Thursday, January 12, 2017

Hesitantly Pleased

Looking back, it seems like each year I get a bit harder on myself about not having achieved my goals in reading and writing. As December dwindled down, I felt the compulsion to make my end-of-year post start tugging at me. The familiar guilt started tugging at me too. It's taken me almost two weeks after the start of the New Year, but I think I'm finally ready to sum up my literary goings on in 2016 without being (too) overcritical.

I'll start with the books I read last year, since the list is short.

Secondhand Souls - Christopher Moore
Neverwhere - Neil Gaiman
One Punch Man Volumes 1-3 - Yusuke Murata
When You Are Engulfed in Flames - David Sedaris

I recommend them all wholeheartedly. Just know that Secondhand Souls is a sequel, and also you won't like One Punch Man if you don't like Japanese manga.

I also started approximately seven more books during 2016, but did not finish any more of them during the calendar year, so I won't be adding them to the list.

Next, my writing. I did not write as much as I should have, or nearly as much as I wanted to. But I did write, and that is important. I took two huge steps forward in that I 1) Joined a writing group and 2) Read my poetry at a couple of open mic nights.

These might not sound like huge feats to most people, but for someone as neurotic as I am, these are ticker-tape-parade-worthy accomplishments (that is, if ticker tape parades thrown in my honor wouldn't totally freak me out).

The writing group was (yes, was--I'll explain in a bit) an interesting experience. Invited by a lovely acquaintance, I joined a group of talented individuals to workshop some writing. The group meets every other Tuesday, and most of its core members are published and have been participating the group for years. Needless to say, I was very intimidated. It felt amazing to be in the realm of writing again though, after having been away from writing courses in college for what feels like so long.

The first week, I failed to bring enough copies of my poetry for everyone and therefore freaked out and hid the notebook I brought when asked if I had anything for the group.

The next time, I hauled out one of my favorite poems, which I have been working on periodically for a couple years. It turns out, no one in the writing group really writes or even reads poetry much. I got a lot of flat feedback to the tune of, "I liked it." And then one individual, nameless to protect the guilty, told me that I should Google how to write poetry. I was so flustered, I think I actually replied, "Okay." No indignant defense. No line of questioning. Just meek acquiescence.

I cocooned myself in righteous anger, texting my best friend about the ordeal as well as coming home and stuttering an iteration of what just transpired at my stunned husband. I dismissed this person's appraisal of my work as uneducated, and I put the folder of marked-on copies of my poems to the side. For a while.

I had already decided that since the group's forte was certainly not poetry, that I would only bring prose in the future. However, it would be dishonest of me in the extreme to say that was the only reason, and that I was not also very, very afraid.

In weeks to come, I workshopped the first chapter of a long piece, which I have worked on and laid aside intermittently since college. I received a lot of really great feedback, and just letting myself delve into the world in which that piece takes place felt very much like home.

It was then, in July, when I injured myself quite badly. Following that, I got wrapped up with Tokyo in Tulsa, and after that came blood clots and general poor health, which plagued me for quite some time.

I'm sorry to say I haven't been back to the writing group since. Every time I consider it, I feel anxiety bubble up my throat and take a firm hold of me. It seemed commonplace for other writers to appear and disappear from the group, so I'm not sure why it feels so wrong of me to want to go back after a long hiatus, but it does. I hope I get the courage to go back this year. I really do.

I did find the gumption in the fall of last year to attend an open mic night for poetry. This might come as quite a shock to some, since public speaking is not high on my list of favorite things. It probably ranks below getting a flat tire, but still above minor injuries. The truth is, I was kind of rooked into the thing, and once I was in the midst of it, I was too ashamed to admit I'd been had.

A newcomer at the writing group happened to be there the day I had my poem workshopped. She told me she occasionally went to a group, who met once a month, that loved poetry and was always looking for new members. I could not have been more delighted. She told me they met at a certain coffee shop, at a certain time, and, what luck--the next meeting was in a few days. She told me she'd see me there.

