Dynamic dynamics and some reflection in the ripples.

But before I dive into all that… I wonder if I’ll ever not think about Electra Woman and Dyna Girl when I use the word “dynamic?”  (I hope not. I miss that lunchbox. And I just fell down a rabbit hole of excellent old lunchboxes, darn it!)

When C and I first met, ours was a pretty easy integration. I had room, space, and time for him, and – when he wasn’t traveling – he had the same for me. Neither of us had much in the way of social obligations, so the majority of our free time was spent together, and it just… worked. It was lovely because it all made sense.

But he has kids, he has a family, and he had a life prior to meeting me. I have family, and a long time of being on my own which meant I was accustomed to doing things my way, or my family’s way. I’d never really given much thought to how much of a challenge it might be, could be, and probably would be, to integrate families that have pre-existing dynamics that may not match up with the other. In fact, it’d be pretty miraculous if they did easily and magically align with no chafing. With two people, it’s not so hard to make adjustments and establish new family dynamics, but when there’s all that other stuff, other people, all those prior patterns and behaviors and expectations… it can get challenging, or at least feel that way.

Some years ago, I opted out of Thanksgiving with my family and went to spend it with friends in New Orleans. I missed my family the entire time. Even when we only spend a few hours together, or if someone doesn’t start cooking the turkey until 8pm, it’s YOUR family. These are the people and the customs you’re used to. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I had a GREAT time in New Orleans, but I often found myself preoccupied with my internal leaky faucet of comparisons: “This isn’t how it’s done. That isn’t the couch I’m used to, those aren’t the foods I’ve come to love and expect, these aren’t the people who have no problem leaving the room to go screw around on the computer or play ping-pong downstairs…” 

Comparison is the thief of joy, you know.

So, this year will the the 3rd of maybe the last 10-15 where I can remember not spending it with my family; he and I are driving to Atlanta to spend it with his parents and his kids. We figured since he gets the kids for the holiday, it would be great to all get together down there (and easier, and probably less confusing & stressful for everyone to not have a major holiday at our house just yet – especially since our dining table hasn’t shown up). I’m looking forward to it; his parents have a lovely house that is comfortable, and also large enough for everyone to spread out and keep entertained, which means we all keep our sanity, I think.

I’d be lying if I said it isn’t also just a little bittersweet to not be spending it with MY people.

But you know, things change. They’re… dynamic. Families change, relationships change, realities change, dynamics change, venues change; you’d think I’d be used to that by now, right? It’s happening at work, and in the not too distant past, it happened with friendships here, as well.

I won’t get into the family stuff too much, but suffice to say, there’s “stuff”… which is all the more reason why it’s a good and timely thing C & I are heading out of town. Things are changing with my family all over the place, and I can guarantee they won’t look the same a year from now, much less 5 or 10. Even if/when your family drives you up a damn wall bonkers, they’re still YOUR people. The devil you know, right? It’s what you’re used to.

The friendship thing took an unexpected turn some years back as a result of some “stuff” too, but ultimately, it changed like someone threw a huge rock in the pond and the ripples unsettled the status quo; the underwater critters have since resettled in their new spots after being displaced by the rock and the waves, but the slow and gentle lilt keeps it all moving around – just a little, I think, as is the nature of relationship. It’s really just part of life, and I get that, but have been paying a whole lot more attention to it all lately; maybe because it’s important to me to get it as right as I can these days.

At work, we had what’s being referred to as “workforce reduction” – we had to lay off some really good people a few weeks ago, all of whom brought not only huge talent to the agency, but huge hearts and personalities, as well. The place just doesn’t feel the same without them, so the dynamics there have shifted, both from the absence of some, and the remains of the others. It feels like something is missing; something is different. And even something as simple as one new person moving into our office suite, and another person moving across the office to a different desk… everything changes. It’s almost amazing, the ripple effect. If it weren’t so potentially disruptive, I mean.

I know I add to it with my own reticence and resistance to change. I am Bruce Lee’s greatest disappointment, because I am NOTHING like water when it comes to change, or to life happening. I’m messy, and I’m petulant, and it takes me a while to process through all the feelings I have about things. And in the midst of all those feelings, the part of a person where they’re able to pretend like everything is fine was apparently never installed for me, so you always know where you stand, and where I’m at. I worry sometimes that I should have more of a social nicety filter where I can make people feel better and not inflict my own mood on the situation… but then I’m reminded that I’m simply being authentic, and it ain’t such a bad thing.

More about that whole “making things okay for people” thing in another post.

