I got married. Brad and I married each other. After 6 1/2 years together, 5 years dating, 1.5 years affianced, we are now officially husband and wife. I need words words words. I’m desperately trying to find the words to paint all of this in an accurate light, but so much of being engaged, planning a wedding, and getting married just… feels. Feelings are elusive, but even butterflies can be caught. I truly want to document our wedding week so that I have it for always and ever. More than just a beautiful portrait (and our pictures truly are amazing, I’m obsessed with our photographer), I want to write our story. So I’ll try. Step by step, and feeling by feeling.
If I were to document the entirety of our engagement I would end up with at least a two, maybe three volume series. Perhaps someday I’ll write that book, but for now I just want to focus on our wedding. There’s the story of what happened. “This” happened then this and that. Then there are the colors of what happened. How do I capture both? At the same time I suppose. Let me try.
In the 1.5 years that Brad and I were engaged I felt just about every emotion on the spectrum. I never jump into the pool all at once. I’m a one-toe-at-a-time kind of gal. I must carefully feel and analyze every emotion present in major life events before moving on to the next phase. I admire those who jump in with both feet and sort things out later, and for a long time I felt that I should be that. Trying to be the type of person who rushes into things with abandon, despite how unnatural it feels to my essence, has been the source of much anxiety throughout my life. In my engagement and in planning a wedding I learned to stop trying to be something I’m not. To allow myself to feel whatever it is I feel, and to honor those feelings because they are the stories of me. I came out of the womb cautiously analyzing my surroundings, ask my mother, she’ll attest, so why should I change now? Certain things are just part of our blueprint. We spend a lot of time growing up trying to sort through who we want to be, only to come full circle and realize we are who we’ve always been. I’m not discrediting personal growth. What I’m describing actually has been a huge period of growth for me. The irony of this growth, however, is that the answer was me all along. I am who I am. Isn’t that why the Wizard of Oz ultimately has the mythological power that it does? The quest for adventure, truth, ourselves, will be fraught with lessons that ultimately lead us back to the beginning. To our “home” where we discover that “You had the power all along, my dear.”
So that’s me. That is the framework with which I approached this wedding. I wanted to allow myself to feel whatever it is that I would feel. Knowing that I loved Brad with my whole heart, knowing how good we are together, and knowing that he regards and treats me as his beloved and I likewise, whatever feelings that arose as I approached the wedding were not an indicator or a reason not to marry. All signs and instincts pointed to “I do” as far as that was concerned. For 6.5 years my heart has swelled with love and gratitude for the man. I knew I wanted to be his wife. Any difficult emotions that arose were a result of the pain of transformation. I knew from past life experience and from the period of our engagement that I could be met with some dark emotions on this journey. I accepted that as a possibility for my wedding day. I accepted the presence of fear, anxiety, even grief. To marry is to move out of one phase of life and grow into the next. To mourn the loss of a single life, to find footing in the new normal of coupledom. It is to transform. Transformation is met with growing pains, almost certainly, no matter how joyous the occasion. Knowing that the only way out of darkness is through it, and knowing that repression leads to festering and rot, I had to accept these growing pains. Accepting allowed me the space to let in the light (pun intended). I would not let my fear of darkness cloud the radiance and joy that would also be making its way into my life as I approached this sacred event. I knew that both could and probably would exist, and in giving over to those emotions, in letting go of the need to insure this would be “the happiest day of my life” I can gladly report that July 21, 2014 was filled with more beauty and love than I could have ever dreamed.
How did I do this? The answer to that I can honestly say that I learned from acting. For whatever reason, perhaps it’s emotional availability or simply something to do with my own personal myth, I am often cast in roles that grieve, that hurt, that mourn. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t attracted to these roles, so I’m not complaining. I’m drawn to characters with big dreams whose lives have not turned out as planned. I love their stories; but it’s not easy to go there. I don’t want this post to turn into an acting lesson, but I will abbreviate ALL of my BFA Acting training from Boston University into one simple word: presence. The only way I could dive into the darkness of Mary Warren, or embrace the pain of Wanda in The Baby Dance was to start at the beginning and surrender to the journey. If as an actor you’ve created the right map during rehearsal you will find where you need to go every night; but if you start the journey thinking about where you need to end up you will be lost from the beginning. It’s an interesting paradox, or perhaps I’d even call it a trick. Knowing where you need to end up emotionally and yet also knowing that the only way you’ll get there is by surrendering to the reality that you cannot in fact control, anticipate, or predict how you will feel when you get there. All I know is that as an actor embracing that chaos, that unknown, works for me every time. Turns out the same was true with how I approached our wedding ceremony. Acting! It’s useful!
Of course I knew how I wanted to feel. Every bride, I would imagine, wants to feel a combination of happy, beautiful, elated, blissed out, and filled with joy as she walks down the aisle. Of course. But I couldn’t try to feel that way. I either would or I wouldn’t, simple as that. All I could do was focus on the map Brad and I had created and live presently within it. We brought our families and people that we loved together. We created a sacred space to stand together and proclaim our love. We wrote vows. We exchanged rings. These tangible physical acts created a framework. Like objectives and actions for the actor, I could rely on these things. I could hold them and do them. I could control them. And also like an actor I could not control what emotions accompanied, but I could surrender to them nonetheless and refocus on the actions.
So what DID I feel then? Everything. I kept checking in with myself the entire week before our wedding. I took my emotional temperature promising not to judge whatever I was feeling but just let it exist, let it be. One day I felt overwhelming anxiety when I thought about both of our families converging. The next day I felt pure joy and excitement to see all of the very same friends and family together. Of course I would never have had room for the joy to make its way in had I been clinging on to the anxiety in fear and resistance. The day before our wedding I felt relaxed and joyful as a cross-section of our wedding guests all embarked on a whitewater rafting trip on the Arkansas. Many people might think I was crazy to go whitewater rafting just a few hours before our rehearsal dinner but I would not trade that morning for the entire world. It was The. Best. Ever.
