Epiphanies on the Wedding Menu (along with some rather good braised ribs)

It wasn’t all easy.  Over a whirlwind 48 hours last weekend, I reconnected with many people I hadn’t seen since before Mike died, resulting in heartfelt expressions of consolation and my repeated assertions that I am still standing even as the conversations left me reeling. Seeing so many faces from my own wedding a decade ago brought back some bittersweet memories.  And then, of course, there was the fact of more than 12 hours in high heels, including the part when I loaded and unloaded six bicycles from the back of my truck while precariously balanced in those bad boys. (Eat your heart out, Ginger Rogers.)

So, no, not easy.  But it was at the same time quite wonderful.  Far-flung allies stood at the ready to provide supportive text messages and late-night phone calls. My heart swelled to see old friends and members of what I’ve always considered to be my extended family.  I met, and was charmed by, children from whom I learned a lot about colossal squids, the kraken, and the world of competitive remote control car racing. I met, and was also charmed by, adult strangers with whom I chatted, laughed, and danced.  And I was swallowed up in the love between two dear friends.  The thing about weddings of people my age—and never you mind just what age that is, thank you very much—is that it is rarely their first time at the rodeo.  These are people who have lived, and loved, and lost, and then loved again. There is a different kind of edge to joy that is accompanied by knowledge and real gratitude.

And all of a sudden I realized that like those friends, like everyone really, I am at my best when I am open to and generous with love.  Michael loved the Anastasia who was fiercely attached to friends, family, and him.  The best tribute is for me to be that person 110%.  And it’s so easy. I am surrounded by people brave enough to stand in the tempest with me and to tell me often and sincerely that they love me. I frequently encounter caring strangers; the tow truck driver who was horrified that I didn’t know how to access my spare tire and gave an impromptu road-side seminar, for instance, or the groomsman who left the party to help me with the bikes.  I have friends who suffer the tragedies and daily indignities of life who give me the honor of providing them a dry shoulder and an open phone line. And if I stay open to it, I will encounter dozens more people for whom there is plenty of room in my strong heart.

Somewhere between the hors d’oeuvres and the cake, I kind of got what I need to do now.  I will continue to hold myself in a tight hug some days. And I will continue to lick my wounds, although they are starting to scab over.  But I will also throw open my arms to hold all those that the world puts in my path in an enthusiastic embrace. And I will continue my mission to avoid high heels, and I will try to find out how those cooks made those incredible meat-falling-off-the-bone ribs.