When planning a ceremony of any kind, there’s often a moment when you feel overwhelmed or out of control. Maybe it’s the enormity of committing to someone for the rest of your life, or the grief that you feel is all-consuming.
Some people, when they feel like this, find that they can become really hung up on a small detail to do with the day. Which photo should go onto the Order of Service becomes the subject of way more attention and worry than it normally would do, for example, or maybe what sort of sandwiches to serve at the wake afterwards. Napkin colours for weddings is a classic one to get into an unexpected tizz about and once, at a wedding rehearsal, I needed to calm down a groom who was getting very agitated about how the fairy lights were hanging between some trees.
In our house, we call this a ‘lunchbox moment’.
When my eldest daughter first started preschool, it felt like a huge step. She had been with me all day every day until that point and the separation anxiety was huge (for me more than her!) She was excited about going to ‘school’ and we set about getting her ready with the things she would need, like a lunchbox.
A lunchbox is pretty simple, right? But I hated the fact that all the ones that were available on first look were so gender stereotyped – pink princess ones for the girls and red or blue superhero ones for the boys. Bleurgh.
I wasn’t buying into it and became on the verge of obsessive about finding her a really cool lunchbox (this in the days when online shopping wasn’t nearly the thing that it is now), convinced that, if I got the right one, I’d somehow make her whole experience of preschool a lot more positive (I found one in the end – an awesome metal one with Wonder Woman on it that we still have somewhere but annoyingly I couldn’t find it to add a photo!)
But the point is that it was never really about the lunchbox. The lunchbox was just something I could control much more than the overwhelming feelings I had about my little girl going to preschool and the worries about whether she’d be ok and whether the other children would play with her etc etc ad infinitum. I poured myself into the procuring of the perfect lunchbox as a sort of symbolic object, representing all my hopes for how it would go – although I didn’t realise that at the time.
On my wedding day, it was my mum who had a lunchbox moment, only hers was about safety pins. With so much going on after months of preparation, she was about to get into the car with our bridesman when she decided she really should have some safety pins, just in case we needed them later.
Her reasoning was rational – if my dress needed pinning or for any of the 1001 reasons you might need a safety pin, we would have one on hand. Her turning the house upside down looking for said safety pins, was not so rational (and made me twenty minutes late for the wedding, a fact my husband still reminds me about regularly, more than two decades on…!)
Whether it’s safety pins, lunchboxes, fairy light drapes or something else entirely, if you find yourself panicking over a thing you wouldn’t normally give more than 5 minutes thought to, you’re having your own ‘lunchbox moment’. There’s a very good chance you’re overwhelmed with some of the big emotions that are going on for you right now.
The best way to deal with this is to stop and recognise it for what it is. Say it out loud if you can, e.g. ‘I’m worrying too much about (what you’re worrying about) right now because I am feeling a lot of (emotion) around (situation)’. If you can’t name what it is exactly that you’re feeling, just say ‘overwhelm’.
Take about a minute to acknowledge how the emotion feels in your body – where is it? What is it like? Then take at least five deep ‘square’ breaths (breathe in for 4, hold for 4, breathe out for 4, hold for 4). When you’ve done that, have a wiggle or a shake, get outside into nature if you can and give yourself as much of a break as you can in that moment (maybe not if the car’s waiting for you though!)
And to curtail these moments happening in the first place, talk through your feelings about ‘the big thing’ with a friendly ear, and/or get into the habit of journaling. This will help you process your thoughts and feelings far better than any lunchbox could!
Need a celebrant who will really get your lunchbox moments? Give me a call!