I’ve been engaged for a full three days now, and I have learned several things. Being engaged has completely killed any sense of productivity in front of a computer. Pinterest boards, bridal gowns and posts on affordable weddings have replaced to-do lists and any awareness of time passing. I quickly realized I needed to create limits for myself, and so I allot my morning coffee time for searching for wedding-related things. It’s a deep cup of coffee. I learned that I can experience two completely unrelated emotions simultaneously – overwhelming elation and gut-wrenching shame (I’ll get to that). And I’ve realized that saying yes to this person who so openly, honestly and humbly asked for my hand in marriage means that I have said no to a lot of the things I’ve held onto that were keeping me drudging in a fearful past. But we’ll get to that, too. Let’s talk about last Sunday.
It started out as any other Sunday. Drew and I woke up around 8:30, a full two hours past our exceedingly optimistic wake-up goal of 6:30 am. While Drew meticulously packed a day pack, I made coffee, had breakfast, and baked off some SIBO approved cookies to take on the hike. Unbeknownst to me, while I was packing grapes and cheese into zip lock bags, changing and re-changing my clothes to plan for a day, Drew was in the shower, practicing the lines he’d hoped to say to me later that day.
I was completely oblivious.
Now, early this summer, Drew had very cleverly (his words) asked me what my ring size was. “Of all of your fingers,” he clarified. “And your necklace and bracelet size. It’s for your birthday.”
“My birthday.” I said. “You do realize that’s in November, right? It’s May.”
He still asserts that he had me fooled. And I very politely pretended that he did. So I knew that something like this was coming, but I honestly thought it might be at the end of the year, or after our two-year mark, or on my birthday or something. I was wrong.
We packed the car and hit the road at the crack of 10:30. We were driving further out than normal along the I-90 corridor, past Snoqualmie Pass and to a trialhead with promises of an easy 9-miler, a lake and fewer crowds than can be found around Seattle. As usual, Drew packed a day-pack fit for someone who has trained with search and rescue (he has), while I packed water, enough food for a squirrel, extra mittens and brought my knitting in case I got bored in the car.
On the drive out, Drew kept making comments about what a beautiful day it was. I was a little down that day, and as we neared the small town of Roslyn, I knew why — menstrual cramps. My very own special brand of PMS leaves me not with the stereotypical moodiness that abolishes onlookers with just a stare, but rather a critical inner voice and a day of intense sadness, followed by the most debilitating cramps I can imagine (but I have not given childbirth yet). So as Drew was pausing to notice the beautiful colors, I was cursing my uterus and frantically asking other hikers for ibuprofen. Neither worked.
Drew loves to talk about the beauty of a hike while we’re hiking. It’s cute. Usually. This day I was completely focused on not puking up my breakfast. I stopped every hundred feet or so to keel over in pain. There were tears, it got ugly (the cramps, not me. This was my engagement day and I looked amazing the whole time). Drew offered to take a break, to turn around – basically, whatever I needed. But it was obvious that he wanted to get to the lake. And sitting in a small moving vehicle with cramps sounded much worse than walking through a beautiful forest.
About 1/2 mile from the lake, we came upon two wonderful angels posing as women. Drew asked if either were carrying a pain reliever. The woman took one look at me and said, “Cramps?” I nodded. “I used to get them, too. It was awful.” They gave me what they had and we thanked them, then proceeded to the lake.
The lake was amazing! Set at the base of jagged mountains complete with ice fields and fall colors blanketing the slopes, it was completely picturesque. I ate some food while Drew waded around. As I came out of my pain coma, I was finally able to take in the breathtaking scenery. “Drew, did you bring your tripod? This would be an excellent place to set it up and get some photos of the two of us!”
Drew is an excellent photographer, if you haven’t noticed from the pictures on my website. But we rarely had any shots together. I thought it would be really sweet to get a few shots holding hands in the lake and looking at the mountain. Drew was like, “Sure, good idea,” secretly fist pumping the luck that his engagement would be caught on film.
Several months ago, I watched a video of some guy holding out his phone as a video camera while simultaneously proposing to his girlfriend. The idea of an engagement being second to the capture of the engagement really bothered me, and I told him so back then. After our engagement, he said he wasn’t even planning to set up the camera because he didn’t want to sound suspicious. Luckily for him, I know a beautiful place when I see one and understand what a camera can do.
Drew fiddled with the camera for a while, then tried to get his phone working like a remote control. That didn’t work, so he fiddled in his bag for awhile. Meanwhile, I was too busy enjoying being pain free and taking in the scenery to notice that he was putting a ring box into his pocket, going through his “lines” and generally fidgeting like he does when he gets nervous (I find it adorable. I kind of wish I would have noticed it then). He finally set the camera to take photos every two seconds, and came to join me in the lake.
First, we started out holding hands and gazing at the mountain.
Next, we played around with a couple of different hugs. We were laughing and enjoying each other. Drew started saying some really sweet things to me, but then, he often does, so I didn’t think it was any different from any other time.
What I didn’t know at the time was that Drew had lines. He had carefully considered what he wanted to say to me. He had created a transition line (how to get us from talking about the beauty of the place to talking about the beauty of our relationship). I have since had to ask him what he said, because after what came next my mind turned to spaghetti and I kind of got tunnel vision for a moment (kind of like getting a tattoo, except without the pain).
