Paul was an anchor in law school. When I didn’t believe I was worthy to be among my classmates, he convinced me otherwise. He supported me and encouraged me in all endeavors. Paul, however, wanted no part of my endeavors. He rarely accompanied me to events, small or large. “You go and have fun,” he would say.
Paul worked as a psychiatric aide at Duke Hospital, a job that provided a living wage and good benefits. It didn’t take long, however, for Duke to become Paul’s new object of anger. In our home, Duke became the evil institution – a bit awkward given I was pursuing two graduate degrees there.
I felt very fortunate to have the opportunity to study at such a grand university. I loved walking the beautiful, gothic campus, sometimes pinching myself to make sure that this trailer-park girl was really a Duke student. Sure, I had philosophical differences with the traditional, Socratic delivery of legal education at Duke, which I found to be oppressive. Yes, I bristled at the excesses and the obsession with high paying law firm jobs. But I could not relate to Paul’s intense anger. Duke was, after all, providing me with invaluable training and opportunities, with the means to pursue my calling.
Paul also continued to harbor anger at institutional religion. Since high school, he had planned to be a preacher. He was a very good preacher too. But the Southern Baptist Convention had left Paul behind when it turned fundamentalist, and Paul could not see another avenue to a career as a preacher.
Paul and I joined Watts Street Baptist Church when we moved to Durham, our first church home as a couple. Watts became a sanctuary for me, a place where I could both worship and be an activist. Such was not the case for Paul. Despite sharing the values and mission of Watts, Paul struggled to attend, often opting for his “bedside” place of worship.
Paul was miserable, and as you know, misery loves company.