Writer and businesswoman Shelly McNamara shares a chapter of her new memoir
Shelly McNamara was already an incredibly accomplished businesswoman, serving as Chief Equality & Inclusion Officer at Procter & Gamble, when she decided to pursue her dream of writing a book. The result is No Blanks, No Pauses: A Path to Loving Self and Others, which combines personal memoir and original poetry to tell the story of Shelly’s journey towards self acceptance and self-love. Below is an excerpt from the book called Connected By Love, in which Shelly describes the feeling of marrying her longtime partner, Cindy.
Connected by Love
Be patient and show them that love has no boundaries.
My deepest insight, after all these years of writing, speaking, and engaging with people from around the world, is that we are all connected by love. There are many experiences that have etched this truth into my heart and soul. But there are two that stand out above the rest.
In July 2014, after thirty years and three daughters, I married my best friend and life partner. Cindy and I were married in Provincetown, Massachusetts, on the deck of The Red Inn. It was just the five of us. It felt right to be just us.
For most couples, this day represents a beginning, but for us, it was about closure. I finally felt free. Free to be me. Free to be us. I felt validated, acknowledged, and loved—without condition. I felt included in a club that had fought so hard to keep me—to keep us— out. It was a new day for me, and for us as a couple, and for our girls.
We exchanged vows and I looked over at our girls. Ali had tears streaming down her face. Kate was smiling ear to ear. And then there was Nicole—she stood there, “clapping and clapping.”
After a private and fun lunch (thanks to the champagne and dessert sent by dear friends), we headed for the door. I looked back to find Cindy in deep conversation with a hotel employee.
Jorge had approached Cindy with tears in his eyes: “That was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever witnessed. So much joy. So much love. I hope that I, too, can have that someday. True love. Children. A family to call my own. As a gay man, it’s not easy for me to believe I can have all of that. You gave me hope and inspiration.”
We were so happy that we could give Jorge something that eluded us for so many years. There had been so many messages telling us that our love was less valid, less real. That was now all behind us.
After a celebration at the beach, we drove about two hours to be with Cindy’s family. It was so important to all of us that we celebrate with my now “official” mother-in-law, Alice. She had always been relentless and persistent in her support and love for us.
That night, as the five of us said goodnight to her, she looked up at me and quietly whispered, “Shelly—I am SO HAPPY.”
I looked back at her, smiled, and said, “I know you are—so am I.”
I’m glad we could give her this joy before she left this Earth.
Alice passed away two years later in 2016 at the age of ninety-seven. The five of us sat with her in her final days and moments on Earth. It gave us the chance to give back the love she so generously gave us for so many years. A woman of great strength and deep love. The best mother in-law anyone could ever have.
Everyone deserves to have hope and happiness. To believe that they can have the life they want—to have the love they feel acknowledged and seen as valid and valuable. It is time to open hearts and minds, to create space for everyone to live the lives they were meant to live. I believe that who we are—our unique natures, strengths, insights, and gifts—is so much more powerful and relevant than any label someone can throw at us or on us. Labels limit. Love expands.
We limit with our labels
We assume who people are
And what they like to do
We overvalue the what
We undervalue the who
We miss the gifts
Given to each
We miss the purpose and path
Each came to pursue
What will it take
To meet, connect, and discover
Who you are
Who we are
Who we can be together . . .
I Believe We Can Be Very Powerful Together!
My mother-in-law knew that Cindy and I had spent decades without the privilege of a title or a label that included or embraced us. Eleven years earlier, in 2005, we experienced a beautiful moment of validation. She offered that validation in her sweet, thoughtful, but very direct manner. Alice, then eighty-six years old, became the first person ever to introduce me properly.
“This is my daughter-in-law, Shelly,” she said to a neighbor. It was particularly meaningful because, back in 2005, after twenty years together, we couldn’t legally marry. We were, however, connected by love, commitment, and three, beautiful daughters. Alice, my mother-in-law, didn’t need a law to properly define our relationship. She acknowledged us for who we were to her and to each other. No blanks. No pauses.
No Blanks, No Pauses
We don’t usually get the privilege
Of a title or label that includes and embraces us
We get the pause and the blanks
“This is Shelly and . . . uhhh, Cindy.”
It’s the kind of pause that forces the listener to wonder
Who I am and how I fit in
The realization usually settles in as they see me with my partner and kids
That all changed one rainy day in May
Sweet, loving, 86 year old Alice introduced me to a neighbor:
“This is my daughter-in-law, Shelly.”
No blanks, no pauses
Only love and genuine acknowledgement
Of who I was to her
No blanks, no pauses
This is an excerpt from Shelly McNamara’s book No Blanks, No Pauses: A Path to Loving Self and Others