Monday, September 12, 2016

"This is my daughter, and her partner."

In a long walk through the city on Saturday morning, I listened to Krista Tippett's interview with Mirabai Bush. She spoke about coming to meditation practice in the 1970's.

"I began to see the basic nature of the impermanence of thoughts as they rise and fall away, and I started taking them less seriously," she said. "It gave me a kind of radical self-confidence: that I belonged here on the planet and that I would be able to understand the basics of how it's all unfolding."

I vowed to keep Mirabai Bush's words top of mind as I steeled myself for unpleasant encounters and anxiety at my cousin's wedding later that day. I would recognize them rise in my mind, and watch them fall.

Armed with this reminder, I pulled on the dress Sonia had ordered me from Rent the Runway, and we set off for the suburbs. The Catholic church was pale and drab. There weren't any flowers and the microphones didn't work.

Sonia and I arrived ten minutes late, entered the sanctuary just as the bride and groom reached the altar and sat in the last occupied pew on the left. No one had told the participants how to turn the microphones on. Even my parents, in the fifth row, couldn't hear a word.

When people clapped a second time, we knew it was over. After thirteen years of Catholic school (K-12) going to mass twice a week, I couldn't tell if it had been a full mass.

After the ceremony, something extraordinary and bizarre happened.

The first pews of people began filing out behind the wedding party, followed by the second row of pews and everyone else. My family -- aunts, uncles, a few cousins and finally my parents -- began to pass by the place where Sonia and I stood.

Everyone was smiling, some tentatively. Sonia and I stepped into the aisle and said hello to them, one by one. I said, "This is my partner, Sonia," after I hugged each aunt and uncle, and most of them hugged her, too.

This partner title is an upgrade, for which I'd asked Sonia's permission on the road to the wedding. We made cowboy jokes.

At previous family gatherings, I'd introduced Sonia as my girlfriend. My mother and aunts call their friends "girlfriends" sometimes, so this led to a little confusion or willful ignorance. Partner felt more permanent. They took it in. They seemed to take her in.

We were in a receiving line preceding the actual receiving line. The line backed up, as they do. We slowed and found things to talk about. Sonia bantered with my aunt about a pillow infomercial; my uncle awkwardly mocked the way I'd said "shopping." It was ok.

At the bar at cocktail hour, my dad introduced us to someone he'd been talking to from the other side of the family. "This is my daughter, Rita," he said, "and her partner Sonia."

After seven years, it was finally working.

One drink later, he revealed that he'd given my brother one of the three family time shares and was feeling guilty about it, especially considering I'd paid my own way to college. He fumbled, clearly unplanned, and asked me what he could do to make it up to me.

I swallowed the feeling of being wronged. I don't have a right to my parents' money or possessions, and I cannot control their generosity.

Sonia and I sat at a table with a few other young couples from the city; my parents were on the other side of the room with my aunts and uncles. A few hours into the dancing, I swayed to a slow dance with my dad.

When I announced that we were leaving shortly thereafter, mom pulled dad across the dance floor to say goodbye to Sonia. He kissed her on the cheek as they said goodbye.

I hadn't once consciously used the morning reminder: I am not my thoughts. The reminder itself was sufficient to propel me into the day with confidence and resolve.

And something that hadn't occurred to me as possible actually happened: we had a good time.

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