I arrived a bit early to get the lay of the land, and also some tea. I spied a small stage set up for what looked to be a local band, who had already done a sound check and left their instruments propped up and ready. I found a seat in a corner, where I could observe everyone a little better. Most seemed to be college students, working frenetically, or people in their mid-30s stopping by for a drink before commuting home from their work nearby. Then I spied a group of women with slightly frizzy hair, lots of silver and turquoise jewelry, quirky boots, and handmade capes and shawls.

After the top of the hour came and went, I decided to make my way over to their table and see if this was the group I had been told about. Before I could, an older gentleman stood up in front of me and beat me to them. One of the ladies produced a piece of paper for the man, and he signed his name on the top line. She explained to him that after the band played a set, the group would have their turn. After the three regulars, he was first in line. He turned, brushed past me back to his seat, and the smiling woman with the paper asked me, "Are you here to read too?"

This wasn't a poetry workshop. It was an open mic night. I frantically glanced around, looking for the woman who had been at the writing group. Had she even been real in the first place?

I then had what I can only describe as an out-of-body experience. It was like those dreams where you watch yourself do something that you would normally never do in real life, all the while, you scream at yourself, "No! Don't do the thing!"

I heard myself say, "Yes!" and watched myself sign my name on the next line.

After I made my way back to my seat, I mechanically dug in my purse for my anti-anxiety meds, took one with my tea, and sat slightly slack-jawed as the band performed their first few songs.

The regular poets introduced themselves, each read a poem or two, ranging from political diatribes to peaceful haiku, and then turned the mic over to the older gentleman who had signed up before me. I cannot even begin to say what his poem was about, or even if it was good or bad. I had ceased being able to feel my hands at this point, and the air tasted like copper.

Then I was standing in front of the microphone, and I started to read. "Louder!" I heard from my right. I looked over, and the affable woman with the paper gave me a thumbs up. I tried again, and soon, there was applause. I was finished. I think I may have managed to smile before darting back to my stool. As soon as I got there, the nice woman found me and introduced herself. She told me she loved my piece, that the other poets felt the same, and she would love for me to read another poem later, if I would be so kind. I looked up to see the other women smiling and waving from their table, and a few other people scattered around the coffeehouse smiling at me as well.

I did read another poem that night, and I was hounded after the whole thing was said and done to come back and read again the next month. And the next.

2016 was a mixed bag for me, but toward the end of it, I was afforded a lot of clarity. I've changed an incredible amount in what feels like a very short time. I think if the me from five years ago could have a conversation with me now, she wouldn't recognize herself. And I'm glad for that.

Tonight, I just finished reading Jenny Lawson's second book, Furiously Happy. It is brilliant, witty, irreverent, and perfect in every way I needed a book to be today. Her insight into mental illness and depression always hits very close to home. The title alone is a testament to her current outlook on life. In October 2010, Jenny Lawson decided she had had it with sadness, and that from then on, she would be furiously happy, out of sheer spite. After just a few hours of turning that phrase into a hashtag on Twitter, the response was tremendous "as people loudly fought to take their lives back from the monster of depression."

I will continue to push myself to say yes to opportunities, even if it just means changing out of my pajamas at 6:00pm and going to see my best friend for a couple of hours on a weeknight. Because even that much is very hard for me sometimes. And you know what? I'm getting better.

This last year was not a red letter one, in terms of my mental health. But, with the patience of my doctors, the support of my husband, family, and friends, I am still going. For the most part, my symptoms are under better control, and I am pushing forward. Most of the time, I am not furiously happy, and that's okay with me. As much as I adore Jenny Lawson, she and I are two very different people. I feel like I'm satisfied by less grandiose gestures of emotion and well-being. My anxiety likes to tell me (constantly) that when I am happy, something terrible is around the next corner. But I've decided to try not to care (as much). As of this moment, I am hesitantly pleased.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

2015 in Review

I've been avoiding writing this post for almost a month. I try to write an end-of-year book review and give an update about my writing life at the very least for my few readers, but I've been afraid to do even that.

