This is Part Two of a little rambling series about love. If you missed Part One, read this first!
Oh, nostalgia. How easily it paints over rough and crumbling bits of the past. How deceptively it makes the past look happy and carefree, like so many halcyon days spent frolicking in the sunshine. It’s easy to rewrite the past, and maybe that’s for the best. Whatever pains we endured, we know that we made it through to the present moment.
I remember now what the hardest part of being with Matt is: the part where I’m not with him.
It’s funny because now I’m so accustomed to the rhythm of our relationship that I almost want to make a phone call to myself, circa 2007, to say two things to her. “You should totally go for it with Matt! And it’s okay to miss him because he’ll miss you too. He’s worth it, and you’ll get used to being with him and not being with him. That rhythm, for you, will seem normal eventually. I know it seems really crazy and impossible, but it’ll be great. Trust me.”
When he visits me in my little town, it’s like I get to go on vacation for a few days, and I love that sense of being able to relax and enjoy what this town has to offer. Postdoc life, it seems, is a life devoted to work. Weekends without work? I don’t remember what those are. I miss those weekends. Because he works all the time, Matt understands my life and the relentless demands of work that I’m facing these days. When I tell him that even during his visit, I’ll need to go to the lab to collect some data, he doesn’t roll his eyes or make a face to express his displeasure. Instead, he does what he always does and says, “Hey, that’s cool. I’ll just go read while you are working.”
I know it sounds like such a small thing. But to have someone believe in you, really believe in you, is almost like having a superpower. I wrote to him this week, telling him that I was feeling overwhelmed with the most recent twist in my research, and he wrote back, “I know that you can do it.” His relentless positive cheer and support is the perfect antidote to the anxiety that’s telling me I can’t do this.
So I soldier on, bolstered by the support of a ridiculously confident man, and when he comes to visit me, I scale back my weekend workload so that we can spend some time together, in person, a rare treat. Matt visited me last month, a week after one of the worst days in my working life, when the dust and the debris had barely begun to settle. I told him he was brave, coming to visit me at such an awful time, and he said he was sorry he couldn’t have been there for me when things fell apart the week before. I felt bad for him, because as much as I wanted to have a fun, relaxing weekend with him, I wasn’t sure it was going to happen because I was so wrapped up in anger, fear, and worry.
Our visit was a little bumpy at first, and it was all my fault. There were tears, and disappointment, and a bottle of expired wine. (The wine was actually Matt’s fault, his first ever fail when picking wine for us to drink! It’s good to know that even he-who-has-more-confidence-than-Barack-Obama fails every once in a while.) We ended up ditching the bad wine and heading over to Veritas, a beautiful and charming wine bar and bistro just down the road from my apartment. I really like Veritas, but it’s a tad pricey for my budget, so I go there less often than I’d like. But that evening, though we had dinner reservations elsewhere, Veritas was the perfect place for happy hour. We shared two glasses of wine and a plate of stinky cheeses, and I fell in love with Matt all over again, even though he tried to poison us both just minutes before.
Maybe it was the wine, or maybe it was the way that going to Veritas reminded me of a special evening we’d shared in that bistro last summer, but I felt like someone had pushed my reset button and I could finally, finally relax into the weekend. After Veritas, we hopped in the car and drove to Bryan for a nice dinner at Madden’s, where the food was good but not great. My salad was terrific and totally delicious, but my entree was so-so and too spicy for my taste. (I blame the jalapeno pesto. And maybe I should have known better?) They did have a pretty big menu, so perhaps I didn’t hit the dinner jackpot and should try my luck again. But to be honest, at that point, good-but-not-great food was fine with me. I was perfectly content to sit at a table with my favorite carnivore, sipping wine and enjoying our date and feeling more like myself with every passing minute. Because as much as I may be unruffled by the time we spend apart, I like it more when we are together. That’s what romance is to me: time spent together, hoping for emotional and physical intimacy. It’s so simple but so hard to get right. It can’t be forced, but it can be planned, a little bit, and then we just have to smile and dive in.
I’m so glad I took that first plunge.
Stay tuned for Part Three of the essay that goes on and on!