Harry & Meghan

Megan Markle addressing a UN Women Event (K. Salasin 2015)

My son was 19 when he first accompanied me to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women–CSW (where I serve as an NGO delegate for Federation EIL–the worldwide network of the Experiment in International Living.)

That year, NGO’s were offered seats at a UN Women event at the Manhattan Center in the nosebleed section of the Hammerstein Ballroom.

My son and I stood in line outside in the rain eating burgers from the 5 Guys across the street so that we could be there for the impressive (and long!) lineup of speakers–including Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the President of Liberia and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

Clinton was followed up by Meghan Markle (unfamiliar to me), who silenced the room with the statistics she shared about the future of gender equality (predicted in 2095!)

But it was Markle’s personal story, referencing a Spic & Span commercial, that really clobbered me, in its simplicity, revealing the subtle magnitude of discrimination whose legacy pervades cultural norms and perpetuates an inequality that harms–all (and which I suddenly understood defined the trajectory of my own life which I had always viewed through an empowered lens.)

My son didn’t notice the tears sliding down my cheeks when he leaned in to ask: “How does that dress stay up on her shoulders?”

We hadn’t known then that Markle was a descendant of slaves and noblemen–a distant cousin to Prince Harry–who she would meet in the year to come–and who she will now wed.

(Turns out Meghan & Harry’s wedding is slated for May 19, 2018, my own wedding anniversary.)

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a virtual toast


Although by most accounts our relationship took root on the physical plane, all these years later, I recognize that it is our tender hearts that drew us together.

What an honor to have ushered in your 21st–and each & every birthday after that–with a wink to 52–and your incarnation as a Black Jack dealer–just before we met.

The world is luckier & luckier to have you in it.
I’m lucky too.

Love, the underdog

On the third day, we rose, and resumed “normal” life, having resurrected tenderness with two days of love play which to our surprise included a visit to a widow and kindness toward a stranger; and something else–a new insight into an old question: Why do we always end up in these marginal towns/cities/places? Can’t we imagine/afford/allow more for ourselves?

No doubt the long light of our nuptial month and its thousand shades of green inspired another perspective:

We share a heart for the underdog and for the sense of possibility in fragile places…

like this morning’s bills and the laundry and the neglected lawn.

Devotion & the sea

i couldn’t bear to interrupt their flow to ask for their email to send them the photos i never should have taken… but they nourished my anniversary view as much as the sea beyond them and my beloved’s face beside me… her foot. his hand. their eyes. his leaning in. listening. how she pulled the table as close as possible to the sea. to catch the last kisses of the sun. how her skin had already soaked up the day. how she knew how to love and be loved and how he knew how to give himself to that…

 

25 Years, Uncelebrated

low tide
low tide

I imagined a big celebration for our 25th–enacted “back home” at the shore with extended family & old friends–but that’s as far as I got. It was very sweet. There were strawberries. Dark chocolate. Tequila. And nachos (our first, favorite food together.) There was a ceremony, honoring the divine feminine and masculine (very unusual for the Jersey shore.) And there words like those below, shared by loved ones.

But I realized that I preferred it my imagination without the practicality and inevitable complication of pulling it altogether.

Alternately, I imagined a big trip, like our friends took for their 25th–to Greece!–but that didn’t happen either.

Our 25th anniversary year has been a shy one. Simmering. Gently expanding perhaps. Especially at this time of year–summertime–when the living is easy–and when we first fell in love with one another–a much sweeter time than our troubled nuptials.

It’s as if I’m waiting. For the right moment. The compelling knowing. The path to emerge from the earth itself. Like the mystery of love bubbling up inside a soul.

If I look back on this blog, I see that our marriage entered a period of turbulence, this time last year. I’d say it’s still here, though in its denouement.

We were cycling out of another turbulent period like this  one when we celebrated our last big milestone, here in the mountains. Most of our family couldn’t make the 300 mile trip, but after knowing us for a scant decade and a half, local friends came out in hoards–70 of them–to celebrate love and commitment and the realities of relationship at the 21 year mark.

After we undid our vows, our neighbor spoke these words:

… Over a sixteen-year span, I saw more than just two people in love. I saw clearly what Kelly calls “The Marriage Journey”, and I saw more. I saw children born and the evolution of dwelling and place, times of both pulling in and reaching out. I witnessed them in scarcity and abundance, physical separation and togetherness. Between Kelly and Casey, there exists mutually the exploration of passion: the passion they have for each other, as well as, the passion for their individuated paths, the ones on which they strike out more and more as they mature into a couple made up of two living as one, one living as two, and of course the couple as pillars to their families.

And so, Kelly and Casey, on this day of rapture, this joyous honoring of your past, your present, and your future, I speak for us all, when I share this stanza from Little Gidding by TS Elliot, an esteemed wordsmith, who, like the two of you, made his life’s work a homage to both soul and society…

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flames are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

There’s some secret in there that I long to know. Perhaps it points the way to us in this remarkable, long-term relationship that inspires others and nourishes ourselves and terrifies me in all the ways it might end, including that inevitable–death.

