Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Reading for the 21st Century Bride (and Groom)

I'm currently in the process, as you regular readers know, of a series about my transition out of singleness and into married-ness. Here is a review of some books I've been reading lately that are great reads for the modern bride - or the modern single women who wants to better understand men or herself!

I was blessed recently, when a friend of mine, who is also one of my bridesmaids, Sarah Martin-Werntz, along with her husband, sent Curby and I a few books as an engagement present.

The first two books were a companion series called "Couples Only." One is "For Women Only" and describes research on men and what men are thinking/feeling/wanting/needing. The other is "For Men Only" and does the same for women. From what I hear, there are a lot of books out there to help men and women understand each other "Love & Respect", "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus" etc. The two books Myles and Sarah sent are similar but are smaller and maybe cover more topics (? I haven't read the others, so I don't really know).

This series has been a great read for Curby and me. We have both learned more about each other, and it has led to some great discussions surrounding our emotions and how we're feeling. It has also opened the door for us to say to each other "You do a great job of this!" or "Now I understand why when you do this, I feel this way," or "...when I do this you respond this way" and "OH! I could do more of THAT to bless you, right?"

The "For Women Only" book has also led to some great conversations with me and my friends! I'll say, "I learned this _________, and this is how it changed me....." and they'll say, "What?! I never knew that _________" or "Oh yeah, I learned that one the hard way by making this mistake __________". Even Curby's book "For Men Only" has helped me learn about myself and has led to some great conversations with my friends as I realize that I am always thinking about all different aspects of my life, and Curby may only be thinking about one thing at a time - as my friend Dave says, "Women are like dry erase boards, men are like file cabinets."

If you are dating, in the process of getting married, or married - or just interested in learning about the opposite sex, I HIGHLY recommend this series. I have been so blessed by Myles' and Sarah's thoughtfulness in giving it to us, and I plan to pass the books along to others on their relationship journeys, as well.

The third book I've been reading - and really, I JUST started it today, is called "The Conscious Bride: Women Unveil their True Feelings About Getting Hitched." Essentially, it is a book about the feelings and experiences that people (women primarily) go through in the marriage process, and how to go through them in a healthy and complete way. Sarah told me about it before even reading my blog post about grief and joy in the marriage process! I've only started it and I can tell that there are going to be major parts that I connect to. I know that for me, as I wrote in that earlier post, the feelings of grief were kind of a surprise to me - no one had mentioned it before - so I am really excited to read a book that talks about the transitions that women go through as they leave daughterhood/singlehood and move into wifehood/marriedhood/motherhood, etc. I think that this book will be a great companion on my journey toward marriage - which is happening just a short 3 months and 10 days from today (ahhhh!!!).

This book is for you if you: are thinking of getting married, are married and you feel like your experience differed from the modern "sunshine and roses" myth, or if you are just interested in being more conscious of your identity transitions in your life in general.

A note: Some of us are older brides (like me!). This means that we may have had a lot of other life transitions already that a younger bride might not have - for example, I feel like I transitioned out of being "Chris and Warren's daughter, Tiffani" to being "Tiffani, daughter of Chris and Warren" years ago. So my identity crisis may not come in that transition, but in the transition from a singleton to being part of a couple. But also, I have been dealing with how my relationship (friendship) with my mom will likely change as a result of living with someone else who has my first attention. My point is, the transitions may be slightly different for all of us, but are still valid and worth exploring. I'm excited to be on this journey with Curby, and excited to share it with you, my friends, as well.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Transitioning out of Singleness, Part 1: Griefs and Joys

Griefs and Joys: On the pain of losing my life 

I bought my wedding dress on a Thursday. My mom and my two youngest aunts, who are truly like big sisters to me, were there to help me try dresses on and pick out "the one." It was a great time where we laughed and cried together and afterward felt victorious, and also like we had really shared one of life's special moments.

At our victory lunch, after buying the dress!

The next morning I woke up to find one of my aunts sitting on the porch of the cabin where we were staying. We sat and talked for a bit and she mentioned, with tears in her eyes, that she was sad to see this visit end, as it was destined to be my last "solo" visit for quite some time. I protested, "No, there will be other times - we can still have girl's weekends and stuff!" But even as I said it, it rang hollow. I knew she was right and it was another reminder that this season of singleness is coming to an end.

Don't get my wrong - I am filled with great joy at the idea of marrying Curby. I cannot wait to be a wife, I cannot wait to be a mother, I'm excited for all the changes the Lord is bringing into my life. There is the joy of bringing some of my closest friends together and telling them what they mean to me and asking them to help me as I make this transition. There is the joy of inviting a multitude of friends and family to come celebrate with me and Curby as we enter into this new state of life. There is joy in knowing I am bringing joy to others in my family and hope to all that God does indeed answer prayer. There is so much joy.

