[Forward: This is my contribution towards putting some real back into reality sharing. A Dear Diary'esque exposé. Spoiler: It's not your normal engagement announcement.]
I have been with my romantic comrade, Alex, for 4 ½ years. I would say around two years ago we both inwardly realized and outwardly vocalized that we were each other's "last stop" on the dating train. We were grateful to have one another and the life we had created as a partnership. And to be completely honest-that was all I needed-to know we were within a mutual understanding and feeling state. A ring, wedding dress or ceremony were nowhere in my mental peripheral vision because I was content with this mutual commitment alone.
-Enter my first European sabbatical-
I found myself on top of a beautiful hotel in the middle of Florence, Italy. Alex had wrangled quite an orchestrated international surprise. As I made the final steps to what I thought was a rooftop restaurant; I came to find it was actually an intimate table for two.
I'm blessed to have a man who finds being thoroughly thoughtful as a challenging reward, and assumed this dinner with a view was Alex's way of making our last night in Florence extra memorable.
When the dessert tray arrived with a prominently displayed engagement ring, my first words were, "Oh, my shit." (Sorry mom, but this is a keep-it-real post).
I had a smile on my face, then I stopped breathing and covered my mouth, looked at Alex, burst into a hot flash -- and basically engulfed the entire emotional mood pyramid within a 120 second interval. Overcome with sensory overload to say the least. There I was taking in one of the most classic views my eyes had ever been introduced to and taking in the sights and smells of such a well produced dinner-and to top it all off, I was experiencing this heart-locket moment alongside my honey.
But this latest pitch I did not see coming. Excitement laced with overwhelm until I could no longer differentiate the two.
The waiter poked his head eagerly into our view and asked, "Well, did you say 'yes'?"
I was on the disoriented laughing part of the emotional mood pyramid by this point and Alex and I both smiled and said, "Yes!" as our waiter made a funny sigh of relief.
Since I am a writer who likes to process and prose, I wanted to get to the bottom of the anxious feelings that were trying their damnedest to set up a roadblock on my parade. (And I am sharing this story today because the clarity I ended up arriving at is such a beautiful place now and like a good recipe, we should share these kinds of life improvement ingredients).
One thing was confidently clear: I am (and have been) certain, now more than ever even, that Alex is the beautiful soul I want -- and feel privileged -- to share the rest of my time on this Earth with.
Had you asked me to check a "yes" or "no" box that indicated I unequivocally declare that Alex is my sole partner until the day I die, I wouldn't have hesitated or broke into a jittery climax to check "yes". It would have been an automatic, self-assured, swift and bold check at that.
So, what was it about the ring that was jigging me out? Why was it starting a domino effect of nerves? It was radiant, just like Alex's smile when he proudly gave it to me. It was craftily sized from other rings in my closet and designed for me by the source of the sweetest love I have ever experienced. How much Alex had to MacGyver to get it to its final rooftop destination alone meant the world to me.
No, the actual ring was not the anxiety culprit either.
My anxieties were rooted in what I had collectively deduced an engagement ring represented: the start signal to engage in the bridal procedure marathon to the alter.
"Say Yes to the Dress", "The Bachelorette", and "Bridesmaids" are just a sliver of film tributes to the various legs of this procedure phenomenon otherwise called tradition.
And absolutely nothing is wrong with this route to matrimony. I have received much inner happiness on my own accord in being apart of many traditional wedding occasions because I knew how happy they were making my friends/family.
But in the end, whatever road to eternal coupledom is taken should reflect what truly fills your journey to union with intention and purpose.
And that was my hold up.
I knew in my heart, the customary order of operations was not what resonated with my travel itinerary to "Union" Station. And the thought of feeling pressured to head down that road was doing a number on my nervous system.
It was during this fork in the road of "Should I do what feels right?" or "Should I just go along with what is already somewhat expected, accepted and embraced?" that I temporarily chose the road that didn't feel right simply because it was easier for my sanity levels at the time.
So, the next day I hauled Alex to not one... not two... but three different spots to take our engagement announcement picture. Poor, poor Alex. Poor cab driver who had to hear me worry out loud about missing the sunset due to traffic. Poor people who nicely took several pictures on my behalf as I attempted to get the "perfect" shot. Nothing felt authentic about that entire escapade.
Suddenly, I was now engaged on the forefront of Bridezilla syndrome. This was exactly who and what I wanted to avoid at the onset. Like a quick brush with a hot stove, I immediately felt the burn and pulled back. I apologized to Alex and I mentally went back to my decision fork-in-the-road and chose the one that felt right to me without looking back. And in lieu of an engagement announcement photo op, a story felt right (more on that in a moment).
I realized I was enduring what many of our colorful life experiences make an appearance to teach: let go of expectations and live true. I now grasped exactly what Alex so lovingly attached to my ring when he proposed to the woman who needs a supply of independence as much as a supply of oxygen to survive:
"I want you to know that to me, this ring is me sealing the deal of my commitment to you. This is the stamp. It doesn't mean you have to do anything extra or different. It shows the world you are IT for me. But that is what it means to me. I want you to know, that you are free to make this ring mean whatever feels right to you."
The Good Lord obviously knows me well and knows I run on a slow simmer cycle. I find it of no coincidence that I was proposed to away from family and friends and on the helms of spending the next couple days in some serious rural Italian countryside. It was there, silently seated amongst the trees and cicadas, that I came to my calm. Wrapped as an unfolding daydream before me as I stared out into the Italian countryside appeared what I call:
This past year has gifted me with a lively and bountiful family of blessings. More and more I'm seeing, feeling, and understanding how prominently our thoughts (good or bad) live amongst us in the outside world. They arrive in the station of our conscious and patiently wait for us to give them a ticket to transport them into the "real" world, where they physically transform in one way or another.
Often times, our precious thoughts standby as we gift our valuable "real" world tickets to other less beneficial thoughts and their baggage.
But loyally, these dear thoughts continue to wait in the station-often times until our death bed-for their chance to make their physical debut to us.
One of my favorite life scenes to witness is when one of our treasured thoughts gets their due seat on the train and arrive to us. Meeting on Earth terms for the first time tangibly, they eagerly throw themselves into our arms. To others witnessing this reunion, it looks like a new business venture, trip of a lifetime, fitness goal, a newborn child, a finished book or music album, a loyal best friend or a saving grace when all hope was lost.
Each Earthly arrival of these previous thought passengers is to be welcomed and celebrated.
Today, I welcome my latest arrival: Lifetime Commitment. She has been in the station since the day we vocalized our relationship intentions years ago, but it is not until now that she was gifted a seat to make her physical transport.
To the outside world, she is dressed in the form of a ring gifted to me by a man who opens his world to me with a smile.
So, please join me in celebrating Lifetime Commitment's arrival to "Union" Station. She's honored, endlessly curious, and eager to make herself at home amongst you.
Kat Cowley is the author of Week to Strong: Thought-Shifting Mental Shape-Up Plan and a women's thought-shop creator. To learn more, please visit www.katcowley.com.