"Sometimes the only power you have is to tell your story." -Evelyn Wilde

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Floriduhhh

This is the best they could do: Miami Beach is turning 100 and Barry Gibb is the Headliner. Gloria Estefan and Barry fucking Gibb?!

My name is Natasha and I am from a stupid State. I was raised and educated, and continue to live (despite years away), in this awful swamp of a punch line.

Florida has always been a land of misfits and thieves though, both foreign and domestic: Cocaine Cowboys and Religious Rednecks. Mobsters and Pole Dancers. Grifters and Drifters. Botoxed Belles and Juiced up Guidos. We are very suspicious of one another as a result.


Florida is a place with a lot of money but very little class. It's like a good looking person who gets a pass on their terrible personality and woeful choices. All style, no substance.

There isn't even an intellectual haven in our Red/Purple State, like Texas (Austin) or Wisconsin (Madison). We have a dozen or so Universities and many smart kids go to them but we like to celebrate out football teams more than our Engineering programs.

We try though. In the 2014 Election we almost passed a Medical Marijuana Amendment. We basically have marriage equality now and women can still have legal abortions. So we're not Mississippi or Alabama (Yay) but we certainly aren't Oregon or Vermont (Boo).

I recently went to an outdoor concert and saw in the faces of the crowd such a longing for more. We want so badly to be cool but we never seem to embrace it. We're like 7th graders at a school dance; trepidatious to fly our freak flags, still glancing around for approval.

Maybe it's the heat. We aren't very proactive in our pursuits. Myself included. I would rather sit in my air conditioned home than go outside and make a difference, so nothing interesting or unique ever truly comes together. Even the fancy stuff like Art Basel or Ultra come at such a high price tag that they aren't really cool -- rich, old guys and tweaked out brats are not the winning formula, guys!

Let's try and be better, Florida. Aren't you tired of the mocking? We have so much that is good: the ocean, the Everglades, the weather in February, the cornucopia of ethnic food, all these new Breweries.

Let's get our politics straight- and to the left- maybe the rest will work itself out. Just think, we might finally be able to hold (and get) our heads high one day soon. Although, did I mention we are also sinking?



Thursday, January 22, 2015

African American

When my sister applied to college in 1996 I cajoled her into an experiment: choose one application, keep every detail exactly the same but one - check the box for 'African American'.

My sister never stated that she was black, just African American, which she, well we, are. Both of us were born in Zambia and moved to America as children.


My parents thought we were terrible people for lying on official papers. They made her refuse the school's myriad offers (scholarships, housing, clubs) and she went to the same average, commuter school as I did.

I wasn't trying to make a point about Equal Opportunity back then. Just the limitations of political correctness. Especially in the mid to late 1990's when we as a people were still struggling to accept Madonna much less Obama.

Almost 20 years since, the system is still flawed. Some areas of the country have achieved huge gains; a child born (in a major city) in the 90's probably sees the world as far less divided, albeit through a screen, than I do. Yet my sister could apply for Grad School today and still receive far more notice as an "African American" at a University than she would if she used the same trick for most well paid job applications.

While some areas of society bend and shape shift to accommodate minorities, mostly in education; from gifted programs with a different "under served population" criteria, to colleges, desperate to meet their diversity targets. The world around us, however; still sees a black man as a suspect, a mixed race president as foreign, and a white lady with a passport stamped from Africa as a "Missionary or something?"

Every country around the world has their struggle with otherness though- even the really good ones like Denmark or Australia. But their 'others' have actually came from somewhere else just a few years ago. Smuggled in on trucks and boats; from rubbish countries where people get stones thrown at them and don't have cable.

Black people have been living in America for over 200 years. Mexicans have been part of America before there was even an America.  I am African American: I moved to America from Africa. Jay Z is from Brooklyn. It's time to stop using African American as a polite salve we place over a wound that has yet to heal.

