Friday, 15 April 2011

Another Thought Experiment

What I hated most, when trying to discern my vocation and discerning that my vocation was to wait, was not knowing my marital fate. It was so annoying that something like that was beyond my control. So annoying. And readers occasionally email me with the same frustration, because they want to take a job in another country, but think it will mess up their marital chances, or live in a small town with a great job but no eligible men.

So I have a new thought experiment today. My question is, "What if an angel appeared before you and told you you would marry the perfect man for you, guaranteed?"

You: Yay!

Angel: When you're 51.

You: Fifty-one?!

Angel: Yes, behold.

You: But what about babies?

Angel: The perfect man for you will have really bad mumps at 27, so babies were never part of the plan.

You: Can't I meet him now, before he has mumps?

Angel: No, because he's not ready for you yet. He's living in a commune with a New Age instructor named Starflower.

You: Are you sure this is the perfect man for me?

Angel: I should inform you that not only is every angel his own species, every angel, having immediate knowledge of everything, is deficient in a sense of humour.

You: Okay, okay. But what am I supposed to do in the meantime?

Angel: What would you like to do?

So, poppets, imagine you are for sure getting married at 51. It will be a blow-out wedding. Your spouse will be the handsomest man you have ever clapped eyes on, etc. How are you going to spend your Single life?


Emma - the seamstress one said...

How would I spend the next 25ish years of my life? The same way I'm spending them now: trying to do God's will.

Sewing for the Dominican Friars, loving my siblings, serving my family and my parish, traveling the world (oh! the places I want to go!) - definitely lots of traveling. I might have to pick up another side job to afford all the international flights though. . .

I recently purchased a house and am working on renovations - that would continue as this house is my dream house - continuing to work on turning it into my home.

Seraphic, your first paragraph really hit home with me as I've recently been confirmed in my discernment that waiting is what I'm supposed to be doing now. *sigh* Can one make a profession out of waiting? Describing waiting as a vocation certainly helps my mindset - thank you!

fiat said...

This post is AWESOME!! The waiting definately stinks but we must make the most of it ... I'm hoping to finish my MA in theology and maybe even get a PhD. I hope to find a job somewhere in the Catholic Church doing something with evangelization. Also, I want to continue to spend quality time with family and friend! Hum what else? Travel travel travel! And continue to delve deeper into prayer and life with God!

Nicole said...

I am sort of confused about this concept. Two things come to mind where I am always cognizant of being single: time and money. In one respect, I think I should fill up my days with lots of great activities but at the same time, being TOO full makes it hard to have time in my schedule for any relationships.

Another thing is money...I wouldn't mind totally switching careers but racking up student loans right now when I hope to someday stay at home might not be the best decision for my future.

I just think there are some ways that non-permanent singles (at least those of hoping not to be permanent) HAVE to be aware that some day they'll be married and act accordingly whether it be with their time or money. Where am I off in my thinking?

some guy on the street said...

This experiment makes me think of Fiddler on the Roof, where Tzeitel and Chava and Hodel imagine whom the matchmaker brings them; " ... you've heard he has a temper,/He'll beat you every night ---/but only when he's sober,/so you're alright!"

Of course, in that narative, the game seems only to steel their resolve to circumvent their parents and the matchmaker...


Nicole, this may not answer your wonderings, but a young married lady I know counsels that single folk develop a hobby that they really enjoy, partly to keep cheerful, but more so that they can give it up to make time for family in case they marry. And now, of course, I'm curious what other folk might think of that.

Seraphic said...

Nicole, many women do not pursue careers or travel or heaven knows what else out of a semi-superstitious idea that it might prevent them from getting married one day.

The thought experiment is supposed to show what mental freedom from such fears looks like.

In Catholic circles, it is generally agreed that a man who wishes to marry must find a trade or career that will support him, his children and his wife when she is not doing paid work on top of wife-and-mother work.

However, in general it is not men who are scared that their licit adventures and career aspirations will delay marriage. When they want to marry a woman, they court her and marry her--end of story. Grad school was packed with young married men.

Other than becoming promiscuous, hermits, obviously wicked, insanely impatient or extremely annoying types who talk loudly and non-stop, women can't do much to make themselves unmarriageble. Simply turning 40 does not make you unmarriageable. Becoming the principal of a Catholic high school in Cambodia does not, in itself, make you unmarriageable.

At no point have I other suggested that the Single Life is all fun and games. I'm assuming everyone knows that to be a Single adult is still to be an adult.

What the Single Life provides is a lot of freedom, particularly freedom for service. If you are studying to be a medical nurse or doctor, and you have a secret dream to work in Vietnam, then I would advise you to go and work in Vietnam, as if it was assured that you were going to marry Mr. Perfect at 52 (or whenever God has decreed.)

Happily the days are gone when women thought that they couldn't or shouldn't get married before they had filled their hope chests with the requisite number of doilies and table cloths.

sciencegirl said...

Hey Nicole,

I think your ideas are good in general for single people, and are only "off" if you are going too far in anticipating a life that may not happen for a while, or ever.

