“Emotionally Engaged”

“Emotionally Engaged”

I recently finished reading a brilliant and life-altering book by Allison Moir-Smith, entitled Emotionally Engaged: A Bride’s Guide to Surviving the “Happiest” Time of Her Life.

I stumbled upon the book in the wedding planning section of my local library. Yes, I’ll admit, I was trolling titles such as 1001 Creative Ideas for A Wedding and How to Have Your Dream Wedding on a Budget in an attempt to find a way to enjoy being engaged, when I came across a book that actually had an answer for what I was feeling.

Allison Moir-Smith is a hero. She has done what millions of women have been too chicken to do: admit that being engaged is not, by any stretch, the happiest time of your life. It’s exciting, yes. It’s a dream come true to marry your true love. But it’s also stressful. And you can feel sadness, hurt, anxiety, depression, and excitement all at the same time. Your life is changing, and no matter how much you love your husband-to-be, change is difficult. It’s confusing. And to top it all off, you’re simultaneously planning the biggest and most important party of your life.

In a world inundated with voices like TheKnot.com and Martha Stewart Weddings, Allison Moir-Smith is one of the few people acknowledging the fact that only 12% of brides feel nothing but happiness and rainbows during engagement. That’s a huge deal! Every single relationship in your life is changing. Your relationship with your parents is changing, as your primary family loyalty is shifting from them to your fiancé. Your relationship with your fiancé is changing as you go from girlfriend to wife. Your relationships with your girlfriends change. Your relationship to yourself changes most of all. You’re undergoing the biggest transformation of your life to date, but everyone from your best friend to your bridal magazine expects you to be giddy with happiness 100% of the time. It’s no wonder the majority of brides are stressed!!

Reading this book, I realized that it is ok for me to feel sad about my changing identity. It’s ok to feel torn inside as I have Sunday dinner with my husband-to-be instead of my mom and dad. Not only is it ok to have these feelings, but it is extremely important that I let myself feel them. Just like grief, the only way to get through it is to feel it. Better to process your feelings as an engaged woman than to bottle it all up and unleash a “rain” of terror on your newlywed husband (pun intended; I’m a historian after all).

I’m so grateful that I found this book. Already I feel much happier. Now I know that yes, I can be sad about losing my primary identity as “daughter” and happy about becoming James’s wife, all at the same time. I’ve only just finished reading, but I feel much more hopeful about the remainder of my engagement. The next 8 months leading up to my wedding day will, hopefully, have more meaning for me as I work to form my new identity. And of course, I’ll always be Connie Ann.

For more information about Allison Moir-Smith and her book, please click here.

What the Dickens?

I feel like I’m finally joining the adult world. James and I have settlement on our first house on Friday! We just spent an hour at Target today getting grown up things like trash cans and dish towels. And I didn’t buy books or movies because I currently have “enough” and they’re not “necessary”. Go figure.

Our wedding is not til June 1, so only James will be living in the house for the next 10 months (good thing it’s only 10 minutes from where I live). I get to spend the next 10 months painting and making it exactly how I want it, and filling those gorgeous built-in bookshelves with all sorts of papery wonders. Now you’re talking.

Speaking of books, I recently discovered something amazing. You’re not going to believe it. I started reading A Tale of Two Cities and I am enjoying it. Sure, Ebeneezer Scrooge and Oliver Twist are household names. But how many modern people actually enjoy reading Charles Dickens? I know I never did, even though I wanted to.

Like many modern readers, I approach novels with a bit of violence. You know, eyes flashing like lighting through the words, flipping pages like a wild storm until the end is reached. This method has served me well for decades, beginning with Meet Felicity  in the second grade, and even through my love affairs with Alexander Dumas and Jane Austen.

Dickens doesn’t work that way. It was the opening passage of A Tale of Two Cities that let me on to the secret. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” Speed read the beginning and you miss the artfulness of the most beautiful series of comma splices in history. If you try to rush through Dickens, you’re missing the point. He’s meant to be enjoyed slowly, like super rich dark chocolate.

So now I know. I read no more than one chapter a day, one sentence at a time, admiring the genius of each phrase. And I’m loving it. Charlie and I have made peace.

What’s My Writing Platform?

