Saturday, April 4, 2015

My Nine Favorite Lessons from Being Engaged + One More

On February 1, 2014, I got engaged. It was a magical moment in Leavenworth, WA; a sleigh ride in the snow at my favorite time of day (4:00pm), the sun setting on the mountains and spiked hot chocolate. The moment was textbook romantic. It was followed by champagne and and dinner at an Italian Bistro. I remember not being able to sleep as I was totally elated. The next day, the Seahawks won the superbowl. I had this gorgeous ring on my finger, was sharing the news with my tribe, and falling even more in love with The Man.

I felt as though my life was moving in multi-dimensional directions. I was just about to complete my yoga teacher training certification and little did I know at that point that an opportunity to travel to India was right around the corner.

A very long time ago, I swore to myself that I would never get married or have kids. Then I met The Man and the love that swelled in me was like nothing I had felt before. We had always talked about marriage and growing a life together and I was so absolutely on board in our partnership, nothing else mattered. He changed my view that life was way better and more fun when you are playing with others. Most spiritual lineages have foundational tenets on relationships. We learn so much about ourselves in relationship with others. The mirror of relationship lets us see more of ourselves. I totally get it...and I forget it quite often.

The Man and I kept wedding planning talk to an absolute minimum. The only real decision being made at that point was that we would wait until 2015 to get hitched. Life carried on and wouldn't you know it, but every now and then, I would feel twinges of panic, fear, and anxiety about this next chapter. I was starting to feel like death was on my doorstep. The death of my independent, free spirit self. And that scared me shitless.

"Shit," I thought to myself. "WTF? I shouldn't be feeling like this! I am totally loved and supported...there's no death going on here!" Well that was all good and great in my head, but for some reason, my heart wasn't getting the message. I stuffed my feelings down into my own depths similarly to my sock drawer. Just. Keep. Stuffing. It will all be okay. The feelings would magically disappear like fairy dust in the ether.

August 2014 arrived and my mom came to visit. I spilled my guts over coffee. Tears, heavy sobbing, and borderline hyperventilation were showing their colors. "Honey, it's totally natural to feel this way. It's not wrong at all," which allowed me to take the deepest breath I had taken in awhile.

February 1, 2015 marked a year of our engagement. We are getting married in August. As I write this, we are enmeshed in guest lists, wedding games, planning our ceremony, and choosing food items. It's all super fun and lovely and there are parts that totally suck and aren't fun. As the day gets closer, I have become intimate with all the lovely (& hard) lessons that have come with engagement and I wanted to share them here to serve as a public declaration that relationships are messy, they take time, care and love, they make you want to cry, scream, and laugh, and they push you into territory that even a GPS can't help you navigate. 

1. Being in limbo is part of life. The root of a lot of my anxiety was coming from this place of being in that weird space between dating and marriage. Engagement is a time for deepening, having conversations about the future, etc., etc., and it feels like a huge jump from dating and cohabiting to the idea of forever. It's murky sometimes and ain't that the truth about life. Uncertainty and not knowing are super hard for me and yet, I know I can grow in that space.

2. You will fight. There will be yelling. I had this fantasy that we would get engaged and there wouldn't be any fighting or yelling. Yeah, what world was I living on? In any relationship there will be conflict. Don't be scared of it. Despite the discomfort, it all works out. Sometimes a good little yelling match can serve a purpose in getting everything out on the table. Nobody's wrong, mean, or bad. It's a fact of life and even more so, a fact of being in love with someone else.

3. Saying Sorry and Being Sorry are different. It's so natural for us to just say, "I'm sorry," and yes, an apology goes a long way and encompasses the whole notion of personal responsibility. In my own experience, I would screw up, be called out for screwing up, fight it and try to blame some other circumstance, and then surrender with an, "I'm sorry." The Man enlightened me about this during one of my screw ups when I snapped with a, "God! I'm sorry, okay?" He said, "Jen, saying sorry and being sorry are different." Whoa! Reality check and best life lesson. Ever.

4. When in doubt, give a hug. Hugs are the best medicine. Do it often Ask for more of them. It's just plain good for the soul. Physical affection can sometimes take a back seat, especially in stressful times or when someone is dealing with something on a personal level. Small acts of affection go a long way. Like superboosts in video games.

5. Create your own definition of partnership. The Man and I are not the hands all over each other type. We are both naturally introverted and can spend an entire meal together or a drive without talking. At first, this made me uncomfortable, especially when we got engaged. I thought, "What's wrong with us?" in my head. NOTHING IS WRONG! Who we are at our core and embracing that is way more fun and important than trying to be something we are not. We're ice cream people, so we won't have a wedding cake. I can go out and do my own thing on Saturday morning while The Man sleeps in. We acknowledge and embrace who we are and not try to be something we're not. 

6. Have each other's backs as though you were both lost in the jungle. This became the gem as we started our wedding planning and it is a lesson for life. We have to be on the same page with our decisions or things become unstable real fast. Sometimes, one person can take the lead and the other person is the support and sometimes you both are driving the bus, and other times, you just show up to support someone in your life together. Whatever the situation, I have found that working as a team is not only easier, but way more fun and productive.

7. Get shit done. Sometimes, it's just the grit that gets you through. Rolling up your sleeves and doing the "no bullshit" approach is the best approach sometimes. It may be a car repair, a tough conversation with a family member, or a work situation, but whatever it is, taking an action moves things forward. Our wedding planning didn't start until January 2015 and it requires us being in action every single week and making decisions or things don't move forward. Period. Plan your work and work your plan. Together.

8. Be Kind. My favorite quote during my trip to India was in the Delhi airport. It was a sign that read, "Be kind. Everyone is fighting a hard battle." Sometimes we think we know our partner best. Their quirks, their pet peeves, their passions but be careful, because we just never know. Coming home and verbally dumping on your partner about work day after day can be trying. Our own emotions and inner demons can be brutal so be kind. Always. I try to think to myself, "Would I treat my best friend this way?" It's a simple guideline to scale back a reaction.

9. Keep Date Night on the books. No matter what. Ever since The Man and I moved in together, and even before that, we had dedicated one night a week to a date. It may mean pajamas and a movie or it can be a theater show, or cooking dinner together. Carving out that time is an intentional "watering the plant of our relationship." I know we need time together to just catch up. It shouldn't feel forced or have resentment around it. But make it happen. It makes such a difference in my week and helps me create boundaries in other areas of my life as well. "Sorry...can't make/do's date night!"

10. It's okay when things are not going so well. We all want to be heard, validated, loved, and totally felt as though we belong. So, with that said, be real and authentic about when things aren't feeling super great. Speaking up can feel uncomfortable, especially when you are trying to maintain the facade of "soon to be newlyweds." Tap into what the Buddhists had to say: the only thing permanent is impermanence. This too shall pass.

Well, that's it. For now. Of course, everyday reveals new learnings around being in relationship and I wouldn't have it any other way. What lessons are you embodying because of relationship? Is the person your with pushing you to grow? Are you pushing yourself to grow and show up differently? 


1 comment:

Joann said...

Love the "being sorry v. saying sorry". Perfect