Love is Relentless — A Love Story
Are you excited sweetie?
Her presence brought an elixir of sweet cinnamon bread and nauseating musty perfume.
This was the umpteenth person to ask. I teased, winked and nodded.
I had been smiling and nodding all day. Strangers and family asking me over and over how excited I was. Did they not see I was trying to be excited? Why did they keep asking?
That’s what you do when you get married. You get excited. I knew what I needed to do, so I was full of good cheer and laughed and pointed to the hair style I was going to do on my phone and showed everyone.
Everyone agreed it was a good choice.
This is what humans do. Agree. Don’t ask hard questions.
I let myself split in two like I did on most days where I was needed to be the one who had it all together. Often, the split version of ourselves is the one who is protecting the deep sensitive one inside of us that hasn’t grown courage to speak for itself.
My split self had always gone ahead of me. I could never catch up.
“Are you ready Mackenzie?”
I stared at myself in the full-length mirror on that cool January day.
My wedding day.
Half a dozen women stared at me as I put lipstick on my lips. Like we were gawking at a circus performance…
Darling, this will be your best one. Ever.
I had been told my whole life this would be the happiest day of my life. I had been told that I was doing the right thing because we had a child together. That I would be an elegant grace story. I was doing right for all the wrong I had done. It was my reckoning.
I took a deep breath.
Mackenzie does right. Mackenzie always does right.
Each step away from that mirror trampled on my still small voice asking hard questions:
But are you in love with him Mackenzie?
I walked gently and opened the door.
Do you understand the severity of marriage?
I closed it behind me.
Do you understand what you are doing?
By this time, the voice had deafened and the Mackenzie everyone loved had come to be the star of the show. All in the name of peace. All in the name of grace. All in the name of good intentions.
The woman with all the lenses and cameras winked at me.
You ready for your first look, Mackenzie? I’m sure he’ll think you are stunning!
I still remember those words… I’m “sure” he’ll think.
I wasn’t convinced. I wasn’t convinced I was ready. For anything.
Hi sweetie, someone said you needed me?
I have planned over sixty weddings. Brides are gorgeous and funny creatures. They are coy yet demanding. Passive but aggressive. Stressed yet thrilled. Enamored but apathetic. And in all my years of doing what I do, I have realized that all they want is to be beautiful for the man they love. And that, was worthy… whatever it took.
I took my glasses off to clean them as she stared at herself in the mirror.
How do I look? Do I look ok? I think the corset fits funny. Will you check the back? Is my train too long? Does my hair look ok? Mackenzie, we have our first look in five minutes.
I put my glasses back on my face and stared at her precious face. I sensed such a sincere desire to be the stunning doll she had spent all morning creating herself to be.
I crossed my arms and walked toward her. I knew the answer she wanted but instead I asked her a series of questions:
Do you believe you are beautiful and worthy of the love you’ve created with this man? Is he worthy of the incredible woman you are?
My question surprised her. She straightened her back and her eyes were laced with deep tears.
Mackenzie, I would choose him. Every time. Every day. For the rest of my life. I am my best self in his presence. I come alive when he speaks my name. She sat down. She crossed her arms against her heart and quietly spoke… I want to honor and love him for the rest of my life.
I found my own heart welling up but I was her planner. I was on the clock. This moment needed to end with timing and places set and secure.
I stepped closer to her and whispered…
Then go to him, beautiful woman.
She turned away from me and into the mirror.
Would you take pictures on my phone?
I gave her a half smile and nodded.
So, Mackenzie, he is standing back to you until you get to the alter. Take a deep breath and walk slowly. The lighting is really incredible and we want to be sure to get all the best shots.
All. The. Best. Shots.
I rehearsed what I would say to him when I saw him…
Hey, pretend we are happy right now so we get all the right pictures in the right lighting.
Am I pretty enough for you?
Do you like this dress that is too expensive and too tight?
Just keep kissing me so we get all the authentic pictures.