Last year around this time I was so inspired, and then my motivation just slipped away. I could blame it on circumstances, e.g. work, sickness, but that wouldn't be fair. I stopped writing because I lacked the discipline to keep to the schedule I made myself, and the guilt I feel from that is justified.

Eighteen poems--that's all I wrote last year. I can do better, and I will.

And this year, I will read more too. In my last post I lamented only having read seven books over the course of the year and promised myself to blast past that number and get back to an average I considered to be more suitable for myself.

In the areas of my life which matter most, I feel I've fallen apart.

2015 was not an outstanding year for me, and 2016 certainly hasn't started out with a bang, but I am working on cobbling things back together. I am extremely fortunate in that I have an amazingly supportive husband, who is there for me no matter if I write or don't.

Over the last couple months particularly, I have been struggling with my depression. It's not something I speak about publicly often, and I don't think I've ever mentioned it here. So, here it is. I have both generalized anxiety and a major depressive disorder. For a long time, it's been controlled by medication, but a couple months ago that all changed due to circumstances out of my control. The road to recovery, or at least normalcy, has been rocky to say the least. But, I am reading again. I am putting down video games and other distractions and letting my brain work out a bit instead of letting myself coast.

This blog post may be the first thing I've written this year, but it certainly won't be the last. I will have a happy update the next time I write here. I will.

Books I read in 2015:

The Serpent of Venice - Christopher Moore
Hyperbole and a Half - Allie Brosh*
The Tenderest Lover - Walt Whitman* (recommended if you like Whitman's poetry)
Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
Coraline - Neil Gaiman* (a very welcome re-read)

I also read most of Small Victories by Anne Lamott but had to put it down about 3/4 the way through. It made me unbearably sad in a myriad of ways. So rather than torture myself just to finish it, I put it back on the shelf.

My husband and I also read Game of Thrones out loud to each other off and on throughout the year. We didn't quite finish by December 31st, but it should still get an honorable mention (even if it's a re-read for me).

So, seven-ish books is the grand total (yet again).

My uncle, who dearly loved reading, passed away in October last year. My aunt was so good as to let me go through his books and take whichever ones I wanted as she said he'd want someone who loves books to have them. So, in addition to the shelf of books I have to read, I have a couple more stacks. I have my work cut out for me, but I'll do my uncle (and all else who love me) proud this year.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Lifestyle Change

I spoke with a friend recently about how major changes in one's life can affect everything, even things that might go unnoticed at first.

I thought back over this past year and marveled at how many big changes occurred: I started a new job, my parents divorced, I moved in with my fiance, my fiance and I got married.

That's a lot of change. Most of it was very good for me, so I thought to myself, "Well, at least I'm not one of those people who lets change in their lives completely derail them."

Yesterday, I realized I hadn't posted my annual book list. Every year I post the books I read that year with recommendations. I opened up my book journal and froze. I read seven books in 2014. Seven.

To put that in perspective, let me give you the totals for the past few years:

2008 = 27
2009 = 47
2010 = 47
2011 = 59
2012 = 72
2013 = 32
2014 = 7

That's an average of about 47 books per year. Until this year.

And as much as I hate to admit it, reading isn't the only aspect of my life that was affected. My writing was too. I virtually stopped writing. In fact, honestly, for the whole of 2014, I think I wrote a maximum of five poems and one short story. That's really awful.

I'm getting back on track this year. I'm hesitant to include this and make it public because I'm not sure if I can truly follow through with it, but I'm going to give it my best shot--I'm going to write a poem every day in 2015. I've been successful thus far, but it is only day eleven.

I'm also going to start reading more again. I'm already almost done with one book and am halfway through another.

I also want to make it clear now that my then-fiance/now-husband is in no way responsible for me reading or writing less. He always encourages me when I do these activities. I think it was just at the end of the day, it was easier for me to mindlessly watch Netflix or play video games or even just space out. The thought of delving into another world of my own making or someone else's was too complex. Rather than seeing it as a release, I felt it was a burden. What a terrible mindset to have. I've happily obliterated that thought process.

Since it's so short, I will post my 2014 book list here. Recommendations have asterisks.

