Tomorrow is my two-year wedding anniversary. When I think about how Roy and I happened, I do a little inward laugh. He was not what I expected, we did not happen how I could have ever guessed and all of the rules meant to protect me seemed to fall away, but I was never in any danger of getting hurt. I don’t believe in love at first sight or destiny or fate and yet Roy was always right. I don’t believe everything happens for a reason, but if I am wrong, I wouldn’t change any of the crap I had to deal with to get to a place where he found me. It is quite a story…
At the end of 2010, I was at a beginning of sorts. I was in a very different place than I had ever been before: a place of transition, but also an inner peace that being in transition was all right. I had been off chemo for two months, and was figuring out what to do with my life. I couldn’t work in the traditional sense because of health and side effects from the chemo and drug therapies that were still in my system. When I was first cured, I didn’t know what it all meant. Everyone was preparing me to say goodbye and then I was just better. I was conflicted, depressed and all of the crap I had felt but held onto for the year I was trying to survive descended on me. But something snapped me out of it. I wish I could say it was a clear epiphany or some event, dream or otherwise defining moment. But it wasn’t. I just became clear, “WTF are you doing? You get to live, but you’re not living. Do something dammit.” (Yes, my inner voice constantly swears at me – I’m used to it.)
I didn’t change who I was at my core, but my mindset, temperament, desires and goals all shifted at once. I used to sweat the small stuff but after being to the end of the world and on its edge for a year, it puts things in perspective. I was still a detail person, but the big picture was all that mattered. If it felt like the end of the world, I knew from experience it wasn’t really the end of the world, and the feeling would pass. In this way, I was much better to myself as well. I don’t think I ever hated myself, but shadows of my subconscious kept me stuck in patterns I quickly broke. One such pattern was the men I became involved with.
While I was always relationship leery and ‘slow’ I still always ended up with the wrong guy, and usually a guy who did a great deal of damage before he exited my life. Once I was well again, I went on a few dates, more than anything to put myself out in the world again. One thing I had started practicing was anything I didn’t want to do, but didn’t have a good reason not to do it, I did. Because depression and everything else told me to take indefinite ‘me’ time and I knew that wasn’t healthy. When I went on these dates, they were simple like coffee or a meal (not even dinner and a movie, I kept them short) and there was never a second date. It wasn’t because anything was wrong with the guys in question, at least discernibly so after the first date, but because I was neutral. The diplomat in me always gave a guy who looked good on paper and had the potential for chemistry a chance until I was sure it would work or it wouldn’t. But now I couldn’t be neutral to a guy and go out with him until I knew. My problem in the past had been that I never listened to my gut. I always found a reason to dismiss it, and I knew from experience that while my gut would sometimes scream ‘danger’, it would also give me another kind of feeling if it was right. I may not have trusted destiny or chance, but I trusted that.
So anyway, I had signed up on one of the many smaller social networking sites when I first moved back to Nebraska in 2008, in hopes of meeting new people and well, networking. I had completely forgotten about it until was going through an old email account I was getting ready to delete and found several notifications from the site, some from only a few days before. I logged in and had my page’s privacy settings set so I could see who viewed my page. (Hey, after the Joe thing, I was paranoid, and rightfully so, about my private information and who was checking me out, in any capacity.) I saw that this man from Minnesota kept looking at my page. Any by kept looking, I meant that he had looked at it roughly six times in the last few months. He hadn’t sent me a message, but his profile said he was looking for long-distance friends and pen pals as well as the usual friends, career contacts, etc. for the people who were local. I decided to send him a message.
I don’t remember what I said exactly, but the gist was “I see you keep looking at my profile, if you ever want to chat, email me or message me on yahoo. I am never on this site.” I know I made it sound friendlier than that, but that was the gist. Roy responded back to me and we talked for awhile on yahoo messenger and within a few days talked on the phone for hours, every day. I told him about my illness, which I was a little worried about, because I didn’t want to start out with something that could be considered a lie, but even more importantly, the big elephant in the room only had power until I said something, after which it would immediately deflate. Roy was great about it in the sense that it changed nothing. It didn’t change who I was or affect our friendship with each other at all. That was all I could have asked.
For four weeks we continued daily calls, Roy also sent me a care package after I had a lousy week full of my favorite scents, chocolates and sources of caffeine. When Roy suggested meeting, I wasn’t nervous. I mean I was a little, but not like I should have been. I also didn’t try to put it off, which in the past I would have. Roy drove from Minneapolis to Omaha (about an eight hour drive) in a snowstorm, at night. I suggested we postpone because of the weather. I was surprised at how worried about him I was when we hadn’t even met yet. When he first arrived my breath caught in my chest and while words seemed scarce I couldn’t help but smile. My dog Angel, who is skeptical to strange men (she is very protective of me, she barks her head off and circles me as if creating a barrier between me and said guy, and this goes on until she is used to the guy, which usually takes four or five visits) didn’t bark, which left me stunned. Instead she was on her hind legs (she can walk long distances on her hind legs), tail wagging furiously, trying to lick Roy. I remember thinking, “Whose dog is this?”
Roy conspired with my best friend and we spent two wonderful days together. (He stayed at a hotel a few blocks away.) Roy bought Angel a few toys and treats she didn’t need (hey, the man was smart, get to me through my baby) saw a movie and went to two different Chinese restaurants (my favorite food). It was all romantic, innocent and sweet. I remember when he left and drove back to Minneapolis I worried I was sending the wrong signals. I didn’t want to text him because the message would be too long and I didn’t want to call him because he was driving so I wrote him an email. I told him I had a wonderful time and hoped I hadn’t come across as uninterested, because I was and thought he was very sweet and romantic and just made me feel happy. After I sent the email, I went to gush to my best friend Chase about how I felt. The feeling was one that I couldn’t describe. I was just happy, elated really. I didn’t have a name for it, but all the usual worries that would try to occupy space in my brain, just didn’t. Somehow I knew Roy was going to be something to me and that thing was going to be very, very good.
Roy made a few more trips to Omaha, but the distance was proving a challenge on both of us. We hated being apart, and I pointed out it would be difficult to start a relationship that way. If we were already secure in our relationship, a long-distance thing like ours could work for awhile, but how was it supposed to get off the ground? Even though I was technically better, I could not move yet because my health status was a big question mark. Roy, however, could move. He worked backend operations support for branch managers of a national bank chain, so he was allowed to move anywhere where the bank had branches and they had branches in Omaha. I played devil’s advocate with him a lot when it came to him moving. Sure, I would be beyond happy if he did, but to uproot his life like that, for me or to give us a chance, I was cautious to say the least. Roy did not question it at all though. His lease was up in March and that gave him five weeks to set things in motion with his job so they could make room for him in Omaha. He pointed out if it didn’t work out between us, he could always move back.
I flew to Minneapolis and helped him move. I couldn’t do any lifting, but I am “more Monica Gellar than Monica Gellar” as my friends have told me. Roy being my complete opposite in every way, had not even started packing (anything!) when I arrived. We had less than 48 hours to pack a three bedroom house and load everything onto a truck. That was fine by me, I only needed sixteen hours and every box was packed, labeled and the contents of each box listed in an excel spreadsheet. (I kind of get off on organization – is that weird?)
The night before we left for Omaha Roy also said “I love you,” for the first time, and I surprisingly said it back. I felt it, I was more sure about him than I had ever been about anything and yet it had only been two months of distance dating. What was that? I am not the kind of person to get swept up or go with the flow or just believe things would work out, but with him everything was just right…