It is good to save time for relationships -- the relationships you already have, with family and friends. And, if you get one, a husband. If you have hobbies, they should be making you feel more connected to people, or giving you time to yourself so you are well-fueled to call those friends or relatives.

It is good to be frugal and to save rather than to go into debt. If you are single, you can save money toward your own education, retirement, home, travel, or, if you never marry, to help fund your niece's education or to take her on a mad trip to see the art of Europe. If you marry, it is great to not start your married life off facing years of debt. I think if you are deciding between keeping a decent job and taking on crippling debt, keep the good job. However, you could save up money to take classes that could get you a more interesting job. If you pay your own way or get some scholarships, it may take longer, but you won't have the debt. You DO NOT have to actually buy a $40000 a year education in order to have a good career. What career is interesting to you? It may only require a 2-year degree or certification that you could get from a cheaper school. Community colleges and state schools are both terrific. Culinary institutes may charge you a lot of money for things you could learn on your own and will not give you the experience you need to be hired as a chef at many restaurants. If you want to be a heart surgeon, on the other hand, that will cost you.

Frugality and sensible use of time are wise, but there is a danger in sacrificing a life you do have for a life you do not have. One of the perks of the single life is that, while we do not have the comforts of married life, we also do not have the trials and sacrifices that belong to marriage. It would be crazy to get yourself up at 4 am with the thought that new mothers need to get up then for baby-feeding, or to demand an epidural if you aren't pregnant. No one would ever go to such extremes, but it is just true that some sacrifices are only to be made when there is the need.

What I'm saying is, the good, sensible actions you would take to become a good housewife: avoiding debt, learning to cook, learning how to get your groceries frugally, are all good in themselves for anyone at any life stage. If, on the other hand, you find yourself truly making a choice: I don't want to run that marathon because if I get a boyfriend, I won't have time, you are making sacrifices ahead of time. If you are thinking: I may as well not get that X-ray technician certification because I won't have to work anymore once I get married, you may actually be avoiding the responsibility of supporting yourself. There is no guarantee that you will get married, or that when you get married, that you will be able to stay at home the entire time.

It all depends on what you are really thinking. The way to tell if you are on the right track is to imagine what you will have in hand if you turn 51 and are still unmarried. If you would look back and notice a lot of missed opportunities and discarded friendships, then you are not taking care of your life in the present. If you would look back and say, too bad I never got married, but at least I learned so much, have great friends, and have saved enough money to live comfortably and enjoy my life as a 51 year-old lady, then I don't think there's anything wrong with your thinking.

As to hobbies, I think the best hobbies are ones you can pick up when you're bored, can drop if you're busy, are useful or can share with others. I think many hobbies turn into things couples enjoy together and delight in sharing with their children.

Katie said...

I love reading your blog and this last post was so fitting for me.
It's certainly not easy having discerned marriage and then WAITING. What I find most challenging though is when well meaning friends and family say things like: "You want to get married - well what are you doing about it?" This never fails to make me feel as if I should be out hunting down a man and also insinuates that my singleness is somehow a failure to do just this.

Any advice?

cm said...

Great Post!!

It recently occurred to me not unlikely that my first marriage may be someone else's second. Many good men become widows at some point.

Seraphic said...

Katie: it's probably not worth it to sit down and try to have a deep conversation about God's Plan when you're hit with "What are you doing about it?" Snappy answers that come to mind are:

"What are YOU doing about it? In India, you'd be arranging all this!"

"I'm leaving the house, meeting people, looking good, living my life."

And there is always sarcasm:

"I go to the central railway station every day at 5 to ask random commuters if they'll marry me. It hasn't worked so far, but it's a numbers game, isn't it, and we all know the way to get a man is by trying super hard."

Domestic Diva said...

Thank you, Seraphic! Not only was this hilariously funny, but it just so happens I am presently facing this very dilemma and asking this very question. Your "angel" confirms my answer.

Domestic Diva said...

Sorry for the second comment; I didn't read others' comments before I posted previously.
Nicole, all my life I've expected to marry and have a family. I've tried to live frugally, both to responsibly take care of myself and to avoid burdening a future husband & family with my debt. But sometimes debt can be ok - like when you're investing in your education, or buying a house. I'm not saying be irresponsible and take on TOO MUCH debt (even for investments), but I went into debt for both these things and they have turned out to help me become a better person...with more to offer a husband and family than before.
Interestingly, I discovered that spending a little money on hobbies also enriched me. Friends who knew I was blue about being single asked, "What are you postponing in your life until you get married?" I'd reply, "I've bought the house, I've traveled overseas, I've gone to grad school. I think I've done it all!" But then I started sewing with some friends as a social activity, and I realized I'd always pictured myself as a stay-at-home mom who sewed clothes & curtains & quilts, and that I hadn't been sewing because "I didn't have anyone to sew for." I started sewing things for my house, for my friends, for my nieces/nephews/godchildren, and I LOVED it. It cost some money (though I certainly haven't gone into debt for it), but gave me a sense of accomplishment, of doing something I've always wanted to do, and of making others happy with my work. I have really been enriched with this hobby!
Everybody has different interests, and different seasons of life are conducive to some things but not others. Hence, as Some Guy's friend said, one may have to give up or cut back on one's hobby should marriage & family enter into the picture. But happily, sewing has the added benefit of translating well into marriage & family life, should that ever become a reality for me.

