Our Right To Be Happy


I’ve stopped wearing my wedding ring.

I’ve been at sixes and sevens about the ring ever since my wife died. Some days I wear it. It spends other days in the drawer. But now it’s off my finger for good. After 165 days as a widower, I’ve come to terms with the reality that I am not married.

For married men, not wearing a wedding ring can be a matter of defining significance.

“Men who choose to go bandless insist they are doing it for a more innocuous reason than adulterous intentions: an unwillingness to be publicly defined by their marital state,” Wrote Amy Sohn in a recent New York magazine column.

In other words, they want to be seen as a person before they are seen as a spouse.

I can buy that. Who doesn’t want to be a person?

Ms. Sohn quotes her 36-year-old married male friend who sports a naked ring finger: “Once you’re labeled a married man, you’re deprived of the attention of numerous people who might have been interested in you. They fill in all these blanks before you can establish what you’re about. You become a stereotype.”

Well, that’s heartening. I’m not a stereotype.

Then what am I?

I’m single. But if I have no wish to enter another romantic relationship, is “single” the right word?

I’m alone, yes, but like most “alone” people, not by choice—not like those who consecrate themselves to the solitariness of celibacy for spiritual reasons.

Like Sister Wendy Beckett, the Catholic nun we know from her PBS series on classic paintings. Even within her cloistered convent, she chooses to live, pray and write in solitude, having no social intercourse with her sisters. Our language, she writes, “has created the word ‘loneliness’ to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word ‘solitude’ to express the glory of being alone.”

Might “free” be an apt descriptor? As in Édith Piaf’s grimly mocking “lucky, lucky me, free again.” Or Kris Kristofferson’s equally sardonic “Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose.”

Freedom is enshrined in this nation as the enabler of our pursuit of happiness. Our individual freedom—if not our very personhood—is threatened by any kind of constraint that impedes our ability to live the life of our choosing.

Paula Huston, however, writes in A Season of Mystery that Christ identified the “free” person as the one no longer burdened by the quest for money, pleasure, possessions, social status, power—the very things that our culture promises will make us happy.

It’s when we cling to the belief that “I have a right to be happy” that we fool ourselves. We pay the price in unsatisfying relationships, unprofitable ambitions, unfulfilled lives.

The way to happiness is to value ourselves as the Creator does—simply for who we are. That’s the way he loves us. That’s the freedom he offers us.

(Image: From the wedding album of Jo Anne Caruso and Peter Yaremko, 11/20/1965)


Read my newest book, Fat Guy in a Fat Boat, in print or Kindle from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Fat-Guy-Boat-Peter-Yaremko/dp/0990905012/

Also available is my e-book, A Light from Within, about the small moments of our lives that seem commonplace until they are examined under a creative lens.

And my weekly reflection on each Sunday of the Jubilee Year of Mercy can be found at: http://www.peterwyaremko.com/mercy

Showing 4 reactions

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  • Judi Space
    commented 2016-05-15 06:46:36 -0400
    Its been two and a half years for me, and I am in the process of reinventing myself. There is alot of freedom in being alone, and I carry a different perspective on it from the vantage point of my 60’s than I did in my 20’s and 30’s.
  • Paul Krantz
    followed this page 2016-05-14 23:25:58 -0400
  • Jeffrey Alexander
    followed this page 2016-05-14 18:21:15 -0400
  • Stephen Kovacev
    commented 2016-05-14 11:17:17 -0400
    Love never dies. It is eternal. Ring or no ring.