On Friday, Paul and I will celebrate our ten year wedding anniversary. The event has me all kinds of nostalgic, and this past week I've been one big, hot, blubbering existentialist mess.
At my age, there haven't been many significant anniversaries that come near to a decade. The only other one in my recent past was the ten year anniversary of my father's death, now well over a year ago. That ten year anniversary was so bitter and sad, reminders of the retirement he never had and all that he'd missed out on, especially being at our wedding and meeting his grand babies. The whole season marked by that anniversary feels like a rainy, grey day that I'd rather forget.
So this feels full of significance and beautiful difference - gratefulness and memories, thinking about how much we've grown over the past decade (sometimes dragging the other along, admittedly), the little girls who are now part of our tribe, and looking forward to what is yet to come. I've also been struck by how much I can't separate "our story" from the stories of everyone we share this life with.
Over the weekend I taught at intensive course on working with autism in the counseling program where I am an adjunct instructor. To start off the weekend I had them each tell about themselves, and I then I shared a little about myself and my work history. At the end, I told them, "I'm really excited to be here this weekend. I've learned so much from the people I have worked with who have autism, and I have such a love for them all." As I said that last part, my voice cracked and I held back tears, embarrassed but embracingly vulnerable of that solid truth. Later in the weekend, I had the class watch a TED talk from Andrew Solomon (I will save a post about the wonders of TED for another time...) that I find poignant on so many levels. In the talk, Love, No Matter What, Solomon talks about the two kinds of identities we have as humans. Vertical identities are those we are born into, and horizontal identities are those we create for ourselves.
His concept inherently connects me to the movement analysis ideas around planes of movement. Three planes - vertical, horizontal and sagittal - each affined to a different way of being and moving. The vertical plane centers around the self, while the horizontal plane focuses on being relational, and the sagittal plane moves us into action. I connected what Solomon said about vertical identities - those which we are born into - connecting to self movement in the vertical plane, whereas as horizontal identities are constructed as we relate to the world and the people in it. It should be of no surprise, then, that moving in the horizontal plane is one of my salient movement preferences (read: something I really like to do).
I thought about this more yesterday as the girls and I were leaving for church. I thought about the faith communities I was raised in, the vertical pieces of what I believe that have now become interwoven with my horizontal faith identity - and the consequent similarities and differences. We were all loaded up and buckled in when I realized that our car battery was dead, absolutely my fault from neglecting to turn off a light or fully close a door the night before. Therein followed a barrage of text messages and ultimately our morning hero, Todd, swinging over to give the car a jump so that Paul could continue with his duties as usual. By the time we left for church I knew we'd arrive too late to really take in much of the service, but I also knew we needed to see our people - so we went anyway.
And I thought about these identity planes again this a.m., on my way to and throughout the sacredness that is my Monday morning dance class. I thought about the various wooden and marley floors I've called home, and the beautiful and familiar feeling of surrendering my body into the cool floor in a delicious X and letting the next 90 minutes take care of themselves. But mostly, I thought about the people I'd shared the space with, and dance studios of the past decade and much more - filled with beloved friends in Lincoln, Minneapolis, Chicago and Madison. I felt filled and content, imagining the swirling loveliness our bodies and breath have shared as I danced with those I am just getting to know on a rainy Portland morning.
I know it's not all flowers and glitter - believe me. The being in this life that we have means brokenness and pain people whose needs go so unheard and unmet, in all the planes of being. Realizing our identifies amidst the mess of it can be a real disaster. But even in the mess, I have to believe in the elusive yet ever present - should we choose to grasp onto it - experience of the joy that persists throughout it all. I'm pulled back to the words of existentialist Rollo May:
Joy, rather than happiness, is the goal of life, for joy is the emotion which accompanies our fulfilling our nature as human beings. It is based on the experience of one's identity as a being of worth and dignity.
I'm not sure how it ends, how to wrap up these smattered thoughts of a decade in partnership, filled with vocations and communities and dancing and people that have made us who we are in this moment. But I'm ever-thankful for it all, for the vertical chance to be a living, breathing, loving human in this world, reaching towards joy and constructing my story through the horizontal story we're weaving together.
To the days and years that have been, to the ones still to come, and to the sacred dance that is life. May you stand tall in your vertical story and find those open-armed horizontal spaces.