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Cat's Spiritual Journey, Part VII: Morticia Loves Gomez

All posts in this series:
Part I: Getting (and Losing) That Old Time Religion
Part II: Coming Home
Part III: The Fool's Journey
Part IV: The Underworld
Part V: Seven of Cups
Part VI: A Letter and a Kiss
Part VII: Morticia Loves Gomez
Part VIII: Nora
Part IX: Felicia Hardy and the Tower of Babel
Part X: When Babel Fell
Part XI: Community 2.0
Part XII: This Forgiveness Stuff

Are you married? Are you well married? If you are, perhaps you can understand what I’m not going to be able to explain, though I’m bound to try.

It doesn't matter how I write about the process of ending my first marriage and beginning my second; I'm going to come off badly. And some of that is merited: I made a promise to my first husband, and I did not keep it. The cynical way of putting it would be to say that I found someone I liked better, and I left my husband for another man. That’s not false, exactly. But it makes it sound cavalier and unfeeling, and it wasn't that.

So I could tell you about the pain of it, and how, despite the fact that it was my decision to end my marriage, and despite the strength of Peter's and my love for one another, I experienced more deep grief and depression at that time in my life than perhaps I ever will again--unless Peter should die before me.

I could talk about howling aloud so hard in anger and sadness that I stripped my vocal cords raw, and could not speak for almost two weeks. I could tell you that it was the only time in my life I’ve lost weight without trying—because I simply could not eat or swallow.

I could tell you about the time, tucked close in Peter's warm arms, when he proposed going shopping for an engagement ring for me... and I sobbed and sobbed, that a milestone which should be so uncomplicatedly glad, for him if not for me, was so tarnished by sadness.

Sharing the fact of my own pain, though, sounds like making excuses. And that’s a distortion, too. I’m not justifying my decisions here. I understand that the fact that it hurt doesn’t change that these were my choices, made freely, and made knowing I was causing pain to others, too, who had no choice about it. I didn’t end my marriage lightly or thoughtlessly. But it was I who ended it, eyes open to the fact that I was hurting others.

Hurting others…. I could omit certain things from my tale, or spin them, so you would take away a more favorable picture of me. I could let you assume that my first husband was a bad person--for years, people who knew me only after my divorce would be surprised, meeting him, to discover he was basically a nice guy.

I could pretend that I don't remember my daughter grieving for him for years after we separated, or how, when we would drive home together after her weekend-long visits to his house, she would sometimes wail for an hour or more for the Daddy she knew she was going to miss.

I’m not interested in whitewashing myself, though. And, in any case, with or without the omissions, I don't think there's a way to convey the truth as I lived it. How it hurt, how it brought me joy, and how I am not able to regret it in the least.

I know it’s hopeless. I know I’m not up to the task of telling this part of the story clearly. But I want to explain to you about that first kiss—my first kiss with Peter, not some goddess’s, but the one I was there for in full. I want to explain to you about going out for coffee after the first time we made love, and how my whole self was trembling on the inside, while the outside of me calmly sipped coffee from a paper cup.

I want to tell you about standing on the bridge over the Mill River, looking down into the cold swirls of snow and black water, and making our vows to one another even before I had separated from my husband. I want to tell you how it felt to open Peter's love letters—about the one that had a tracing of the outline of his hand—or to steal an afternoon in scorching July, curled up on the fold-out couch that was my bed in the tiny apartment where I lived after the separation.

I want to tell you about the first time Peter and my daughter met, and how hard we tried to keep our passion from showing in front of others who might be hurt by it (my daughter, my parents, coven-mates, friends--in case of a divorce, you learn just how many people really have a stake in what is not just a bond between two people) and how difficult that was. Not to kiss… not to hold hands… not to look at one another too lovingly or too long. We did try.