Anyway. Pre-existing dynamics are a mofo, I tell you what. I mean, most of the time it’s easy to take a step back and observe if they aren’t yours to navigate; you can rise above and not participate, just learn. I’m grateful for that. But I’m also having to recognize every time my own upbringing, conditioning, and dynamics are showing up and preventing me from allowing for true connection. I’m having to own up to all the conflicting emotions that crop up as a result of bringing my stuff to the table, recognizing that my way isn’t necessarily the best way – it’s just a different way. I have to breathe, give space, and hold presence with how C interacts with his family, kids, ex-wife… knowing they have a lifetime of engagement, and that I am the “outsider.” Just as it would be if I had kids and an ex of my own (at least, one I had to talk to).

Some folks say blending or integrating families is simple, and we all just complicate it by thinking about it too much. I think there probably are situations and times where it would be simple and straightforward… but more often than not, you’re dealing with not just the people who show up, but all the stuff and things they carry with them (which, you could argue, is an integral part of who they are, at least at that particular moment). Memories, hopes and dreams that may not be coming to fruition anymore, expectations, resentments, behaviors…

Ghosts.

Our new dining room table only seats 6; I think we’d need a much bigger venue if we tried to hold the holiday at our home this year.

Anyway. I find it interesting to note each year when my attachment to Thanksgiving shows up. Christmas I can take or leave; I’ve gotten REALLY sensitive about gifts, people wasting money on things other people may or may not want… I’m bitter about the expectation of present exchanges on a holiday that – for me – has no other real meaning. You know? But Thanksgiving. There’s something about it that goes pretty deep, and I guess I’d do well to figure that out so I can just enjoy the time, the food, the company, and the concept of gratitude, all in my first year married to a wonderful man (and all of the goodness that comes with that – dynamics be damned or embraced).

Thanksgiving was the closest thing to a steady tradition I’ve had in a life full of moves and transition and change, so maybe that’s all there is to it. And maybe it’s time to establish our own dynamic dynamics, our own holiday traditions. Maybe that’s how it all starts over: with us.

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Weddings are Weird, Part 2: The Debrief

Two weeks ago, I got to marry my best friend. The one person I could easily, without question, imagine spending the rest of my days with… and, in fact, couldn’t imagine my days without. The wedding went off without a hitch (other than, you know, US getting hitched) and I think it went really well. For anyone interested in the ceremony, the readings, the order of events, etc., I’ve put everything (other than our vows, for the time being) here: https://carterandpaigearehome.com/2017/09/17/the-big-day-recap/

I had people tell me to try and stay in the moment, to appreciate it all as best I could or else I’d forget everything, and I think I did that (stay in the moment, I mean). But I also think that when you’re in a whirlwind of activity, when you’re under the stress of standing in front of 75 people being vulnerable, when you’re a born project manager and want to be sure you’ve remembered to manage every last detail, and then when you only have three hours to visit with those 75 people you invited, it’s all going to fly by and get fuzzy no matter how present you are. That’s what photos and video are for! And all the stories people tell  you afterward! It’s a collective memory-making event, and we are really and truly grateful for everyone who was able to attend, who could then share their memories with us afterward.

Part of me really wishes we could have invited twice as many people. There are so many others I wish could have been there, and that’s one of the things about this whole event that was somewhat vexing. When we decided to hold the event at Sinema, we were automatically limited to 80 guests. 100, if we’d crammed people in, but 80 would fit comfortably. Our family made up ~30 of that, which left 50 people we could invite. We could have easily doubled or tripled that with friends we love and care about, and you know what? That’s a wonderful “problem” to have, but it means you just have to get okay with not having everyone there. Yes, it was a financial decision, but it was also a logistical decision, and we (I) finally just had to make peace with trusting that anyone not invited would hopefully understand and, if not, it wasn’t an emotional burden we could – or should – carry. But it’s a weird thing to navigate, and I’m grateful to not have to do it again. Ever. 🙂

Other items of note:

