Thursday, July 29, 2010

Soul Mates (Eat, Pray, Love Reaction Post #1)

Although I do love not having to consult someone before deciding to spend the weekend with friends, sole ownership of the remote control, and the three warm feline bodies snuggled up against mine during sleepy time, I must admit – I hate being single. All my life, all I ever wanted to be was a wife and mother, and now, with 40 looming large on the horizon, it appears likely that I will be neither.

So it was with amazement a few years ago that I met and promptly fell for Claude.* Claude was everything that I thought I wanted in a man – tall, strong, gentle, a good father, hard worker, animal lover, cowboy. He also came with a trainload of baggage. Serious baggage, the sort of baggage that made friends and family wonder if I had taken leave of my senses when we became involved.

One of the things I loved about Claude was that we never fought. We had disagreements, some of which were pretty serious, but we were always able to speak calmly and work them out. I loved his children, and they loved me. I thought that God had finally sent me my soul-mate, and that we would live together, if not always easily, then at least happily.

But then Claude’s ex-wife finished serving her prison sentence for the negligent homicide of their youngest son (see above reference to Serious Baggage), and suddenly – he wasn’t in love with me any more. He stood in my living room and looked me in the eye while he broke my heart.

What happened? Didn’t we value the same things? Have the same tastes, like the same music, watch the same movies, talk for hours about things both meaningless and meaningful? Wasn’t he my soul mate? What happened to
"happily ever after"???

I’ve long since stopped crying over him, and can’t think of a single circumstance under which I’d ever take him back, but the soul mate question lingered. Then my dear friend Caitlin** told me to read Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. There was a particular conversation she told me to pay attention to, and it is from this conversation that the following quote comes:

Your problem is you don’t understand what that word means. People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that’s holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then they leave. And thank God for it.†

That paragraph describes what Claude did for me (which no one around me understood at the time). I’m a better version of myself for having loved him.

What a liberating concept! Yes, Claude was my soul mate. No, we were never meant to last forever. Be glad that it happened, not sorry that it ended.

I still struggle with being single. I have to frequently remind myself of 1 Corinthians 7:34 - "An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord's affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband."

I have to remind myself that what I want more than anything else is to stand in front of my God and hear Him say, "Well done, good and faithful servant." If it means that I die childless and never having been married, then so be it.

And then last night I watched "The Buccaneers," based on Edith Wharton’s novel. At the end, the governess says to her friend, "I have lived without love for forty years. I shall probably manage to live another forty under the same terms."

Romantic love is great for them as has it. For the rest of us, there must be a reason. We may not ever know that reason, but perhaps we will be blessed enough to have a soul mate for a while, to teach us about ourselves.


*Not his real name. I chose it because with the American pronunciation, it sounds like "clod," which is a pretty accurate description in retrospect.

**Not her real name, either. See the intro post.

† Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love, p. 149. Oh, and Richard-from-Austin, if you ever read this blog, I’d love to buy you a cup of coffee!

Sunday, July 25, 2010


The subject of forgiveness has been on my mind a lot lately. Real life drama, along with my own introspective journey into my past and figuring out what I need to forgive in order to stop impeding my own spiritual growth.

It is a sad fact that to be human is to be hurt. Someone will lie to you, cheat you, harm you emotionally or physically, betray you . . . the list goes on. Each time someone wrongs you, you have two choices: Hold on to it, or let it go. Or in other words, resent or forgive.

Forgiveness is necessary for mental, emotional, and physical health. My grandmother is a champion grudge-holder. She can recite every slight or insult, real or imagined, she has ever received in her 90+ years of life. Is it really any wonder, then, that she has had chronic stomach problems for most of her life? Not according to The Mayo Clinic it isn’t. A simple Google search of the word "forgiveness" leads to a multitude of sites discussing the effect that both forgiveness and resentment have on a person’s health.

Forgiveness is a conscious choice. Forgiveness is foreign to human nature. Our instinct is to treasure every wrong, remember every slight, because it feeds our sense of entitlement. "I deserve such-and-such because that person treated me this way." Our natural response is to seek revenge for a wrong done. To forgive requires rising above that base impulse, which must be a conscious decision.

Forgiveness does not mean restoration. By forgiving someone, you release the negative emotions connected with the wrong, but that does not mean you must then restore the person to the same position of trust he had before. A battered spouse must forgive the abuser before emotional healing can begin, but must also leave the abuser before one of them dies. A friend who betrayed you can be forgiven, but that does not mean she gets to continue receiving the confidences you once trusted her with.

