The Time We Have: Weddings, Family, & Elizabeth Gilbert

I am not Elizabeth Gilbert. I do not have the grace and ease and humor that comes from a life lived and reclaimed through writing, matched with so much time left to give and share and write. I do not have hordes of inspired, adoring fans or hordes of ill-informed critics. I do not have a book or poem or song that is part of the cultural vernacular.

And that’s okay.

I find the Liz Gilbert’s and the Cheryl Strayed’s of the world incredibly inspiring. I love their candor and their grace. I love that they share mistakes made, lessons learned, the places still raw and vulnerable, the places that have scarred and healed. I respect them so much.

But they are in their 40s and I am still in it. Old enough and seeking enough to know a good portion of the things I should be doing for my happiness and to be productive, creative and otherwise. Young enough to ignore that advice with “all of the time I have left.”

But we don’t have much time left. This article, The Tail End, that counts and maps out in symbol-form how many of types of experiences we have left is intensely real. The graphs they use look like this:

time life

This one represents the time left the author has with his parents, ostensibly, after most of it being used up in childhood. He estimates that he’s in the last 5% of his in person parent-time in this life. (The red is time already spent, the black is what’s left at 34 years old.)

This year, my final symbol of time left with my grandpa Al had filled before I even realized it. I honestly don’t remember clearly the last time I saw him in person. It may have even been last Christmas. He died at the end of October. That is not good enough. I could have gone and seen him when I was home in August. I didn’t make the effort. I missed my chance.

I don’t feel irrevocably heavy hearted about that, primarily because I know that I communicated to him more through the CD’s of my original music (that he played for everyone who came into his house) than I ever did in conversation. And that’s okay. It has to be.

One thing I’ve been unhappily dealing with this year is the pressure of wedding planning. I’ve dealt with it mostly by avoiding it and returning to the thought again that maybe we should really just keep it to family?

But if I conjure a symbol picture in my head with the word “Weddings” above it, I’m only anticipating one. This is it. Why not make it exactly what we want it to be within our means? Why not make it wholeheartedly joyful – from planning to execution? Nothing more, nothing less. Could I stop dreading the spectacle of this event and remember that it’s a beautiful celebration?

I already am…some. For awhile, I felt paralyzed by the thought of being seen at my wedding. How can I share the person I am when I’m with Charlie with all of these people who I often don’t feel entirely myself around, even though we’re close? The dynamic KAYLO, who moves from laughter to tears and rage and dancing and singing effortlessly in the presence of the person I trust the most, does not move that way in the real world. Sometimes she moves that way onstage, where it’s safe. Most of the time she’s quiet and contained. She’s not wholly integrated. She feels a big difference in the performance of who she is and who she really is.

I’m 25 now and I’ll be 26 at my wedding. I’m not 46 like Elizabeth Gilbert. Or 47 like Cheryl Strayed. Or 50, like Brene Brown. I can’t expect to be quite so integrated in my personality as they have come to be. Not having the kind of career success, life experience, emotional healing, or sense of boundaries quite yet. But that’s okay. It has to be.

What I’m most looking forward to about the wedding (besides the actual getting married part!), is sharing some meaningful things I’ve written – a song, a poem – about love and family. When I feel like I can’t extemporaneously speak for myself, poetry and lyrics do it for me. It’s my job to meet their fullness, with mine. It’s my job to remember the gift of time. A gift that can never be taken away, exactly, but one that doesn’t have a return policy – once it’s spent, it’s spent.

May I worry and problematize less, may I enjoy more. May I really be where I am and who I’m with much more often. May you do the same, spending time with your friends and family and creative projects like it’s precious. Because it is.