Saturday, August 10, 2013

Times Are Getting Better

It's been a while since I written anything about my actual life, but I've been mulling over this post for a while. Well, at least the last month, which has been one of the greatest of my life.

It all started after a 4th of July weekend at home. Towards the end of the trip, I had an intense discussion with my mom about my desires for the future--how I feared they'd never become realities. We both cried, but my stubbornness refused to let her empathy resolve any hard feelings I carried in my heart. I take the blame for that.

Still, the next day driving home with a friend, I felt guilty about the lack of faith I'd exhibited in the conversation with my mom. My friend and I began discussing how I could be more faithful about dating...when inspiration struck. I heard these words (or something like them) begin to come out of my mouth, but I knew they were from a Higher Source:
I just wish I didn't struggle with the same problem over and over again. It feels like no matter how much progress I make, I still fall down again and have to get back up. But, if I'm honest, I guess it's like a an Olympic swimmer or track athlete. The exact nature of what I'm struggling against will never change very much. But my times are getting better. I'm swimming faster. I'm picking myself up more quickly when I fall. I'm even reacting differently when I do fall and have moments of doubt and fear.
That epiphany has sat inside my soul ever since. It reminds me of the sequence of events leading up to Roger Bannister breaking the 4-minute mile. He ran as much as possible but still couldn't seem to break the barrier. Then, he took a small break for a hiking trip somewhere in northern England. The trip not only recharged his inspiration but also altered his mindset. Something inside him shifted away from believing sub-4-minutes was an inhuman barrier. (If that's not exactly what happened, blame the fact that I read The Perfect Mile over 5 years ago. That's how I remember it, and now that means more to me.)

My metaphorical inspiration similarly changed my mindset. In that instant, I went from believing I had very little control over my romantic future to realizing I could do a lot to change it.

Thus began my shortest journey to a date.

Let's flashback a bit to introduce a new character. I'll call him Jackson, but that's not his name. Jackson goes to church with me. I don't remember the first time I noticed him, but whenever it was, I thought he was the best-looking guy in the congregation. This was also before the epiphany, so I also thought he was (1) out of my league and (2) probably had the personality and brains of a the most popular guy on the football team, which is to say, not much of either. Looking back now, those thoughts came from knowing nothing about him and trying to protect myself against liking him. It worked, but only for a short time.

See, I started getting to know Jackson when he joined a group of my friends and acquaintances at a Monday-night church activity. He and others piled into my car and took a trip to campus for a scavenger hunt of interesting sites and circumstances. After actually interacting with him that night instead of judging/assuming from afar, I realized he was both cute and nice. And part of me was hooked.

Of course, that part of me is the part of me incapable (until recently) of interacting with boys once she develops a mild crush on them. Embarrassing, crippling, sad, but true. A few weeks later, I for some reason confessed my crush to some girlfriends. I never do that. But they were pressuring me to say someone, anyone, and Jackson was the name I confessed.

That was right before the 4th of July weekend trip, the unpleasant Mom conversation, and the inspiring friend conversation. But, it required one more catalyst to really get the ball rolling, connect the dots between my crush on Jackson and my agency-activating epiphany.

One Sunday night, after I failed once again to interact with Jackson at various regular Sunday night church activities, a friend and a roommate-friend were discussing their plans to ask boys on a group date. The bravest part of myself (the part which is usually a mute observer) spoke up and said I wanted to join in. Although my immediate thought was "I hate the pressure of having to ask a boy on a date," I was committed. Quickly, our topic of conversation switched from what we'd do to who we'd ask. Several hours of MASH and Face Card Fortune-Telling later, I knew Jackson was my heart's most-desired date for this upcoming event.

But, I still hadn't interacted with him much aside from the short-lived and now distantly-in-the-past scavenger hunt. Enter a plethora of church activities where I (gasp) purposely interacted with Jackson.
  • I made sure to get on his boat when we went sailing. (Yes, we went sailing. The most perfect Monday night of my life. I actually held hands with Jackson and another eligible bachelor as we jumped into the lake. I could have died. From. Luck.)
  • I gave him my best "Come Hither" eyes and moves at a dance party the following night.
  • I intentionally sat next to him at church.
  • I had multiple short conversations with him at Sunday night dessert parties.
  • My roommate and I baked cookies for him and another boy she was trying to lay some groundwork with.
  • Jackson thanked us for making the cookies, looking directly at me the whole time.
  • Jackson made the best Dutch oven peach cobbler in the world at another Monday night event, and I purposely thanked him.
Readers, I never get my flirt on that consistently or persistently. It may not seem like much, but to me that was concerted effort. Granted, my roommates and friend had to nudge me almost every step of the way because those darn dancing butterflies in my stomach wouldn't sit still. (Do butterflies sit?) But, for the most part, I didn't chicken out.

Jackson never gave back the plate we used to bring him cookies, giving me the perfect excuse to text him and ask for it back. I used that interaction to ask him his plans for the weekend and set a date for Friday night. Strangely enough, I was less nervous during the actual asking out than I had been through all the little moments of interaction preceding it. Go figure.

What with one thing and another, my roommate and friend secured their own dates, but not for the same night I'd set up with Jackson. Luckily, he'd arranged to change the venue of our date anyway, having gotten some tickets from his job to a dinner theatre showing of "Annie Get Your Gun." Basically, what was going to be a super casual group date turned into a legit dream date with, no joke, the best-looking guy I've ever been out with.

Now for the actual date. Honestly, this part is too fresh for me to relieve in detail on a blogpost. I'm not going to give a play-by-play. Sorry. My prerogative. Here are some vague descriptions to give you a general idea of the night. Imagine what you will with them.
  • Our conversation was decent but not amazing. I felt like I was asking most of the questions, a hard thing to balance without going into journalist mode and forgetting to reveal anything about myself.
  • He wasn't giving me the same looks I'd had from him in the few weeks leading up to our date. You know, his eyes didn't sparkle when they looked my way and he wasn't smiling with glee at the luck he'd struck to be out with me. But, somehow my heart was okay with that.
  • We sat close but not cuddled up during the show. He laughed at the right parts and has quite an appreciation of theatre. Another thing for the plus column.
  • I got more details about him as a person. Age, family, major, job, etc. These are things I'd wanted to know but never had a chance to ask.
The best conversation occurred as we drove home from the night. We hugged good-night, not a strong embrace but one that fit the tone of the date. 

As I sat rehashing and analyzing with my roommates, I realized I was happy with whatever comes next and I don't feel pressured to keep flirting with Jackson so he'll fall madly in love with me. I just wanted to get to know him better and find out if my crush had any legs for us to form a relationship on. I'm still not sure; it almost feels like only the surfaces of our true and complete personalities were on that date last night. He actually has both personality and brains in addition to looking genuinely handsome 100% of the time. He just seems like a complete, well-rounded guy. I couldn't tell you which part of him is most impressive. It all just fits.

But, I'm also not heartbroken over not having made huge strides with him. Sorry if I set you up to believe I was about to tell the story of my first kiss/boyfriend. Truly, my efforts during the last 3 weeks which culminated in last night actually just prove to me that my times have improved immeasurably since I started trying to interact with Jackson instead of just mildly hoping he'd notice my amazing qualities from afar. That is the true story of July (and part of August) 2013.  I discovered that I can flirt in my own way and it's both terrifying and fun like a roller coaster. And, like a roller coaster, it's not going to kill me.

If you'd told me a month ago I'd be on a date with Jackson last night, I wouldn't have believed you. But, if you told me today I could be on another date with Jackson or different man I'm attracted to within the next month, I'd know it's actually possible. So, stay tuned. This ride is about to get really interesting.