A Purging Ritual

After a much overdue catch-up session with Katie, complete with jumbo margaritas, I decided it was time to purge my life of all things ex related. I was pretty far along in the process to begin with--I'd gotten it all into a single box, tucked away underneath my bed. But, I hadn't taken that final step of actually getting rid of all of it. So last night, I went through and pitched every card, picture, and memento into a big black garbage bag.

It's not hard for me to understand why I wanted to hang onto that stuff. I'm a very sentimental person. I've kept every birthday card ever given to me.  I think that's in part due to being the third child in my family at which point my parents were pretty sick and tired of documenting their kids' every move. There isn't even a picture of me from the day I was born! So, I've taken it upon myself to keep things that are special and hold meaning.

After the break-up, I'd stuffed all of our memories into a boyfriend box and sealed it up just like I had with my exes from high school and college. I thought maybe one day I'd want to show my kids or something. But, that seems kind of ridiculous with this last relationship. It was too deep of a hurt, too disappointing. Why would I ever want to be reminded of that again?

I felt a little tug at my heart as I threw away the best pieces of us, but I know deep down it was the right thing. I know that those few highlights don't represent the real relationship we had--the distrust, the secrets, the dysfunction. Keeping them would have made me question the truth that I know--that he wasn't the right person for me.

I feel lighter.

Beach Getaway

It had been a long time since I'd been to the beach with a boy I loved, and my weekend getaway with Carolina Man could not have come too soon. I spent the late-night, four-hour drive down to his house complaining about how tired I was and how sucky my week had been. You could say I was being a bit of a baby, but he knew exactly what to do: listen, say "I'm sorry" and wait for it to pass, which it did as soon as I realized I was just a few hours away from being in his arms.As exhausted as we both were, we stayed up until four in the morning, getting reacquainted with each other, which was just delightful.

The heat wave put a damper on our departure because the car was so hot for the first 20 minutes or so we'd both broken out into a serious sweat. But once we got going and the car cooled down, we started singing along to James Taylor and feeling relaxed. We spent nearly all of the weekend catching up on sleep, eating indulgent food, and taking long walks on the beach. It was absolutely perfect.

I love how we are on similar pages when it comes to spending leisure time. Part of us felt like we should be spending more time out on the sand, but then we realized, this is vacation and we can do whatever the fuck we want. If we want to sleep until 10 and then go back to sleep at 3 in the afternoon, then we should do just that. There's no sense in adding stress to what's supposed to be mandatory relaxation.

I was sad to leave the beach, but that couldn't put a damper on my excitement to get back home to our new king-size bed and our luxurious new bedding from Restoration Hardware. And, I realized that I just called his house "home."

Miles to Go Before I Sleep

Life is so good right now that I'm hesitant to complain about the sucky nature of this week. But, it was sucky. I was in the middle of nowhere Ohio for work with not a single person in my age group in sight. I slept in a dorm, ate crappy cafeteria food, and listened to boring lectures for six days. And, the whole trip started on a sour note when my flight was canceled and the airline lost my bag.

But, it's over! I am at the Dayton airport, waiting for a flight back to DC (please, God, let it be on time!) so that I can jump in the car and make the four-hour drive back to North Carolina. Carolina Man and I are heading to the beach tomorrow for a much needed getaway. He's promised to indulge and pamper me, complete with providing a bell I can ring at any time. I suspect there might even be a present waiting for me when I arrive late tonight.

All I want to do is get there. This has seriously been the longest week I've had in recent memory. It feels like time slowed to a halt as soon as I landed in Ohio. Even though I miss Carolina Man terribly when I'm in DC, the pace of life is so much faster there I don't feel it quite as much. But in the middle of nowhere Ohio? Torture.

I know I'm going to be tired on my drive, so I've been caffeinating myself as much as possible and have a playlist of Celine songs (hey, you gotta do what you gotta do) to belt out to to keep me alert. Oh, and we discovered a little app called HeyTell that's like voice instant messanger and is probably the best thing ever. Next to chocolate. And coffee. And actually being together in person. But still, it's really freaking awesome.

