A Daily Ray of Hope: Holding on and letting go at the same time

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I love cats but this such a moving meditation and, of course, applies to all our loses

InsideVero

Editor’s Note:  When I began publishing InsideVero.com in late January, it was my custom each morning to offer as a “daily ray of hope” an inspirational quote for the day.

Along with each quote, I shared an image of a landscape, seascape, sunrise, or of some wildlife.  One morning, I even offered a picture of our Doberman, Panzer, hanging his big nose over the foot of our bed.  The accompanying quote spoke to the value of appreciating different perspectives.

Having let my attention be drawn almost completely to the daily news and the surface-level drama of local politics, I find that I have drifted away from making time each morning to draw inspiration for the day.

Yesterday, at the tender age of three, Panzer passed away, with Cheri and I at his side, holding his paw and kissing his forehead.  It was a sacred moment.

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Aging can be painless

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A few years ago I performed a wedding in a couple’s rural New Hampshire home. It was simple and meaningful and I felt good about it.  Not too long after that, one of them posted a story about getting their license and deciding how and where to be married. In the article she referred to me as “…the elderly justice of the peace…” Now, I would like to say that I don’t dwell on disconcerting comments about my age and indeed it wasn’t too long before I forgot it but it did, in fact, bother me. After all who wants to get old,  especially when that means that time is more likely to be running out? I am sure there are plenty of older people who are coping better than I but let me run some thoughts about aging by you.

Almost everyone I have asked agrees that they don’t feel their age. Sure, when trying to jog across a busy intersection or stoop over to pick up something dropped on the floor, the physical reality rears its ugly head but otherwise we feel as young as ever. That’s a good thing especially when younger people don’t reject you based on numbers of wrinkles or gray hairs. Of course, lots of them do but I know hundreds who don’t. Forgetting what year one is born in and simply being oneself works wonders.

Ally Waters who graduated from high school with my son, Joseph

Ally Waters
who graduated from high school
with my son, Joseph

Another important thing to remember, as macabre as it sounds, is that we all die, some earlier and some later. Things like not smoking, watching your weight, eating less junk food, and exercising every day are critical. However, it is not that such activities will protect you from dying, it is they will most likely make living more fun.

Fun, indeed plus joy, excitement, anticipation, love, these are things that make aging painless and they are not that hard to find anytime, anyplace. I have a silly cat who expects to be lifted to the table every morning when I sit down at my computer so that he can look at the window. Then after he accounts for all the chipmunks he turns around and starts a loud purr while he reaches out and touches me on the shoulder. Now, tell me, how in the world can you think about getting old with a pet like him around?

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Another thing to do is engage people as you go about your day. When I ordered a couple of pastries at Starbucks this morning, I asked for them to be put in a bag to which the twenty something barista responded “Oh, you don’t want me to throw them at you?” I had a rejoinder but that didn’t matter. What really counts is that she felt she could say that in fun.

I don’t remember exactly when I first really, really got that some day I would no longer be here. I do recall it was an adrenalin rush like none other. It turned out to be OK though because it sparked in me a subtle but actual new appreciation of the days that I did have while I am still here.

Andy Rooney, the wonderful 60 Minutes curmudgeon was interviewed after his retirement. One of the questions was “Do you think about dying?” His answer is classic “Yes and I don’t  like it.”

And so it goes

 

Who will perform our wedding ceremony?

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When I am first contacted by someone getting married it usually starts off with a bit of awkward stumbling. The caller isn’t really sure what to ask or where to start. I try to put them at ease by asking about dates and locations and offering to send sample ceremonies because if I wait too long it may be even more uncomfortable.

Monk's Robe Several times, the first question was “How much do you charge?” Once, a bride wanted to know right away “What do you wear to perform weddings?” (That one was fun because I could tell the story about the time I wore a monk’s robe for a couple with a medieval theme to their wedding)

Karen Loucks Rinedollar (adoresamore.com and karenloucks.com) did a great job of answering this question in the WedPlan article titled How to Choose the Right Officiant for Your Wedding. Every point she makes is important, but if it were me, my main question would be this one: “Is the wedding officiant warm and helpful during your phone/email/in person questioning?” There are probably plenty of folks who could legalize a marriage but relatively few who are really invested in you as a couple. (I would like to think I am and I am willing to bet Karen Loucks Rinedollar is as well.)

