Friday, September 17, 2010

Yom Kippur, forgiveness and vows

It's ironic that the "sermon" during our Kol Nidre services tonight talked about vows... I've been thinking about vows all week. Vows and values.

Vows should not be made lightly for they are serious, in the eyes of the law, morality, g-d, etc. Vows are more than promises, they are solemn declarations of honour, respect, loyalty, monogamy (for me), commitment etc. etc.

Each of those values are also ladden with so many interpretations. People think (marriage) commitment is just about staying with something. It means so much more than that. It means committing to what you've committed to of course, but also to better yourself and your relationship with g-d (Creator, Universe, etc.) to enable you keep the commitment; which means committing to yourself and self/spiritual development. Staying with someone just for the mere fact of stying is not committing. It is not working towards the greater goal set out by a vow, a declaration, a contract.

The further I travel down this spiritual path the more intrinsic my values become. They are no longer shallow words or ideals - they are how I live, breath, think and want to be. I can no longer separate my values from who I am anymore. For me and in my life and what I've been raised with, I value marriage as a legal, emotional, moral, sexual and spiritual vow. Five vows in one. That's commitment. The vow isn't just to someone, or some legal arrangement, it's to yourself, your higher self, your commitment to keep yourself growing and "able" to keep healthy etc., and a commitment to the one that created you (your g-d) that will, if invited into your marriage, care for and nurture your commitment and loyalty to a person/unit/team. There's a reason religion is part of a marriage ceremony. In my value system divorce makes a mockery of my relationship to my Creator and the values S/He entrenched in me. I have been reflecting all week on how I can forgive myself, and hope for forgiveness for my transgression of my value system being, well, shat on. This broken vow was not of my making yet it is I that is praying to my creator, the being who breathed life into my lungs, my soul, for forgiveness for the the gift of these (MY) values. It is I asking for forgiveness in making a mockery of marriage even though it is not I that chose to break the vows, but end up with them broken nonetheless.

(This in no way reflects anyone else's decisions to divorce, cut their losses, etc. For me this is about what's acceptable between me and my creator - that is all. Kinda like the abortion issue: it's only how I feel given the values I inherited, not about demeaning anyone else's choices based on their own value system and what is acceptable for them- except of course for one other person, the woman who made the vow to me- then again, perhaps it's my mistake for believing her value system was in line with my own despite all the grave warning signs that indicated otherwise).

So, pray I do. I wrestle deeply with knowing that I was given warning signs along the way and chose to ignore them: parent divorced, etc. In my meditations this week I've come to realize that these warning signs can still be respected again, for (my) future involvements. Dating at my age has become a series of interviews with blunt questions such as: Do you believe in something greater than you? Do you smoke? Are your parents still together? What do you really think about marriage, loyalty, commitment? How do you feel about change and self-development? Is marriage important until it becomes inconvenient and you aren't "capable" of doing it anymore? What happens if that arises in you (and it will, because g-d knows in all couples who've been married as long as my parents have, it happens. We are only human, we are creatures of escape. But we are also creatures that seek to pair up and be known intrinsically for who we are, wanting the support and sacred connection that marriage provides).

And so these are the questions that are shaping me and my search for someone who really, I mean really, shares MY values. And not only when it's convenient.

Because a vow kept when convenient is not a commitment, it's convenience. It's when that vow becomes inconvenient: do you bolt because you can't deal, reshape and regrow or do you stick through the growing pains and act as a person of integrity and honour? And does it mean that I am a person without integrity and honour because I am a (soon to be) divorcee? Can my creator forgive me for what I, in my value system according to and for me, consider a wrong-doing? I'm not at all trying to play the victim here; but I am not the one wanting out of the marriage. I am not the one that didn't not mean "till death do you part". With Yom Kippur upon us I ask these soul-barring questions of myself and to my creator. What is my role in this transgression of a broken vow?

And how will I take my intrinsic values into my new life - even though it is not a life I chose (I made a clear, committed choice 5 years ago). Now that I have a life(style) I did not ask for, what shall I make of it?

How can I live with integrity among a society of people that accepts divorce just because "half of us get one anyway". And a system that makes it easy to break those promises with rarely a consequence. How can I as a woman of her word, her honour, as a woman that values marriage, be a 37 year old divorcee seeking similar values? I almost feel like a fraud: "I believe in marriage, just ask my ex-wife!". It is those kind of gut-wrenching, soul-twisting questions I'm seeking answers from my Creator.

It requires skills, knowing yourself inside and out, knowing that anything less just won't do and knowing that you are worth it.

And so, the interview continues. The woman who I've been out with every weekend since, well... She (la Femme Francaise)) has passed the first level of questions: believes in something, parents are still married, doesn't smoke, is loyal (same career for over 25 yrs, I'm already "approved" by her BFF of 30 yrs), driven and a woman of honour (is very, very high in rank in her career), but there are still other make or break questions to come.

And if those answers do not reflect my values I will no longer settle for anything less no matter the kind of attraction that may be felt. I did it once, I have to slowly forgive myself and ask my Creator for Her/His forgiveness for not heeding the warning and sticking my ego-filled-will in the mix. I would rather be alone than with someone who believes in marriage until it is no longer convenient or until they are "not capable". I am worth more than a tossed towel in the pile of someones life-heap of broken promises. If that means conducting interviews than so be it. Romance is over-rated. Ok, it's not, but it can blur your better judgement. There's a time and a place for it, once I learn the person's core-values then romance can begin!