A point d’appui

At very best, a wedding is a chance to remember all of the beautiful aspects of marriage and to be inspired to fully treasure and cultivate those things.  Last weekend, I attended the wedding of two friends from Divinity School, and it offered both of these opportunities.

Through witnessing the couple’s beliefs about and approach to marriage — as evidenced by their choice of readings, music, and rituals, as well as their self-written vows — I was reminded of a central conviction of mine: that marriage isn’t just the next step, and the act of being married isn’t an additional identity byline, or one of many hats to wear.  Being married is a petri dish for rebirth, self-discovery, courage-finding, and transformation.  It’s a point d’appui.

Technically a military term, and French for fulcrum, a point d’appui is the location where troops are assembled prior to a battle.  It’s where they rest, nourish, and educate themselves so that they are able to put their best feet forward when called to service.  In Walden, Henry David Thoreau uses the term to describe the firm, solid ground of reality, beneath the shifting and unstable “mud and slush of opinion, and prejudice, and tradition, and delusion, and appearance.” 

Ludwigsburg, Germany

A point d’appui is a safe space, a spot of restoration and comfort.  Something I’m most grateful for in my marriage is that I have a home anywhere Caleb is — a place to be authentic, to be completely honest, to say exactly what I need, to be silent, to laugh and to have fun.  Caleb affirms me, encourages me, and challenges me, and he gives me room to replenish and rejuvenate myself through time alone and with friends and other family members. 

But to what end does my marriage provide this joy and revitalization?  As much as a point d’appui is a resting place, it is also a starting place.  In Thoreau’s language, it isn’t a foundation where one settles permanently, but a firm ground from which one takes a deep breath and then pushes off, like the wall of the pool that a swimmer uses to propel herself forward with strength and speed.

Notre Dame

I like thinking about marriage as a point d’appui because it shows just how ripe with possibility the union can be.  It’s a reminder that marriage isn’t an end in itself, something that we act upon, but instead, a place where we can be acted upon — through the love, wisdom, perspective and gifts of our partner — and transformed into the best possible version of ourselves.  Or, in the words of my friend’s self-written vows, a place to “fuel each other for the work of loving the world.” 

In other words, marriage is a place of becoming, a place where we bring our already magnificent selves to be admired, appreciated and delighted in; held, protected and comforted; buffed, shaped and strengthened; inspired, changed and transformed into our best selves.

Claude Monet’s House, in Giverny

 

Putting Myself Out There

Busy StreetI’ve been on a Brene Brown kick recently, and I’m finding that her key themes of vulnerability, shame, wholehearted living, and surviving failure are really resonating with me.  Brown is my kind of author, and I am always going to love a book that integrates self-help, research, spirituality, storytelling and list-making, but during this year of moving, making friends, and new jobs, her work feels especially helpful.

“People who live wholeheartedly are people who are facing their lives and living their lives, putting themselves out there and in consequence knowing that they will get hurt.  They are living with gusto and intention and not taking a backseat in their life.”

This has been a year of putting myself out there, and, if I am being completely honest, I didn’t love it.  With each new class that I’ve taught, service trip that I have led and event that I have planned, I have had to wonder: how will this go?  Will the students respond well?  What if I get lost on my way to the site/event location?  I’ve had to meet a lot of new people, which is tiring for an introvert, and I’ve felt overwhelmed by anxiety, worry, and frustration at numerous points.  Read more

Places to play in…

Teresa Camping

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”    —John Muir

When we lived in Boston and had access to the most fabulous public transportation system (if my loyalties to the MBTA went unswayed in the midst of horrible delays and cancellations during last year’s treacherous winter, I think it is fair to count myself as one of this transit system’s greatest enthusiasts), C and I didn’t have a car.  I loved everything about not having a car — the financial savings, the absence of stress about traffic and parking, not having to worry about having a designated driver when we went out — and it was with a somewhat heavy heart that I realized we would need to buy a vehicle when we moved to Rhode Island.  Read more