I was blog surfing among the widowed recently and came across a very touching, heartfelt post about soul mates. As my regular readers know, I don’t really believe in the concept. The idea there is just one perfect counterpart for us in all of existence as we suppose we know it just seems ridiculous especially in light of the fact that many people lose partners go on to happy and fulfilling relationships.
My great-grandfather lost his first wife in childbirth after ten years of marriage. He was crushed. He literally gave away their five children and wandered like a Hebrew for over twenty years. Never settled anywhere for long. Went into and fell out of numerous careers. Spent years on end so out of touch with his family that no one can say for sure where he was or what he was up to for at least half of the twenty years he spent on his own before meeting his second wife, my great-grandmother, and the mother of his six youngest children. When she died of breast cancer not long after their 19 year old daughter also died of breast cancer, Granddaddy simply allowed himself to be shuffled between my grandfather and his remaining sisters*. Her death snuffed the spirit she’d rekindled with her love.
Who was Granddaddy Christie’s soul mate? Based on his reaction to the losses and my understanding of the term, I would have to say both women were. It flies in the Disney princess theory of soul mates so heavily marketed in our society, the notion that we have just the one shot. It defies the reality that many, many people never mate at all. The numbers of single people who have never married have never been higher and are increasing all the time. Is there a soul mate shortage, perhaps? Does the creator play favorites?**
The blogger, and one of the commenter’s, seemed to think that only a very select group of people are blessed with soulmates, leaving me to wonder what they think the rest of us have in terms of relationships. Are we simply filling voids with warm bodies? Settling? And does this mean that people who never marry at all are lesser beings in the eyes of whatever god they espouse? Is there an unworthiness factor in play?
Not wanting to pursue remarriage does not confer special status on one’s former union, nor does it mean that, if one chose, one couldn’t find another mate who fits seamlessly – and I understand from experience the difficulties in play. It simply means that, for whatever reason, a person isn’t interested in a future that includes marrying again. It’s not mystical. Why the need to dress it up with soul mate mumbo jumbo? And by doing so make assumptions about other people’s relationships? Is it just the grief talking? Or a Queen Gertrude thing? Protesting too much because maybe the soul mate thing is just a Madison Avenue invention and it’s too hard to go there after a loss?
I am touchy where this topic is concerned. When this “soul mate” thing is bandied about, it feels like judgement. The same way the second class widow status conferred on remarried widowed people by so many of our small peer group is judgement. Either Will wasn’t my soul mate at all or Rob is me just settling, and it’s so much more complicated than that. And it doesn’t take me – the person I was or the person I have become – into account at all. I become a passive princess. Snow White. Sleeping Beauty. Life assesses and assigns based on a mysterious set of criteria that have nothing to do with who I am.
And it also judges Rob and I in terms of our commitments to Shelley and Will, questioning them at best and nullifying them at worst.
I don’t think anyone means to denigrate other people’s choices or lives when they bring up the soul mate topic or go on about being unable to “replace” perfection. When one loses a mate, one wants to feel there was meaning and a point to the other’s life and that their union counted for something more. It’s natural to latch onto ideas like soul mates and heaven. It’s comforting. But the soul mates idea limits and denies and it seems like cold comfort, but that’s just my opinion.
*By this point the breach caused by his abandonment of his older children had been healed, in a large part due to intervention by Johanna, my great-grandmother. She made the effort to include them and saw to it that her children had unlimited contact with the children of her step-children (some of the older boys were actually older than Johanna and married with kids by then). Some of my dad’s best friends growing up and as a young man were his uncles’ children and grandchildren. Odd, I suppose, but this is my model and probably why I don’t find remarriage and blending as abhorrent as many seem to. Nothing is impossible where good parenting, respect and love are concerned.
**I actually think that he does. And if you believe in the “created in God’s image” thing, I wonder how he managed to pull off such a image of perfection because a perfect God couldn’t possible create imperfect beings. But then I also don’t believe that perfection was what he was going for.