Marry Life Every Day

10710707_10204255076353631_7973461933437247856_nOK, Yoda. There is no try, only do. It’s 7:30am, and I just got an alert that my office will not open until 10:00am due to a power outage. An unexpected chance to move more slowly into the day.

Today, October 8, was my due date with Aviva twelve years ago; I remember waking with anticipation, as if somehow my body would obey the numbers I’d had in my head for so many months. She waited till the 10th. Last night, I dreamed that she was sad on her birthday morning, and it wasn’t until an hour or so later that I realized why–I’d forgotten and not wished her a happy birthday first thing. Mani asked me this morning, Have you ever actually forgotten one of your kids’ birthdays? No, no I haven’t.

Numbers, somehow containing secrets we may never know the meaning of, if there is a hidden meaning at all. Aviva came on 10/10, which was also my wedding anniversary. I’ve always felt that she knew this; came very deliberately then, as if to announce her place in our lives. Now, October 10 is no longer a day I celebrate as an anniversary of marriage, but it will always be her day, and while it’s not a palindrome like her name, the 1-0-1-0 has a similar quality of wholeness.

My mom and I were talking the other day about October and the other anniversaries and dates and numbers that hold significance. My grandmother died in the earliest hours of 11/1; my aunt Nancy died on SwissAir flight #111. Pearl Primus died on 10/29, which was Nancy’s birthday. My mom notices the clock at 1:11, and nearly every day I notice it at 1:04, Aviva’s time of birth.

When I lived in Mexico in the late 90s for a while, I met a numerologist. She did a reading based on my birth name. I don’t remember the details much, though she said I was meant to be a teacher of some kind. I was 22 and had at once a deep sense of who I was and an equally fraught lack of clear direction in terms of how to apply that to life in practical terms. Back then, there was so much I hadn’t experienced of life–which I realize writing may sound lofty (I can imagine someone 20, 30, 40 years older than me reading that and smiling knowingly). But it’s true. Marriage, pregnancy, childbirth, professional navigation, babies, crises, family life, separation, divorce, coming out, grief, discovery, loss, new love, remarriage… Who knew?!

But isn’t that how it is? We can only know what we know at any given moment of time. So many of my poems from those years refer to hints and whispers; I’m always listening for what I don’t and perhaps can’t audibly hear, but sense. Some pulsing at the outer edges of a container with no edges–an expansiveness that is simply felt.

Yesterday, I asked a close friend if she’d draw a card for me. I just felt that pull–for something to zero in on. She texted me back the Daughter of Swords. “Learning the ways of clarity.” And a second card, from a deck she made herself: Trust.

Clarity and trust. Numbers and knowing. Navigating in the dark, always noticing the light and how it changes throughout the day. Early morning fog so dense it’s impossible to see what’s just beyond, if nearby–this never stops us from proceeding. How is it that that kind of faith is easy–we know the road will not just vaporize, and so stay on it despite the lack of visibility–and yet we can assign such fear to the places in our lives that suggest uncertainty?

As a woman in my early 20s, I was deeply conflicted. The life model most familiar to me and my inner yearnings for something big and free didn’t align internally. And so I poured myself into trying to get them to synch up. Sometimes they did. It doesn’t so much matter now. The important thing was–is–to keep going. Yes, there are Big Moments. And, there is no big moment life is leading up to. Or every moment is big, and some feel more momentous than others.

The day before our wedding, I was still running around town like a crazy lady, tending to final details that seemed to self-multiply, responding to emails, carrying concerns about Mani’s health and wellbeing, which have been compromised ever since her anaphylactic experience in June, concerns about all of our kids having a happy weekend, crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s of an event we’d spent months preparing for and planning. I lost–and found–my wallet. Twice. And then, Friday evening at our rehearsal dinner, came these words of advice from Mani’s aunt, who is a caterer and has worked with many a bride: Slow down. Don’t Worry. Let other people do things. Be here. (I may be paraphrasing, but that was the gist.)

I so didn’t want to miss it. I didn’t want to miss my wedding day. I knew it would come and go like that, like everything. Like life, really–happy, sad, good, bad, easy, hard, and otherwise. So at 5:00pm on September 27, when my father and I walked down the aisle, he sat down, and Mani was standing there waiting for me to circle her, waiting to circle me, and then for us to circle each other in a slow dance of intention before entering the shelter of the chuppah, I was all there. I was all there because I wanted to be, chose to be, had to be. Because I didn’t want to look back on that day and think, Damn. I missed it.