We chose the theme song to The Addams Family as our wedding recessional, partly because, by that time, we had created a complex, multi-generational group house of friends and family that felt as odd and outside the box as the Addams Family... but mainly because, like Gomez and Morticia, what we felt for one another seemed to us so over-the-top, so baroque and extreme in its intensity.

That's one part of who we are.

Another part of who we are lies in a memory of Peter playing me a tape of Steeleye Span—“Thomas the Rhymer"—and how I cried. I cried because he understood. The same music was in him as in me, and the same magic, and the same love of the Old Gods.

My first husband loved me in spite of my spirituality. Peter loves me because of it. It turns out that there really is a big difference between "tolerance" and love, and it was Peter who taught me that. Becoming Pagan had felt like coming home. But loving Peter Bishop has been my home, for sixteen years now.

Marrying Peter Bishop is the truest thing I've ever done. And I just can't say it any clearer than that.


Anonymous said…
I could pretend that I don't remember my daughter grieving for him for years after we separated, or how, when we would drive home together after her weekend-long visits to his house, she would sometimes wail for an hour or more for the Daddy she knew she was going to miss.

OK, you finally did it - you made me cry. :}

I know you've been wondering why these posts get so few comments; I can't speak for anybody else, but I simply can't think of anything to say in the face of such overwhelming honesty that wouldn't sound trite or pointless... other than "bless you".
Anonymous said…
tape of Steeleye Span—“Thomas the Rhymer"

Ah, memories. Celtic/folk mix tapes were part of our courtship as well; and I believe that song in particular was featured, as well as their amazing 9-minute live version of "Tam Lin"...
Anonymous said…
Hi Cat,
Blogger defeats me again.

I was just adding this addendum to the last post

"Interestingly enough, RJ Stewart says that Thomas the Rhymer and Tam Lin encompass everything that needs to be known about relating to the faery world. Quite a statement from a man who has written a yard of books.

peace and health,
Unknown said…
oh my dear friend...
your words ring so true.

your writing is so strong and clear and so touching.
I love you - for so many reasons.

Bless you.

Plain Foolish said…
Thank you for sharing your journey with us, even as I realize that it must be terribly difficult to share some of it. I find a deep tenderness in my heart for all of you. Thank you.
Kate said…
I keep not commenting, I know, and I should -- your writing is so powerful! It's hard to have anything to say in response, though.

But I'm very much enjoying reading this, and I find the whole thing enlightening. Thank you, very much.
Erik, Abby, Kate, Plain Foolish--thank you so much for your kind words. It has been very satisfying traveling back in time to this period of my life and trying to shed some new light on it all. Erik, your tenderness does you credit--your daughter is a lucky, lucky girl.

David (and Erik) it is really amazing how much power the old songs have! I wish that those who form their impression of the Otherworld would read these songs, and really think about what they say! A lot of lessons on how to deal properly with human or non-human beings--manners, being careful what we ask for, the quality of holding fast...

Have either of you ever read Diana Wynne Jones's novel, _Fire and Hemlock_? Though most of her books have a lot of whimsy in them, this one, a retelling of the "Tam Lin" story, does not. I love it, though (like the tales themselves) it is disturbing...

And thanks to each of you for letting me know I'm writing for an actual, living, breathing audience. If my words hold meaning for you, I am more than glad, and I get to feel a little bit like I'm paying back some of the ways hearing other people's truths has healed and empowered me over the years.
Anonymous said…
Hi Cat,
It has now been a very long time since I've read Fire and Hemlock and I remember little of it. Perhaps time to go back, since I've enjoyed sharing her YA fiction with my teen age son.

As far as I know, your writing is one of the best I know of on the pagan blog scene. I hit you and Jason and Anne Johnson every day without fail."

you are doing amazing work.

Anonymous said…

We do not know each other, but I discovered Quaker Pagan Reflections through Martin K’s Quaker Quaker site, and I was so impressed with what you and Peter share here that I added your blog to my Favorites list (which I don’t do lightly!)

