The Vocation of Un-Belonging

The Vocation of Un-Belonging

We just got back from the annual family beach week.

The one we said we wouldn’t go on again, but you know, they invited us, and… beach.

It was really nice.

Honestly though, I remembered why we probably shouldn’t have gone.

It’s like Christmas- lots of togetherness. Lots of food. Lots of alcohol.

And lots of children, including at least one that was young enough to be ours.

As fun as it was, I was basically in a perpetual state of trying super hard not to cry. Between the high sugar diet, the booze, and the continual reminders that my life does not fit the norm, my eyes didn’t stand a chance.

When we got home this weekend and went to mass at our home parish, I remembered a conversation that happened in my 8th grade religion class about vocations.

Our textbook said that there are 3 primary vocations to which we could be called- marriage, religious life, and being single.

Then the teacher (or was it a priest?) said to the class that there is some debate as to whether the single life is actually a vocation. Does God actually call people to that, or is it just something that sort of happens when other things don’t?

What about my single friends who don’t want to be single? The ones for whom being single is a real struggle, a real suffering, a real cross?

Does God call them to this cross? If being single is a suffering, can it also be a vocation?

Is it the same, then, as a childless marriage? Could God really be calling us (and others) to live in this cross as a vocation, whether it be permanent or only for a time?

I don’t know if anyone truly discerns and desires singleness in the same way that people discern and desire the priesthood, religious life, or even marriage. At least, I don’t think I’ve met people like that. I think it’s more like infertility- you have other hopes and dreams, and you desperately want God to show you what he wants for you so you can move on and leave this confusing limbo of un-belonging.

You want a purpose, you want a plan, you want to know that he has not forgotten you.

But maybe, maybe this IS his plan, as much as it hurts. That wouldn’t be without precedent.

I mean, even Jesus asked his Father to change his plan and take away the cross if it were at all possible.

And maybe this feeling that your life is missing the mark will never leave. Maybe the goal of this vocation is to continually pray for the grace to accept your blindness, and to trust your guide, even though it seems like he’s only standing still.

When it looks like there’s no hope- maybe we’re right, in the human sense. There is no cure, there will be no material change. No baby. No spouse. It’s happening—we’re going to be crucified. And it feels completely senseless and useless and stupid and horrible.

And maybe that’s how Jesus felt in the garden when he said that.

But we do have hope, right? But it’s a delicate thing. I don’t think Jesus would have cheered up that night if you were like, “Don’t worry Jesus, you’re going to rise in three days,” because that would have glossed over all the awful suffering he was going through. No, I think we can tell in the gospels that what really pulled him through in that moment was obedience to his Father and knowledge that this was truly the only way to save his beloved.

And that’s what pulls us through too, isn’t it? Obedience maybe, and trusting that this is the only way, and the hope that one day there will also be a resurrection for us, and he will open our eyes and show us that it all did matter, in some way.

“But not my will, but yours be done.”

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Mr. Right, Mr. Perfect, Mr. Good Enough

Recently, author Lori Gottlieb sparked controversy, thanks to her advice to women about choosing “Mr. Good Enough” instead of waiting for “Mr. Right”. After the onslaught of women accusing her of advocating “settling”, she answered that what she really meant was that too many women have stupid requirement and expectations, making it completely impossible to find a life partner. (See original article here)

She was right, really. Some women are too picky. How many of us know people (including ourselves) who have ditched a guy after the first date because of some odd quirk? At the same time, we complain when we’re on the receiving end of such quick judgment. The truth is, you need to give someone a chance before you can really get to know them.

Let’s look at an example:

James and I had a lot in common. We grew up in the same town and knew a lot of the same people. We had never met as kids, but later on, towards the end of college, we met online. Here comes the first date. We had a nice time talking over milkshakes for about an hour. At the end of the date, he walked me to my car, gave me a little hug and got the door for me. I said my polite “this was fun,” and I meant it. I just wasn’t sure if I would give him a second date. Sure, he was nice. He was a gentleman. He paid the bill and opened the doors. We had a similar childhood and had the same religious beliefs. To top it off, he was extremely good-looking. What was the problem?

I wasn’t sure if I felt a spark. I wasn’t sure if we would have much to talk about. I wasn’t sure that we would enjoy the same things. I wasn’t sure if his good manners were just a show. I wasn’t sure if our different levels of education would become a problem down the road.

Still, I was intrigued. I did want to find out the answers to my questions. I knew he would probably be a nice friend to have. I just wasn’t sure that I could date him. So what did I do?

I decided to tell him that I wasn’t ready for a relationship. But, we enjoyed each other’s company so we went out a few more times, as friends. Then came “date” number 3, when the sparks finally hit full-force and we ended up kissing goodnight and planning DATE number 4. We’ve been very happy ever since.

I’m not 100% perfect, and neither is James. We’re human, after all. My mom always told me, don’t look for the guy who is without fault. Look for the guy who has faults that you can live with. Give a guy a chance. You never know how happy can be until you try.

(Of course, many women, especially young ones, make the mistake of dealing with WAY too many faults in a partner, thanks to their insecurity. See Are College Relationships Detrimental for Women?)

Chick Lit

So I finally got caught up enough to allow myself to go to the library. It was a very short visit; within 10 minutes I had picked up more books than I could carry and was on my way home. I used to read a lot when I was little, but stopped during college. Before college, I used to stay up til 4 AM reading Jane Austen, Edgar Allan Poe, Alexander Dumas, and other dead guys. My post-college literary tastes have grown ever-more sophisticated; I just read How To Be Single, a novel by Liz Turcillo.

I know, I know, but please, don’t jump to conclusions. It was research, I swear. And don’t worry, I got what I deserved for opening a novel with a title as stupid as that. The book was awful, really. The writing style was so cliche, I felt like I was reading something by the author of Twilight. The story itself was so contrived and devoid of real emotion, it truly was painful. The first chapter was so horrible, I almost quit right then, but I decided to stick it out. I’m sorry but seriously, Jane Austen must be turning over in her grave if she saw some of the crap her genre has produced.

I’m really not against “chick lit”, to be honest. I just read two books by Jane Green which made me cry (in a good way). Her characters were believable and their stories were realistic, but with the right touch of good luck fantasy that makes you giggle with excitement (like a ron-and-hermione-are-finally-together giggle).

So I’m going to keep reading my girly books, to see if I can find anything better. I just started something by Emily Giffin, and it seems promising. I have a feeling though, that if I want a satisfying story, I’m just going to have to write it myself.