*Kim, Bereavement Counselor and Adjunct Psychology Professor & Brian, Animator and Graphic Designer*
So long time readers have been waiting for Kim‘s wedding graduate post for more than a year! A year! It’s been more than a year since she wrote about sky diving from an airplane as a way to celebrate letting go of her fear of marriage. So what has she been doing all this time, you might be asking yourself? Well, she’s been processing the fact that her wedding wasn’t perfect. She’s been coming to terms with the fact that she can love her wedding without liking it. And after last week’s discussions about how we come to terms with the fact that life, and weddings, don’t always look like we want them to, I couldn’t think of a more perfect person to bring the message home than Kim. That’s right. I said perfect. Because some things just are.
Okay, I’m coming clean: I didn’t like our wedding reception. I was jealous that our guests had more fun than I did. And most of all, I didn’t like who I was on that day. But I’m not here to vent about everything that went wrong. And I’m not even going to list all of the things my husband Brian and I should have done differently. (For example, I won’t say that Meg was right—you really, really need to have a coordinator/ stage manager for the day. Hint, hint.) Instead, I want to talk about how I, after lots of hard “inner work,” came to love our terrible wedding day without necessarily feeling obliged to like it. There’s a big difference. And that difference keeps me sane.
But first, in our wedding’s defense, many of our expectations were met. Our ceremony (officiated by Brian’s parents, both Methodist ministers), was casual, moving, and at times totally hilarious. The sense of community was magical and humbling, just like I knew it would be. And I, in that hour, was my best self: grateful, relaxed, affectionate, and cracking inappropriate jokes with impeccable timing.
However, the reception was another story. About two hours in, it became clear that for various reasons our reception would not be what I had hoped it would be—a reenactment of the final scene in Kevin Bacon’s 1984 big screen debut, Footloose. (That is, a dance party of epic proportions, so fun and wild that women break their high heels and men split their pants.) But that’s not what it was. It was different. And after a year of planning and fantasizing, I was not emotionally prepared for different. Where was Kevin Bacon when we needed him?
In response, I did what any conflict-avoiding introvert would do: I mentally checked out of my own wedding. I abandoned the dance floor—avoided it, actually—and spent the rest of the time floating around like a ghost, interacting with people but not being able to fully enjoy them, faking a smile for photos, putting out logistical fires, saying goodbye to the many guests who were leaving early (while battling thoughts like Oh god, is everyone bored?), and wishing that the torture would end. On top of feeling totally bummed, I felt embarrassed for not having fun at my own wedding. I was me at my worst: depressed, discouraged, and silent. And I wished I was back at our hotel so that I could hide this side of me from everyone, including myself.
From the first day of our honeymoon onward, I suffered from post-wedding depression. There was the shame, guilt, and questioning of my sanity. There was the need to interview every woman on the planet to see if anyone out there could relate. And of course, there was the dreadful fear that I am, in fact, the only one.
My saving grace came in the form of a homemade video. During the week of our one year wedding anniversary nothing had changed; my brain was still being held hostage by would’ve-could’ve-should’ves. And it was in the midst of this regret that I began creating a highlight reel of our wedding reception using photos and video that our friends had taken. I wanted to make a keepsake that Brian and I could watch together on our anniversary. I wanted it to be a beautiful, simple, fun, and funny film because that’s what the day was, aside from the infamous Footloose flop and other disappointments. But in order to create a film like this, I needed to abandon my original expectations for the day and see the big picture.
What it boiled down to all along was that I had complete control over how I told the story of our wedding day. And while I could not change the past, I held the power to remember and interpret that day in any way I wanted. That’s because memories are created, not just by past events, but also by the meaning we make with them.
The process of creating the video also taught me a few things about myself. I realized that while I don’t need to have liked everything about our wedding, it’s important for me to feel like I loved it. I want to love it in the same way that I love my imperfect marriage. I want to love it like my husband loves the (very) imperfect me. I want to love it because it was mine.
I’ve also come to accept who I was on that day. When I reviewed the raw video footage, I saw that in a ten hour period I vacillated between being my best self and my worst self. I was me, squared. And I’m choosing to accept what that looks like. I have no choice, really; it simply must be this way. How else—but through surrender and full acceptance of myself—will I have the energy needed to do the hard work of learning and growing from the experience of being a disappointed bride?
And lastly, I now have a sense of humor about the whole thing. (Finally!) Brian and I refer to our wedding anniversary as our “Oh, man!-iversary.” This year, too broke to celebrate with a fancy weekend getaway, we played frisbee on the beach and enjoyed a classy dinner at our favorite guilty pleasure—Pizza Hut. It was imperfect, a little sad, kinda funny, surprisingly awesome, and totally us. It was our wedding day, all over again.
Our wedding is a short but beloved chapter in the book about Who I Am. It is a chapter with a twist. It’s a chapter that taught me that the next time I’m stuck with the memory of a disappointing event, I’ll be brave enough to fight for my own well-being—that instead of wishing the past could change, I’ll be willing to change my relationship to the past itself, allowing it, in turn, to change me. For the better. No matter what.