The Thirty-Year Apprenticeship
Next time I’ll go back to providing some tools for you… but today I have love on my mind. Not too surprising, since last Saturday I was finally able to take Beth, my beloved partner of thirty years, as my lawfully wedded wife—in front of our rejoicing families! Here’s the story…
Ten years ago Beth and I had held a lovely-though-not-legal wedding ceremony. Except for daughter Margot, though, we did not dare to invite any blood relations or even tell them what was afoot.
This time, we took our courage in both hands, invited them all to the re-affirmation and legal solemnization of our vows—and they all showed up overflowing with happiness for us! They told us over and over and OVER again how honored they felt to be included, and what a joy it was for them to share in the official recognition of our long-time love… “This should have been possible from the beginning,” more than one guest said to us.
And when we look back at that thirty-year delay? Well, above all we give thanks for the enormous gifts this prolonged apprenticeship has brought us. Here's how I put it in my "opening statement" at the ceremony:
It was March 15, 1987. I was 44, with two grown children and a soon-to-be-ex-husband. I had joined a Sweet Adelines women’s barbershop chorus two months earlier.
Now the chorus was at their annual retreat, and I had just finished leading the chorus in a guided meditation, where we discussed how visualizing something with clarity and passion allows it to manifest. As I walked away, a voice behind me said to me, "Yes, that’s how the Universe works, isn’t it?"
I did not even recognize the woman’s voice. But in that moment it was as if a password had been spoken – a key turned, opening the deepest places in my heart. Before I even turned around to see who this person was, I knew that I had to get to know her very, VERY well. We stood in the hallway for seven hours, telling each other all the things we’d never told anyone. By the time I fell into bed at 4:30, I knew that I was deeply in love with this woman and wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. It was that simple.
That was 30 years ago, and Beth and I are still living, loving, and above all growing together. And so today we are here to re-dedicate ourselves formally, not to each other, but to that growth, to the service of that current of Love and Truth which runs through us and all things, and which we choose to call Grace.
Because for us, love is a matter of the soul. Our soulmate just came in a different package than expected! Yet without this relationship, neither of us would have known what it was like to belong to a minority, to experience discrimination, and to stand up publicly for the freedom to love. Perhaps that’s one of the lessons in growth our two souls had in mind when we both chose female bodies this time around!
After all, that’s how the Universe works, isn’t it?
Very quickly we got a gut sense of what it's like to be considered less than fully human simply because "most people" think, feel or act differently... or prefer a different type of life partner. And we grew, learning to let "weird" be a badge of honor. Did you know that originally, "weird" meant "having the power to control fate / destiny"?
Then we learned to take action: not action fighting against those who considered themselves our enemies, but action leading toward what we most deeply believe in: love. We helped found an all-inclusive chorus, took part in quiet, dignified candlelight vigils and marches. Above all, we sang, and sang, and sang, helping our local community take great strides toward mutual understanding, unity and peace. And in so doing, over the years we learned to let our open hearts "come out" in a different way: as just us, just the Love that we are, transparent, hiding nothing. You could say we sang our hearts out...
Is there anything more important to stand up for than the right to love? We don't think so. Gradually, we realized we weren't standing up for any particular group or cause. No, we stand for the right to love, period. The right to love other human souls, whatever form they show up in; the right to love the Divine, in whatever guise; the right to love our livelihood, to create what we love, to walk our own life-path; and the right to love it all, to include our whole experience, good-tasting and bad-tasting, in our passion for being here. And in that choice to love our lives, we claim the right to love all the star-souls who have decided to take form here on earth. No one can ever take that choice from us.
In Beth's opening statement at our wedding Saturday she gave voice to that ultimate choice: to see the star-soul in each person who shares this earth with us. Though the words first showed up through me many years ago, together we have learned to "write" them in our lives over these past thirty years of gift-showered living:
UNVEILING Suppose, when we passed in the spring street, I did not look away and down, suddenly fascinated by the sand-drifts in the gutter, minutely examining the cement-pourer's logo on the sidewalk, making it clear that last year's muddied load of dormant grass holds much more interest than your face…. Suppose that instead I looked up, and in… Suppose, when the soft sunlight bathed your face, I took one final gasp of sweet spring air and let myself fall into your eyes, letting their unimaginable depths close over me; letting my soul swim down, and down, and out, and out -- ignoring the clamor of territorial alarms, slipping by the dragons of custom and tradition, gliding past the rows of labeled cubbyholes, each with its stereotype safely stored away; brushing aside the false borders of your single self, until the narrow rooms were gone, and I floated out -- out into the limitless space where the familiar truth of a star-soul I have always known beckons shining in the blackness…. Suppose that in that moment we both forgot the dreamweaving of our separate days, and spoke without words in the warm, unending universe behind your eyes, saying, “I know you,” having touched beyond all touching, having met beyond all need for names, having brushed away, on the springtime street, one strand of the cobweb-veil which binds us all in our forgetting…. Suppose -- that we remembered.
Thirty years. Has it been worth the wait? Was the learning worth the long apprenticeship? Oh, yes.