The guests have started trickling in; refreshing like raindrops after a hot, humid summer. Planning the wedding had taken over every corner of my life. At first it was just a few little things here and there: a question about time of day – did we want the ceremony at sunset or afterwards, a question about alcohol – only wine or full bar, what kind of music we would play, etc. But soon enough, it took over, seeping into even my most private corners, the place from where I write, my sleep. I have been dreaming of labyrinths. At times, the hedges are beautiful, in full bloom, with brightly coloured flowers imparting their comforting scent. Other nights are filled with long corridors, cold stone hallways that lead nowhere.
I arrived a few days early to be with my mother, my grandmother, my family. We have talked until I feel my head has been turned upside down and emptied of thoughts. Still, the dreams come. I am ready now to get married.
People want to know why it took so long, why we planned it for close to a year-and-a-half. Besides the obvious logistical reasons such as our difficulty deciding the location of the wedding, I have realized in all of this that it is so much more. I couldn’t have committed myself to D a year ago, or even six months ago the way I feel ready to today. We have gone through a process, him and I, separately and together, of becoming ready for this next step.
While I questioned and doubted, people kept telling me that it shouldn’t be such a big deal, that in the worst case we could get a divorce. And while that is true, that is not the way I want to enter a marriage – thinking of my out. Of course I am lucky to be taking this step when I am. Unlike in the past, I am no longer seen as “belonging” to my husband, I don’t have to give up anything to be with D, nor am I expected to be a glorified servant. I am lucky in that sense, and yet for the past few months, I wrestled with a feeling of being trapped. Why could I not get away from that feeling of the noose tightening around my neck when I thought about the wedding?
I wanted to be in Israel, in Thailand, in India, in New York. Anywhere but sitting at the dining table, across from my future husband talking about names of tables and who we would ask to make a speech.
I ran away a few times… all the way to Queen’s Park… and back … the sweat trickling down my back both from stress as well as the physical effort of running for an hour. The doctor told me not to, that the pounding on the pavement was not the right thing for me to do. I didn’t stop. The same person also told me to stick to hot foods, that I needed nourishment because of the cold weather in London as well as my stress levels that were depleting me of nutrients. So I ate berries and fresh coconut, cold nut milk and salads.
It was almost as if I wanted to sabotage it all – my body, my relationship, my wedding, my life.
“I just want to write,” I told D, as if he could make me sit down and do it. “What are we doing?” I asked him. He didn’t know either. All he could tell me was that to him it felt right.
I talked to whomever would listen, asking for answers that nobody could give me. I stayed up all night a few times, and couldn’t sleep all day. I felt like a zombie, the cotton candy in my head making the questions even more difficult to tackle. And D, as always, held my hand, kissed my cheek, my lips, and told me he loved me. At three o’clock in the morning, at five in the evening.
He was waiting until the storm passed. Unlike me, he knew it would.
There is nothing quite like the clarity I get after one of those dark periods. After a day, a week, a month of life being too much, of the questions and the doubts, the reproach, the self-criticism taking over like a black magic cloak that covers my entire life; arriving into the light at the end of the tunnel is pure bliss.
Gratitude is a word used so often these days in the New-Age saturated world. What I’ve realized is that there’s a reason for this because without gratitude, we just keep moving, slowly losing our ability to feel as we make our way from one thing to the next like robots.
The guests have started arriving and I look at D with new eyes every day as we take a moment every evening to light a candle and remember that this time isn’t about chicken or fish, it isn’t about who’s coming and who can’t make it. This time is about that moment, the one that has taken the least planning in comparison to everything surrounding it, the moment that belongs to just him and me. When I can say to him that I choose to be with him. Because after all that, after the questions, the travel, the runs around the block and half-way around the world, that is my conclusion – not out of fear or because it’s easier, not because it’s what other people think should be done, but rather because it is what I want.
The guests are arriving to see a moment of honesty between two people, to get a small window into our days when nobody else is around, when I might get annoyed that he hasn’t washed up, and he might get frustrated that I haven’t left the house in a week and look like it. It is a private moment that we have chosen to share, and now that I have faced my stage fright and remembered what the actual point of all of this is… I can’t wait!!!
Many demons have bitten the dust in the past few months, after they rose up to haunt me one more time. Many dreams have been let go of, altered, mourned as I chose the path that I have decided to travel. Many others have appeared and been resurrected as the reality of saying “I do” (or whatever words we choose to use) has taken on all sorts of shapes and perspectives.
A week from today, D and I will get married on top of a mountain, at sunset. It seems like such a grown-up thing to do; and I guess I had to grow up in order to be able to really grasp what it means to me.
People have emailed and called to tell me they love the invites, the program, the opportunity to come to Israel. Friends have sent their regrets, menus have been changed, my dress has made me feel more wonderful and feminine than ever before, and then more naked and awkward that I thought was possible. D and I have rowed and made up, and then rowed again. We found a happy medium by watching as many West Wing episodes as possible to distract ourselves in the past couple of months and we have regretted having to turn the television off one more than one occasion when returning to the reality of our lives was not our first choice. We have lost weight, gained weight, lifted more seventeenth-century Russian strength training apparatuses than I knew existed. We have drank ourselves into oblivion and we have danced around with excitement. One time, we even broke up. Then we went for a long walk, picked blackberries and continued to plan the wedding. D got pneumonia and some weird thing on his eyelid. I got rashes, cold feet and went on food binges. We’ve spent a good few hours on the phone, or texting one another our deepest doubts, fears and dreams… and now here we are…
D arrived yesterday.
It was like a homecoming or sorts.
In some ways, the wedding feels further away now that we’re in Israel than it did from London. In other ways, it feels closer.
I’m no longer scared.
I don’t sleep. Last night, I watched D’s chest, his closed eyes, as he lay next to me. Technically he’s my future husband although in our hearts and minds, having made the trajectory we have in the past few months, in many ways I feel we’re already married. The day, a week from today, is going to be the public declaration, the culmination of what we have lived through in private for weeks and months as we prepared and questioned, compared and decided.
The guests are trickling in, as diverse and amazing as the pieces of material they sent to create the chuppah we will marry under. I couldn’t cry when I saw it, I was too overwhelmed. Other people overwhelm me, D reminds me to breathe. Other people are happy to see me laughing, D is happy to see me regardless of how I’m feeling.
I have found gratitude. And after four years of saying it, of living it, I have found love. It is the simplest of words. It has been bastardized and overused, like the word “peace” in the Middle East. I have said it so many times before, but I never really knew what it meant. I do now… and I’m ready… Regardless of what happens if, when and how… I’m ready now… finally.
So here I go, stumbling and mumbling, and hopefully with some grace… See you on the other side…