The gift of service
Three years ago on December 23, my wife of 12 years died. Our relationship was rocky at first, because I was stuck in my ways, but our years together were the best of my life. I have generally disliked the holiday season, but now I find it intolerable. Don’t tell me to see a therapist. I’ve had my grief counseling, and it was helpful. My wife read your column (and forced it on me) weekly. What I want from you are some ideas on how to get through the holidays intact.
I am stumped by your wish to travel through the holidays intact. What I hope for you is to have your heart ripped wide open, again, by love. This time, of course, it does not have to be romantic love. No, what I wish for you is the intense and abiding love that a saint possesses for humanity. Why else would God pull you out of your single state and into a union that taught you what constitutes true love?
As you have discovered, genuine marriage is an experience of conversion to the reality of love, but it remains incomplete if the work ends within the union. The couple must take their transformed selves out into the world to perform service. That is your task now. Let the holy days be a time when you allow the world to take long drinks of the gifts and talents you have to offer. Commit yourself to full days of hard physical labor with a nonprofit that operates in a country plagued by poverty. Or, stand, day by day, over steaming pots at a soup kitchen, serving those who have lost their way. Or, spend the days shaking down your friends for spare cash to fund your favorite charity. Or, engage in some other action that consumes your hunger for the past and reminds you that you are needed to create the future you tasted in the moments when love allowed your dreams to reach such heights. Get through the holidays by giving the greatest gift: yourself and what you have learned about genuine love.
Why are men such dogs? I found my boyfriend up in my house with another woman, half-naked. When I confronted them, he told her that I was his roommate! I threw their clothes out the door and told them to go. He lost his job last June, and I have been supporting us since then. He said that he wanted to take classes so he could get a better job and we could get married. I told all my friends that I was getting married. I am so embarrassed to let anyone know what happened. My boyfriend has been calling me and leaving messages about how much he misses me. He says that she didn’t mean anything and that he only loves me. My heart is broken, and I need your advice. I miss him. What should I do?
You should remember that if men are dogs, it’s because we (you, me, the culture, parents, neighbors, teachers and clergy) have taught them to disrespect women. Don’t contribute to that bad education by bringing your ex-boyfriend back into your life. If he did love you, he would have made himself worthy by getting a job and courting you properly. He would have proven that he is reliable, truthful and trustworthy. But in the moment that you caught him cheating, he called you his roommate. He was more concerned about protecting his relationship with the other woman than about reassuring you. His current circumstances (jobless, without a home) are motivating his phone seduction. You deserve better. Change your locks and phone number, grieve the betrayal and move on.