As I type this, I am staring at a stunning diamond ring, a circle solitaire Tiffany's rock that sparkles like nothing I've seen. And it is still somewhat surreal.
Two weeks ago I got engaged to the man of my dreams. I say that not to sound like the protagonist of a banal romance novel, but because it is actually true for me. He asked me to be his wife during the best dinner of my life, which capped off the best day of my life, and the best part of it all is that I was completely surprised.
I can honestly say I've never been happier. I realize these moments are, and will forever be, some of the highest highs in my journey. I've been relishing them and thanking God for all of this goodness I get to experience and for the man I get to marry. My life wasn't always so sweet and satisfying, which I realize makes my joy that much deeper.
But with this joy has come some unexpected pain. I've spent the past 10 days solo, and I've had a lot of space to reflect and write. It's been an exciting, yet surprisingly difficult time as I think ahead to the wedding and all that it symbolizes.
You see, I've done this before. This is not my first wedding, this is not my first marriage. And I have felt and am working through a spectrum of unexpected emotions, from shame and guilt to grief and fear.
Shame because suddenly I see myself as the girl who was married, divorced, and engaged again by age 30. Does anyone else see me through that lens? Maybe. But that's irrelevant. This is my life; not theirs. It's my path and my story to make. My goal the past two years has been to rise from the ashes and live boldly and authentically, to listen to the truth I know to be real, and to aim to care less about others' perceptions. Do I miss the mark? Absolutely. But now I know how to speak truth to these lies when they rear their heads.
A niggling guilt, as if I'm betraying my first promise to forever, even though that has been put to bed. For me, this is the strangest of all of my recent reactions. I see the Facebook brags about friends hitting the 5- or 7- or 13-year mark with their spouses, and I've felt this pang of remorse, as if I am less of a human because I couldn't cut it.
Grief because I'm reliving the memories of 22-year-old me planning a wedding and expecting it to be the first day of the rest of her life. I'm once again mourning the loss of innocence because I'm being confronted with it. And that's OK. Those are real memories attached to real emotions. I'm learning to make myself feel what I feel, sit in these moments, and then move on -- even when all I want to do is distract my mind and dull my heart.
And fear. I was convinced eight years ago that I would be married forever. I had no doubts, no second thoughts. So much changed through the years, how do I know the same won't happen again? How can I guarantee a lifetime of healthful, growing, committed, loyal, loving marriage? I can't. But I can choose to fully embrace the goodness and love in my life today. I can choose faith above fear. Faith in my man and who I know him to be. Faith in our relationship and what I know to be real. And faith in myself -- the power I've reclaime, and the new-found understanding that happiness is mine to take.
Because even as planning a wedding and preparing for marriage brings my past to the forefront, everything about my current relationship is different and new: I've experienced daily life with him, loved him fully and been loved back. I'm living the reality of my dreams -- dreams I didn't envision until I was an adult and knew who I truly was and what I really wanted in my partner in life, my teammate. This time it's not about the wedding -- the event I fantasized of for years as a kid. It's about the marriage. It's about the days I get to spend with him, the lifetime I will live with him.
This time I just feel lucky. I'm so proud to be his girl, and I can't wait to be his wife. And I am grateful for this second chance, relieved that I chose faith over fear every step of the way. So I will continue to do so. 'Til death do us part.
Also on Huffpost: