Allow me to set the scene:
I’ve made it to the wedding on time…
(Despite the fact that outside of NYC apparently Ubers aren’t the instantaneous manifestations I’m accustomed to)…
I’m seated for the outdoor service.
The weather is perfect.
The ceremonial music begins.
The wedding party, brimming with youthful beauty, start their entrances.
And…to my great surprise—and to everyone else’s––I see that included on the bride’s side is…
Not a movie or TV star.
Definitely not a politician.
Not even someone from a reality show.
Yet nonetheless, the best possible celebrity wedding guest of all time.
The ring bearer is no less than Legolas, the Elven prince and archer from Lord of the Rings.
More specifically, a cardboard cutout of him, carried down the aisle by one of the bridesmen.
Suddenly, if you had any doubts remaining about whether or not you’d be having a good time, they’re gone.
I’m going to keep the other details of the wedding private but let’s just say that the quirkiness was off the chart.
Again and again, it was inspiring to see the couple’s freedom around self-expression.
There were moments during the ceremony that clearly had a private meaning only for them and they were completely cool with that.
They could, it seems, only be themselves.
And that gave everyone else the permission to do the same.
It was the embodiment of that extraordinary Marianne Williamson quote:
“And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same.”
At the end of the day, there really isn’t anything more powerful you can do for yourself and for everyone else.
After last week’s newsletter, many people but particularly yoga teachers wrote back to me.
They needed to express their feelings about learning that the “ancient” Hafez poetry they love is really all the work of a very modern dude from Missouri.
There may be some slight comfort in knowing that besides Rumi and Hafez, the other poet most often quoted by spiritual types is Mary Oliver, and she’s very much the real thing.
From an ocean of quotable passages, I always recommend this one to struggling writerssince it gets to the heart of everything:
Instructions for living a life:
Tell about it.
And, of course, the line I’ve heard and said in countless yoga classes:
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
It is such an endlessly inspiring inquiry yet sometimes I think we often take it to mean that we need to be doing something outrageous or unheard of, something bold or utterly original.
Therefore, I think it’s important to remember what Mary Oliver did with her own wild and precious life.
Basically, she took very long walks, noticed things in nature, and wrote elegant poems about it all.
In other words, you’re totally allowed to imitate her and have a wild and precious life that’s serene and reflective.
It’s sorta related yet many worlds away from literary fraud re: Hafez but I have also been thinking about the power of pen names.
Given its provocative content, I told my first creative client to write her memoir without inhibition, knowing she could always publish it under an assumed name.
That allowed her to share her story without the enormously weighty burden of self-censorship.
Although I haven’t written a memoir (yet), I’ve had two books published under pseudonyms.
The first was a romance novel I wrote more or less on a dare right after college.
Since the publisher only released books by female authors, I needed to come up with a new author name because “Edward” just wouldn’t do.
The second was a paperback I co-wrote in that youthful time.
It was a mass-market success and proud though I was of the achievement since I knew it wasn’t “on brand’––a phrase that had yet to be invented––I opted for another pseudonym.
Since this one got me and my co-author on several national TV shows, obviously I needed something male.
Inspired by Oscar Wilde, I chose “Ernest,” which I found delightfully ironic as a fake name.
Indeed, there were moments it was decidedly difficult to keep a straight face as a sincere yet unknowing reporter would lean in and launch into a penetrating question such as:
“But tell us, Ernest,
what really inspired you to write this book?”
Before I headed off to the wedding, I told a friend how this event promised to be stress-free.
The “worst” that could happen was that I might be seated with strangers I didn’t connect with, forced to offer a sound-bite of my life that fell flat.
In fact, I actually wondered for a moment if the elevator pitch of my identity needed some fine-tuning.
Given the pandemic, this was going to be my first major meet and greet in quite a while.
Just how do you describe yourself and that “one wild and precious life” you’re living in 20 words or less?
I smiled as I recalled how years ago at a very fancy Fifth Avenue dinner party, the high society hostess, the mother of a dear friend, kept introducing me as “a very famous JUDO instructor.”
(Yoga ≠ judo…but maybe, if not a bullseye, it was close enough, at least for that crowd on that night.)
Anyway, the freedom of self-expression embodied in last week’s festivities was so inspiring, it was easy to simply shine by being myself.
And it led me to think about all the things I’ve shared above:
- How a pen name you’ve invented can free you up to be more truthful (or at least get published).
- How living your “one wild and precious life” may be quieter than we initially imagine.
- And most importantly, how expressing ourselves freely really does give other people the permission and the power to do the same. It allows everyone to shine.
Like the happy couple, let’s all keep doing more of that…
Namaste for Now…