I mentioned in an earlier post how I had built up emotional walls after my ex-wife left in order to keep anyone from getting close. You see, I was going through my life pretty much blissfully ignorant of any problems in my marriage. I always joke around that men are pretty simple and not all that bright and that when women tell us that nothing's wrong, we believe them. But apparently, a lot of things had been festering under the surface in my ex's head that I didn't even know were issues until they had grown to such a magnitude that she could no longer get past them. How did I not know they were issues? Well, primarily because she never even mentioned them to me. I found out later that she had talked to any number of other people about them but for whatever reason never talked to me, the one person who could actually do something about them. Additionally, it seems that everyone else around us could tell what was happening between her and her now husband but, again, I was pretty much clueless about the whole thing.
So when she told me was leaving I was totally blindsided. I'd say that it was a huge emotional punch in the gut but that doesn't go anywhere near far enough to describe how much it hurt and all I knew at that time was that I did not ever want to go through that again. And the only way to ensure that that didn't happen was not to put myself in a position where it could happen again. So I blocked everybody out. Friends, family, you name it. I kept everyone at arms length and shrugged off any attempts by them to dig any deeper.
And it was terrible. Yes, it accomplished my supposed goal of avoiding the pain but it doesn't take long to figure out that, without the possibility of that grief and pain, there can be no joy. I was alone and I was lonely and I didn't have the first clue how to undo that. I spent the better part of five years living like that.
Then one day I got a text message.
But first, here's the back story for context.
I think most of us have people in our past whose presence lingers in the back of our minds. Something about them or our time with them just won't let us let go of their memory. Not that there's anything more than that but something just makes those memories pop to the forefront of our brains now and then. Something happens — we hear a sound or smell a fragrance or do some activity — that stirs those memories. And we usually smile fondly in a "remember when" sort of way and then go on with life. Well, this text message came from the most prominent of those people for me. Out of respect for her privacy I won't use her name. Instead, we will call her "Len".
Len is someone who I dated in college and, in all honesty, I can't remember why we broke up. Trying to recall it in later conversations, neither of us can really say definitively other than it seemed like something at the time made us think that we were better as friends than as a romantic couple. Anyway, for whatever reason, we both moved on but we always remained friends and have corresponded — sporadically at best — over the years. But she has always held this place in the back of my mind. For me, the main thing that would remind me of her was folding laundry, of all things. Simply because of a one-time, silly conversation that we had when I was folding my clothes and we both taught each other how we folded t-shirts. It seems like a really stupid thing — and I suppose on the surface it is — but that's how it works. It was one goofy, silly moment that I thought of fondly every time I folded a t-shirt. And it reminded me of her.
And it was never anything more than that. That is, it wasn't part of anything that caused the downfall of my marriage. No, that sits squarely on the shoulders of my ex-wife and me. But, nonetheless, Len was always there.
I haven't asked her permission to write about her specific situation so I will not do so. But to preempt any doubts as to the propriety of what I'm about to write, I will only say that she is also single and it turns out that I was one of those back-of-the-mind memories for her as well.
So anyway, I got a text message. And that text message began a string of text messages. And those turned into an ongoing conversation. And that conversation made me want to start to tear down the walls around my feelings. See, when we were dating — and even afterwards as friends — Len and I always had this amazing connection. It was so easy for me to talk with her. I don't know what it was about her but we just had this rapport that I didn't share with most other people. The chemistry between us was different than with other girls I had gone out with. We had conversations that went from serious to ridiculous to sacred to irreverent and back again within the brief span of minutes sometimes. And it seemed we could talk about pretty much anything. Eventually, the text messages turned into phone calls and even during the first of those, which was the first time we had actually spoken to each other in over twenty years, it didn't take long to get past the initial tentative awkwardness and drop right back into that same comfortable conversation that we shared all those years ago.
And that felt really, really. . . . . good.
Suddenly there was this person who I didn't want to shut out. Which was good because, due to that renewed connection, she was already on the inside. She didn't need a key. She didn't need to tunnel under the wall. Without even knowing it or trying, she was just there. For the first time in a long time, I wanted someone to see that private part of me that I wouldn't let show. And I just wanted to know her more. I wanted to get to know the woman she had become and not just my idea of who she used to be. I really cared about what was happening in her life and her world. And she showed me that I actually could care about someone again when I was beginning to doubt that was possible.
And while I really wanted to be able to feel that, in a lot of ways it scared the ever-loving bat crap out of me. I was still in the pain avoidance mindset. But as that feeling of caring about her turned into a desire for something more, I realized that I would rather be hurt in that desire than to continue living with no deeper emotional connection whatsoever. That's not living. That's just existing. And I wasn't even doing that particularly well.
Again, I won't go into detail about her life but the situation is, sadly, not as cut and dried as, "I like you. Do you like me? Circle one: Yes | No | Maybe Cool, let's party!" She's gone through a lot of change in a short amount of time and still has to process through a lot of things. We both feel like God has brought us back into each other's lives for something. We just have no idea what that is yet. Just speaking for myself, I know how I would like the plot to play out and there would be some sort of romantic relationship there. Whether that would develop into anything long-term, I can't say. As for her, I'm not sure that she knows quite what she wants at this point. Or if she does, she hasn't said anything specific. I think that deep down, I probably scare her somewhat because she knows that I'm dead serious about my feelings for her. We're both very open and honest with each other and, at some point, I'm sure that we will have that conversation, but so far that time hasn't yet come. So, for now, all I can do is be her understanding friend and support her in any way that I can.
I can honestly say without reservation that I love her because, when it comes down to it, the thing I want more than anything is for her to be truly happy, whether that includes me or not. Right now, however, I feel like I'm not allowed to be in love with her — and I do draw a distinction between the two — for a few reasons, not the least of which is the number 650. That's how many miles there are between us. (Geography sucks.)
So I wait. And I try to show her that love however I can. I fully realize that I am emotionally investing myself in a very uncertain situation and I'm fully aware that in many cultures that makes me Grand Poobah of the Village Idiots. But I simply can't do anything else because she means that much to me. And on top of that, she's just about everything I could ask for in a woman. She's a devoted Christian who is actively seeking after God. She's smart. She's funny. She's a blast to be with. And, oh yeah — * BONUS * — she's beautiful, too. And I can't think of anything better than to someday get the chance to be in love with her. Again.
And if that makes you want to write me off as an idiot, go ahead. I'll loan you a pencil.