This last stretch of time is going to be painful. But when I get there and feel him next to me and get to fall asleep in our new bed, all the waiting will be forgotten. I can't wait.

Too Good to Be True?

At 4:45 today I was annoyed to get a call from my project's funder, asking if we could push our last minute meeting (which they had called) back by another half hour. Just last week I'd managed to squeeze in their request, and now they were asking me to change it at the very last moment. I was irritated, to say the least. 

That is, until they said they wanted to offer us full funding for another year. And that if we wanted more funding just to ask for it. They have it for us, and they want us to "think big."

What. The. Fuck. 

This is unheard of. Funders don't just call you up and say, "Hey, we'd like to give you some money. You don't have to fill out any forms. You aren't competing with anyone else for it. We'd just like to offer you job security for another twelve months."

Seriously. What. The. Fuck.

Granted, I've worked my ass off for the last 18 months, and we've done really excellent work. I'm not surprised that we got additional funding at all. What I am surprised about is we didn't even have to ask.

This is blowing my mind. How is it that all of these good things are happening to me, and I'm not even having to ask for them? They are just happening. Without my help. Without my pleading. Without my die-hard determination to get what I want.

I keep waiting for the shoe to drop. Surely things can't be this good. I'd grown so accustomed to things being shitty that this sudden turnaround seems way too good to be true. After I said this to my boss several times today, she said, "You've got to stop saying that." And I realized, it was just the fear talking.

Maybe things really can be this good, at least for awhile. 

From a Distance

"I know we've only known each other four weeks and three days, but to me it seems like nine weeks and five days. The first day seemed like a week and the second day seemed like five days. And the third day seemed like a week again and the fourth day seemed like eight days. And the fifth day you went to see your mother and that seemed just like a day, and then you came back and later on the sixth day, in the evening, when we saw each other, that started seeming like two days, so in the evening it seemed like two days spilling over into the next day and that started seeming like four days, so at the end of the sixth day on into the seventh day, it seemed like a total of five days. And the sixth day seemed like a week and a half. I have it written down, but I can show it to you tomorrow if you want to see it. "

Hopefully you recognize the absurdity above as a quote from the 1979 Steve Martin classic The Jerk. It's become a frequent reference for Carolina Man and me. First, in a silly way, it encapsulates the feeling of having known each other longer much longer than we have in actuality. Second, it pokes fun at the anguish we feel in being apart, no matter how relatively short the time. It's tough for me even to consider this a real long-distance relationship when he's just a four-hour drive away, and we've already managed to see each other twice since our first weekend together in Ohio (and I'll be going back to North Carolina on Thursday night!) In the past I've done the long-distance thing over continents and time zones, but this feels different. I can't imagine getting used to being apart, nor do I want to get to that place. 

Even with Skype and texting and email and cell phones, nothing comes close to being with someone in person. So much is lost when there's physical space separating you. Carolina Man brings up this distant feeling every now and then, and there's sadness that comes with it for both of us. That's especially true on a day like today, when he's having a lazy Sunday and I'm stuck in a tiny town in Ohio for work with nothing on my agenda today except perhaps a trip to the drugstore, only to alleviate some of the boredom. I think, "Why can't we just be together?" It feels like torture.

But it's almost a sweet torture,  both the agonizing longing for him and the ecstatic feeling of relief when I do see him again. I can hardly remember my life before him now, what it was like for something or someone else to be filling up all the spaces he holds in my mind and heart. I love that I'm still amazed at what's happening, that we haven't yet settled into daily life with one another. I love that he's the first thought I have when I wake up and the last thought I have as I fall asleep. And I will continue to count the days until I see my love again. 

