One thing I’m struggling with in relationships—well, more than relationships—is feeling adequate. Believing “hey, I got this” and not collapsing into a puddle of anxiety seems a small thing, an eminently normal thing. It shouldn’t be hard to believe, right?
I think Wright, in the small, crystalline sentence below, captures exactly how complicated an air of positive expectation is. He brings us to a wedding and focuses on a moment that one most wants to treasure, where everyone wants to be happy for you and is. As in heaven all are smiling at you—
The Wedding (h/t @TomSnarsky) Franz Wright As in heaven all are smiling at you, even those who know you.
“In heaven,” loved, accepted, and celebrated no matter what. That last concerns the part of The Prodigal Son most of us skip over, where the father who is ecstatic that his son has returned throws a party. He is then berated by one of his sons who has been loyal longer: “Where’s my party?” The wages of sin is death, but justice as its own reward may not suffice for any of us. In other words, it’s perfectly reasonable to want to be celebrated.
Celebration is not a matter of flattering someone, giving empty, manipulative praise. At a wedding, you’re being celebrated because you are giving love, not merely receiving it. Inasmuch as you have faults, a history of actual inadequacy—all are smiling at you, even those who know you—others radiate warmth toward you not thinking you’ll change, but knowing that you can be trusted to be beautiful for someone else and the family you both create. No repentance required, because you are trusted to achieve the weight of the expectation. You’re trusted to love because in a way, you’re living what you want. It sounds strange to call it an obligation upon you (though it is) as much as a gentle but enormous commitment.
This is really a very complicated set of expectations and commitments, with a rich palette of emotions. A whole series of joys and regrets and hopes and changes. And I think what I’m getting from Wright’s poem is this: if you want to be more optimistic every day, this is what would underlie that. This is what you need to feel normal or adequate. Not true love, not a wedding itself, but a part of you, a structure, you can recognize as celebrating and trusting you. I hesitate to call it “self-esteem” because that’s just the beginning of understanding how to set expectations for yourself and judge your progress. As in heaven, indeed.