Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Leap

On December second 2006, halfway through my senior year of college and just before my twenty-second birthday, writing " I just want to be with someone whose arms I am as excited to jump into as a pile of leaves fallen from a tree."

The air has finally begun to cool.

Which means many lovely things. It means I get to curl up in a warm sweater as I write this post from my front stoop overlooking cobbled stones. It means lovely jaunts with blessed coworkers and actually enjoying the breeze. It means acroyoga without getting over heated and the reminder of leaves changing color and newly sharpened pencils and the back to school giddiness in the stomach even if you're finally an "adult" who no longer has "summer break" and thus no longer can relish in the mystery/terror of beginnings of class sections, new teachers, cute boys, notebooks that have yet to be written in, subjects that have yet to be learned. The leaves will soon begin to fall.

It also means the end of the Key to the City project. Fear not, I promise you I will get it done (I have quite the week planned) but I have to say that in this summer of love of art and love of life there has been less love than usual in my dating experiences and adventures. What I mean to say is that it is intellectually and romantically interesting to me that I have not yet found someone to consistently share the end dates with, not because I believe men are like fish and you just have to hang around long enough to catch something worthwhile, but because in my past, it's worked out that way.

Now, to be fair, none of my relationships have exactly lasted. Dating I am great at, actual relationships, admittedly, not so much ( I  believe Morgan Spurlock proved that McDonald French Fries outlast my boyfriends in terms of a shelf life) but I have, in the past, found people with whom I wanted to share more than a handful of outings. And so far, in this project, either I haven't found them or they haven't (metaphysically) found me or, perhaps more fittingly, we collectively didn't find our connection.

Could it be the project has bitten me in the rear end? Does the possibility and knowledge of completing so many dates in a summer take away from focusing on the man at present? Or have I been allowed to explore more, look for deeper connections, so I am not just falling into old patterns of "eh, you're not so bad"-relationships that inevitably end? Maybe it's something in between. Maybe I have been allowed to look but, truth be told, I have no idea what on earth I am looking for.

It's easy to make lists of attributes, the rambling "cute, funny, smart, good guy" persona's that work like fortune tellers in that we all agree with are talking only about us. Ask one hundred people what they are looking for and I bet 90 percent will tell you much of the same. And there's a difference when you add in personal chemistry and the pace of your conversation and how wide your smile gets when he calls but really, on a first date, I just have no idea how you know anymore.

I knew with Jared, my high school sweetheart who I oft refer to (and shout out here to his fantastic mom who I am told reads this blog and to whom I would STILL like to apologize for consuming 99 percent of her sons time throughout our freshmen and sophomore years of high school, had texting taken off by then I'm sure it would be closer to 100) almost right away. I knew when I first saw him and the first time we hugged I literally, LITERALLY, got weak in the knees. Granted, I was thirteen and had maybe hugged two other guys in the non-cousin variety but still, it was everything the movies tell you it's supposed to be, your breath slows down, your heart speeds up, and everything, even the thoughts through your head, go into slow motion.

But back to life, back to reality and back to non Romeo and Juliet tumultuous hormone driven love from the 90's. These days, I'd like my love with a side of stability please and I'm willing to do what it takes to get there. Though the dramatic parts certainly encompassed a large sector of my life and, while it's been a while since I've bled a pen dry with longing over some boy in a journal, I sometimes read over my piles of notebooks in gestures of humility, thought provocation, and, often, amusement. I quoted Shakespeare, wrote poems, stated, in all truth and belief to myself, that I felt I would die without X,Y, or Zach. But for all that adolescent heartbreak and handwritten drama, I still don't know what actually made my heart go thump-thump.

 Is this the silliest of all questions, am I questioning the obvious here? I honestly find myself with guys who are smart, who are cute, who are funny, with whom I share interests and activities and I'll-be-damned if I just don't know what I am supposed to be looking for. My knees don't go weak for anyone, and I no longer stammer at the prospect of a male at the other end of the phone (ok, maybe i never stammered, I've always been quite the flirt but blazing heartbeats like bouncy balls on a san francisco hill, yes, that once existed). But still, I admit, I am totally lost.

