Grace and Gratitude

The Bouquet that started it all.

I never thought I would meet a nice guy. Or a decent guy. A kind guy. Someone who was sweet to his mother and animals. The kind of guy who had interests, passions, and hobbies. A real person that cared about things that mattered, who lived for a cause, and wanted things in the earth to grow.

This is, to many people, the definition of an interesting person. But when my fiancé went out of his way to meet my dog, get to know my roommate, FaceTime my father, all before we became an official couple standing in my doorway with a bouquet of wildflowers, wherein I made the move – I knew he was intentional. Nothing he did was by chance. He saw the world in a grand design of patterns, a graph of charts and maps to set upon to reach a glorious destination. His heart was tender but it’s beat was strong, rhythmic and deep, he was searching for someone with whom it could roam the forests with in the daytime and snuggle up with by the firelight after dark. That heart saw something in mine and it didn’t want to leave.

If I seem like I romanticize him here it is in part true. He deserves it because of what I’ve put him through, and the path that he’s chosen that I’ve so often warned him about: a life married to someone coming to grips with chronic pain.

Very often I flip flop between positivity and deep negativity on this blog. It’s hard to remain objective at age 27, engaged and not used to parts of yourself you didn’t know exist emerging in pain on random days of the week. My fiancé has been a real trooper in that he miraculously understands that when I try to rain on his parade, it’s my physical pain talking. This is why he is my Bear. He is strong and elusive, yet fuzzy, warm and a great comfort.

A few weeks ago I wrote Bear a letter and asked him to put it on the wall, somewhere he could easily see it, in case my pain took over and I didn’t behave how I wanted. In the letter I put a piece of myself that was still gentle and loving and would give him a kiss when he needed it if he would only look at it.

Maybe that’s marriage insurance, but I can only do so much for my dear Bear right now.

To my Bear, I give you all the tenderness in the world and I thank you for sticking by me through all my inexplicable suffering. I’m glad you’re the team optimist. Let’s make it to the wedding day.

Why I Turned to Online Dating

My entire life, I only attracted and dated schmucks. Even these instances were few and far between, maybe once every three years. 

It wasn’t that I was unattractive at the time. I was fit, tan, and pretty. But I was shy and dealing with a lot of trauma. My insecurities outshone my physical features, and that drove away men more than any of my better qualities could attract them.

When I was in college, I had a particularly bad dating experience that left me feeling broken. During and after the breakup I felt like a shell of a person. I didn’t even feel human. What happened between the two of us made me develop agoraphobia and I feared men the most. 

For a while this wasn’t a problem, until I met a certifiably nice guy at my friend’s wedding the summer after I graduated college.

He was tall, handsome, and polite. At the last slow dance of the evening he approached and respectfully asked me if I would like to dance. I said yes. It turned out to be the last song of the reception, and we quickly exchanged names and numbers.

I checked him out with my friend, the bride, and found out he was a close friend of the groom. She was excited for me, enthused with the idea that I had found my future husband at her wedding. Her husband had great things to say about him.

Hopeful, I became electrified when he texted me saying he was coming to my area. He asked me to dinner and I decided to go to a vegan diner relatively close to my house. I really didn’t want to mess things up so I scrubbed my front door which was covered in bird poop (my family and I had a family of swallows that lived above the door that we couldn’t bear to get rid of). To my surprise he pulled up in a brand new red Lexus.

Well, I thought, this is going to be different.

I was dressed in my bridesmaid dress (faux pas, but it wasn’t formal, more like a sundress) and he came to the door in a suit. I think. I don’t remember. He was dressed much nicer and more fashionably than most guys I’d met. My parents met him at the door high school style and I was dying inside, knowing I was falling on my face with this dating thing. It was no wonder I was single and an old crone by Christian standards at age 23.

When we made it to the diner, he expressed he wasn’t expecting something so informal. But he was charmed by the local artwork for sale on the walls, and tried to make eye contact with me. I felt anger turn up in my stomach when he did this, and it wasn’t because I did not like him or find him unattractive. Quite the opposite. My manphobia had reared its ugly head, and I found myself giving him terse and abrupt answers to his polite questions.

I finally had a gentleman, and my brain was on the fritz. This scarred brain, hurt by all the scoundrels it had been with before, did not know what to do with a decent human being.

He proceeded to continue with the date, but I cut it short after I couldn’t bear it anymore. I felt bad about this after a few days because I did like him, who wouldn’t, so I texted him. He told me he didn’t want to be in a long distance relationship, and I understood.

After this I went to therapy for six months, got a big kid job and moved out with a family friend from high school.

