Getting ready for a new adventure

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I didn’t think about weddings when I was growing up. I didn’t clip pictures of pretty dresses or fantasize about flowers. I thought I had to choose between making a big difference and living a “normal” life—with a great relationship, perhaps, but still constrained by the obligations of joint decision-making. I didn’t dream of white gowns and lace. I dreamt of living in an apartment, perhaps near a university or a library, and perhaps with two or three cats.

I was surprised to learn that a great relationship can help you grow in unexpected ways.

For example: I was beginning to feel the tic of stress building up around the typical tensions of planning a wedding. We had wanted to keep the guest list small in order to avoid overwhelming ourselves and our guests. Limiting the guests to just our families seemed to be the easiest and least stressful way to do it. A clear boundary. No difficult decisions about who to include and who not to. And perhaps W-, I, and our two families would get to know each other better without the distraction of other friends. I still wanted to host a get-together thanking my friends for helping make Toronto a second home, but a second party could do for that. Limiting the wedding and the reception to family seemed like the least stressful way to plan that day.

Then my mom asked if we could invite four close family friends, people she hadn’t seen in a while but whom she has kept in touch with and who have been wonderfully supportive throughout the years.

I wavered. Should we offer to host another party? Should we include them, even if they might feel a little left out? Should I then go ahead and invite some of my closest friends as well?

I explained the situation to W-.

He said: “It’s their wedding, too.”

In that moment, all that stress went away. All it took was the right perspective.

As much as all those wedding planning websites and blogs would have us believe that it’s our day—or worse, that it’s the bride’s day—our families are the reason why we’re celebrating a wedding instead of heading down to City Hall with two witnesses.

It’s our wedding. By that, I mean it’s not just W- and my wedding, but it’s our families’ too. And friends. And worlds.

(Friends are wonderful and I’d love to include as many as possible, too, but once I start including friends, I get tempted to throw a party for 150+ people, and then my introverted side hides under the imaginary table and eats chocolate. So we’ll plan one party at a time, and maybe have lots of small parties instead of one big one. =) And there are even more friends I’d like to include as a way of thanks for helping me get here as well as for future insights and advice. Challenge: I don’t know everyone. It’s said that it takes a village to raise a child, and y’all are an amazing village.)

English is quite limited when it comes to this idea of “ours”. A tangential story: My mom once told my sister, “We’re going to Hong Kong.” My sister was excited about the idea of going there. My mom clarified: “No, we—your dad and I—are going to Hong Kong.” In Filipino, it’s the difference between kami and tayo. We-exclusive versus we-inclusive. Namin versus natin. Our-exclusive versus our-inclusive.

And I love that W-, for  whom English, Cantonese, and French do not capture that distinction between our-exclusive and our-inclusive,  reminded me of that and helped me get an even better perspective on things.

See, this is one of the wonderful things that gives me a lot of hope about the scary thing called commitment. Making decisions with another person, having another person’s perspective, sharing experiences with another person, and being inspired by another person—by golly, that really can make life even more amazing.

  • Tala

    Sacha, congratulations on the engagement! Have a fun time planning the party! :)

  • http://blog.melchua.com Mel Chua

    You know, one thing I don’t know if I ever thanked you for… thanks for writing about your thoughts about love and life with W. Growing up in very male-dominated fields, I haven’t gotten very many chances to hear other girls and women thinking about this kind of thing in a way that would work with the kind of life I also want to lead – so I’ve always dismissed relationships as something that something that The Mel, as the kind of geek I want to be, is incompatible with.

    But seeing you write about this – it warms my heart, and I’m thrilled for both your happinesses. (Happini?) And it makes me think “wow, that could work – maybe someday I’ll find that too.” Makes me think about more possibilities for being a geek and a woman and maybe in a relationship at some point. This has been a badly-phrased comment, but I think you get the idea… thanks for showing me that it’s possible.

  • http://sachachua.com Sacha Chua

    Tala: I will! =)

    Mel: It’s surprising how lives ripple and touch each other. I hadn’t thought about that perspective before, but now that you mention it, I can recognize that feeling. I remember having a bit of a hang-up about love, being afraid that it would distract me from Some Grand Purpose. I remember dealing with all the attention I got from fellow geeks.

    I remember reading books and hearing pain-filled stories about the mommy trap, about the perils of informal relationships and lack of commitment and early marriages, about the regrets people had about not having children, about the difficulties women had in getting back on track on their careers, about the challenges of international assignments and long-distance relationships, about unhappiness, about the inequalities of housekeeping and child-rearing and divorce, about the myth of having it all…

    There was far too much then about the pathology of relationships and not enough about the good of them. There still is, come to think of it. You hardly hear about really happy relationships.

    It’s like the world is overcompensating for something.

    I still had a few relationships, but there was always a bit of that gaaaaaaah.

    With W-, it’s different. He really does help me be better than I could have imagined. I can’t wait to see what’s next. =)

    I would never have discovered this if I hadn’t faced my worst-case scenarios and decided they might still be worth it. As I worked on writing that letter that asked him about his intentions, I thought about distraction, divorce, and death, and I realized that even if it all ended badly, there’d still be lots of great stories and insights.

    When your worst-case scenarios scare you but don’t stop you, you can take risks that open up new worlds.

    Also, it helps that he’s a wonderfully supportive modern-yet-old-school kind of man. =)

    Is the future scary? Kinda. But it’s also very interesting. And you know what? I don’t need my life to be perfect or safe. I’m here to learn and share as much as I can, and I’ll just have to take the crunchy with the smooth.

    (Mm. Peanut butter.)

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