African American in title alone, I will never know the experience of driving while Black or job seeking while Mexican. I won't even pretend like I do. I do know that opportunity and generosity are not found just in polite language and America is far too old to behave this way.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Even Therapists Get the Blues

Depression for me is a window film, clouding the light from getting in. It's a mean girl, pointing out my flaws. Depression is a predator, patiently stalking for the right conditions to strike: stress, fatigue, lack of exercise and too many carbs. Somehow it always knows.

Ruby Wax understands. She is an American who has made her success is Britain as a Comedian and Writer. Like many funny people, the laughter comes from a dark place which she recently wrote about:

...It's exactly what it says on the bottle, it's poison, terrifying and a complete mummification in nothingness. This is physical and some part of your brain is trying, as it always does, to find a reason. For other illnesses when you feel sick there's an explanation - you might say to yourself, "Of course I feel terrible I have an infection, a virus, cancer" (pick one). With dementia at least you might be the last to know that something is wrong, but with depression you're completely aware and cognisant that you're gone and what's left of you is on auto pilot that tries to steer you into the bathroom and find food and that's about it.

I'm a trained, qualified Psychotherapist. I know the patterns, chemistry and treatments yet it still catches me off guard once I've realized "Oh, that's right, depression doesn't care about this wall of diplomas."

Sometimes I sit across from clients and want so much to say "Me TOO!" Of course I don't, but when I feel this way I do save up my best self for them which means everything else suffers. I take it out on the people I love most. I resist the same advice I give to others: meditation, medication, exercise, gratitude, volunteering, support. I try to deny, numb or diffuse the symptoms just like everyone else.

 

Depression is a pity party for one and sometimes, I have to admit, I quite enjoy the invitation. I get to feel sorry for myself and funnel the anger, disappointment, loss and failures into a private space in my head with a Billie Holiday album on a loop.

In addiction treatment this idea gets turned on its head; the majority of people in Recovery will only trust a therapist who has their own addiction. A "normal" person is often viewed with suspicion. While our own experience makes us more relatable to others, if we insist upon shared experience as a condition for accepting support, we would certainly exhaust much of the help that is offered.

A professional doesn't have to experience something to know about it- many male doctors have delivered babies. We all have our version of struggle though, even those who are meant to help and heal.

I'm on my way out of this recent episode thanks to my own therapist, being really gentle with myself, establishing boundaries, and a very messy cry over...TV cables (?).

All this is to say: I'll never tell you in our sessions that I really know how hard it is. I also know it gets better and how to make that happen. I don't always do it though so sometimes I'm hurting too.


Get help:


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Like a Boss

I really need to trust my instincts more. The inner voice that says "Eeshh, this asshole is going to fire you" has never been wrong yet.  I ignore that instinct because I like to give people the benefit of the doubt and, more to the point, I need the work.  Not that I have been fired that often but, you know, enough to ask "Was it something I said?"


I can look back at each horrible boss and plead my case:

1. Age 24. Napoleon Complex. Didn't appreciate my lack of enthusiasm for his boat. I told him to go fuck himself, resulting in my one and only official 'Security Guard Escort' out of the building.
2. Age 37. Misogynist. I held him accountable for poor decisions which impacted my Department. He felt threatened by my assertiveness and bullied me out of a job. I was one year shy of tenure. He was mandated to complete training on How to Not Create a Hostile Work Environment and still has his job.
3. Age 39. Unethical company from top to bottom. They could get someone less qualified for half the price, or more qualified with less training requirements. I was 'let go' without cause, the day before I went on vacation.
4. Age 40. Insecure and Inexperienced. She was constantly looking for validation; talked a lot yet said very little. I think it came down to her feeling intimidated but I'm not entirely sure what story she was telling herself.


My most recent experience has made me hyper aware of perceived reality. You can be getting on with your work, thinking this means that, and surely they understand x and y; meanwhile, a completely alternative reality is occurring. You have not bought a ticket to see this story but at the end, you get fired.

