Fifty One Percent

“You’re going to write about this, aren’t you?”

I spent last week exploring Milwaukee with my Boy, his sister, and his sister’s husband. We ate far too much at their favorite local places, curled up in soft blankets and slept in a bit later each day, and danced, concert-style, to bluegrass, rock, and soul bands at Summerfest. I got to see both condos he’d like to buy if he lived in Milwaukee. He indulged my request for a photo of us which, since he is anti-selfie, meant he set up his fancy camera equipment in the middle of a park and raced across the bridge and up the steps to where I was sitting before the 10-second timer elapsed and the image was captured. (Some of these pictures are more flattering than others.) He held my hand while we drove and I met his people, an eclectic group so warm and welcoming you’d think I’dve known them for years. And when we sat on a bench outside of the Colectivo Coffee that overlooks Lake Michigan, all I could think was “yes. This. For the rest of my life,” even when he quoted the first 5 minutes of Forest Gump line-by-line (something I actually really enjoyed). Because that moment, sitting with that man, knowing that he respects me and values me and chooses me, was perfect.

That moment, though, was vacation. It was five days that I got to spend with my boyfriend and without responsibilities. That gnawing reality of we-live-in-two-completely-different-cities was absent; I kissed him goodnight and then good morning hours later. When we had some of our more serious discussions, I was actually able to look into his eyes. You don’t know how much easier it makes those conversations when you can actually see the face of the person you’re talking to.

But then, suddenly, it was Monday and we were packing again. One of Andy’s major “plus skills” is the ability to find an amazing deal and for this trip that meant staying at three different hotels. Since I had extra room in my suitcase, I nabbed the random things we had both purchased and packed them with my belongings, just like I had the last two times. This time, though, was different. We weren’t just packing to go to the next place, we were packing to go home. To our individual homes, in cities that are two-and-a-half hours apart. His shoes and Penzeys spices would need to wind up with him after we got off the plane and before I started my long drive home. And then my eyes welled up because I realized that he wasn’t just packing his socks and toothbrush into his suitcase, he had parts of my heart in there too, parts that I hadn’t planned on giving away to a man I’ve only known for 6 months, especially not one who is just so busy and far away.

When we first started dating, Andy told me that the absolute hardest part would be distance. Long-distance relationships were something he had much more experience in and I didn’t doubt him. I don’t think I understood exactly how hard it would be and why it would be hard. Besides the typical “I just like being with him” stuff, there’s the “I don’t actually need my anxiety medicine when I’m with him!” part. And the “I want to take care of him” thing. And because of how well we connect, because I see glimpses of what it could be like when we’re together, it’s even harder to drive away from him at the end of the day. To feel like you’re closer than ever to something you’ve wanted your entire life and to know that you’re still not quite there yet is painful. For this season, however long it winds up being, I have to be patient. And, harder still, patient with a positive attitude.

It’s hard. Really, really hard. And I know there are so many other people who have much more challenging situations than I do. I’ve heard stories from people who have happy, healthy marriages after spending chunks of their pre-marriage relationship apart from each other. It is inspiring and humbling. I wish that those stories made it feel easier but for now, this is just something that I have to walk through as it happens.

One day, I will have someone who comes home to me after work, who I can cook for and talk to about his day. Someone with whom I can build my life, raise children, and grow old. And though that day is not today, it is ever-closer.

And I told you to be patient,
And I told you to be fine,
And I told you to be balanced,
And I told you to be kind.

iGeneration

So by now you know that I’m dating a man who lives far too far away from me. What I probably haven’t fully explained, however, is why I’m dating a man who lives far too far away from me. As he and I have both stated to each other when the other person (almost always me) is feeling insecure, if we wanted to, we could each date someone who leads a less complicated life and lives closer. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t considered it for a minute but it was quickly rejected as an option. I mean, whoever that new man was wouldn’t be Andy. And though there isn’t (much to my chagrin) an established timeline for us to figure all of this out, he’s worth the frustrations associated with long-distance relationships.

