“You can’t just sit around, saving your heart for some perfect idea of a man who is never gonna come along. Life is too damn short!” Sookie Stackhouse, True Blood (Season 2)
Some of us fall in love with vampires. Others fall in love with guys who can’t stop moving. In my case, I fell for a guy who is a perpetual motion machine, always traveling and working and making his mark on the world.
I spent a long time alone before Matt and I started dating. I went two entire years without a single date, let alone a boyfriend, after I was dumped by the guy who preceded Matt. I know what it’s like to be alone. I also know what it’s like to date someone who is not a very good match for me. My ex is a good person, a smart man, but I felt like I was starved for affection and warmth when I was with him. I kept waiting for him to love me more and better, but it never happened. He ended things, and I will always be grateful to him that he did. It turned out to be the nicest thing he ever did for me. He set me free. He opened up space in my life for someone new, and by the end of that same year, I had met Matt.
By now, you’ve probably figured out that Matt and I have an unusual arrangement. We live in different cities and visit each other about once every three months. It’s been this way since we started dating. The schedule is not ideal for me; in fact, I don’t really like it. I want to see him more often, but apart from asking for that and/or making ultimatums, there isn’t much I can do. I have asked and now I have made my decision to accept that this limitation is part of the package of being with Matt.
Why, oh why would I choose love with this man who chooses his work over almost everything else? My answers are many. Matt is what I would call an interesting person. I like interesting men—I always have. I can’t help it. He’s smart and funny and kind and unconventional. He is caring and empathetic, and when he’s around, I feel more loved than I’ve ever felt in my whole life. I feel radiant with love and so alive. (I often feel tipsy too, but I don’t think that’s Matt. I’m pretty sure it’s the wine.) Matt and I can talk about anything and everything. We had great talks before we started dating, but intimacy has made them even better. It’s opened new topics to us and guided us into deeper into familiar territory. My physical attraction to him grew out of a love for his mind and his heart. His body is very nice too, but it was a side benefit compared to how I felt about his intangible qualities. To fall in love with someone before you ever kiss is an amazing, transformative experience. And in hindsight, I do believe it was love. It was more than a crush, and it wasn’t really lust. It was bigger and deeper than either of those things. Kissing him was like sealing the deal on something that was already unfolding, even when I tried to ignore it.
One of the things that I appreciate about Matt is that he’s very good at love. He isn’t perfect, but he’s very good. He’s also very patient and not easily ruffled, which is why, when I had a meltdown last month, he didn’t melt. He stayed cool as a cucumber. Which is not to say that he felt nothing, but in a very Matt-like act of grace, he let me be, to figure out how I felt about us and where I wanted to go and if I wanted change.
In that time and space, the answers revealed themselves the way Texas wildflowers suddenly dot the landscape in the spring. Everything was underground, germinating, hidden, and then POP! My biggest revelation was not that I loved him and wanted to be with him, in whatever time we might have together, but that I could just ask for more time. The clincher was this: we would still be okay even if our schedule didn’t change. I would still love him and want to be with him. I’m not sure I’ve ever asked a boyfriend for something that felt so uncertain. I felt like if I was going to ask for something like time, which I know is a precious commodity to Matt, I had to be willing to put some sort of ultimatum on the table: we have to see each other at least every other month…OR ELSE! I don’t like ultimatums, but I felt trapped until I realized that asking could be enough. Just put it out there, I told myself. Put it out there and let it be known and then let it be. Let it go. So that’s what I did, and it felt wonderful. I am happy and at peace with my decision, and in the end, that’s what matters most.
Upon further reflection, I also realized that I had made a major mistake, which was this: I thought that Matt wasn’t “there” for me just because we’re almost always apart and he is often hundreds of miles away. But I cannot remember the last time that he didn’t call me back within a day of my calling him. That’s how he is there for me. I even do this terrible thing where I call and I don’t leave a message, but he calls me back anyway because he’s nice to me. Then I get to hear his voice and it feels like all is right with the world. Most days, that feels like enough. As you can imagine, I felt awful when I realized how little credit I had given Matt for his commitment to us, but because he is kind, he didn’t get angry or defensive. He let it go. By doing that, and a thousand other tiny things, he teaches me how to love gracefully. It’s hard to ask for more than that.
This weekend we’ll get to see each other again. I can’t wait. No, I have been waiting, since April in fact, so I think I can wait another two days. The waiting does make our visits feel romantic and special, and the fact that we’ve got a birthday to celebrate is making me feel giddy. I am way too excited about Matt’s presents, which are tied to our history and the things we love. But mostly I’m just so happy that I get to celebrate this birthday with him—it’s a big one, dear reader—and that we’re going to cook together again. I once wrote to Matt, “Being with you is about tasting and touching and taking deep breaths and laughing. It's about taking walks and cooking together.” Kissing and touching and whatnot are very nice, but after all this time, I think it’s the cooking together that seals the deal for me. It helped seal the deal the first time too. But if I don’t have to choose, if I can have all of it, I’ll take it. Love is large; it contains multitudes.*
*Thanks to Matt, from whom I shamelessly stole this line. But he borrowed it from Walt Whitman, who I think would approve of the paraphrasing from his famous poem.
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I’ll be a little preoccupied this weekend with my houseguest, so don’t be alarmed when this space is silent on Saturday. I’m sure I’ll have something to share with you next week, but I’m not sure when. In the meantime, enjoy your summer, dear reader, and take good care of yourself.