Greetings my Dear Ones!
It’s nearly five o’clock and a tiny bride is sobbing in the dressing room. She arrived just moments ago, on the way to her rehearsal dinner, with her wedding gown, which she has just picked up this afternoon from a bridal shop which supposedly had alterations done. Only, the gown does not fit. She tried it on but there was no one there that could do further alterations for her. They had farmed it out to another seamstress in another town who is now unavailable. The frantic bride searched the tri-county area and we were the only thing that Siri could burp up. We invite her in and agree to help in whatever way we can. Her red-rimmed misty eyes make it clear that she has been weeping.
When the dressing room door opens, I can see a plain, strapless sheath of white hanging off of her. Her delicate spinal bones protrude through the skin on her back like a whippet’s. She sniffs. “I guess all the stress I’ve been under has made me drop a few pounds…” she mutters. I cannot help thinking that I have had pets larger than this woman. The other ladies rush to pin her up and stuff foam rubber bust pads in the concave chest area of the gown, while speaking soothing and maternal words to her about how it will all be ok. We all agree to stay late to help her.
Just then, her phone rings. It’s her bridal party. They are lost. They cannot find where they are supposed to meet for the rehearsal dinner because it is part of a Historic Site whose roads do not show up on the GPS. The groom has the maps, but his phone does not seem to be working. He cannot be reached. Her future Mother-in-law is trying to take charge of the situation but things are not going well. The bride explains that she is going to be late. “There has been a glitch with the dress, and I’m still waiting to hear…”she hiccups into the phone. She blinks. She can say no more. A flurry of phone calls ensues during which people check in with her and report their status. We keep pinning and begin sewing as fast as we can. The bride changes into her regular clothes and goes out to her car to wait.
We finish doing what we can just around the time she comes back in. It’s clear that she has been crying harder than ever. Her eyes are now swollen. “Take it easy,” we say, “everything is going to be fine. Look, the dress is going to look great on you now—well, at least it will stay up and you won’t have to hold onto it for fear of walking right out of it anymore!” She attempts a wan smile and puts the dress on again. The phone keeps ringing and she keeps checking the numbers and ignoring the frantic pleas from her bridesmaids. Finally, it rings again and she answers it. She goes even paler. Meanwhile, Prudence and I are having a private chat about how Some Girls make too much of their weddings, how things like Dresses need to be kept in perspective (It’s just a dress, who really cares? It’s not like anyone is dying, right?), how Things Should Not Be Left To The Last Minute (I keep quiet on this one, since I leave pretty much everything to the last minute but Prudence rants on because such behavior drives her batty), and how grooms with dodgy cell-phones should never trusted with the maps. The bride says a few words, choking back tears, and says “I’ll be right over. Thank you so much…” She looks in the mirror, at the dress that now fits her, and slumps to the floor and sobs. We stare at each other in confusion. What is wrong? The dress fits. Now what?
A boy with large, worried eyes comes in the back door and proceeds hesitantly to the sound of the crying. “Aunty,” he says, “I think you need to come. His breathing is changing. I don’t think he is comfortable.” She looks up at him. “I just got the call. It is cancer after all. We have to have him put down tonight. There is no way he can survive until we return from the honeymoon. We’re going back to the vet’s next. I guess I’m going to skip the rehearsal dinner and just show up at the wedding tomorrow instead…” It turns out that the girl had been crying over her dog, who was out dying in the back of her car this whole time! We help her out of the dress and hug her while she sobs. She turns to me and says, “Seriously, is THIS how Happily Ever After begins? My dress has been a disaster, my guests are lost, my mother-in-law is a she-beast hounding my poor bridesmaids, we don’t know where the groom is and I have to skip all the evening festivities to go have my dog put to sleep! Please tell me my life will get better tomorrow! I wish I could just cancel everything but it’s all paid for…” I have no idea what to say. My entire mouth has turned to clay. All the usual cheery platitudes about Faith, Hope, and Love just seem tacky and plastic, even if I could spit them out.
