One year ago today, on a hot and sunny day in a beautiful garden on a small lake in Michigan, many of the people I love most in the world gathered to watch me promise my life to the most amazing man I’ve ever known.
We are in Jamacia right now celebrating our anniversary, but I thought it would be appropriate on this day to share the promises I made to him a year ago. The promises that I will keep making every year for the rest of our lives:
My wedding vows
For a long time it didn’t seem like I’d ever find someone who would love me enough to want to put up with me forever. And for a long time I didn’t. And even when I met you, I didn’t think “this is the man I will one day marry.” I had to discover that, we had to discover it together.
But, discovering that you are in fact that man, truly getting to know you, sharing both hard and joyful times with you, and falling in love with you, has been the biggest and best surprise of my life.
Finding that not only is there someone who will love me enough to want to put up with me forever, but being ready to recognize it once it was here is one of the most important things I have ever done.
Saying “I Love You” doesn’t feel like it does it justice. You inspire me to want to be like you are—more patient, more kind. You make me feel special and loved, and so safe. And you make me feel luckier than I ever thought I could be.
It would be dishonest to promise you that I’ll always be the perfect wife, and I don’t expect you to be a perfect husband. But that’s OK, I don’t want the perfect marriage. I want you, I want us, I want our marriage and our lives together. I want all the imperfections that make us so perfectly suited for each other.
I’ll promise you instead to like you even when you act unlikeable, and love you even when it’s hard. I promise to keep no secrets from you, I promise to be your biggest fan, I promise to remind myself how lucky and proud I am to be your wife and to be a part of your family.
And I make these vows to you:
I will value you as an individual, a partner, and an equal.
I promise to laugh with you when times are good, and support you when times are bad.
I promise to love you, to respect you, to listen to you, and to see you as the extraordinary person that you are.
Even as time and life change us both,
I will choose to share all of myself and my life with you.
Don’t think that I’ve forgotten my pledge quit complaining cold turkey. I’ve been reluctant to post an update, because well…I kind of failed. Big time.
I’ll dissect what happened:
Day 1: Mostly a success. The first day was a Saturday and with my pledge fresh in my mind I held my tongue through minor disappointments and inconveniences. Arrived at the thrift store 10 minutes before they closed? Look how I still managed to find a pair of earrings! Dinner was mediocre? It was nice to have a night out!
Basically not complaining meant that if I couldn’t say anything nice I didn’t say anything at all. Which wasn’t really that hard because it was a pretty nice Saturday.
But it got more complicated after that. The line became blurry — was saying it was cold a complaint? Or just a statement of fact, if it was, in fact cold? Was saying anything that wasn’t positive a complaint? And if so, how can you effectively communicate with other humans if you only say positive things?
By Day 3 I was already giving myself a pass. I had dinner to catch up with a friend and she wanted to know what had been going on in my life. Well, I’m a human in the world and so of course my life isn’t all sunshine and light and leaving out the negative or twisting it into positive statements wouldn’t be accurate. “I’m trying to not complain, so it’s going to be hard to tell you,” I warned her before launching into everything (complaints and all).
And well, everything you hear about slippery slopes is true. I pretty much reverted to my old ways. Sometimes it was because of all of those societal reasons–commiserating about the weather or other shared annoyances. But sometimes I just needed to vent — I just wanted to tell someone about my crappy customer service experience or my sore shoulders.
Two things I can say that this experiment gave me is awareness and accountability.
Even though I fell off the wagon, I had an awareness of when I was complaining that I lacked before and while that awareness didn’t always keep me quiet, it likely did keep me from spewing forth as much negativity as I might have otherwise.
I often wonder how much my friends and family read my blog, but I got my answer with that post. “How’s the not complaining thing going?” was a question I heard a lot. And that post turned out to be one of my most popular in a long time. So either everyone thinks I complain a lot and really needed to cut it out, or a longing to have a more positive outlook on life is something that a lot of people identify with. I’m assume it’s the latter, because I’m not that bad, right?
I should preface this I suppose with confessing that I don’t believe in god. I know enough of religion to know that I am not religious. Growing up I had a vague understanding of the stories of the bible–a kind of pop culture American collective conscience understanding. So this post, for me at least has nothing to do with god.
I knew about Adam and Eve, and how a woman ruined it for everyone. But I never read the story of Cain and Able until I read John Steinbeck’s East of Eden this spring.
And while the religious elements and god’s role in the struggle of good versus evil were interesting (portrayal of the sole fleshed out female character as pure evil aside), one word stuck with me the most: Timshel. A Hebrew word meaning thou mayest. While the connotation is that we have all inherited this original sin and that you can choose to overcome and be worthy in the eyes of god, the word and the concept stuck me in a slightly different way.
There is a point in the book where the modern day Cain, named Cal says to his brother’s girlfriend Abra that he is no good because he is the son of a whore, she says “so what I’m the daughter of a thief.”
In the face of overwhelming guilt that he is responsible for both his brother’s and father’s deaths, the book ends with a single word–a translation that made all the difference in the Cain and Able story: Tismshel: Thou mayest.
What struck me about this thought was that we can overcome our circumstances, and I don’t mean that in a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” sort of way. Cal was not who his mother was, Abra was not who her father was. We are affected by our circumstances, but we do not have to be defined by them.
