How to Keep Perspective (Even when Planning a Wedding): Converse with Your Past and Future Selves

Have you ever looked at a picture of yourself from the past and thought, “I’d like to actually talk to that person?” Even if you haven’t, I’d like to argue that there are sanity-inducing benefits to conversing with your past (and future) selves.  I have found this approach particularly relevant as I simultaneously plan my wedding, finish graduate school, teach/organize swing dance events and attempt to retain a semblance of sanity.

When I find myself stressing out about wedding details in particular, I actually imagine that my past and future selves are attending the wedding, and reflect in detail about what specifically they would find important about the event.  I have detailed this thought experiment below, along with some additional ideas in case this approach doesn’t resonate with you:

5 year old Cheryl loves a party.

5 year-old Cheryl: 5 year-old Cheryl surveys the room and quickly ascertains what this is all about. There’s a cake. There are presents. Delicious food abounds and people are dressed up. This is obviously a BIRTHDAY party, and birthday parties are awesome.

I like to think about 5 year-old Cheryl when I lose perspective on the importance of material aspects of the wedding, such as centerpieces and whether the napkins match the bridesmaids dresses.  5 year-old Cheryl truly does not give a crap about those things.

5 year-old Cheryl wants to play with friends, dance, and have a good time until way past bedtime.  5 year-old Cheryl also wants CAKE!

 

Teenager Cheryl

14 year-old Cheryl:  14 year-old Cheryl is overwhelmed with the concept that someone could really love HER and want to be with HER for the rest of her life.  In her gut, 14 year-old Cheryl believes that this will happen to her some day, but does not really understand how she will get from here to there, and hopes that the person she ends up with is kind, funny, smart and interesting.

Thinking about 14 year-old Cheryl reminds me to focus on the significance of the actual event and commitment, and reminds me not to take Gabe for granted even if he hasn’t answered my email entitled, “PLEASE RESPOND: Cupcakes and other misc decisions to be made this week!”  14 year-old Cheryl wants to love, and be loved, for the rest of her life, and she thinks it’s pretty damn awesome that this is happening.

20s photo taken by Tania Westby

Mid-twenties Cheryl: Mid-twenties Cheryl has learned a lot about relationships through experience.  Mid-twenties Cheryl has come to terms with how the decision to marry is about more than (romantic) love, and mid-twenties Cheryl is overwhelmed with the concept that she has to find someone that she not only loves and loves her back, but with whom she is compatible on the important things in life. Mid-twenties Cheryl knows that there are probably many potential people who fit that description out there, but she doesn’t know how to find them.

Although she’s been burned by love in the past, mid-twenties Cheryl still yearns for it with every fiber of her being.  Mid-twenties Cheryl is IMPATIENT.  She looks around the room, closes her eyes, and wishes that she could just get from today to the day where she gets married in one big leap, skipping over all the little moments in between.  Of all the elements of the wedding, mid-twenties Cheryl pays closest attention to the ceremony, and reflects over what that commitment really means.

I'm going to be just like my mom - I hope!

36 year-old Cheryl: 36-year old Cheryl is happy, but tired. She has at least one infant/toddler at home.  Her marriage has been put to the test through the disruption of the relationship ecosystem when it transitions to a 3-4 person system.  36 year-old Cheryl is in love with her child(ren), and with her partner, and she gazes out at the couple being married and holds the following thought in her mind: “Girlfriend: get some SLEEP while you can. You sleep the entire honeymoon. Trust me. Just sleep. It will all be ok in the end, but dear lord, sleep while you CAN!”

Thinking about 36 year-old Cheryl reminds me to take care of myself, and enjoy Gabe’s and my childless years and the luxury of our flexibility at the moment.

 

50 year-old Cheryl: This Cheryl has observed many marriages and divorces.  She observes how the couple looks at each other and makes a private prediction about whether or not they will last.  Thinking about this Cheryl reminds me of how brave the decision to marry is, and inspires me to think of Gabe’s and my relationship as a marathon and not a sprint.

