Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Take the Next Step

Sunday evening, I officiated Meredith and Michael’s wedding ceremony, at The Veranda, in San Antonio, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Marriage, like it or not, involves if not a gamble, at least an educated guess. What do I mean? Well, if you are even marginally self-aware, you realize that you will change over time, and, spoiler alert, so will your spouse. By committing to the bond of marriage, you are saying that you know that not only do you of today love the him or her of today, but that the you of tomorrow will love the him or her of tomorrow.

Sounds daunting, I know. So, how can you make sure this is more of a grounded decision than a baseless bet? It helps to remember that past is usually prologue, and that history may not repeat itself, but it often rhymes.

Listen to Michael’s observation about Meredith: “Over the course of our college experience, I noticed that a lot of people changed. Having just finished medical school, I noticed that a lot of people change. While Meredith has grown through her experiences, she remains in a lot of ways the same girl I met freshman year. She knows where she came from, remembers the people that were there along the way, and bends over backwards to help those around her...”

And, it’s important to take the time and analyze not only that person in isolation, but that person, yourself, and how you work together as a unit.

Listen to Meredith’s observation, “When we moved to San Antonio in 2014, we both took a big leap of faith. We knew that it would be tough on our relationship – we were moving to a new place where we knew no one. Michael was starting medical school and I was starting a job with a steep learning curve as well. We were leaving behind friends, family and jobs we both loved. It was difficult and lonely for a while, but we relied on each other and I never regretted moving to San Antonio with him. It solidified for me that the two of us were a team and I would be happy wherever we were, as long as we were together.”

And, it helps to go one step further, and pay attention to how that person treats others, because counterintuitively, the you of tomorrow, is not really the same person, but an other.

Michael has paid attention, and says, “Fundamentally, I feel we share the desire to be part of a larger community, to take pride in our work, to take care of ourselves, to continuously better ourselves, and to help others.” And this might be one of the things Meredith admires the most about Michael. She says, “Time and time again I have seen Michael go to great lengths to help or do something kind for the people he loves.”

This takes time and patience, but is really all there is to it. If you have taken the time to contemplate, to observe, to do your homework about yourself and your partner, you are ready, like Meredith and Michael, to take the next step.

In deciding to take this next step, Meredith and Michael have thought a lot about how important the concept of “family” is to them. They say: “We will never forget the love, patience, sacrifice and devotion that our parents have invested in us since childhood. They taught us by example to work hard; to be loyal and honest; to find meaningful life’s work that we are passionate about; and to embrace life with compassion, joy and love. As we look ahead to our future as husband and wife, we hope to honor the legacy of life given to us by our parents. We will strive to give our own children the same kinds of ‘roots and wings’ that have brought the two of us both to this moment.”

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Single Loop Learning, Double Loop Learning and Marriage

Saturday afternoon, I officiated Janece and Grant’s wedding ceremony at the Bella Donna Chapel, in McKinney, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

If you think about it, marriage is an organization, in the sense that is organizes individual human beings into one organizational unit. This is especially true, when it is not just two individuals coming together, but two families, like in this case. So, there are important lessons we can and should learn from organizational learning theory, when we set about to organize these six persons into one unit.

One of the most useful concepts in organizational learning theory is the idea of single-loop learning and double-loop learning, first introduced by Chris Argyris and Donald Schon in the 1970s.

According to Argyris and Schon, an organization engages in single-loop learning, “when the error detected and corrected permits the organization to carry on its present policies or achieve its present objectives... Double-loop learning occurs when error is detected and corrected in ways that involve the modification of an organization’s underlying norms, policies and objectives.”

In other words, in single-loop learning, we do not question the underlying assumptions under which we operate, only the strategies and techniques in use, whereas in double-loop learning, we question the actual underlying assumptions.

If you know Janece and Grant, but I mean really know them, you know that this is how they have lived their lives, especially these last few years as individuals and as a couple. That says something, because to many the idea of challenging the governing variables, under which we operate, can be extremely disconcerting.

Janece and Grant have not shied away from this. They have asked hard questions of themselves and of each other, and they have followed the answers where those answers led them, making the requisite changes they felt they needed to make.

I have spent the last few months getting to know these two, and they are unique. Do not underestimate their commitment to each other. They are brutally honest and vulnerable with each other, and put everything on the line for each other and their kids. This is a bold, loving couple that is making a difference in the world. There is not a single person who has spent time with this couple, and has not left feeling good. If there are family or friends who are not here because they may disapprove, it is only because they haven’t seen the magic of these two up close.