Reflecting Back, Visioning the Future

I wrote the following on March 25, 2010, just a few days after SCL and I broke up. I sealed the seven pages of journaling into an envelope and dated it March 25, 2011. I read it a few months ago and then didn't think about it again. But when I was with Carolina Man this week, something he said reminded me of this passage. I shared it with him last night and I want to share part of it with you now.
When I'm honest with myself, I realize that the reason I could not even picture SCL proposing to me was not because I was so excited about all of it. It wasn't jitters or other fun feelings of anticipation. It was that deep down I didn't believe he would actually do it. I held it up as this blessed moment when he finally, finally, FINALLY would show me love in a truly selfless way. Wow. When I write that out, I realize how truly fucked up that was.
I can't control what others think, how they love or don't love, if and when they decide to enter or exit my life. But I can work to turn the love I so easily give outwardly toward myself. I can show myself love, care for myself, be satisfied with myself. I will have to learn to do this, but I am able to learn it and I desire to learn it. I want to feel and know that I am a complete person, truly loved and valued, and deserving of nothing less than being truly loved by others.
On the subway I was daydreaming about how somewhere in the world, there's a man with a broken heart, a man who was ready to give his heart but not to the right woman, who is hurting just like me, believing he'd just lost his one opportunity for love. And I dream that he's figuring all this out, learning to move forward, growing into himself, preparing for a time when he'll be ready to love again. We'll meet, we'll flirt, we'll feel all those feeling of spark and passion and new love. We'll realize that we can love again and we'll learn to allow ourselves to do just that. We'll be open, honest, and communicate. We'll eventually find ourselves on the same page. We'll want, but not need, one another. And we'll begin to understand it better--the past, the heartache, the pain, the difficulty. It'll make sense in a new way. 
I didn't know anything about Carolina Man at the time. It wouldn't be until August 24, 2010 that I'd even hear about him. And it wasn't until December 4, 2010 that we met. And it wasn't until June 26, 2011 that we kissed the first time. But deep down, I felt that when the time was right, I'd meet the man I imagined in my mind. And I believe with all my heart that he's it.

Back to the Grind

I'm back at my own place, wishing I could still be with Carolina Man but thankful for the time we had together and that we'll see each other at the end of next week. (God bless my job flexibility.) I actually have to go on a work trip tomorrow, so I'm trying to think of it not as needing to return to DC but rather fulfilling my work obligations in the way I would have to no matter where I'm living.

I feel tired and overwhelmed by the return of the normal busyness of daily life. So often my life feels like an endless cycle of pulling dirty clothes out of a suitcase, washing them, and throwing them right back in for the next trip. They never even make it back into the closet! I kind of relate to George Clooney's character in Up in the Air, except I wouldn't go so far as to say I prefer to live on the road. It's more that I can understand the empty feeling of returning to a place that doesn't feel quite like home.

I said this in my post the other day, but I feel at home in North Carolina. And, I really felt at home with Carolina Man. He, just like his home, exudes a warmth, a sense of welcome. I never felt like I was intruding on his space because he never made me feel like I was.

Probably my favorite moments were when we went out shopping for a new king bed for his master bedroom--mattress, headboard/footboard, and bedding. We had a similar aesthetic and gravitated to the same things. Ultimately, it's his bed and I would have deferred to him if we disagreed, but we didn't. It was one of those practical things we were doing together as a couple, but it was strangely bonding. I texted my friend L, "We are shopping for furniture. I love dating a grown up!"

I love being in this honeymoon stage, knowing it won't last but soaking up every second. And I can't wait to fall asleep next to him again.

Feels Like Home

As I crossed the North Carolina state line early yesterday morning, I instantly felt like I was home. There's something about this state that just makes my heart feel like singing. Ever since I started at Davidson College in 2001, I have felt a strong sense of belonging here. It holds so many special memories, not to mention special people, for me. I feel like I breathe more deeply here.

I felt a similar sense of peace when I was, strangely enough, in Malawi. I hadn't expected to go so far away from home only to experience a deeper sense of belonging and connection than I ever did in DC. One night our team was out eating dinner at a restaurant on the shores of Lake Malawi when I happened to look up into the night sky. I'd never seen anything so breathtaking--the stars so bright and dense. I've never looked at the sky the same way since I got back.

The moment I walked through the door when I got back to DC, I felt that sense of peace disintegrate. The influx of email and phone calls and conference calls overpowered my newly found quietness. "I've got to learn to replicate that sense of quiet," I thought. I began slowly to push out the noise--turning off my email indicator on my phone, putting the computer to sleep by 8 pm, not going to sleep with the TV on. But, I wanted more than just quiet. I wanted connection, community, family.

