Friday, January 21, 2011

A vegan? In our family?

I never majored in sociology (almost did, but chose music). However, I am always interested in reading about what's going on in our culture. I can't help but notice that more and more people are shying away from marriage, even to the point of having children in an unwed/nonlegal relationship, and the divorce rate is still about 50%. Now some folks will immediately delve into the morality of all this, but that's not what I'm interested in. I'm intrigued about why marriage is so difficult. I will have been married for 37 years this August, so I have a little experience on my side here.

Two people have a mutual attraction, and decide to commit the rest of their lives to each other. When you think about it, that's one of the most major decisions you can make, except for becoming a parent. Why is this hard? Because both partners grow. They change. They become in some cases totally different people. The hope and expectation is, of course, they will both grow together in the same direction. The hard part is when they don't.

For instance, I got married at age 19. I am now 56. I can honestly say I am 80% a totally different person than when I got married. My beliefs have changed, new wisdom has (I hope!) influenced me, I have a different level of patience and priorities, I have adopted several hobbies/interests that I did not previously have, I have developed new fears and anxieties, and habits, and I eat differently. My taste in clothes, living environment, and a host of other things has changed. I certainly do look different.

Meanwhile, my husband Ed has changed also. He was 27 when we married; now he is 64. He used to drink excessively until he got sober in 1984. He used to smoke cigarettes when we met; now he smokes pipes and is trying to cut down on that. He too has changed his way of eating, the kind of clothes he prefers, and how he chooses to spend his time. And, yes, he does look different too!

I am not the woman he married, and he is not the man I married. Things never stay the same. How can a 19-year-old girl know enough to commit the entire rest of her life to one person?

This is why they say marriage is hard work. The work comes, I think, not just because two people living together are bound to get on each other's nerves, but because the two people grow. They grow as a couple, true, but they grow as individuals. Some couples grow apart; others grow closer. Some partners are excited to watch the changes in their chosen mate; others are apprehensive or even aghast to watch their life partner morph into a stranger. The key is to give your loved one the freedom to grow and change and the hard part is honoring your commitment to be there for a lifetime.

No wonder 50% of marriages end in divorce. This is a hard pill to swallow. And I can totally understand the fact that so many marriages don't work out, because sometimes people do grow apart, so far apart that they have nothing in common anymore. I am not here to preach morality - just to try to understand reality. Lord knows I would never be able to hold my marriage history up for moral inspection and I'm not about to do that to anyone else!

What started me thinking about individuals in a marriage changing this week is that our daughter has progressed from omnivore to vegetarian to vegan. She is married to a meat-eater and she is the family cook. Her poor husband - he didn't marry a vegan! But he's married to one now! He's probably frantically going through their marriage vows, trying to find out where he promised to "love and cherish in tofu and tempeh."

I didn't marry a preacher (but he became one), I didn't marry a pipe smoker (but he became one), and I certainly didn't marry a man with gray hair and beard whose body shows as much signs of aging as my own. I married a cigarette-smoking drunk. I was fortunate that he changed. I hope as well he thinks that most of the changes I have gone through have been for the better.

It's not just our spouses who are changing. Our kids change and grow before our very eyes. As they do, each one becomes an individual, unique, and whatever that is, we deal with it because that is the commitment we have made. We may not have made it knowing that autism or cerebral palsy or drug addiction or leukemia or even vegan versus omnivore would become part of the bargain, but we made the commitment all the same.

Change is not always good, not always bad, but it will happen as assuredly as there will be over 20 inches of snow on our ground by tonight. Today I am praying that we are all equipped to cope with changes - in ourselves and our loved ones both - and that sometimes means being more observer than reactant, with both sides willing to compromise and see another point of view - because it is almost always the case that both sides have something worth teaching, and staying open-minded is imperative.

Happy veganism, Rachel, and good luck, Chris! You are only reaffirming the adage that life is always an adventure and you never know what's around the corner!

1 comment:

Cuidado said...

This made me cry.