WWWW and How, But Not Why

Whenever I have dinner with my friend S., the conversation inevitably veers to a discussion of faith, or rather our current struggle with a lack thereof.  I’ve had sciatica for nearly four weeks now, with pain radiating down each leg from what feels like hot pokers sticking in my buttocks.  In a fit of desperation, I googled the Mayo Clinic website the other day.  “Typically, sciatica affects only one side of your body” and resolves “in a few weeks,” it said.  At week four, my progress had worsened.

“I’m not friggin’ Job!” I shouted out in pain to no one in particular when I got up to go off to my temp job one morning last week.  I hobbled downstairs, made a pot of fresh-brewed gourmet coffee, glanced at the latest headlines, and immediately felt like a privileged fool.

“That’s a funny story,” S. said when I recounted my childish outburst over dinner.

“Well, I’m tired of hearing people say everything happens for a reason,” S said.  I nodded.  S and I clinked glasses.  That little chestnut occasionally holds true, though more often it doesn’t get you very far, I thought, reflecting on Maureen Dowd’s Christmas Day op ed entitled “Why, God?”

Five days later, on December 30, it was my father’s birthday, or at least it would have been.  His life was snuffed out 27 years ago at precisely the same age I am now.  I’m baffled how in all those years my mother never once asked God “why?”  I did nothing but when my husband first left me.  No satisfactory explanations, of course, ever followed.

S. and I ate dinner and quickly abandoned our pointless post-mortem on why things hadn’t, or hadn’t yet, gone in accordance with plan, turning to the Kipling Method’s more concrete queries. “Where should I move after my daughter graduates since I can no longer afford to stay in my house?” I threw out.  When will the seeds of my writing labors begin to bear significant fruit?  What do I do next?  Where can I find a kind and decent partner to share the rest of my life with?  (Really more of a “who” question, and where and how can I find him.) How do I know for sure that I’ve even been following the right path with my writing and working for divorce reform or whether it’s that other guy living down under who’s been guiding me or my own big fat Buddhist, capital D, Delusion?

S. and I theorized, posited, cried and clinked glasses again.  We talked signs and indications.  Three hours later we left the restaurant as confounded as we’d entered it, albeit lightened.

When I got home I signed onto email as I usually do before heading off to bed.  A message had come into my website while S. and I were eating dinner.  A man named L. (he didn’t say where he was from) had been surfing the Internet when he came across an article I’d written excoriating no-fault divorce.  After 27 years of marriage, he was in the midst of his own divorce.

“Your article brought hope – something this country’s marriages need…thanks,” he wrote.

Hope is such a strong word,” S. said when I told her what had happened.  You can’t touch it, and you can’t put it in the bank, and sometimes it simply makes no intellectual sense. As a reason though, it’s pretty hard to top.



6 responses so far:

  • Pauline Gaines – Jan 3, 2013 at 2:41 PM

    Beverly, I struggle with this very thing all the time. My dad was a Presbyterian minister and my mom’s parents were Christian missionaries, so you’d think I’d have some faith! Or maybe the way I grew up just pushed me in the other direction. I have found that reading Pema Chodron and Anne Lamott helps me when I start to ask those “why” questions. I’ve tried to shift my question of “why” to an ability to sit in the uncomfortable, broken places, but it sure isn’t easy.
  • Admin – Jan 3, 2013 at 4:27 PM

    Pauline — My grandfather was a minister and my daddy a deacon! We’re in good company. I think the deepest place you can go with faith sometimes is to keep investigating it. (I’ve got a bit of Pema and Anne on my coffee table, too, along with a few others. Hmmm….I feel a blog coming on about just that.) I for one am glad we’ve got both me and you out there. Keep up the good work and a truly happy new year.
  • The Desert Rocks – Jan 4, 2013 at 2:42 PM

    Even our priest questions why children die for example. Some things are beyond our understanding. Great post Beverly and I hope this is your year with a capital Y not Why?
  • Admin – Jan 5, 2013 at 4:27 PM

    How true, and yet we torture ourselves with the need for understanding sometimes don’t we? I like the way you spell “why.” Thank you!
  • Gwendoline Y. Fortune – Mar 14, 2018 at 2:42 PM

    Beverly, after questioning–studying, and doing a bit of practicing every religion i could find, I have decided that “Why” is a human and scientific question “Faith” is a non-question. Although I have had non-ordinary experiences I am fairly comfortable, e.g. non-stresed, with the thought and feeling that our sojourn on planet earth is so brief in the grand scheme I’ll work with what appears to be–cycles of repetition, a la fractals, that have their own raison d’etre, and this puny species is a long way from unraveling the tangled web. I choose to say, “I think, I do not believe.” For me, belief implies the answers are known and I can relax and rest. Thought is an ongoing syntactical energy, and the cosmos has its multi-trillion eons process. I dislike it,but can do nothing to change itin this physical form and “time.” I’d like to know, but a cosmic view says, that is stupidly impossible, so get on with what can be presumed. In my childhood the elders taught that a person’s reach should exceed her grasp. Okay, but don’t reach for the too far limb and fall on your cotton-picking face–or butt.
  • empathologism – Mar 14, 2018 at 2:43 PM

    Hope is misplaced generally speaking once someone decides they want a frivorce. You are something of an exception, you likely realize, in that the frivorce rate is centered mainly around women filers. Your forensic opponent in the NYT piece lays out all of the emotionally driven reasons to follow the heart, and kids are alright, and we need PROGRAMS to teach people how to co-parent, etc., and yawn. May I assume you had to restrain your responses in order to even have the chance to convey your message in what is no doubt a hostile environment for it? The divorce problem simply will not stop, slow, temper, change at all unless and until women are spoken directly to and at about it. It is logical to approach any problem by tackling the largest part of the problem first. What use is putting a finger in a dam when there is a truck sized gusher next to you? That’s how a 70% plus filing rate by females stacks up. The church is complicit, at best, offering the same emotional platitudes your friend in the NYT offered, but adding spiritual cover for those women who are “emotionally abused”…a specious term by its nebulous user friendly nature. Reform must eliminate the lack of stigma for silly frivolous divorce….frivorce…..making as you say, REAL abuse (which can include emotional/psychological abuse but with some standard or threshold to meet), real infidelity (this does not include a man looking at pornography once), addiction to substance, etc. The rest are mythical created things that then go with the other myth that the kids will be better off. No. They. Wont. Keep up the work. Join some men’s advocacy groups, though the church should be a natural ally in your quest, it is not. There is a growing community of male bloggers that are Christians in opposition to frivorce, we may be worth your time to check out. Thanks


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" Ostensibly about the break-up of her marriage and loss of her dream house, a four-story Victorian brownstone in Brooklyn's Carroll Gardens neighborhood, Beverly Willett's absorbing memoir is really about finding a home in one's own skin. A delight."

Courtney Hargrave, Author of Burden: A Preacher, A Klansman and a True Story of Redemption in the Modern South, a major motion picture starring Forest Whitaker

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