Things Fall Apart

Things Fall Apart
Fred and Dana in their Hindu and Christian clergy robes at Binkley Baptist Church sanctuary, Chapel Hill, NC. (Photo credit: Franklin Golden, franklingolden3@gmail.com)

Editor’s Note: This incident happened a few days ago and things are now as great as ever between me and Fred. It reminded us, though, that our pastor/photographer friend Franklin Golden recently asked us, to quote the Chinua Achebe novel,  “when things fall apart” in an interfaith marriage. They do fall apart–in any marriage, relationship, or friendship. But the strength–and the value–of the relationship is how you put them back together. Thankfully, Fred and I do this well. Saffron Cross will address how and when “things falling apart,” in a Christian-Hindu marriage, as one assumes things can and will go awry when two ordained persons from two intrinsically different faith traditions forge a single spiritual path.

When Things Fall Apart:

I did something horrible last night.

Fred hurt my feelings in the worst way, and I struck back like a cornered cobra.

A few weeks ago, I asked Fred to read the disaster of a first draft of Saffron Cross, my Christian-Hindu interfaith marriage manuscript. I wanted feedback on the really stink stuff that needs to be tossed and what could possibly be salvaged from this pile of poop papers.

He read the first three chapters and their vignettes on our Indian honeymoon, my spiritual autobiography, and his spiritual biography. But, after muddling through the chaotic garbage that is a crappy first draft, he stopped. And he hadn’t picked it back up.

Over the next few weeks, the manuscript got shuffled from the kitchen table to my desk to my briefcase and finally landed on the coffee table, where it sat, lonely and longing for an ideal reader to tell it what a terrible job its mother had done birthing it.

It sat and I waited. I incorporated the suggestions he had given me on the first three chapters and was ready to move to chapter four. But my ideal reader hadn’t read. My struggling infant of a book had been left in its crib, with only me to feed and hold it, a mother-writer in training whose own post-partum anxieties paralyzed her into thinking that this was a bad, bad idea.

Last night, I guilted him into reading it. And, when he had finally given in, I spent the next 10 minutes organizing and shuffling chapters to hand him in my most controlling, obsessive way. Finally, he let out an impatient, “This is getting way too complex,” and I panicked. I swooped up my baby book, placed it back in its file folder, and left to sleep on the couch.

Brooding, I went to my deepest, shadowy place—the self-righteous safari of a wounded writer.

“He doesn’t love me. He doesn’t care about his interfaith marriage. He won’t even read the horrible, no-good first draft. I deserve better than this. I deserve a reader and husband who cares.”

This went on and on. Later, he came into the living room and knelt before our worn-out, hand-me-down beige leather couch that belonged to my brother 20 years ago.

“Read to me,” He pleaded in his vulnerable voice. Aloof, I had stopped my self-depreciation five minutes ago to pick up the copy of Steven Rosen’s Christ and Krishna laying on our coffee table—an ironic move for a scorned writer-wife who has just told herself that her interfaith marriage is a sham.

“I need space,” I hissed.

I wanted him to feel my pain. I wanted him to know what’s it’s like to put your relationship and your creative work out there for public consumption, only for the person you love most in the world to act uninterested and hurried for time to read it.

This push-pull of go-away-come-closer lasted for 15 minutes. I told him I thought the interfaith marriage wasn’t working, and that we shouldn’t publish a book about it if one partner didn’t really care. I told him, too, that I thought I tried harder that he does.

In a what-have-you-done–for-me-lately sass, I said,

“I go to all of your Hindu events, I encourage you to love and serve your guru, I’ve traveled with you to India and I’m going with you to Audarya.”

“You never encourage my Christianity.”

In my melodrama, the millions of times Fred has loved me and helped me nurture my own faith disappeared, as if he had never been anything but an apathetic, scrooge of an interfaith partner.

But this wasn’t really about our interfaith living. This was about writing. I wanted Fred to feel the sting artists feel when they think no one really cares about their work.

He went back to bed and read, and said he wished I could come back to bed, too.

But, I pouted on the leather couch as it crinkled and growled under my back, stubborn and plotting my revenge.

And when my make-shift bed became unbearable and my heart wouldn’t stop racing, I realized how stupid and selfish I was. I slinked back to our room, embarrassed, and crawled in the bed with my back to Fred. I could feel his heat when he peacefully placed a hand on my shoulder.

“He really does loves me and my writing. An interfaith marriage is a gift from God, and it’s an even greater gift to write about it. And I am being the biggest idiot in the world.”

It was easier to breathe, and I finally fell asleep. In the morning, I woke up loving him more than I ever have, grateful for the grace of the Divine being that brought and keeps us together.


4 thoughts on “Things Fall Apart”

  • Beautifully expressed and totally in tuned with how we let our emotions override sound reasoning. You are truly gifted in the ability to express exactly the feelings that you are facing while also trying to let everyone else see from a outside perspective. Dealing with ones own disappointments is one thing, but not having support from our spouse that is exactly like ours at the time is very frustrating. My thinking was Now why doesn’t he see it my way. But our mistake is believing that they are suppose to feel the same way. That’s where the good old Free will comes in. Neither feeling is right or wrong, it is what it is just A FEELING, it is controllable and you can meet in the middle. Keep up the great work and i can’t wait to read your book. Love you both Terry

    • Thanks, Terry. I am grateful for your thoughtful comment and encouragement. I am always humbled and inspired when a reader says that she or he can relate to the feelings expressed in a passage. This is why I write! I love making the connection–both as a reader and writer. Thanks, too, for the reminder of feelings. We tend to translate our feelings into reality and want everyone else to get on board, don’t we? I find that the more self-aware I become (lots of practice), the more I can differentiate between feelings and reality, and the better I can control them. However, most times–in the moment–it’s close to impossible! Life’s lessons are repeated until learned. Thanks again for reading. We love you, too.

    • Thank you, Bhakti! I really appreciate the feedback, as it was one of the more difficult ones to wrestle, write, and publish. I cannot express how amazing it feels when a reader says that it’s a favorite. It makes the chaos and vulnerability of the creative process all worth it. Thanks for reading.

      Peace and gratitude,
      Dana

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