Ideals and expectations can be killers of joy. Yet sometimes I have a hard time letting go of what seems ideal to me. There is often a guilt-laden wrestling match before I lay down the stress-filled version and take up the lighter and more joyful way. I don’t know exactly why that is – maybe some influence of days gone by or books read filling my head with perfectly carried out plans. But life happens.
We have just gone through months of stuff – the kind of stuff making it difficult for me to remember what I did last week. The months have been intensely focused but I am learning to choose the simple way and release the guilt. We recently returned from a beautiful but tiring trip only to bump into making time to celebrate my husband’s birthday. Before the trip he couldn’t decide how he wanted to celebrate and I had nothing planned. Torture; we are both planners.
So I found myself, one week out, wrestling with myself over whether or not to prepare a birthday dinner for the family or go out to eat. It seemed right and ideal to cook and have everyone over to our house where it’s quiet and we could hear one another talk. Looking ahead to the best evening for celebrating, I realized we were also attending a memorial service earlier that day. My overwhelmed self went to war with my ideal self.
Thankfully my husband decided on a restaurant – a new eating establishment experience for the family – and I made reservations. I made dessert and after dinner the family gathered in our home for coffee, dessert, gift giving and conversation. It was a lovely evening and I was able to enjoy it with minimal stress. I forget how simplifying things can result in some of the best experiences. It’s not so much what we do but the coming together that truly matters.
I need to take cues from my my daughter, Emile. The aforementioned beautiful but tiring trip had been for the express purpose of attending Emile and Isaac’s wedding in Vermont. A destination wedding can be expensive. Emile and Isaac wanted to bring their families together for a beautiful celebration without breaking the bank. The focus on relationships paid off. Staying focused on what really matters helped them simplify and cut costs – eliminating ideal for a sweet and meaningful experience.
I recall all the months spent looking at venues, photographers, florists and bakers. Thousands of decisions sifted through and let go – releasing trends and some personal ideals – for the simple beauty of relationships mixed with a little DIY. They could not have had a more endearing and beautiful wedding if they had been given the best florist and a high end wedding planner.
Floral preparations evolved into 8 buckets of fresh cut flowers and 8 women scurrying about to make bouquets on Saturday morning, the day before the wedding. It was a big, beautiful noise of creating and collaborating. Maid of honor, sister Laura, and bridesmaid Meredith put together the bride’s and bridesmaids’ bouquets. All were delicately placed in various refrigerators in the rooms of wedding guests.
Antique jars were given over to Grams, cousins Hilary and Gabby, Aunt Roni Kay, mother of the bride and friend Monique to make mixed arrangements for the reception tables. Instead of paying several hundred dollars for flowers, Emile purchased flowers from a local grower. The end result was the making of a memory: creative chaos with family and friends and amazing, lovely bouquets. And Jim came in after cleaning up all the scraps of stems and petals.
The morning of the wedding all of us, plus a few other family members and friends, met in the reception hall and decorated tables. Flowers, greenery and candles were purposefully positioned on each table. There were plenty of flowers leftover so the maid of honor and a bridesmaid created a floral wreath to hang behind the bride and groom table. The overall effect was as naturally beautiful and celebratory as a fancy English picnic. There was such freedom and fun without rigid ideals. I believe I understand Daphne du Maurier’s idea for bottling memories...
“If only there could be an invention that bottled up a memory, like scent. And it never faded, and it never got stale. And then, when one wanted it, the bottle could be uncorked, and it would be like living the moment all over again.”
Better yet, I need to have a built-in reminder to focus on what matters most – people and leaving a little room for creativity – the kind that lends itself to great enjoyment. When I consider this and all the times I have not opened my home to others because I didn’t have a plan, it’s rather disheartening. Nothing too deep here but just a reminder to me and maybe to a few of you:
- Life is short
- Relationships matter most
- Beautiful celebrations can be simple
- There is freedom when rigid ideals are left behind
- Creativity awakens in the freedom
- Memories are made – and people are drawn together when included in the process