At least that's how I remember it. A leading expert on memory, Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, asserts that we distort our memories so we come out looking favorably "...we are more prone to adopt false memories when they make us look better and feel better about ourselves."

I do have high expectations of myself and others. I expect people to do their jobs well. When I am criticized, without context or clear guidelines for improvement, I do become defiant and frustrated. Ultimately, communication is the key to any relationship, personal or professional, and that is where I recognize my "areas for growth."

I did not grow up in a home where we advocated for ourselves. My family did not argue, make a fuss, or object in public. A little girl certainly didn't speak her mind without being called "bossy" or "pushy." Manners were very important, as was being well liked.

I say that not to eshew blame as much as to recognize the cause and effect. My failings in communication start with not having the practice, the foundation to build upon. I don't want to be rude. I want to make a good impression, be well liked, so I always start off with a smile, thank you notes, "whatever you need" etc.

When a conflict occurs I feel like I failed. I triangulate to diffuse my feelings. That inner dissonance results in frustration which then gets expressed in a tone of voice or body language interpreted as criticism. When I don't feel heard or assume that clearly it must be obvious that... I come out swinging. Firm emails get sent, voices get raised, defenses are fortified. The result? I'm crying and filing for Unemployment

I think being a woman is still a handicap, too. I really wish it weren't. I don't want to be that lady but I do think it still factors in. A recent study by North Carolina State University demonstrated this bias when they evaluated student perception of Professors based on gender.

If I were a man would my perceived shortcomings be received more favorably? I think they would and the Data seems to agree. Being white and middle-class helps. A woman past twenty-nine, who is not especially gorgeous and lacks independent wealth definitely drops my score back down though.

How much is mine and how much is theirs? Do I ultimately recognize that I will make a better boss than employee and it's just a matter of getting to that point? Yes. I know the only boss I'll ever truly respect is myself. Nevertheless, I want to play well with others.  I must teach myself what was never shown to me as a child. I need to use my words; learn the skills of effective communication. The spiritual lesson is found in loving kindness, especially towards those I do not agree with or dislike.

Having said that, can I tell you a secret? The only thing I really regret is not telling them all to fuck off.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Who Do You Think You Are?

One day...one day...I will be in the WHYY studios in Philadelphia sitting across from Terry Gross. I will be there because my clever, disarming, never knew a memoir could be like this, first book has peaked her interest enough to discuss everything me. 

I've been listening to Fresh Air on National Public Radio for so long that I've lost count of the interviews that have made me laugh, cry and learn, all thanks to Terry's perfect combination of insight, wit, and empathy.

But back to me. This is my moment. The moment all the hours of writing into what has often felt like a vacuum are finally validated. Terry (not Dave Davies. No disrespect Dave, you do a fine job but it has to be Terry) and I are getting to know one another and she asks me the obvious first question.

It has always been tricky to answer without coming off as pretentious, convoluted and/or like I might be a Spy. That is why I must put it all out there before we meet so Terry has the information she needs to craft her masterful questions.

In preparation for that moment I will attempt to construct here the honest, albeit complicated, answer to that one question:

"Where are you from?"

Well, Terry...I was born in Africa. In Lusaka, Zambia in 1974. Ten years after Independence from the British Crown, when the country had been known as Northern Rhodesia.

I was the first of two daughters born to Dan and Rosemary.

My mother found herself in Zambia after her father, my grandad, took a contract with the government. He and my grandma left England in the early seventies and lived for a few years in Southern Africa. They were both Veterans of World War II so spending extended periods of time in far away lands did not faze them. After Zambia they lived in Spain before finally moving to Australia.

My mother, at 21 and the youngest of three sisters, was working in Hospitality in Brighton on the south coast of England but had plans to emigrate to South Africa. While staying with her parents she took a temporary office job in Lusaka and met my father. They married in 1971.