Look at me like I’m the most jaw dropping woman you’ve ever seen.
My split self was in heaven. I saw up ahead when the light was going to hit my face and I posed beautifully.
This will be my Facebook profile picture, I thought, when I tell the world of how I made my life perfect after all the fucked up choices I made. Think of Cohen. He would be so proud of his mom right now, she’s doing the hard/right thing. That’s what his mom does…
The hard/right thing.
My thoughts were interrupted by the photographer snapping at me and signaling for me to stop right there.
He would be turning around soon. I stopped. I didn’t look at him. I stared out the window.
Ok, so I don’t think you need the flash, but maybe you do? I don’t know you decide. You’re the wedding expert.
Yes, I thought, me… the wedding expert.
I think it was Keats who said… A thing of beauty is a joy forever.
Her joy was precious.
She grabbed my hand and mouthed “thank you.”
I stood in the back of that gorgeous banquet hall, watching her walk. She didn’t look out the window. She didn’t mouth anything to herself. She clutched her bouquet. She breathed deeply. She rubbed the back of her neck.
She was acting like she was going to see someone who set her heart on fire.
I suddenly found myself uncomfortable.
Witnessing unrequited intimacy is uncomfortable and painful and necessary and makes the silenced Mackenzie ache.
The father of my one and a half year old turned around and stared at me.
His eyes turned up and his mouth smiled with his beautiful teeth to show.
I felt like a used trophy that he was supposed to suddenly think was admirable. We were acting. We were playing parts. We had been playing parts. I loved him but in this moment, I didn’t know why I had a wedding dress on… I didn’t know why I said yes when maybe, just maybe, I wanted to say no. I loved him but I was unsure of this.
Why was I unsure?
Why did I care more about being the perfect grace story for everyone else and letting myself die inside?
This is easy Mackenzie, you just keep smiling and twirling and laughing.
So I did.
And I did a damn good job.
She took a deep breath and let her body heave and stop for him.
He turned around…
He didn’t look at her dress. He didn’t away. He didn’t pose. He didn’t move.
He simply mouthed: Thank you for loving me. His hand against his heart.
I watched this unfold from the camera setting of an Iphone and realized my arms were shaking taking pictures.
Thank you for loving me.
I couldn’t breathe.
I took the last of the pictures and abruptly left the room. I half smiled at the maid of honor as I shoved the phone in her hands. She didn’t understand.
She didn’t need to understand.
I ran. I ran fast. I ran to the bathroom. I threw open the stall and put both hands on the side of the toilet. I heaved to forget. I threw up every memory. I began to sob until my back hit the side of the stall, my knees to my chest.
Witnessing love like that is painful. It is precious. I have only seen it a handful of times. I have seen hundreds of weddings.
I wiped the snot and tears from my face and threw my head against the tile.
She whispered to me, “we got some incredible shots.
I nodded. I did my job. I smiled with my hair perfectly curled. I stood up straight because that’s what a good woman does. I made myself presentable to be the Cover Girl of what calm and collected women do. I winked at the camera. I winked at him. I winked at fiction.
Yet…there. 8 years later.
The irony of my life: planning weddings as a divorced woman.
I closed my eyes and told myself my truths:
I believe in a love that will meet my puke and demand grace.
I believe in a love that doesn’t look out the window.
I believe in a love that says YES.
I believe in a love that would see the most ruined parts of me. See the things that broke me. Yes there, and he would love me there.
I wiped my face.
There was work to be done.
Mackenzie, are you ok?
My sweet banquet manager stared into my swollen tear-stained eyes.
My split self demanded to speak but I silenced her.
I’m honoring the incredible love I witnessed a bit ago and it has left me breathless.
We both nodded. There are moments in life where nothing else needs to be said. You just share a moment of pained vulnerability and then, that’s all.
You smile at the lovely couple and release them to the world.
I just kept thinking…
Love is strangely relentless… and I will be too.