1. The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman**
2. Bossypants – Tina Fey*
3. John Dies at the End – David Wong* (If you don't mind lots and lots of profanity, absurd violence, some sex, and lots of things that don't make any sense--but seriously, if you don't mind those things, please read this book. It's great.)
4. The Absolute Sandman Volume 1 – Neil Gaiman*
5. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened – Jenny Lawson*
6. Fragile Things – Neil Gaiman*
7. This Book is Full of Spiders – David Wong

There you have it. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Bread and the Knife, the Crystal Goblet and the Wine

This is a link to the video of Matt's and my wedding ceremony that Matt's stepmom was so good as to get:

This is the text of the wedding ceremony. It's only a late draft though, as our wonderful officiant has the final one, so I apologize for any errors I may have overlooked.

Officiant: Welcome, family & friends. We have gathered here to celebrate Kristin and Matt as they make a formal commitment to each other through the act of marriage. By being here we take part in this commitment by offering our love and support, and we also give them the opportunity to begin their married life surrounded by the people most important to them.


Officiant: As someone who has been married quite some time, I can attest to the need for love in a marriage, but not only love—also dedication, patience, understanding, kindness, and laughter. Always laughter, even when times seem the hardest. It is also important to celebrate the things you have in common, but it is equally important to appreciate the differences between you. After all this ceremony is meant to witness and affirm the choice you have made to stand side by side as partners in life.

As Anne Lamott says in Some Assembly Required: “That two people fall in love and decide to see if their love might stand up over time; if there might be enough grace and forgiveness and the occasional memory lapse to hold their love together into the fullness of time. That we celebrate the commitment to this work, to the joy, to the inevitable struggles, to the energy that is both sweet and deep that the two people exude in their love for each other. That we celebrate our senses of humor and patience, and the greatness and cost of enduring family love.”

Officiant: And now Kristin and Matt have asked their parents each to do a reading.

Family readings:
-          Karen Johnson: An excerpt of what Khalil Gibran says in “On Marriage”:
o   Love one another but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls . . .
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts . . . .
-          Ken Johnson:
o   From The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula Le Guin, “Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; re-made all the time, made new.”
o   And from Louise Erdrich, “Some people meet the way the sky meets the earth, inevitably, and there is no stopping or holding back their love. It exists in a finished world, beyond the reach of common sense.”
-          Al Roberts: “53” by e e cummings:
o   may my heart always be open to little
birds who are the secret to living
whatever they sing is better to know
and if men should not hear them men are old

may my mind stroll about hungry
and fearless and thirsty and supple
and even if it’s sunday may I be wrong
for whenever men are right they are not young

and may myself do nothing usefully
and love yourself so more than truly
there’s never been quite such a fool who could fail
pulling all the sky over him with one smile.
-          Susie Roberts: An excerpt from “Dance Me to the End of Love” by Leonard Cohen
o   Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic ‘til I’m safely gathered in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love . . . .

Expression of Intent, Vows and Ring Exchange

Officiant: A marriage, as most of us understand it, is a voluntary and full commitment. It is made in the deepest sense to the exclusion of all others, and it is entered into with the desire and hope that it will last for life.

We come now to the place in the ceremony where Matt and Kristin declare their vows to each other

Billy Collins’s “Litany” as a duet
Kristin: You are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine.

Matt: You are the dew on the morning grass
and the burning wheel of the sun.

Kristin: You are the white apron of the baker,
and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.
However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
the plums on the counter,
or the house of cards.

Matt: And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air.

Kristin: It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
maybe even the pigeon on the general's head,
but you are not even close
to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.

Matt: And a quick look in the mirror will show
that you are neither the boots in the corner
nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.

Kristin: It might interest you to know,
speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the sound of rain on the roof.

Matt: I also happen to be the shooting star,
the evening paper blowing down an alley
and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.

Kristin: I am also the moon in the trees
and the blind woman's tea cup.
But don't worry, I'm not the bread and the knife.
You are still the bread and the knife.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
not to mention the crystal goblet and--somehow--the wine.