For me, as with so many things in my life, the issue of forgiveness is tied up with my faith. According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, the word forgive" appears 800 times in the King James Version of the Bible. Eight hundred times. Forgiveness is an important topic with God, apparently. Sometimes it’s a command (Luke 17:3-4), sometimes it’s a plea (1 Kings 8:33-34), and sometimes it’s a promise (1 John 1:9). But there’s no doubt that it’s mandatory. If someone hurts me, I must forgive him, as God has forgiven me.

But sometimes it’s hard let go of the hurt, anger, and resentment, and move on. So how do you forgive when you can’t forgive?

I visualize a closet with two shelves. The lower shelf is labeled “Stuff Erin Has to Deal With” and the upper shelf is labeled “Stuff God Has to Deal With.” When I can’t let go of a wrong someone has done me, I visualize taking that hurt, anger, and resentment and putting it in a box. I put a lid on it and put it on the shelf of Stuff God Has to Deal With. Every time I find myself thinking about it, I put it in the box and on God’s shelf. Eventually, I find that I can think about the incident or the person without that anger and resentment, because God has helped me to forgive.

Because I have to repeat this process, I’ve come to the conclusion that forgiveness is not a one-time act for us. You will probably have to forgive the same wrong again and again, and even again. But it’s necessary to do so, because the alternative is to hold that rot in your soul, where it will fester and spread, infecting your entire being. Not forgiving someone doesn’t harm that person. It doesn’t affect that person in any way. It only harms you.

I’ve seen the following quote attributed to various people, and wish I could remember the book where I first saw it, because it’s such a striking simile. I’ll end this entry with it, and hope to see you again next time:

“Harboring resentment is like swallowing poison and waiting for the other person to die.”

Sunday, July 18, 2010

In Which I Try Not to Sound Too Pompous, Or, Welcome!

Welcome to Practicum of Life. I’m glad you’re here. Pull up a chair; coffee and refreshments are over there on the counter. Help yourself. While you’re getting comfortable, I’ll try to figure out how to start.

There are a couple of options. One, I could give you the brief bio – SWCF, voluptuous, loves cats, ISO Meaning of Life – but you’re not here to read a personal ad.

Or I could start by giving an historical background – the events and thoughts that led me to post this in the first place. Yawn. You don’t care, at least not yet. So why are you here? Why did you click whatever link led you here?

While you’re pondering your answer to that question (which I hope you will leave in the comments), let me explain the title of this baby blog. “Practicum” is defined generally as “[a] school or college course, especially one in a specialized field of study, that is designed to give students supervised practical application of previously studied theory.” ( Another definition is that practicum is “a course involving activities emphasizing the practical application of theory, esp. one in which a student gains on-the-job experience in a field of study.” (

So, a practicum for life. Wouldn’t that be, well, life? I think so. But there’s plenty of practical application of theory involved in life, and I have come to believe that gaining wisdom involves on-the-job experience; that is, living life.

My current philosophy of life is drawn from many sources, but it’s constantly evolving, both as I learn more theory and have more experience. One of the driving forces of my life has been to help other people. So much pain and suffering exists in the world, and sometimes I think pastors, preachers, ministers, teachers, counselors, and others in positions of some authority tend to forget that theory is grand, but we must be able to apply that theory in order to survive the missiles and arrows aimed in our direction as we walk through life.

So that’s what I imagine this blog to be – a place to record how I have learned to apply in a practical manner the theory I’ve been absorbing all my life, in the hope that something in this record will help you on your walk through this world. I fully expect to wander, to cover anything and everything from fashion to faith. I will speak frankly, and apologize in advance for any offense. I intend none, and hope that those of you who disagree with me will do so in a courteous fashion. I invite dialogue, because one of the tenets of my philosophy of life is You Never Know Who Has Wisdom to Impart, So Listen to Everyone You Meet.

But human nature being what it is, I must set forth a few ground rules:

1. No flaming. If you disagree with me or a commenter, play nice. If you refuse to play nice, I reserve the right to ban your access to this blog.

2. If you notice that I have quoted someone incorrectly, please give me the correct information for citation. I certainly have no wish to dishonor the contribution of anyone who’s helped get me to this point in life.

3. Did I mention no flaming? Good.

4. Please feel free to give me courteous feedback. This blog is a work in progress, and it’s the first time I’ve attempted anything like this, so if you have suggestions about how to make things work more smoothly, I welcome those.

5. There’s really no Rule 5 yet, and I hope there won’t have to be. It’s just that I have a thing for odd numbers and can’t leave a list alone unless it ends with an odd number. Yeah, I don’t know, either.

Because this is a public blog, unless I have specific permission (or obligation, if I’m citing a source) to use someone’s actual name, I won’t.

Well, I think that covers the basics. I look forward to seeing you again, when the next entry is published.