Before we got married, our rabbi asked me and Mani each to write some words about each other and our relationship to share with him, from which he would pluck some gems to share with the friends and family who would be witness to our commitment.
One of the things Mani wrote was that she would always have my back–and my front, and my sides. It was and is beautiful-sounding.
I promised to love her unconditionally and accept and support her exactly as she is. Also beautiful-sounding, the stuff we all love to get behind (and in front of, and next to).
Saying things out loud–stating our intentions–is a sacred part of creating and enacting what we want and need. But where these things really matter is in how they show up in our actions. If we mean it but can’t, won’t, or just don’t show our beloved, or anyone to whom we make a promise–do we really mean it?
Any relationship is grounds for continual reflection. Sometimes, I catch discrepancies in the things I say: I love you unconditionally, but why don’t you just… or I’ve got your back, but I’m still going to go ahead and say yes to something I know makes you uncomfortable or unhappy.
Maybe it all comes down to the “but.”
That one little word has a lot of power, essentially to negate everything that came before it. Like most things, I think it’s a matter of degree; none of is perfect–nor should that ever be an excuse for forgetting or neglecting what we signed up for.
Accepting others fully as they are is impossible if we don’t accept ourselves fully as we are. Ask Jung or Buddha or your favorite rabbi. Better yet, just ask yourself, every time someone makes you feel impatient or irritated. Mirror, mirror, indeed.
She has my back, my sides, my front. She shows me this everyday, in so many ways. I love her unconditionally, and never, ever want her to feel hung out to dry, second to anyone or anything.
I took a walk today, down to the farm about a half mile from our place. The flowers drying upside-down were the only evidence I could find of the place not being closed up for winter, that and a chalkboard announcing the price of chestnuts. I sat down next to a towering weeping willow and played around with some photos, listening to the birds, some music pounding from the frat house up the hill, a leaf-blower in the distance. I felt overcome with love for the day, and for the woman who every step of the way led me to. I sent her a picture of some dried flowers, and told her I want to give her so many beautiful things. You do, she replied.
I want to treat my imperfection with gentleness. To meet every stumble as a brand-new chance to stop on my way out of out bedroom to read our ketubah, the contract we wrote and signed on September 27, where we lay it all out–the intentions, the visions, the vows we got to say and now get to embody, exhibit, and inhabit.
Hung out to dry never looked so lovely.
That’s what came to mind when I saw the flowers in that little shed. I knew what the first four words of that expression meant, but looked it up anyway. It was as if I was seeking confirmation for the worst-case scenario so as to be more aware of choosing the best one. There is so much beauty, I thought, in this life of mine, of ours. Sometimes it makes me feel euphoric, like my heart will burst with tenderness. Sometimes it makes me sad, because I don’t want to miss it.
And then I look around myself–she is sitting there next to me, Pearlie just emerged from singing in the shower, and Aviva is wearing the “Dance Mama” jacket from the Buffalo Arts Academy that my mom’s fellow teachers gave her as a gift in 1978 when I was four. My dad just inscribed Sam Hamill’s new collected poems, Habitation, for us, and I can’t wait to dive into it.
How best to thank life for never once hanging me out to dry? How best to not hang my own vows out to dry?
By treating the people I love most in the world as lovingly and loyally as humanly possible–a thought as simple and obvious as it seems. No “but” needed.
After making love, we are like
rivers come down from mountain summits.
We are still, we are moving,
calm in the depths of danger–
two rivers entering the sea
slowly, as if nothing matters:
quietly, but with great power,
merging in deepening waters.
—Sam Hamill, “Mountains and Rivers Without End”
There is still time to register for the December 1-12 Online Writing Group! If you’re short on time and strapped for cash, but still want some structure and inspiration for your practice, the Self-Paced Writing Class option was designed just for you.