That next hour was palpably full with presence. With intention and devotion and so many tears, and thankfully some humor. Our guests felt not like an audience but like participants–which is exactly what we’d hoped for. Our daughters’ voices, beauty, and talent unglued me. My parents’ and our friends’ blessings were just that–pure, genuine. The way Mani’s lip trembled when our rabbi offered his Priestly Blessing. How we said, “I do.” We said, “I am.” We said, “We are.” We said, “We will.”

And then it was over, and the two of us left the building for a few minutes to be alone. We actually walked a block or so up Main Street, me in my dress and Mani in her gorgeous suit and blue kippah. A bunch of college students were hanging out and drinking on front lawns (it was Homecoming Weekend at UMass), and as we walked by they hooted and hollered and cheered. One even shouted, “Mazel tov!” Some cars honked. I felt beautiful. Present. Seen. Elated.

Kids having fun at a wedding seems to me like the best possible evidence of a good time had by all–and did they ever dance. The rest of the weekend carried a similar tone, of basking. In the unseasonably warm days, in the love of friends and family which encircled us from all sides, both here in town and from all over. We felt it. There are no words–or I could dig for them, but don’t need to, so complete and perfect was the experience itself.

Why do we need words? More and more, I’ve come to live my life without as much recording and explanation of it. Some of this is because the stresses and “hard parts” are simply private, not to be processed in the public sphere. But perhaps more than that even, it’s because I don’t want to miss it. Writing can cut both ways–be a portal to integrating and fully absorbing life, and also a barrier or misguided attempt to capture what cannot be held. I’ll take both, and simply trust which is which.

But I can tell you this: I realized, on that morning before taking vows, that I wanted to live that way. Meet each day as if my whole life had been leading me here, as if I’d spent months preparing and now had nothing to do but truly show up. Not every day is a wedding day. Or a birthday. Or an anniversary. We make this distinction and call everything else “ordinary.” Most days, I do not wear fancy shoes or a veil, do not stand before witnesses. Or do I? Am I not my own witness? Are my children, my co-workers, each person I encounter at work or on the street, my sisters and friends, not witnesses?

Marry life every day. Renew the vows, open to joy. The facts of what may be scary or stressful just sit there–they change all on their own, whether I’m relating to them tensely or openly. So why not open, and just be. Here. Now. Blessed. The hints of what’s to come may still whisper; some will surface and others never will. Clarity will brighten and fade, wane and return. Trust is the underpinning, and as long as I remain anchored inside of my own body, come back to what is, this is available to me. Always.

I don’t know where this post started, or quite how I got here. But rather than re-reading and editing and attempting to make sure it holds up, I’m going to post it. Because this space is for letting the words fall out and land where they may; it’s for remembering not to miss it, that day, or this one. It’s for noting the mystery of the numbers and appreciating first the fog, then the clearing. And knowing that everything co-exists, nothing is static, not memory, not marriage, not life flowing and seasons ever-changing.

When I wrote a poem years ago called “What I’ll Miss,” I had no idea it foreshadowed the rest of my life, and would deliver a collection of poems called “Don’t Miss This.” And when I completed that collection, I made a vow. To live that way, to come back to presence. To treat every day like a special occasion. To take Aunt Laurie’s wisdom to heart: Slow down. Don’t worry. Let other people help. Be here.

10 thoughts on “Marry Life Every Day

  1. Lindsey Mead (@lemead) says:

    Yes, yes, and yes. I believe in the hidden power of numbers and in the immense, not-at-all hidden power of being here. And yet I continue to miss so much, because for some reason it’s so hard. Thanks for reminding me of why this matters. xoxox


  2. Scot Cameron says:

    I love the title paragraph, Jena! Embracing each day like a marriage is such a beautiful and powerful metaphor. Gratitude and acceptance are forms of grace available to all if we trust our hearts and the hearts of those we love. Thank you!


  3. Erin says:

    I visit your page and gulp up every word until I am drunk and stumble away only to return some weeks or months and do the same thing all over again.



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