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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Two Hundred

As of today, there are exactly two hundred days until the wedding, and it puts me in a reflective mood.

I know that I spend much more time and mental energy on the pragmatic details of the wedding -- planning, meetings, decisions, and ideas -- than on the emotional impact.  I'm trying to change that.

Being in the mental health profession, it is incredible how much even I use the pragmatics to bypass the psychological impact of transitions and needs.  A lot of this is about control and about our culture.  Our culture focuses on getting things done, on results, on tangibles, and quantifiable actions.  This is not the most helpful or healthful way to live, from a psychological perspective.

It is much simpler to spend energy on deciding which one of these to buy and whether or not I want this or that.  And honestly, it feels like these decisions are of eminent importance.  For example, Chris and I went browsing from wedding bands the other day.  We found a few that we like, but I cannot for the life of me make a decision about what I would like to do.  I have spent a good amount of time looking at photos of the rings on the internet, and felt anxious that I will make the wrong decision.  Upon reflection, though, two things become clear: (1) I don't need to make this decision for another couple of months yet, and (2) it doesn't really matter which of the rings I choose.  If I pick the "wrong" one, I will either come to love it or we can just get another one if I don't.  Essentially, there is no wrong ring.  Whichever ring I choose, I will wear along with my engagement ring and it will still stand as a symbol of our love.

With so many messages from the media and questions from others in my life about the decisions and details of the wedding, it becomes so easy to convince myself that the anxiety I feel about choosing a wedding ring is about the wedding ring.  It is not.  That anxiety is not about the physical band and its qualities.

That anxiety, that fear of making the incorrect decision, is about me and how I am feeling in general regarding the wedding.  Before I continue I want to be clear: I love Chris, I want to marry him more than I want to do anything in this world.  And still, I cannot help but feel an impending sense of doom.  By that I mean that, in making each step towards the realization of such an important decision, transition, and step in my life, I worry.  I cannot pinpoint all of it at this moment, but I know that it's there.  And it's not about Chris.  It's not about our relationship.

It's about me and what this wedding and marriage means to me as a woman transitioning from my family being my family of origin (my parents and siblings) to "my family" first and foremost meaning me and Chris.  Even though, in reality, this has been the case for a while, the wedding represents the formal transition just as, after completing all my coursework during undergrad, pragmatically, I was just as finished with college as I was after I walked across that stage to shake hands with the provost.  The ceremony is important.  It is a marker.

As a person, I am much more likely to feel anxious when I am uncomfortable than depressed.  Most people have one tendency or another: I have the former.  I tend to get into the 'doing' or the 'avoiding of doing' and putting a lot of mental and physical energy into something other than the most important task at hand.
I often make decisions quickly and decisively, but until a decision is irrevocable (or as near to it as possible), I will question it, feel ambivalent and anxious about doing the 'wrong' thing about 'failing'.  I also worry about whether or not I will do something correctly.

To help, I make lists and I check and double-check.  I color-code, schedule, and create redundant systems.  I organize, make boxes, make labels, and go over the same ground multiple times until I'm too irritated with myself to continue.  This is how I handle stress and uncertainty.  This is what has helped me get through graduate school insanity and all the bombs that have exploded in my life.  I start with the practical and, often, this makes the anxiety go away.  Not anymore.  I know now that, while I do still need those lists, due dates, and highlighters, that is not the only thing I need to do to make my wedding day successful.

I need to spend more time on my emotions themselves.  I need to be okay with acknowledging, even just to myself, the pain of this transition and the fears of the unknown that plague me.  I need to remind myself that this anxiety is not about the fact that I'm three days late in ordering the invitations.  I also need support in the fact that, while I am enduringly thrilled about marrying Christopher, it is not simple or easy.

I need space to prepare in more than just losing weight or test-driving lipsticks.

You know what else helps?
Reminding myself of something that I heard and that resonated with me: "He always makes me feel like the prettiest girl at the party."
And he does.
I love our love.
And I love him.

That eases it, but doesn't mean that the pain and anxiety aren't there or aren't going to crop up again.

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