But in the midst of that joy, is something I did not expect: grief.

When I was 32 and single a friend said to me, "I didn't get married till I was older, either, and I can totally relate to how hard it was." This friend had been married 3 years at the time and had gotten married at 29. I tried to be gracious, but inside I was frustrated and said to myself, "I was single at 29, too. And being single at 32 is different, and harder, than it was at 29." And so I have been grieving that in some ways my being able to relate clock ends at 36. This is silly, in some ways, but its how I feel.
   * First of all, to presume that I know how others feel at any age is presumptuous and vain. However, I know that for me I always felt a sort of comraderie and encouragement from those women who were older than me and single, or who had been older when they got married (those 36, 37, 38 yr-old, or older friends who married when I was 33, 34, 35). I am glad to have been an encouragement to a lot of young women over the years, as I pursued the life God called me to as a single woman with (hopefully) joy and confidence, but I'm sad that now I will be speaking from a different vantage point. I grieve that loss.
    * Second of all, I grieve with my single friends who are around my age or older and are losing one more single friend to marriage. Those women and men, who are longing for marriage and who have found companionship in their other single friends - even from afar, are my people. I remember when I was in that position and I was so happy for my friends getting married but also so sad and crying out to the Lord, "What about me, Lord, will you forget me forever?" And I'm sad that now I will represent, even a little bit, that thing they are longing for, and that they will not want to tell me for worry of marring my happiness or for appearing vain or self-centered (all things I worried about as I put on a brave face to with my friends true happiness).

When I think of the conversation with my aunt on the patio, I grieve the awesomeness of the single times I've been able to have with my family and friends around the country and world. I have great memories of times of great joy, traveling to Texas and Illinois for fun times with friends, for weddings and weekends of fun, traveling to Washington for family and friend time combined, and even international travel just because we might as well do it.
    * I grieve that now my travel decisions are in partnership with someone else who doesn't necessarily have the same ties to my friends that I do.
    * I grieve that now my travel decisions are weighted with visiting someone else's family and someone else's priorities and that at the very least, this means my ability to visit my own friends and family may be cut in half as we learn to share travel to these places that matter to us.
    * I grieve that as we begin to create a family, our ability to travel will be even more constrained by finances and convenience.
    * I grieve that rather than being the single person who travels to see everyone, I will be the one asking my single friends to visit me, and hoping that they will.

But even this grief comes with some new, great joys: I love traveling with Curby! We have a great time together whether on the road or in the air, and I love exploring new places with him. My joy in having a permanent "travel-buddy" (to join, not replace, my dear friends who also hold that title: Tall Brian, K-Falk, Fulms, Bullard-1&2) is immense. But I grieve the loss of my individual freedom and "footloose and fancy-free-ness"

Lastly for now, I am also filled with great joy at being part of couple. I am thrilled to have a new way to relate to my married friends - to not feel like a third-wheel, to do "couple things". I am excited that Curby likes my parents and they like him and that we have things in common and that they are looking forward to doing "couple things" together also. I love having someone to watch TV with, or talk to about my day - who really cares/listens, to cook for and to listen to over dinner, someone to care for and to care about.
    * I fear becoming like my single friends who got married and then forgot about the singletons. And I think I grieve because I know that for a season at least, it might be inevitable that I spend less time with my single friends as I cultivate this new partnership.
    * I grieve because I know my aunt is right. I can't stay the same and be different. This relationship is changing me - not necessarily in a bad way - but still changing me. And if I am being changed, then all of my life is being changed, too. And I grieve because I know that it means that others lives are also being changed and not by their own volition and despite their happiness for me, not always in ways they like. And not always in ways that I like or expected or want. I grieve the awesome life that Tiffani and her friends and family had - even as I rejoice in the awesome life that Tiff and Curby and their friends and their family will have.

Thus are the start of the many, many thoughts of a mid-30-something bride-to-be. The Apostle Paul says, "When I was a child, I thought like a child... but now that I am a man, I think like a man." I think this true for me also, when it comes to this relationship stuff. When I was 21 and engaged at the end of college (long story, I broke it off before graduation), I did not think of any of this stuff. I didn't have the experiences under my belt to give me empathy and grace, well hopefully grace. But now that I am a woman, I find myself strangely torn between overwhelming excitement - -  truly, I could literally talk about wedding stuff and Curby's awesomeness all the time - - to embarrassed bashfulness - - I don't want it to look like I'm bragging over these blessings - - to rigid minimalization - - I don't want my friends to feel salt pouring in their wounds. I had those wounds. I have those scars. I understand the tension and the pain.

