Our wedding day, June 18th 2011 was a dream. It was perfect. But it wasn’t what I expected.
Weddings are complicated, they are the perfect storm of family expectations, design dreams, weight struggles, religion, faith (yes they’re different), and of course the very shocking transition to becoming a wife. Weddings are also the best day of your life (so far), a blissful combination of friends and family and the closest to zen that some of us have ever experienced.
Like Christmas, weddings can be dominated by consumerism, the media and cultural pressure. Losing twenty pounds and getting featured in Martha Stewart Weddings can overshadow the very exciting, very profound, very scary act of becoming a wife. (Note: I am not saying that having a gorgeous wedding and feeling amazing in your wedding dress isn’t important, it is, and it was very important to me…but more on that later.)
My husband, Jonathan and I were lucky to exist beyond this trap. Our wedding was wrapped in love and presence, which truly created a magical day. But as I am writing this, I am hearing my Dad’s voice in my head declaring his familiar saying, “luck has nothing to do with it.”
Before I tell you about our wedding day, and risk you blowing off my experience as “just another fairy tale” I want to start at the beginning…
I started planning my wedding on August 24th, 1996. I was 12 years old.
I was at my cousin’s wedding in Muskegon, Michigan at his bride’s family home overlooking lake Michigan. During dinner, my dad said to me, “Did you notice how they set up a buffet around their huge apple tree? Isn’t that gorgeous?”
That created a domino effect that sent my eyes feasting on all the subtle but deliberate details. I assumed the ambiance just appeared out of thin-air, until I learned they’d been planning their wedding for a year (an eternity for a 12 year old). The idea that love and magic could be curated, infected me.
Dad planted two apple trees in our back yard that fall.
I became obsessed with weddings- the flowers, the cake, the music, the DRESS and, of course, the prince. But the prince part always threw me for a loop.
At 12 years old, I was right smack in the middle of my 6-year awkward phase (no joke… 6 years). I was a happy, energetic kid who loved school and had plenty of friends but when I looked in the mirror my heart sank at the sight of my pudgy cheeks, crowded thighs and pimply skin.
Even though I was going through normal middle school growing pains, I was convinced that my physical fate would persist long into my 30s and no man would want to marry me.
I admit, it was a bit strange that a middle schooler who’s imagined fate was to become a cat lady, chose to spend the majority of her waking hours dreaming of her wedding.
But thinking about my wedding was an escape from my awkward, adolescent reality. Being a bride was the perfect fairy tale, the ultimate prize to be won, and a distant pipe dream.
Fast-forward 9 years to college…
Like most women who struggle with their weight, I held onto a deep belief that I was unworthy.
Here was my pattern:
1. I felt unworthy
2. In an effort to feel worthy, I would seek approval from men
3. Based on an internal grading system based on looks, intelligence and social cred of the dude, I would determine how much worthiness I would get if I got him to
A. Talk to me
B. Flirt with me
C. Make-out with me
D. Take me on a date. Bonus points for getting them to tell me about their deepest fears.
E. Call me his girlfriend
It became a bit of a gamble: A. I shoot high and I got a whole lot of worthiness but risked rejection or B. I shoot low and have a better shot at getting a moderate amount.
4. If I accomplished a step in A-F, I would get an instant rush of worthiness, that would ultimately diminish over time.
5. The guy would walk away, ignore me in class or break up with me and I would go back to an empty worthiness bank account.
6. I’d start over.
Side note and a quick point of clarification: There was nothing ACTUALLY preventing me from feeling worthy or having a fabulous life full of love and success. I did not come from a broken home (quite the opposite), I was blessed with friends and an excellent education.
However, going through a completely normal phase of pudginess as a young girl combined with subtle (and not-so-subtle) reactions and comments from people around me can be traumatic for a youngster.
I internalized that trauma (children don’t have the capacity not to) and made the mental and emotional decision that I was unworthy. End side note.
I was still holding onto my “freshmen 15” when second semester Junior year rolled around, and I met Jonathan Brajtbord: retired football player and general heart throb who resembled the Disney version of Hercules (and kinda acted like him too).
He was the proverbial jackpot and felt completely out of my league-a perfect opportunity to fill up my “worthy account”. Jonathan had a reputation for dating well-mannered, beautiful southern belles (he’s a Texan after-all), but this outspoken Yankee (moi) was up for the challenge. Our love affair that ensued was passionate, emotional and exciting. Here is our first picture together just week after our first date.
As we approached our 2-year anniversary, and were now living in New York City, we started to fall-apart. Well… that’s not exactly true, I started to fall apart.
As you can imagine, collecting personal worthiness from a source outside of yourself isn’t sustainable. Jonathan was no longer enough to keep my worthiness bank account full, and I started to sink back into my emotional “unworthy” set point. I started to exhibit habits and patterns of how dark and damaged I felt inside by over eating, binge drinking, not working out, procrastinating at work and even slacking on brushing my teeth on a regular basis. It wasn’t pretty.
I started picking fights with Jonathan and created as much conflict in our relationship as possible. I started to see him as a monster. Subconsciously I was creating a life that was an outward reflection of how I felt on the inside, and that picture didn’t have a prince in it.
Since our relationship completely sucked at that point, it would’ve been easy to cause a breakup and blame my misery on Jonathan-only to send me straight back to my own pattern.
Even though I did everything in my power to push him away, Jonathan stuck around, and showed me that the problem, very clearly, wasn’t him, or our relationship… it was me.
With no way out, I started the journey of realizing that I truly deserved what was already in front of me. And once I identified that my dark and gloomy internal state was merely a decision I had made a long time ago, I made the decision again to re-write my story.
Some of you know this part of the story: I went to nutrition school, quit my soul-sucking advertising job, and completely immersed myself in personal growth. I went to dance classes, had therapy, learned the art of womanhood, meditated, appreciated and loved my body, dressed in beautiful, sensual clothes, cleaned up my diet and started having fun again.
I finally realized the rock-star that I was and Jonathan and I fell in love all over again, but this time, we were two, whole people coming together to create a fun, full, beautiful life. Here we are dancing and carrying on at my 25th birthday, just a few months before we got engaged.
On December 19th, 2009, we were engaged to be married and my fantasy wedding was no longer a fictitious tale that seemed completely out of reach, but a very tangible reality that I finally knew I deserved and was worthy of.
Jonathan and I never talked about marriage or what kind of wedding I wanted (this annoyed the sh*t out of me when we were dating, but I learned after that he was determined to have his proposal be a complete surprise-it worked), so when he proposed, you can imagine how shocked he was when I pulled out an anthology of Martha Stewart Weddings that had been a side-effect of my fantastical compulsion.
Until that point, I was under the impression that a wedding will be perfect if you follow the Martha model of creative unique design, hire a wedding planner and get a good band. If that were the case, I was over prepared. After all, at this point I had been prepping for 13 years.
But the reality was that I was in store to be surprised at every corner of the process, right up to waking up the day after I said “I Do”.
To hear about the twists and turns in my engagement and the invaluable lessons I learned at my wedding (that you’ll never read in a magazine) stay tuned for next week.
All my love.
Simple actions to take your life back, know your worth & feel alive no matter how drained, overwhelmed and far gone you feel.