  • The day after Carter proposed was when people started asking when the big day was. As soon as we landed on a date, people wanted to know where we’d be getting married, if I had a dress, etc. As soon as I found someone to make my dress, people kept asking if it was ready, how the fittings were going, if I loved it yet, if I was nervous it wasn’t done… I finally got to the point where I was tired of talking about the wedding; the details were stressing me out so having people ask me about it was just reminding me of the stress, and I was over it. I might have told a few people that we’d called it off, just so they’d stop asking me about it.
  • I’m not a nice person.
  • The big question now seems to be whether or not I’m going to change my last name; the answer is, “No.” Whether or not I take Carter’s name has absolutely no impact on how “married” I feel or how connected we are, and he (thankfully) cares even less about it than I do. It’s not even that it’s an antiquated practice that would mark me as his property or the loss of my own identity; it’s just a logistical pain in the ass, and also, I like my name, I like my signature, and there’s really no reason to change it.
  • The nice thing is, I can change my mind down the road and there’s no time limit on making that decision. Maybe one day it’ll make sense, but right now? Nah.
  • I didn’t get full feeling back in my toes until 3 days after the big day, but I think those shoes were worth it
  • I wish I’d danced more – and that other people had danced. I’m not a dancer, but our DJ played some really wonderful music that was great to shake your booty to
  • No matter how hard I tried, I barely got to eat anything and that makes me sad because their food is SO GOOD
  • Our friends and family filled the void of not having a wedding planner/day of contact, and they all just managed things without being asked, and made sure everything was coordinated and collected at the end of the night; totally invaluable
  • My one nephew, Ryan, escaped without having a “job” in the wedding and I’m not sure if he cared or if he was relieved, but having all the (other) kids participate was one of my very favorite things
  • It doesn’t matter how long or short your first dance song is, anything over 30 seconds feels like an eternity with people watching, which is why I (of course) felt compelled to grab Carter’s butt – for comedic relief, for my sake as much as anyone else’s
  • I wish I’d given the champagne toast to everyone there, because they’ve all played a part in getting us here. But hindsight is 20/20, which leads me to…
  • All the things that didn’t go EXACTLY as planned or hoped don’t matter, because we’re married, and that’s the point of the whole thing!

It took a village to get us there and to get us through, but we are now, officially, husband and wife, and it’s the weirdest, most wonderful thing in the world.

Weddings are weird.

This entire post promises to be at least a little bit painful for me to even admit, much less dig into, but if I’ve learned nothing else in life, it’s that I fare much better when I dump all my proverbial junk out on the carpet, inspect it, figure it out, and move along with a newfound understanding of self. So with that caveat emptor…

I think I’ve mentioned before that I’d never been one to sit around and daydream about the day I got married. The only thing I’d decided at some point was that I’d wear a red wedding dress, but other than that, I had no clue about any of it. At some point, I even gave up that it might ever happen, and I was okay with that. Couldn’t picture it, didn’t matter.

But then real love happened, and with it, a desire to spend the rest of my life with him. Yay! And this is important, because it’s the ultimate desirable outcome of this whole thing. Right? The goal isn’t to see how big, fancy, elaborate, or whatever of a wedding you can throw, although to some it might be, and otherwise it may come a close second. But ideally, the goal is for two people who love each other to get/be married. That’s it.

One weird part is that marriage is a government-managed process. (Other weird parts: all of the traditions involved, and I get that it’s a cultural thing, but questioning WHY certain things are considered integral to a wedding has led me down some strange paths… but I digress.) Somehow, we’ve found ourselves in a place… or shall I say we PUT ourselves in a place where the US Government gets to decide which unions are legal/valid and which aren’t. Don’t even get me started about separation of church and state, which is what it SHOULD come down to, but I digress. Anyway, government with a side of religion, if you’re into that sort of thing; these are what mandate an official marriage in the US.

Seems simple enough. You sign papers, you say some words, you invite friends and family and maybe the church into your union, and off you go. Right?

ENTER EXPECTATIONS, DAYDREAMS, ADVERTISING, AND THE WEDDING INDUSTRY.

Did you know that the average Nashville wedding costs $40,000? FORTY THOUSAND DOLLARS. That’s what I make in a year. Spending $40K for one day out of your life is just completely unreasonable for someone in my financial bracket (can you really call it a bracket? It’s more like a puddle, or a smear or something.). Why in the hell are people okay with spending that much money for a few hours of their life, when the outcome is what matters most? It’s also really, really easy to do, apparently:

VENUES
I started looking at venues around town for a wedding and reception. I kinda wanted something rustic (oh god, there’s that buzz word that these days means EXPENSIVE, which is the complete opposite of actual rustic). Or something dark and dramatic. Or something with amazing nightscape views. I wanted exposed brick, wood beams, hardwood or concrete floors, flowing sheers, candle light ceremony… seems simple enough, right? Something like one of these (or any of these: http://www.brideswithoutborders.com/inspiration/2014-destination-wedding-trend-4-lanterns-lights):

candlelight candlelight2 candlelight3 unionhill unionhill2

DRESSES
And I started looking at dresses. I found a few pretty good options that were kind of close to what I wanted, although not 100%:

reddress1 reddress2

I did eventually find this one, which is damn near exactly what I was after, except 1) it’s not available anymore, and 2) when it was available, it was $15,000 (thanks a lot, Marchesa). I won’t even pretend that it’s viable, but it sure is pretty. *sigh* So I landed on the idea that I might commission a dress from someone somewhere to get as close to it as possible. Maybe start with one of the above and alter it accordingly to resemble the one below.

reddress3

FOOD and DRINK
And then I started thinking about food. I love food. A LOT. And while I’m a huge fan of things like tacos, BBQ, or other “less expensive” foods, I want fancy foods and drinks. If the day is supposed to be memorable, I want the details to include things that are important to me/us. Right? Quality food is one of those things. I mean things like Korean short ribs, charcuterie plates, lovely wines and champagnes and beer and cocktails… The most extravagant dinner you’ve ever had, with unparalleled wine pairings and perfect confections: I wanted THAT.

