Tuesday, May 31, 2011

More on Marriage

This is not the first time that my friend Stacey and I have unwittingly posted about similar subjects. But this time I feel compelled to link to her entry. It just seems to add another layer to the marriage discussion.

Tying the Knot

"Make more decisions in every day. Because a decision is a summoning of life.” Esther Abraham-Hicks

Two weeks. Two weddings.

My youngest niece and my oldest friend got married a week apart, and their weddings were—on paper—very different.

My brother’s daughter, Laura, is 27 and got married at a small inn near Downingtown, PA. The rehearsal dinner was at a local brew house. The ceremony was outdoors. The guests ranged from twenty-something friends to grandparents, aunts & uncles, and cousins. The bride carried fat purple tulips. Her mother made the delicate white-and-green centerpieces. And each guest took home an upscale version of a Swiss Army knife.

My friend Marla, who I’ve know for more years than either of us care to add up, got married at The Carlyle in Manhattan. Several of us joked about it being the real Royal Wedding: an entire weekend of lavish and glamorous festivities hosted by the bride & groom. Candlelight and overblown arrangements of peonies and roses in dusty shades of pink and coral, created a flattering backdrop for the black-tie clad grownups who danced to a live band and carried home a CD of the wedding music as a memento.

There were some similarities. Neither wedding was held in a church. The ceremonies were nontraditional. The number of guests was about the same (intimate). There were the obligatory toasts, dances, and cake cutting. The food was fantastic. And both brides looked absolutely gorgeous.

There was also the requisite trash talk going on beforehand. Why didn’t Laura ask her sister to be her maid of honor? Why did a bride & groom who truly have everything register for wedding gifts? At Tiffany, no less!

In the end, none of the above mattered. When the time came to sit still and listen to each couple say their vows, it was all about one thing: love. The joy on their faces as they said their “I Do’s.” The way they held hands and slipped rings on each other’s fingers. The way they looked into each other's eyes as they took to the dance floor for the first time as husband and wife. And most of all, their willingness to formalize their commitment in a way that so many modern couples don’t have the courage to do.

Tying the knot isn’t always about that proverbial noose around the neck. Laura & Patrick, and Marla & Barry, have lived real life. They know what awaits them when their honeymoons are over. Given that, the fact that they place importance on knotting their futures together publicly (and legally), on pledging to live up to the promises spoken aloud with champagne glasses in hand, is something special. And they truly deserve the support and genuine best wishes of those who love them most.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day

Mother's Day is one of those manufactured holidays that, over time, has come to feel very...well...manufactured.

Not that I have anything against honoring moms. (Or dads, for that matter.) And not that I don't enjoy having an excuse to tell my mother I appreciate her. Or to spend time with my fabulous son, without whom I wouldn't actually be a mother. It's just that I'm one of those people who believes that we don't need a Hallmark holiday to tell us when to express our gratitude for our loved ones.

This year, I'm also keenly aware of the impact this holiday has on those who can no longer speak to or visit with their moms. Jim and several of my friends have lost their mothers in the past few months. For them, this is a day filled with sadness. An occasion to be endured. I don't think Hallmark has a card for that.

Thinking about their losses, I was reminded of how blessed I am to have my mom in my life. I also decided that one way to override that "manufactured" feeling was to be as fully present in the day as possible. So I soaked in the glorious sunshine. Savored the heady perfume as Jim and I made our annual trek to smell the lilacs at Skylands. Listened with compassion as my mom went on about her newest health issues. Relished a cheeseburger (and waffle fries!) at BLT Burger in NYC with Jake. Saw the unexpected shutdown of the PATH trains in Hoboken as a gift of more time with him--instead of a major inconvenience.

But it was when Jake surprised me with a bouquet of flowers that I felt that rush of pure emotion: joy mixed with pride topped with "wow." That's when I realized that Mother's Day is like any other day: we get to decide how we're going to experience it.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

What's Blossoming?

What's blossoming?

This was a prompt that showed up in my Inbox in early April. The month's incessant rains had just begun, but already the white and purple crocuses had come and gone, replaced by daffodils and forsythia drenched in saturated, soul-stirring shades of yellow.

So I noted this in my journal, then went on to say that my heart was blossoming, too. Fresh, rain-washed breezes, sneaking in through open windows, had begun to clear my mental cobwebs. And my creative self was stirring, opening to new possibilities.

As nature responded to April's showers in predictable ways, more blossoming was in store for me, too--the result of a spontaneous decision to sign up for an online course called Sparkles. Daily 5-minute creative exercises, which I mostly did in the mornings before heading to work, set a tone that stayed with me as I faced constant stress and frustration in the office. What a gift it was to stop periodically and reconnect to the joy I'd felt earlier in the day, immersed in some new way of seeing, writing, thinking, or drawing.

Today, as I flip the calendar to May, I can look back and see the full impact of this month-long practice. How it has filled my well with resources and inspiration. And reawakened the thrill of catching a tiny spark of creativity and gently nursing it into a glowing fire. But without the crutch of those emails, the challenge to make space for daily self expression falls to me. Can I sustain it? Will the joy it brings over ride my natural inclination to make something else more important?

This morning, as I walked Jim to his car for his journey home, I noticed a few clusters of pale purple on a small bush in my neighbor's yard. The first lilacs of the year! The breakfast dishes beckoned. As did the laundry. I grabbed my camera anyway and snapped a few pictures. I took the time to close my eyes and inhale the flowers' heady perfume: one of my favorite things in the world. Then I sat down to write this post.

One day down. A lifetime to go.