Recently I decided that I have to be a writer. If I don’t write, I’ll never be happy with myself. My day job is completely unsatisfying from a personal standpoint, and I really want to be doing something creative. I’m trying to get to the point where I can feel comfortable calling myself a writer. I’m doing this the only way I know how: practicing my writing and reading books on the subject.

In Sage Cohen’s book, The Productive Writer, chapter 2 is all about finding and defining your platform. What does she mean by that?

Well, to be honest, I’m not 100% sure. What the heck is a platform? It seems like she means you need to decide what topic you want to be known for. Are you a how-to girl, an expert in culinary history, a poet or a political analyst? What do you want to say to the world?

What do I want to say to the world? I have a lot of interests, but I have no idea what exactly I would want to write about. I have a degree in history and I love art. Could that be the makings of my platform? I wrote my graduation thesis on Italian immigrants and the Catholic Church in the early part of the 20th century. Could that be my platform? What about all the other things I want to write, like the novel I keep thinking about? How do I know when I’ve found the right platform?

In a way, this blog started as an exercise to discover my writing niche. Maybe I could look through my posts and figure out what topics I write about the most.

Maybe there is no clear answer. Maybe I just need to keep writing about whatever I want, and see where it leads me. Sounds like a plan!

Will I Ever Be a Writer?

I have always thought I wanted to write. When I was 10, my mom gave me The Idiot’s Guide to Creative Writing for Christmas. I’ve always loved that book. I’ve always gone to it for inspiration. I have yet to write anything that I consider makes me a real writer.

I always feel like writing, but I never have the discipline to see it through. My excuse for not writing is always “I have too many stories and I can’t pick one.” So, for the millionth time, enough with excuses. It’s time for me to pursue my dreams and be a writer.

I bought a few books on Amazon. Currently, I’m reading Sage Cohen’s book The Productive Writer: Tips & Tools to help you write more, stress less & create success. So far it looks great. She seems like she has a lot of great tips. I really want to go step by step with this, but even in chapter 1 she gives a long list of to-do’s that I know I won’t accomplish for a few days or weeks. And her pie chart of time made me realize that I have even less than I thought I did. Work takes up about 10 hours of my day, sleep another 8, then with my remaining 6, can I really do everything I need to do, keep my time with James, read the books I love, and STILL have enough time to have a freelance writing career? I have no idea. But I’m a big girl now, so I’m going to try.

Amanda Knox: Book Deal Soon?

Amanda Knox has been a huge media sensation this year, and for good reason. Who could ignore the tragic story of an American exchange student falsely accused of her roommate’s murder and held in an Italian jail serving a 26 year sentence, finally winning her appeal and coming home to the US? I’ve been following her story for years now, reading the evidence and wondering how in the world the Italian prosecutor could be so obviously slanted when there is plenty of evidence convicting another, and he is already in jail serving time for the murder.

News broke today that Amanda has hired a literary agent, meaning that most likely, her book will be coming out soon. I’m so happy she’s doing this. For too long, we have been listening to everyone else tell her story. It’s time for her to set everything straight. I’m also happy that she’s finally going to get the money to reimburse all the thousands of dollars her family has spent over the years in legal fees to fight her case. If anyone deserves monetary compensation for pain, suffering, and extreme financial drain, it’s Amanda and her family.

Also, after reading comments about this story, I’m disgusted with the things people have said about Amanda and the money she’ll get from this. I think anyone who jumps and says she’s guilty, shady, or undeserving needs to go read the facts of the case. Unfortunately, like any media storm, the majority of Americans only hear the 5 minute version of the story once it’s over. It’s hard to form an accurate opinion from a clip on the 11:00 news.

Mr. Right, Mr. Perfect, Mr. Good Enough

Recently, author Lori Gottlieb sparked controversy, thanks to her advice to women about choosing “Mr. Good Enough” instead of waiting for “Mr. Right”. After the onslaught of women accusing her of advocating “settling”, she answered that what she really meant was that too many women have stupid requirement and expectations, making it completely impossible to find a life partner. (See original article here)

She was right, really. Some women are too picky. How many of us know people (including ourselves) who have ditched a guy after the first date because of some odd quirk? At the same time, we complain when we’re on the receiving end of such quick judgment. The truth is, you need to give someone a chance before you can really get to know them.