Within the first few months of us rooming together, I learned my friend had an evil ex as well that she was trying to put behind her. After I volunteered at a few funerals, she kept nudging me to sign up for Tinder, find a guy, settle down, and have the “wedding of the century” (my exaggerated words in an attempt at a joke, not hers) at our home area to make up for all the funerals. 

I like boy talk as much as the next girl, and it seemed to me that in today’s world, the only way anybody went on a date was to go online. My roommate was extremely beautiful, and it seemed odd to me that no one would approach her in person. She explained that nobody approached anyone in person anymore. 

The more I heard about her dates, the more a creeping notion grew in my brain. It wasn’t about finding someone to settle down with. It was about healing.

Maybe I could use these dating apps to expose myself to men gradually, screen them for red flags, and heal myself of the fear I was living with. 

Although the fear is not completely gone and it bleeds into my current relationship, I have found great healing in going slow and giving it a shot. Along the way I found my fiance. 

It is true that I came across some really bad apples. With online dating, it is imperative to use caution and safety guidelines. 

Some people are real jerks and can really test your emotional limits. Walk away and let yourself be. 

When the time is right, your healing will come. I did not desire healing for years. But when I wanted it I found more than I bargained for.

And now, a recap:

Pocket full of starlight: Online dating can be used for multiple purposes, including overcoming our greatest fears.

Pocket full of darkness: Online dating can be emotionally draining and dangerous, please exercise caution!

My Busband, My Husband

Photo credit: Tauni Joy photography

My fiancé came over to comfort me, as is his good fiancé custom. He truly is a blessing. When it comes to words I can only say that I am the luckiest.

We are two quiet, nerdy people, who enjoy art, animals, and nature. Together we sit and play with the dog, each knowing that the other is there, and even though there is not a fire burning in the fireplace we feel a warmth. This is love.

Love found me at the strangest of times. It found me when all the mom advice and rom coms in the world would tell me it shouldn’t. I was not at the top of my game. Not crushing it at work. I was entering into my health crisis and the fight of my life when I met my fiancé.

When I first met him at a vegan burger stand, I had been throwing up every night for two months and generally feeling a malaise. I hadn’t wanted to come to the date. He was an internet stranger from a dating app. I was nauseous with a fever and hadn’t slept for a few weeks from vomiting all night. In order to meet him we had to go to a halfway point that was 20 minutes away and I was driving a 25 year old car. Before I had bought a new car after graduating college, but that had been totaled 6 months prior.

Instead of cancelling, I changed into grey leggings, a knit coral V neck and my nice grey winter jacket. It was raining and I had just gotten my hair done earlier that day. I tossed on a beret and eased my way down my apartment stairs.

When I got there, I saw a nervous looking dude in thrifted khakis and a polo beneath a street light. He was curled up against a pillar and it looked like he was soaked from the rain. The light made him glow a strange jaundice yellow, and when I approached him there was fear in his eyes with a gentle sadness. Trepidation, a fear of a repeat date. Being that guy again.

I took it as extreme shyness and smiled my biggest smile. At that moment I decided I was going to make him feel comfortable, no matter how silly I looked. Now I am extremely shy, horrible at conversation, but I decided to find a common subject and talk on it. He revealed he went to church, so we talked about Christianity. I know, I know. Bad move. But he apparently liked it.

We went to an art supply store next. I pointed out some tools I used in art school, which brands I thought were best, and we had an intelligent conversation. There I noticed something remarkable. The yellow light was gone, and he was glowing white as a lion’s star, like the beacon of happiness had landed on him. He had a gentle essence about him, and I knew this meant he was a good, kind person. Call it stupidity or call it intuition. I will call it intuition, because he has been nothing but kind to me.

We decided to go shopping at the mall, but on our way to our cars, I began to feel as if I would vomit. I was almost afraid I would not be able to drive home and would need to call an Uber. Apologetically I turned to him and explained I was sick, and that I liked our date. I asked him to text me when he got home, and to be safe driving. He smiled, and said he would in a triumphant yet sad voice.

I drove home, feeling miserable, anxious about the wet roads and my nausea. When I got home, I noticed I had a notification. This man had actually texted me that he had arrived home.

What.

Me, pessimist that I am, figured he thought I was trying to get out of a bad date, which I wasn’t. He had some form of hope that I was not and believed I actually was ill. Our first trust fall was our first date. This is how it began, and this is how it is.

Now, a recap:

Pocket full of starlight: people who say you have to have your life together to find a good person or love are flat out wrong. You are deserving of love even if your ducks in a row are a bunch of angry geese.

Pocket full of darkness: expect to be judged for your angry geese.