The Poetry Flip

the poetry flip graphic 2

It’s rare that I sit down to write and poetry comes out. In many ways, prose is more aligned with the nature of who I am — someone who wants to illuminate a clear path to what is most meaningful. To that end, I mostly find poetry a difficult medium through which to communicate meaning while maintaining clarity.

And yet, from time to time, poetry flows out anyway. It tends happen at times when my feelings on a subject are so strong that the ‘clarity’ possible in prose feels reductive and unsatisfactory. This was the case three weeks ago, when I found myself both mourning the death of a dear friend and impacted by children and teens around the nation marching for their lives. The grief of the funeral as well as the images of children proved to be an overwhelming experience of tragedy and possibility, despair and hope, death and life. I found it hard to not only process, but also to articulate anything without the nuance and shape of poetry. And so, poetry is what came.

The hardest part of writing poetry for me is my inevitable judgment of the output. Unable to judge it versus my typical rubric of meaning and clarity, I often don’t know what good looks like. Today, as I share my poetry with you, I put it into the world lightly — less concerned about the quality of the thing and simply grateful that I can flex into a different form when the necessities of life call for something else. Whatever the form, what matters most is that there is simply a way to share the most important things.

With love and hope,
Meredith


Many Are Here

I. The Way
From the darkness I saw this place inside and out.
I saw all the ways to perform and succeed.
The world, complex but clear,
was peopled by structures and traditions,
roles and expectations,
cues, routines, rewards.
This was the way.

II. The Invitation
Slowly, the crack.
First one jumped, and then two more, and now dozens at a time,
as if jumping for their lives from two towers high above.
Falling men. Falling women.
Cashing in on an invitation that,
if brave and foolish enough,
they might be able to create
out of the deepest and truest inclination of their souls.
We thought they were silly; we knew they were right.

These were the first holes in the firmament,
water drip-dropping through them.
If you didn’t know better, you’d say:
“A leaky faucet, call the plumber.”

III. The Exhortation
Exiled and out of the parklands, now
invitation becomes exhortation.
Postdiluvian but preapocalyptic.
And no one is left behind.

And so, a new creed in our crisis,
one unhinged from books but floating in the ether,
in bits and bytes around us,
and prophesied by the voices of little children
wiser and braver than you.
If you open your ears, you too can make out the words,
echoing the call of a civil rights anthem:

 We must and we must now
abandon sins of commission, and
walk to truth and reconciliation.
Radical accountability is the higher call.
What have you used? Who have you used?
And where did you discard them?

 We must and we must now
throw out our lawn signs and let the grass breathe.
Instead of arguing the point of the point, we must
strengthen ourselves to be wildly wrong.
When we find we are not only victim, but perpetrator,
we cannot be surprised.
It was us all along.

 We must and we must now.
Not create from what we know first,
and not birth from self,
but unearth what lies
beyond the me, beyond the I, beyond the mine.
We must recover the better instincts of our souls
and become brave on their behalf.

IV. The Giant
There is no other option;
you already knew there was no white knight at the gates.
But there is a giant with a flaming cloak,
a gentle shepherd to help find the other side of this,
allowing you to do something right
without letting it go to your head.
In his fire you are incinerated and embraced.
That is the start.

Many are here, I am here.
And soon, you must be here.

Reflections on the Wedding

This weekend, I attended the fourth wedding since my own nuptials in August. With nearly three months of perspective and so many more weddings under my belt, I’m finally ready to reflect back on what I learned through the entire wedding process.
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Starting with the planning, I’m grateful that we invested in what we cared about. In the months leading up to the wedding, it horrified me to find out just how much work this whole affair can be. So, I’m glad we picked our battles. Since I cared a lot about the ceremony, we wrote every word of it ourselves (I’m sharing the text in my next post if you’re interested).  Since Liz cared about the music, she picked every song by hand. The flowers that we didn’t care about were perfectly serviceable and lovely accents to the event. I’m glad we reserved our energy and didn’t worry about what mattered less to us.