Katie said...

Thanks for the advice Seraphic!
Loved it.

Med School Girl said...

Timely post, Seraphic.
I had been merrily (and sometimes not so merrily) plugging away at medical school, with all specialities and opportunities before me to choose from.
However, a daydream of mine to settle down with a certain someone from my hometown began to permeate my thoughts, to the point where I was willing to sacrifice what specialty I would choose and where I would move for residency just to make this relationship happen.
And note: this relationship remains but a daydream, for this certain someone has recently met another girl, who may or may not turn out to be "Ms. Right".
I thank God that I know about this "Ms. Right", because now my hopes and dreams have been reset to live a life based on what is actually happening to me right now in the moment, instead of an imaginary future.
I have 1 more year left before I graduate, and it will be a very full one. I need to discern carefully what kind of doctor I will become, and where I will move to receive my training. Now, should I decide to return to my hometown (and if I get accepted into a residency program there), it will be because my family and close childhood friends are actually living there, and actually love me, and actually support me, instead of because of a certain someone who I'm not dating, who I'm not in love with, and who I have no commitment to marry.
Painful to let go of the one prospect (imaginary as it might have been) I've had recently, but so freeing to be living in the moment and loving the gifts God brings to me TODAY.

Seraphic said...

Dear Med School Girl, I cannot think of any action more helpful to one's future than getting a real TRADE (or profession). Whether or not it begins with a relatively high salary, like in medicine, or with a relatively low salary, like in hairdressing, a good, in-demand trade gives a person independence and mobility.

I feel terrible for the legions of university graduates who meander into the job force, especially the civil service, dependent on office culture and, at best, a union to sustain them. I was a terrible meanderer, and it is miracle that I am not thoroughly in the soup.

The two things I have going for me are that I can write a good sentence and that I can always meet a writing deadline. In a sense, I have a trade--one of the worst paid, but still a trade. An M.Div. is an almost useless degree for a laywoman, unless she has a trade (like teaching) as well.

It makes me furious how students not really capable of "the professions" (like medicine) are nevertheless shooed away from the money-making trades, as if the trades are for the illiterate and careers in boring offices and banks are socially a cut above. Absolute nonsense.

Anna said...

Med School Girl-- we should "meet" (online)! I'm also a 3rd year medical student and I think we'd have a lot in common. Auntie Seraphic, how can we navigate this?

Seraphic said...

Anna, send me an email, and I'll forward it on to MedSchoolGirl.

gapper girl said...

I´m in a similarish plight to Med School Girl and this post hit at exactly the right time. After finally accepting that the wild fantasies I´ve been dreaming about a crush are pointless, and unlikely, and our personalities are probably not compatible, I am trying to work out what to do with my life now that there is absolutely no call to be studying in a different country, or fretting about language exams, etc, etc. It is a relief. I feel so free. And a bit sad, and am wondering what to do next. But the sense of a lost opportunity is fading. I am looking forwards to what is happening next.

And I plan to order your book the moment I have a slightly more settled address, because I think one of the reasons I had/am having such a loonily overemotional crush (instead of a sort of courtly motherly thing like what I have had before) is that I was not concentrating on being seraphic enough.

So, the things I am going to do in the interim before uni are a sort of combination of distraction, and getting back to Me Being Normal, and trying to live a fuller life, where I am an entity in my own right, not a confused little scrap of fragments gravitating crookedly around the same object all the time.

1. Start reading material related to what I am planning to study at uni in my home country next year.

2. Stop twitching whenever I hear about the part of the world he is from, and instead concentrate with a vengeance on Central Asia and possibly Iran and Turkey. And follow other news aside from just what happens in his country.

3. Keep in contact with the important people in my life, talk a lot with people I enjoy talking to. Try to track down a volunteering opportunity where I can make myself useful. Concentrate on finding friends, not on fretting about one person.

5. Work on my creative projects.

Then start studying.

I love your blog. It has helped me the last few weeks very much.

Naive said...

Great post.
I did exactly what you said, didn't crying and whining. Spent time on deepening my faith, connecting with friends, learning foreign languages, getting MA, reading, travelling, helping others. Although I enjoy in many things I do, I'm not very happy. I often feel lonely in such imho less than complete life.
And somehow I feel like God cheated me. Yes, he didn't promise me fairytale family, but why He put that longing in me if He has no intention to give me anything? Only to torture me? I pray for family more than 20 years. Am I naive or plainly stupid?
And every frivolous girl I knew got married and has kids. From their point of view I'm complete fool - invested so much and got nothing.