I look now at my friends getting married, my friends having babies, my friends dating exes they had once written off and I just wonder, how did you know? Did it take more than one date? Did you ever think it could never work for you? Could you wait until he called you back or did you hold onto your phone like one grasps monkey bars in childhood? Did you know you wanted to look into their eyes forever, hear their voice for always or did you have to distort it to accept it at first in your mind? Did you fantasize right away or did you run screaming before you see things clearly in the closer-than-it-appears mirror of self-reflection? What were the right jokes and right moves and the right time to kiss and was it right because it was simply all wrong? The facebook albums flooding my newsfeed, full of white dresses and tuxed best men, show me one endpoint and I wonder, could they articulate the beginning?

I spent some time this past spring recording my friends, let's call them Julie and Pete, who, together, comprise the most wonderful loving couple that I dare say has walked this earth. I attacked the male counterpart of the pair (the female is one of my better friends from law school) within the first ten minutes of them picking me up from the train station with the question "How did you know you were in love with Julie?" I followed up with the notation that they had first been friends, and how did they know that it could be more than friendship.

Here is his response (note, Julie was with us when we were recording so he addresses her towards the end)

I'm the type of person who doesn't sort of make decisions or have epiphanies in one fell swoop. So I would have to say there were a number of moments when I sort of realized that I was in love with Julie... I think when I had a wonderful moment when I had this gut reaction was when Julie had just gotten back from the airport from visiting her sisters, and she had all her luggage, and she just looked so beautiful and she had this big smile on her face and we hugged and she gave me a kiss on the cheek and I had that butterfly feeling and I started thinking about dating Julie right at that very moment. I had liked Julie before that but I hadn't sustained the emotion before that previous moment. I had thought about it before, but I hadn't known. But then that moment, when you walked in, you were radiant and smiling and I felt all light hearted and I couldn't think about other things for awhile and I was just thinking about you. 


Incidentally when I followed up with Julie about why she was so happy that day and why her smile was so big, she replied

Because I was happy about seeing Pete. I had to go right from the airport and Pete had sent me a cute email over the summer and when I walked in, to have him sitting there, was really great.

So my question remains, what came first, the love or the love?  Without Julie's smile, which was sparked by Pete's presence, would Pete have fallen in love with Julie in the first place? Perhaps I am getting to brainy about all this, too deep (I am a lawyer after all) but as I go on date after date with wonderful guy after wonderful guy,  I wonder, what am I missing? Should I know right off the bat or should I give it time? How do I know? And is it that I just have to let go of the knowing to truly find out, to let anything happen and be open to possibility in order for the love to creep it's way in? Is it silent or noisy, hidden or in plain view? My question is not "where is the love" but "where are my glasses so I can see it properly."And maybe it doesn't need to be there, or maybe the real kind never is there, right at the very beginning, and I need to relax and look for comfort, not love, and delight, not necessarily adventure, and find it through being open and willing to allow it to come.

The question still remains over whether I have learned anything yet from this project aside from a lot of self reflection and a newfound appreciation of Staten Island, but, just recognizing the journey is often step one. Four years ago I wrote, " I just want to be with someone whose arms I am as excited to jump into as a pile of leaves fallen from a tree." 

That, at least, is a sentiment I can stand behind and taking the plunge is something I have become a champion at. And until  the day comes when I know it's right, well, I'll keep jumping with my impish self until I find a pile suitable enough to sustain a legion of notebooks. And in my last dates, I want to jump with some of those great guys with whom, in my past, I may have thought "eh, this won't work," but who deserve a second (or third, or forth look.)

Luckily, the leaves will soon begin to fall and I've become more comfortable with the first step, the leap.




