STATIC DISCLAIMER: All the stuff in here is purely my opinions, and they tend to change depending on what mood I'm in. If you're going to get bitter if I say something about you that you don't like, then maybe don't read. I avoid using names as much as possible, and would request that people who know me do the same in their comments. Basically, I often vent my frustrations on here, so if you happen to be someone who frustrates me, expect to read a description of someone very much like you in here!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

An Irregularly Shaped Peg

So I said I'd write more, and so far I've done nothing. I think I need to start though, as there's so much going on in my head all the time that getting it down "on paper" might help sort some of it out, and sharing it with others has previously been very cathartic for me.

One thing that's been on my mind lately is how common my current circumstances are statistically, and yet how difficult it seems to be to now fit in with a group of people who previously I had no trouble fitting in with. It started to become apparent a few weeks back at church. I walked around looking for people to strike up conversations with, and tried striking up a few, but ultimately wound up going home as I couldn't really engage with anyone. No big deal - that happens sometimes. But then it happened the next week. And the next. And I started to wonder why, and that's when I started thinking about irregularly shaped pegs.

To generalise, I think there's two main peg shapes in church circles: those who are married, possibly with children (let's call them square pegs), and those who are single (who we'll call round pegs). The round pegs might have a knock or two out of the side of them from previous hurts or difficulties, but from my observation none of the round pegs have ever been square pegs. They're round pegs, and their friends are round pegs, and that's the sum total of their peg experience to date.

So what happens when someone was a round peg, became a square peg, and then had their corners ripped off leaving them, well, irregularly shaped? Sort of a round peg, but not really. Sort of a square peg, but not really. When we're looking at pegs in round or square holes, which in this analogy is the ability to slot into a particular social group, an irregularly shaped peg is going to struggle.

When trying to fit into a round hole, it becomes immediately apparent that the remains of corners are getting in the way. Whether those remains are age, commitments, children, or just the emotional results of dealing with relationship disaster it's fairly obvious that an irregularly shaped peg is not round, and while trying to ignore the remains of corners might be an appealing way of dealing with being older and suddenly single again, the sad reality is that you can't go back. You're not a round peg, and you never will be again.

Trying to fit into a square hole presents it's own set of problems. Truly square pegs are very much a known quantity, and represent something the irregularly shaped peg is not - a couple. The irregularly shaped peg leaves the square hole inadequately filled, and the absence is noticed by others in the peer group - particularly those of the opposite gender. Spending time as a single man with married couples, the thing I notice is that the wife of the hosting couple seems to miss the presence of another woman to balance the conversation. This makes sense, as while it would be completely appropriate for me to spend extended time 1-on-1 with another man having in depth conversations and forming a rewarding friendship, if I was to do that with a married woman it would be cause for significant concern. There's always going to be a limit to the depth a friendship can form under these circumstances, and so ultimately the irregularly shaped peg is not offering as much to the square peg couple as another square peg couple would.
[Remember I'm discussing within church circles here - I'm unsure of how things would play out if many of the limitations we apply to ourselves in church circles to avoid falling into sin were not a concern. Obviously people would fall into sin significantly more often, but perhaps in some instances both parties in a couple could form a Platonic relationship with a single party that had significant depth to it. I just don't know. I've never been confident of the reality of Platonic relationships between members of the opposite sex, and recent experience makes me question it even more.]

So what is an irregularly shaped peg to do? Well, I suppose find other irregularly shaped pegs. The problem in my small sample set is that the tiny set of people I know to be irregularly shaped pegs seem to have already disappeared from view. I don't know their reasons, but I wouldn't be surprised to learn that they just didn't feel like they fitted in. Maybe they went somewhere where round peggers didn't know they used to be square, and try to keep the remains of their corners out of view. Maybe they decided to keep to themselves, and not try and find a place where they would fit - which for a peg, is a very unfulfilled place to be. Pegs were made for holes.

To throw the metaphor aside at this point, the question ultimately is where do I fit? And when you follow that through to some depth you come to a fundamental question we all seem to come to at some point: why am I here? Perhaps not "here" as in alive on the earth, but why have the sum of my choices and experience led me to this point, at this place, at this time? Is there any purpose? Given what I understand of the nature of time, I can't believe that anything is just random chance, but perhaps the path that brought me here didn't do so for a purpose - it just had to go somewhere, and here was as good as anywhere else. I know we tend to quote Jeremiah 23:11 in these circumstances, but what I see there was spoken to a very specific group of people in a specific circumstance. Not to everyone for all time. We won't all prosper. Some of us will experience harm. We can all have a hope and a future, but not necessarily here and now.

So where does that leave me? Well, at some point I'd like to think I'll remarry. But before that can happen, I have to be redefined both internally and externally as being a single man again. The internal bit is a process that I can see progressing, and that is well on the way. The external process however seems to be the hard one. It's what has inspired this whole pegs metaphor. In a group of people who have always known me as being married, can I redefine myself and be accepted into a group of peers? Or are the edges of the peg holes so rigid that someone carrying the scars of being left by an unfaithful partner will never really fit in? I suppose time will tell.