I’ve been busy the last couple of months, and just checked back in to discover your wonderful Spiritual Journey series. It is simply incredible. It is such compelling reading that I found myself staying up late two nights in a row to read the whole thing, and I woke up this morning with the words “Pager Quakan, Quagar Pakin” (which pretty soon devolved into “Quakin’ Penguin”) revolving in my head. And I’m afraid it’s inspired me to make a rather long reply, which might be best sent as an email. But I would welcome any more general discussion that might come from it – and long posts seem de rigeur on this blog anyway!

First, Cat, I just want to confirm what an extraordinary writer you are. As someone who writes and teaches nonfiction writing, I think you are an excellent writer with a clear and confident voice.

Second, this series is so compelling because you open yourself up so completely. Thank you for exposing yourself emotionally and morally. It’s a risky thing to do for any number of reasons, but I have learned from your story the same way one learns about human emotions and moral choices through reading a good novel.

Third, thank you for exposing me to the possibility of Paganism as a coherent religious practice that may have something to teach even Quakers. My own Meeting is affiliated with both the FGC and Conservative branches of Q, and while I am at heart a liberal, I do fear that liberal Quakerism is becoming less a vibrant religion than a mush of pleasant feelings and good intentions ungrounded in any particular faith tradition, without any clear path or discipline for getting one through the underworld Darkness to the Light we all want to live in.

Therefore, I have more and more found myself attracted to the honest, direct Christianity of the Conservatives. (In fact, I just returned from Conservative Yearly Meeting, where I met Marshall Massey.) They seem ready to “go deep” into spirituality, in a way that a more liberal “salad bar” mentality (I’ll take a little bit of this spiritual tradition and a little bit of that, etc.) simply seems unprepared to do. And having grown up a Christian, I am not threatened by the Christian language.

Yet, your Spritual Journey series, as well as other writings on this site, have reminded me that what I mean by “Christ” has never been an exclusive ideal so much as a mere word or label for my experience of a particular Reality. And, after all, what attracted me to Quakerism was the notion that God is a Reality always beyond any particular human understanding or expression of the Divine, whether in creeds or images or rituals or liturgies or labels.

More to the point, the similarities between our spiritual journeys have reminded me of the pagan quakings that I myself have experienced from time to time – those moments when you half-glimpse The Other Side of Things (like Susan in your Narnia example) – and how important they were to my own spiritual formation, especially when younger. I incorporated them into my own very liberal Christianity, simply because that was the path which I was on at the time, but they still resonate for me.

You have reminded me of how deep they can sound, as well. In particular, your intelligent, discussions of Paganism helped me see that what started out as a cobbled-together “salad bar” of invented “traditions” can – if done with the maturity, intelligence and moral sense you bring to your story – evolve into a coherent spiritual path of real value.

Thank you for all of that. You have given me much to think about, Cat!

deborahoak said…
This is so beautiful. I've been thinking a lot about acceptance and forgiveness these days. Your post shines with both. My child too has been hurt by the choices I've made..ones I don't regret making, but facing and sitting with the truth that these choices have been hurtful to others...without making anyone else bad or wrong...that's hard. Thank you.
Kent--thank you for the kindness of your words! I am really deeply honored. And toying with creating a mischievous cartoon logo for the page, based on your image of the Quakin' Penguins, of a couple of penguins, one in a Quaker bonnet, and the other in suspenders, a beard, and a straw hat. Or should that be quacking penguins? Still playing with the concept, but the image will not go away, and, heck, it would make such a nifty tee shirt.

Deborah Oak, thank you especially for sharing a bit of yourself. You're absolutley one of my favorite spiritual bloggers, so to have you connect with a piece of my writing feels great.

I'm looking forward to getting the next installment up: I'm composing in my head whenever I'm left alone for fifteen minutes. The next piece will be about working to create community...and then about the things I've learned about how forgiveness and acceptance fit into that. (One of the many areas where, in hindsight, I can see my current Quaker pieces starting to take shape.)

