My wife went for an interview for a more senior post at the university where she works this morning. As soon as they had interviewed the last candidate they rang to offer her the job. She was, by far, their number one choice and I'm not surprised as she is very good indeed. I'm really proud of her as she did not go on to further education when she left school. Her employer rarely lets people without a degree progress into management as they are in the business of selling degrees and does not want prospective students thinking that they can get on in life without one. So she has broken through the glass ceiling of academic snobbery big time and it is all down to her hard work and talent and, I am sure, because she supports her academics but is not afraid to show them some tough love when it is necessary. In other words she has their respect and she's got them well trained.
The post she is moving into (next month!) is a very attractive one and, whether it is a step on the way to an even more senior position or the final landing place of her career, it is obvious that my wife is where she should be. Although, she would give it all up if I was to be offered a job elsewhere (and she has said as much) I am never going to put her into the position of having to make that choice. It is extremely unlikely that I will ever be offered a church job within commuting distance of my wife's place of employment as the bishops and archdeacons of both Durham and Newcastle dioceses refuse to help me. This means that my career in the established church is over. In fact, in truth, it has been ever since I first succumbed to clinical depression back in 1996.
So, what next for me?
I am not going to give up on my faith although I may well give up on the Church of England, reluctantly because it has been a lifetime habit and I love it's buildings and liturgy. I am not going to seek employment in a secular occupation because God called me to the priesthood and it's the only thing I can do or that I want to do. On the other hand, I am not very good at living without structure and a definite raison d'être so the thought of being permanently "freelance" scares me a lot. In fact, I don't think I have it in me to invent a new career for myself. When I try to imagine doing so my inner voice just tells me to get real.
My mother in law died a couple of weeks ago and it was her funeral last Thursday. She had been as near to brain dead as you can possibly get, without being declared actually deceased, for over two years. So, both my wife and myself thought we had already done our grieving for her. Therefore, we were surprised when her passing affected us far more deeply than we had ever anticipated. My wife was extremely sad and tearful and is passing through bereavement as any daughter should. I am not so sad, but I was not very close to my mother in law. However, her death has made me anxious about my own, not that far away now, demise. It's not that I am frightened of dying as I pretty much used up all my fear back when I was chronically mad and lying, almost catatonic with terror, in a hospital bed, but I am extremely scared that I am going to die without having lived. As a depressive I am unable to gauge the worth of my life by looking at how happy I've been. Therefore, I am left with having to assess my time on earth by how much I have achieved in a practical, rather than emotional, way. At this moment in time I do not think that I have achieved anywhere near my potential and I fear that I do not have the time now to remedy this situation even if I was offered the opportunity to do so.
In an ideal world I would be satisfied that my partner has achieved enough in her life for both of us and I would be happy to exist solely to support her in her career (as wives have done for their husbands through most of history). However, like it or not, I have the patriarchal baggage of the centuries stowed away in my psyche and there is no way I am ever going to shift it. Tragically. the more successful my wife is the more of a failure I regard myself. This silliness will not submit to logic. There is nothing I can do to get rid of it. I have to be successful at something and be paid for it (another man thing cemented into our brains by centuries of tradition) or I will die believing it has all been an incredible waste of time and that I screwed it all up.