Those are words I never thought I’d write again.
Me, getting married.
We met four years ago on Match.com. (His sister met her husband on Match too. Wild!) Both of us were simply looking for someone to have dinner with, maybe go for a hike. We’d both been on Match for a couple of weeks and were not digging it – it felt like person shopping and made us feel a little icky – so we were about to sign off when Bob sent me an email:
“Wow, you live on Bainbridge? Nobody single lives on Bainbridge. Want to have coffee?”
We meet, I liked him but not that way so on the sidewalk afterward, I said, “I’d love to be friends but we certainly don’t have a romance here.”
Oh Jen, so adorable when you make your definite predictions.
Of course, it turns out I was utterly wrong because within a few weeks we were inseparable, at least as inseparable as single parents of children can be.
It also turns out we both terrified of marrying again. We couched our fear – not dishonestly – in
“We’ve done marriage, had the babies, now we’re going to be modern. We’re going to stick it to the man and never get married.”
Yet underneath our 60’s counter-culture brio lurked – speaking only for myself now – my most ancient fear: that I am unlovable. Impossible to live with. Too intense, too dark, too much.
Fast forward four years and a few weeks. We’re spending a week on Lake Atitlan in Guatemala turning into bodies of bliss via meditation and yoga-bendiness. We’re climbing the stairs to our little bungalow when Bob says, “I have a treat for you. And a surprise.”
I bop up the stairs ahead of him. “Sweet!”
We sat on our porch with the warm wind from the lake tickling our cheeks and shared a bar of our favorite chocolate. Me thinking: what a thoughtful guy.
And then: a Rumi love poem recited through tears, a perfect ring slipped on my finger, and a declaration:
“I want you to know that I want to spend the rest of my life with you and I want the world to know that I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”
I cry. I exclaim. I am shocked. Did. Not. See. This. Coming.
This is the moment in which I throw myself into his arms and cry yes, yes, yes! A thousand times YES.
If only. Instead, I froze. That ancient fear I mentioned, that “you can’t love me” ick? It gripped me like Golem gripped the ring.
I sat there, barely breathing, as Bob waited for me to say yes.
I finally managed to stammer I was scared and I needed time to grow into my yes. I reassured him I was delighted and it was wonderful – amazing! – that he asked me, no really! – meanwhile, I felt… shuttered. Far away. Cold.
We finished our luscious retreat and set out for a week of gentle adventure through the magic, mystery and astonishing resiliency of Guatemala. Every once in awhile Bob would look at me quizzically and I would look at myself quizzically. Why was I so shut down?
As we traveled, I did my best to love and be kind to whatever part of me was so terrified. I breathed, I waited, I was as patient with myself as I could be.
It was a tad surreal – we were having an incredible trip and yet… there was this unspoken thing hovering between us.
And now we come to the last day of our trip. We’re in a splurge-y hotel room, getting dressed to take the flight home, and Bob asks, “What you are going to tell Lilly?”
I stutter something and he, gently but firmly, says,
“I don’t want to tell the kids anything. Nothing has to change. We can just go along as before.”
And then he adds,
“Pretend I didn’t ask.”
Sitting across the room from him, I felt two paths in front of me. One was the life I would live if I choose the story of being unlovable, of being intrinsically flawed. The other path was one of literal lightness – both in feeling and color – of knowing and sharing the ease of my essential goodness.
I could feel each path, each future, in my body. And then, it occurred to me that I had a choice.
“Could it truly be this easy? Could I just decide to be happy?”
I blurted out (and I mean blurted),
Bob peered at me and slowly said,
I checked in and yes, there was THE biggest, THE brightest, THE ripest okay ever.
The whole room vibrated as we stared at each other.
Tears, hugs, more tears, long kiss, tension releasing belly laughs, then running for our plane with the dawning realization as we moved among people and settled into our seats: miracles happen.
Perhaps it is rare in life to see so clearly the choice between love and separation, between happiness and fear but perhaps not. Perhaps these kinds of miracles are waiting for us every day, even every moment.
This is my truth: a miracle happened. I choose to turn away from the brittle hackneyed story – a story that isn’t even mine but one I inherited along with my blue eyes and strong thighs – that I couldn’t say yes to the man I love because… how could he love me?
To say this decision – this leap into love – has changed everything – our relationship, our blended family, my work – is not an exaggeration.
I choose to be loved. I will choose it again and again and again.
I so hope you will, too.