Sunday, April 19, 2015

Pure Bliss and Hard Work

Yesterday I officiated Ashley and Bobby’s wedding ceremony at Ma Maison in Dripping Springs, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

We like to think that each of us controls everything we do, yet the more scientists learn about human behavior, the clearer it becomes that what we actually control is a lot less than we think. One specific fact is striking – about 40% of what we do, we don’t even think about. It is basically done by force of habit, almost automatically. This is one of the reasons change is so difficult. In fact, scientists tell us that changing a habit, or forming a new habit, often involves an actual “rewiring” of neurons in our brains.

Now, of course, not all habits are difficult to adopt. In fact, some habits I could get you to adopt in no time. Say, for instance, I suggested that you eat a handcrafted Belgian chocolate bar every day. I can get you to adopt that habit really quickly. Good luck; you can thank me later. On the other hand, if the habit you are trying to form is more challenging, like exercising, eating right, sleeping enough, it will probably take a little longer to help you with that. And really at the end of the day, it is only you who can help yourself, and only if you keep working at it, probably forever.

Now, the interesting thing about a long-term marriage, is that it involves each person changing and adopting new habits to suit this new arrangement, where two become one. This is the part usually left out of romantic comedies in Hollywood on the one hand, and fairy tales on the other hand.  These genres make you think that marriage is all Belgian chocolate. However, the truth about marriage is that it is part Belgian chocolate, and part exercise and eating right, if you will indulge my metaphor. It is part pure bliss and part hard work. And this can vary by time and vary by place and vary by situation. To complicate things more, sometimes it feels like Belgian chocolate to you and not so much to your partner and sometimes vice versa.

The really cool thing about Ashley and Bobby is that both of them live this idea in their lives as individuals and as a couple. They do it quietly and without fan fair, but you know that they really get this profound idea. This is what Ashley means when she says that Bobby's personality is the perfect complement to hers. This is what is at the core of her statement that they are soul mates building something together. This is what Bobby means when he talks about the development of their relationship: "The more we spent time together, the more we found out how much we cared about each other. Eventual care became love and we began discussing the future. We spent a lot of time talking about timing and what we expected to find in a life partner."
The thing is, that the more you think about it, the things that really matter in life, the truest treasures we can find, do involve that mixture of immense pure bliss and really hard work. (That is, if you're doing them right!) And when you dig a little deeper you find that the most immense bliss is intertwined with and inseparable from the hard work, so much so that, like alchemy, it turns the hard work into bliss. That is what makes the ideal romantic relationship really wonderful. As Bobby puts it, "We are both excited about starting a new life together and eventually welcoming a family to this world. So far things have been fun and challenging, everything you would expect from a loving relationship."

Saturday, April 18, 2015

You Just Need to Hold On

Though Monica and Al are a fairly young couple, their stories stretch back into what seems like a period lost in the mists of time. They were both born in countries who during their very lifetimes went from being Communist dictatorships to being thriving democracies. Under those totalitarian overlords, many families gave up their cultural and religious heritages. Not Monica and Al's families, though; they held on.

Their moms arrived in this country, a new and foreign land. It was not easy. It was challenging. Not everyone who followed their path succeeded. But those moms held on.

Perhaps it is this spirit that planted the seeds in Monica and Al, that would make each of them strong, resilient and adept at overcoming challenges that could easily phase others. Perhaps, this is how in different areas of their lives, they held on.

This spirit is exemplified in how they have conducted themselves professionally. Each of them has seen professional life as not a destination to arrive at, but a journey to travel on. They have not been afraid to evaluate and reevaluate, to set off on well reasoned courses, and to course-correct. Through this, not only have they not fallen behind; they have found greater success and satisfaction, than other more timid souls might have. They have held on.

What Monica and Al remind us with their story, is that if you stick to it, if you work hard, if you are flexible and willing to adapt, if you resolutely hold on, you can reach the "happily ever after." You just need to hold on.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Beginning of a Journey

Saturday evening I officiated Rhiannon and Andrew's wedding at the beautiful historic Bingham House in McKinney, Texas. Here are the words I shared with them and their guests:

I ask every couple a number of questions, two of which no one else can really ask without seeming judgmental, "Why do you want to get married, and why now?" Andrew's was rather straightforward: "Just being with her makes my life better... She makes me strive for more and do more... I want to marry her because I can’t imagine life without her... She is my rock when I need it. I have found someone perfect for me and I can see spending the rest of my life with her... It is the only thing certain to me in this world. I love her truly and forever. I want to marry her now because I do not ever want to take the chance of losing her because of how much I love her..."

Wow! There goes any chance of Rhiannon not messing up her makeup...

Now, Rhiannon actually says that though few couples might face the two questions I opened with, they do: "When people find out that we're engaged they usually say, 'You're both so young,' or 'You still have growing up to do.' "

Sheesh, and people say Texans can't be direct!

I like her answer, which is kind of inherent in what Andrew said: "Yes we are young, but I think that if you're lucky enough to find someone you love so deeply, can't imagine being without them for even a day, and you make each other better people, why keep searching for something that might compare or isn't out there? Life is too short."

Well, you gotta admit, that just makes good sense, doesn't it? I mean, very few people would reject a winning lottery ticket, because they were too young, right? To Rhiannon and Andrew, it's kind of simple: They have the winning ticket, and they are here to cash it in! Where is the cartoon size cardboard fake check?!

Now, we do hear about lottery ticket winners that go a little crazy, but I don't think we need to worry about these two. How do I know? Well, it goes back to what I started with: these kids understand the most important ingredient in a rewarding marriage, and dare I say a rewarding life. They understand that the journey of learning and growing does not end here. It continues unabated. Here's Rhiannon again, echoing what I quoted from Andrew before: "Although we still have much to learn, we help each other learn. Even though I was completely dumbfounded when he asked me how to put the Swiffer pad onto the Swiffer...  (the women here are genuinely laughing; the men are making a mental note to search for an explanatory video on YouTube...) I was able to help him learn something. He's always teaching... me something." 

And the best kind of learning is the learning this couple captures, and puts so well into words, learning that helps them become better adults, but encourages them to indulge their inner children. Wow, maybe, just maybe that is just what Bogie meant, when he said, "Here's lookin' at you, kid..."