My Self Marriage Ceremony

“It is better to be by yourself than to be poorly accompanied.” –Judge Maria Lopez of The People’s Court

 

I married myself on Friday, July 4th, 2014, my 43rd birthday. It had been a long time coming. I married myself with one goal in mind: To expand upon and rethink, reconfigure, reevaluate, reinvent the concept of love and commitment. The first time I heard about the concept was reading the book, Succulent Wild Women by SARK. I loved the concept of it: Commit to yourself before committing to someone else. I first read about this concept when I was married, but it didn’t make complete sense to me until after I had gotten divorced.

I did an internet search about self marriage to obtain more information. I read article where the concept of self marriage is “narcissistic.” Again, I think the people who are writing these things have not had my life’s experiences. I personally found that as a direct result of my past experiences, self marriage was an act of radical self love, self care and self acceptance.

Within time, I had found I had achieved a state of pure unmitigated joy, but believe me when I tell you I wish I had known about the concept of self marriage sooner. No matter how challenging the past had been for me, I always knew that happiness was out there. I had to be patient and just keep looking until I found it. Instead of looking at what happened before, I have become more focused on the love I had in my life now: supportive family, friends, my artistry and a job that fulfills me.

This act of self marriage gave way to letting go of people, places and things that did not honor the very best of who I was. This was already happening, so it not an overnight process. But it is interesting to note the changes that took place after my self marriage ceremony: I left a job I held for five years and fell into the job I had been wanting for years. I participated in not one, but two art instillations within a year because part of my commitment to myself also included a reclaiming of my artistic life. Self marriage was one of the many building blocks of extreme self care I’d acquired within time. Eventually, though, what I realized was that my happiness, sadness, success or failure wasn’t dependent on any other human being. It meant that I could live the life I always wanted.

I am able to see other people who are married with children and I am sincerely happy for them and tell them so, but I am also happy for myself as well. My vows were actually the poem “Phenomenal Woman” by Maya Angelo. I made a vision board the night of Thursday, July 3, 2014 and placed a small part of the poem on the board. I also chose pictures and sayings, like High Spirits, your special day your special way, Your story from this point forward will be legendary, The Life You Want.”

Although I was married, I never had a marriage ceremony in my life. So having one when I married myself was especially important for me. Not to be materialistic, but people seem to want to know everything I did on this day, from choosing a dress, a ring and anything else, so here it is.

It took time to find a dress on discount. It was a white halter dress with gold swirls on sale and I loved walking away with a deal. I also found white shoes on discount.

The ring was an aquamarine stone with a gold setting, again on discount. The bouquet and cake were from Whole Foods. When I told the women there what I was doing, they had never heard of the ceremony such as a self marriage, but they were greatly interested and actually more than kind when making suggestions to make the day special for me. I went with a berry cake with white frosting and red letters. They showed me pictures of their wedding bouquets, as well as had me tell them what kinds of flowers I liked. I let them know I loved sunflowers. “You have to love yourself and know who you are and what it is you want first,” the saleswoman told me behind the counter when she saw my cake and flowers.

I was able to find an appropriate crown at Party City. They have an amazing medieval section! I found a gold plated crown with fake jewels. I also talked with people close to me about my ceremony. One of my family members said, “I can see it. Frankly people need to do this preferably in the ninth grade. Get clear on who you are, what you want and what your expectations are in a relationship.”

My writer friend was invaluable on the day of the ceremony. She took pictures and did my makeup. Personally, I felt she’d done a better job that the makeup artists at M.A.C. She played jazz love songs in the background like “At Last” by Etta James and “Nightingale” by Nora Jones. After she was finished with my makeup, I felt beautiful. I am the primordial caregiver. This is my profession, but another aspect of self marriage for me is learning what is healthy dependence and learning how to receive.

She said, “Actually, I think people need to do this after they are finished with college. Like if you are going to have a bridal registry, then have one. When you get your own place, you need toasters, cookware, Tupperware and bed comforters when you move out of those college dormitories or out of your parent’s house. These are things people need on their own, like well before marriage.”

But the only problem with waiting until after college is you might meet the person you think you should marry in college. That is what happened to me. Later, I progressed to the idea of not being actualized in a relationship, but being actualized by yourself. What a concept! But no one tells you exactly how that happens. They didn’t have that in a textbook. Sometimes doing things the way other people have presented it to you is the way to go until you have taken the time to know how to do things that are best for you. It might be challenging along the way, but still, settling shouldn’t be an option.

Choosing a locale was a challenge. My writing group has a lot of interesting outings. One of them was Medieval Times. I knew when I first saw the place, I wanted to be there for my self marriage ceremony. Medieval Times was a place that I felt was conducive to the creative imagination. I have always loved anything and everything medieval. I wanted the ceremony to be playful. I had a picture with the king when I walked in. He told me, “You look smashing!” I said, “Thank you!” The food was phenomenal along with the jousting. We had the yellow knight, who unfortunately lost the tournament.

