Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Day Unlike Any Other Day

I can hardly believe that four years ago today, I was up at around 5:30am, running on the fumes of four hours sleep, slightly late for my hair appointment, tired, nervous, excited, wondering if I was going to have enough stamina for the day, wondering if I would look okay in my dress, wondering if I would be a good wife. Four years ago was our wedding day. I am amazed at how right people were when they told me as a child and a teenager that time flies by the older you get. It seems as though each year picks up a little more speed, leaving me with breathless wonder if it'll be bursting with the pace of a cheetah by the time I'm in my golden years. So it is important to pause, take a breath (really letting it permeate through my body, slowly releasing it), and remember all of the moments that meant something -- big or small.

Today I am remembering one of those "big" moments -- the kind of moment that is so integral to the entirety of my life, but that seems so surreal and hard to grasp the fact that I experienced it. In the months preceeding our wedding I had several family members and friends tell me that the wedding day goes by in a blur, so be sure to stop and really plant my feet in the moment. While enough of the day is indeed a blur, I took heed to that advice and tried to take as many "mental pictures" as possible.

Snapshots of a room full of women (my mom, my grandma, my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law, and my nieces) that represent my past, my future, my spirit -- all getting our hair done in the salon of my sister-in-law's good friend. Mary (my sister-in-law) had made each of us a box full of food . . . blueberry muffins, mixed fruit, Dasani water (the best kind), and packaged them together as little breakfast presents.

Snapshots of two of my bridemaids (two very good friends) and I, finishing our make-up in our upstairs bathroom, talking about whether or not to put on a little dash of glitter, and chuckling over how crazy it seemed that the actual day was here.

Snapshots of my parents, emotional over the fact that a couple had come that they had a broken relationship with.

Snapshots of sitting on the steps of the sanctuary platform with my niece, Nikole, waiting to start another round of photographs . . . chatting and being silly as if there were nothing else going on just then . . . as if it was any normal day.

Snapshots of waiting in the lounge just before the ceremony started and realizing that Kevin had forgotten to put on his yamulkah, watching him run back into the house to retrieve it and helping him to feverishly attach it to his head before 3PM.

Snapshots of my wedding aisle entourage. The original plan was to have both of my parents walk me down the aisle, which they did, however there was a slightly altered plan. My niece, BryAnna was not ready to march with the other flower girls and so was carried down in the arms of my dad. I remember scrunching very tightly together for us all to fit between the pews in the back, which are closer together than those in the front.

Snapshots of Kevin's face and voice while he read his vows to me. Snapshots of his hands as he held the microphone up to me while I read mine to him. I remember holding his hands afterward and how they felt slightly cool and soft. I couldn't grip them tight enough.

Snapshots of the look in my dad's eyes as he spoke to us about how we met, especially the long, long phone calls (one of them being 14 hours long).

Snapshots of my brothers standing at the back of the sanctuary, holding lightsabers for us to pass underneath as we exited the church.

Snapshots of the warm glow in the reception hall that not only exuded from all the soft christmas lights and candles, but also from the people sitting and laughing amongst them.

Snapshots of dancing with my mom to the song "Come on Eileen" with all my cousins nearby, enjoying seeing her dance.

Snapshots of dancing to "Hava Nagila" while everyone huddled together on the dance floor. Holding hands they circled around us, creating such warmth and joy that it almost felt as if it were a vacuum and all of the positivity in the world had been trapped by us all for just a moment.

Snapshots of me feeling so nauseated and dizzy, with a pounding head, after it was all over. As I was trying to finish packing up my things so that Kevin and I could go spend our first night in our new apartment, I very nearly fainted. I was so determined that we would spend our wedding night in our new apartment, but eventually had to succumb to my health and I fell onto the air mattress in my old room. I gave up. We spent our wedding night on an air mattress on the floor of my old bedroom in my parents' house. I was asleep in about 20 minutes.

Snapshots of the day after our wedding, eating brunch in the church lounge with our family members that were left. I finally was able to truly enjoy their company, which we wouldn't have had if I had felt fine the night before. In the end, I'm so thankful that I had felt miserable so that we could have that Sunday brunch. It was relaxing and cathardic, and I remember how good it felt to have one more night in that house before I was truly gone.

Our wedding day was what we wanted -- warm, playful with some serious moments, easy-going (as easy-going as you can get for a wedding), personal, whimsical, and unique. We made almost everything ourselves . . . everything but the food and the photography. I made all the dresses with some help from my mom. I picked out all the flowers and greenery, arranging them myself, while my dad formed all the bouquets. Kevin and I made the invitations and programs. We did all the decorating ourselves (with family and friends of course). Dad officiated; Mom played; my brothers were our reception D.J.'s. It couldn't have been a more family-oriented event. Luckily we have family members and friends who are not only talented, but are also incredibly helpful when needed.

As wonderful as the day was, it wasn't perfect. Neither of us ever cared if it was perfect or not. Personally, I hate perfection. It leaves no room for randomness and surprises, which often are more beautiful than things that we expect or desire. Perfection is dull and rigid. I'm far too much of a free-spirit to have a goal of perfection. Our goal that day was to simply have an honest representation of our love for one another and for the people important to us.

My only regrets for that day lie in myself. And honestly, it wasn't so much what I did that day, but what I did after. Because of the self-esteem issues I was struggling with I kept replaying things over in my head that made me feel bad. I kept thinking of how I wish that I would've looked different at my wedding . . . that I was too fat. No girl wants to be "fat" on their wedding day. I kept thinking of how I felt jealous that it seemed as though my parents got more compliments from some of Kevin's family, than I did. I feel terrible that I felt that way to begin with, but also that I dwelt on it. I never should have allowed those couple of things take away any of the positivity from that day. I never should have focused on what I thought was lacking, instead of all that I had been given.

