More on good(?) alternatives (pre-writing title, but I don’t want to change it now that I’m finished)

by Andrea Elizabeth

I’m not going back on what I’ve just said. I don’t want to pursue combatibalist and incombatibalist libertarianism scientifically right now – too cold. Instead I would like to assume free will as a given. And theologically, until we reach rest in theosis, we have a gnomic will that does not know all the consequences to our decisions so we deliberate. But in prayer we can be directed beyond our predictive capabilities. For me though, thinking out loud here on my blog is a way to prayerfully deliberate and hopefully God will direct me to the right answer. Maybe He directs some people with a logical train of thought. I seem to need concrete direction that makes sense. However, blind faith in Orthodoxy, because she has already logically proven herself to me in enough areas, is the only thing that makes sense to me now, and so when I’m unclear on anything, what the Church has proclaimed is a given.

Here’s one thing I’m deliberating with my gnomic will. Whether to keep running or to let sadness catch up with me. Well in phrasing it that way, it sounds like I’ve already decided that I’m ready to quit running. I think I’ve been running since I was 12 years old. Before that it was different. I had a fictional happy place that I freely dwelt in – horse world. Many things happened when I was 12 that made me give up that happy place and try to find another one. I simultaneously sought Christ, romance, and missionary zeal, but I only got fleeting glimpses and brush encounters with happiness, rest, peace, and joy in any of those. Motherhood brought an anchor to my life and a stable, tangible reality for a physical reason to be. But that is not all that I am. Intellectually and romantically I have been on a quest. I know the second needs clarification, and it is much more complex, but first let me get intellectualism out of the way. I am made (or I have chosen) so that for me to trust, I have to understand with my brain to a certain degree. This blog has so far been a pursuit of that intellectual understanding, and now that I feel at peace with free will until someone like Perry Robinson shows me that I still have Calvinist hang-ups in a new area, I’m putting that to rest. I have to know the how and why of my heart pursuits since I failed so miserably up to my divorce. Then I learned that I could not trust my heart to lead me to ever-lasting rest. It was too ill/wounded/selfish/ignorant. So my head took over. My faith, childrearing, and marital pursuits became very intellectual – I decided to make the smart, practical choice. So I guess I need to explain my romantic intellectual quest. I decided a peaceful husband who loved me was the only way to a stable life for me and my kids. I was right. Marrying and staying with George was and is the smartest decision I’ve ever made. My brain is more trustworthy than my unhealthy heart. (edit: except for finding Orthodoxy, but I was already married and with kids at that point or I might have become monastic if I’d found it earlier)

But my heart will not leave me alone. It has been stuck in a romantic dream which may be an escape from letting itself feel empty, no, more accurately, alone. The unhealthy relationships I’ve let myself get lost in, and which have come back to bite me, have been with people like me – lost in an unrealistic, romantic dream, probably escaping facing their loneliness. My working theory is that we felt alone, unsupported, ununderstood, invisible and rejected as children for whatever reason. We were missing some sort of attachment, probably with our parents, and probably identify with orphans, and wonder why. We do not want to accept that we are orphans who have grown up alone, and that it has irreparably shaped us into only knowing how to be alone and not with others. So when we do sense a “kindred spirit” it is with another detached soul who does not know how to properly bond. Yet we are also attracted to monastic life. Perhaps we have been raised to be hermits but do not want to accept it so we keep trying to have relationships, but they never really fulfill expectations – secure, fulfilling, comforting peace with another. I think it’s like those orphans we hear about in Romania who were never held as children and never learn to love, who end up autistically rocking themselves. I sucked my thumb until I was 12 years old and couldn’t because I was in the hospital for a month where nurses could see and the IV in my untractioned arm was another detriment. Our bonding deficit was not exactly like that (the Romanian orphans), but detachment still prevails. I would imagine though that these Romanian orphans recognize each other and feel kindred with each other, but if they tried to form a family with each other, they would be too “ill” to make it a healthy relationship and would instead form some sort of criminal gang in order to survive. But I do not believe there is no hope for such as we. Monasticism is an answer, because God was with us all along. We know how to be alone with him, but we have to reconcile with our past in order to let others go. We have to forgive them for not meeting our needs and for making us have an unfulfilling habit of detachment, or unhealthy relationships, in order to survive. So it was God and us alone all this time, and so we had to develop skills, usually intellectual skills, to survive. We are over-achievers. Thus we are impatient with those who may have had it easier and aren’t in so much pain, don’t understand, or who chose other comfort measures like prostitution, drugs, crime, and other easy ways out, perhaps suicide. I think the psychological world calls us ‘addictive personalities’.

I think many monastics, like Elder Porphyrios, do have this background, and they find Sainthood in their relationship with God in the Orthodox Tradition with the communion of the passed-on who do totally understand us and therapeutically and lovingly intercede for us. They actively watch us through their icons and we know through them that we are not alone. Others of us still seek earthly relationship to ease our loneliness and, perhaps after failing with another unattachable, find someone who knows how to lovingly bond with another. Sorry for the generalities, but it helps me to say we, as I don’t want to feel alone in this, and I really think there are others like me, perhaps who read my blog, who have coped similarly to me. So this person, like George, who did trust and found fulfilling the love of another in his formative years, did not struggle in exactly the same way, but is able to love me. Yet since he did have this love, he did not have to grow in as many other ways. I know this is an over-simplification. Perhaps he didn’t want to face this unfulfilment so he accepted and trusted a substitute, romantic love. No person short of a Saint can love as they should, but there does seem to be a line where some can love so that their kids aren’t in such pain and so desperately seeking a way to cope in trying to find substitutes in other people who cannot, for whatever reason, adopt them satisfactorily.

So this lingering pain in unfulfillment or engrossment in substitutions – the intellectual world, romance novels, food, or other wrongly-focused relationships or substances, has to be given to God. But we can’t be left with an empty hole. This is why I cling so hard to and defend so fiercely the Orthodox Church. I need a physical body to make up for the hole I have for whatever reason. A husband cannot fulfill this more fundamental need. This is also why I believe Protestant, “Spiritual God Alone”-Gnosticism, to be so evil. Maybe they don’t have this need to not be alone because they have fulfilling family of origin relationships and don’t feel like orphans. Or maybe they have closed off their hearts so that they wont feel the pain and have substituted an irrational emotional high with God. I don’t know, but when someone condemns the Orthodox Church who makes me feel with my heart and think with my mind consistently and stably “In Communion” for the first time in my life, though I still struggle to go to her alone like the Monastics do, I feel like they are trying to cut me off from my only food source, without which I would die. No man is an island, though plenty of Orthodox monasteries are built on islands. Not without physical icons and the physical Body and Blood of Christ though. Every hermit monk I’ve ever read about has at least one icon in his cell. We are not meant to live alone.