The truth is, none of us know what Tomorrow brings. We can choose fancy spoons and forks and goblets, color-coordinated napkins and goofy things for our best friends to wear but what good is it if Fate throws a dead dog right in the middle of it? The weather can change, cell-phones can fail, and I don’t have the heart to look this girl in her mascara streaked eyes and tell her the God’s Honest truth: “Happily Ever After” has been cancelled until further notice. It never existed to begin with. It’s been false advertising, Fake News, all along. Thinking that getting dressed up in expensive clothes that don’t fit you, so you can have some champagne with a big slice of dry, white cake while your friends, who are all dressed identically (and somewhat ridiculously), sing karaoke and get shit-faced is the ticket to Happily Ever After is a giant mistake. She might as well know it as soon as she can.
As much as fifty percent of the marriages in this country end in divorce and I think the concept of “Happily Ever After" has a lot to do with it. Ask the people who have been married 25, 30, 50 years… Happily Ever after never came. The magic comes from adapting, not arriving; from growing, not accumulating; from learning, not leaving. The only option is Happily Ever Now-ing. Now. Now, that is something we can really sink our teeth into, unlike the “jam yesterday, jam tomorrow, but never jam today.” As the journey continues, they look back on a life of Happily Ever Now-ing that became the best years of their lives—dead pets, sick kids, crabby Mothers-in-law and all.
I am really looking forward to attending a friend’s wedding in Vermont this weekend. I know she has put so much love and loving energy into choosing a great reception site and yummy food and brilliant music that will help us all celebrate with great Joy her union with her beloved. She has done everything to anticipate our comfort and delight as we all eagerly and equally anticipate the merry-making around the love we all share for these two people. This is a great couple, a great match. They will make each other blossom and shine in ways that living separate lives from each other never could. We gather to say we believe in them; we support them; we come to bear witness and to bless this union and all that it brings.
But this Day…this “wedding” day is just a day, just One Day in their lives. For a little while, it will be the “Now” that is happening—as it shifts from one horizon to another, slipping from Expectation to Realization, from Future to Past. One version of Now will involve the dramas and cares of planning and preparing, one will involve Joyful dancing, one will involve the cleaning up, savoring the memories, and wondering just what did Uncle Larry do in the men’s room?
Being a Vermont wedding with super cool people, of course there is going to be a Barn Dance! There are no destinations at a dance—and this seems to be a better metaphor for marriage than any “happy after-ing” that never comes. Rather than setting goals based on targets, why not set goals based on learning? Happily Ever Learning, Happily ever Growing, Happily ever Nurturing? Being the guardians of each other’s spirits, each other’s creativity, and solitude. When we release ourselves from the idea that another person or situation will “make us happy,” we become open to the possibility that Happiness is not outside of ourselves. Happiness is not something we receive, but something we share, from within.
We don’t choose a destiny. We choose being open to Experience with another soul partner. This person is going to dance the dance of Life with us. Being a good dancer does not mean that you are there to carry your partner. Having a strong partner does not mean he will carry you. Good partners know how to connect and also how to get out of each other’s way. They support each other’s ability to shine. They tune into each other through their individual and separate, primary connection to the Beat, to the Music flowing through all of our individual movements. How can we dance with another who does not hear the same Music?
There are divorced 57-year-olds still looking for “the one.” As if a partner is a destination who will make all the difference, not one of multiple pathways to creative self-exploration. There are young people who think having to communicate clearly is a “failure” to be understood magically and intuitively by a beloved. (How can she love me if I have to tell her what I want?) They want “Happily Ever After,” not this dance of Give and Receive, this endless exploration of “How can we dance better together?” They want Ideal Partners. But we are not here to be the best partners. That is not the goal. We are here to be the most connected to the Music. We are here to help each other be the physical manifestation of our best Connection—to each other and to Spirit. Sometimes it will be graceful, sometimes not. Whether we limp, hop, or waddle, we are here to become The Dance. THAT is Happily ever Now-ing.
I salute the resilience of those who remain committed to their partners and the courage of those just beginning their journey. May you hold each other carefully—sometimes tightly, sometimes loosely, and Keep Dancing, always, in the Happily Ever Now, whatever that may bring.
Dance well, my Dearies, and do Good Work!