At our rehearsal I felt immense nerves. Everything was becoming very real. In 24 hours I would be someone’s wife. As I walked toward the meadow with a huge nervous knot in my stomach I spotted my best friend and Maid of Honor, Dana. I’m so grateful for what she did next. In fact, I’m pretty sure that what happened next allowed the entire rest of the wedding process to develop as organically as it did. She started crying. In that moment everything became real for her too, and the 16+ journey of our friendship was culminating. Not ending, but inevitably changing. I had been holding something back as I approached this rehearsal, trying to control my feelings, (hence the nervous ball in my gut), and seeing Dana’s emotions allowed me to release. I saw her, we hugged, and we both just cried there together. The knot in my stomach loosened and suddenly I felt more joy make its way in where fear was previously taking up all occupancy. I doubt Dana knows how profound that moment was for me, and how grateful I am for it. (Dana, now you know 🙂 )
The emotional channels were back open and the rest of the rehearsal carried on with more tears, laughs, nerves, and fun.
The dinner following rehearsal was filled with gratitude. Standing on Main Street in Buena Vista, witnessing our friends and family that had made this journey to be with us, I was so full (and I hadn’t even eaten yet). After dinner we of course got ice cream before making our way back to the venue to begin setting up. Ice cream. It’s always an important detail.
Gratitude is the word that describes the rest of the evening. My Aunt Diane and Uncle Larrie were already at the reception hall to begin set-up once we arrived. My relationship with my Aunt and Uncle can be defined by good times. The best holidays, the best birthdays, the best “Becky Bake Days,” and the most beautiful mountain vacations in Oregon. Spending this time with them setting up my wedding could only be described as, the best. In addition to the quality time with my family, seeing all of these little elements I had been working on for months and months come together was truly magical. I couldn’t believe it actually. Those crepe paper flowers looked pretty good. It was ALL looking pretty good! Seeing everyone, Mom Dennis Brother Aunt Uncle Cousin Dana Russell Uncle, seeing all of them come together with us and make this possible. Well, that feeling truly did approach bliss.
As we finished setting up it was time for Brad to head back to his parents’ house. We wouldn’t see each other again until I walked down the aisle to become his wife. We stood there in the reception hall on the eve of our wedding, holding each other and looking into each other’s eyes. Without words other than “I love you” we acknowledged that something tonight was ending, but something beautiful was about to begin. We held each other with anticipation, joy, and again, gratitude. A kiss, an embrace, and he drove home to his parents’ mountain house. I stood there knowing that that was it. I would never again have a boyfriend, or a fiance. This train was barreling forward, layers continuing to be shed, new shades and colors being drawn into these new parts of ourselves.
And now a night of fun. I would be spending the night in Mom and Dennis’ cabin with Dana and my brother. We desperately wanted a celebratory nightcap but here’s a tip for anyone planning an event in the middle of the mountains, plan ahead for that kind of thing. Festivities end pretty early in the middle of nowhere as it turns out. The bar closed at 11:00, the General Store even earlier, and a drive into town to the liquor store (which we were pretty sure was also closed anyway), was fraught with risk as we didn’t know if we had enough gas to make the trip. And the gas station was closed. We weren’t getting a drink that night. We accepted our night of celebratory sobriety and settled in for a cozy evening and a movie on cable. So what movie, you may ask, did I end up watching on the night before I got married? Well I’ll tell you. It was none other than, Child’s Play. Yep, we had a night with Chucky. The randomness of it, the ridiculousness, it was kind of perfect. There IS actually a good metaphor at play here as well. You see, Chucky is a figure that Dana had always been pretty spooked by (a demonic doll is pretty terrifying), but she had never actually seen the movie. Well, actually sitting down and watching the movie, realizing how terrible, cheesy, and ridiculous it was pretty much evaporated or at least assuaged all of Dana’s fears. So facing something head on, turning on the light, does in fact release your fears. Perfect metaphor for approaching marriage, right? It works for me.
In the months leading up to this day, this night, this moment, I anticipated not being able to sleep a wink the night before my wedding. I wondered if I would be paralyzed with fear, or giddy with excitement. Everything about this wedding had me wondering how I would feel in various moments, but again, I knew that I could wonder and wonder but I could not control it. Like a present, you wonder what is inside and you hope for certain things, but ultimately you cannot control what you open up and discover. So there I am. I’ve arrived at the night before my wedding. Perhaps it was waking up at 6:30 to go whitewater rafting. Perhaps it was an incredibly full day. Perhaps it was the release of emotions I allowed myself during the rehearsal. Perhaps it was Chucky. I’m not sure; but as I went to bed that night I felt… tired. And I felt peaceful. And I felt happy. I slept like a baby the night before my wedding.
The day has arrived. My wedding day. I think I shall save the account of this day for a follow-up post as this one is getting rather long and I don’t want to abbreviate anything about the actual day. But I’m glad I did this. I don’t know who is reading, but this particular post has probably been more for me than for anyone else. I apologize that my tenses are all over the place, my syntax is pretty messy, and I don’t have enough fingers to count my grammatical errors. I generally try to take more care with my writing but this post required a bit more of an abstract approach with words. Thank you for reading. Stay tuned in the next few days if you want to hear what it’s like to feel every emotion all at once, i.e. get married. I’ll give one little preview metaphor. You know how the presence of every color is not actually black, but white? The presence of every emotion is similar.You may think it would be chaos, but it’s actually a kind of peace.
To be continued…