A Mindful Wedding: Pinterest Propaganda

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About a week before the wedding, I was using our paper cutter at work to slice the ceremony programs (which is why they were all a little crooked). I texted my bridesmaid Helen to ask to if I should order a bushel of dried lavender so I could glue a sprig on each program and make them look better.  Because right now they looked pretty busted.

And the great friend that she is (who always promised to tell me if I went to far), she finally asked, “But why?”  And all I could think was, “Because it isn’t enough!  I haven’t done enough!”

The crazy didn’t end there, oh no.  After my failure to construct a ribbon curtain for our outdoor ceremony, I stopped on the way to our venue at a garden center for some potted plants.  Ben asked me why we needed them to which I responded, completely in zombie bride mode, “My ribbon curtain failed.  We have no ceremony decorations!  You have to have those!”  Later, during the ceremony, I remember snorting at myself a bit when seeing the $40 potted plants I fought so hard for, tipping over in the front of the lawn where we got married.  The ceremony was outside.  Why did I need plants?

Unity ceremony, the only potted plant we really needed.

Unity ceremony, the only potted plant we really needed.

Now it wasn’t until the end of planning that the stress caught up with me. I was told otherwise I stayed surprisingly low key throughout the process.  But now that I look back, I see how the crazy seed was planted: Pinterest, The Knot, and all those budget bride blogs that only show the good (and never the ugly) sides of DIY.  They were like crack for a budgeting bride, and the lanterns and birdcages were how I got my fix.

Buddha to the rescue

A friend of mine recently lent me the book “10% Happier” by Dan Harris from ABC, who chronicles his discovery of Mindfulness while reporting on various religions.  I was excited to find that a newer “convert” of Buddhism was writing on this topic since its a goal of mine as well; and I often feel unworthy since I’m NOT a retreat-attending, yoga-for-the-people card holding,  non-meat eating Buddhist (yet?).  In the scheme of things, I am very early in my Buddhist education, and was excited to find that Dan Harris’ cynical yet quirky tone is similar to the one I aspire for on this blog.

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At one point, he mentions that during a retreat a teacher of his talked about the common misinterpretation of the Buddhist idea of Dukkha, aka “Life is Suffering.”  Most people hear this and think, “Why would I want to follow a religion that sounds so miserable?  I’m supposed to accept that life is terrible?  Fun!”

Well, we’re all missing the boat a bit, but that’s okay.  It’s an odd phrase and very confusing if you aren’t told the rest of the message.  Turns out it’s poorly translated as well.  Dukkha actually translates more closely into “Life is stressful.”  Yes!  Yes it is!  And the rest of the main message is that the stress (or suffering) comes from attaching ourselves to the idea that A. Things or events will make us complete and B. Those things are going be around forever.  The more we let go of these ideas, the closer we come to enlightenment (which in their terms is a jolly mix of understanding, compassion, clarity and contentment…in a nutshell).

Stress relief is actually just a lovely side-effect of seeing the world clearly.  The idea of Buddhism is not the notion that life sucks and we should learn to deal with it.  It’s understanding that there is good and bad, and neither is going to remain permanent.  Whether it’s the most delicious tiramisu on the planet, a root canal, or say…a wedding day…

(Whenever I do this, I hear “Tradition” from Fiddler on the Roof start to play but  with the word “Transitiiiiionnn, Transition!”)

Wedding Dukkha

When planning a wedding, in regard to my own and while helping friends, there is the inevitable feeling that your list will never end.

Even when you enlist your friends' help!

Even when you enlist your friends’ help! (yes that’s a sand bucket)

And it’s not only your things-to-do list, but also your shopping list.  Now there are a million blogs out there about small budget weddings, glitzy weddings, hipster weddings, the whole thing, and all of them seem to have a similar thing in common: lots of things and lots of steps.  Personal touches and ways to impress your guests are wonderful, but when do these things start to overshadow the marriage itself? And once you’ve bought into the idea that someone else managed to make their wedding “that cute” with little money and “little effort” a modern day pressure to craft grows into an obsession with obtaining a blog worthy wedding.  At least this is what happened with me.

There is a Buddhist idea wrapped up in the lesson of impermanence that we are always waiting for the next thing to complete us.  This is another idea that came up is Harris’ book.  We are waiting for the next relationship, the end of the week, the next paycheck, the next cup of coffee.  That thing will make us complete.  And because of all this waiting, we are missing the fact that the last thing arrived, and it wasn’t enough.