Being here in North Carolina with Carolina Man, in his beautiful house by the lake, I feel that sense of connection, that sense of peace I thought I'd have to travel to the other side of the world to feel again. I experience myself and the world around me differently here. It's something I think I'd like to get used to.

Too Excited to Sleep

It's not even 5 am, but I am dressed and ready to go to North Carolina! I'll be hanging with Carolina Man until Thursday. Can't wait to see him and spend more time together. Wish us luck!

The Logic Behind the Love

I love Carolina Man. I do. Maybe that seems a bit on the fast side, but there's no denying that's what I feel. I've never felt this way about anyone, not even my long-term boyfriends. With everything happening so quickly, it's easy for me to begin to question if I'm just being swept up into the intensity of it all and losing all sense of reality about him. So, to help reassure myself (and maybe some of my readers) I thought I'd set aside the giddiness and explore some of the logic behind why Carolina Man is my perfect match.

We have honest, open communication about our past, present, and future. Carolina Man is an open book. Never once have I asked him a question that he refused to answer, even if the topic made him upset or angry. We still have a lot to learn about each other, but with the openness we already have, there's no bullshit. There's no hiding pain or mistakes. There's no glossing over the difficulty of living in different places, and what it means when we decide we want to change that. And there's no hesitation in discussing the future and what we want as a couple (yes, we've discussed babies). Each time we work through something, I feel more and more confident that we'll be able to address any issue that comes up and work on it. Last night I was feeling really angry about the idea of having to pick up my life and move, and he just listened compassionately until the anger defused. I got off the phone feeling a hundred times better than before we talked.

We were set up by two people who love us deeply. I'm so grateful that Carolina Man and I didn't have the typical beginning--an awkward dinner date and subsequent wondering if he was ever going to call. We had the absolutely perfect occasion to get to know one another, orchestrated by his dad and my boss. Before we even met each other, we had the confidence of two very important people that we were well-suited for each other, and it's just served as further affirmation of the chemistry and click we feel.

We both want to live in North Carolina. Even before I met him, I was talking about moving to the Research Triangle area (Durham/Chapel Hill/Raleigh) because I have family there and it has potential work opportunities for me in the future. It's a 6 hour drive from home and it's a 2 hour drive from my college where I still have lots of friends. I told him last night, if he lived in Michigan or something, I might not be so inclined to pick up my life and move there, but seeing as how he already lives in the place I've wanted to move back to for a year, it's a no brainer. That doesn't mean leaving DC will be easy. I have a life and friends here, and I will have to do the hard work of rebuilding a network when I decide to move. But, I feel like when I do move, it'll be permanent and it'll be worth investing time and energy into creating the life that I want.

We've been disappointed in similar ways in the past and know what we want from our partners. Our past relationships had similar dynamics--our partners not living up the potential we saw in them, no honest communication, no willingness to work on issues. We share similar hurts, and having that common experience makes us all the more grateful for the contrast in our interactions. We don't want to spend too much time making comparisons, but it is helpful to say, "I've had dysfunction, and I'm grateful that this is healthy."

So, despite the emotional giddiness of it all, we have a core there that won't fade over time. And I'm confident it's going to carry us through a lifelong partnership.

Do You Trust Me?

I've been trying to put myself in my friends' shoes with regard to Carolina Man, but it's really been a struggle. I get the fact that for those who care for me most, what's most important to them is that I not suffer needless heartache again. They've warned me against moving too fast, urging me to be cautious (though when I ask "what does that mean?" they can't tell me) and to get to know him better before I make any big decisions.

But last night I ran out of patience. I was talking to my very best friend, and I snapped at her when she told me to be careful. "What does that even mean?" I snarled. And when I mentioned moving to North Carolina, she said, "Well, you'd be moving into your own place, right?" Earlier in the week when I told my good friend from college about how strong my feelings for Carolina Man are, he rolled  his eyes and said, "You always do this." Always do this? It hurt to have my happiness cast aside as hopeless romanticism, as just another leap into the abyss of future disappointment. It was almost as if he was saying, "Haven't you learned by now?"

I want to scream, "You don't even know him! How can you judge someone you've never even met? And for God's sake people, can't you fucking trust me on this one?" 

