Nothing changed, everything changed
Love, marriage, the comet, Groundhog Day, and two great sources for readers
Before we begin
Commitment is a big word and a big decision. How has making a commitment changed you or your life? Is it a change that happens immediately or over time? Or, if that’s too big a question, did you see the comet this week? Tell us everything!
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Groundhog Day 2023: An Anniversary Story
Twenty-two years ago on the second day of the second month of 2001, I got married for the second time. So, this week, when Groundhog Day rolled around, I was ready. We would do something small but memorable to observe our anniversary. We would go and look for the rare green comet that would appear for the first time in 50,000 years. I borrowed some heavy-duty binoculars from the very good friends who had shown up 22 years ago to witness our wedding. I loaded an app that would translate the night sky for me. I spent a fleeting second trying to figure out if we knew any astronomers who could sneak us into the observatory at Palomar Observatory so we could look through the giant Hale telescope.
Then life intervened and we spent most of our anniversary 162 miles apart. When my husband got home that night, we aimed the binoculars in what we hoped was the right direction but all we saw were the usual planes and stars, a persistent haze that hovered over San Diego, and a shadowed moon which seemed to wear an apologetic expression. Then we went inside with the dogs, collapsed in front of the television and watched the latest episode of Shrinking.
Was it magic? No, it was not. Was it very, very good? Yes, it was. Sort of like our wedding day itself. That day, a Friday, there was an ice storm. My husband had a stomach bug. The minister we’d hired got lost on her way to our house where our two friends waited with us in our living room. Instead of the honeymoon we’d briefly envisioned – a trip to Costa Rica – we sat out the long weekend in New Jersey and then went to work the following Tuesday.
The Morning After
So, what did it change?
We’d been living together for long enough that for all intents and purposes we might as well have been married. Some people wanted to know why we wanted to bother. My own mother was surprised. “It’s not as if you’re going to have kids or anything,” she pointed out. I had no good answer. I sensed that there was a difference between living as two independent people under the same roof and committing to living with that person even if the roof changed, even if it fell in. I’d said yes to that commitment before and had failed – I’d been too young ,too frightened, too overwhelmed by the sudden merging of lives and what that seemed to mean for my own. I hoped for another chance to get it right.
After the wedding, one of the questions that came our way most often was: do you feel different? We both answered yes to that question but explaining exactly what we meant is difficult. For me the difference was almost immediate; a sense of relief that at least I no longer had to grapple with the question yes or no coupled with a sense of oh-my-god now what? It was the moment when I realized that even though we’d spent years together, we had just signed on for all the years we had left. So many years, I thought then.
Here is my cue to rhapsodize, to philosophize, to share the hard-won insights, the humorous pratfalls, the beautiful mundane dailiness of those 22 years, and the discovery that it wasn’t just a person I was committing to but a new live thing called a marriage that has taken on a life of its own. I will pass except to say this: I look at those 22 years now and I think, so few. Nowhere near enough.
Notice how this lets me off the hook and leaves plenty of room for you to share your own hard-won insights, pratfalls, and observations and musings on weddings, marriage, or commitment of any kind.
Two Authors on Commitment
“I think that what I love when I'm writing about families is that you get to see these people grating along together that can't very easily leave each other. And they have to show their true colors, like, as I always say, like people on a desert island or in a burning building, where their real selves come out. Sometimes people do split up. Families do split up. But generally, it's a matter of endurance, which is, I think, the quality in human beings that interests me the most.” - Anne Tyler, NPR Interview for her most recent novel, French Braid.
