# 3 Walking in love
Here’s what it looks like when you tell people you’re romantically involved with a man who is twenty eight years older…a man who was born the same year your parents were born…a man who is also your boss:
Ours was a slow and methodical coming out. My partner and I were nervous, to say the least, about involving our loved-ones in our relationship. Cozy dinner dates and clandestine sleepovers were one thing – and for a month or so we enjoyed the stealthiness of our budding love affair. But telling his only-a-few-years-younger-than-me children? Bringing him to a family dinner at my parent’s house? How could that not result in judgment and disaster?
What we discovered, however, was just how uninteresting our relationship was to the people who love us most. The only thing we received in return for spilling the beans was support and well-wishes.
“You’re both happy…that’s all that matters.”
And that was that.
In 2017, I didn’t so much fall in love as I did walk into it – on purpose and with tremendous thought and consideration.
Thing is, I’ve loved this man for a long, long time. I’ve loved him as a mentor and I’ve loved him as a friend. He’s a ‘they don’t make ’em like they used to,’ kind of man. If he was in his 30s and we didn’t have ten years of history behind us and he wasn’t my boss and it wasn’t such a difficult situation, I wouldn’t have hesitated even a moment before committing to a relationship.
But he’s not in his 30s. We do have ten years of history behind us. He is my boss.
There was a lot to consider, a lot to lose. A lot to fuck up. And my collective dating record could certainly be interpreted as one long, inconsiderate fuck up.
From the moment it became clear this was more than just a physical fling, we went back and forth. We talked about all the things.
We talked about whether or not I want children [no] and whether or not my opinion on the matter would change [I don’t know]. We talked about the fact that he wants someone to share his life with and I want to quit my job next year to spend six months backpacking from Georgia to Maine, which is essentially the extent of my life planning. We talked about the fact that he’s a joiner and an extrovert and I’m a loner who prefers to spend my time at home. We talked about my future and his future and what’s fair and what’s selfish and what’s best.
He struggled, feeling as though dating him meant I was missing out on something else. I struggled, too, worrying that he should be dating a woman who was more stable and ready for the long haul.
Things came crashing down at one point when I told him I couldn’t do this because even though we’re happy now, I can’t promise forever and he deserves to be with someone who’s looking for forever. I thought maybe it was best to end things because I respect him and love him too much to ever hurt him and what if someday I hurt him? It was painful and not what I wanted, but what was the alternative?
We didn’t break up on the pretense of what might happen someday, thankfully.
Instead, we promised the only thing either of us (or anyone in any relationship, for that matter) can promise: honesty.
It works for us – taking things one day at a time and choosing each other with the sunrise.
I told him my truth and lay naked what I have to offer at this point in my life. I stopped assuming it wasn’t enough. He’s a grown man…he can decide if it’s enough. And with that, we removed the pressure and decided to focus on the moments as they come.
“We’re both happy and that’s all that matters.”
Thank you, 2017, for teaching me how to walk in love with a man.
# 4 Student.
Speaking of lessons, I kept a log of all the books I read in 2017. It wouldn’t be a proper reflection of the year if I didn’t compile a list of the books that made me feel like a student absorbing wisdom – growing up as pages turned.
-The Bassoon King (Rainn Wilson) January 2017
-Love Warrior (Glennon Doyle) January 2017
-When You Are Engulfed in Flames (David Sedaris) January 2017
-Essays After Eighty (Donald Hall) January 2017
-The Year of Magical Thinking (Joan Didion) February 2017
-My Salinger Year (Joanna Rakoff) March 2017
-Abandon Me (Melissa Febos) March/April 2017
-When Breath Becomes Air (Paul Kalanithi) June 2017
-How to Murder Your Life (Cat Marnell) July 2017
-The Liars’ Club (Mary Karr) July/August 2017
-An Unquiet Mind (Kay Redfield Jamison) September 2017
-On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (Stephen King) November 2017
-The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho) January/February 2017
-The Stranger (Albert Camus) February 2017
-The Girl on the Train (Paula Hawkins) March 2017
-Still Missing (Chevy Stevens) May/June 2017
-1984 (George Orwell) June 2017
-Holding Up The Universe (Jennifer Niven) September 2017
# 5 the next right thing.
It happened gradually, I’m sure. In hindsight, though, it seems as if the shift solidified suddenly in the fall when the weather cooled. The novelty of early sobriety wore off…the ‘pink cloud’ dissipated to reveal ordinary skies and the humdrum of every-day life. Every-day life is beautiful, don’t get me wrong…I treasure it.
Of course this was going to happen – one can only be shocked and awed by the ability to wake up early and drink coffee on the couch so many times before the ritual simply becomes waking up early and drinking coffee on the couch. Mondays no longer feel miraculous just because I’m alive. Mondays feel like Mondays.
I burst through the doors of 2017 with the energy of a toddler on speed and proceeded to spend the first half of the year bounding from one joyful encounter or triumph to another. Such was life in early sobriety.
Eventually, the world slowed and so did I. This isn’t to say I ended the year depressed or dejected or wanting to drink – quite the opposite.
I ended 2017 in contemplation with Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living by Krista Tippett. It’s been a season of deep reflection and grappling with purpose and faith and love and fear and the mind-body-soul connection (aka: the hard stuff, the meat). Perhaps not surprisingly, I was tired in the final weeks and months of 2017. And I’m still tired. Thankful and woke, but also in need of a very long nap.
Here’s the thing I’ve learned that continues to stay the same, in every season and every mood, and will always act as my lighthouse on the shore:
“Do the next right thing, one thing at a time, and that will take you all the way home.”
Cheers, 2018. Please be kind to us all.