Now I was still “a good Catholic” a year later at a Church camp when a priest, who later left the priesthood and married an ex-nun, said around the campfire, “If the only reason you go to Mass on Sunday is to avoid mortal sin, you shouldn’t go!” My mouth must
have been hanging open. This was a man of the cloth giving me permission, it seemed, to do whatever I liked. Apparently, at the time, all I needed was a bona fide authority figure’s pronouncement to loosen the shackles that had bound me all these years. That campout was the beginning of my liberation as a woman who could now begin to think for herself.
When I was unhappy a few years later, often thinking, “Is this all there is for the rest of my life?” it was only after a good friend convinced me I wasn’t meant to be unhappy that I dared to separate and then divorce. As the first one in my family to divorce, I did not
feel support from my parents.
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As many divorced people did in the ‘70’s, I enjoyed a good deal of personal freedom. I’d spent a summer month on a car trip to California from Iowa, while my kids, around 4 and 6, were with their grandparents on the farm. Seeing personal ads in California papers, I came back and placed the first such ad in the Iowa City paper. I met Don and Frank, both professors at the University of Iowa. I grew to love them both, and my kids and I spent alternate weekends with them. Both lovers knew of the other, and felt fine about our times together. I’ve never felt tempted by swinging, but can see the potential merits of polyfidelity. I see people as capable of loving more than one partner. If not for jealousy, it could have many benefits beyond having more than one lover. (The ex-nun in me is amazed that I believe this. But I do. )
How can I explain to you, let alone to myself, how the obedient child became the autonomous woman? From that priest at the campout to the influence of many friends and authors and public figures, I have learned to listen inside more and more. I am
comfortable in my body, and love the childlike freedom of no clothes whenever I get the chance. Still, I am not surprised when the old need for propriety and approval occasionally come up. I am now quicker to notice when I have taken someone else’s truth for my own. And I’m open to any new experience that my heart leads me to.
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