This Friday, May 18th, marks our eight-year anniversary so it seems the perfect time to share with you the story which we've ended up telling countless times to countless people since. I love the story. Probably because I am the lucky person that landed one of the two leading roles (and, frankly, I hadn't done so great in auditions for this role before) - but also because each time I get to tell the story, I get to re-experience the magical energy of those fourteen days between our first date and our wedding day. It is an energy that I am aware (although I'm not always conscious of it) is always very much a part of our daily lives. I know that same guidance that lead us through those days and to each other to operate in my life daily, quietly and unassumingly, without fanfare or fireworks. But those few days with the fireworks and fanfare (and carillon bells!) were just curl-your-toes special!!
Those two weeks are the clearest, most direct, profound, and beautiful example I've personally had of living out of a place of clarity. (Not that I didn't freak out a few times along the way.) Looking back at it now, the whole thing still astounds me. It all could have just as easily turned out to be an embarrassing mistake, or worse, the beginning of years of misery. But that is not how this story turned out.
[Warning: anyone currently experiencing a personal "love-and-romance-and-men(or women)-suck!" period, should probably move onto the next blog now.]
[Alright, fine. Don't tell me I didn't warn you.]
First, if I may, some background information. My prior serious relationship had lasted two and a half years and which, it seemed at the time, had been two years, five months and two weeks too long. In retrospect (that stupid hindsight we pray for *before* the events unfold!) I know this person was the perfect teacher for me at the time, and I am thankful (ugh...) for the part he played. I am even more thankful that we parted ways when we did, for we were only meant to stay together long enough to learn a few things from each other. I came terribly close, though, to allowing the fear of admitting I've made a mistake to bully me into staying for good. So close that I accepted an engagement ring and moved in with him only to return the ring and move out all within an eight weeks time. Never mind that after the first two weeks of the relationship my then brand new therapist had made the comment; "This sounds like an awful lot of work for such a new relationship...?" Naturally, I did the logical thing and got royally pissed off at her. (But, to my credit, I did not stop seeing her.)
So anyway. I was freshly done with that mess. Only to follow it up with some even more brilliant ideas in the few months to come. So, as usual, I was in my therapist's office. (I feel so sad now about how confusing and painful and awful that time was... I almost want to apologize to myself for putting myself through all that...) So, during another session of lamenting about not having the "right man" in my life, my therapist (bless her heart for all those hours of listening and not smacking me!) takes a piece of paper and a pen and tells me to begin listing all the qualities of this "right man". And I do. I take every last man in my life I like, admire, am attracted to, wish I could have, secretly lust for, have openly chased, and I put all their best qualities down on that paper. Then I add a few extra things that I never used to be so particular about. I got down to age, eye color, hair color, height, and body build. I meant BUSINESS.
You guessed it. He shows up. (And it just so happens he had also written his own list. We still have both of them.)
As it turns out, he's been there all along. But here I have to back track - about three years. Yes... if you do the math you can now understand why I was supposed to be in that other relationship for two and a half years learning the lessons I needed to learn. So anyway, when I first heard of him I took mental note of him. Everyone seemed to be talking about this guy. "Have you heard his music? No?! Oh, he is fabulous!". "Oh yes, we had him design that logo for us." And when I saw him (I didn't "meet" him for some time to come)... well, let's just say I didn't exactly forget him right away. But, all the cute petite blonds at the college had also noticed him. And, even worse, I was staff. Oh, and I was in a relationship. So, I went about my daily life for the next three years. He proceeded to date a few of the cute, petite blonds. He performed at a Coffee House I was in charge of planning. I asked him to perform at an Awareness Event I headed up. He came to talk to me about funding for a student organization. He started dating my good friend and a colleague whose office was next door to mine. I ended up lending her an ear while they were dating and struggling. He was on a committee with me as a student representative. And all along I was on my way to becoming engaged to a man I would not end up marrying.
But then, three years later, I was single. And, so it appeared, was he. I was planning the Graduate Dinner for his graduating class, and I had this idea for the center pieces. Only, I had no idea how to produce it and I had no time to mess around. So I needed a graphic design student to help me. Hmmmmmm.......
I ended up asking my student assistant, a lovely girl from Bolivia, to help me. Only after she came to me with the long and sad story of how much work she had and how she had no time did it come to me. DUH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
He was gracious enough to say yes. Even though he had only a few weeks to graduation, was under severe sleep deprivation, and had many more hours worth of senior projects due before the time was up. He suggested I come over in the evening and we get this thing done over dinner. Not only did we get the center piece design down, but we had some dinner and wine (and he just "happened" to be playing an album by Sting I'd never heard before) and the most wonderful conversation about everything in the Universe. While I was there I realized that the place I briefly fled to from my ex-fiance's house shared the backyard fence with his house. We had been sleeping practically headboard to headboard for a time. As we got deeper into the conversation and realized there was something here, we talked about dating. I told him I don't date students. I don't care if this is college and we're the same age. It's not right. Besides, he is getting ready to graduate and take off and I am in the middle of attending part-time graduate school.
The next day this gorgeous creature appears at my office, hands me a gift, and walks off. It's a bottle opener and a note that tells me to meet him an hour after the graduate dinner at the beach. The last day of class. After he is beyond any reach of my (supposed) control over him as a student. The note is so clear and demanding in its brevity I am about to have an orgasm on the spot.
