Earlier this month I flew up to Toronto to celebrate the engagement of my amazing sister Michelle. Shel, as we all call her, is the third girl and fifth child. She got engaged last Christmas and this engagement party is part of her “10 year plan” on the road to the altar – her words not mine!
Shel and her fiancé Tony put together a gorgeous fête. Tony has the imagination and ability to construct just about anything—a truly rare talent in a man these days. He built a stage for their guests to dance on; a rustic lamp, which he strung from a branch that extended over the equally gorgeous and skillfully crafted wooden bar. Cloth covered rectangular hay bales with tree stumps, 2-3 feet tall nestled between them, provided tired guests with a place to relax and nurse their drinks. White paper lanterns surrounded the stage, while red lanterns of matching size were scattered among the branches of a nearby tree. Holes were drilled into old tin cans, allowing the light from the candles buried inside to cast their magical glow across the garden.
Every time I visit Canada I’m reminded of two truths. One, that country is freaking cold! And two, the Stirling sisters are hilariously similar – headstrong, proud, brutally honest, independent to a fault, and painfully hard on ourselves. For some unexplainable reason we think that doing something the easy way means we’re doing it wrong. We will wear ourselves ragged in the pursuit of perceived perfection, convinced that achieving anything less means we’ve failed. We perform best under immense pressure and thus derive a sick satisfaction from overloading our work and/or school schedules. But when we’re all together, we will happily whittle away the hours sipping wine and chatting about work, food, and the men we incessantly torture with our impossible standards and difficult ways.
Engagement party and wedding speeches tend to be chock-full of tips on how to behave as a couple, or so-called “secrets to a happy marriage”. As the oldest, and only married, sister I suppose I am expected to pass along the plethora of lessons that I’ve learned since I walked down the aisle seven years ago. I won’t pretend to know all the secrets to a happy marriage… I’m still figuring that out myself. So I will leave it to your more “wifely” friends to pass along those particular words of wisdom. What I do know is that you have to remain an individual. And that means the following:
- Pursue your own passions and interests. It’s hard to respect a woman who only likes something because her significant other is into it.
- Be with a man who, by his own example, challenges you to be the very best version of yourself.
- Never make yourself small because he needs to be big in order to feel good about himself.
- At the end of the day you get one life – from time to time take a step back and make sure you are living the one you’ve always dreamed of having. If you’re not, do something about it.
- Lastly, if you ever begin to feel like you’re losing yourself, come spend a few quality days with your sisters… we’ll remind you who you are, and that you come by all that crazy honestly!
A special thanks to Shel and Tony’s friend and event photographer, Nicholas Zalevich, for the use of his photos.