How A Kayak Changed My Perspective

Since earlier this week we were talking about knowing when to leave a marriage and finding happiness after you do, it only seemed right to dive into second weddings and making peace with your own path. To quote APW’s first ever post on Second Weddings, and the excellent Brandi, “This isn’t your second wedding, it’s your last. Should I have the honor of receiving an invitation, I’ll be there with bells on and help you celebrate, however you choose to do so, in the fullest manner possible. You deserve it.” And now, let’s chat.

I recently wrote a pre-engaged essay all about getting married a second time. It was about how excited I was but also about how disappointed I was because it was all so Complicated. I worried about what people would say, how my kids would react, how I was supposed to feel, how much I was entitled to celebrate and even how my ex-husband would handle everything.

While I waited for my boyfriend to get his ducks in a row, and while he and I talked about Everything (because I still believe if we talk about Everything I can avoid a train wreck of a divorce) I secretly fussed and worried myself into knots over the actual wedding. I was obsessed with that line from Elizabeth Gilbert’s Committed, “How very awkward to stand in front of one’s family and friends (many of whom had been guests at one’s first marriage) and swear solemn vows for life all over again.” She encapsulated everything I was thinking.

Then one day he turned to me and said, “Do you want to go buy kayaks this weekend?” I had told him that I’d rather have a kayak than an engagement ring and I guess he was listening. We saddled up my sons (ten and thirteen) and headed to this amazing shop where you can “test drive” the boats. After four hours of paddling, laughing and swimming when we flipped a boat, we each had a perfect engagement kayak.

Then I went home and deleted my essay on how Complicated everything seemed.

I don’t know what snapped in my head that morning but sometime during those four hours with my new little family everything changed for me. When you make up your own rules you can have anything you want. Everything is appropriate when you are celebrating happiness and love. It all makes sense now. I have already been asked if I can wear white (grrr) and one uncle has already said something dumb about this being my “second time around.” I had been dreading this and was sure I would slink away to city hall if anyone mentioned my first marriage. Silly Girl! It’s looking like this wedding will be a humongous and crazy display of friends and family and love and DIY projects and music and happiness, and I can’t wait.

Picture: by Hart & Sol Photo

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  • Sarah

    Congratulations! May your wedding and your marriage be everything you hope for!

    And Meg, thank you for the expression “making peace with your own path” in the introduction. That’s what I’m trying to do, and it’s good to have it articulated for me.

  • :)
    Way to go! Enjoy having the love and happiness you deserve!

  • Gigi

    YES, YES, YES…All exactly the same things I was thinking as I planned my wedding to my partner of 16 years. How would everyone react, what would people say, how silly was this whole wedding thing anyway after 16 years together? And I came to exactly the same conclusions – “Everything is appropriate when you are celebrating happiness and love”. And the surprising thing was that everyone else felt the same way too.

    Congratulations and much happiness (and have fun with those kayaks.)

  • Oh, lady. I hope those little annoying voices are overwhelmed by love and support all throughout your wedding process. And if on your day anyone brings up those words you dread, I pray someone has grace enough to bash them over the head and drag them out of the room caveman-style.

    On another note, I’m going to be staring at that picture all day.

    • Contessa

      Oh thank you, that’s so lovely. I *have* assembled a small cadre of ladies (in lieu of a bridal party) who are keeping me buoyant and bolstered and who have offered to be a brute squad if necessary.

      The epiphany and shift in perspective was life changing, but that doesn’t mean social reality isn’t contiually instruding.

  • Erika

    When you make up your own rules you can have anything you want.


  • “When you make up your own rules you can have anything you want. Everything is appropriate when you are celebrating happiness and love.”

    Yes yes yes! I think this is an excellent philosophy to take into a wedding and marriage in general. Things work differently for every couple. I know two of my parents’ friends got engaged after only knowing each other for three months. If my friend did that now, I’d think “Are you insane? You barely know this person!” But they’ve been happily married for 30 years now. My dad’s aunt met my dad’s uncle when she was in high school and he was 27 (about 10 years older). They eloped, to much scandal. Again, if a friend did that I’d think “Wait a few years!” But they were married for over 70 years and had such a bond. You never know what will work for a particular couple and just have to try to make the best decisions for you and your partner. If something works, fantastic. If it doesn’t, chuck it, without guilt.

    • Contessa

      I concur! Chuck the Judgement, Comparisons and Guilt and we’d have a much healthier society of women.

  • Rhiannon

    “Everything is appropriate when you are celebrating happiness and love.”

    Love it! This should be the only steadfast rule for wedding planning.

  • I had some of these anxieties as well: Can I wear white? (as if I was a virgin during my first wedding!), Can I wear a veil? Is it gauche to have our best men and maids of honor be our children? But then we heard Reese Witherspoon say: “You only get married for a second time once” which became our stock answer to any question we found ourselves asking. Isn’t it funny how the word “appropriate” can become a weird imaginary prison?

    That said, I do feel sad that my in laws did not come. My father-in-law is a devout catholic, and my husband’s failure to “live up to the marriage contract” was a major life disappointment as a father. We gave them an out (a destination wedding and vague promises to someday do something in the U.S.) which they very politely jumped on. But in my heart I suspect that our raucus celebration seemed “inappropriate” given their lingering, funeral-like gloom about their son’s divorce. It was probably better that they weren’t there, since they were not unabashedly overjoyed for us like everyone else was. My evil twin thought about posting a picture to facebook and “tagging” the empty chairs with their names, but I decided to take the high road instead and send them an album. Their follow up emails desperately asking when we’re going to do something in the states have let me know they know they missed something important.