GUESTS
I wanted everyone I care about, anyone I’ve ever been close to, to attend. I wanted a huge party filled with laughter, love, dancing, and celebration. The invite list would have easily been over 300 people, and even if just 100 of them came, it would be worth it. Our love is worthy of celebration with everyone we know; we’d revel for hours on end, and everyone would feel like they were part of the greatest love story they’ve ever known.

ET CETERAS
And then there’s all the rest. Photographer. Hair. Makeup. Decorations. Flowers. Music/entertainment. A personalized website, replete with awesome photos and skilled web design. I daydreamed about our first dance and all the music I’d want as a backdrop. I wanted sheers and candles and fire and bare trees and incense. I’d want oversized floral decorations everywhere, the smell intoxicating to anyone within a 50 foot radius. I wanted a movie short to commemorate the event and our adventures. I imagined me in my red dress, C in his suit, doing a dramatic and dark styled photo shoot somewhere on the Oregon coast for our wedding photos. Made up like Dovima, 3 sizes smaller and in the best shape of my life, I’d be the Little Red Riding Hood to his Big Bad Wolf, and the images would be AMAZING…

ENTER: Reality.

And with it… shame, guilt, confusion, insecurity, and a whole host of other weird feelings that have absolutely nothing to do with getting married to your favorite person in the whole world. 

When we had the very important and necessary conversation about budget and what we can reasonably afford, it essentially meant I could choose one of the above options, if I went full boar with it the way I’d envisioned. Otherwise, some things were going to have to adjust or give, and we’d need to determine what it is that truly matters and warrants spending the money.

So I started thinking about it. Who should I invite? Whose feelings would be hurt if I didn’t invite them? Who, in other words, is expendable on this important day? Who should I ask to be in the wedding party? Should I even have a wedding party? Isn’t it too stressful for people to do that, and who would I ask between my good friends and my family?  And that turned into: who would actually want to come in the first place? How good of a friend have I been to anyone, much less these folks? I mean, my family is obligated to show up, but what friends would want to be there? Maybe we should just elope, but then, I want the people I care about to be there, so we should probably have it local. Certainly if I ask people to travel, then I have to make it worth their while, so the venue HAS to be cool, and the food HAS to be good, and there HAS to be plenty of entertainment other than the primary purpose. The photos have to be good, the honeymoon has to be memorable, and I have to lose weight and get in shape so I can be as pretty as I imagine myself to be on my wedding day.

And all of THAT turned into me feeling like a failure because I don’t make enough money to have all the things I want. I can’t afford a top quality photographer ($1,000 with photos) or a makeup artist and hair designer (another $1,000), I can’t afford a venue that costs $5,000 just to rent before you start thinking about food and beverages and decor and entertainment (add another $5-10K), and I can’t afford the dream honeymoon trip. I don’t make enough money to be able to just throw money at the “problem” of getting the wedding and reception I want without having to expend a ton of my own effort (which I’m also not super keen on because I want it to be stress-free for anyone and everyone who isn’t getting paid to stress it), and I’m not willing to put us in debt for it, either. I resent that things cost as much as they do when a wedding is involved, I hate that I got sucked into the belief that any of this needs to happen for me to be happy or enjoy the day, and, most importantly, I hate that I have such weird money issues, wanting things that I can’t afford and feeling some kind of weird entitlement to them, so much so that I get bummed when I can’t have them.

The big thing here, and what appears to be the bottom line, is that for some reason I feel like I’m not ENOUGH. Not good enough without losing weight, not important enough to make people want to travel to attend a huge event in my life without bribing them with the promise of a good time, not a good enough friend to anyone to feel safe that an invite would be accepted, not a good enough partner and not confident enough with my place in C’s life to not feel threatened by the ghosts of his marriage past… this shit is complicated.

At least, I let it get that way.

The truth is, it’s incredibly simple. There is nothing wrong with wanting the experience to be memorable, and I need to quit judging myself for wanting that. There is nothing wrong with wanting to feel special; I just need to readjust my expectations around where that feeling legitimately comes from. It doesn’t come from people loving the food, or thinking the space is neat and the decorations are lovely. What really matters is bringing together the people who matter to me/us, all of us celebrating the fact that two pretty great humans found each other and have a love as big and bright as the sun.