As I apply pen to paper I see through tear-laden eyes of compassion. A wedding just solemnised and champagne aplenty—yet there are tears, and not all of joy. The tears comprise the whole emotional spectrum. At this wedding, as at any wedding, there are singles—never-married’s, widowed and divorced—and there are those married too; all of which are living any manner of life that reminds us too easily: life’s cruel joke—unrequited love, love taken too early or love that didn’t deliver on its promise.
There’s a special couple at this particular wedding. Married eighteen years they’ve survived many friends’ marriages which have along the way been summarily stripped bare of the passion, intimacy and finally the commitment required to ‘go the distance.’
Sure, they wear the battle scars, and they’ve got the teen children to prove it. At this wedding they stand united together, with very good single divorced friend, who too has been through the marital ringer—long rejected by her then husband.
The wedding as a glimpse through the lenses of these three people reveals some fascinating insights. Weddings are not just all beer and skittles, or appropriately, champagne, fancy dinners and funny (or boring) speeches. They involve such a raft of emotional burden for almost everyone.
As the Wedding is solemnised emotions tip for the male partner of couple profiled above. His extended family story is one of feelings etched in non-reconciliation—his ten-year burden of grief, when the wheels fell off, wells easily to the surface on these sorts of occasions. His “softness,” however, is a strength, but he still battles for faith each day of his life. His wife sees him struggle—herself in tears—she goes to his aid with a wry smile on her face as if to say, ‘Gee, we’re funny, aren’t we?’ He reciprocates and the ice is broken; they’re back in the game.
The divorced single woman seems to have re-adjusted to life of singleness very well; but she’s not fooling some. I recall a cousin’s wedding in the sharpness of my own recovery. Even though I felt great for him, the wedding was the last place I wanted to be. This woman had had five years to re-adjust, but some things don’t change. The past is dredged up in an instant, especially when we have no one to share it with. And, for the widowed, will they ever adjust?
Then there’s the “married’s” at the wedding; those “happily” married and those not. Weddings seem to reinforce strong divergences to the positive or negative for these; the happy couples love weddings; it only brings them closer to each other in their ecstasy—those less happy consider reflectively, without much joy, their present circumstance and their anchored, perhaps hopeless future. They lament with resignation what they dare not acknowledge.
And each person has family experiences at their root with which to reconcile, speaking straight to the heart of marriage, weddings and the like. There’s an emotional story behind every one of us and it surrounds our experience with the families we were raised in. The wounds only re-appear, unless we choose to courageously and truthfully dispose of them; ironically, as a way of truly appreciating them and the glory of our lostness. Then, and only then, can an unabetted joy take place.
Weddings are for many people, painful, sad events where common realities again rise to the fore; our sense of identity put again to the test, if not already resolved.
One thing we can learn is this: we needn’t live anchored to the past. The only way we can be released from such a past, however, is to ruthlessly attend to it, acknowledge our woundedness and commit to being honest about it in an ongoing way.
Such devotedness to our truth is honoured with this resplendent joy not known to many people. These people learn to truly live the Serenity Prayer:
“God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things [in my past] I cannot change;
courage to change the things [about the past, and the way I see the past] I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.”
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.