I don't have a resolution to all this yet, except to grieve the way I've always grieved - which is to say to process it as fully as I can, to cry a lot, to pray and discuss with God whenever my heart aches, and to walk forward into the reality as it exsists and as it is becoming. But I know that I want to be different even as a married woman. I want to be like some of my best married friends - conscious of my single friends, loving on them as family, always praying with confident hope for the desires of their hearts. I hope I can be that woman, that wife, and that friend.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Upcoming Series: Transitioning out of Singleness

In the upcoming weeks (months?), I plan to blog a series of posts on the topic of my transition from being a single, mid-30's woman to a dating/engaged mid-30's woman. My hope is that these posts will help me to process this transition, while also sharing some of the experiences that I've been having with those who are interested because they are friends, and those who are interested because they are single, and maybe some of those who are interested because they are not single any longer.

I think the posts will cover the following topics:
Part 1. Griefs and Joys: On the pain of losing my life
Part 2. The Little Things: On how I was prepared before-hand
Part 3. What I did and didn't know: On counseling couples as a single woman
Part 4. Being Faithful in Hope: On almost giving up and God's faithfulness
(maybe some other parts as other ideas come up)

In an ideal world, I'd tell you that these posts were coming once per week, but I'm working a LOT this summer, and also need to incorporate at least some dissertation writing, so at best I can hope the series will be completed prior to my wedding (ha!). Set up your RSS and keep your eyes open for an update!

Curby asked..... I said, "Yes!"

Background: Two years ago, Curby decided to buy two tickets to the upcoming U2 concert. He was planning to go with his best friend, Mark, and Mark's wife Mandy. He bought two tickets hoping that by the time the concert came around, he'd have someone to take with him. Mandy, hearing this, began to pray that the person he would take to the concert would be his future wife (she mentioned this to Curby, I think, but never mentioned it to me until the day of the concert). As the concert approached, Curby was single and Mandy was disappointed. Shortly after that, Bono broke his back and the concert was postponed for a year.

Flash forward to March 26th, 2011. Curby and I were on our first date, and we both knew that something special and different was happening than had happened to either of us before. As we were walking back to the car, Curby mentioned the concert and how he had an extra ticket and maybe I'd like to go with him. I sort of laughed to myself and thought, "Wow, that is three months from now - I mean this is going well, but I'm not getting my hopes up!" and so I said, "yeah, maybe, that would be fun." and left it at that.

Soon after that first date, we were virtually inseparable. We met each other's families, Curby met my best friend and her family in Texas and some of my local friends, and I started getting to know his friends and church community.

As the weeks moved on, Curby and I continued to find that we were like-minded in almost everything. Our relationship blossomed and moved quickly. Well, to us it seemed not so quick - each week we were together it seemed like we had been together for months. We began to talk about marriage, about what kind of marriage we wanted to have, about our family, and about when we would like to get married. We started to plan our wedding and I knew that Curby was saving up for a ring and planning to propose sometime in the summer.

The U2 concert loomed in the near future, and it was now a given that I was going to attend with Curby, Mark, and Mandy.

June 17th, 2011: The Friday of the concert arrived, and it happened to coincide with three months to the day of when I first emailed Curby from the OKCupid website. We all met at Mark and Mandy's house, with Curby arriving straight from work and in a rush to get there in time. We arrived at Angel's stadium after a brief drive and train ride, and walked around the stadium to find an entrance. Slowly we made our way up to the top level, where we were pleasantly surprised to find that the stadium was serving Irish beer (we presumed in honor of U2). This was especially sentimental to Curby and I, since I first emailed him on St. Patrick's day and had been drinking Smithwicks (an Irish beer made by Guinness) that evening. Curby bought us each a Smithwicks and we headed to our seats.

Lenny Kravitz was the opening act, and we enjoyed getting settled. The weather was great and the music was good. As it started to get dark, U2 took the stage. Most of the songs were familiar and we were enjoying standing up and singing along to the show.

Soon the song "All I want is You" came on. We sat down and were just singing along when Curby turned to me and whispered some sweet words above the din of the music, then said "All I want is you - and they are singing about diamonds on a ring of gold, and I have this ring right here..... will you marry me?"

I, of course, said "Yes" and we spent the rest of the concert in a haze of lovey-dovey-ness, listening to the concert, and texting our friends and family.