Her middle sister had already emigrated to Australia by then and her eldest sister had married a local farmer in Hertfordshire. My Mum and her family had settled there, north of London, but were originally from Sussex, in the South of England. My granddad, Cyril, was born in 1910 to a large family in Hastings. His father was a policemen.

Her mother, Doris, was from the North of England, from a town called Doncaster in Yorkshire. My grandma's father was a Solicitor and her mother had died of unknown causes when Doris was a young woman. Doris was asked to be her father's Hostess for social functions until he remarried. When he did remarry Doris was asked to leave the home by his new wife and she joined the Royal Navy. My grandparents met in their thirties while serving on a British Naval Ship in Kenya.

My grandma died when I was a little girl. At that point they were living in Perth, Western Australia. I don't remember her as a happy woman. She used to drink in secret, according to my mother, who only realized that herself as an adult.

After my grandma died, my granddad moved to Miami and lived near us. Unfortunately, a hurricane blew his home away in 1992 so he moved back to Australia, closer to his middle daughter, which is where he died at the age of 90.

I have four cousins, two from each Aunt. Three live in Australia now and one is still in England. In my entire life I have probably spent a week in total with my mother's family whom she only communicates with a few times a year.

They are not close but not acrimonious either. They come from a time and a place where distance was not an obstacle; an Anglo-Saxon model of family, defined by heritage not obligation.

My father, however, comes from the Jewish Diaspora. A family born from blood, sweat and many tears. He was the second of two sons. My granny, Devorah, and a man I never met, Jonatan, divorced when my father was a baby. That was kind of a big deal back then.

Jonatan's family were Russians who left Moscow for Palestine in the 1920's. Wealthy Industrialists who settled in Tel Aviv, his younger brother died fighting in the 1948 war.

My Granny was born in Palestine in 1922, to Zionists from Poland and Romania. She was the eldest of three and her brother, Dani, would later become an Ambassador for Israel.

My Granny has a large extended family that span Israel from Haifa to Ashkelon but their roots are in the wine growing hamlet of Zichron Yaakov. In her youth, my grandmother worked for the Hagannah; smuggling Jews out of Czechoslovakia during World War II. Jonatan built his family's successful business and was known to be quite the ladies man, even after marriage. They had a son, Yossi.  Four years later, in 1949, my father came along.

During the War of Independence in 1948 a young Zionist came to Israel from South Africa. My granny fell in love with him. She petitioned Jonatan for divorce not long after their second child was born. She was granted her freedom on the condition that her eldest child stay with his father, while the youngest, who was still breastfeeding, could move with her to South Africa.

This event, like a horrific car crash, has many angles from which to cast judgment. I went to Israel several times to try and uncover "the truth" but was only left with more questions. Did she abandon her son? Did she fight for both or suggest the compromise? Was she willing to leave them both? Did she commit adultery or did he?

Whatever the facts were, it left a scar across the hearts of all those effected by her choice: her choice to love, her choice to leave.

In 1951 my father, his mother, and his new stepfather, Toby, moved to Johannesburg. My father was two. He and his mother would continue to travel back to Israel every year to see family. My father's family moved often; after South Africa they lived in Zimbabwe (Southern Rhodesia), until they settled in Zambia in the 1960's.

His brother, Yossi,  had a new stepmother, Ruth. Both boys came to love their adopted parents but the vitriol and resentment between their mother and father was nothing short of Shakespearean. Until I physically found myself in Jonatan's home as an adult, at the gracious invitation of his widow, years after his death, I had never seen a photo of him in my life. My granny had cut his face out of every piece of evidence in her possession.

My father showed signs of entrepreneurship from an early age. His father, Jonatan, recognizing that his eldest son, Yossi, had a kind heart but a lazy disposition wanted to bring my dad, Dan, into the family business, in Israel. He promised my dad, by then a handsome, confident, teenager, the Trifecta: women, money and power. My granny was having none of it.

