April 2018

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Invitation

Sunday, my partner Ann and I participated in our dear friends' Pam and Allyson's wedding. In the ceremony, I read Oriah Mountain Dreamer's poem, "The Invitation" and Ann worked with three others to do some complicated arranging and rearranging of candles--(and, because I sat right behind Pam and Allyson, I worked to make sure that their long white dresses didn't catch on fire. That was my most important role.)

The weekend's events (cocktails Friday night, rehearsal and lunch Saturday, rehearsal dinner Saturday night, praying for clear skies on Sunday and outdoor wedding Sunday evening) celebrated their love for one another and their sometimes painful and always truthful journey to one another. They celebrated their commitment to living full lives, and so they also celebrated family and friends. It is a gift to be among their friends.

The celebration was love-affirming and life-affirming. We witnessed this coming together of six lives (Allyson, her three children, Pam, and their golden retriever, Sunshine), and "The Invitation" introduced this theme of commitment to a full life at the beginning of the ceremony:

I want to know if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your
fingers and toes
without cautioning us to
be careful
be realistic
to remember the limitations of being human.

The two of them, individually and as a couple, bring such joy into my life. They make music, laugh, and live their lives together in such a lovely way. Pam and I have been friends for 17 years or so, and Allyson has entered my life in the last four. 

Allyson and I have a lot in common, so it's no surprise that I loved her from the start: we're both introverts who aren't shy; we both love words and love to laugh; we both love Pam.

Pam and I have walked with one another on some joyful, fun paths and through some tough terrain over these years. We photographed bears at the top of a waterfall as they tried to catch jumping salmon in Alaska; we had massages in Antigua, Guatemala, the afternoon we had planned to visit some ruins (and then made reservations for our partners the next day); Pam lived with Ann and me for a few months when she and her previous partner (also a dear friend) were going through some rough times; Pam laughed with me about the absurdities of "competitions" when I was in rehab after neurosurgery, and she brought me chocolate chip milkshakes from Baskin Robbins in order to return some bulk to me after my weight loss; (Forty pounds later, I had to lose some weight); Pam and I have visited our friend Lori, who has cerebral palsy, together, and in those visits Pam has been showing me how to listen; Pam played her guitar and sang Sara Hickman's "Simply" at Ann's and my commitment ceremony: 

I'll tell you simply I'm fallin' for you;
I've never felt this way before.
I don't need flowers and I don't mind tears;
I just need you through the years.

(My dad said, "You said Pam sings, but I didn't know she could really sing!). The list of our adventures together goes on.

This wedding reminded me and Ann of our love for each other and our own commitment ceremony (before our marriage was legal) and then our wedding. We held hands and remembered our years together and our recent anniversary trip to Paradise at Mount Rainier. 

In addition to thinking about Ann's and my commitment to one another and to leading full lives, this weekend has me thinking about the nature of friendship. What is friendship? Hours together, lives and stories shared, kindness and laughter, loss and shared grief, listening and living truly.

When I was in junior high school, making friends was hard for me, and perhaps I learned then to cherish the friends who seem solid in my life. Now I feel lucky: my partner Ann loves me in a way that I never imagined possible, and friends fill my home and my life. 

Life has at times seemed hard, but these days I feel mostly tremendous gratitude, and the appreciation seems so simple. As my North Carolina man James Taylor sang: 

The secret of life 
Is enjoying the passage of time.
Any fool can do it, 
There ain't nothing to it.

It really is so simple, isn' it? And love, which seemed complicated when I was trying to make it appear in the way that I had grown up believing it should be, is really simple, too. As J.T. continued: 

The secret of love 
Is in opening up your heart.
It's okay to feel afraid, 
But don't let that stand in your way.
'Cause anyone knows 
That love is the only road.
And since we're only here for a while, 
Might as well show some style. 
Give us a smile.

Isn't it a lovely ride?

Yes, J.T. It is a lovely ride. When my heart feels big and open, I feel such gratitude: for friends and family, for the beautiful outdoors and music anywhere. Such joy is so much simpler than I have sometimes tried to make it. 

I'd like to stay in this place of trust and truth, this spacious place of gratitude, knowing that I am okay and the world is okay--miraculous, really. 

If only I could. When I'm wise, I will. 

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