Wednesday, January 23, 2013

why my boyfriend is a saint

You guys, i am a fucking handful.

It's not just the bouts of depression and anxiety, or the tendency to lash out in anger at the wrong people, or the habit of rambling on and on long past the point where i've said what i wanted to say, or the constant distractions of the written word, or my tumultuous relationship with my parents, or my penchant for melodramatic hyperbole, or my difficulty with expressing my negative feelings productively, or my flirtations with vegetarianism, or my bizarre affection for my cat (have i mentioned my tendency to ramble unnecessarily?).

All of that is mostly manageable, and mostly improving, and some of it is charming (as i keep trying to explain to him). Even all of it together isn't really all that bad; after all, we all have our flaws, charming or otherwise, we all carry our baggage and our scars, and anyone who gets into a relationship and isn't expecting at least some crap to be flung at their head is either extremely deluded or is in a relationship with a robot, sex doll, or other inanimate object.

But here's the thing: i can't live in the moment.

Some moments, yes. A moment that is particularly thrilling, moving, absorbing. I was completely wrapped up in Les Miserables. I was totally enthralled this morning when taking notes in a class. I am 100% focused during sex. When my brother was shot, i lived in the moment for weeks. I could barely think far enough ahead to go to work and feed myself each day. When something touches the very core of me, i will live in as many moments as it gives me.

But in every day life, i'm too eager. When things are going well, i want to run ahead and climb the next hill, because i can't wait to see how much better life will be. When things are going badly, i want to run away and over the next hill, because i can't wait for things to change. I can't just sit and let my bad feelings simmer and mellow. I can't just sit and let my good feelings deepen and expand. I have to get to the next thing.

This is especially apparent in my relationship.

John is very much about the moment. He rarely makes plans more than three weeks in advance. So when i'm trying to make plans for Valentine's day (just over three weeks away) or our anniversary (just over three months away) or Thanksgiving (hey, i told you i had a problem), his eyes are glazing over and he's saying, "It's January 23rd. How about if we make plans for the weekend?" And i'm like, "Okay, and then we can make plans for our 47th wedding anniversary!"

And that's the crux of the issue. I don't really know how to be someone's girlfriend.

I know how to be a friend. I know how to be someone's flirty friend who secretly has a crush on them and on whom they secretly have a crush. I know how to do the early stages of the relationship, where you're still a little awkward, still figuring out the rhythms of conversation and kissing, still testing your boundaries. And i know that the end game is marriage. Honestly, there has never been a point in my life where i seriously doubted whether i would ever get married. I always knew that i would some day, and i obviously knew that i would be dating the guy for a while first. But in my head, the fantasy was like, meet a guy in the library, flirt shamelessly for a few weeks, go on some coffee dates, go on some dinner dates, go to some concerts and plays, attend some events (like weddings and parties), meet the families, fall more and more in love, and then get married.

And we've done all that. We've seen plays and concerts, we've gone to a wedding, we've met the families, we're in love, we've done birthdays and Christmases and we're approaching our second anniversary. We've hit all the milestones, passed all the standards. So now my brain is telling me that the next step is to get married.

And that's true, to an extent. The next major thing that John and i do will either be to get married or break up. That's just how relationships go. But when i say "next thing", i don't necessarily mean "tomorrow" or "next week". Maybe next year, but that's still a long way away, and is by no means definite.

There are still questions i have to answer about him, and questions he has to answer about me. We've both seen things in the other person that we're not sure we want in our life partner. We've both seen a lack of things in the other person that we think we might want in our life partner. We've both seen things that are not necessarily issues or deficits, but are differences between us that may not be reconcilable. Logically, i know that we are not ready to get married yet. I need to finish my M. Ed. and get a job, he needs to get into and complete a master's program of his own, we need to find an apartment and a church, i need to get my budget under control, he needs to pick a book for Bible study . . . Logically, i know we are not ready to get married yet. I just don't know what to do right now, how to be his serious, long-term girlfriend without pressing him to move forward.

But he still puts up with me. His eyes may (definitely) glaze over when i start talking about wedding crap, but he lets me ramble. I may ask him every other day (or six times every day) what he wants to do for our anniversary, but he is still patient and gentle when he says, "I don't know. It's still three months away." He may get a little scared sometimes and give me a quick lecture on managing my expectations, but he doesn't run away. In fact, he is still excited to see me every day, still wants to snuggle me closer, still wants to make plans with me and dream dreams with me and anticipate a future with me, even if that future only extends three weeks from now. So i try to keep a tight grip on my horses and look around me a little more, because this moment i'm in right now? It's pretty damn amazing, and i want to make sure i cherish it.

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