As he pulled the ring ever so sneakily out of his pocket he said, “What a beautiful day with my beautiful lady. I’m so lucky to be spending this special moment with you. It’s been one big special moment since I met you, and I hope it’s just getting started.”
Then he got down on one knee. HE FREAKIN’ GOT DOWN ON ONE KNEE!!! I know, I’m still not over that part. Or the part where he brought out a box with what my mind so brilliantly registered was some sort of ring. He also said something on the way down. I think it might have been “I love you so much,” but I couldn’t hear him because I suddenly shouted,
“Are you serious?!?!!”
Thus, the shock on my face, displayed rather eloquently here. I might have also been hyperventilating.
Luckily, he let that go. He continued with, “Will you marry me?”
Here is where I wished I would have paused. Not because I wasn’t sure, but because I wish I would have taken the moment in just a bit longer. In what would later be called “The longest five seconds of my life” by Drew, I wish I would have made it 10. I would have taken a deep breath, let the moment sink in, then replied with some really deep, meaningful and totally zen comment.
Instead, I just shouted, “Yes!” And pulled him up from his knees.
There was some laughing, and some kissing and some hugging. I was elated. I was incredulous. And then it hit me – Drew had just asked me to marry him. He had planned a special day, with a special gift, with carefully chosen words and basically set the whole day up to make me feel like the most amazing person in the world. And right then, I did. At that moment, I was struck with how monumental this event was and was so, so humbled about how carefully and painstakingly he had planned to make this special. There was part of me that was released – all the struggle to be good, to be right, to be authentically me all the time. While at the same time an old enemy surfaced – the “are you sure you deserve this amazing person?” part of me.
The whole thing brought me to tears. Which Drew then called my “sexy camera face.”
I let the elation win out. I chose to say yes. And saying yes to something like this means saying yes to happiness, to choosing elation over old patterns of self criticism and shame. And so I did a little dance for the camera and flashed my ring for good measure.
We hiked back together in bliss. We were miles from any good cell phone service, but Drew got a text through to his family while we celebrated with a burger and a beer in a small pub in Roslyn.
My ring is made from the wood of the Koa tree, which is sustainably harvested and then bent into a ring. This type of construction is called “bent wood.” Crushed turquoise is then filled in the little groove, and they use natural oils to keep it preserved. Right after the proposal, while putting the ring on my finger. Drew said, “I don’t want you to think I cheaped out on you or that I didn’t want to get you a diamond. I looked for them and realized I had no idea what you’d want and so I thought we could do that together if you wanted to, but I really wanted to have a surprise for you and I thought you might really like this, and….” he went on and on to make sure I knew I that he’d buy me a diamond if I wanted one. But I don’t. I want exactly this.
The wood actually has sentimental value also. After one of our first weekends together, I very solemnly presented Drew with a very important question. “Do you like trees?” I asked. I think he was confused. Here was this seemingly perfectly normal girl, asking him for his opinion on trees. But his answer meant a lot to me. And he said, rather hesitantly, “Yes?” He later came to find that asking about trees was one of the more “normal” questions he would be asked through the course of getting to know me. This ring is a reminder of our incredible ride together thus far and one of the core questions that got us going.
When I woke up Monday morning, I was was greeted with a sleepy Drew happily calling me “almost wife,” which left me smiling. I smiled all the way through my yoga class and back home. We had agreed to take a day to call our families and close friends before blowing up social media with an announcement post. It was in this process that I started having mixed feelings. After my divorce a few years ago, I really started questioning my own judgement in relationships. Losing a marriage partner can make you question a lot of things – Do I want to marry again? Are relationships right for me? Do I deserve love? Am I doing it wrong?
And then as my relationship with Drew progressed, more questions came up, and the engagement had them being drawn out of me at full force – What will people think if I get married again? Am I allowed to really be happy and secure in my decision? What if I fail again? Do I get to have the wedding of my dreams even if it’s my second wedding? Will people judge me? Will people believe in me? Does any of this matter?
I texted him and asked him if he wanted to elope. He said he’d think about it.
But since that first day, I’ve realized that none of it matters. I am making the best decision I can with the information I have, and I truly and honestly believe it’s the best decision I can make. I think I’m lucky for meeting Drew but also brave for consistently working hard in our relationship. I think I’m not only lucky to find someone else who wants to make a relationship work, but also a bit proud of myself for believing it was possible after things crashed down the first time.
As I spoke with family and friends, I noticed that those who were closest to me showed me nothing but complete joy and congratulations. Those who have been there for me know that this is what I’ve been working hard to find, to create and to sustain, and they are as elated as I am. Those who don’t know me as well, who like to judge me based on their ideas of how I should live are the ones who affirm first that it’s my second wedding and second that I sound happy and probably somewhat deserving.
Which makes me realize that as I say yes to something in my life that is so good, I also say no to those things, ideas and people in my life who don’t really support me. To old belief systems that keep me in shame, to ideas about how to live that keep me chained to an ideal I can never reach because it was never mine to being with, and to people who seek to constrain me with projections of their faulty perceptions of perfection. By saying yes to something that is right for me, I say a humungous and resounding NO to the things, people and ideas that aren’t.
So as I get ready for my second wedding, I’m surrounding myself with Pinterest boards of beautiful gowns, enchanted woodland wedding ideas and other images that keep me in the elation that I’m so excited to be feeling. I’m choosing to say yes, everyday, to these things and to the people that make me so happy to be alive and living this crazy journey.