I will end with words Grant wrote about this subject, but I feel Janece could have written too: “I have the rare opportunity to spend my life with the woman I fell in love with, like I’ve never fallen in love before. And the bonus is, we have both learned so much through our past failures and mistakes that we are now ready to see our love story finish out, to commit until the end.”

Saturday, May 19, 2018

You Do You

Sunday night (5/13) I officiated Jorie and Ryan’s wedding on the roof of their building in the Knox Henderson neighborhood of Dallas. It was just them, a photographer and a videographer. Oh, and their canine tuxedo clad ring bearers, Sammie and Zoe! Here are the remarks I shared with them. (Honestly, Sammie and Zoe could have paid better attention…)

Jorie and Ryan, our shared traditions embrace lifelong learning, and learning from everyone. So, whenever I officiate a wedding, I ask myself, this couple being unique individuals, what can I learn from them, what lesson are they, consciously or maybe even unconsciously, teaching?

I always preface my remarks with that short intro, because I really believe in this idea with all my heart. You, though, Jorie and Ryan, really stand out in this regard, because this idea has been central to your relationship. You may have been together for just five years, since 5+8=13, but you have packed more experiences, more learning, more personal growth into those five years, than other couples might in ten years.

It would be difficult to cover even just the most important lessons you learned, but one lesson really stood out to me. This is not a bad lesson for others to learn, either, though it is by no means an easy one. I’ll go a little further in saying that this might be the most important lesson for the broken world we live in today.

You decided to celebrate this milestone in your life your way, without any judgement towards others who do it their way. This is right for you. Here is how you put it, Jorie, and, wow, I hope I can get through this, without my voice cracking: “I’m so excited to have a special day that is JUST Ryan and me, I can’t fully explain it. There’s a lot of ways to justify it, but ultimately, we are going to leave this world alone together, so it feels fitting that we should start our journey alone together.”

Interestingly, there is something “very culturally Jewish” about this. What do I mean? Well, while our two main daughter religions believe that everyone should join their “club”, even traditional Judaism does not share that sentiment. If you’re not Jewish, even an Ultra-Orthodox rabbi will tell you, that you are just fine the way you are. If you’re Jewish, though, he’ll tell you that you have to do things his way.

Secular or cultural Judaism takes that original Jewish sentiment, and applies it across the board. It might sound simple, almost simplistic, but its message is revolutionary: Not just do unto others, as you want done to you, but also, you do you. As long as you are being moral and ethical, it’s all good.

I remarked to you in one of our meetings, that something Ryan wrote sounded like poetry. There was no way I was going to leave this out, because it sets the course for where you go from here, as you continue from 5+13=18, to do you:

“It has been a wild five years and it is incredible to think back on just how much we have experienced together. All of those experiences have brought us extremely close and strengthened our relationship immensely. Because of the challenges and obstacles and experiences we have already been through together, I know that this next chapter of marriage will be a successful one. And I can’t think of a more beautiful or perfect woman to do it with.”

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Embrace Difference

Saturday afternoon, I officiated Nicole and Mike’s wedding at the Pearl Hotel, in Rosemary Beach, Florida. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

One of the last adjectives that might come to mind regarding Mike is “indecisive”. This man knows where is going, and how he is going to get there. It kind of comes with the territory when you do what he does for a living.

So, it might strike you as that odd that he says, “When it was time to move on to college, I was unsure of what to do.” This led him to do what many people in other developed countries do, but Americans don’t do enough of, spend a gap year abroad. Like many who do this he calls this a “life changing experience, introducing me to new people, new cultures, and gaining new insight into myself and the world around me.”

Nicole also experienced the eye-opening education that only travel can bring about, as an Air Force brat. In fact, she owes her existence to it! Here are the places she has lived: Guam, Michigan, Colorado, Alabama, South Korea, Washington, Azores, Illinois, North Carolina, Illinois (again), and now Texas. She treasures what she calls, “the opportunity to travel to different countries and states while learning and growing up with various cultures.”

Isn’t that interesting? Where others might see hardship, these two saw opportunities for growth. Where others might see threatening differences, these two saw diversity that was to be embraced.