At that point, her eldest son was already in the Israeli Army and she knew if my father were to move to Israel and join the family business she would lose him. He knew that moving to Israel would involve mandatory military service.

At 16 my father made his choice. He changed his last name to honor the man who had raised him and he never went to Israel again. His father disowned him, his country of birth declared him a deserter, and that part of his life began to fade away.

Having rejected Judaism, his father and Israel, at 21 my dad fell in love with my mom; a very pretty, English shiksa who refused to convert, much to my granny's objections. When I was born, the first grandchild, she became slightly less awful to my mother but their relationship would always hover somewhere between contempt and disdain.

My granny would continue to visit Israel and see the family that still spoke to her. She and Toby had a son, Tamir, ten years younger than my father. Her eldest son had married a very glamorous Israeli woman and they eventually had two children together.

From memories and stories about my granny, she was a fierce, vibrant, creative woman probably suffering from a serious mental illness. Both my grandmothers suffered; my mother's I would think from Dysthymia and Alcoholism, my father's from either a Borderline Personality Disorder or Bipolar II. As both women were undiagnosed in their lives, sadly, neither received the compassion and care they deserved.

My dad only saw his father once again in his life, when my mother was pregnant with me. He called once, years later, and I answered the phone. I was probably fourteen but I remember the moment I heard his voice like it was yesterday. He was in New York and told my father that he wanted to visit us. He never did and died not long after.

My father had become involved in a professional organization in his twenties, Jaycees International, and was elected from hundreds of candidates from around the world to become the CEO at their headquarters in Coral Gables, Florida. This is why, in 1979, my immediate family, which now included my baby sister, relocated from Zambia to Florida when I was five years old.

My granny and Toby would visit us every year. It was on one of these visits, they were babysitting us while my parents were out of the country, when another phone call was received that I will never forget.

The phone rang and moments later a cry, so deep and sad, filled our entire house. Yossi, my granny's eldest son, had died of a heart attack at the age of 36. He left behind a wife and two small children. My granny did not go to the funeral because she said she was looking after us. What family still spoke to her could not understand her choice. It would be said that Yossi had died from a broken heart; he never recovered from being abandoned by his mother, even in death.

A few years later, her beloved husband, the man she left her family and country for, would also die of a heart attack. The loss would be almost too much for her. She moved from Zambia to Miami where both of her sons, Dan and his half brother, Tamir, were now living with their families. She died in 2004, just before her 82nd birthday, with both sons by her side.

Jonatan's fortune went to his wife, Ruth, whom I eventually met in Israel. Although she acknowledged my father as Jonatan's legitimate son, all of her money when she died went to Yossi's widow and children. I have met them on a few occasions. They too have their version of my granny and our family. While they may have the money, which I have admittedly felt the injustice of on occasion, my sister and I still have a wonderful father in our lives.

I grew up in a Miami which at that time was starting to become the epicenter for Cuban exiles, Columbian drug trafficking, and German modelling agencies. Miami has changed so much since I left in 1998 that I have no sense of place there. The idea of "home" continues to evade me.

By the time I was six I had travelled to more countries than most people can locate on a map. After I graduated from University I travelled around the world, moved to Spain, and have friends across the globe but almost none where I currently live.

I've moved every few years as an adult but while much of my time was in Europe, my parents and sister have stayed in South Florida. Which is where I live now.

South Florida is not like Los Angeles or New York, where people move for something. Florida is where you go to get away from something. Despite my objections, I have roots here and can't seem to escape.

My answer to your question has to be this, Terry: I am an African American. I find affinity in Jewish culture yet reject Religion of any kind. I have European blood coursing through my veins. I can speak Spanish and love Cuban food. I am a Socialist who craves fame and fortune. I have a British Passport yet I feel more American in England than I do anywhere else in the world. If one place were to make me feel more like myself it would be New York City but having only lived there briefly many years ago that is not where I'm "from" either.

So, I guess you could say: I currently live in Palm Beach, Florida...but I can't wait to move again.

