Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Dear Michigan (Let Me Count the Ways),

“I imagine,” said Q, “that most of the women who follow the blog will think you’re romantic. You are. And I'm lucky because it's one thing many women wish they had more of in their lives. You should write about where that comes from. . . . Maybe write about why it matters.”

I’m not sure that you’ll be interested, Michigan, in an entire posting on the concept of romance. And I’m not sure I’m the person to delve into that topic, but I told Q that I’d try to write about how you make being romantic easier. She said, “Really? I think it makes it hard. You haven’t found a job here. And I want you here. And you feel so far away.” I was quiet then. That is extremely hard. But I’ll try to explain my thoughts as best I can.

In the movie, Avatar, the indigenous people have a saying to show reverence for another life (be it the natural world around them or each other). “I see you!” they say. The phrase doesn’t just mean you’re in my line of sight. It means, I see you, inside you, all of you. I see the world through you. I paraphrase poorly, but I think that’s the essence of romance. It’s seeing the other person for who she is and then letting her know in some way. It’s feeling something and then expressing that feeling. And, in a way, that’s what this blog is all about: I’m letting you know that I see you, Michigan. But I’ve come to see you because I see her and it would be disingenuous if I pretended otherwise.

Sometimes the most romantic moments are the ones you find in places that are less about more-more-more. Places with small town charm and character. Places like Kerrytown.

On one of my recent visits, Q picked me up at the airport. It was a Friday and the kids were spending the weekend with their dad. As an aside, Q’s kids are funny, creative, and big-hearted just like their mom. It’s really special to watch them all interact. Around 5:30pm, Q suggested we take a drive into Ann Arbor to get dinner. There’s this restaurant, she said, where she and a friend of hers had enjoyed “the best martini ever.” I’m not typically a martini drinker, but I think I just discovered my new favorite adult beverage that isn’t wine. We parked in a small lot on a brick-paved street and walked to eve, a small restaurant in Kerrytown. We didn’t have reservations and it was Friday night, but the hostess was nice and told us the only seats available were the tables outside. It was a beautiful day and we were thrilled to sit outside. We started off with one of those ginger martinis and it wasn’t long before we were immersed in conversation. That’s another one of the things about Q that I love. It doesn’t matter where we are or what we start talking about, we always seem to find our way into these wonderful conversations (not the all-about-me sort, but the all about everything we find interesting sort). We eventually ordered our meal which was spot on. The sun was shining. There was a slight breeze. People started to gather outside. The food and the drink were delicious. But the highlight for me was just being there with Q. Over five hundred miles had been reduced to inches. We laughed and laughed. And there was that smile. It’s the sort of thing that fills you when you see it. The entire experience was romantic for me and hopefully for her as well. I know some people get in the habit of going out for drinks every weekend, yet it’s not romantic. It’s not about the connection as much as it is the habit of going out. And romance is about the connection. It’s about feeling something and sharing it. At least it is for me.

And romance isn’t always easy, not with our lives being so cluttered. But think about how many times we get all caught up in the sundry responsibilities we have during any given day – getting kids ready for school or getting ready for work or making dinner or cleaning or mowing the lawn or finally taking a break at the end of a long day and sitting down to watch your favorite show or to read the latest greatest book. Think about how many times the person you love is there and you don’t stop, actually stop, and say, “I see you!” That’s what’s romantic to me, seeing the other person, noticing her, all of her: the frustrations as well as the joy, the sadness as well as the inexplicable happiness, and the myriad traits that make her truly beautiful – like how she’s curious about everything, how she gets excited and passionate when she learns something new, how she cares deeply about her family and her friends and how she puts her kids first, how she’s funny without trying to be funny, and how she’s smart (I’m fascinated by the way her mind works), yet unassuming.

I think we’re conditioned to some degree to romanticize and I think that’s part of the reason so many relationships fail. Like I mentioned before, we often start a relationship with the glass slipper in our hands and we try (often without realizing that we’re trying) to make people fit that damn slipper. That’s one of the most rewarding and exciting things about being with Q. We met years ago and the furthest thing from either of our minds for the longest time was any romantic idea about each other. But then it happened, all on its own. When it’s the right person, the slipper that fits that person is the right slipper. Not the other way around.

This blog is my attempt to tell you, Michigan, how I feel about you and what I think about you and how I want more than anything to be out there with you. But if I’m reading a blog like that my first question is, why? And that’s the reason behind the last post in particular, because I want you to know Michigan that this isn’t some hasty decision, that it’s not blind impetuousness brought on by limerence or infatuation. It's about me being in love with someone who lives 8 1/2 hours away and wanting to move there to be with her. But I wanted you to know what it is I love about her so you could nod your head (so to speak) and say, "okay, I get it. You do genuinely want to be here and with good reason." And so you'd know why it is I love you.

It's like that feeling you get when you've been working all year long and you finally get away for a few days and you go to the beach and you sit there and the warmth of the sun is on you, but it's not too hot because there's this breeze rolling over your body and every few seconds the water covers your ankles and you hear the gulls and the waves and it's like every part of your body sort of settles down a bit, sort of eases into itself, and you take a deep breath and let it out and your lungs feel a little freer, like that breath came a little easier, went a little deeper, and all of you fills up just a little more with the good feeling of being there. That's what it's like when I'm with her, just doing everyday things like going for a walk or making dinner. Maybe she's cutting veggies for the salad and I bump up against her as I reach for a knife I don’t really need and it just feels so good to be close to her.

And I know you might wonder, Michigan, but what if? Well, I don’t like to think that way. One thing I’ve learned the hard way is that all I can do is be the best me possible, right here, right now, for me. And only when you’re true to yourself can you truly give yourself to the other person. I can’t control how other people feel or what they think about me. And I certainly can’t control the future. All I know is somehow I met someone who is quite simply the best friend in the history of me. That, in and of itself, is extraordinary. But she’s also the woman with whom I’ve fallen deeply in love. I’m not the sixteen-year-old who steals his dad’s house paint from the garage and writes a love poem in the street outside her window at midnight so she sees it when she wakes up in order to woo her. That’s not what this blog is about. If something happens down the road, I’ll be heart-broken. No question about it! But not because I wrote about how I feel in some blog. I already feel that way! Sharing those feelings with her or with anyone else doesn’t make me any more vulnerable. But it might let her and it might let you know how I feel. And maybe that means something.

The hardest part about writing this blog isn’t putting my feelings out there – after all, I feel this way about Q regardless of who knows it. And I try to let her know how I feel. The hardest part about this blog might just be that after writing it and revising it, I’ve spent hours with it and that just makes the ache inside me from missing her even more intense. It just makes me even more aware of how much I miss you!

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