Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A Sort-of Anniversary

People talk about how love is hard.  It's work.  It's not easy.  And yes, that's all true.  It's not always easy to love someone who's sometimes all-too-human, who can disappoint you or say the wrong thing.

But it can be even harder to not love someone.

I should know.  I tried to not love someone for a decade.

I only met my boyfriend by chance 12 years ago.  If I hadn't been at a certain graduation party in the summer of 2003, and if I hadn't agreed to tag along with a few friends to a rehearsal for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, I don't think we ever would have met.  

But I was at that graduation party, and I went to that rehearsal.  And one of the first people I saw was this goofy bald guy, who made some ridiculous joke (some things never change).

And I knew.

I knew that this guy was going to be a part of my life, that I was never going to be done with him.  It's as close to love at first sight as I think can reasonably exist.

But I also knew that didn't make any sense.  I was eighteen.  I had just graduated high school.  I was going to Chicago for college.  Moreover, I didn't believe in love at first sight.

I was standing in a room full of strangers, being told that these strangers were named Sappy and Loopy and Woody and I remember wondering what alternate universe I had wandered into.  This guy, who was apparently named Woody, was obviously older than me, and so completely opposite of any other guy I'd ever had a crush on.  This was just another crush, I told myself, albeit an entirely inexplicable one.  I'd get over it.  Surely.  There was no way I was going to ever be in love with a bald guy nicknamed Woody who was thirteen years older than me and had a louder laugh than anyone I've ever known. 

No way.


I spent the rest of the summer suffering with this senseless crush, knowing that if I just made it through the summer and left for college, I'd get over it.  I'd find someone else.

Obviously, that worked well.
You can't say we didn't try.  I spent years convincing myself that I wasn't in love with him, including years spent not talking to him, and he did the same.  We were friends, sure.  I liked talking to him, sure.  I was attracted to him, sure.  But I wasn't in love.  How could I be?  He was too old for me, too conservative for me, too any-number-of-excuses for me.  I blatantly ignored the fact that I could always talk with him more than anyone else, that I wanted to be around him, that countless little things always reminded me of him.  I wasn't in love.

Then, a little over two years ago, I got off the phone with him and realized.  Shit.  I was in love.  It was terrifying.  It was completely, horrifyingly inconvenient.  And worse, it was entirely undeniable and made me feel ridiculously warm all over.  A few days later (exactly two years ago today, in fact), in the parking lot of a Walgreens, he told me he was in love with me.

I'm going to pause here and go back to my first (and only other) first "I love you."  It was my sophomore year of college, in the basement of Mary Martha.  I'd been dating the man I would end up marrying and he told me after barely a month that he loved me.  I didn't say it back.  Instead, I felt vaguely panicked.  It had been a month.  I liked him.  But I didn't really know him.  He didn't really know me.  I was still learning about dating.  It was all physical, superficial flirting.  I had no idea what I was doing.  Holding hands in chapel.  Exploring the boundaries of what I did and didn't want to do.  So I didn't say it back until a week or so later, when I'd worked myself up to it.  In retrospect, I realize that I basically talked myself into saying I loved him so that I wouldn't feel bad that he was saying it to me.

I spent the next almost nine years talking myself into the relationship, wondering why I didn't feel loved, figuring it was just me being cold and heartless.  My ex-husband said he loved me.  He bought me things, apparently because he loved me and thought that was what would make me happy.  He told me I was impossible to make happy, and I was baffled by that.  There were so many things that made me happy.  Unfortunately, he usually wasn't one of them.  Instead, I spent years of my life walking on eggshells, putting aside what I wanted to do because it would make him unhappy, or because it would start a fight that I could never win.  I didn't go out with friends, because he couldn't go.  I didn't perform in public, because he didn't approve.  I waited on him hand and foot, because he wanted me to.  Besides, it was easier to do what he wanted than to argue that I was tired, or had other plans, or that maybe I just wanted to do something else.  Trying to express my feelings to someone who didn't care was too exhausting.

But two years ago, when Mark told me that he was in love with me, it was a relief.  I didn't panic.  I didn't wait two weeks to say it back.  I didn't want more than a few seconds.  The words had been bubbling up inside me for days.  I didn't have to talk myself into it, because I'd been trying to talk myself out of it for ten years.

I went home after that and this article showed up on my Facebook.  It was perfect in every way.  Either one of us could have written it for the other.  Really, the fact that I shared it as a surreptitious love note is the only way I know that this is the two year anniversary of that day.  (Thanks, Timehop.) 

Being in love, this time around, is completely different in every way.  Mark is my best friend, my confidant, and seemingly the other half of my brain.  We've shared everything from dreams to thoughts to food cravings.  I've never doubted that he loves me, though I've often wondered why he does.

And, in spite of all the reasons we probably shouldn't, we work.  

We have fights and disagreements and off days, of course.  Everyone does.  And they suck.  A lot.  He's the one person I tell everything to, and when I can't talk to him because I'm furious with him, it kindof limits my options. (Though, apparently, I can yell at him with my brain.  So that's a plus.)  

So.  It's been two years since we both gave in to the apparently inevitable.  I don't know what I would have done without him in my life, and I know he's probably turning multiple shades of embarrassed red while reading this.  But if I'm going to be honest on here about the bad parts of my past, I also want to be honest about the good parts of my past, and my present.  Because though I still have PTSD and emotional baggage, there are a lot of good things.  And it's not just my job and my friends and my dog.  It's the love of my life, too.  He makes my life better, and I hope that I do the same for him.

And so ends my ridiculously sappy post on this sort-of an anniversary.  Perhaps next time I'll talk about my experiences taking Fish Eye Fun pictures of body builders, or my hopefully upcoming trip to the brand new IKEA, or my tips on how to survive working every single day of the week (spoiler alert: coffee).

Anything but romance and emotions. 

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