My first realization during wedding week was that we needed every moment available. In addition to our wedding day, we held an entire week’s worth of events:  drinks at our favorite dive bar, biking across the Golden Gate Bridge, wine tasting in Sonoma, breakfasting with our families, picnicking with everyone in the Presidio, and celebrating our rehearsal at the restaurant where we had our first date.  About 24 hours into our 100+ hour celebration, I saw how much I needed all the remaining time to connect with people and spend solid time with all of them (as well as Liz!). Call me an extrovert, but I couldn’t soak up enough.  I’m grateful we had the luxury of time with so many guests.

In arranging the last-minute details for the wedding, I was touched by how people made themselves ‘of service’ in a beautiful way. In addition to our families and our wedding parties (who all played wonderfully supportive roles), there were unexpected guests who jumped in to help. It was the uncles who carried all the snacks for the wine bus. It was the classmates who helped transport all the alcohol after the picnic. It was the friend who diligently held my drink while I danced. None of them had formal roles, and yet all were so enthusiastically helpful. We will pay this support forward at every wedding we attend.

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As the night progressed, I found the old adage to be true – something will go wrong, and you need to let it go. For us, the one thing that went wrong at our wedding was the coffee cups; they were paper cups instead of proper mugs. (Oh the horror!)  Did our guests notice?  No. Did we notice?  Yes. Did our guests care? No. Did we care?  Less than we would have thought, but more than we should have. Let it go and enjoy all that is right.

Looking at the wedding as a whole, my favorite moments were completely unscripted:  the drive to the venue with my parents and bridesmaid, peering out the window as guests arrived, my instinctual reaction when I first saw Liz, the champagne pop, the end of my father’s speech, the first song the DJ played, the last song the DJ played, and the plate of grilled cheese someone gave me. And perhaps more than anything else, I loved the quiet of Liz and I taking the dog for a walk in the full moon well after the wedding was over. I’m glad there was room to savor the little moments.

In my post immediately upon returning from honeymoon, I struggled to wrap my head around the whole event. However, since reflecting more, I’ve realized that every part of a wedding is a public affair. Not only do you celebrate your wedding in public, you process it in public. Typically, I work through life events independently, journaling on my experiences. This approach didn’t resonate for the wedding. It was only when I started to talk to people about the wedding – to hear about their experiences and share my own – that I started to see the meaning of the whole event more clearly. For all the relationship moments that are lived privately, a wedding is public. Meaning is created between people – between Liz and me, between us and our guests – and not in my head alone. Once I understood this, the debrief conversations with guests and my wife took on a new importance. Liz and I jumped into co-authoring a journal of our collective wedding week events to capture everything from a full perspective. We experienced it together, so we needed to process it together as well.

So, to conclude, thank you for digesting this with me and bringing yet another level to the public commitment Liz and I made in August. I’m grateful that you’re all bearing witness to the journey.

Onwards and upwards,
Meredith

P.S.  Congratulations to all the couples whose nuptials we’ve witnessed since our own:  Andrew and Christine, Justin and Pascal, Marla and Jamie, and Jenny and Fico! We’ve loved your lemonade stands, dessert bars, choreographed dances, drag queens, gazing circles, and Texan barbecue. It has been an honor to celebrate with you!

ceremony

The Intentional Bride

As we’ve started to move from the broad decision of a venue to the specifics of bridal parties, videographers, caterers and such, I’ve realized anew how stepping into the role of bride-to-be brings with it all sorts of expectations.

Happily, at the same time, I’ve also realized how elegantly your average bride navigates all these expectations.  Weddings are just such extraordinary events that they jostle all of us out of our automatic, everyday routines and into a more intentional place.

While the ‘shoulds’ that we feel in the wedding planning process are amplified over those of daily life, so is the intentionality with which your average bride faces these expectations.

