Some Therapeutic Aspects of a Vacation: Renewal of Marital Vows, Suffs, and Music


H. Steven Moffic, MD, recaps his vacation and the impact it had on his state of mind.




In my column last Tuesday, I discussed a recent emphasis on making vacations therapeutic in some way, intentionally or not. Although I had not consciously planned our few days in Manhattan over the weekend to be therapeutic, it did have its therapeutic moments. I suppose that was likely given it was related to our upcoming 56th wedding anniversary. How so?

Marriage and Renewal of Vows

It was billed as “The Wedding. New York’s Biggest Day,” to be held at Lincoln Center on June 22nd. It was the 3rd annual one and free. Anyone planning to get married or wanting to renew their vows was invited.

I was able to keep it a secret from my wife. I gave only 1 clue. Wear yellow, I told her without explanation. Yellow was the color we wore when we were first married. I smuggled in a yellowish tux jacket.

I wondered if it was going to be hokey or inspiring. It turned out to be very inspiring. Held in the atrium of the symphony hall and the hall itself, it was crowded but not overcrowded with individuals from all states of life, cultures, and dress. Pre-events included a string quartet of alumni from Juilliard, a rotating video opportunity, tarot readings, henna, and a touch-up. The master of ceremonies asked how many were planning on getting married versus renewal of vows for the upcoming mock ceremony. To my surprise, it was about half and half.

The renewal of marital vows is what especially had its therapeutic aspects. This was to be our 3rd renewal. The first was in a temple in Thailand abut 15 years ago and the second at our synagogue for our 50th golden anniversary.

We pulled out 1 of the questions from our deck of “Travel Therapy” cards which I had brought. Rusti answered the question “What is this destination trying to teach you?” With its essence, her reply was: “appreciation and remembrance.” I would recommend taking part in a renewal of vows for any intimate relationship anytime you can. All relationships can benefit from some time out to review the past, present, and committed hopes for the future. Rusti wants to return to this one next year.

Suffs and Suffrage

When we ended up with a free afternoon, I asked Rusti, a musical theatre performer in her own development, what musical she wanted to see. “Suffs” was the answer. We knew a bit about it as it won a couple of Tony Awards recently. Hillary Clinton was a producer. It was a musical about the women’s struggle for voting suffrage from 1913-1920. Heroism, courage, and internal as well as external conflict were depicted through song and words. A star seemed to be born in Shaina Taub, who wrote the book, music, and lyrics over 10 years, and starred in it.

The timing is certainly right. Although women now have had the vote for over a century, their vote is especially important in this time of loss of reproductive rights. That issue was only 1 of many where there was a great difference of opinion in the Presidential debate last night. Whether it was important or not, another difference is that Melania Trump did not attend the debate, while Jill Biden did so.

Connecting the Dots in Music

It is often said, as I have in these columns, that music is a healing force in the universe. So how could attending a music festival of carefully curated classical and jazz not be therapeutic? Add that this anniversary Chelsea Music Festival of about 10 days has been put on by our Milwaukee’s own Masur couple, the pianist Melinda Lee and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra conductor Ken-David, how could it fail? Moreover, their innovation over its 15 years was to combine music with culinary and visual arts. I am still reliving the mouth-watering strawberry shortcake at the closing reception of the last concert we attended. This year it also included the neuropsychology of brain connections in its educational aspects, including for children. The lofty and inspirational goal was:

“Connecting the Dots traces how music and art allows us to touch what seems intangible, repair what seems broken, and reimagine our interconnectedness with one another.”

Much is available online for those who have never been able to attend live over these 15 years.

In a serendipitous connection with the renewal of marital vows, their letter and picture in the brochure depicted and commented on their anniversary trip to the Grand Canyon earlier in the year and being awed there. Awe, we know, is therapeutic.

There is always the potential for some therapeutic obstacles on vacations, too. And there were for us, mainly the record-setting heat and humidity in New York, at least in part a reflection of our climate changes. Then, again, what was the theme of the Chelsea Music Festival last year? Songs for the Earth. Indeed, they had been on top of a threat to our mental well-being.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry and is now in retirement and retirement as a private pro bono community psychiatrist. A prolific writer and speaker, he has done a weekday column titled “Psychiatric Views on the Daily News” and a weekly video, “Psychiatry & Society,” since the COVID-19 pandemic emerged. He was chosen to receive the 2024 Abraham Halpern Humanitarian Award from the American Association for Social Psychiatry. Previously, he received the Administrative Award in 2016 from the American Psychiatric Association, the one-time designation of being a Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Speaker of the Assembly of the APA in 2002, and the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill in 1991. He is an advocate and activist for mental health issues related to climate instability, physician burnout, and xenophobia. He is now editing the final book in a 4-volume series on religions and psychiatry for Springer: Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, Christianity, and now The Eastern Religions, and Spirituality. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times.

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