This was how my wedding planning snowballed for me.  I was on a budget, yes, but we also wanted to throw the majority of our budget into our guests being well-fed, well boozed-up, and comfortable.  So once that was taken care of, the money for all the tchotchkes Pinterest tells you to buy was slim.  And this is when this weird panic set in as a bride.

I am throwing the money into the food and experience, but not into things like a matching cake, disco lighting, 500 paper lanterns, and a mashed potato bar (which I’ll admit, I was pretty sad the day we cut it).  But nonetheless, I still tried to keep up with the Pinterest pressure.

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It wasn’t until I was spray painting 150 small handstamped tambourines with glitter paint that I asked myself, “What am I doing???”  Here I am with the wind blowing paint all over my apartment door (it’s still sparkly) two weeks before my wedding.  I’m making inside joke wedding-favors that most people will not even take home.  All because I learned that you are supposed to get personalized favors.  I was proving my worthiness through homemade dollar store props.  And with each addition of things, I never felt that complete feeling I was searching for.  Even after the wedding was over, I still stressed looking through the pictures that maybe I hadn’t done enough.

But what actually matters is that I had one of the best days of my life.  Everyone was incredible loving and generous, no one cared when little things went wrong, the food was delicious, the crazy idea to DJ it ourselves worked out, people DANCED, our made-up cocktail was a hit, and Ben and I got married!

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The part of the blog where I relate this to other parts of life…

This realization continued to help  me past the days of hot gluing ribbons to mason jars.  When it comes to my job, my artistic career, decorating the house, and even on our honeymoon, I remind myself a lot that our Pinterest idea of things in not going to bring happiness.  When these blogs and Pinterest were invented, they were created to share ideas, which is dandy, and I still love to use it for that.  But when it comes to things in our lives that we believe we are judged for (money, career, weddings), it can become a social peacocking site.  And clearly I’m leaving out the pressure from the wedding business itself, that isn’t a walk in the park as far as pressure, but since I mainly approached things from a DIY standpoint, I can only speak of this side of things.

But to all my friends who are planning now, remember that the personal touches and projects that bring you joy are the ones to keep around.  But there is no need to go past that.  There are plenty of other logistical tasks to throw your energy into, including caring about your relationship and your guests, the whole original reason you’re planning all this craziness in the first place.

Either way, planning a huge event is never going to be “easy”, but the more we remember that it is all passing (the good and the bad), the more we can take a step back and realize that it is all enough, and pretty wonderful.

 

All wedding photos by and linked to Kim Craven Photography because she’s awesssooommme.

The Best Laid Wedding (and life) Plans

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Here is a message to all those about to get married, thinking about getting married, and those whose wedding is long past.  It is also a message I suppose to anyone looking forward to anything, which I would hope, is everyone who has stumbled upon this blog.

I have often been accused of being a planner.  If I’m getting brunch with friends, I will happily dive through Yelp and weigh the pros and cons of every damn eggs benedict/mimosa special in town.  I love to research, imagine, and structure how a day is going to go.  It gives me comfort.  And to some people I’m sure I look like an anxiety-ridden crazy person, which, okay, fair, is not totally off.

But to my defense, I have a side that follows all this crazy planning that many people don’t see.  It is the side that loves to throw these plans out and trust that my day will take me somewhere better than I intended.  The planning gets me there, and this side allows even better things to happen.

I had a hard time with this whole “throw it out the window” thing come wedding day though, as I’m sure many do with a single day that costs as much as a semester in college.  But months later, Ben and I have recently (and pretty spontaneously) made plans to go back to Cape May where we were married.  I cannot stop thinking about what it will be like to sit on the porch of the Chalfonte and imagine sitting there months before the wedding, years before for the wedding, and of course the days leading up to it.  Here I am, full circle, now in my retrospective glory.

Many things during our wedding turned out very differently than what we planned while sitting on that porch.  And yet I am feeling pretty pleased and wonderfully nostalgic about the thought of going back.  Because the reality, the day that actually got us married, was way better than any excel spreadsheet, any lace covered jar, or any schedule created.  Those plans were the train that got us there, and then reality was out of our hands.

