Last night I listened to an interview with the marriage counselor, Bruce Licht. He works in private practice and has taught at the Naropa Institute since 1979. I’ve never spent a better hour than I did with his useful, quirky insights. The moderator asked him, “You’ve been married for more than 30 years. How do you manage to stay in a 30 year marriage?”
Licht responded, “I am disturbed every day. That’s how; by being able to be disturbed.”
It reminded me of a conversation I had 15 years ago with a woman waiting in line next to me to try on clothes at Century 21, a New York department store. The line in the store is notorious—a 45 minute wait is not unheard of. Her husband sauntered over ten minutes into our wait and presented her with a glass of fresh orange juice.
The other women looked at her with some envy. I said, “Where can I find one in my size?” She laughed. “That’s so nice. How long have you been married?” I asked as I always do. “Twenty seven years,” she said and smiled. “So how,” I went on, “How do you keep such a happy marriage?” “I think about divorce every day.”I think about divorce? Every day? Prepare to be disturbed? Is that what Sharyn Wolf considers to be good marriage advice, you might wonder? It’s better than good in my eyes. It might even be great. Couples who are as comfortable with their bad feelings as they are with their good feelings fare better overall. It’s simply impossible to spend years with one person and not experience almost every feeling known to lizards, monkeys and humans—mind and body, both. Living with the full range of our emotions is a worthy goal. Pretending not to have them can make you sick. Anger, jealousy, boredom—they aren’t the real problem. It’s what you say and how you act when you have those kinds of emotions that can strengthen your relationship or demolish it.
In my life, I have had perfect moments—a sunset in Jamaica with close friends, coming, unexpectedly, upon a bobcat on a hike, jamming in the Green Room with Taj Mahal, having an ex-client approach me at a party and tell me how much working with me changed her life, and, of course, a kiss I’d waited months for.
I’ve also been lucky enough to be present during other people’s perfect moments—like this one which happened when I was the lead vocalist in a wedding band during the 80’s.
The bride’s grandfather was guest of honor. He’d been a young cello player in Germany when, as a Jew, he was transported to and survived the camps. Before the wedding ceremony, the affianced vacationed in Germany, and decided to try and find her grandfather’s old home. They found his apartment and inquired whether anyone living there remembered him. They located a family that had occupied a neighboring apartment during those years. The old woman remembered the grandfather—they were kids together—and added, spontaneously, that she thought she knew who might have his cello. She was right, they were given the instrument and shipped it home.
After the ceremony, the newly married couple told the room this story as they presented him with his childhood cello. Weeping, he held it in his arms and played.