Eyes on the Prize

I started out this summer by starting my biggest adventure yet: I married my partner of four years.

While I wouldn’t say that I spent my whole life dreaming about my wedding, it was important to me to have one. I wanted a day to be surrounded by all my best friends and family, to enjoy and celebrate with the man who is now my husband.

By that measure, my wedding was perfect. Getting there, however, was a nightmare.

Until we checked into a bed-and-breakfast on Old Mission Peninsula the day after the wedding, I didn’t realize just how much I’d thrown off my mental equilibrium. For the first time in months, my mind wasn’t racing, obsessing over details and needless worries. I fell asleep easily that night, something I used to be really good at.

This whole process has been an excellent lesson in how stress and anxiety can bleed over into every aspect of life if we don’t take precautions. It wasn’t just wedding worries that kept me up at night, but they served to blow everyday worries unrecognizably out of proportion, even when I didn’t think I was stressed.

The good news is that this anxiety had an end date: Saturday, June 10. But my new source of anxiety is the knowledge that a wedding heralds many more stressful events to come. Events without a deadline.

Our wedding was everything I had hoped it would be, and more. I suspect, however, that it would have been that way whether I had stressed endlessly over it or not. Intellectually, I knew that, even before the wedding. But theory and practice do not necessarily play well together.

So what will I do the next time I find myself letting stress follow me around like a thunderstorm? Compartmentalize. Take a step back. Houses, children, jobs, illness — the details are important, but ultimately, the traffic jams in life are not what we should remember. What we find after sitting at a standstill is almost always more memorable; the rocky road we encountered getting to our destination makes it more worthwhile.

This isn’t just true for our personal struggles, but for the broader struggles we encounter on the road to liberty. Passing intelligent and meaningful reforms can seem impossible. Communicating ideas to people who disagree can seem futile.

It’s counterintuitive, but I’d like to embrace the stress in my life and in the world around me. I can’t eliminate it, but I should be able to see it for what it really is: An opportunity to create something perfect (or close to it). One of my mottos over the last few months was “Eyes on the prize” — a reminder that the details will only improve something that was already going to be great, and that the journey is often as important as the destination.

I didn’t keep my eyes on the prize quite as well as I would have liked this time, but practice makes perfect. I look forward to the next challenge.