If you plan to be married don’t put the choosing of an officiant way down on the list of priorities. She or he can make all the difference in the words and feel of the ceremony.

Insane City Wedding

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I have performed wedding ceremonies of just about every shape and variety. Early on, I officiated at my sister’s wedding in the sanctuary of the church in which we grew up. A couple of weeks ago the family and friends of a California couple climbed a New Hampshire hill to share in a ceremony surrounded by verdant meadows with an incredible view of the Connecticut River valley. One time I waited under trees with the groom while the bride rode up on a horse. Every once in a while a couple will come to our simple chapel and have the ceremony with just the three of us. And on and on.

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Each time is special, without a doubt. The public vows and the signing of the official license declare “We love each other and want the world to know”. Whether the ceremony is elaborate or simple matters not. For the two persons it is unique.

Having said that, I sometimes find myself a bit embarrassed to be a part of the so-called wedding industry. In Dave Barry’s very funny book, Insane City, a couple from DC plan an extravagant destination wedding in Miami. In spite of the woman’s social justice activism and since her parents are beyond wealthy, she becomes, in Barry’s words, a classic “bridezilla”. As you read and laugh out loud, you keep thinking there is no way this happens in real life. Well, I am here to tell you, his tale is so close to what actually happens that I caught myself thinking, “Wait a minute. Why am I laughing?”

The present average cost of a wedding is estimated to be $25,656 and, as one site so helpfully points out, this doesn’t include the honeymoon. (For most of us, trying to spend that kind of money makes for a very short honeymoon period indeed) How could this be? Who in the world needs such an exorbitant budget just to “tie the knot? These are rhetorical questions, of course, because as is true of many things in this “insane” society of ours, weddings will just become more and more elaborate while their cost escalates. So? Well, I will leave that up to you for now.

Meanwhile, it wasn’t too long ago that a bride with a reception booked at our most expensive venue, tried to negotiate my fee downward. But that’s another blog.

P.S. Then, when your team’s mascot shows up, you are supposed to laugh.

Ask me no questions, I’ll tell you no lies

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“They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living that demands rigorous honesty”
From Alcoholics Anonymous (The Big Book) Chapter 5 “How it Works”

Is there a single human who has not told a lie? A rhetorical question, of course, because we all started off with something like “I didn’t do it, she did it” and then went on from there.

How is that working out for you? As for me, I’ve had mixed results. Well, not really mixed, falsehood has never served me all that well.

One of my more embarrassing attempts at misdirection happened several years ago when my high school daughter accidentally ran up on the curb with her car and flattened a street sign. Neither of us realized she needed to report it to the police and wait there for them. So since it was a Sunday morning a few minutes before worship started, I told her to come on to church and we would take care of it later. A few hours later while we ate lunch at a restaurant, one of her friends came to the table and said “There is a cop taking pictures of your car.” So, brave dad that I am, I told the officer that it was my car and that I did it. To which she responded that somebody walking their dog said a young woman was driving the car. With just a slight hesitation, I owned up because, as they say, no matter how far down the wrong road you have gone, turn back.

Unfortunately, deceit is usually knee-jerk. We still do it when experience has shown us how fruitless it always is. We obviously don’t learn from the mistakes we see all around us. In “The Politician’s Wife”, a TV drama, a woman’s life is turned upside down when it is revealed that her husband, a member of the British Parliament, has been having an affair with a former prostitute. As is almost universal in these situations, he says that the indiscretion was a one time thing happening as a result of all the trite reasons. Of course, no surprise, not only was it actually a long term relationship but it was still going on. “Twas ever so!”

You may be saying to yourself, “I would never do such a thing”, but, caution, there is something known as self-deception which may be the worst of all. At some level we are just sure what we think, how we feel, what we are, would not be acceptable to others. Then our daily lack of any consistent transparency defines us. We come to believe our own lies and as in Hamlet’s immortal line,”..there’s the rub” because in that disparity lies the root of much human misery.

Try this. Be exactly who you are for 24 hours. Don’t go out of your way to express negative feelings to others but also stop and think about it each time you consider even a minor cover up. You may find it didn’t lower you in anyone else’s opinion. You will certainly save emotional energy and you will experience a new sense of freedom.

If you like it, keep doing it. Authenticity might turn out to be a great choice.

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