  1. My dear friend wrote the below as a response but didn't want to attach her name. What do we think? Has the project been a blindfold for love in a way? (POSTED in two parts due to length, this is part one)

    It takes me a long, long time to fall for someone in a serious way. Like, four months of knowing someone - so I guess they really have to have what it takes in terms of friendship and connection before I would even consider love. I've been really in love twice (one I met at 22 and one at 26), and neither time did I feel weak in the knees at first - all I can really say is that when I met them I noticed that they were really great people, kind and sweet and easy to talk to, and I noticed that my life felt richer for having met them. I think that's at once a really low and a really high bar, right? And we became friends and then moved into more, but not quickly (six months or more before we called ourselves boyfriend/girlfriend). I've also been a serial dater, so I don't know whether it's a fluke that out of all those dozens of people I've gone on one or more dates with, none of them resulted in a long term relationship. But I think all my dating (set ups, internet, random meetings) went about the same way yours has - fun, and with hypothetically perfectly good guys, but not really turning into anything.

    The thing is that once I've fallen for someone, I DO get all that stuff - dizziness sometimes even thinking of them, a thrill down to my toes to be in their arms, making them or myself late for work day after day after day after day because we can't pry ourselves away from each other. It is a really slow burn for us to get there, but it's there. After I broke up with my first love (about three years ago) I honestly didn't really think I would find another person I felt that strongly enough, but I have, which I attribute to loving myself enough that I was willing to let things take their path without needing someone, and being open to nearly anyone as a potential mate.

    And, this might not be a popular thing to say, but I think sexual chemistry is just not the most important thing at the beginning. I really think that when you're falling in love with someone, your chemicals synch up in a way that's stronger than any initial attraction would be anyway. This isn't "settling" (I hate that debate about whether women should settle), it's being patient enough to form a healthy, honest connection with someone that's based on the person, not your first impression of the person. (exceptions obviously are if you're uncomfortable or disrespected or something right away, you really do not need to give that time!)

    Sorry, I don't mean to be anti-date! I think the project has been lovely, and dates can be so fun and worthwhile, and I know a lot of people do find love that way. But to me it seems like maybe the analysis and excitement of the activities is putting too much strain on the potential relationships to let them grow. Or maybe the potential relationships out there are in other people, people you're friends with or could be friends with, who have a lot to offer even in an environment/context that's not externally entertaining and doesn't have art or adventure (however, knowing you, I think that's the one qualification anyone you date does have to have, a taste for exploration and adventure).

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Part 2/2

    Also, I was talking to my boyfriend about this, and he was expressing frustration that he wanted a serious relationship for years, but that in a meeting-people context that got him about zero points. He felt like women would complain about not being able to find good guys, but completely overlook men who had a lot to offer and were legitimately looking for someone to love and care for, on pretty shallow qualifications. I have to agree, although I am now giving thanks to that fact since it helped get me the best boyfriend who ever walked the face of the earth. And I think it's easy for those damn NYTimes pieces and other media to focus on women looking for love, but there are plenty of men who are also aching to find someone and are held back by... who really knows what? Maybe the question of where is the love has a flipside - where isn't the love, and why? And how do you know that? And how are you sure?

  4. It's definitely not something that happens overnight. I almost put Bob in the friend zone after our first date but my mom encouraged a second because he opened the car door for me and walked me up the front steps and no boyfriend had ever done that so I gave him another chance. It wasn't until a week or two later, when we had gone on a date pretty much every night that I realized he was it for me. It started with holding my hand while driving and then we discovered we both had the same drive-to-when-I'm-sad-or-want-to-think place (even though we lived 15 minutes apart) and at the end of the night I didn't want to leave because I just wanted to be around him more. My sister was always a proponent of "when you know, you know" and I didn't believe in it til it happened. It's just a gut feeling of never wanting to be away from that person.

  5. Here you go... posted some thoughts for you on my blog.

    Also, I think Melanie puts it really well.

    I'll second that if you're really doing the traditional dating thing, you GOTTA give them at least a second date if you see possibility!

  6. Beautiful. So proud of you. xo H.