Have you seen “What About Bob?”? I love Bill Murray’s portrayal of Bob Wiley because I find his absurd fears hilarious, but somehow familiar. While I don’t have trouble with toothbrushes (or fear bladder explosions or sudden onset Tourette’s), I do have a list of things I’m anxious about. New people and situations, for example, make me nervous. Large crowds and airplanes also make my heart race. In fact, any kind of travel at all—particularly when it’s my family traveling without me—can cause that panicked feeling.
On Sunday I was helping my husband pack the car to leave for his grandmother’s funeral. I was already feeling uptight when I noticed my neighbor rushing toward us from across the street. She had some good news to share and wanted to do it quickly before he left. My plans for a meaningful goodbye disappeared with every minute as my husband listened patiently. Finally, he glanced at his watch and politely excused himself to get started on his long drive. With a quick, awkward goodbye, he got in his car and left. I tried to swallow the lump in my throat as he drove away.
Later that night, annoyed by my unsettled feeling, I kicked myself for not being more assertive. I should have promised to visit her later, I thought. I could have said that we needed a few minutes to get things squared away and say goodbye. Isn’t that reasonable to do? And don’t we all know people who are really good at knowing what they need and asking for it?
My husband’s grandmother Dot, who passed away last week, actually was such a person. Grandma Dot was completely, unapologetically herself, even when others might have preferred her to be otherwise. One of her favorite quotes was this advice from Hamlet, “This above all: to thine own self be true. And it will follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” Don’t you think that’s wise advice in everyday life (like when your husband is leaving on a trip and you’re an anxious person who needs a moment and a little space to adjust)? It’s even better advice on special days like weddings, which are about even bigger goodbyes and transitions.
It’s worth taking a leaf from Grandma’s book (and Shakespeare’s) to think about what you need in these situations. Even if you’re not an anxious person, you might just need to slow down and take it all in. Maybe on your wedding day you need to pause after the ceremony? Maybe you need a moment with your new spouse—just the two of you—to absorb what’s just happened? Maybe that needs to happen away from cameras and well-wishers? Or maybe your moment needs to come even before the vows are shared? Maybe it’s with your mom or dad, or a close friend? Or all of the above?
No matter when it is, or what it is, understand that it’s OK. You might think that it’s selfish to take that time for yourself or others, especially while your guests are waiting. It’s not selfish. You might think you’re disappointing people who are there to share your day if you don’t hurry to the ceremony or the reception. You won’t disappoint them. This is your day, and if you need a pause, a slower pace, or just a bit of space, make sure that happens. Talk with your planner about it and build those quiet moments into your day. Talk with your parents, your spouse, your friends, about what you need to make your day more meaningful.
Be true to yourself.