So how did this all start? The dating, the break with celibacy, the return to celibacy, and whatever weird in-between, back-and-forth thing you’re doing now.
It was July 4th, 2016.
Independence Day. So dramatic.
I know. I don’t do these things on purpose.
You one hundred percent do.
Shut up. I didn’t this time. Anyway I was at my sister’s house for one of our big family gatherings. I should tell you, my relationship with my family is a little complicated.
Most of them are.
Yeah. But I don’t mean complicated like we hate each other, which is what people usually mean. Can you imagine having seven siblings and liking all of them quite a bit? We’re all still in touch. We’re all still, somehow, magically, Catholic. We all see each other with at least some regularity. Nobody’s feuding with anyone, at least as far as I know. When things get tough for one of us, we work together to figure out a way to help.
That’s amazing. What’s the complicated part?
I’m not actually sure, but for whatever reason, family gatherings have almost always made me feel like shit.
I think it’s all the kids.
I thought you loved kids?
I do. And they love me.
So what’s the problem?
So, of my seven siblings, six are married and one is engaged. A few of them were married almost before I can remember. I’ve watched them build up their families. In the midst of poverty and shitty living situations and stress and depression and a whole assortment of hereditary neuroses, they’ve created these incredible, weird little communities. They’ve put their kids first. They’ve passed down to their kids all of the things that mattered most to them, just like our parents did for us.
And you want that too?
I guess that’s it. I try to remember that everybody’s calling is different. But sometimes I just feel like such a piece of shit. Like, they don’t really have time for themselves, because their whole lives are devoted to caring for these little ones. That was part of the deal for them when they got married. Meanwhile I’m over here playing with my synthesizers, going to bars with my friends, and staying up all night reading webcomics.
Not having any time to yourself doesn’t sound super great, though.
I know. I’m romanticizing it. If I spent a week in one of their lives, I guarantee I’d be running back to my apartment with my tail between my legs. But I do want to give myself to something the way they give themselves to their spouses and their kids. That’s not easy to do as a single person.
You could maybe go to a soup kitchen once in a while.
Okay, I could try way harder. But I don’t think you can really have a life that’s essentially self-giving if you’re just putting together this kind of patchwork of volunteerism. You have to commit yourself to something, don’t you? And it can’t be just anything!
What kind of thing should it should be?
I don’t know. I think it has to come from a place of love. Don’t get me wrong — I don’t think my siblings said to themselves, “I ought to have a life that is essentially self-giving, so I shall now find a suitable spouse, so that we can procreate and dedicate ourselves to the well-being of our offspring, thus building up the Kingdom of God.”
I know people like that.
I do too, but I…am…trying…really hard to learn not to make broad statements about other people’s lifestyles, even people I think are weird, so let’s get back to the story.