Let’s look at an example:

James and I had a lot in common. We grew up in the same town and knew a lot of the same people. We had never met as kids, but later on, towards the end of college, we met online. Here comes the first date. We had a nice time talking over milkshakes for about an hour. At the end of the date, he walked me to my car, gave me a little hug and got the door for me. I said my polite “this was fun,” and I meant it. I just wasn’t sure if I would give him a second date. Sure, he was nice. He was a gentleman. He paid the bill and opened the doors. We had a similar childhood and had the same religious beliefs. To top it off, he was extremely good-looking. What was the problem?

I wasn’t sure if I felt a spark. I wasn’t sure if we would have much to talk about. I wasn’t sure that we would enjoy the same things. I wasn’t sure if his good manners were just a show. I wasn’t sure if our different levels of education would become a problem down the road.

Still, I was intrigued. I did want to find out the answers to my questions. I knew he would probably be a nice friend to have. I just wasn’t sure that I could date him. So what did I do?

I decided to tell him that I wasn’t ready for a relationship. But, we enjoyed each other’s company so we went out a few more times, as friends. Then came “date” number 3, when the sparks finally hit full-force and we ended up kissing goodnight and planning DATE number 4. We’ve been very happy ever since.

I’m not 100% perfect, and neither is James. We’re human, after all. My mom always told me, don’t look for the guy who is without fault. Look for the guy who has faults that you can live with. Give a guy a chance. You never know how happy can be until you try.

(Of course, many women, especially young ones, make the mistake of dealing with WAY too many faults in a partner, thanks to their insecurity. See Are College Relationships Detrimental for Women?)

“Will Marry for Food, Sex, and Laundry” by Simon Oaks

I just finished reading this book over the holidays and I LOVED it.

Yeah, yeah, call it sexist. Call it anti-women’s movement. Call it whatever you want. But the reality is, this guy speaks the truth.

What caught my attention about this book, at first, was the hilarious cover. There was a man, dressed in a business suit, holding a cardboard sign (like a homeless person) that said “Will Marry for Food, Sex, and Laundry”. I burst out laughing and showed it to James, who admitted, “Yep, that’s me.”

It’s not that men can’t get their own breakfasts and fold their own clothes, its just that, in all honesty, they’re a little lazy. Well that’s not it, it’s that they like it better when you do it for them…

According to this author, it’s really about the mommy thing. Not to go all Oedipal on you, but deep down, a guy can never outgrow having a mommy-figure or something like that.

Alright, I’ll admit it, they complex “psychology” was a little weird. But the bottom line is, the way to hook a man is to take care of him by giving him his three basic needs, as listed in the title. And no matter how far we come as a society, those are still a man’s basic reasons for getting married.

So… being a rather modern young lady, why did I love this book? Simple. The basic principle of the book is something that can be seen in basically every lasting romantic relationship I’ve ever come across. I guess, in his own weird way, this guy is telling us what we’ve all known for centuries. We just didn’t want to hear it out loud.

Chick Lit

So I finally got caught up enough to allow myself to go to the library. It was a very short visit; within 10 minutes I had picked up more books than I could carry and was on my way home. I used to read a lot when I was little, but stopped during college. Before college, I used to stay up til 4 AM reading Jane Austen, Edgar Allan Poe, Alexander Dumas, and other dead guys. My post-college literary tastes have grown ever-more sophisticated; I just read How To Be Single, a novel by Liz Turcillo.

I know, I know, but please, don’t jump to conclusions. It was research, I swear. And don’t worry, I got what I deserved for opening a novel with a title as stupid as that. The book was awful, really. The writing style was so cliche, I felt like I was reading something by the author of Twilight. The story itself was so contrived and devoid of real emotion, it truly was painful. The first chapter was so horrible, I almost quit right then, but I decided to stick it out. I’m sorry but seriously, Jane Austen must be turning over in her grave if she saw some of the crap her genre has produced.

I’m really not against “chick lit”, to be honest. I just read two books by Jane Green which made me cry (in a good way). Her characters were believable and their stories were realistic, but with the right touch of good luck fantasy that makes you giggle with excitement (like a ron-and-hermione-are-finally-together giggle).

So I’m going to keep reading my girly books, to see if I can find anything better. I just started something by Emily Giffin, and it seems promising. I have a feeling though, that if I want a satisfying story, I’m just going to have to write it myself.