Officiant: Do you Kristin, accept Matt as your husband? Before these witnesses do you vow to love and care for him as long as you both shall live? Do you take him with all his fault and strengths as you offer your faults and strengths? And do you choose him as the person with whom you will spend your life?

If so, answer now, “I do” and place the ring on his finger.

Bride: I do.

Officiant: Do you Matt, accept Kristin as your wife? Before these witnesses do you vow to love and care for her as long as you both shall live? Do you take her with all her fault and strengths as you offer your faults and strengths? And do you choose her as the person with whom you will spend your life?

Groom: I do.

Officiant: The wedding ring is a symbol, in visible form, of the unbroken circle of your love, so that wherever you go, you may always return to your shared life together. May these rings always call to mind your love.


Officiant: Kristin and Matt, in the presence of your family and friends who have joined you to share this moment of joy, you have declared your deep love and affection for each other. You have stated your wish to live together, and your intent to be always open to a deeper, richer friendship and partnership. You have formed your own union, based on respect and honor. Therefore, it is my joyful responsibility to officially acknowledge your union as “Husband and wife.” You may now seal the marriage with a kiss.


Officiant: May you find joy together; may peace and happiness be yours.

Introduction of Bride and Groom

Officiant: Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my privilege to present to you for the very first time, Mr. and Mrs. Matt and Kristin Johnson.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Grace Note

Today, grace looks a lot like reading.

I finally finished Some Assembly Required, and I'm incredibly glad I did. If you've not read anything by Anne Lamott before, please do. I recommend Traveling Mercies, and if you're a writer, Bird by Bird.

I had some trouble getting through this one, for a number of reasons. One of which was dealing with the grief of losing my grandmother. Strange things bring grief back to a person. Little triggers can be anywhere and everywhere. But here, they were quite obvious. Some Assembly Required is the journal of the first year of Annie's son's first son. During that year, a much beloved and elderly relative is in the last stages of his life, and passes away. I'm not really spoiling anything for you. Grief in Anne Lamott books is nothing new to me, but this hit me a little hard, especially considering how small the section about the actual death was.

I love the encouragement, peace, and grace I can find in these books. Annie's anxieties and neuroses are akin to mine, and reading about how another imperfect person deals with these things is cathartic, and often very funny.

Instead of rambling on about my interpretations of her work, I'm going to leave this post with a few quotations from Some Assembly Required. These are passages which stuck out most to me, for one reason or another.

From an interview with [her son] Sam, September 25.

Sam: "It's so incredibly humbling when someone forgives you--I can't ever believe it when people forgive me, because you know how badly you've screwed up, and how you've hurt them, and how hard it is for them to be brave enough to find it in themselves to reexperience the pain you caused, and the humiliation that is in them because of you--and for someone to be willing to refeel that much like shit again, reexperience it out of not wanting to lose you, means how deeply precious you are to them. And that's pure gold."

I'm going to go ahead and transcribe an entire entry. This is Annie's from November 9.

"The only son of some people in town Sam and I know has died.

How on earth can the parents survive that? How can the grandparents?

Same old inadequate answer: They will survive with enormous sadness and devastation. I don't see how that is possible. But looking back over the years, I see that people do go on against absolutely all odds, and truly savage loss.

Some of us have a raggedy faith. You cry for a long time, and then after that are defeated and flattened for a long time. Then somehow life starts up again. Other people set up foundations so other kids don't die the way theirs did, and so their kids didn't die in vain, or they do political work for the common good. Your friends surround you like white blood cells. It's just fucking unbelievably sad, pretty much forever, when so much love and life have been packed into one person and then the person dies too soon. But you can shake your fist at the void with scorn and say, "You didn't get her, you bastard. We did." Some aching beauty comes with huge loss, although maybe not right away, when it would be helpful. Life is a very powerful force, despite the constant discouragement. So if you are a person with connections to life, a few tendrils eventually break through the sidewalk of loss, and you notice them, maybe space out studying them for a few moments, or maybe they tickle you into movement and response, if only because you have to scratch your nose."

