Through rose-colored glasses

“Wasn’t it weird and stressful to stand up in front of a bunch of people and tell each other how much you meant to each other?” our daughter asked last night over dinner referring to our wedding ceremony. Thus ensued a discussion about that particular day in our lives.

I recounted how angry I was walking down the aisle. Yes, you read that right. I was angry. Not “Bridezilla” angry, but mad nonetheless. Why? We had hired a videographer and as my daddy was walking me down the aisle I did not see a video camera anywhere in sight! This was well before cell phones and small video cameras. Video cameras were huge back in the day and I was wondering, “Where the hell is the video camera?!?” It wasn’t until we stepped up onto the platform at the front of the church that I finally saw the videographer crouched down below the choir banister trying to be clandestine and not show up in the broader still shots being taken from the back of the sanctuary. Great, but you completely missed shooting me walking down the aisle with my daddy! If you look very closely at the attached photo in the bottom right hand corner you can see the top of the videographer’s head peeking over the choir loft rail.

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I went on to describe some other minor disasters that occurred that day. For instance, the pianist we had hired had a death in the family and couldn’t make it. The organist also played piano and we asked him to get up and walk around to the other side of the sanctuary to accompany my now sister-in-law on the piano on the piece we had asked her to sing. He refused and thus he accompanied her on organ. It was not the best choice of accompanying instrument. His sister sang beautifully, by the way, despite the horrible accompaniment.

The organist did agree to play piano at our reception and turns out he was quite the accomplished jazz pianist; however, neither my husband nor I ever got to hear him play because we waited until the conclusion of the ceremony to take pictures due to the belief “it’s bad luck to see each other before the ceremony.” By the time we all made it down to the reception the hour or so we had paid for reception music was over and the not-so-great organist but exceptional jazz pianist was long gone.

Add to this some other stressors including a torrential downpour that flooded the church at the conclusion of the reception, the caterer refusing to make (or even serve) my husband’s favorite carrot cake as his groom’s cake because “it would crumble and make a mess”, and my husband leaving his suitcase in the trunk of his parents’ car as we headed to our hotel for the night and his parents headed two hours in the opposite direction home. By the way, he sure was handsome the next morning still dressed in his tux while I was in my slouchy jeans and sweatshirt.

After describing all the things that went wrong that day our daughter asked, “So it wasn’t one of the best days of your life.” Au contraire. I got to marry the love of my life and we were surrounded by so much love from family and friends. And that day was so very memorable for a variety reasons, some of which are the above stories we get to continue to tell.

That led to a discussion of some of the best days of our lives. The birth of each of our daughters tops the list. My husband standing in Red Square in front of Lennin’s tomb with the Band of the Air Force Reserve playing Stars and Stripes Forever was another. Interestingly enough, none of those days were perfect. In fact, many of those days we count as some of the best days of our lives were incredibly stressful—which is what this post boils down to. How do you frame the narrative of your life and your memories? Can you reframe the tragedies and stresses into the foundation of something good? What is the lens through which you view your life and relationships? Can you let go of the negative and embrace the positive?

This is one of the things therapists/counselors seek to help others do: examine how our past circumstances & relationships served to shape current thoughts, behaviors, narratives & patterns of relating.

Why was I angry on my wedding day? Because I like order and to be in control of my circumstances. From where did this need to be in control stem? From some childhood experiences of feeling out of control, such as my parents’ divorce.

On my wedding day there were things that were well beyond my control once the wedding march began on the organ. I could have viewed that day through a lens of “that was a disaster and an omen of all things to come in our marriage.” And yet, 28 years later we’re still going strong.

Why revisit the past? Why not just create a new life moving forward? Why not just focus on the here and now? Because we are shaped by our pasts. The complex overlap of all our life experiences serve as the filter through which we view our present and future, and determine how we think and act moving forward. Granted, there isn’t anything we can do to change the past, but by examining the past we can come to a point of greater self-awareness that serves to explain our thought processes which can then, in turn, help us overcome any negative/detrimental patterns and move forward.

At times I still get upset when things don’t go my way despite my best efforts to plan. I understand now where the sense of panic and need to be the master of my domain is rooted. I could be paralyzed with fear and frustration if I had not come to understand some of my neuroses; however, now I am able to capture the thoughts, be mindful of the here and now, and remind myself that not being in control is not the worst thing that could happen. In fact, I now know some wonderful memories stand to be made in the midst of the chaos and just living for the moment.

And yes, I had a therapist or two to walk me through some of this journey of self-discovery and that is how I approach therapy—as a partnership in the journey of life to develop a greater understanding of self for the purpose of breaking maladaptive patterns of thoughts and behavior in order to live one’s best life moving forward.

Would you or someone you know be interested in developing such a partnership? Come join me for a walk-and-talk session in the park. I can be reached at 404-895-1525 or by email at Denice@WalkAndTalkAtlanta.com.

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