That kind of outlook prepares you very well for one of life’s most exciting adventures, marriage. Our Ancient Rabbis pondered what God busied himself with, now that he is no longer parting the Red Sea, raining down fire every now and then, and other assorted heavy lifts. Their answer, matchmaking. Because marriage is about taking two very different people and turning them into one unified entity.

Nicole and Mike recognize this. They told me so: “We always tell each other that a relationship is not all sunshine and rainbows and isn't a given or an obligation. It is a choice and it is something you have to work at...” It’s worth working at, because, it is through marriage that you can become what Nicole calls, her “complete self”.  That’s probably why the Rabbis imagined God spending so much time on this endeavor.

When you have lived your life in a way that embraces difference and diversity, you are able, like Nicole and Mike to say, “We embrace and utilize each other's differences to make us a stronger team...” This is why Nicole says, “He is who I choose every single day... I have never been more sure about something or someone in my life...” this is why Mike says, “I always knew she was the one...”

Sunday, May 6, 2018

I Just Want to Be Happy

Saturday afternoon, I officiated Jamie and Ty’s wedding ceremony, at Cascade Village, in Durango, Colorado. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

“Where should we get married,” is one of the first questions a couple might ask, following their engagement. Knowing Jamie and Ty, this question was probably addressed while drinking a green liquid, wearing skis, or both. To some couples it’s pretty simple; they get married in their hometown, and if they are from different locales, the bride’s hometown. So, we could have ended up, please contain your excitement, in a little town called Seminole. Others choose to have a destination wedding, which means going somewhere beautiful and fun, to which the couple have no real connection. I’ve not run any data analysis on this, but those two options probably cover most couples. 

So, I am always intrigued when a couple chooses a third option, a place that is meaningful to them, personally. That is the choice that Jamie and Ty made. Neither one of them is from Durango, and though beautiful to visit and fun to hang out in, Durango to them is much more than just a destination. It is central to their relationship. 

Listen to Ty, and you can really hear his calming voice come through even in the written word, when he writes about himself in the third person: “Durango is... home...  There is no place one (would) rather be. Life changed on April 7, 2015.  In... (a) health food store, Jamie... arrived looking for a green drink; they were popular that day... As a gentleman, Ty helped Jamie with her groceries to her car and received her digits. Jamie was bound for Texas and who knew if she would ever be seen again. Kept in contact here and there. Couple weeks down,  Jamie decided to come back to town. Luck was on Ty's side. First date was a hit. Found out both were Aquarius; great sign. Had a magical weekend to (form) a great bond.” 

Jamie agrees, when she says, “I think it was love at first sight for me. I came back to see him a few times and we spent some time together and really had a deep connection.” Durango was part of the reason for that. In fact, when I told her how impressed I was by her résumé, and I asked if should ever get back into banking, she said no, because living in Durango was more important. 

Now, you might be asking yourself, where is the lesson here? Well, we just passed that, but let me spell it out through a story, which Goldie Hawn told about her childhood: “Happiness was always important to me. Even at the young age of eleven, it was my biggest ambition. People would ask, ‘Goldie, what do you want to be when you grow up?’ ‘Happy,’ I would reply, looking in their eyes. ‘No, no,’ they’d laugh. ‘That’s really sweet, but I mean . . . what do you want to be? A ballerina? An actress maybe?’ (I would insist) ‘I just want to be happy.’” Guess what Jamie says about her mom, who is here with us in spirit? She channels Goldie, when she says so simply, “When I would ask my mom what she wanted me to be when I grew up, she would say she just wanted me to be happy, and Ty makes me very happy.” 

This should not surprise you. After all, that profound message and cool vibe, so beautifully expressed by an eleven year old Goldie Hawn, is “so” Jamie and Ty, and also “so” Durango. Don’t take my word for it; just walk down the street. Need further proof? Where did they film the ultimate movie about the power of a place to reshape your life, put things in perspective, and enhance your happiness, City Slickers? That’s right, Durango, Colorado. 

Ty says that Jamie, whom he would have never have met if not for Durango, is “the love of my life I have patiently been waiting for.” In this it is Ty who channels a scene at the end of that legendary film, not far from Ty’s hometown. One of the heroes of the movie, Mitch, has returned from Durango, his family has picked him up at the airport, and he is hugging his children as his wife, Barbara, walks up. He points towards his broad smile and says, “Hey, look what I found.” She responds “Ooh, that looks nice. Where did you find that?” And Mitch, feigning exasperation, says, “Colorado! Isn't it always in the last place you look?”