What does it take for a marriage to last 50 years?
I have asked a few people that, and what I usually hear is this:
Patience. Lots and lots of patience. Also, the ability to let go of the need to be right about everything.
I think it was Frida Kahlo’s father who told her that the secret to a good marriage is a short memory.
Ten years ago (in 2010) I met the man who would become my husband in 2017. He proposed in 2015. It took me many years of therapy, personal coaching, spiritual growth and a leap of faith for me to enter back into such a contract for a second time.
I read books like “All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation” by Rebecca Traister and “Committed: A Love Story” by Elizabeth Gilbert. The first time around, I had known I could get out of it. That marriage was borne of familial rebellion and personal stubbornness.
The second time around, I waited to be sure I could outlast my tendency to get bored and move on every 4-8 years. I already knew living with other people (anyone really) can be difficult for me. Solitude is precious. Personal space is one of my highest values. It’s why the era of COVID-19 has held blessings in disguise for me. I realized this reflects a lot of privilege. It also reflects the personal choice I made not to become a parent.
My parents love my sister and me fiercely and protectively. Their division of labor is not what I would choose, but it seems to work for them. They taught my sister and me that all people are worthy of respect. They contributed to their community in so many ways, especially to their students and neighbors. They focused their attention on us, our educations and our futures. We have never doubted their commitment to us. I am forever grateful for those gifts.
Half a century. I am in awe. Grateful.
I find myself celebrating the past year for my birthday but feeling quieter and more reflective than in past years. When I read that George Floyd was also 46 years old I realized we shared an age, but are separated by a yawning gap of white body privilege. His life was cut short, and my life continues.
I spent the past week re-reading portions of “My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies” by Resmaa Menakem. I downloaded the audio book so I could listen to it as well. Coincidentally, Krista Tippett had a conversation with Resmaa on her podcast On Being just before the pandemic, but it aired only within the last week. If you have not heard it, I recommend a listen.
There is also a simple body practice that is about 4-5 minutes that Krista released yesterday that I really love. It helps us engage the vagus nerve and the psoas muscle in a way that is calming. Resmaa describes how “bodies of culture” must orient when they feel in danger.
One of my loyal yoga practitioners (Jackie) told me last week that Resmaa’s book is sold out right now, since she had looked for it online. I find that wonderful and hopeful. Maybe we white folks are ready to grow up and out of our privilege in a way that can support “bodies of culture” (I love Resmaa’s terminology) to achieve their dreams as well.
We must do the work, and we must begin now, no matter how uncomfortable it may feel at first. One thing that yoga teaches us is that we can stay with discomfort, a moment longer, to hear what it has to say. I love it that we have the tools to do that. It is our practice off the mat, and it is why we can succeed in this effort.
As a white woman from a multi-cultural (Swedish Mexican) heritage, I have struggled with knowing what my role can or should be in this effort. I have to admit I don’t have a complete answer right now, except to highlight voices that may not otherwise be heard. I also hope to hold space for other “white bodies” that know we must be part of the solution here.
Resmaa recommends we do our own work, with each other, to educate and get over our “fragility” around race discussions. In my 46 years of life I have never worried about being killed by a police officer. My level of discomfort is a tiny sliver compared to a daily stress of someone who’s life has been cut short by a police officer. While police bodies also need to do their own work, we can and must begin in our own bodies.
I close this reflection by saying all of this begins in our bodies. We unwind our stories and social conditioning by exploring their origins, questioning the protective habits that our “primitive lizard” brains developed, and by learning better ways to sharing the bounty we all have. When all do better, all do better (a phrase Paul Wellstone used to use frequently).
P.S. Resmaa’s Cultural Somatics Institute offers a free 5-day e-course which summarizes the principles in his book. The videos are short and they are helpful. They will make you want to get the book.
My mother’s day virtual retreat may have an international audience! So far a couple of my yoga students are inviting daughter or family members and right now it looks like we may have one participant from Mexico and one from Portugal. I’m so honored. I also may have a cousin from Alaska and from Oregon there, I’m psyched!
But still, there is room for a few more, and I had such a great response to my last offering of this kind, I’m humbly putting out the invitation again. The special offer is to buy one registration (sliding fee: $12-25) and send the link to a family member or friend who also wants to have a Sunday (Re)treat with you! Physical distance plus social presence! Everyone can benefit.
This 90-minute yoga experience is video optional via Zoom. We will start with soma yoga, a gentle practice of movement to release tension in our spine and joints. We then do some yin yoga, longer-held poses to work with the fascia. We end with restorative yoga, some long-held poses to calm the nervous system. I will cue the entire practice so that you can be eyes closed and relaxed onto a mat, the bed or the floor. Bring blankets, pillows and towels to help “craft” the supports and I will show you those as well.
P.S. If you sign up by 6pm on Saturday I’ll have the best likelihood of sending the Zoom link on time. And if you’ve never tried a yoga experience with me, and have some financial hardship, email me to let me know and I’ll send you a free “coupon” if you join my mailing list.