I told myself I wouldn't do this, but I don't see any other way around. Here's another full entry.

November 27, Letter to Jax [Annie's grandson] on the Secret of Life

"Dear Jax: Yesterday was your first Thanksgiving, and it is the time of year to impart to you the secret of life. You will go through your life thinking there was as day in second grade that you must have missed, when the grown-ups came in and explained everything important to the other kids. They said: 'Look, you're human, you're going to feel isolated and afraid a lot of the time, and have bad self-esteem, and feel uniquely ruined, but here is the magic phrase that will take this feeling away. It will be like a feather that will lift you out of that fear and self-consciousness every single time, all throughout your life.' And then they told the children who were there that day the magic phrase that everyone else in the world knows about and uses when feeling blue, which you don't know, because you were home sick the day the grown-ups told the children the way the whole world works.

But there was not such a day in school. No one got the instructions. That is the secret of life. Everyone is flailing around, winging it most of the time, trying to find the way out, or through, or up, without a map. This lack of instruction manual is how most people develop compassion, and how they figure out to show up, care, help and serve, as the only way of filling up and being free. Otherwise, you grow up to be someone who needs to dominate and shame others so no one will know you weren't there the day the instructions were passed out . . . ."

From February 3

"Besides, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that if something was not my problem, I probably did not have the solution. There are no words for how much I hate, resent and resist this."

From April 20

" . . . my pastor Veronica says that peace is joy at rest, and joy is peace on its feet."

From June 7

"Sometimes--like at weddings or funerals--you have to eat vast quantities because you need to be weighted. You need ballast, or you might just float away in the pain or joy or anxiety. Other times, like today, you just want to shovel it in, for fun, and because you don't want to have to think too much. Eating is so familiar, and marvelously stupid."

Monday, December 30, 2013

Book List 2013

I typically try to out-do myself every year with how many books I read. 2012 claimed 72 books, so I knew it would be difficult to beat. However, I did not think I would fall so utterly flat. Right now I'm sitting at 33 and 3/4.

For part of 2012, I was still in school full-time finishing up my Bachelor's degree. I was also working part-time. My quick reading pace from 2012 built up some momentum and carried me up until March. Then no progress for six months. I know what was going on for me during that time, but it's no excuse. There shouldn't be that large of a gap. And now that I've been unemployed for almost three months, I should have made it up much faster than I have. I will do better next year. Enough hemming and hawing though; I need to post my list.

The ones with asterisks are recommended. Anything in parentheses are requirements for reading or general commentary.)

If you have any questions about these books, please comment or shoot me a Facebook message or text.

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency - Douglas Adams* (Yes, it's by the Hitchhiker's Guide guy)
Nerd Do Well - Simon Pegg* (Must be die-hard Simon Pegg fan)
Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk - David Sedaris
Storm of Swords - George R.R. Martin*
A Feast for Crows - George R.R. Martin*
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl*
I Am America and So Can You - Stephen Colbert* (Must love America and satire)
Zombies: A Record of the Year of Infection - Don Roff (There's some amazing watercolor in this one)
Gossamer - Lois Lowry*
American Psycho - Brett Easton Ellis* (Prepare for the violence; no matter what you do, you won't be prepared)
Breakfast at Tiffany's Truman Capote*
Valis - Philip K. Dick* (Only if you're going to read the whole trilogy, and please do)
The Divine Invasion - Philip K. Dick (See above)
The Transmigration of Timothy Archer - Philip K. Dick (Ditto)
A Dance with Dragons - George R.R. Martin*
A Wizard of Earthsea - Ursula Le Guin*
Motherless Brooklyn - Jonathan Lethem*
Cosmos - Carl Sagan* (If you love the beauty of space and won't get too bogged down by the lingo)
Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls - David Sedaris*
The Ocean at the End of the Lane - Neil Gaiman* (I'm surprised this one hasn't received more praise)
i, Robot - Isaac Asimov*
Like Water for Chocolate - Laura Esquivel
Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden*
Onepiece volume 1 - Eiichiro Oda
Onepiece volume 2 - Eiichiro Oda
Onepiece volume 3 - Eiichiro Oda
Sacre Bleu - Christopher Moore*
Blackbird House - Alice Hoffman
'Tis - Frank McCourt* (If you've read Angela's Ashes)
The Sandman Vol 1 Ch 1 - Neil Gaiman* (Read all of The Sandman. All of it!)
Popgun War: Gift - Farel Dalrymple*
Coyote Blue - Christopher Moore*
I Am Pusheen - Claire Belton* (Everyone can use more adorable in their lives)
Some Assembly Required - Anne Lamott* (Should read Operating Instructions first; don't be like me)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Breaking Tradition

