I am ceremonially challenged. I think the roots of this affliction lie in my childhood– shocking, I know, Dr. Freud. But where? I’m confident that those who know me surely have many suggestions as to where my emotional development went wrong … but this is fodder for many future blogs. At the moment, two suspect events come to mind.
At my sixth birthday party, I hid in a shower for reasons I can’t remember. One of my guests – Eleanor, as she is known in this virtual space – was nauseous throughout the festivities – the result of our having forced her off the fair isle of Manhattan via car. I can’t remember the specific activities of how the anniversary of my birth were celebrated but I look happy in the couple pictures I’ve seen from the event. Could hiding from a small, friendly ceremony be the at the root of my issues?
At 12, I promised my father, who was dying at the time, that I would be a Bat Mitzvah. I studied the Torah as intensely as any Reform Jew does. At the actual ceremony, however, I was … shall we say… distracted … and so mine may have been the shortest Bat Mitzvah in history – running about half an hour as I forgot to include the reading from the Torah I’d ‘studied’. The Rabbi was kind, he went with my erratic flow and even stopped by the after party. My writing group posits this event as the culprit. I’ll let you decide.
But ceremonially challenged I remain.
I’ve said “I do” twice. But never at what magazines tell us is a ‘real’ wedding. The first time was in Santa Barbara in front of five people – including Eleanor and the man she wed the next year. Eleanor’s marriage lasted, mine had a good run but ended in 2000. The next – and last – wedding was in Santa Monica in front of a dozen folks, most of whom became my relatives as a result of the vows. Both ceremonies, were what I wanted. I don’t recall childhood fantasies of a ‘special day’. And, after trying on a white wedding dress in advance of my first wedding I quickly realized that no day would be special for me if I looked like a washed out ghost uncomfortable in her own ephemera which was how I felt when I looked in the mirror of the dressing room where I tried only wedding gown I’ve ever worn.
So maybe being ceremonially challenged isn’t an affliction after all. Maybe I just have a keen insight into where happiness—or at least my happiness— can be found.
Happiness is quiet and intimate for me.
A small gathering in my Santa Monica home to make my partnership official. Eleanor and her family were there. Thankfully, this time she wasn’t nauseated by the drive from the airport. The fleeting moment when my daughter indicates that she knows I am on her side, and that my prodding is part of my attempt to make her better than she believes herself to be. The pregnant pause where my mother almost complimented my parenting. Happiness is marveling at the craft in a sentence – then realizing I’m its author. Happiness is in these small moments.
Happiness is a choice. Sometimes, it’s a tough one. I’m not particularly happy that I have Parkinson’s Disease, but I am thrilled it’s not MS or a brain tumor. I’m okay with the hand dealt me from the deck of neurodegenerative cards although I’d rather not be at this table at all if I had my druthers.
I don’t hate all ceremony. I like hosting parties, which involves the ceremony of social graces, right? It’s the standing in front of people who are staring at me without anything to do that is the stuff of my nightmares. Speaking in front of a room – sure, I’ll talk anywhere and to anyone. But standing in front a room without thoughts to share or something to demonstrate – like standing mute while a rousing chorus of “Happy Birthday” is sung? Nope. Definitely not my happy place.
My happiness is small and ceremony-free… and large with or without bells and whistles — at the same time. And while I’m not quite sure how enthusiastic my ‘yes’ would be if you were to ask me if I’m happy overall, I can say that I am quite cozy and content currently as I sit here, nuzzled with my laptop and a cup of tea on a rare, misty May day. I hear the chirp of a bird and am happy to bear witness to another creature’s ceremony while my fingers hunt and peck. I hope that you can say the same for yourself.