It was 1997 and I was set on my goal to become “debt-free no matter what.” I was in love with a tall handsome man who was very romantic. He lived on a boat and we were engaged to be wed on Coronado Island and then sail out to sea for a honeymoon in Catalina. I was doing well at work and my life was on course.
I should have noticed that the Match.com ad said he’d “like my PIN”, I should have noticed that the proposal on horse-drawn carriage was met with no ring and me needing to pay for the ride when his card got declined. But, love is blind and so was I.
Three weeks before the wedding we sat down at Pasta Bravo, in Point Loma, and I saw the blue paper come out. Little did I know that paper would change my future. You see, I had finally demanded he show me his finances, mostly so I could know what I was going to owe on dock fees and such. On the blue paper there were the dock fees, the car payment…those things one would expect…but, a column I never considered showed up…that being “past due.” I will suffice it to say, that column was BIG. Like IRS, arrears, etc. BIG. And I could see my goals…falling quickly into the toilet. So I gave myself some time to think about it.
I called my coach Michaela, who to this day I owe my life to. You see, Michaela was a criminal defense attorney and a coach at Landmark Education, both required brutal honesty and guts. She said I had two choices, get married or don’t get married, and each would have consequences. I needed someone who could talk that straight versus just hold my hand at that time!
If I got married, I would legally entangle our debt and would need to go down the aisle and say “I do” with all my heart, no holding back. If I didn’t get married, people would have bought me gifts and paid for airfare to come to the wedding, which would also have consequences. I would need to turn back all the plans we had put into place and face the folks who may be angry or upset.
The next day I knew work was throwing me a “surprise shower” in honor of our upcoming wedding. I am grateful for the person who accidentally must have just gone down the hall of mailboxes and put that “surprise” invite in my very own inbox. There is no way I could face near 30 people, gifts and all the excitement that a shower brings, with this new decision at my door. So I called in sick. I took the day off to make my decision of those two choices…and between tears I called the groom and chose to “postpone.”
I called everyone I’d sent invitations out to…including my boss as I explained why I couldn’t be there at work…I was postponing the wedding. Then aunts, uncles, friends near and far, and lastly my mother. I knew she loved the groom, that he was Christian, seeing me as bride and wife…heck, I loved all those things too. I was worried she would yell at me, but she took the news with ease and grace and supported me.
As time went on the postponement became “forever” as new things showed up that just weren’t a match. He had known my goals to be debt-free and promised to be honest, but had hidden stuff from me all this time. He had driven me around in his car with no insurance that was due to be repossessed at anytime. And when I saw how he allowed his young daughter to be put in very a vulnerable situation, because he was too afraid to be tough and to protect her, I realized he was not really what I had imagined during all those romantic thoughts.
When August one year later rolled around, and the date of my “almost wedding” approached, I came up with the idea that I would have an “Un-Anniversary.” It consisted of taking everything I had from the wedding…my wedding gown, veil, centerpiece items, candles, chocolate hearts, music on CDs, a set of dishes that Dr. Felitti has insisted upon giving me that I felt I didn’t deserve, the thank you cards…everything. I put the items on my bed and allowed my daughter to have first dibs at anything she wanted from the stack. She took the dishes, which made my heart feel good, knowing they would be used by someone near to me.
We also did a little photo shoot of me in my gown. And one year later on the day we were to be married, I celebrated my “Un-Anniversary!” I went with a few friends to Ki’s Restaurant where we shared a meal overlooking the ocean. After the meal I took them to my car and opened the trunk to behold the remaining items and said, “you can take anything you want”. At first they were reluctant, but when I reminded them that Goodwill was my next stop and it was ALL going, they did each take several items.
Next we went to the beach across the street and each wrote anything we wanted to let go of on a piece of paper. I wrote that I let go of “my wedding that never happened…all those creative party plans that never came to fruition, the dream of being a bride and wife.” We took our papers and burned them in an abalone shell and then together walked them out into the ocean and set them free. We let them go…I let it go.
My “Un-Anniversary” was one of the best things I did to let go of the past, my angst, my guilt, my dreams that did not happen…and it was so wise to not keep those items that would remind me of these bad feelings and sour memories repeatedly. To express my full emotions on paper and with friends, to embrace all of those tangled feelings and wishes and then…say goodbye for good.
I no longer need to celebrate my “Un-Anniversary” as it’s not about the guy, my anger, my guilt…I let those go long ago!
P.S. By 2001 I achieved my goal of being debt-free, which has given me a whole new freedom in life.
Is there some place you are holding onto the past that no longer serves you? Is there some way you can honor that and do a similar ritual for yourself?
Nice post Kathy. I regret that we did not connect better in India. AllI have learned about you since then has made me realize what an even more fabulous person you are. My loss. Maybe one day I will have opportunity to travel with you again. Peace.
That means a lot Lydia. I hope our paths cross again too!
Wow! What a fascinating story! I love that you found ways to involve your friends and family in your rituals. It was probably tempting to isolate yourself, but instead you chose to reach out and let them support you. You are one wise woman, and I am so glad to know you.
Thanks Kendra. I’m grateful to have met you too. I’m grateful for the support of people on the learning journey, like you!
Kathy, thanks for sharing your story. It’s very brave to be able to share so openly and with so many details. I feel like there are many people who will learn to listen to themselves and be true in response to learning from you here. God Bless.
Tonia, A kindred brave woman. Thanks for your comments and acknowledgements. I do hope I might help lighten someone else’s load when faced with a similar situation or in letting go of a past incomplete experience.
Thanks you for sharing. What a great story about freedom. And NO REGRET. We have all dated a dressed up or dressed down version of this guy.
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It is interesting to put yourself out there and see what responses people have. Yes, Melissa, freedom with NO REGRET!
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Kathy, I so enjoyed reading this and seeing the beautiful pictures. And I will always be grateful for the support you gave me going through my “unwedding” about a year after yours. Love can be so blind… Love can also can show us our own beauty when refected in the eyes of someone who loves us and cares for our highest good.
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Jane, You remind me, my situation is not unique. So glad for that walk on the beach where we each got to share our story. Glad you have circled back into my life again and that you found an amazing husband, who gets you and encourages you to grow each day.
Wow! You are truly living up to your word, Authenticity. You are my heroine for authenticity. I aspire to have half your courage, honesty and vulnerability. Thank you for sharing this. It touched me deeply.
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Thanks for seeing those qualities in me…just a mirror of us all…including you.
Wow! That was really courageous. Good that you took the time to think about things and be true to yourself and your values.
Yes, always take time to think a big decision like that over. And so grateful to Michaela for her blunt but clear advice.