So if you are looking back on something you felt went “wrong”, if are worried about your upcoming day, or if are just down-right terrified of the wedding planning beast, read some of our stories, and grab a drink.  All will be better than fine.

bar night before

Plan: I will be in perfect physical health

Reality: I was a hormonal, exhausted, insomniac that had too much to drink the night before.

A few months before the wedding it hit me that my health and sleeping abilities tend to be pretty undependable when I’m traveling.  Usually about three days into any vacation, my body decides to take a break from functioning.  At some past family weddings, I’ve actually developed strep throat  by the time the wedding arrived.  So whaaaat was I going to do if THAT happened?  Well, it wasn’t going to.  I was going to will myself to be healthy, because being sick wasn’t an option.

Isn’t that just adorable?  The three nights before the wedding, I lay awake, even a few glasses of wine and a few tylenol Pm’s in (probably not the healthiest mixture).  I was a zombie, and even naps were painful because I would stare at the ceiling thinking about the hours counting down.  I read blogs about wedding insomnia, I looked up meditation tactics, I day drank.  Everything.

Rehearsal dinner came, and I was tired of pushing.  Tired of planning, of calming growing family issues, and by being the one in control.  So I broke all my rules, and sat down at the bar post-rehearsal dinner for a cocktail.  I was finally having fun, and I finally stopped thinking about my damn schedule.

My friends and cousins very responsibly kept an eye on my hydration and what time I left the bar.  But when I returned, I got back to a room full of some of my favorite people from college who, oops!, brought a case of wine from Trader Joe’s (which by the way, should be a new requirement of at least one wedding guest).  So as one last horrah before the wedding, we popped open some wine and sat like we did in college, joking and throwing all damn caution to the wind.

Just then it began to downpour and a drunk, very happy and wet Ben came bumbling up the steps to join the party.  I felt like we were all exactly where I wanted to be: in a room with my favorite people, drinking two buck chuck.

I slept like a rock that night, and though I woke up a tad hungover, I was not angry at myself at all.  Never could I have written down “10pm: meet at Carla and Justin’s room, drink copious amount of wine, reunite dramatically with Ben in hallway.”

goldfish

Hangover priorities.

Plan: Vows that I had written for months which included quotes and stories about trees

Reality: Vows that came to me while tipsy in the West Village on a pretty Spring night a week before the wedding

vows

We had a tree motif in our wedding.  Everything down to my vows were tree related.  And they were fine.   But I had become so caught up in getting the candles and centerpiece orders, that I hadn’t had a moment of inspiration when it came to my actual ceremony.  About a week before the wedding, Helen and I went to our favorite wine bar, Amelie in the West Village.  I love these waiters.  They are they sweetest bartenders in the world.  I told them I was about to get married and they gave us free glasses of champagne and walked us to the door when we left.  They gave us both kisses on each cheek (they’re delightfully French) and said they’d see me post wedding.  Be still my heart.

Helen and I had plans to end the night there, so I went on my way and almost got on the train. But I knew that if I waited another 20 minutes, I would get to catch Ben after his class.  So I wandered around the Village on that beautifully chilly night, on cloud wine, and realized that I actually liked New York City now, even the stressful parts, just as Ben had predicted when we met.  Our relationship had transformed a city for me.  It transformed many of my fears really.  I will not write my vows down here as they cannot be recreated from whatever came out my mouth that day, but this is when they came to me.  Goodbye tree motif vows!  Hello wine-encouraged teary-eyed walk through the Village vows.

Plan: This wedding will reunite my family

Reality: Something way better than that

parents

My extended family has always been spread apart geographically.  I know that all families have difficult times, and those times often bring families closer.  But it’s been hard for us to get things rolling again after so many years of lost traditions.  Also, my grandmother passed away two months before the wedding and not having her there was very painful for a lot of us.  She was on my mind all day and I know deep down she was there with us.

My hope was to get everyone back to the shore and perhaps restart a tradition of traveling together.  Understandably, many people were unable to make it because of distance or the hard months we had leading up to May.  Work plans even kept my mom from coming down until the day before.  What can you do?  I started to get discouraged thinking that I had put too much pressure on this idea.  A wedding couldn’t fix years of separation.

