“Anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.” – David Whyte
I have written about many things – my father’s passing, a tornado that swept though town, the cyst in my back, divorce. But I find myself in the land of the sublime – inspired and awed – about what happened last week. On a beach in California, witnessed by one friend and the ocean, I married the person who inspires me with his love and compassion. The person who humbles me with his depth of caring for others and his endless curiosity. He loves everyone he meets without question. He Googles a dozen things at once — 17th c. Indian gurus and lyrics for cringe-worthy 80s ballads. He is very wise and incredibly cheesy.
When I met Chris, I wondered if he was too much. I’d first noticed him at a coffee house. He’d clearly just gotten done with a workout at the gym next door and was toweling his sweaty face while talking loudly with a friend. “Who is that guy?” I wondered. I found him annoying and pictured him with a sports car and a younger woman. How very off base I was. When we met months later at a dinner party, I remembered his big energy, but this time I heard what he was saying – the smart, funny way his mind worked, the sweetness he expressed about his clients and his family.
We began a dialogue – email and then by phone. We talked about “the Pottery Barn narrative” of modern romance – the way we all think it will look but never does because there are always cobwebs above that teak table and the chair always gets a wine stain. We asked whether it is possible to be parallel but intertwined – two people living their independent adult lives but remaining deeply connected. We compared notes about who we each were when we’d first married – younger in every way was the agreed assessment.
I came to realize that not only was he not too much but he was just right. I am quiet and reserved. He talks to everyone. Spending nine days in California with Chris last week I learned about how the servers at wine bars in the Dry Creek area of Sonoma feel about the nearby uber-secretive Bohemian Grove (“It’s not weird at all!” defended one woman, while another said, “You mean the place with the sex slaves and the human sacrifice?”). I don’t dance much, but with Chris I went to a 5-Rhythms class and swayed in the back while blissed-out octogenarians and super svelte ballet types jammed to chaotic electronic music. I didn’t necessarily enjoy it – but I sure did something I never would have done on my own. I don’t drink coffee. But last week I discovered that I could tell the difference between a so-so cappuccino and, well, a sublime one. And last week I laughed a lot. A whole lot. Even when we were in the middle of a tiff we had a huge laugh over the 15 minutes it took both of us – cell phones in hand downloading car manuals – to figure out how to open our rental car’s gas tank.
At the beginning of our stay in the Bay Area, Chris and I opened up a circle, inviting in guides and loved ones to help us with our journey. On our final night, standing on a cliff over the ocean, we closed that circle. “You have to close one circle to let another open,” he said. I feel so many possibilities hovering on the edge, each waiting to form into a circle, each filled with the bigness and rightness of this connection.
When I had the words “love makes us strong” tattooed on my back the sentiment was all about my children. “Get through this difficult time with, by, and for them,” was my thinking. Four years later, the words are just as true. To be loved wholly by another person – someone who will show up for you and with you again and again is an amazing gift, one that gives you great strength.
Laurie Anderson’s tribute to her best friend, husband, and true love Lou Reed appeared this week. I was in tears at her words: “But the thing that surprised me about getting married was the way it altered time. And also the way it added a tenderness that was somehow completely new. To paraphrase the great Willie Nelson: ‘Ninety percent of the people in the world end up with the wrong person. And that’s what makes the jukebox spin.’ Lou’s jukebox spun for love and many other things, too – beauty, pain, history, courage, mystery.”
At one point, after believing I’d never marry again, I thought this marriage might be largely pragmatic – health insurance and hospital visitation rights. But it’s by far the most spiritual thing I’ve ever done – and I sense that last week’s ceremony was only the beginning. What happened on Muir Beach created a circle, one with infinite ripples.