That almost unbearable achy feeling I get when my mom or grandma is upset or thinks I am upset or disappointed? That’s only going to get worse with parenthood, isn’t it?
Today Jared and I got our marriage license, and got to write down our new names. We are both going to use both of our last names and will be Firstname Middlename Mylast Hislast. I am happy we’re doing this. Apart from the woman taking the man’s name being kind of an outdated tradition, I would be sad to lose what I feel is a connection to my mom, my dad, and my sister. We already live across the country from my family, and in some physical ways it feels like I have joined Jared’s family. We go to their houses for most holidays, we hang out and watch tv on their couches when our dryer isn’t working. I love this, and am so glad we have them nearby. At the same time, I need the symbolic connection to my family through my name. I want us to have the same name, though, since we are forming our own family with this marriage, too, and feel really lucky that Jared has been open to changing his name too from the day we got engaged. Even with this egalitarian approach, changing names is a little scary. That’s why I’m choosing to think of it as adding to my name rather than changing it, since that is actually what we are doing, and because it is more representative of what we are actually doing. Neither of us is leaving our family of origin for another– we are adding each other’s families to our own. This is what is on my mind as I write today’s wedding meditation, which combines some of my experience at a Quaker college with the regular Zen exercises.
Begin, as always, by paying attention to your breathing. Wait until your mind calms before you continue. When your mind wanders, bring it gently back to your breath.
Think about your family. Begin by considering those closest to you– perhaps your mother and father, your siblings and grandparents. Notice how your body and breath respond to these thoughts. If you feel any tension, bring your breath to that part of your body.
Sit for a moment, and hold each of these people in the light, one by one. Start with those you have the best relationship with. Try to envision their face, their voice, how you feel when you are around them. Smile to them and send them happy thoughts. Next, move to anyone you may have a more difficult relationship with. Again, bring your breath to any points of tension in your body. Breathing in, remember that just as we can accept all parts of ourselves, we can learn to accept others. Don’t try to change yourself or the person you are thinking of; just hold them in the light in your mind. Breathing out, release your pain surrounding this relationship.
After holding each of the people in your immediate family, living and dead, in the light for a few moments, you can begin to expand the circle, bringing in cousins, aunts and uncles, and going further back to ancestors you may never have met. Breathe in their love and connection and breathe out anything painful or difficult.
Next, move on to your partner’s family. Begin by sending light and love to your partner and move outward to his or her family and ancestors. You can begin to see the lines that led to his or her manifestation and how he or she is still connected to all of his or her ancestors. Breathe in appreciation for all of the people and conditions that led to each of your existences in this current form. Breathe out any fear or anger.
Now, hold yourself and your partner in the light. This time, when you expand the circle, include both of your families and ancestors. You are connecting all of these people through your new family, at the same time that you are all already connected.
I have had anxiety, sometimes including OCD tendencies, since I was a kid, and it has been more prominent at some times than others. Often it flares up in times of change– notably, graduating high school and going to college and finishing grad school. I somehow largely avoided it when I was graduating from college, maybe because I was so excited to move out to California. It could also be, though, that those times of high anxiety were caused by traumatic events that happened around the same time ( a car accident with my best friend the summer between high school and college and witnessing a man lose his leg near the end of grad school), or maybe it was the combination of trauma and transition (oooh, alliteration!). Still, I want to be mindful of my anxious tendencies leading up to the wedding and marriage.
There are lots of sticking points that could aggravate it. There are so many messages saying your wedding has to be perfect that even someone who isn’t normally anxious might, for example, want to be sure every single dish is done, and every single hair is shaved off of her legs before she leaves for the venue so that she doesn’t think about these things during the MOST IMPORTANT DAY OF HER LIFE. I don’t want to obsess over every single stray hot glue string. The wedding industrial complex is already telling me that if all of these things aren’t PERFECT, then I clearly don’t care about my wedding, and therefore clearly do not care about my marriage, which is clearly not going to be a good one. I don’t want or need my anxiety disorders to tell me that too.
So I am doing my best not to listen to those outside messages and to use the internal ones as an opportunity. When I was going to the counseling center at my grad school, my wonderful therapist encouraged me to just not listen to my “magical thinking” (If you do this, or don’t do that, then something BAD will happen). By defying it, and reinforcing that bad things don’t happen when I don’t listen, I help myself heal. Every time I fold a flower and set it down even though the crease isn’t perfect, I am healing. It’s just one of the many gifts of this process.