But you know what?  The ways my family reunited were far more poignant than anything I couldn’t have predicted.  Since my dad came down sooner than my mom, we day drank on the porch of their rental house and caught up.  I saw my parents dancing like silly teenagers for the first time in my life because we played a song they requested.  My sister and her boyfriend helped us arrange flowers on the porch the day before.  I got to meet my great-uncle and cousins we had just found on ancestry.com.  And now we go to their barbecues!  I finally reunited with my cousins from NYC, which was long overdue.  My aunt, uncle, and cousins even chatted with my sister about coming to Cape May each summer (which yes, was my dream).

But it’s important to remember that family issues do not disappear at a wedding.  If anything, it multiplies the elephants in the room.  But once I took the pressure of my plans, I accepted that elephants were just going to have to hang around and join the dance.  We had been a part for a long time, and now were are here giving it a shot.  And I’m hoping that was just a beginning of a new chapter for us.

everyone dance

A little non-wedding story to tie this all together…

Plan: Get out of the house and go be social at a friend’s birthday party.  You’ve been moping at home living with your parents, it’s time to accept an invitation somewhere.

Reality:  I met the man I was going to marry, and four years later, I would write an emotional blog post about how reality is better than your plans:)

The only photo taken the night Ben and I  met.  And no, neither of these people are Ben, because he was sitting next to me.  But this was 2am at a pizza place.  And we and danced to ukulele.

The only photo taken the night Ben and I met. And no, neither of these people are Ben, because he was sitting next to me. But this was 2am at a pizza place. And we and danced to a ukulele.

The night I met Ben, my highest hope was to get out of the house and stop feeling sorry for myself.  I knew I would possibly see some people that night that made me uncomfortable so I put my regular defenses up and hoped I wouldn’t feel lousy the next morning.  Instead, a door was opened to the land of Ben, and it really felt like we had known eachother for years, but were just waiting for some good timing to come along.  My “plan” was not to go that night, I thought I was walking into another social situation I wasn’t ready for after a few really lousy months.  Planning got me out the door, on the bus, and to the party that night, but the rest was out of my hands.  And I’m pretty damn happy about that.

Whatever you are putting together right now: your wedding, your career, your hopes for a relationship, please trust that though plans get you from point A to point B far greater things tend to happen.  And I am happy we don’t know about them.  Healthy predictable evenings are great, but drunk unexpected nights in a room with friends and Trader Joe’s wine is my idea of a wonderful life.  Thank you to all who are a part of it, and all who took the time to read this.

Happy “planning”, all:)

If you build it, they will….read your blog?

A lovely idea launched me into writing this morning, and perhaps it will help you as well.  My friend Christina has been writing a lovely blog containing a thank you note a day to different things in her life: people, organizations, inanimate objects.  And this morning, she received a thank you note in return from one of the organizations!  As much as you hope people may glance at your art, it’s still incredibly thrilling and shocking when people do.  It’s especially thrilling when you realize that your writing has effected someone positively.

And then I thought for a minute about what would have happened if Christina had decided to write a post a day about everything she hates. What kind of response would she get, if any?  Essentially, it would be a giant invitation for rage and rants.  What a waste of energy on both ends, and pretty much the most obnoxious blog ever.

Most importantly, it was a reminder that when you send out gratitude, people appreciate it and send it right back.  When you send out enthusiasm, people feel enthused, and when you send out a constructive piece of advice about a problem, people sit and think, which is never a totally bad thing.

In the past several years of having this blog I have discovered a few (possibly obvious) things:

1. If you write it, people will read it.  Someone needs to hear what you need to say.  Hooray!

2. There are many ways you can present one idea.  No kidding, Ginny.

3. The way you choose to present your thoughts will affect the way you live your life and how others feel in theirs.  If you can’t find the best way to say something, hold off, it will come to you later.  Writing about writing?  Getting a little meta for me, please explain.  Also, are you talking to yourself in bold?  Does Ben know you’ve lost your mind?  Hush.

These sound like obvious points.  Why would anyone write a post a day about things they hate?  How exhausting!  And yet, you find it all the time online, just not listed this bluntly. SO I’ve started to think about where all this online negativity comes from.

What an interesting soapbox you have there….

We are human beings that need to feel all the feels sometimes, but it is important to keep an eye on what you are putting out there for public consumption and what you’re instead, putting in your journal.

It seems that negativity is often falsely regarded as confidence.  You have the right not to like something, I understand that.  And the world is far from perfect.  Constructive ideas are needed to fix many terrible things in society.  But the next time you write about how all people should stop doing something because you think it’s dumb and then have no logical take on how to fix it, think about why you are throwing all that negative energy into something that is A. beyond your control, and B. Most likely an insult of someone else’s personal expression.