    I wasn’t sure whether we should acknowledge our previous marriages or not during the ceremony, particularly given how much our older children understand. There was a weird moment when my dad was toasting when he said “Manya has been waiting her entire life for this night,” while it was true, it was a tiny bit strange that something that was an important part of my history for many years was so easily brushed aside as if it never happened. One of my friends actually commented on it.

    In any case, good for you for looking discomfort in the face, and scoffing at it and embracing joy. And for any second-time-rounders lurking here…. Don’t let the “appropriate” become the enemy of the fabulous, riotus, loving celebration every true love deserves.

    (and by the way, for those of you who have been talking to me about blogging, try clicking on my name at the top of this post to see what happens)

    • “Can I wear white? (as if I was a virgin during my first wedding!)”

      I hate that the white wedding dress somehow got to be associated with virginity! It really started with Queen Victoria, who apparently chose a white dress (not at all related to her sexual experience, just because she liked the fabric) and started a trend.

    • Contessa

      I’m so glad you brought up your father’s toast. One of the niggling thoughts that has been troubling me through this is my ex-husband and my first marriage. It was real, it was valid and it wasn’t all bad. That relationship produced two kickass boys, a lot of good times, a load of mutual growth and, in then end, an excellent friend and co-parent. I don’t want to discount any of that.

      In this process of shaping my new family, I have had to reshape my concept of family. The boys and I are family, the boys and their dad are family, the boys, their stepdad to be and I are a family and yes, all 5 of us together are a family now too.

      • Yes, the reconfiguration of family is one of the challenges and gifts of this thing. I think there’s an entire post about negotiating that!

        • Between negotiating and coming to terms with your ideas of family and yesterday’s name changing blog – I agree, there’s a post in there.

    • Yay for the blog! I will have to explore it…. :)

    • Yay!! Manya is blogging!!

  • Jen B

    “When you make up your own rules you can have anything you want. Everything is appropriate when you are celebrating happiness and love.”

    How utterly lovely– words to strive to live by.

    Also, congrats on your kayak!

  • Kayak > Stupid Comments.

  • Melissa

    I love the idea of an engagement kayak. I want an engagement kayak! That is so awesome.

    • Contessa

      It symbolizes moving through life together, teamwork and safety AND that thing is made of a single formed piece of plastic which will be on Earth as long as I am.

    • kara

      I have an engagement kayak too!

      • NO WAY! Isn’t it the best idea ever? It smacks with the promise of adventure and good times. And riverside pit toilets, which I could live without…

  • Isn’t it amazing how much we let everyone’s opinions attempt to ruin our own joy? “Everything is appropriate when you are celebrating happiness and love.” — what a great reminder for all of us.

  • Hope

    I just got married for the seond, and last, time and I’m blissfully happy.

    A “friend” commented on my facebook wedding pictures “How amazing that you’ve had two husbands and I’ve not found one yet.” I deleted the comment. Silly woman.

    • Oh that’s tacky. And very silly indeed.

    • How rude…no wonder she has found no husbands!

      • I am twice divorced, and while at a friend’s wedding in July posted on FB something about the eternal life of the electric slide. An old friend commented, “oh Sadie, did you get married AGAIN?!” It hurt, especially because he knows what happened, and should know how much pain I went though. Now I am engaged. Again. And I’m getting married in May. AGAIN. I’m thinking of sending him an invitation. ;)

        • Contessa

          How is it that certain people can make “again” seem like a dirty word? As if we need to apologize in some way…”why yes, actually, um…I’d like very much to get married again…if no one minds…” It’s baloney.

  • This post, as they so often are, was wonderful and timely. I am preparing to marry my true love in only 1.5 weeks; it just happens that this is the second time I’ve done so. My first marriage, as many have stated, was faulty and was not right but was not all wrong. I don’t want to negate the love that existed there. But I want to celebrate what I have now, the family that we have become.
    Much like the author, I read Committed with conflicting emotions. I was torn by the sadness and fear that Gilbert describes, but I felt myself coming to terms with the incredible joy of the situation. I cannot wait for my last wedding, either. Good luck to you.

    • That’s a huge part of my dilemma! I don’t want to discount my first marriage but I want to celebrate the life we are creating together. And since the kids see their dad weekly and talk to him every night, I want to make sure they know he’s not being replaced. We’ve said it of course, but I worry over whether it’s enough.

      Much love and joy to you! I’m happy you’ve found some peace :)

  • Celebrate, CELEBRATE! & enjoy every moment~

  • Heather

    Two of my close friends are getting married next month. (In twenty-three days!!!) Both of them are getting married for the second time. But it’s the first time they are marrying each other, and they are perfect together. Screw the naysayers. Quite frankly, I think it might be even more impressive to have the courage to try again after divorce. Both of my friends are well aware of how painful a divorce can be, but their love for one another is so strong that they are willing to risk it all again.

  • Tea

    This is so lovely and true–and put the widest smile on my face. Thank you.

    I said for years I wanted an engagement kayak rather than a ring. What I really meant, I suppose, is that I wanted someone who would understand, appreciate, and love that I wanted a kayak more than a ring.

    Here’s to making up your own rules!

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