I have been in a very happy healthy relationship with the love of my life for two years. And as much as I would have liked to buck Western tradition, it is in the big decisions of life (marriage, childrearing) when we realize which traditions we want to rewrite and which ones that we ultimately value. For all of our unorthodox ideas about the future, I held steadfast to this request of my partner: a beautiful ring to demonstrate his intentions and choice to me and to the world. Last Thursday he got down on his knee and gave it to me and my whole life changed.
My initial giddiness is still there. I won't pretend that I haven't spent inordinate amounts of time positioning my left hand for maximum display in the course of daily activities, that I haven't done some squealing into the phone. But I have been surprisingly up and down, a bit restless, a bit temperamental. I can't put a name on this emotion, because it is not fear. I am quite confident in the health and strength of this relationship, on our ability to navigate the terrain to come. What I didn't expect was to feel so different. The ring was important to me, but only as a symbol for something I felt I was already committed to in my heart. We have been living together, we have been budgeting, planning, naming future children for quite some time now. Engagement was something I saw as the formality I needed for our families and the world to realize and respect what we already knew. But every time I look at my hand, feel that slight extra weight and pressure, it makes tangible the gravity of the decision that we have made, and a sense of urgency to get my stuff together.
I am going to be someone's wife. I am still a whole person, but I am part of a unit, and every decision that I make affects that unit. As I come out of the dream world of the last few days and get back in the saddle of paying bills, running a household and a business, preparing to start school, I do so with all of these questions: How does the fact that I need to have creative, life-fulfilling, mind-stimulating work and have never been very concerned about compensation affect our material needs and security? How do I balance my need to be involved in things, to be out in the community, and be there for those who call on me with my desire to have a peaceful, organized, smooth functioning home, time for us to nurture a relationship that is supposed to last a lifetime, structure and stability for the children we hope to have? How do we bring two such different families together, and balance all of the conflicting ideas, personalities, priorities so that we have a healthy and thriving support network for our union? This is all so much heavier than gold and gemstones. I watch him sacrifice to help support my goals, and the sense of love, of gratefulness, of responsibility that I feel is overwhelming. I want to make sure that he is as happy as he has made me, that at some point soon he will have as much room as he has given me to do all that he wants to do and become all that he wants to be. I hope that I can impress upon my family my need to focus on the one that I am creating without alienating them, and that his family can be confident in his choice, for all of the challenges that my personal path have presented.
So as much as I would love to plunge into the bridal magazines I have always browsed in stores but never had a reason to buy, as much as I'd love to answer people's questions on when, where and how, as much as that little girl princess socialization is demanding my attention, I don't have time. I have too much work to do. My success in my book, my business, my studies is that much more important, because it is no longer all about me.