"So writing speeches is something that I'm actually pretty familiar which. My job involves training young women on how to write and deliver speeches at international events, such as the UN, and the last speech I delivered myself was alongside the Zambian Minister for Gender, so no offence, but I niavely thought it was going to be no big deal to make a speech at my wedding.
In fact I would go as far as to say that I thought it was going to be a piece of cake. That will teach me to be so arrogant...
It seems like it is much easier for me to write a powerful speech about what it means to be a girl in a world where 1 in 3 women are victims of violence, or why gender equality is so important to both women and men, or how non-formal education is such a transformative tool for change (just using the opportunity to put some stats and statements out there...), but I can't seem to write about what it means to me to get married. I even have a blog and, not as frequently as I would like to, I write quite openly about my life and my own struggles and passions, things I'm learning and even my slowly evolving faith, but it still feels really difficult to write about my relationship and what it's like to love another person, and to decide to love that person for my whole life. (That's another 55 years if we go by the average life expectancy of a white woman in a developed country by the way.)
I was finding this really frustrating because usually when something is in my head for long enough I can sit down in front of my laptop and the words flow out. Maybe they're not the greatest - I'm not saying I'm a fantastic writer - but I at least have something to say.
When I sat down to do this though I realised that everything I had to say was bloody stereotypes, and I passionately hate stereotypes in any form (especially gender stereotypes, as many of you know) because even when they seem to be true on the surface in their very nature they fail to reflect the complexity of what it means to have a certain identity, or even to be human, or this case, what it means to love.
So I've decided to be a bit cheeky, and start by sharing one of my favourite stories about what it means to commit to someone. What it means to love someone. I like this story so much because I feel like it reflects a lot of what I feel about love at the moment and perhaps even breaks some of the biggest stereotypes I believe we have about falling and being in love. This extract is from "Carry On, Warrior" by one of my new favourite people, Glennon Doyle Melton. It's a book I can't quite finish yet because I know that once I finish it I'm going to feel like I've lost something really special. I'm not going to read you the whole chapter, so to give you a bit of context... Birthdays in Glennon's house growing up were always a big deal. There would be tons of surprises, flowers would get delivered to her school, she would feel like anything is possible. On the morning of her first birthday married to Craig she wakes up excited. Craig rolls over, wishes her happy birthday and goes down to make her some coffee. And then goes to work, telling her he'll see her later. And that's it. No surprises, no flowers, nothing seeming possible. Bear with me.
Now there's so much I like in that, but what I especially like is that Glennon didn't pick up the phone, tell Craig her birthday was off, that she didn't want to go to dinner and that he had really let her down. Which is probably what I would have done, especially going by my temper at the rehearsal in the church yesterday! She instead made a decision to use her disappointment for good, to build something stronger for the future. She recognised that he was her team mate and that he'd dropped the baton, but instead of quietly stewing and letting the bitterness grow or shouting at him she decided to do something that would make it easier for him to keep hold of the baton in the future.
I think we live in a society where we are taught that nothing is ever enough and that life should be easy. It's a bit of an and/both situation, because we are told that love is the solution to all our problems but that this love, if you find it, is easy to lose. We are told that we don't have a choice or any control. That we can't help it if we fall in love and that there is nothing we could have done to stop it if we fall out of love. Now obviously every situation is different and I in no way speak for anyone except myself, but the biggest thing I think I have learned about love in my life so far is that it is not passive, it is an active choice. And by getting married you are saying, "I choose to get up every morning and make the choice to love you". Even if I'm pissed off and you feel far away and I feel under-appreciated or misunderstood, this thing we have is music, and we are the musicians. (This is the start of many methaphors I'm afraid). We have a responsibility to each other and this wonderful thing that we know exists between us, even on the days it feels like it's disappearing, to continue playing, even though we've gone out of tune slightly with each other and our fingers are getting tired. Because actually the uncomfortableness and seemingly 'unromantic' nature of the journey is part of the beauty of making the music in the first place.
And that's another reason I like that story so much because Glennon doesn't moan about Craig's mistake, or frustratingly sigh and reluctantly give him a second chance under the guise of "well love takes work and the good times make the bad times worth it" (which is of course true in its own way) but she embraces the opportunity to work on another part of their piece and find a way for them to get back in tune with each other together and ultimately produce an even better sound. She is enjoying the journey of this 'marriage thing' even when things aren't going to plan. I feel like Dan and I have so much 'work' ahead of us, but that's not a bad thing, it's exciting. I don't think it's taking the romance out by accepting that your partner's not going to be able to read your mind and by having to ask for surprises sometimes. Or by having to discuss what your new traditions will look like rather than them just naturally happening. If love is a piece of music that two people are trying to play together then I think sometimes you do have to stop and say, "actually I really like it when that section is repeated again before we go back to the beginning, is that ok?" Rather than assuming that they would know that is how you want the piece to sound.
So I think I've realised that the reason I can't talk about my relationship and what it means to love someone else is because it is a work of art that me and Dan are creating together, so it's precious and it doesn't just belong to me and I don't know all the answers and I don't know what the next 8 bars will sound like, never mind the whole next symphony. What I do know though is that we will sit down and discuss it together, so that when we do play it out it sounds beautiful.
With that in mind, I want us to raise a toast to Daniel, or Dan or Quinny, whatever it is you call him. I want to say thank you for agreeing to spend your life actively choosing to love me and working with me to create something beautiful. Thank you for helping me get dressed in the morning when I'm too overwhelmed (becauae let's face it, everything overwhelms me), thank you for your kindness and your generosity with your love and time. Thank you for making me laugh and gradually learning when it is time to stop winding me up... Thank you for always choosing to see the better way, and for picking up the baton whenever I trip and fall and giving it back to me with a cuddle rather than throwing it down in frustration. I think we've had enough of my many methaphors now, so let's raise our glasses... To Daniel."
Thanks for reading. Now go read 'Carry On, Warrior'!