This weekend, I attended a dear friend's wedding. I happen to be a big fan of weddings. They tend to be hugely celebratory and entirely cheerful. I would go so far as to say that optimism never reigns so supreme, and happiness is never so guileless, as at a wedding. It truly seems as if the rose-petaled path the bride saunters down extends, for the newly-minted couple, all the way to the grave.
It's the kind of escapism that is legal, pure, and rejuvenating. Watching a couple enjoy a room full of their favorite people, all there to shower love and good cheer in the exclusive direction of the betrothed, is enough to plaster a stupid grin on my face for hours. Hearing proclamations of love, fidelity, and the good times to come puts a little spring in my step.
It doesn't hurt that the whole thing comes packaged with food, drink and music.
The underbelly to these tidings is the not-quite-so-pretty flipside of reality. The euphoria of the wedding day eventually fades, and real life sets in. Your daily concerns evolve beyond table settings, your hair and make-up lean towards disheveled, and no one feeds you cake. There is work to do, bills to pay, chores to divide, and arguments over thermostat settings and tones of voice to get into.
Milestones often seem to follow this pattern. You work hard to arrive at a certain point of life, you celebrate that arrival, and then you begin slogging through the next phase, with a new milestone as your destination. The milestone, then, is sandwiched between work.
Which is perhaps why milestones are so worthy of celebration. They are the break from life's work. The occasion is an occasion because it's the summit before the next ascent.
Why, then, do people standing in the audience of a milestone feel the need to cut short the celebration, and to insist on leaping into the next phase of work required to reach the next milestone?
At the wedding this weekend, soon after we arrived at the reception venue, the toasts started. The first two toasts were centered on exhortations that the couple cement their wedded bliss...by having babies. Congratulations on your decades of looking for The One, your years of dating, your months of planning this whole shindig, NOW DUST YOURSELVES OFF AND GET ON TO THE BUSINESS OF PROCREATION!
Hey, here's an idea...why not enjoy the married state you'd wondered about and/or pined after for the better part of your adult life? Figure out who you are as a Mr. & Mrs. before you start worrying about who you are as a Dad and Mom. Send out the thank-you notes for all the silver picture frames you just hauled in before you start picking birth announcements.
It's not like marriage-to-baby is the first time a person experiences life whiplash. Think of it. When you meet someone who seems special, the questions immediately start pouring in: What's your "status"? Have you had "the talk"? Are you exclusive?
Then you do start dating, and everyone wants to know if you keep toothbrushes at each other's place or if you're planning on moving in together. Enough time goes by, and people start wondering aloud when you'll give/receive an engagement ring. People start humming Beyonce's "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)" whenever you're around.
So you get engaged. Yippee! Champagne! Calls to all your loved ones!
When's the wedding? Local or destination? Big wedding party or small? Buffet or sit-down? Band or DJ? Pre-nup or fingers crossed?
But I just....!! I'm still....!! Why are you wrestling me into my grandmother's wedding gown at 6:30 on a Tuesday morning?
Excel spreadsheets are created, to-do lists are laminated, bank accounts are drained and friendships are threatened. The deed finally gets done, though, and there you are, raising your glass....
Just in time for someone to sucker-punch you with a request for a grandchild or a niece or a wingman.
I'm guilty of having gotten caught up in the constantly forward-looking perspective. I admit that I did not take enough time to smell the roses of my own milestones. Maybe it was because "YOLO" was only a twinkle in Twitter's eye. Or maybe it was because I suffered from over-exposure to Buddhist philosophies, figuring that if I didn't relish something enough the first time around, I'd make up for it in the next life.
Whatever the cause, I know now that friends and family who are a few milestones back should feel in no rush. They should not press blindly on into the next phase of life's work.
Because, let me tell you, after you have "the talk," the butterflies of anticipation don't visit as often; and after you start dating, "because I want to" isn't a guiding principle as much; and after you get engaged, you start having conversations about combined bank accounts and rotating holidays; and after you get married, you hear yourself complain about socks being left on the floor and the refrigerator being too crowded; and after you have children, you have a vague memory of once upon a time being a person that was attractive enough in looks and personality to be desired by another person, but you don't really remember all the details because HANDS DO NOT GO IN TOILET BOWLS AND YES, YOU ARE EATING THOSE CARROTS!
To my newly-married friends, and to all those who are T-minus X milestone, I say unto you:
LTML (Let The Milestone Linger)
There's no rush. The next one isn't going anywhere.