Yeah, I didn’t actually answer the “why?” question there, did I? Ugh. I know. I got a little sidetracked! Okay, trying this again…

Part of why I’m dating this particular man is because of the conversations we have. I’m a fairly intelligent person so I need someone who can not just keep up with me, but challenge me. He’s able to bounce between serious and inane, handle my squirrel-moments (sudden shifts in topics that aren’t concretely connected), and express his thoughts articulately. He has opinions and while they don’t always match mine, we can have actual discussions about our unique points of view.

We talk about the future a lot. Not just ours, but the future of the world. As much as I’d like to continue to live in my safe, happy kindergarten bubble, the world is a really scary place right now. It doesn’t look like it’s going to get much better, either. There’s terrorism, racism, human trafficking, violence, destruction and disasters featured prominently in news feeds of every variety across the world. And in between recountings of sorrow and hatred, we’re inundated with the latest celebrity gossip. Do I think it’s my business to know the intimate details about Bruce Jenner’s transformation from “him” to “her”? Nope.

There’s also a different, yet equally haunting issue that scares me. It came up in a conversation this weekend with my Boy. He was pointing out the irony in how many creative-type people solely use Apple products, which are more rigid in design/function and thus limit creativity. (Note: I love Apple products. I’m actually typing up this blog post on my MacBook Air. I do, however, see his point.) This discussion shifted into one about how the younger generation has an easier time understanding how to use new technology but cannot troubleshoot their own problems.

Here’s how this all connects for me: we’re raising the iGeneration, a group of people who are impatient, self-centered, and alternate between feeling numb and indignant. And it’s not going to end well.

Earlier today, I was helping a nephew make cookies for his dad for Father’s Day (translation: I made cookies for his dad for Father’s Day. It’s ok, he’s little) with Lego’s Ninjago cartoon playing in the background. At the beginning of the episode the ninjas were asked, “what is the best way to defeat your enemy?” The answer [SPOILER ALERT] was “make him your friend.” I was really not expecting that much wisdom from a cartoon. And it’s easy to write it off or claim that it’s just for kids because we grown ups deal with “real issues” but that’s a cop-out.

I’m not suggesting that we round up all the child pornographers and invite them out to coffee, just that we need to do things differently. We need to pray, for protection, Godly justice, and wisdom.

What if we were different? What if we were people whose first reaction was love? What if we raised our families to value kindness, solve problems using critical thinking and effort, and attempt to see things from other people’s perspectives? I know it wouldn’t solve all of the problems we have going on now, but wouldn’t it make things easier?

What I’m saying is this: there is enough gloom, doom, and destruction already. It’s time for hope.

154 Miles

About a year ago, I started doing life coaching with my friend Kate. Mary, #bff extraordinaire, had been working with her on growing her freelance business and I thought, “hmm…I wonder if Kate could do life coaching with me for building up my concept of self-worth.” See, while I had (and thankfully, still have) parents and friends who clearly loved me while I was growing up, I never really connected with that whole “you have value independent of the tasks you’re able to perform” thing. That’s where Kate came in, asking questions that made me look at myself a different way. And after a few months of intentional, pointed conversations, it was clear that was I growing so I took a big step and plunged into online dating. I spent my Sunday afternoons chronicling my “adventures” on this blog for several weeks, partly because they were so ridiculous that they became hilarious, and partly because I wanted to help show all of my friends who are considering online dating that it’s actually not all that scary. And while I met more than a few, umm, special people, I got connected with a pretty great one. We’ve spent the past several months learning more about each other and having 8+ hour dates. He brings me flowers and I send him little care packages to his office. And it’s great.

Only, he and I live 2 1/2 hours away from each other. Our lives are busy and complicated and I only get to see him every 3 or 4 weeks. After I hang up the phone from talking with him, I think through these things and that’s where I stop: with sadness that for the time being, the bulk of my “time” with this man isn’t in person.

Today, though, I had a revelation. See, on one of our last phone calls I was explaining how everything just feels so crazy right now in pretty much every area of life. The Boy pointed out that as long as my foundation is solid and made up of what actually matters, I’ll always ultimately be ok. Things around me can get shaky and feel like they’re crashing down but if a strong foundation has been laid properly, I can rebuild whatever falls. Today I connected that conversation to these moments, when I’m sad because what I want more than pretty much anything is just to be able to actually look into his eyes when I talk to him and I realized that I can see the distance as a huge burden or as an opportunity to lay a solid foundation. I have no idea whether I’ll marry this guy, or the next guy, or the guy after that, but I do know that I want a relationship rooted in good communication. Having 90+% of learning about someone happen over the phone is an insurmountable task if you don’t connect with that person communication-wise. So today, I’m choosing to see a blessing in this.

