Monday, August 12, 2013

It's about time.

Dating is really hard, you guys. It’s mostly not fun. It’s mostly disappointing and discouraging and it makes me want to get a hysterectomy and go live in my friend’s basement in Canada until I wake up one day when it finally feels okay to be old enough to just stop trying.
But sometimes when you least expect it, you’ll meet someone who says all the right things and for the first time, you realize this isn’t a cliche. That men truly exist who say all the right things because all of his words are the right things when you meet an honest man. And the part of your brain that used to worry about angles and motives and plausible excuses is free to focus and feel other important things. That space you used to reserve for questioning and doubt is replaced with relief and resignation that you might possibly be happy again someday.
And in this context, when you give yourself permission to jump impulsively into the complete unknown, you do more than Just Land. You find yourself on new soil, with more sure footing and you remember all these years later what it feels like to be wanted. 
------ Holly
For almost a year, it was hard for me to forget that late August evening...of sitting outside Cafe Maude in South Minneapolis, when the wrong questions asked in the right order led me out to the bench on the sidewalk, with Karah trailing behind. She sat with me for a long time, nodding and listening as my voice broke and tears streamed down my face. "I wonder about that, too, Amber," she said to me, in that soft tone that she has when she is at her most gentle and understanding, when she is being the big sister I never had but always, always wanted. "How are you ever going to trust love ever again if this ends?" I nodded and brushed tears off my cheeks and thought about how that was the one thing that kept me where I was: If this ends...if this could end...then what the fuck would ever not? 
Two weeks later at The Otter, the bartender tried to flirt while I stood at the bar with my friend and ordered a beer from him. My friend nudged me and I rubbed my earlobe between my two fingers and looked away. "I think I'm probably done," I told her. "I think if this ends, I think I'm going to be done for a really long time." 
And then it ended. And I was done for a really long time. I packed up my stuff and moved out and went to LA and then came back to northern Wisconsin and I kept my head down and I worked really hard. I wrote a lot and practiced meditation daily and started new projects and figured out what I wanted my life to be like, now that I was starting all over again. And the only time I thought about dating was when it came up in conversation, like the way it did one early summer evening while having a glass of wine with two girls I've become close to up here. One of them asked how long it had been since I had been on a date. I gave my answer, saw her meet the other girl's eyes, and then, as if it had been rehearsed, they both nodded and told me it was time. "It's time," the one said. "It's time," the other repeated. "It's time," they both said again, this time in unison. "It is not time," I replied, bringing my wine glass back up to my lips. 
And it wasn't so much that my heart had been broken...it was that I felt like I couldn't trust myself anymore. To know what love really is and what can make a relationship go the distance and how to keep my head on my shoulders. We were perfect for each other until one day we weren't. We were really happy being together, until being apart made us happier. And none of that was predictable in the beginning. Or even right before the end, actually. And I kept wanting to see my way through it, to suddenly discover the golden lesson that could then be applied to all Next Times. And there just wasn't one, which frankly scared the shit out of me. So I decided to take some time and patch up all the pieces that had been torn away in the storm and work on being happy with my life and myself as it and I was, right at that moment. I healed up and moved on and got over it and was still okay with my total lack of desire to date, because, frankly, it was refreshing. I didn't lust for anyone, I didn't feel lonely, and I didn't long for more than I already had. And after a while, when it came to that particular part of my life, it wasn't that I didn't feel ready...it was that I just didn't want it enough, the dating thing, to actively do anything about it. 
Until one summer weekend turned my head around.

And it was time, it really was time, but I learned that, this time, it could be different. That the year I took to be by myself had made me different. I read Holly's post above and sort of nodded my head at the "Dating is really hard, you guys" part. Holly and Erica and I...I always think of us as being in this sort of same weird camp, when it comes to dating and relationships, in that it's always been a particularly painful process for us. We've had happy hours and emails and walks around the lake where we've talked about that very thing...dating has always been a hallowing out of those hidden vulnerabilities and buried insecurities and that torture chamber of taking everything so goddamn personally that you feel oddly hurt when he doesn't kiss you right away in the morning and who the fuck wants any of that, yeah?

But it's different now...kind of on purpose, and kind of not in that way where it's nice to know that we can still surprise ourselves with maturity and perspective and all that other good stuff that we didn't seem to have before. I'm a bit gun shy, admittedly cautious, but I'm enjoying myself. Dating, you guys...it can actually be kind of fun, yeah? There's a lot of new things I'm applying to my life right now, but the biggest one is that I don't actually know what's going to happen, and I know now that trying to predict that stuff is what makes one neurotic and sensitive and weirdly emotional, so I'm just not doing it. I repeat Paulson's "LIVE IN THE NOW!" voice inside my head and determine to enjoy this other person as much as I can for as long as they happen to be in my life, and I concentrate on having fun exactly where I'm at right now. And then I do.

(Everyone else reading this figured this all out about ten years ago, right? I finally caught up, everybody!)

And it just feels...nice. To be in a place where I don't have to try to get over anything or work so hard for something or worry about what may or may not happen. There are still those same questions that I don't have answers to yet, and for which I suspect those answers might always change, all the time...like how do you know what love really is and what can make a relationship go the distance...but the one thing I do know, now, is how to keep my head on my shoulders. And that makes me feel like I'm finally coming into myself.

About time. 

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