Not too long ago, I was having a bad week. A very regular doctor’s appointment quickly turned into a very serious doctor’s appointment, which turned into lots of tears and phone calls to a few close loved ones to say, “There’s a problem, there were tests, there’s nothing to do but wait.”
There are few agonies in life worse than waiting for medical results. The Unknown swept in and clouded everything; I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I was in a terrible mood, our whole house was full of pregnant silence. And while crisis is never welcome, this felt like especially unfair timing: my friend’s wedding was in five days.
She was the first phone call I made, partly because she is one of my closest and dearest friends, and partly because I wasn’t thinking straight and was very suddenly concerned about her catering numbers and seating arrangements. I told her that I didn’t think I could come to her wedding. I couldn’t bear the idea of my devastated self trying to navigate every enthusiastic “How are you’s” from friends I hadn’t seen in a while, and forcing a dishonest answer about being great, or being honest and forever branded as the Debbie Downer of Maggie’s Wedding. Weddings are about love, future, and hope. I didn’t feel like I had any of those things to offer while I waited for that doctor’s phone call.
My daughter and I still flew to the Bay Area to stay with my parents, because the tickets were already purchased and I thought it wouldn’t hurt to be pitied and pampered for a few days. My daughter played with their baby chickens while I moped around and tried to stay distracted. The only thing that kept me from thinking about myself was thinking about Maggie’s wedding. I’d never been more disappointed to miss an event, and made me feel even more sorry for myself.
And then, it hit me: this wedding wasn’t about me.
Where ever did I ever get the idea that this wedding was about me? I think it is because we all seem to think it’s all about us these days (hello, selfies). On the one hand, its a good thing to learn how to take care of one’s self. On the other hand, it’s a message that’s become convoluted; if I’m thinking about me, everyone else must be too. I don’t know if it’s because the last wedding I attended was my wedding, but I had some idea that every moment of Maggie’s wedding would involve our friends looking at me, talking to me, you know… me. It was embarrassing realization, sitting in my parents’ kitchen, to consider myself selfish. But more importantly, it was a huge relief because missing Maggie’s wedding was becoming more important than the possible outcomes of these medical tests, which could be fine by the way. I realized that if it turned to be too hard, after all, I could always leave. But it might not be hard; it might be wonderful.
My humbling epiphany happened before noon; I still had time to drive to the ceremony if I hurried up. I borrowed clothes from my mom, repeating the mantra, “It isn’t about me,” because my mom’s style and my style are far from similar—all I cared about was looking appropriate. My sister had a coat I could use, my parent’s loaned me the car with a full tank of gas. I drove toward the Mendocino coast with determination and only had to pull over once (my dress was just too tight for a three-hour drive, and I had to ask a nice woman at a deli to unzip it for me).
I made it in plenty of time and walked up a grassy knobby hillside to the ceremony site with one of Maggie’s relatives from Wisconsin who helped me with my dress. Everything was gorgeous and perfect, including the heavy fog that rolled in and blanketed everything. I’d forgotten my sister’s coat after all that, but found a pile of wool blankets in the trunk of the car; no one cares what’s fashionable when it’s that cold. We huddled under blankets and wondered at the majestic view of the Pacific Ocean, and then we wondered and cried and cheered at Maggie and her groom, John as they made vows to one another until death do they part. Then we went down the hill into a romantic barn and wondered how anyone could make polenta that was so good and creamy. It was the best day ever.
I was having so much fun and was so happy for my friends that I didn’t think about myself or my maybe-bad news at all—what a relief to be over myself for a few hours. And maybe that’s another part of weddings I hadn’t completely appreciated until now, that they offer us some time to forget ourselves and forget about all the possibly bad-news events happening around us all the time. My grandfather is ninety years old; many of his days are spent at the funerals of friends. At my wedding, he thanked me for the opportunity to celebrate life with his children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He may not have many more chances to be with his legacy; the wedding was about him as much as it was about me and my husband. There is something difficult in everyone’s life; weddings do not ignore this, but they offer escape as well as love and community despite.
Of all the unknowns, there was at least one thing for sure: Maggie’s wedding was an absolutely perfect example of two people committing to hope and one another. It was an awesome reason to celebrate, regardless of what anyone was wearing or how cold it might have been, or what was happening in anyone’s personal lives. And it was beautiful because love, hope, and the future is all we have, when we get right down to it.
(And the doctor finally called; so far, it looks like all the tests are negative and I am healthy for now.)