I suppose that it is human nature . . . but sometimes I guess I think I should have a higher set of standards to adhere to. But I make mistakes. What does that say about me, that about one of the best and most important days of my life, I saw the little bit of dirt in the corner, the little ball of dust under the bed? This is what I sometimes do in our marriage. While most things are great, I latch onto the one or two things that aren't so great. I try not to do this, and don't most of the time. But I am not perfect. I wondered on that day whether or not I would be a good wife. Some days I wonder still . . . I wonder if I am being a good wife. Am I showing my husband the unconditional love that he needs? Am I fashioning myself into the person that I need to be for him, while still being true to myself?

I don't think I have the answers for this. Perhaps I don't need to. As long as I am doing the best that I can, I suppose that is the answer. Each day I need to focus on the snapshots of our marriage -- the things that mean so much, no matter how big or how small. I need to forget about the little bits of dirt and dust . . . knowing that nothing is ever perfectly clean. And it doesn't need to be. Afterall, I did say that I hate perfection . . .

Thursday, October 8, 2009

When the Sidewalk Ends

I was out taking a walk earlier this evening with our dog, Desmond -- our nightly ritual poop-patrol stroll. It had been lightly raining most of the evening and during our walk I could feel it gently descending upon my ponytail and trenchcoat. I noticed the same thing that I always notice when I am outside after it has been raining: worms. Oodles of worms were scattered across the sidewalks -- shimmying over cement to find new resting places after having had their previous ones flooded. I once wrote a poem that was inspired by this, titled "Earth Drowning." The prologue I wrote for it was this: "Worm corpses scatter across sidewalks / Like tenets evicted from earth-carved homes."

This phenomenon always saddens me. I have always, since I was very young, had an unusual infatuation with worms. I used to go worm-hunting at least once a week, turning over rocks in our backyard, especially near the garden, searching for my squishy, slimey treasures, with the hopes I would find, if not the entirety of a worm's body, at least the end of one sticking up above the surface of soil. Once found I would pick them up as gently as possible, allow them to roam around the contours of my small palm, and softly stroke them as if they were a family pet. Then I would lay them upon the same soil in which I found them and lower the rock upon them once more.

They probably didn't appreciate being disturbed but in my mind I was showing them affection. I wanted to hug them . . . but, how exactly does one hug a worm? When I see them roaming homeless after the rain I wonder if they have any emotions of fear, panic, or desperation. Sometimes I'll pick one up and lay it in the grass, hoping that I was helping, rather than harming it. Perhaps I recreated their original predicament, but I hate to see them struggle across the hardness of the pavement, afraid that they will get stuck and dry out. The sidewalk must seem very frightfully wide-open and vulnerable -- a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness.

I am reminded of someone whom I care about. I shall refrain from using his name or giving any details for the sake of his privacy. He too is suffering from an earth drowning -- wandering and struggling, emotionally homeless, in the wide-open harshness of life's sidewalk. He has made many mistakes in his life, and is aware of most, if not all of them. He has immersed himself in unhealthy activities and environments, many of which are in his past, some however, in the present. He has associated himself with people that did nothing but enable bad habits; and he has searched to fill his emptiness with empty, temporary relief.

For awhile he began to pick up his broken pieces, his broken self, and assemble the beginnings of a purposeful life. Sadly, he had some hard knocks thrown at him and has so far not recuperated. And ever since he started to fade downward it seems as though more and more events have come along to weigh upon him like several feet of dirt, suffocating his spirit and drowning out his hope of something different. He wants something more. He wants a better life. But he is crippled with the belief that nothing will ever change and nothing ever should change because he doesn't deserve anything better.

I understand this thinking. I once (for a long time) was overwhelmed with these same beliefs. I may not have expressed my hopelessness and self-hatred in the same ways, but they are the same feelings at the core, the same root problem. When you feel as though you are not worthy of anything good in life you end up sabotaging yourself. You paralyze yourself into living out the same lifeless, dead-end day over and over. I've been there. I hated myself more than I could ever express. I had such self-disgust that, in a way, I was content to feel miserable continuously. But then something happened . . . staying the same became too painful. There is a quote that goes, "You will remain the same until the pain of remaining the same is greater than the pain of change."

How true that is. It was true for me. It wasn't until it hurt too much to stay the same that I finally began making real changes in my life. Sometimes it takes a long time to get to that point. I thought my journey there was quite long, but there are so many others that have been and will be on that path far longer than what I can imagine. He is one in that category. I don't know how long it will take him to reach his point of exasperation. I pray that it will be sooner than later.

My heart feels heavy for him and his slow, staggering slide across the pavement. Every movement is pained. Just as long as he is moving . . . I don't want him to give up and allow his spirit to get stuck and shrivel up before he reaches the soil again -- soil that gives life and richness and nourishment. The sidewalk is a lonely place, but it is only temporary. There may be times when we are tossed out of our comfort zones, our known surroundings, or our planned paths, but we can find our way again to home. We can weather the struggles and the pain, with the hope of a new sanctuary.

I don't know how many of the evicted worms I see that survive the brutal flooding -- how many that survive the wait and make a new home on the other side of the sidewalk. Statistics are most likely grim. But I find peace and comfort in the thought that just maybe, there is someone out there watching, ready to pick me up and gently place me in a new bed of grass.