I'll Meet You in the Wreckage

If you are calling off a wedding and ending your engagement, it can feel like you are taking a sledgehammer to the framework of a life that you were just beginning to build. You look at all the work you put into choosing the floor plan and laying the foundation and gathering the supplies and nailing the beams together.

And then you willingly smash it all to pieces.

Who does that? You had the world set out before you: a partner, a home together, an impending wedding, a ring on your finger. And you’re going to just say no to all of that? Isn’t that what so many people would kill to have just a piece of?

Well, you’re doing it. You’ve already done it. And now you’re looking at the wreckage, the dismantling of that life by your own hands, and you feel overwhelming relief. But you also feel grief, loss, and a deep exhaustion from the thought of starting over again. And you ask yourself, “How did I let it go that far?”

And as you kneel in the mud and the mess of that torn-down life, broken and leveled completely, you ask the terrifying question:

“Now what?”

This is where I will meet you, dear heart. I’ll kneel next to you in the wreckage and take your hand. We’ll mourn the destruction of one life and dream up a stronger foundation for a better one. And while I can’t help you clean up the mess with my own hands, I will be there to help you plan and decide and forge a new way forward. This is where magic happens. This is where new growth springs up from the dirt. This is where new strength is made.

The ruin is just the beginning of something new.

Twice Gone

I've been thinking a lot about where I was two years ago at this time. I was living this dreamy little life. Except. Except I couldn't shake this feeling of wilting, withering, shrinking away inside. Back then, when I looked into my future, I could only picture a shell of myself moving through the world.

And it was terrifying.

It broke me just about every day in a silent and savage way from January to March.

Those cruelest of months.

It wasn't until I'd deconstructed that life and started over again (all at once and then very slowly like all good renovations), that I started to meet these old parts of myself that I didn't even know I'd been missing. I hadn't noticed their aching absence until they started to return to me, filling me up again. I hardly had names for them, only by the way they felt when they started to root down and grow again. Stronger this time. Bolder. Braver.

God, how I had missed myself.

I had taken myself for granted somewhere between 15 and 25. Maybe the only way to realize how glorious and precious and dear I was to myself was to really experience what it felt like to be without it. Maybe that was the only way to understand it, the only way to learn. There was and still is a deep joy in meeting myself again. A healer I saw that spring called it the "exquisite pleasure of reclaiming" my sense of self. And it was such a relief to hear that then, but it becomes clearer and more palpable as more time passes.

I'm really grateful for how I'm living now. It's another dreamy little life I've built. Except. Except this time, I feel more seen.

More solid.

More known.

More me.

(written January 2018)

Saying Goodbye to the Dress

My wedding dress was a v-neck sheath with spaghetti straps and gorgeous lace. Structured, but not constricting. It had a low cut back and those circular buttons all the way up the back of the skirt. It was beautiful. And as the clerk at the bridal consignment shop took it out of my arms and hung it up from a rod to inspect it, she asked, “Has it been worn?”

I said, “No, never worn.”

Seeing my wedding dress hanging up behind the counter was much harder than I had expected. The store itself was overflowing with secondhand tulle, pearls, and rhinestones. Stacks of filmy candle votives and wooden boards slathered in chalk paint were nestled haphazardly in narrow aisles. All that fabric deadened the sound in the large room, and everything felt too close, crowded, suffocating. But I couldn’t stop looking at my dress even as another clerk began to explain the consignment policy to me.

I can imagine it wasn’t the first time they’d received an unworn wedding dress, but my face was flushed red with embarrassment as I signed the papers. They were completely professional and gave no indication of surprise, but in my mind I imagined them exchanging a knowing glance. At the time, this felt significant in a shameful way. I took one last look at the suspended dress and headed back to my car, trying not to linger too long, ripping the band-aid off, knowing it would hurt less in the long run. I sat in my car a moment, bubbles of grief starting to pop within me. This was just one more step in dismantling the vision I had had for a wedding that would never happen.

But as painful as it was, I knew that giving the dress away was the only thing I could do. I couldn’t keep it, hidden at the back of my closet or packed away in a box. What was I saving it for? Another wedding for a marriage to another man? No, I had imagined myself in this dress getting married to one particular person, and it’s like I had imprinted him onto that dress somehow. I couldn’t move on from him unless I moved on from everything.

Instead, I kept thinking about the next woman who would find that dress hidden in the rows and racks of white lace. It would be even cheaper for her than it had been for me, a dress that I’d found on sale at a boutique. It hadn’t been tailored yet. She would be amazed at her good luck. She would feel the wedding gods smiling down on her. I kept thinking of how she would tell all her friends the story of finding her wedding dress at the consignment shop, in perfect condition. I told myself that the dress had never actually been meant for me. That I was just the last step on its way to its true owner, that if it hadn’t gone through me she would have never found it in that way, in that shop, at that price.