“To be fully seen by somebody, then, and be loved anyhow - this is a human offering that can border on miraculous.” ― Elizabeth Gilbert, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage
Last year I shared a few novels about marriage with some lines that still resonate:
An American Marriage by Tyari Jones ““Marriage is between two people. There is no studio audience.” ― Tayari Jones, An American Marriage
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng – “Dreaming of his future, he no longer heard all the things she did not say.” – Celeste Ng, Everything I Never Told You
Tidal Flats by Cynthia Newberry Martin – “The question is always love or freedom. To stay or to go.”― Cynthia Newberry Martin, Tidal Flats
The Longest Night by Andria Williams - “It was no wonder really, that the mild risks Nat liked to take scared him: the long swims to clear her head, cliff jumping, diving. But he acted as if she were doing it just to spite him, when in fact it had nothing to do with him at all. Which maybe, from his perspective, was even worse.” - The Longest Night by Andrea Williams
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff - “Paradox of marriage: you can never know someone entirely; you do know someone entirely.” ― Lauren Groff, Fates and Furies
And here are two links with more suggestions if you are in the mood for complicated marriage stories:
A Rich Resource for Black History Month
#Bookstacker Diamond-Michael Scott (Great Books + Great Minds) has launched a rich resource in his new newsletter Black Books, Black Minds filled with books and writing that explores “the deeper context behind the prevailing racial divide we face today and how to thoughtfully address it. Featuring insightful perspectives from some of the world’s top authors and thought leaders, our aim is to forge a path to racial reconciliation by highlighting the deeper black historical backdrop of our nation’s evolving narrative.”
Writing from The Long Middle
Lisa Renee is a member of the Spark community, a smart and insightful and often funny writer, and a reader I can relate to. Here’s one of her most recent posts which I loved because it contained links for SO MANY BOOKS and also because she shared Spark along with some nice words about us.
Spark is Yours: Chime In
Have you just finished a book you loved? Tell us about it. Got a great resource for readers or writers? Share away! How about sharing your book stack with us, that tower of tomes rising next to your bed or your bath or wherever you keep the books you intend to read – someday. And if you stumbled on a Moment of Zen, show us what moved you, made you laugh, or just created a sliver of light in an otherwise murky world.
Thank you and Welcome
Thanks you to everyone who shared Spark with a friend last week. We are now a community of more than 725 readers, writers, and people who like to explore life through a bookish lens. Welcome to all new subscribers! Thank you so much for being here. If you would like to check out past issues, here’s a quick link to the archives. Be sure to check out our Resources for Readers and Writers too.
And One More Thing: The Commitments
If you’ve never seen this 1991 movie based on a Roddy Doyle novel about young Dubliners singing soul, then here’s a chance to rectify that. You can stream it on Amazon and others services.
That’s it for this week. Let me know how you are and what you’re thinking about. And of course, always let me know what you’re reading. If there’s an idea, book, or question you’d like to see in an upcoming issue of Spark, let us know!
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Ciao for now!
P.S. And now, your moment of Zen…Dressing the Bride
“This is MY moment of Zen,” writes mother of a bride, Sandra DeHelen who is committed to making her daughter’s outfits for her upcoming wedding including this party dress for the night before the nuptials and the actual wedding gown itself.
Calling for Your Contribution to “Moment of Zen”
What is YOUR moment of Zen? Send me your photos, a video, a drawing, a song, a poem, or anything with a visual that moved you, thrilled you, calmed you. Or just cracked you up. This feature is wide open for your own personal interpretation.
Come on, go through your photos, your memories or just keep your eyes and ears to the ground and then share. Send your photos/links, etc. to me by replying to this email or simply by sending to: firstname.lastname@example.org. The main guidelines are probably already obvious: don’t hurt anyone -- don’t send anything that violates the privacy of someone you love or even someone you hate, don’t send anything divisive, or aimed at disparaging others. Our Zen moments are to help us connect, to bond, to learn, to wonder, to share -- to escape the world for a little bit and return refreshed.
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Happy anniversary! 💙
Russel and I got married at the Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla (I'm an atheist and he is an artist, so it worked for us). The coastal location atop the cliffs was stunning. Our ceremony was supposed to start at 4, but the minister had the time wrong, so he was almost an hour late. So there was a lot of socializing and drinking before the actual wedding. As the bride, I was in a dressing room surrounded by my mom, grandmother and female cousins. I had time to get my hair & tiara-veil-thingy to finally look right, have a few laughs, and I even had a glass of champagne. Everyone was pretty darn cheery by the time I walked down the aisle. People who attended have told me that it was their favorite wedding ever. We have never looked back and our commitment to each other is still strong after 33 plus years.