Excerpt From ‘No Blanks, No Pauses: A Path to Loving Self and Others’

no blanks book

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