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Humbled

I’m just recovering from a serious emotional hangover. It is much like the alcohol-induced kind – my head feels foggy, I’m physically exhausted, and feeling a little regretful, but I also know it was worth it anyway.

I got into a massive, tear-filled, voices raised, let-it-all-out argument Tuesday night with one of my oldest and closest friends. This has happened only once before in our entire 15+ years of friendship. It felt like the wind being knocked out of me.

I debated over how to write about this. Do I write it couched in generalities so as to not actually reveal anything at all, except that friends have arguments sometimes and that it hurts? Or do I give you the honest picture of how unspoken expectations can wreak havoc on even the most thoughtful and well intentioned among us? I do not feel comfortable sharing the details of my friends’ lives, so I will try to maintain a balance. But the truth is I’m utterly humbled today and I think I would like to write about it. So I will.

I have been feeling so righteous these last couple of weeks. Despite being loaded up with work, social obligations, family matters, our sick dog, and general life, I really thought I was not only managing it, but kicking ass. I was, as I always pretend to be, the unshakeable one. The one that pulls through with a smile, even when she is crying/raging/freaking out on the inside. But this week, I had used up my arsenal of fake smiles and I just didn’t have any left to pull out. And I’m glad I didn’t. There is something to be said for honesty, even if it is ugly sometimes.

I learned the hard way that there is no such thing as a wedding free of expectations, even if you elope by yourselves in New York City like my friend did. In fact, that can make it worse because no one has the script for how that goes. I didn’t know how I was supposed to show my support for their marriage when I didn’t have the lines in front of me: throw a bachelorette party and a bridal shower, bitch with her about people who won’t RSVP on time, help her pick out fun centerpieces, and wear a satiny bridesmaid dress. Instead, I assumed her to be the expert of her own elopement and followed her cues. I honestly thought I was doing right.

Unfortunately, in her eyes I failed. And in my eyes, she failed a bit too.

Looking back, I would love to say “we just needed to talk more” or “we just had to be more considerate of each other”- and yeah, perhaps that would have prevented some hurt feelings. But the truth is, even now that I see her point of view, I still don’t think I actually did anything wrong. Even if I was given the chance to think through my decisions again, I would have come to the same conclusions. Neither of us intentionally set out to hurt each other. We were both right and we were both wrong; we were simply looking at the scene from two very different points of view, neither of which the other will ever truly understand. My expectations were completely coloured by the fact that I made a different life choice – to throw a wedding – and hers were coloured by the fact that she didn’t.

The knowledge that I unintentionally hurt someone is very humbling. I remember learning in psychology class that we all tend to excuse our own behavior as being a product of our circumstances, while the behavior of others is attributed to their intentions. I realize now just how much I have fallen prey to this tendency. I have been feeling very righteous that I was being A Good Friend even in the face of challenges, but in reality, I’m just another flawed human trying her darnedest to preserve her self-esteem in a confusing world that is always trying to tear it down.

Being humbled feels like shit, but I realize now how much I needed it.

And my friend and I, we’ll be fine.

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View from the other side

The Summer of Weddings has officially begun! And you know what makes it amazing? I’M NOT ONE OF THE MARRYING! Instead, three of my closest friends are (plus a whole bunch of you!), and I just get to do all the fun stuff: I’m a bridesmaid in one, a coordinator at another, the planner of the bachelorette (or stagette as we refer to them here in Canada-land) for two, and the supportive friend at all.

And now that I’m on the other side, I know how to do that well. I know how overwhelming it can be, how hard it is to be the host, and how all you want is for people to read your mind – how freaken hard is that?!? One of my favourite people at our wedding was my friend who had gotten married the summer before. Her and her husband knew exactly what we were going through. Examples of the wiseness: immediately after the ceremony they brought us drinks while we were too busy hugging people to get such things and throughout the family pictures they kept catching our eye with knowing looks to make us smile. (At their wedding I was a useless tit.) And then of course there was my MC friend who took on the role of Schedule Bitch to keep things running, thus sparing me that role, and I never even had to ask. I want to be that for my friends.

It’s also nice to see things from the point of view of the guest now that I’m a wisened graduate. Firstly, I know I’ll appreciate the wedding on a whole new level because I understand the work that went into every detail. And secondly, I finally get the whole ‘your wedding is not an imposition’ thing that Meg is always drilling into our heads. I wanted to believe her at the time but deep down I just couldn’t quite be convinced; whenever my friends said “I’m so excited for your wedding!” I kept thinking they are just saying that to be nice, and worrying that I was going to let them down with a lame-ass wedding. But now that I’m living it, I really get it: I’M SO EXCITED TO SEE MY BEST FRIENDS GET MARRIED. And I have no doubt that their weddings are going to be seriously fun, because 1. weddings are fun, 2. my friends are fun, and 3. it is not my wedding.