Afterwards, children walked up to me to ask, “Are you a fairy princess?” I smiled and said, “No.” Then they asked, “Were you in the play?” I smiled and said no. It is difficult to describe the concept of self marriage to children. I felt like Carrie Bradshaw’s character in Sex and the City who tried to explain to the little girl she was reading Cinderella to that these are fairy tales, but you know what? Everyone has to come to their own conclusions.

So, instead I said, “It’s my birthday.” And it really was my birthday. That they understood. They looked at each other excitedly and said, “Yay! Oh happy birthday!” Description solved! I was knighted at the end of the night. I took a picture with one of the knights.

Again, it is not that I am against relationships, but I am against unhealthy ones. I feel there are decent men out there. I also enjoy sewing for other people and their weddings. But I also feel that if you have a healthy relationship with yourself, actually being in relationship doesn’t matter as much. I have also noticed that life can and will respond to how you feel about your circumstance. If you walk out as if there is lack in the world, the world would respond in kind, but if you walk out as if there is abundance, the world would respond abundantly. If I felt terrible about being single, I would be met with people who affirmed my belief. Because I embraced this fact, instead, I found the opposite.

A lot of people have asked me how I felt after the ceremony. Actually, I felt great, deeply appreciating my own self reliance. This is who I am. This is the person I was meant to be. It feel good not looking at a person, a place or a thing to validate my worth as a human being.  I listened to Pharrell’s CD on my way home, watching the fireworks in the air, enjoying the celebration of my independence.

Self Marriage 1

Here Comes The Bride!

Wedding 1 Wedding 2 Wedding 3 Wedding 4 Wedding 5 Wedding 6 Wedding 8 Wedding 9 Wedding 10 Weddings 6No, no silly! Not me! However, that doesn’t mean I do not know someone who is getting married at some point. Actually, this has taken place during the vast majority of my life. There has been media coverage about African Americans not getting married. There is even a book out there called Is Marriage For White People? By Ralph Richard Banks. However, I usually think, “Whoever these people are, they have not been to my house and they have not gone wedding fabric shopping with me.”

If they did, they would find me usually making things for other people to get married. My mother and I have done this for years: veils, purses, etc. People know they can go to David’s Bridal and House of Brides for their special day, but for some reason, people love having something hand made for their special day. We have sewn for a couple who celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary. They renewed their vows. The husband was 87. The wife was 84. I felt their union was a blessing. We have also sewn for young, up and coming couples.

Sewing for a wedding usually means a pilgrimage to Vogue Fabrics in Evanston. We have to get the good stuff for a sewing endeavor like this. Most people who work with textiles know this. There are people here from all over. This fabric store has a long history with my family. I still own the quilts my great grandmother pieced together using their remnants. The remnants department is also a good place to find fabric for those wedding quilts, like charm quilts and double wedding ring quilts to give as presents.

Much like any endeavor in life, especially marriage, the process of sewing for a wedding is an exploration into the unknown. What will we find on sale? What will it look like once it is done? Will they like it? Ever since I was a little girl, I always felt the prettiest part of Vogue’s Fabric Store was in the wedding section: rhinestone notions, tiaras, veils, satin, lace, pearl embellishments.

Romances are some of my favorite novels, but books about manifestation have taken over my precious bookshelf space. Although I have used these books to manifest other things in my life, two of my favorite books on manifestation are actually for manifesting a mate: Calling in the One by Kathryn Woodward Thomas and From Your Vision Board to Your Bedroom: Using The Law of Attraction to Find True Love by Sue Vittner.

For me, manifestation and sewing for a wedding are creative processes like any other. And I love creativity. It helped that love songs like “Vision of Love” by Mariah Carey and “Let’s Stay Together” by Tina Turner played in the background as we shopped.  Playing love songs during the process of sewing can inspire as well. Beverages like Zhena’s Gypsy Love Tea, eating chocolate, incense, candles and watching romantic comedies are other wonderful ways of getting into the spirit of things. Needless to say, one of my favorite romantic comedies is The Wedding Planner with Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Lopez.

Yes, I am a feminist for obvious reasons and a humanist overall. I am divorced. I volunteer at my local domestic violence shelter. I have not dated in nearly 10 years. Still, there is an erroneous assumption that because of this, I might be against the institution of marriage, men and hate life in general. Not so. I believe in love and marriage. I am happy for people who find love and feel that love strongly enough to marry and share in life’s rewards and challenges. I believe that everyone, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation and/or religion deserves happily ever after. I also believe that there are decent men out there. But moreover, I also know that divine timing for this type of milestone is everything. In the meantime, though, making my life as whole as it can be is the best gift I can give myself and others. After that, I completely get into sewing for weddings. I love the idea of a big party, a white dress, and flowers.

 

Author Reading With Mariel Hemingway

The new books, Out Came the Sun and Invisible Girl, written by Mariel Hemingway were long overdue and I don’t mean at the library. Out Came the Sun is an adult memoir. Invisible Girl is a young adult memoir describing her feelings growing up within her family. There are also detailed resources at the end of each book, including resources for domestic violence. The inner jacket of Out Came the Sun says, “Seven suicides. Depression. Bipolar disorder. Schizophrenia. Addiction. All in one celebrated, beautiful, brilliant family.”