To this day I don' t know why I thought it appropriate, but I framed a copy of the Invitation for him as an early graduation present. It had deeply touched me when I first read it, and it seemed to contain the most urgent, the most pertinent, and the most precious questions we can ask and answer ourselves or each other. Thinking back on it now, I should not have been surprised had I next seen him him bolting down the steps of that lifeguard tower and running off into the night........ but he sat still - and he read, very slowly and very deliberately. We stayed on that beach for hours.
I WAS FALLING FAST AND HARD.
But we decided to take it slowly. Which is why we didn't end up sleeping together until our second date - the next day. (I TOLD you it could have just as well ended up being a disaster!!! Incidentally, that is another reason we're not going to have children. We can't imagine trying to tell them to be responsible and take their time and not rush into things... I could just see THAT being thrown back at us during some argument when they're thirteen years old!) To be honest, many of the details of those initial three days escape me now, but I do remember us laying in bed in my apartment, our third date, discussing our futures. We were trying to figure out how we could make this work. And, for whatever reason (please don't ask me why!) I thought it was a perfectly reasonable thing to say; "We could always get married and continue dating afterward...?" By now I really should have expected to see the bottoms of his sneakers as he ran away, but for whatever blessed reason he said; "OK..." Maybe it was because he was in shock, naked, and my vicious alpha male cat was standing guard at the bedroom door?
The next day I called my family in Finland, and when I got on the phone with my mom and told her I had something to tell her she said "You're getting married aren't you?!" Neither of our families had much time to adjust to the thought, and it was probably best that way. If anyone thought we were crazy, no-one uttered a word. In fact, they get an A+ for doing so well receiving this bit of news I can imagine every parent fears. Maybe it had to do with the fact that we were both 28 years old and they just figured we must know what we're doing. Or maybe our rock-solid knowing about the fact that this was what we were going to do simply came through in our words. Either way, we seemed to have their blessing. We both agreed we didn't want a wedding. That would have meant endless planning, coordinating families from two continents, headaches about matching napkin colors to bridesmaid dresses to flowers, and spending more money than either of us had or had the inclination of spending.
I asked for the day off from work without explaining why. The only person we told was a co-worker of mine and an admirer of Bruce's who was only too happy to join in the secret plot. She gave us "something borrowed" and "something old", a bible from 1824, for the ceremony. Bruce ordered my wedding bouquet and called around for someone to marry us. We tried to decide between a sea captain and a minister. We bought our rings and my dress for $180 total. For a location, we ended up deciding on Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida. Neither of us had been there and we thought it would be the perfect reason to finally go.
Eleven days later we were married at Bok Tower Gardens. Parts of the Invitation made up our vows. The lovely Bolivian girl had come and spent the wedding day eve with me helping me with shopping for a wedding gift, drew me a relaxing bubble bath, helped me with a manicure, and the rest. The next morning my soon-to-be husband picked me up so we could go off and get married.
I was so insanely happy I could hardly contain it. The carillon bells would chime at the most ridiculously romantic times during our ceremony and our brunch, which he had prepared from scratch. On the menu was straight-out-of-the-oven apple bread, a fruit salad, and mimosas. We walked around bare-footed and watched the squirrels. One moment we would talk about how rain is good luck on your wedding day and the next moment a huge thunderstorm would roll through the park. We ran under a gazebo to seek shelter from the rain, and as it happened only couples were under it. Someone asked us about a wedding party in the park. We told them we were the party. They all began telling us their stories. One couple had been married for 55 years. Another couple celebrated their second year anniversary that day. One husband began to sing to his wife while the bell tower chimed. We all sat and waited for the downpour to end. Someone asked if anyone had kissed the bride yet. When I said no, every man in that gazebo proceeded to line up to kiss me.
It was a perfect day.
And we've lived happily ever after.
Ummmmmm....... well, just about. The early months weren't without their challenges, but when I think about all the things, big and small, that could have been total disasters for either of us, I am deeply grateful for and humbled by the grace that befell us. The only thing I could think of to complain about was that he was such a neat freak! Yes, I know... woe is me.... I landed a husband who cleans, does the laundry and fixes everything that breaks at his earliest convenience!! You can't imagine the hell!
I know I have gone on and on by now, but I just have to share this one last story. Soon after we were married we went to empty out his storage unit and discovered a catalogue and a brochure from the art college we had both attended (I was hired there upon my graduation, which is when he began attending there). I pointed out to him a couple of pictures of me in the promotional materials and suddenly his face turned as white as a ghost.
"That was YOU???!!??!!", he asked.
"Yeah.", I replied.
"She is a part of the reason I wanted to come to this school!!!... I saw her and I thought she looked like someone I wanted to meet! That was YOU?!?!"
"Yeah. That's me."
Yeah. Holy Shit. I guess I really sent for him even way before I realized it. I've never made a clearer order before or since. It takes me longer than that to make an order for fast food.
I wish I could convey in words to you just how special I think this man is. But, I truly consider him a gift straight from God and to try to speak of such a gift with mere words seems, well, just silly. (And yes, I know we are each such a gift to each other in this world. But I really, REALLY like this one!)