(may 2015)

Your wedding day. It doesn’t matter.

Artist: Morisot~the first woman to join the circle of Impressionists.

What I want to tell brides on their wedding day is that it doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter if it rains.

It doesn’t matter if it’s the hottest day on record, and the air condition in the reception hall–on the 33rd floor of the beachfront hotel–breaks down.

It doesn’t matter if you wake with your period which wasn’t expected for another week.

It doesn’t matter if the photographer’s car breaks down on the Parkway and he won’t make it in time for the photo shoot at the hotel you booked to serve as “home” because your parents aren’t speaking to each other.

It doesn’t matter if the flowers arrive all wrong just as you hang up the phone with said photographer.

It doesn’t matter if your mother has finally hit bottom, and arrives with matted hair, barely able to stand.

It doesn’t matter if your best friend–the one you’re about to marry–uncharacteristically sabotages the wedding he so wanted by getting so drunk the night before that he wakes you in the middle of the night, just to slur how much he loves you before hanging up the phone to run to the toilet.

It doesn’t matter that the best man thinks this story is so funny that he repeats it to you, emphasizing how it was “coming out both ends.”

It doesn’t matter that your father first refuses to ride in the limousine with you on the way to the church because it leaves out your step mother.

It doesn’t matter that none of the photos taken (on your father’s camera) of you with both your parents (without your stepmother) never materialize.

It doesn’t matter if the minister talks about the disappointments of marriage instead of the blessings; or if he squeezes your hand so tightly–when introducing you to the congregation as husband and wife–that your diamond cuts into your pinkie.

It doesn’t matter if someone passes out in front of the musicians at communion.

It doesn’t matter if your aunt screams, “You’ll ruin her dress!” about the bubbles you distributed for the guests to blow.

It doesn’t matter if tiny little black bugs fill your veil and bite your entire wedding party so that someone is scratching in every photo.

It doesn’t matter that there is an awkward, exacting silence (instead of applause) when you are introduced as a married couple for the first time because you’ve omitted last names to avoid the glaring focus that nothing changed about them.

It doesn’t matter if your deejay plays all the songs carefully delineated on your “no play” list including “Shout,” and “We are Family.”

It doesn’t matter if the bouquet hits a chandelier and breaks across your sister’s face.

It doesn’t matter if your friends leave without you and you have to call for a ride after the reception.

It doesn’t matter if your husband drops you across the threshold.

It doesn’t even matter if you don’t like weddings or dressing up or being the center of attention.

It doesn’t matter because somehow there is grace.

There must be.

Because even though every one of those things (except for a handful which happened to friends) happened to me, I still felt r-a-d-i-a-n-t and b-l-e-s-s-e-d on that crappy/beautiful day.

And still do,

25 anniversaries later.

May it be the same for you.

Right Where We Are…

vispix.com
vispix.com

After a handful of years of neglect, as reflected by the lack of posts on this blog, I find myself turning my attention back to my marriage, like I did the year that I posted a handful of times every month.

This may be due to our approaching our 25th wedding anniversary; or it could simply be that there’s suddenly enough “pause” in the pulse of our lives to consider our marriage apart from everything else.

I suspect a strong correlation with parenting. The last time we invested a bulk of energy into our marriage was just before our oldest launched into the most turbulent years of adolescence.

He’s 19 now, and our youngest has another year to go before he swipes all of our energy; so this year is OURS.

Ironically, it was our oldest who inspired this turning of attention–with a song he shared just this week–reminding my heart just how much it loves AND just how buried that love becomes…

I posted this song to my husband’s Facebook wall, and later asked if he could pick out the line that moved me most.

He could. (And I could pick out his favorite lines too.)

That’s something.

(ps. Casey, this artist is younger than our marriage! Born 9 months after our wedding.)

The Weight of Balance

In my mid-twenties, I began to crave balance. I extracted myself from my family of origin; gave up my lifestyle of travel and partying; and settled down with a man, a job and a home.

Despite the absence of my long coveted freedom, I was surprisingly happy; so I went in search of even MORE balance: cleaning up my diet; incorporating regular aerobic activity; guarding my sleep; attending Al-Anon meetings; delving into spiritual texts, and even taking fiber.

While friends and family members suffered lives strewn with chaos, I strode steadily along my neat and narrow road. I was so carefully balanced, that by the time I had kids, I tipped right over.

Children challenge a life reliant on balance. (Duh.) Parenting by nature inhabits a world of extremes. The most vigilant of those among us, however, will keep at it. We’ll institute feeding schedules, bedtimes, chores and limits. We’ll carefully carve out our own time to force our lives back into balance–like shoving feet back into a pair of pumps at the tail end of a wedding reception.