I was nearly in tears when I picked up the phone and called the most trustworthy voice of reason in my life, my mom. I told her how frustrated I was feeling about my friends' doubting reactions to my newfound  happiness. "I know they want what's best for me, but why can't they just trust me on this?"

And this is why my mom rocks so much. She said, "Sweet girl, I have known you your whole life. I've always told you that when you met the right person, you would know instantly. I have never heard you talk about anyone the way you've talked about Carolina Man. And I trust you."

She said many more helpful, affirming things about my maturity and self-awareness, but what meant most to me in our talk was that she said she trusted me to know that this is right.

I want my friends to fall in love with Carolina Man. I'm hopeful that once they meet him and see us interact, they will. But, at the same time, my confidence in our relationship is based primarily in my own gut feelings and experience of him. My top priority is ensuring we have as much time as possible to get to know each other and experience each other in different settings, which is why I'll be driving down to North Carolina for five days this week. I can't wait.

Trust me on this one, friends. I know quality when I see it. And in time, I'm certain you'll see it, too.

In Session: Exploring Infatuation

In preparation for my weekly therapy session with C, I was journaling about everything that had happened since I saw her the week before, and I contemplated what I felt comfortable sharing. I realized I was considering filtering myself. With my therapist. The person I pay big bucks to listen to me. That seemed like something worth bringing up.

I started the session by saying, "I really want to share with you everything that's going on with Carolina Man, but I'm afraid of what you'll think." Really, I'm afraid of what everyone will think. The few friends I've told about him are excited for me but understandably protective. They've seen me get hurt and don't want me to go through it again. Part of it is that other than my boss, I don't have anyone in my life who's met him, so they haven't seen for themselves what a great connection we have. Other than on the blog, I haven't gushed much because I don't want to feel like I have to justify the strength and certainty of my feelings this early.

And like the professional that she is, she responded with the perfect thing: "I hear what you're saying, but I'm not really interested in what other people think about it. I'm really curious what you're thinking about all of it." I got a huge smile on my face and the gushing began. "I'm so happy. I've never felt this way about anyone before. He's such a good match for me. I would move to North Carolina tomorrow if I could." She just beamed and said how thrilled she was for me.

We began to pick apart and examine the hesitation on my end with telling others about the new man in my life. "I'm afraid that they're going to think I'm just acting on emotions, on infatuation," I said. "What's so wrong with being infatuated?" she asked. Good point.

"I don't think infatuation is the state of mind I want to be in to be making big life decisions," I said. "I'm so used to being rational and logical that the idea of acting on a feeling, even as strong as this, is difficult for me to think about."

We looked at infatuation extensively. She explained that it's the normal, healthy beginning stage of a relationship, and while it isn't sustainable, it's an indicator of the important click we need to feel with our partner. The problem is when people think that infatuation is supposed to last forever and when things settle into the daily calm of normal life, they think the relationship has soured.

I've talked with C about my relationship non-negotiables over the last year and a half, and she could see that he meets them all. It was helpful to have that reflected back to me. One that she pointed out that I hadn't considered before is my need to know where I stand with my partner. The other guys I've dated have expressed interest and affection, but didn't want to clarify what we were to each other. With Carolina Man, I don't have to question that at all. He's been so forthright about his intentions for us and his vision of a life together. I love that about him.

I left the therapy session feeling relieved and affirmed for where I am in the moment--totally, completely head over heels in love.

I'm not sure what happened to yesterday's post. It's missing! Anyone else having problems with blogger today?


Last night after talking, Carolina Man sent me an email that said, "How are you not taken?  How am I this lucky?  When am I going to wake up from this dream?"

I'm not taken because I've been waiting for him to come into my life. He's so secure in who he is, and that in turn encourages me to be my authentic self. While we haven't known each other long, I can say in complete confidence that the parts of me he has seen have been the real me. 

He has two of the essential things I was looking for: emotional maturity and the willingness (and in his case, also the ability) to communicate what he's thinking and feeling. These are my non-negotiables and he's got them. 

I could hardly sleep last night because I was so excited about him getting here today, showing him my life here and getting to know him better. Just a few more hours!