But don’t me wrong; long distance still sucks. A lot.

I’m not sure I would’ve been able to handle a long-distance relationship with someone in a healthy way if a good friend hadn’t helped me learn more about the value I have. I definitely have moments of doubt where I think (and typically text these questions to this patient man I have found) “why is this guy even with me!?” but those are undoubtedly fewer and farther between than they would have been 18 months ago. I now know a bit more about what I bring to the table in a relationship. The man I wind up marrying will be lucky, indeed.

And I’m positive I will be, too.

Five Dates

Hey there, kids!

So, remember that guy I told you about? The one I first mentioned here, went on a date with here, and deactivated my online dating accounts for here? Well, in case you hadn’t gathered it via my mentions of “the boy” on social media, we’re officially together. If we lived in the 1950s, I’d wear his letterman’s jacket to our high school football games. Only I’m 29, he’s 34, and I don’t think he had a letterman’s jacket. Plus, I was in the marching band so I didn’t get to sit with non-band nerds. I also don’t think he ever would’ve gone to a high school football game. This metaphor is getting away from me. Moving on.

When I was in high school, I would grumble to my friend Christine (among others) about not having a boyfriend. Her response was that she was confident that I’d only have to have one boyfriend and he would be “the one.” For a long time, I believed her. When I didn’t date in college, I held onto that statement for dear life: one boyfriend and I’d marry him. [Andy, if you’re reading this, please don’t freak out.] But now that I’m actually in a relationship, I cling less tightly to that idea. [Told you not to freak out.] I mean, I wouldn’t be dating this man if there were red flags flying everywhere – I do want to get married one day. But truthfully, I wasn’t the type of girl who could’ve handled a relationship with someone knowing it was, more likely than not, just temporary. I’m still not that type of girl. Which brings me to the crux of what I want to say: there is nothing wrong with being 29 and just now pursuing a relationship.

There are those who are masters at recognizing that some people are only in our lives for seasons. That most relationships have an expiration date of sorts and that when it happens, you accept it and move on. It doesn’t mean they’re detached or not fully invested in their relationships, just that they understand this as a fact of life. I am not one of those people. I mean, I still miss Carly, my best friend during kindergarten. I do not let go easily or well. I pretty much do the opposite, grasping as tightly as I can to someone even when I know I’m supposed to let go. Could you imagine me “casually dating”? That could not possibly end well!

So, ladies (and gentlemen) out there who may be wired similarly, please don’t be discouraged when your Facebook newsfeed shows you that your friend Jenny is “in a relationship” for the third time this year. She’s built differently than you are. It’s not better or worse, it’s just different. And, most importantly, believe me when I say that there isn’t anything “wrong” with you for not involving yourself in casual relationships. You and I were made purposefully, intentionally, and beautifully. That’s something that’s taken me the better part of 29 years to learn – I hope your learning curve is faster than mine.

Happy Weekend,
Kyla

Week 12: Moments in the Woods

Ok. So, Sunday I deactivated my online dating profiles.

Before you start to panic that maybe I’ve lost my mind, let me explain. A few weeks ago I went on a date with a man (Week 8 of this adventure) and it went well. Like, really well. And, because I have no frame of reference for what a normal first date is supposed to look like (see: the worst first date of all time), I’ve spent the last few weeks driving myself (and my friends) crazy. Is this normal, having a date that lasts 8 hours? What does this mean? Am I supposed to call him? He lives 2 1/2 hours away – how do I deal with the distance thing? Am I supposed to be talking to other guys? And is it crazy that I don’t really want to?