Oh thank god it is not my wedding! I believe the purest joy I experienced on my wedding day was relief when it was all done. That might sound like I didn’t enjoy my wedding – don’t worry, I did and it was undeniably a great party – but I bet my guests enjoyed it even more. I learned I simply can’t handle that kind of hosting pressure. But I’ve now got some left-over wedding joy in me that I plan to bring out at my friends’ weddings when no one is staring at me.

The only slight wrinkle I see on the flower and tulle-dotted horizon is the potential of my silly brain to jump in with all its toxic over analyzing and comparing. So with the blog world as my witness, I thereby swear NOT to make unhealthy and silly comparisons between my wedding and those of my friends. Their weddings will be lovely in all kinds of ways that are perfect for them, just as our wedding was lovely in different ways that were perfect for us.

Ok so it’s easier said than done, but I can at least try right? And hey, somehow writing about my toxic thoughts seemed to clear them out last time so maybe that’ll happen again. And if not, I’m pretty sure a couple of drinks combined with a good song will quickly focus my attention on the much more pressing matter of dancing my ass off.

Have you gone to weddings since your own? And if so, was it just so freaken fun to be able to rip it up without worrying whether you’ve talked to your great-aunt enough?

Creating

Along with the husband, housewares, and oodles of photographs, I also took away some unexpected things from our wedding. One you’re already aware of: this blog. I, like apparently many others, discovered this blogging community of smart women when I was desperately searching for a dose of rationality and humour amongst the Knot’s of wedding planning. Eventually I started blogging myself, something I still wouldn’t believe if it wasn’t for my face appearing on the ‘about’ page and these posts that keep popping up are carefully written by me.

The other pursuit inspired by the wedding is perhaps even more random and unexpected: I’m making wedding jewelry. Who says getting married doesn’t change anything? Except I tend to go about my life in such a matter-of-fact way that I have barely even stopped to acknowledge that my new pursuits are a pretty major shift for me: I’m now spending evenings creating things. I’m finally feeding a side of myself that has lain dormant for far too many years.

My story is pretty typical of people who discover (or in my case re-discover) their hidden talents during wedding planning. Cheapness and picky-ness (hours spent searching Etsy anyone?) inspired me to make my own wedding jewelry. I didn’t think much of it, as I’ve been making jewelry on an as-needed basis since grade seven when one of my new Canadian friends taught me the basics. This new friend has since transformed into my old friend, who was the MC at our wedding, but I digress. The point is, jewelry-making was just something I did with my friends after school. And I still pretty much think this.

But my cousin-in-law didn’t dismiss it as a child’s hobby; she couldn’t stop gushing over the earrings and bracelet I made. This is my cousin-in-law who owns a beautiful wedding dress store filled with her own line of effortlessly elegant dresses called Something Blue (recently in Brides magazine, Martha Stewart weddings and others). She made my wedding dress with such care and perfection that the only time I actually still long to be a bride is when I step into her store with its impossibly high ceilings, blue velvet curtains, and the racks of floaty white silk.*

Well luckily I now have a reason to keep going back. Last fall, after I recovered from the wedding, she asked me if I would design a piece of jewelry to hang at the back of a very slinky backless dress they make. She had been wanting to offer something like it for a while. I went and splurged on supplies and spent many hours playing around until I put together something that really worked.

Since then I’ve also made earrings and bracelets, very much like the ones I wore myself. Now that I’m getting more comfortable I will try to venture out a bit with design, but like their dresses, I’ll keep everything light and airy. Luckily the clear crystals that I use catch the light beautifully and need very little help from me to look good.

It took a few months of twisting wire to make enough pieces to cover my original investment in materials. The last cheque I got was my first actual profit. I’ve decided to put it aside for a new laptop fund – I’ve set my sights on a MacBook Air so I’ve got a lot more jewelry to sell. Luckily it’s wedding season. And luckily I don’t really mind if it takes a while.

I’m not really looking to take my little venture online at this point, but I know a few of you will soon be walking down the aisle. And since you’re reading this blog, I also know you’re absolutely awesome. So if you’re still looking for jewelry and think you might like something like this, contact me (in the comments or greyandshiny (at) gmail (dot) com) and we’ll chat. I would be happy to make something for you for the price of postage and materials (just don’t tell the paying customers).

Photos: First three by Jennifer Echols Photography, bottom three by me.

* I also hope to run into a Canucks-wife – she has made many of their dresses – who then might invite me to their house for dinner. Eeeek! A girl can dream right?