I’m getting married in nine days.
The thing about being engaged is that it puts you in a constant state of transition, and as far as I’m concerned, transition is the worst. I’d rather be on one side of the fence or the other. Sitting on it is nothing but uncomfortable. So we’re getting married in nine days, and we need to bridge this gap and cross the finish line. This needs to happen.
I’m a mess of emotions and anticipation and lists and impatience.
I’m a hearty, note-taking student of Brené Brown. I like to think of myself as one of her graduate students, auditing all her courses by long distance. (And of course, we’re on a first name basis in my healthy imagination.) Brené says that joy is probably the most difficult emotion to feel, that when we lose the ability or the willingness to be vulnerable, joy becomes something we approach with deep foreboding.
Foreboding. The feeling that something bad will happen.
Joy: a feeling of great happiness.
This is the story of my life right now, the terrible and forever coupling of these two feelings that seem to counteract and activate one another. I’m getting married in nine days, so something must be wrong.
She says, “Joy can feel like a setup. We’ve learned that giving in to joy is, at best, setting ourselves up for disappointment and, at worst, inviting disaster. We’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop. We’re trying to beat vulnerability to the punch. We don’t want to be blindsided by hurt. We don’t want to be caught off-guard, so we literally practice being devastated.”
As I’m writing this paragraph, Peter called to tell me the results of his physical today. He said, “Honey, buckle up, because you may get more than you bargained for. The doctor said I am completely healthy, and I’ll probably live into my nineties.” I literally gasped on the phone and I started to cry.
This excellent bill of health prompted a sure response from me: quick intake of air, and then the demanding whisper, “Shhh. Please don’t say that.” And then tears. Someone telling me he is healthy only makes me sure he won’t be for long. And so I practice my own devastation.
I hate living in this vice. I want to just run and jump into this next season of my life with the same gusto as when I used to run and jump into the ball pit as a little girl.Sure they would catch me in a soft balloon landing, I’d run and close my eyes and leap, delighting in the big splashy rainbow that swallowed me whole. I want that abandoned leaping again.
Brené says there is one cure: Gratitude.
She says that none of us are immune to that uncomfortable quake of vulnerability that accompanies joyful moments. But the most experienced among us have learned to use that shudder of vulnerability as an invitation to acknowledge how truly grateful we are for he person, the beauty, the connection, or simply the moment before us. You can’t keep bad things from happening. You can only be thankful that it’s not right now. And then, says Brené, when the bad things happen, you’ve strengthened your own fortitude to handle it.
So, let me get this straight: practicing my own devastation doesn’t actually prepare me for it. Instead, joy and gratitude strengthens my own resilience.
I sit up tall, determined to get a handle on this. I take a deep breath that feels like determination that’s ragged around the edges. And Peter walks in to the restaurant and now to the table where I am writing today. He left the doctor’s office and drove across town to the tears he heard on the phone. He sits down, and he’s so tender with me, which nearly breaks me in a different way.
“Honey, what’s happening? What are you feeling?” he asks.
Tearfully, I say, “I’m feeling . . . thankful.”