunger at my core.

This post is inspired by Getting Married and Other Mistakes by Barbara Slate. This graphic novel offers a raw, yet humorous look at what happens to Jo after a surprise divorce. Join From Left to Write on Thursday, June 28 as we discuss Getting Married and Other Mistakes by Barbara Slate. I received a review copy of the and all opinions are my own.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Response to "Girl Gone" by Gillian Flynn

This post is inspired by mystery thriller GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn. They may not have the perfect marriage, but after Amy goes missing, Nick becomes the number one suspect. Can he discover what happened before it's too late? Join From Left to Write on June 12 as we discuss Gone Girl. As a member, I received a copy of the book not for review purposes but rather for blogging inspiration.

“Why do people get married?”


“No, because we need a witness to our lives. There are a billion people on the planet, what does one life really mean? But in a marriage you’re promising to care about everything, the good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things, all of it, all the time. Every day, you are saying your life will not go unnoticed, because I will notice it. Your life will not go unwitnessed because I will be your witness.”
Masayuki Suo (from the movie Shall We Dance)

With the chaos of my childhood behind me (or so I thought), I assumed creation of my own family would constitute the best part of adulthood. Nothing prepared me for the reality that the formation of my own family would be like a blind woman buying art. I doubt I am the first and quite sure I won’t be the last person to come out of a dysfunctional family who thinks she will form the perfect family and “do everything right.” In spite of failures and everyday bumps along the road, I cherish marriage and parenthood as pieces of life that helped me survive and thrive.
At first blush, five marriages would indicate I failed at doing “everything right” and that I’m not good at marriage. Au contraire. Ok, Ok, I certainly didn’t do “everything right” as planned. But I have had two great loves and two marriages that satisfied and fulfilled me--one of those ongoing. Another two husbands who should have remained dear friends not husbands. Now don’t let me off the hook of responsibility for my role in constructing the less-than-desirable marriages just because I had no model for how to craft a stable marriage. Marriage number three, a monumental disaster in judgment also taught me valuable lessons. I discovered more about myself from each marriage, perhaps lessons my parents should have taught me. I grasped more about myself in the good marriages but I also digested a few morsels from the bad. With time, therapy and additional self-understanding I have forgiven myself for the mistakes. I now embrace the marriages as part of the journey to find myself, know myself and esteem myself. Understanding as relates to men in general did not come easily for me. I didn’t have what psychologists call a “daddy hole,” the emotional lack of relationship with your father, I had a Daddy Crater and I learned to fill that crater in unhealthy ways.