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.