And in this way, there was a glimmer of redemption in the folds of silk and lace and slow yellowing.

A Letter to Your Tired Heart

Dear engaged-but-uncertain,

I know that you’re exhausted.

I know that you’re confused.

But something is nudging you (though more likely dragging you, screaming at you) to look closely at a feeling that your instinct is trying to bring to light.

Something needs tending here. It might be your relationship with someone else, or it might be your relationship with yourself (as it was for me). You might be reading this letter in your car in the parking lot of the grocery story, or stealing away on your lunch hour to read it in the bathroom where no one will see you. I know that you’re tired of the weight of this secret that you carry with you, that it feels like a ten pound stone in your gut. And I know that all the options before you feel equally terrifying, no matter what you might choose.

Your feelings aren’t “crazy”. You’re not broken. You’re searching for answers, and you’re honoring a persistent voice that’s asking to be heard. These feelings won’t likely go away if you just keep forging ahead and ignoring them. They need to be worked through. They need to be brought into light. Feelings like this don’t get resolved alone and hidden in the dark.

This is your own precious life, sweet one. You get to decide. You get to choose.

I’m here in the dark and silent fear with you because I’ve been there before.

I’m sitting beside you, and I know that if you need to make this decision, you absolutely can.

With you and your tired heart,

Amanda

Wedding Engagement Warning Signs

Marriage is a constantly evolving institution in our society. It is both traditional and ever changing with each generation. And while it is a challenging but incredibly beautiful endeavor, so often we use it as a mile marker to make sure we’re “on track” with our lives. It becomes a goal we need to accomplish. So many people desire to have a partner to build and share a life with, but sometimes we find ourselves on the path to marriage and suddenly realize that we’re building with a partner that doesn’t align with the deep truth of our souls. And such a thing is hard to put into words, much less identify as doubts about the engagement.

So how can you tell if you’re just feeling nervous about marriage or if your worries are much more than that? You’re the only one who can really decide, but here are a few things to consider:

  1. Are you secretly searching for answers?

    Are you Googling about ending engagements when you’re alone? Are you reading books or articles in your car over your lunch break? Secrecy like this in any romantic relationship is cause for alarm, and it’s definitely a sign that you need to stop and think. Are there issues that you and your partner need to talk about and work through? Or do you know in your gut that you can’t go through with it and are desperately searching for some outside validation?

  2. Do you find yourself dreading or resisting wedding planning?

    You need to be careful with this one because most people dread the stress of wedding planning, and it does not usually mean that they want to end their engagement. The monumental expectations around weddings is a topic for another day. However, notice if you find yourself resisting involving friends or family members in the process. Is there a part of you that is keeping them at arms distance so that they won’t notice something is off? Or do you have this feeling that there isn’t going to be a wedding?

  3. Do you tell yourself that you can just get a divorce if it doesn’t work out?

    Divorce is necessary sometimes, and these days, it is quite common and carries less stigma. But it is still excruciating. Not to mention expensive, disruptive, and messy. You’ve woven your life together with someone. Mortgages, bank accounts, credit card debt, health insurance, name changes, on and on. In a divorce, you have to unweave all of that. And you know this in your heart, but mentally it is easy to think of it as an easy escape door. But there is nothing easy about it. And the shame and embarrassment and heartbreak that you might deal with in ending your engagement will be much easier than divorce. Don't gamble with your heart and your livelihood simply to avoid making a difficult decision.

  4. Are you having trouble separating the voice of your head from the voice of your heart?

    Another way of thinking about this is, “Are you able to identify the voice of your intuition versus the voice of your logical brain?” People call intuition “a gut feeling” because we sense it in our solar plexus, in our core. Do you ever feel a sense of withering or wilting in your interactions with your partner? When you’re in an emotional battle between two warring voices, it’s hard to pick out which one is the gut and which one is the head. We need both to make decisions, but there is so much outside pressure and expectation once you’ve gotten engaged to someone and you’re planning a wedding. Take an afternoon, a day, or a weekend to try to go someplace on your own, away from the noise. Often our intuitive voice speaks in quiet moments.

  5. Do you doubt your own self-worth and the possibility of finding love again?

    Or are you more afraid of being alone than of marrying the wrong person? For a long time, I told myself that it was better to be loved and a little miserable than to be single again. And even the right relationship will have its mix of joy and struggle. But it still pains me to know how much I was willing to sacrifice in myself to maintain that singular desire. Getting married doesn’t actually prove that you are lovable and desirable.  You are always worthy of being loved and of being desired.

Ending an engagement doesn’t happen unless the pain of staying outweighs the pain of leaving. And if you’re in that position, you are the only one who knows when the scale has tipped. Continue to make choices from love instead of from fear, and you will find your way soon enough.