Ask yourself if it’s harming you or anyone else.  If it isn’t, maaaaaybe you’re actually upset about something else.  If it is, it is still that person’s belief, and so there are more constructive ways to speak to them effectively.  Let’s be big girls and boys about this.

Pick a nicer soapbox, you have your choice

There aren’t many things in life that you have complete control over.  Your soapbox is one of them.  If you have a particularly open mind about a political problem, and a practical approach about how to improve someone’s life, then by all means, shout away!  I will support you!  (Though I will probably not come to your literal soapbox because I hate crowds.  But I will totally give to your Kickstarter).

If you find joy in making scones and posting scone recipes, power to ya!  Who doesn’t like scones?

Home Baked Scones Tea With...

I had to google “public domain scones” for this one.

Okay good example: Let’s say you hate scones.  Hate them.  They’re dry and your great-aunt made you eat them when you were little while yelling at you about being too skinny (This did not happen to me.  I love my aunts.  And scones).  But damn those dense pastries of doom!  You go on this person’s scone blog and rip into their very being of artistic identity.  And now it’s for all the world to see, not only the writer/struggling baker.

Your negative comment sparks a defensive attack online that somehow causes half your facebook readers to storm away from their computers, yell at their barista, yell at their dog, over-eat pastries out of spite, and then stomp around for part of the day carrying your family issues with them.

I believe it all goes back to fear.  And fear mixed with a healthy dose of ignorance creates a tunnel vision of rage and bizarre soap boxes.

The best example to me is the Ice Bucket Challenge.  I know, I’m late to the game.  But I wanted to wait until the angry people calmed down a bit so we all had some hindsight.  I found that people who ranted about the Ice Bucket Challenge had trouble looking at the whole story, and perhaps were projecting their own discomfort with group activities altogether.

Many people said, “What does pouring ice on your head have to do with ALS?  THIS IS DUMB!”  *throws laptop, pouts, eats scone*  

Now if they had perhaps researched the story of the challenge a little further, they would have seen that the challenge was to raise awareness about a disease that didn’t have a lot of attention.  By spreading knowledge, we realize it’s a problem that perhaps lost fundraising steam, which clearly is something to be fixed.

I also read, “People are just trying to get attention instead of donating!”  *posts on facebook, hopes for likes and comments*

As I used to tell my first graders at camp, don’t worry about what your classmate is doing, worry about yourself.  If you feel that their approach to spreading awareness about a disease is too showy, then don’t do it.  Keep gluing your macaroni.  No one is leaving you out.

And then the ever confusing, “This is taking away from other charities.” (Well, now I’m just getting judgy. I see how easy it is!)

I don’t know about you, but I don’t donate to a list of charities each day, and it took me a while to get used to donating at all.  But one way to get in the habit of giving to ANYONE, even if it’s a smaller amount, is having something inspire you to think of yourself as a charitable person in the first place.  It is easy to assume that a good portion of the Ice-Challenged gang was not planning on donating to Gorillas in Need (made that up, I’m not sure if they’re in need) that day and decided to blow them off.  So it was a good step all around.

Same amount of energy for something more worthwhile

Instead of using the word “better” or “right”, let’s go with constructive or worthwhile.  So much energy goes into choosing negativity without properly researching your point.  Will your rant actually help the situation, or are you a commenter that likes to stir up trouble because you’re speaking from a place of anger?

I have plenty of moments when someone has said something simply asinine online and I have to hold myself back.  If that guy I went to high school with is defending another crazy Fox News Anchor simply because he isn’t exposed to anything outside our small home town, would it be worth me lashing out at him without a plan?  No.  People who carry angry ideas are always looking for someone to be defensive.  And from his point of view, he believes he is fighting the good fight.  Me attacking would get us both nowhere.  Until I have a calm and helpful way to approach it, I will keep my mouth shut.

People do listen!  If you build it….you get the point.

So the good thing is that people do listen!!  I have found that when you put your art out there in the world, people do care and appreciate your effort, even if it takes a little while to make a career out of it (Want to cast me??  Ginnybartolone.com! *insert tap dance*).  So write that blog!  Start that painting!  Build that baseball field for ghosts!  Just remember that what you build will reach people, and helping them grow in the process is much better than millions of other lousier and honestly, less interesting options out there.