Yoga provides a quick fix. An hour on the mat, and even the most harried parent will find that sweet gift of “equanimity.”

I love that word. It represents everything that is perfect about balance. But don’t expect it to last. The moment you re-enter family life, you’re knocked on your ass.

Until you stop trying.

In his book, The Three Marriages–Reimagining Work, Self and Relationship, author and poet David Whyte claims that “Poets have never used the word balance. It is too obvious and therefore untrustworthy… and seems to speak as much as to being stuck and immovable.”

Whyte suggests that balance is overrated and self-defeating, often leaving people feeling frustrated and exhausted.

This makes me think of the difference between my two favorite yoga teachers–the one who came before my children, and the one who came after.  I’m forever grateful to Ann for forcing me out of my mind at a time when it defined me, but my current teacher, Scott, is a better fit for my life now.

His approach is ecclectic, incorporating silence and silliness, focus and distraction, chanting and Stevie Ray Vaughan.  Scott encourages us to do a pose “our” way. He reminds us to go to the “steady edge” of our own stretch. He asks us to breathe “santosha” (contentment) into each pose as we express it, no matter how it looks.

I can bring my “whole” imperfect self to Scott’s class, and this resonates well with David Whyte’s advice about integrating work and family and self:  “Separating these aspects from each other in order to balance one against the other serves to destroy the fabric of happiness itself.”

Whyte emphasizes the integral connection between the core commitments of our lives, telling readers to “stop trying to work harder in each of the marriages and start to concentrate on the conversation that holds them together.”

This reminds of the unique way that Scott leads the class through balancing poses. First of all, he guides us to use the wall for support, and then he tells us to let the “falling” out of the pose be a part of its full expression.

Whyte claims that this sense of “unbalancing” must take place in life in order to push us into a new and larger sets of circumstances.

Does this sound scary to anyone else? Especially to those of us who have held our lives together with a fierce commitment to balance?

“Get out of the dynamics of self-entrapment,” says Whyte, “and fall in love–with a person, a future, a work, or with a new sense of self.”

This is the fragile place of imbalance and expansion where I find myself now.

On a recent trip to Chile with my new job, I discover that I can survive without sleep, that I can navigate unknowns in a foreign country (five-thousand miles away from my family), and that I can drink wine with every meal and still be productive.

This experience of freedom from balance allowed me to say yes to the idea of celebrating my  21st wedding anniversary with a large party shortly after I arrived back home.

When the week before the event was loaded up at work, I held onto my new found sense of freedom from balance; and when I was completely tipped over by the news that my date didn’t fit  into the calenders of my precious out of town friends and family, I challenged myself to breathe santosha (contentment) into my choice no matter how it looked.

Dozens of local friends joined us for an evening of celebration, but none needed the space we rented for overnight guests so we decided we’d use the space ourselves.

“Why would you sleep on camp bunk beds when you could go home and be in your own bed right across the road?” my sister asked.  I’m not sure she’d understand if I said: freedom.

I lay there on that thin cot into the wee hours of the night, with the rocking and squeaking of the metal frame, acutely aware at how I had chosen passion over balance again and again, even in this small way.

I woke weary and eager to see how this willingness to “fall” might expand the conversation of my life even further.

I thought back to the anniversary ceremony that my husband and I included in our celebration.  We decided against the traditional “renewal of vows” in favor of an impromptu honoring of each other.

21 years earlier, we stood on a carpeted altar, face to face, holding hands, repeating words from a minister.  Now we stood apart, among friends, flanking a camp stage like opposite pillars of strength.

From that unplanned distance, we spoke words of respect and appreciation and love–a conversation that wove our hearts and our witnesses together.

The next morning, after we finished cleaning up the camp, we danced to our wedding song that we had neglected to play the night before.

Casey drove the first of our cars across the road while I walked home alone.

When he returned by foot to fetch the remaining vehicle, we arrived at opposite sides of the pond at the same moment.

Immediately, I saw us in the roles of the story he’d shared during his honoring of me. It was a lovers myth with the God Shiva and the Goddess Parvati. They too went off on their own to nurture their strengths and visions, and then joined together for a thousand years in “love play.”

As Casey stopped to visit with a neighbor who passed him on the road, I crouched down to dip my fingers into the cool spring waters of the pond and dab them on my third eye. As he finished up the conversation, we each stepped up onto the dock that spanned the pond and walked toward the other.

Half-way across, we met at the damn, where the waters rushed into the stream, heavy from a week of constant rain.  We shared a final celebration embrace, and then continued on our separate ways.

There was a time when our fierce dependence on balance demanded that Casey and I choose the safety of togetherness over the risk of differentiation; But we’ve discarded the weight of that balance in return for a thousand years of love play.

Kelly Salasin, May 22, 2011

The Three Marriages, David Whyte, Riverhead Books, 2009.

For more information about Scott Willis and Hit the Spot Yoga, click here.

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