I hope one day I can answer in five words or less.

Next question?

Election Depression

It has been a week since the 2014 mid-term election. Any good Psychotherapist will tell you there is no fixed time frame to the processing of grief. I've passed Denial and Anger and am hovering somewhere between Bargaining and Depression. Acceptance is still a way off.

It may seem hyperbolic to liken an election to the loss of a loved one but if the Republican Sweep- despite the current positive indicators- are representative of the town, state and country where I live I am at a loss, for words.

A few weeks before Election Day I informally polled acquaintances to gauge the temperature on various issues; which in Florida included Medical Marijuana, Children's Services, numerous State and National Congressional Representatives, and Governor.

The various reactions my selective sample garnered included three themes which, in my opinion, would seem to address the reactionary results and abysmal voter turnout numbers:

1. A woman who smokes Pot every day (just for fun) said she was voting against Medical Marijuana because she didn't want the price to increase.

2. I casually asked a young couple if they had voted yet- a week prior to the actual day- and they replied that they had "a lot on" so just couldn't get to the polls this time.

3. A client, who had spent weeks complaining that the Casino he worked for had cut his hours because of "Obamacare," wasn't voting in "protest."

Based on that kind of feedback a measured response proved challenging. Nevertheless; I have tried to qualify my results in the order they were received as follows:

1. Self Interest
Americans care about themselves, their families and maybe their friends. A celebrity telethon or 5k walk will elicit generosity among the lower classes, while a charity benefit usually gets the 1% to sign big checks, but I'm not sure how to change the chronic head-up-own-ass-ness of Americans.

One is branded a Socialist if raising taxes to support the less fortunate is even suggested. A new Republican member of Congress, the Lady Pig Farmer from the Great State of Iowa, Joni Ernst, has just illustrated that point to her Supporters:

 "We’re looking at Obamacare right now. Once we start with those benefits in January, how are we going to get people off of those? It’s exponentially harder to remove people once they’ve already been on those programs…we rely on government for absolutely everything. And in the years since I was a small girl up until now into my adulthood with children of my own, we have lost a reliance on not only our own families, but so much of what our churches and private organizations used to do. They used to have wonderful food pantries. They used to provide clothing for those that really needed it. But we have gotten away from that. Now we’re at a point where the government will just give away anything."
 
 
2. Apathy and/or just can't handle one more thing we "have" to do.
Americans don't even take all their paid vacation time because they are so stressed about keeping jobs, making student loan payments, avoiding Gluten, watching Bravo Marathons, picking kids up before the late fee charges, etc.
 
Election Day really needs to be a Public Holiday. We couldn't make it mandatory though. Come on now- unless we're talking about a woman's womb, Americans sure as shit won't abide without a choice.  

3. Ignorance
24 hour access to people just talking for the sake of hearing their own voice puts a lot of opinions into the atmosphere. Facts are difficult to debate but subjective ideas can be interpreted into our own frames of reference with much less effort.

The Affordable Care Act didn't demand that the multi-million dollar revenue producing Casino (my client works for) cut their employee's hours. That was a business decision many companies make, in one way or another, to skip out on paying taxes, providing health care and other benefits, because its a god damn job so shut up and be grateful!

Just a few days after this Election the 2014 Country Music Awards were handed out. The Song of the Year was awarded to a very talented young lady named Kacey Musgraves and her song Follow Your Arrow.

This catchy tune about loving who you love, kissing boys and girls- whichever you're into- and smoking weed must be pretty popular to win that award. Nevertheless, I guarantee the majority of people who listen to Country music elected Politicians who vote against marriage equality & cannabis.

Cognitive Dissonance is a Psychological term defined as: psychological conflict resulting from incongruous beliefs and attitudes held simultaneously. The American Psyche would seem to be suffering a wicked case of it.