During the planning of a wedding, the couple has a lot of choices to make, and not just about what color they want the tablecloths at the reception. How do you want your ceremony to go? Will you use a minister? Practice handfasting? Jump the broom? Throw rice? These are all traditions represented still in modern weddings, even handfasting, literally tying the knot, and jumping the broom. These last two are among many ancient wedding rites coming back into practice today in order to make the ceremony more unique or to bring the couple closer.

So, what will we do? We decided a while ago that our wedding will be small. This will mean we won't get to invite absolutely everyone we know. My fiance has a big family, and I have a fairly large circle of friends, so we have some more choices ahead of us.

My fiance has been great with wedding planning so far. He and I tend to have very similar taste when it comes to style, so we haven't run into any disagreements, and our communication has been open.

We don't oppose tradition, but there are some traditions we will be doing without. I mentioned the size of our wedding so this next statement isn't so strange. We aren't going to have a wedding procession. Right now, it's just us. The bride and groom, and whoever we choose to officiate the ceremony. So, my husband-to-be will go up to the front, music will play, the guests will settle, I will walk up the aisle, the officiant will welcome everyone, and the ceremony will proceed. In my mind, it's simple, flows well, and suits us. But, it's leaving some things out. I tried to mention it casually, so let me bring it to the forefront for emphasis now. I will be walking up the aisle by myself.

I love my parents very much, and I would never do anything to hurt them. But the thought of being "given away," hearkening back to a tradition of women being treated like chattel, unsettles me.

While this tradition has become something deeply sentimental in modern weddings, it still rubs me the wrong way. And since it is usually a part of modern weddings, it can make talking to people about leaving out this detail a little difficult.

It's not that I'm not sentimental. I'm a wedding photographer! Most people don't see it because I make myself blend into the background to do my job, but I cry at weddings. When couples say their vows, the people sitting down don't always get to hear what the couple says, but I do. And it's rare that I witness a ceremony in which my eyes don't at least well up a little. In fact, my wedding will probably be no different. I will try my hardest to remain composed, but I will also use as much make-up primer and finishing spray as I can get my hands on, because most likely I will cry.

However, just because something is sweet or done in a loving capacity doesn't mean it doesn't come from a longstanding tradition that represents an awful facet of society, such as women being treated as property. I've been doing some research to see how people get around this because, well, as nice as the moment is whenever the officiant asks, "Who gives this bride in marriage?" it's essentially just flowery verbiage for a sales transaction.

Since we live in modern times, tradition isn't necessarily at the forefront of all weddings as it used to be, and gender roles are happily being cast aside in light of social equality. But, I still can't find an example of when a groom's parents have stood up and given him away. They might escort him down the aisle in the processional, but nobody gives a man away. It just doesn't happen, and I find that striking.

Honoring my family is extremely important to me. I love them so much, and through marrying my fiance, I will be incorporating his family into my life too, so I'll have even more people to love. And I'm thrilled! My fiance and I are the people we are because of our parents. I'm more grateful for that than I can say. And I have also been extremely humbled recently, because my parents have given us a substantial financial gift for our wedding.

Because honoring our parents is important to us, we are going to have something in the ceremony that will incorporate each of them. It's still almost a year away, so this may change, but I think having a candle-lighting ceremony would be lovely. My mom, my dad, his mom, and his dad would all go up and light one candle, symbolically lighting the way for our future together.