Hopefully I will manage to tell it well, while respecting the privacy of people I've struggled with over the years. Wish me luck, please.
Anonymous said…
Thank you for sharing this. Letting go is painful and soul-wrenching, and often bitter-sweet.

In the end you and Peter found each other in trueness and rebuilt in acceptance and love.

May I ask, in general, how you and Peter met? I'm always curious to know how people meet their soulmates.

Bountiful Blessings upon you and yours, MW
Hi, MW,
Peter and I both wrote for and edited separate little Pagan zines back in the '80s, so we first "met" in print, where we liked each other's writing enough that, when we met by chance at a series of classes on Wicca taught by Andras Corben Arthen of the Earth Spirit Community.

It didn't take us long to recognize each other as friends... though it took a bit longer, as you might guess, for us to understand just how close that friendship could be.

Seventeen years later, and there's just no doubt that meeting Peter was the best thing that ever happened to me.

Thanks for reading.
Anonymous said…
What a lovely way to meet, in mutual admiration of each other's prose and thought processes. A meeting of minds and spirits.

We should all begin with genuine friendship first, and move forward from there. Beautiful story.

I'm adding the Earth Spirit Community link to my webspace.

Enjoy this day, MW
Anonymous said…
I rather liked your blog until I got to this entry. This makes it quite clear that all the spirituality, both pagan and Quaker, is nothing but self-indulgence... self-centered and self-deluded indulgence masquerading as spirituality, completely lacking in any integrity. The only surprising thing is my continuing desire/expectation of anything else.
I wonder why you say this. Is it because I acknowledge having hurt other people, or because, though I don't like that fact, I don't feel that I can honestly say I "regret" it, given the joy I feel in my current marriage? Is it because I am a divorced and remarried woman? Is it because I identify that the process was painful for me as well as those around me? Because I did not have the insight to understand my own emotional condition earlier in the process?

I'm guessing that, if you have made it this far, it's not because I've got a hyphenated religious identity. Perhaps the topic seems simply too personal to explore in a public forum, and that's what you mean by "self-indulgent."

In which case, I wonder if you had read the earlier entries in the Spiritual Journey series here. (Though this is the most recent entry, it will show up first in a casual scan of the blog, as my blog, like most, is posted in reverse chronological order.) Truthfully, there's something really satisfying in writing a spiritual autobiography, and I've been finding both the writing and the dialog with readers after each chapter comes out very nurturing--even when readers question me in places.

I guess I won't know if you don't tell me. However, I will say that, if this entry is indeed self-indulgent, well, then, so's the premise of the blog. It is my intention to hold out my life--the only one I know intimately--for examination as one life lived as consistently as I have known how to, in congruence with Spirit. Which is not to say I haven't made at least my share of mistakes along the way. I'm at least trying to be frank and candid about those moments, too.

Perhaps all the show and tell _is_ self-indulgent. It's how I know how to talk about spirituality, though. What's that quote? "Here I stand; I can do no other"?
Yewtree said…
I don't think the process of baring your soul, as you have done in this wonderful and inspiring series of posts, is self-indulgent - quite the opposite, it is a form of kenosis, and an expression of humility (which, I read on an Orthodox website, comes from connecting to humus, the Earth).
Grian said…
"I could talk about howling aloud so hard in anger and sadness that I stripped my vocal cords raw, and could not speak for almost two weeks. I could tell you that it was the only time in my life I’ve lost weight without trying—because I simply could not eat or swallow."

I nearly cried with this paragraph. Though I was the one who was left for someone better I know this feeling well. I cried for days, sometimes without any sobs. Tears just came. And I lost over 30 pounds in less than 6 months without any work whatsoever.

Mercifully, my relationship was patched up. Now to get over that pain in one piece. I know he went through a lot of pain as well - your post has solidified that for me. It's something I know I need to remember more often.

Thanks for such an honest and eloquent look into your soul. Much happiness to you and Peter always.

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