Maybe it's far more basic. More fear based. Most people are scared of Hospitals, right? Maybe Americans hate Obamacare because now they have no excuse for not seeing a doctor who will most likely challenge their Big Gulp and pack a day habits and confirm what we all fear, our mortality.

Or maybe Americans, on a Jungian collective unconscious level, think Obama actually represents Karma? How can they trust him- after all the terrible things White people have done to the American Negro, how could they? White privilege has resulted in abhorrent behavior towards black people, historically and probably within the last hour.

(Obama) has to be looking for payback for all, or at least half, of black people everywhere. Hmmm...maybe...Health Care is really a Black Panther scheme for injecting us with Syphilis disguised as Flu Shots at CVS...yeah...yeah...it all makes sense! Vote Republican!!

 
I might still be at the Angry stage of grieving.

How to Not Get Married Like a Crazy Person

A recent report has said that "Godless" Millennials will be the end of Right-Wing Conservative Politics. I hope I am alive to enjoy an Agnostic, Liberal, Feminist, Eco-Friendly World with Transgender Leaders and LEED certified housing for all.

Perhaps it will also mean that my niece; a gorgeous, smart and independent four year old will not grow up planning every detail of her wedding, or at the very least not feeling weird about why she doesn't. Until then, I accept that marriage is still kind of a big deal.

A friend put a photo of the engagement ring he gave his fiancĂ© on Facebook recently and, I have to admit, I stared at my own diamond like it was a pebble glued to a piece of string. I often flip through wedding photos and take mental color palette notes. I have a few ideas and more than a few issues.

I have also been married twice. I had a courthouse wedding, a Las Vegas wedding and am starting to plan a third wedding because I'm a perfectionist in need of a project. The love in my life right now is not contingent upon a wedding. I just like a good party and want redemption for the first two.

Needless to say, a very dear friend is contemplating her first wedding and BOY do I have some advice! I wish a wise woman had shared this stuff with me. Would I have heard her? Doubtful. Nevertheless; for those brides/grooms out there more self aware and sensible than I was, I do have some ideas, a bit of inside information, I'd like to share with you.

So. Put down the Bridal magazine and your mom's 25th text of the morning about guest lists and venues. Pop a tranquil inducing substance of your choice. Take a deep, cleansing breath...........and here we go:

1. Congratulations! Seriously, it's a big deal to love and be loved. You found your lobster! Please know that is all most people want to commend and celebrate.

2. That person you love is a fucked up mess. Accept that now. Get couple's therapy now. Get your own therapy- now! You're a fucked up adorable mess, too. Marriage is not a car wash that you go into tarnished and come out of pristine. Just accept that now and get help now and if the person you love is flawed now they'll be all of that and a bag of chips the day after you get married. Accept it, try to fix it, or move on.

3. Weddings are parties. They are not the defining social event of your life and you will feel empty inside after you drop 30k+ to fail at that.

4. Look gorgeous, document the day, and throw a really good party. Whatever your version of that is.

5. Have someone assist you in the operations of that day but don't let another person's aesthetic (mom, friend, wedding planner, et al) create your party.

6. If it all seems like too much to cope with- stop. Seriously, just give yourself permission to stop. Your mental health is way too important. Go to the courthouse and/or leave town. Save the money for an amazing vacation, property or your IRA.

7. Keep it real, Girlfriend. You are NOT a Disney princess. You know that, right?

8. Be as tasteful and/or as honest as possible about asking for stuff (gifts, money, etc.). It's a weird expectation anyway so mind your manners but be crystal clear of your expectations.

9. I think a color palette for the bridal party- eg. beige, black and powder blue- and a general theme- smart casual, Country Chic (is that a thing?) - for the party guests, are straightforward, reasonable boundaries people can work with.

...and finally

10. Marriage is a really important commitment when you actually plan on sharing your life with that person. If you are honest with yourselves and marrying for money, power, citizenship- ignore everything I've just said. However, if it's authentic, be mindful of the promise you are making. See it as one of the best opportunities you have to becoming a better person.