I hope to be like my grandma when I grow up.

Older aged Cheryl:  This Cheryl knows how tenuous and precious life is, that it can be abruptly ended in an instant. This Cheryl has the wisdom to savor every moment shared with loved ones.

I like to think of this Cheryl as a Tuesdays With Morrie type character who reminds me to take time to dance, and (similar to 5 year-old Cheryl) focus on everything BUT the material aspects of the impending wedding and (more importantly ) marriage!

 

My maternal great-grandmother: if she wouldn't care about whatever is stressing me out, I shouldn't care either.

So, I’ll be honest: I’m the LAST person in the world whom I thought would ever get swept up into the “Wedding Industrial Complex.” I did not envision my wedding day since I was a little girl and have always focused more on relationships than material things. However, I was shocked when I found myself internalizing pressure from what Meg Keene at A Practical Wedding calls the “WIC: Wedding Industrial Complex.”  Imagining my past and future selves as attendees reminds me of what’s really important about the occasion, and also repositions the event in the larger landscape of my life.  If this approach doesn’t work for you, I suggest Keene’s approach: ask whether your great-grandmother would recognize any given aspect of the wedding as important (such as wedding favors). If she would not, then it is not worth stressing over.

I find that this approach works in many different situations in life, beyond the current wedding perspective challenge.  We all know that “keeping the big picture in mind” is important for overall life happiness, but we often lack a cognitive strategy to actually achieve the perspective we know we need.  Imagining your past and future selves as attendees to any portion of your life can really bring the big picture into vivid focus. For example, I’ve used this strategy when I find myself upset over something I know is petty or unimportant; I imagine my life playing as a video reel and the audience members being my past and former selves. What would they be yelling at the screen at that moment?  Or, more importantly, would they just be sighing and wondering why I was worked up about something that is ultimately frivolous/unimportant?  I hope that this approach works for you; let me know in the comments section!

About Cheryl Crow

My punctuation mark of preference is, without a doubt, the exclamation point! Join me as I explore the wonderful worlds of: studying Occupational Therapy, gluten-free cooking/baking, swing dancing, photography, and living a full life with Rheumatoid Arthritis. There will be parenthetical tangents, there will be cake, there will be almost unbearable amounts of cuteness, but most of all…there will be enthusiasm. (!)
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2 Responses to How to Keep Perspective (Even when Planning a Wedding): Converse with Your Past and Future Selves

  1. My friend turned me onto this post, and I have to tell you that it is outstanding and so inspirational. I just love it. I’m a huge APW fan, and this post is on a par with her best. Your perspective is right on. I’ve often thought of what 10 year old Rogue Bride would think of my wedding plans. She’d be pissed about the dress I chose, the venue, and the guy (not a princess dress, not a castle, not a prince – 10 year old me was a social climber). Actually, I think only 25 year old me and higher approve of the goings on. Prior to that, I had my eye on British aristocracy. Damn Disney brainwashing.

    • Cheryl Crow says:

      Thanks so much, Rogue Bride! I can honestly say that discovering A Practical Wedding was the biggest turning point in my journey back to sanity from wedding overload. What’s crazy is that I only read a couple posts before I could physically feel my sanity being restored…the visual overload of other sites I’d been looking at daily had completely distracted me from the POINT of the wedding in the first place. Such a common tale, right?

      I like the angle of thinking about what your younger self would NOT approve of as well, haha…I think the sheer volume of dancing and girliness would HORRIFY my 10 year-old self, who was a total tomboy.

      I think Disney got it right in some movies/moments, such as in the animated “Robin Hood”…funny how they got it right more often with nonhuman animals than humans! My main problem is that the stories always end where real love stories begin, you know? The fun part isn’t always FINDING the “prince” or partner, it’s enjoying your lives together and actually being together. I always found that odd. It’s like, “Awesome, they found each other, now what?—- wait, the movie is OVER!? WHAT!” :-)

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