Our Invitation

This weekend, Steve and I designed our wedding invitaitons using my photograph of ‘Cleaved’, some of our engagement photos taken by  Emma Solley and a favourite quote by Rainer Maria Rilke.  In addition to choosing the structure and layout of the invitations, we also made decisions about the reception menu, the post wedding party and a labyrinth walking experience that we will incorporate into our wedding celebration.  There were some loose ends to tie up!

Steve and I are both Creatives and each have strong ideas about how our visions will manifest.   I think the only times that we have ever felt irritated with one another is when we are working on a DIY project, eg installing shelving or designing wedding invites.  We each know the best way to go about it and can’t quite understand how the other can have a different idea!  We can recognise this and laugh about it.  Take a break from the process if we need to.  Set aside our egos and listen to one another and find out that maybe their is a good alternative way to do something.

We both feel that we came up with a great invitation.  They will be tri-fold with photos and the quote on front and back.  We’ll have inserts for the wedding and party details, our wedding list, a response card and information on the labyrinth.  We printed out a sample to make sure of the size and feel of it.  When all of the final details are settled, we’ll have them professionally printed and plan to post them in the very beginning of March.

front

quote and us

fully open

back

Inner compass

When I wrote to Steve and asked for his favourite quote, I really didn’t know what to expect.  I already knew he was a smart guy, so I imagined it would be interesting, but I didn’t have anywhere near the full measure of him at that point.  Yet I thought it was really cool that he had offered and it indicated that he wanted to go deeper than non-Newtonian fluids and Brasilian graffiti artists.

We had just exchanged a few discursive emails about fate, destiny, choice, pre-determination which were frankly a bit dry.  Actually, what I really wanted to know was whether or not Steve (and not only the doughnuts) had met a destiny called Melinda.  But I couldn’t ask that!  Though a week earlier when he had texted me about the doughnuts meeting their destiny, I replied –  : D  (indicating joy).  But I digress.

So I was expecting Steve’s favourite quote to be interesting, thought provoking, possibly a bit obscure, glib perhaps.  To be honest, a lot was riding on it because to me a favourite quote says much about a person’s values and worldview and focus of attention.  Mine does anyhow, although like one’s favourite colour it can change over the months and years.

Steve sent me his quote and prefaced it with whence it came –  a book called “The Way of the Sufi”, a collection of sayings and quotes from the writings of Sufi scholars that was given to him by his first boss and great friend.   He went on to say that his friend, who is no longer alive, was always searching for jewels of truth about his and our place in the universe.  I liked hearing about Steve’s friend and that he values his search for meaning and, coincidentally, I had recently been reading some stories by Indries Shah, author of said book.

The quote that stood out for Steve was by a 12th Century Sufi called El-Ghazali:

“You only truly possess that which would not be lost in a shipwreck.”

And here is what he said about it:  “I love it because it makes you think about who you are and what true riches exist inside. The search to know oneself, it suggests, is more important than the pursuit of any material possessions. At the same time, it doesn’t say that the ownership of things is wrong, just that the most valuable possession you have is your self-knowledge and your own values.”

I like this quote a lot and even more, what it reflects of Steve’s values and that he shared them with me.   So many people, and especially men, measure (or are made to feel they have to measure) their worth by external yardsticks and acquisitions – eg, what they do for a living, how much money they earn, where they live, what kind of car they drive.  Yet, at the same time, some people go too far in the opposite direction and eschew material belongings.  I like having beautiful things around me, good quality cookware, nice clothes, etc., but I’m not ruled by my possessions.  Still, I’ve never been solely interested in the external trappings and always look deeper to find out a person’s values and interests, what their inner compass is set towards.

When I read Steve’s reply, I realised that there is some fascinating uncharted territory to explore and that this may just be the man with whom I would like to set sail on a voyage.

Unspoken feelings

Over the weekend that we met, Melinda and I talked a lot. We spent as much time as possible in each other’s company and talked about everything from the properties of non-Newtonian fluid to the merits and demerits of Melinda’s first Birmingham balti curry. On the morning of Melinda’s return to Devon, we carried on talking – about canals, about a building in Digbeth – next to UB40’s old studios – that is covered in some remarkable graffiti.

But we did more than simply chat. We found ourselves opening up to each other and – as we later discovered – talking more freely than either of us had done in a very long time about ourselves, our beliefs and our thoughts.

So where to go from here? As we parted that September Monday morning – me to return to my office in the Custard Factory, Melinda to catch her train back to Devon – neither of us knew what would happen next. I knew I had met someone wonderful and extraordinary. I knew that I wanted to see Melinda again. And I knew that we had seen into each other’s souls; each of us opening a door and shedding light on places that had been hidden from view.

So, I texted Melinda to say that I hoped that she had caught her train on time and that she had managed to find the doughnuts she wanted for the journey. She had, but the train was full – and I texted my worries for the safety of the doughnuts. From Exeter, Melinda texted back to say that she’d arrived safely – and so had the doughnuts, only for them to meet a “dire fate”. I replied that their fate was not dire, they had simply met their destiny: a destiny called Melinda.

And, naturally, I wasn’t really talking about the destiny of a box full of Krispy Kremes. I was talking about the destiny of a box full of excitement and nerves known as Steve Coxon.

Doughnuts of Destiny

From there on, we were in touch every day in some way. When we weren’t sending text messages, we e-mailed. And when we didn’t e-mail, we wrote letters – the old-fashioned way – choosing paper and ink and words carefully. We exchanged gifts by mail too. Books, feathers, petals.

At first we talked about our weekend in Birmingham. I tracked down the graffiti artists responsible for the house next to UB40’s studios and discovered they were from a Brazilian group of artists who were about to decorate the Tate Modern in London. And we e-mailed each other a lot about them until – one day – Melinda asked what we would talk to each other once we got tired of Brazilian graffiti artists. I replied that there was no end of topics – she could ask me my favourite colour, my recipe for North Staffordshire oatcakes or my favourite quote. In other words, I said, there were enough things to talk about to last a lifetime.

Getting to know each other in these early days through the written word was wonderful. Both of us are thoughtful people and I, certainly, find it far easier to express myself in writing than through the spoken word. I have time to put my thoughts into some semblance of order and meaning before they appear on the page, rather than let them come tumbling out of my mouth.

Getting to know each other through writing enabled us to explore deep feelings and thoughts that – otherwise – may have been awkward to express face to face. So much of the spoken word relies on intonation that meaning can evaporate into the air. A written exchange, by contrast, is fixed and can be re-read, re-examined and questioned.

But, you may ask, what about spontaneity? I don’t think either of us had any trouble whatsoever in communicating with real spontaneity. While some of our written messages were carefully drafted and considered, others were dashed off in seconds – simply because the thoughts and the emotions contained within those words were already fully formed and bursting to be read.

Now, of course, we can simply reach out or turn our heads to say “I love you” – and do so every day. Yet we still write to each other – using Instant Messenger to send little notes to each other, even when we’re only at different ends of the flat. And we still text. But putting it in writing as we got to know each other – giving unspoken feelings a voice – is something that we both feel brought us much closer together, much more quickly, than if we had relied on the spoken word alone.