In one corner:  The ‘Shoulds’
Sure, there is generally accepted flexibility within the guidelines, but everyone comes to the table with some longer or shorter set of expectations around weddings.  For a bride planning an Americanized wedding in the US, the short version of this reads something like:

  • You should have some sort of ceremony – religious or civil – that will proclaim you legally married
  • You should tell everyone where to come and what to wear
  • You should wear a dress
  • You should wear white
  • You should ask your best friends and family (particularly those of your gender) to show up in some sort of matching outfit
  • You should decorate the location with more flowers than you’ve ever bought before
  • You should feed everyone a meal (preferably with lots of accompanying alcohol)
  • You should have a cake. In fact, you should make a big deal out of cutting it and then shove it in your spouse’s face
  • You should have dancing. And good music.  Really good music.
  • Some combination of your save the dates, wedding invitations, programs, and signage should be in coordinating designs
  • You should pick colors to synchronize the color scheme of the event
  • You should document everything in extreme detail
  • You should pick a convenient weekend day for all of this to happen

 

Why all the ‘shoulds’?  To some extent, this is all incredibly useful.  Expectations and norms like these help write the cultural scripts that signal our change in marital status to the world.  They help everyone understand that “Yes, this event is in fact a wedding” and give basic guidance on how everyone should act.  They give us all parts to play without having to think a lot about it.

And beyond the cultural cues, many ‘shoulds’ are our collective cultural wisdom around how to marry.  They – and the hundreds of other ‘shoulds’ listed in bridal blogs, magazines, and books – serve as a helpful mix of best practices of party-planning, smart aesthetic choices, and guidance from tradition.  In so many ways, it’s nice not to have to start from a blank slate.

But, it’s also freeing to realize that none of the ‘shoulds’ are necessary.  And so:

In the other corner:  Intentionality
Liz and I are not revolutionaries looking to defy every wedding tradition; in fact, I think we’re both inclined to be more traditional rather than less.  But we – like every other couple planning their wedding – have a choice.  We can walk into the wedding planning process and let ourselves be pummeled by all these ‘shoulds.’  Or, we can be intentional about the event we create.

We can begin by identifying the ‘shoulds’ and sorting them out from our true wants and needs.  As we identify each ‘should,’ we can also figure out from where it comes.  Are they the voices of brides of eras past?  The comments of our friends while debriefing wedding season?  Our perception of what it takes to keep up with the Joneses?  We can consider which of these expectations fit our aspirations and which don’t serve us at all.

Being intentional means that we’re not going to accept the template of a wedding.  We’re going to start from the beginning – with the purpose of this whole ritual and the values that we want it to express.  And we’re going to build our wedding from there – adopting many of the ‘shoulds’ that match with our own desires and throwing away the others.

It’s not an easy process.  It takes far more mental exertion to plan the wedding that we want rather than accept each expectation.  But so many weddings I’ve been to lately (including the wedding just this last weekend) have shown exactly this intentionality – this willingness to make choices that are aligned with what the couple wants to create rather than thoughtlessly proceeding according to plan.  Just this summer, I’ve watched the bride and groom rip up the dance floor with an amazing ballroom number, and I’ve been to multiple weddings with no dancing at all.   I’ve been to by-the-book Christian and Jewish weddings, and listened to multiple (yep, multiple) Hindu/Christian fusion liturgies.  I’ve taken a boat to a restaurant reception and wandered up a hill to eat in a barn.  I’ve seen a wedding cake in the form of a tree stump and another surrounded by cardboard cutouts of sheep.  I’ve traveled to hill stations, grooms’ hometowns and Hawaii.  I’ve danced and hooted while the groom rapped about his love and clapped politely after the father-of-the-bride’s speech.  In so many ways, people are choosing the approach that fits their collective personality, where they want to invest, where they want to disinvest, and how they want people to feel.

However we act in our daily lives, the exceptionality of a wedding forces us to be intentional about how we design it.  And now the challenge is ours to sort through the ‘shoulds’ and align on our ambition.  I only hope we can do as well as our friends have done.

With love (and lots of planning to do),
Meredith

(See future posts on this topic under the category heading:  The Intentional Bride)