Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Thoughts on Wedding Fatigue

This might be an ornery face.
Yesterday I woke up, to use an old term that has fallen out of favor, ornery. When I get to a certain stage of orneriness I sometimes choose to wear a sign (my face and body language) that indicates: “You may not want to engage in traditional exchanges with me today…Unlike your last break-up it really isn’t you…it’s me.” Now before I go too much further, let me say that when I share something like I am going to share today, the thoughts that I share are not going to surprise Betsy or anyone else involved directly. These are things we have worked through. So, this is not a time where you have to say, “OMG!!! I TOTES can’t be live he said that. I hope Betsy is okay!”

Noticing my foul temper I quickly escaped the house to take stock of what was going on in my head. What I realized was that I had reached a point of wedding fatigue. Now those of you tracking at home realize something key here: “DUDE! Your wedding is still over a week away.” To which I would respond: “I know, right?” So before I go any further let me clarify a few things: This wedding fatigue had nothing to do with Betsy, nothing to do with fear of life with her, nothing to do with regret. It really had nothing to do with relationship…and that is key and also why I feel it is okay to share the things I am going to share. What my fatigue had to do with was this: weddings are now completely unnatural things. In other words, I had to perform unnaturally and make unnatural decisions.
Another face that indicates you may not want to talk to me.
Wait a minute now James. Hold your tongue man! (I don’t know whether 36 makes me young or old…so I will just use man instead!) What do you mean weddings are unnatural? What I mean is simply this: a budding relationship between two young loves is quite an organic thing. It is a beautiful thing for many people to see. Older couples often comment that it helps them renew their love. But all of a sudden the idea of marriage comes up and you insert an industry that has sprouted up around dream and fantasy creation for your big day.
Betsy and I decided early on (like one-month into engagement) that we had to define the wedding day for the sake of each other. The wedding had to be a true reflection of who we were and what we were about. The thing that sent us over the edge…well let’s be honest…the thing that set ME over the edge? Save the Dates. Betsy and I had a good talk where I basically said, “I worry that Save the Date cards remove us from our heart and allows an industry to dictate what our day is going to look like.” We had a good discussion and decided it would be best for Betsy to go to the beach, journal what the day is about and what her true expectations were. (We also decided I probably overreated to Save the Dates btw…I don’t want it to appear I am always right in matters…far from, as most of you would agree!) My point was this (and I think I would offer this to any couple getting married): I don’t care if you have flowers, or dancing, or alcohol, or a meal, or prayer, or a poetry slam, or parachuters delivering a ring to the altar through a retractable hole in the roof of a church. What I care about is simply: is this who you are? I would rather be at a simple wedding before a county judge followed by roast beef sandwiches at Arby’s, than a $100,000 shindig serving foie gras and caviar if that couple was living more from their heart than a checklist from whatever the latest magazines are.
This is more just a sick face.
We worked from there to create a day that we could both be happy with. I know people say that it is the bride’s day, but the truth is this: I didn’t want to be miserable the day of my wedding. So, I pushed back on things. I made it clear there were certain things I would do because I love and care for Betsy, but there were certain things she should in turn not expect of me. For instance, I will dance with her and maybe a couple of others, but I will not live on the dance floor. I love it that her friends will be there and having a great time, but the amount of nerves and noxiousness that brings me would make me absolutely miserable. Asking me to stay on the dance floor is tantamount to asking me to be a walking stress ball that could vomit at any given moment due to overwhelming self-consciousness.  Betsy on the other hand loves it. She loves dancing. It is one of those celebrated differences between us. I love that she loves that. I love that I will dance at our wedding for her. However, she should never expect me to push over the lines of things to the point of misery. It’s like I would never expect her to sit in a deer blind at 4:45 in the morning or live a week a year with monks. Do I think she could benefit from those things? Sure. But, I also don’t want her to be miserable. (Point of clarification: these days there is no gun in the stand. It is more just the beauty of creation arising with the sun that I am after.)
So, back to the point here. Yesterday I realized I had hit the point of fatigue. There was just too much to do. There IS too much to do. But because of how we decided to go about things one thing became abundantly clear: to simply say, “Betsy. I cannot talk about the wedding today” was unfair. We created space for Betsy to take care of all things wedding when we made our plan for transition. To stop at my above statement says, “What you are doing is not valuable, it’s not as important,” which is not what I wanted to communicate at all. So instead, I said, “Betsy. I appreciate everything you are doing, and I know without your efforts things would not go well, but I just don’t have the emotional space to talk about songs for the DJ that I have no intention of dancing to today. Also, I know that covering the drum shield was my idea in the first place, but with the patient load I have, and my second job stacking up, I just can’t think about what a good replacement for the antique doors we cannot find is right now.”
This is more like it. Just enjoying some Steve Martin!
So, what is the difference? Not letting fatigue bring me to a point of complete egotism. Instead it led me to a point where I affirmed Betsy and presented to her a vulnerable side of myself. This is not, “I hate what you are doing,” which could be inferred from, “I’m not talking about this.” Instead it is, “When I think about you and me, I know that I do not have the ability to do this well right now. I will do a poor job, which will make things worse instead of better.” In essence it is about saying, “The current event is way less important than our long-term relationship. And to support the latter, I need a break from the former.” As Betsy wrote about yesterday these are just the things that we get about one another. I get that if I say things in a certain way, she will (rightfully so) be hurt. I also get that if I do not give part of myself to her she cannot understand the “why” of the current situation. And friends, the “why” does something that we often times forget – it gives space for grace and mercy. By saying, “Betsy, I have so much going on that I might snap at you when I don’t want to,” gives Betsy space to decide, “This really is not about “James and I” right now. This is about James and his stress.” That is huge when doing relationship.
So, if I am going to wrap this up and put a bow on it, what is the lesson of the day? Simply this: when confronted with the stresses of life our response still needs to be affirming to others and include vulnerability toward them. When we close ourselves off to the point that we can only see “me,” we allow the stress of a situation to create undue tension into a relationship it never included. In other words, vulnerability and affirmation sings to another heart a soothing melody reminding them, “Not every emotion in my partner is sparked by the things I have done and said. They have things going on that I do not know about, and I must allow them that space, just as I will one day need that same space.”

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