Thankfully for my nerves, I’ve seen him twice this week: first here in the ‘ville, then in St. Pete. Each of those dates lasted well over nine hours and I’m pretty sure that if we could have stayed out longer, we would have. Spending that massive a chunk of time with someone on a second or third date seems (to me, at least) a bit crazy, but when you factor in the facts that our schedules are both full and we live about 150 miles away from each other, it makes sense. Plus, it’s just so easy to spend the day with him. He’s smart enough to keep me on my toes and ridiculous enough to make up meanings with me for the paintings in the Dali museum (an insurmountable task for some, believe me).

Now, I know what you’re thinking: I just met this guy a few weeks ago. We’ve only been on a handful of dates. There’s a lot of physical distance between the two of us. All completely valid points and things I’ve spent hours mulling over in my head. Still, though, I deactivated the accounts because something about having access to look up other guys that I’m “compatible” with makes me feel uneasy. It isn’t exactly shady but it definitely doesn’t feel right.

I’m not saying this guy is going to be my husband. At this point, I’m not even sure he’s my boyfriend (though Kristi has different thoughts on that subject). What I am saying is that given what I’ve learned about him, he deserves my undivided attention.

Weeks 10 & 11

I didn’t write a blog update last week. I almost didn’t write one today and there’s a good reason: there’s not a whole lot to update you guys on. These past two weeks I haven’t really done anything with my online dating accounts. I mean, if people take the time to message me, I write them back but I haven’t really sought out any new potential matches. I have, however, spent the past two weeks getting to know a bit more about the man I went on a date with a few weeks ago.

It’s an interesting internal debate I have going on: I only went on one date with this guy. We’d established that one date did not equal exclusivity and that’s not anything I’d ask of him at this point (I’m a girl, but I’m not a psycho girl). But the more I get to know about him, the less time I want to devote to looking for someone else.

For clarity’s sake, I am absolutely NOT stating that this man is “the one” for me. I don’t know enough about him to know that he isn’t though, and that’s why I’m stalling a bit. Tomorrow I’ll be spending a good amount of time with him and hopefully will gain some clarity.

Wish me luck!

Week 9: Don’t Jump

Happy Sunday! Or, if you’re a teacher like me, Unhappy Last Day of Vacation Before Real Life Resumes! I should probably be working on my lesson plans or updating my literacy stations for this semester but there’s just too much in my head that has to come out first. So, thanks for being here to help me wade through it all. #externalprocessor

A week or so ago, I went on a really nice date with a really nice man. There’s plans to go out again but that won’t happen until my next day off of work which isn’t for a few more weeks. So until then, I’m in an awkward limbo stage. One date does not equal exclusivity, even if it was an 8+ hour date (a fact I confirmed with this man. Mary warned me that one should typically not ask these types of questions but truly, I don’t care. And he was gracious about it, very clearly communicating his opinion on the subject and assuring me that while we weren’t exclusive, he did like me and was excited about getting to see me again).

Now what?

No, seriously, I’m asking: what do I do now?

I feel conflicted. I’m not saying that this particular man is the man who will be my husband – I think you’d need to have me committed if I was making that claim after knowing someone for a matter of weeks. And I’ve met a few new people on both christianmingle.com and eHarmony.com who seem nice enough, but there’s something intriguing about this other guy. I like him.

Ugh. I’m such a girl.

I’m a very impatient person. Having a plan at all times is a necessity and I thrive when there’s structure, stability, and security. But I have no way to plan for this and in the absence of a plan, I jump back. I analyze every conversation and decide that they all point to not what’s obvious (that this has potential) but to something negative. If I let myself, I will sabotage every relationship I have, whether it’s a friendship or something romantic.

The point of that entire last paragraph is that by admitting that this is my pattern, I can change it. It’s possible that there’s nothing beyond a second date with this particular man, but I can’t count myself out before I find out.

Yeah. Not a bad week, but not a happy, bubbly fun week. Thank goodness for the distraction of work that starts again tomorrow!

And, because I can’t close out one of these posts without something ridiculous that’s happened, one of the guys I’m talking to on christianmingle.com can’t spell. Like, pretty much at all. I’m not the best speller ever but I know that neighbor isn’t spelled “naubor” and this guy doesn’t. It makes me question his claim that he has a Bachelors degree.

Alright, I can only procrastinate finishing my lesson plans for so long. Thanks for giving me the space to work through these thoughts. And for not judging me out loud or to my face. 🙂