Somehow, it’s been a year.
A year later, and we’re still grieving what that day was. Still grieving what that day held. Mostly, what it didn’t hold. They say time heals all wounds, but I’m not really sure it heals. More like it just gives you space to get used to the loss. One year later and we’ve cancelled two weddings, two rehearsal dinners, two honeymoon trips to Costa Rica. Does it hurt less? I don’t think so. Is the hurt further away? Sure. That’s all time does.
It’s weird to look back on a day that wasn’t beautiful, but celebrate a year that has been. It’s about the marriage, not about the wedding! some good intentioned people, who I good intentionally wanted to murder, said at the start of the pandemic, when happy couples watched their happy plans burst at the seams. But I get their point: anniversaries are about the 364 days in the middle, not the one day a year ago. But most people get to look back fondly at the one day that started it all. And we …don’t.
There’s a bitterness I wonder if will ever go away. The 2020 brides who still got their wedding. The crowded dance floors and full ceremonies and – what hurts most – bridal party pictures. Sometimes it extends to people who got to have weddings far before 2020, when they post old pictures or tell an off-hand story. Must be nice, I think. Must be nice to be surrounded by your favorite people, celebrated by your families, on one of the biggest days of your life. Must be nice to have fond memories to look back on and pictures of your best friends in matching dresses. I wouldn’t know.
And yet, I’m one of the lucky ones. I still got a makeshift bachelorette party a week before. My parents were within driving distance and could safely attend. Our community really, truly did show up for us in creative and sweet ways. But you don’t want there to have to be “creative” ways to celebrate you. You just want the normal ones.
Our wedding day was one of the loneliest days of my life. I got one phone call from a friend, a few sweet texts and even multiple(!) surprise deliveries left on the porch. But by July people had had so much of life cancelled, half the country was pretending Covid didn’t exist while half was still in lock down, and everyone had enough going on in their personal lives that it felt like our wedding day was barely on people’s radar. One of the biggest days of our lives, yet for others it was one of a million heartbreaking things that week. One of a million un-planned situations. A lot of people are going through this, someone told us the week of. Cancelled weddings were the new normal. Three guest elopements were in everyone’s newsfeed. Our pain wasn’t special. Our loss wasn’t unique.
It’s not that people didn’t show up for us – it’s that no one knew how. No one in the world knew what to do with the new world we all found ourselves in. And we were getting married in the middle of this new world. I don’t blame anyone, but that doesn’t make the pain any less real. If your friend doesn’t show up in your crisis, because they are dealing with their own crisis – that isn’t something you hold against them. But it doesn’t make the absence sting any less.
Our first anniversary, and it feels complicated more than anything.
It feels so complicated to explain that our wedding day doesn’t feel beautiful, when our pictures are. It feels complicated to label the day as not special, when our marriage has been. It feels complicated to say the day held more pain than anything else – when marrying RJ was full of joy.
I don’t believe in bad omens, but if I did? Our marriage would be cursed before it even started. The week leading up to it involved the news of two tragic deaths, RJ accidentally frying my hair dryer, a hurtful phone call from family, and a trip to the ER. The night before I found myself laying in a hospital bed I told RJ, “This week should be sacred – instead it’s been really shitty.” Every sign was there for this to be a Bad Idea, but instead its been a constant source of genuine goodness. How do you explain that to people?
And that’s the complicated thing about our first year of marriage – looking back, there’s more bad than good. There was a lot of pain. A lot of stress. A lot of grieving. And there were also a lot of Saturday movie marathons. A lot of ice cream nights. A lot of finishing each other’s thoughts as we drifted to sleep and a lot of good coffee in the morning.
The world would be a lot easier place if things were black and white. I think that’s why people seek to put easy labels on things. But our first year of marriage was just like our wedding day: beautiful and tragic. It’s been so easy and so hard. Wonderful and painful, blissful and shitty.
I didn’t have any doubts about us, not really. But it feels good to go through hell and stand on the other side still being like, Yup, you’re it. You’re the one. I know one day we’ll go through worse. I know life only gets harder – and strangely more beautiful – the longer you live it. but I also know I keep falling more in love with him.
I look at pictures of July 18 and while they are beyond gorgeous (shoutout to Beba Vowels Photography) – they hold a heaviness I’ll have to live with forever. The most beautiful day. The most tragic. I know it can be both. I just never wanted it to be.
As I often tell my friend, I’m not glad life threw a shit storm at you, but I’m proud of the person you became because of it. If given the choice, I would have 100% chosen a different story for us. If given the choice, I would have selected the magical July evening with our best friends, supportive in-laws, a joy-filled first year without a drop of pain. I see other Covid couples post, “It wasn’t what we planned, but we wouldn’t have had it any other way!!!!!!” and I just shake my head – because, believe me, if I could I would have had it so many other ways.
But I’m proud of us. I’m proud of who we chose to be, the people we attempted to transform into. I’m proud of the choices we made and the hard work we put in – and while we aren’t perfect, I think we did a damn good job of being put in impossible situation after impossible situation over the past year.
We played “Love is a Wild Thing” for our song (which, yes, has lost a little of its magic with news of Kacey’s divorce). That’s been my exact experience with RJ from the very beginning: wild. And true to theme, amidst all the chaos and pain, our wedding day had the smallest flowers peeking out of the concrete. And over the past year, despite all odds, curses, and bad omens – we made those flowers bloom.
I’m so proud of us. I’m so happy for us. I’m so happy to be part of us.