And to think I almost stayed at home. Mariel Hemingway’s author reading took place at Anderson’s Bookstore in Naperville, Illinois. I am not finished reading yet, but I have found Mariel’s books to be phenomenal so far. Personally, I have to say I think she is a better writer than her grandfather.

I must commended Mariel for taking the very challenging step to become a mental health advocate. “Most people don’t want to talk about any of this,” she said, but Mariel changed that dynamic by talking openly. She shared how her family had their issues with mental illness, their denial of the situation and how she dealt with it by becoming a caregiver to them. She also revealed how she overcame her family history of suicide through extreme self care including, but not limited, to studying meditation, adequate nutrition, and a regular yoga regime.  Mariel even made suggestions for others. “Writing is very good,” she said. Everyone in the audience nodded their heads in agreement with her.

“I’m so happy you bought my books!” she said. Mariel didn’t know I majored in English, nor that I worked as a psychiatric nurse many years ago where there were four staff suicides in a six month period. This did not include the patient suicides. The issue was so prevalent that the medical college wrote an article surrounding the suicides that were taking place by the staff.

My previous workplace situation is a large reason why last month, I completed an art instillation for charity to help reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness and assist with suicide prevention. One of the central issues I saw while I was working as a psychiatric nurse was the inability of families to talk openly about the difficulties they were having. But thank goodness I didn’t talk about myself at Mariel’s reading because I didn’t have to.

A lot of other people shared my sentiment. It was a full house. People stood along the sides of the bookshelves to listen to her talk. When questioned about why she was writing her story, she stated, “I think I am not telling a story that is different from anyone else’s family. This is a story that many families share. And people need to know there is help for them out there.”Mariel Hemingway

Donald Maass Writing Workshop

The Donald Maass writing workshop was a major hit! I had a theatre class years ago which helped me see why Donald Maass’ writing workshops are so powerful. He is using a theatrical approach to writing. He is encouraging us to perform on the page. No matter what your genre is, his writing workshops are extraordinary for developing craft. I have taken classes at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival before this time. In one of my classes at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, my teacher had his writing instruction book Writing the Breakout Novel clearly displayed on the desk. Donald stayed onstage for a good 7 hours, talking about the process of characterization, setting, world building and other elements of craft. He stated, “Most of theatre is getting rid of your inhibitions. And the same should hold true of writing as well.”Donald Maass

 

Start Over

Windy City Donald MaassI trashed my first manuscript of fiction after literary agent Donald Maass taught a writing workshop in March 2015. I was half way through it, but I’m not mad. Seriously! I am a member of the Windy City RWA (Romance Writers of America) professional writing organization. We had been planning to bring him here to teach one of his legendary writing workshops for nearly two years.

I have had a mixed media project of nonfiction writing and textile arts in mind for years. However, I’ve spent the better part of nearly 8 years trying to fit myself into molds that were not by, for or about me. He knew about the major fiber arts based presses and their importance, such as University of Nebraska and Yale University Press. I told him about my art instillations in graduate school. He knew about the Gees Bend quilters. He also knew the names of various quilt designs. His office is block away from the Fashion District and City Quilters of New York.

I told him City Quilters of New York was my favorite quilt shop ever. I also told him there was a local quilt shop in Chicago named Quiltology (now out of business), that was heavily influenced by City Quilters of New York. He’d been to the American Folk Art Museum in New York many times. We talked about the exhibits we saw.

“The people who drive this market are all of you, the textile artists” he said. “Textiles are a very lucrative market, especially in writing.”

“I was trying to write to market,” I told him. “For me, it seemed to me like that John Cougar song, ‘I could fight authority, but authority would always win.’”

“You shouldn’t do what other people are doing,” he said. “You should do what you believe in.”

“It’s been so long to get something off the ground,” I told him.

“But would you rather keep going in the wrong direction for even longer?” he asked.

That did it. He had a point. It was a leap. It was also another setback. Almost four years of working full time and attending graduate school part time. Five years after graduation, weeks upon weeks, years of upon years of professional writing organizations meetings and conferences to get craft instruction and learn about the business of publishing. I was trying desperately to fill in the gaps that my undergraduate and graduate education left out. And it all came down to one thing and one thing only.

Do what I knew to do.

It wasn’t like it was a radical concept, but then again, it actually it was. It has been a fishing expedition for me on what to do and how to do that. This is the challenge with art. There is no clearly presented path. And either you are willing to find your way out of no way, or you aren’t. It wasn’t like I didn’t know how to do me or be me. I had done that for years. I am a writer. I am a visual artist, textiles to be exact. I was also an activist in rape crisis centers and domestic violence shelters. But the question was how to best go forward as an artist?

Another issue is that I learned all about other people’s paths both in school and out. I had tried to write a book of romantic suspense. I have respect for all writing. I was even given an offer to help with a true crime novel, but something in my spirit sensed that my own artistic path was quite different. I knew this. I needed a blog site to start off. I simply didn’t want to go into my next art instillations without one. Most people have been establishing a blog following for years.

I was just starting.