I know and read about horrible stories of human pain and suffering in the news everyday, but for some reason the story a few weeks ago of the three woman imprisoned and tortured for a decade in a home in Cleveland affected me more strongly than others. Maybe it was because they were women about my age who grew up in an area not too different from where I grew up and the thought of losing the last decade of my life, and of enduring such horrors is incomprehensible to me. And the six-year-old girl, who has only even known that life of horror, whose father was a man capable of that–how can she be happy? How can any of them live in our stupid world full of trivial complaints after that?
And then I heard a story where former victims of such kidnapping and abuse spoke about life after, and another quote stuck with me: “It is something that happened to you, it is not who you are.”
We live our whole lives with the burdens of our pasts. Our experiences, our circumstances, our childhoods, our parents, our joys and heartbreaks all color who we are. But the beauty in life and is that we have a choice. Not an easy one, but a choice nonetheless. We can choose the person that we become, we are not what has happened to us, we are not where we were born, what failures we’ve had, what mistakes we have made. Thishel. We can choose.
Another day, another amazing internet video. Sometimes it seems like the Internet is just filled with crazy people saying hurtful idiotic things, and other days you find videos like the series from “Kid President” and you are once again glad you live in 2013. Even though too much of our time is spent hunched over tiny glowing screens looking at pointless shit, we are still pretty lucky to live in an age that can bring this kid to our browsers.
This is my favorite one so far: Kid President’s “Pep Talk.” So many great gems: “Stop being boring–boring is easy–anyone can be boring, but you are good-er than that” and “You got air coming through your nose! You got a heartbeat! That means it time to do something!”
Also, the “Not cool Robert Frost!” and the Space Jam bit and Journey bit made me LOL for real. Plus his love of dance — done deal. Happy Monday.
Last year I wrote about my love of commencement addresses, and gathered a few of my favorites. And while J.K. Rowling’s speech is still high on my list. I mean, this is just fantastic:
“I was set free because my greatest fear was realized. Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not lived at all, in which case you fail by default. “
This graduation season, I’m putting together a lot of great inspirational advice for entrepreneurs (more on that later). And so while I’m neck deep in hopeful platitudes, I came across this beautiful short film that was created from part of David Foster Wallace’s 2005 commencement speech at Kenyon College.
I stumbled upon it randomly while doing research and within less than a day it’s gone viral, and rightfully so – as Wallace says, it covers “the large parts of parts of adult life that no one talks about in commencement speeches, the parts filled with boredom and petty frustrations.”
The film beautifully illustrates his speech and how, “The most obvious and important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about.”
If you haven’t already, do yourself a favor and watch it now.
On my 29th birthday, in between belting out songs at karaoke at our local dive bar, my friend Diem and I decided that we should start a book club. The next month three of us talked about the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a classic I had never read, over brunch.
Now, three years later, I will go to the same bar for karaoke with the four other core members of book club, and the next day we will enjoy brunch and talk about our latest book.
Of course there is nothing remarkable about five (and sometimes six) 30-something women having brunch and talking about books. But I feel lucky to have found them and want to take this opportunity to celebrate the simple joys of Book Club.
Talking about books with good friends is truly one of the great joys in life and once you are several years removed from school, it can be one of the rare opportunities to have a conversation about books. Book club has also given me a set date to meet and catch up with some of my closest friends (we are happy that we decided early on to make it “women only” as it’s also a perfect excuse for much needed monthly female bonding).
(most recent photo of book club ladies on a night out for Jen’s birthday)
As you’ll see from the list below, the books we’ve read over the past three years have varied from missed classics, to new best sellers, to re-read classics to semi-random selections. Some books have become my new favorites (Blind Assassin, Grapes of Wrath), and some have been divisive (How to be a Woman, Franny and Zooey) and a few flat out hated (The Last Child), or unfinished (Travels with Charlie).
But another joy of book club is that I’ve ended up reading many books that I would never otherwise read, for as much as we all have in common, our tastes and opinions vary and even if I have different opinions, I’ve enjoyed the chance to read and discuss and even disagree on books with such smart women. And yes, as the benevolent dictator of book club (i.e. the one who sends out the invites and prints out questions), I’ve also enjoyed the bulit-in deadline that book club gives me to finish a book.
So without further preamble, here is the list of all of the books my book club has read in the last three years (my favorites in bold).*
- Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain May 2010
- The Last Child by John Hart June 2010
- Zeitoun by Dave Eggers July 2010
- The Help by Kathryn Stockett August 2010
- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddan September 2010
- Cider House Rules October/November 2010
- Freedom by Johnathan Franzen January 2011
- Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen March 2011
- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith April 2011
- Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston May 2011
- Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut June 2011
- Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger July 2011
- Vaclav & Lena by Haley Tanner October 2011
- The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck December 2011/January 2012
- The Marriage Plot by Jeffery Eugenides March 2012
- Travels with Charlie by John Steinbeck April/May 2012
- Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier June 2012
- Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates July 2012
- The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood August 2012
- How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran September 2012
- Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote October 2012
- Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro November/December 2012
- The Awakening by Kate Chopin February 2013
- Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy March 2013
- East of Eden by John Steinbeck April 2013
*This list is likely missing a few books and might be slightly out of order, this was the best I could manage from my notes and memory.