Time may be a flat circle, but I’d argue that since we’re living in a universe (or perhaps a multiverse), perhaps the flat circle is more of a wheel, a spring, or maybe a set of flat circles stacked atop each other like unlimited pancakes at IHOP. Maybe we’ll get lucky and time will be waves, endlessly breaking against a shore.
Our perception of time perplexes me. Some days slide by fluidly, others drag on endlessly….I’ve blinked and suddenly five years have passed, and now I’m here, still physically in the same place, but living a completely different life than the ones I’ve lived before. I’m pretty sure there’s a saying about the days being long but the years being short, and even though I’m sure I would have argued against that at some point in my life, I now know exactly what that means.
I started to type a paragraph about the material and aesthetic gains of the past year – the house is painted; there are two dogs (and two cats) now; there are windows that actually open (and close); I finally sold the Acura; I don’t work four jobs anymore; my hair is kind of blonde now – but none of those really matter. My life has changed immensely for a much larger and more important reason: I let go, I fell in love, and my world will never be the same.
The feeling of attaining something you’ve sought for a long time but thought was no longer within reach is sublime. Perhaps I’d describe it as “uncertain elation,” the feeling of unbridled joy mixed with an undercurrent of quiet concern, the fear of brevity in the face of the golden glow of contentment, and the humanness of trying to find balance in it all.
Last year, I decided to take a break from love, to let go of the search for “the one” (or someone even sort of close to it), and decided to spend some time with myself. Obviously, it was a drastic measure – I was 32, rapidly approaching 33, and the desire to someday have a family loomed large above me. I remember having the incredibly difficult realization that perhaps children or a family weren’t in my future. I was burnt out, frustrated, and just exhausted. Something had to give, and I clearly wasn’t making choices that were serving my best interests – at a certain point, I’d starting intentionally settling for what I thought was good enough, and as we tend to learn when we take that course of action, sort of good enough simply wasn’t even okay, let alone sustainable in any sort of way.
There were some slight missteps, of course. I attempted a few dates at one point, buoyed by the hope that time alone to reacquaint myself with myself would have had the desired effect of a more focused, critical approach. And it worked – I felt a visceral response of, “No,” or the oft-overlooked, “meh,” and continued on about my business, reminding myself that when it was right, it would feel that way, and reminding myself that settling was out of the question. (Although what is “that way,” really? We’re sold this idea that it will all magically land, so there’s quite a bit of confusion around the actual feeling itself, because it’s impossible to articulate and obviously open for interpretation and subject to the vantage point of its feeler at any given place in space and time.)
I firmly believe that there is something to take away from nearly every interaction, and sometimes, the depth of a single sentiment (or interaction) will somehow settle into your bones and shape your vision in a way you had never expected. My third job as a cake decorator afforded me an unexpected friendship. A tired, overworked, underappreciated assistant manager became a close confidant, and she became my biggest cheerleader. At one point, she said, “someday, you’ll find someone who will meet you exactly where you are,” and despite the fact that I’m sure we’ve all heard that a million times, that time it stuck, settling snugly.
Summer brought an unexpected surprise: my brother and his wife gifted me a puppy at the end of July. I believe the text from my brother said, “I’m sending you three pictures. Pick one.” I’d wanted a dog forever. Someone said to me that they imagined I would get a dog, then find my person. I laughed that off. I kept putting it off. I would look, half-heartedly, wondering if I could manage. I thought I’d wait until my beloved Carl passed, but at this rate, it might be another five years. He’s the toughest cat I know, even though we’re meandering the gentle slope towards the rainbow bridge. (In addition to requiring the addition of fiber to his daily cat soup, he will now only drink out of running bathwater; he refuses his multiple cat fountains…..he’s ridiculous. If you forget to turn his water on, he’ll stand in the bathtub and scream until you turn the water on for him. I love him.) My mom said that she’d help me finance the procurement of a dog, which was surprising, given her feelings towards them. (They’re not her favorite.) I needed one that would be good with cats, good with children, and so on. I didn’t imagine I would have have a puppy, so when I go the pictures from my brother, my heart stopped and there he was, a little black and white and brown puppy, his eyes bright and curious, his little paws irresistible. I knew. I knew right then that he was for me.
I’ve always toyed with the idea of fate, destiny, inevitability, the intertwining of the world in ways we can’t quite comprehend. I will not say that we lack free will, but I believe somewhere that there is something pulling us, if only we’ll listen to it. The universe puts things in front of us, and should we reach out and grab them, we pull ourselves forward or pull them closer. Watson was the right dog at the right time. I pretended to debate. Puppies are expensive. They’re time-consuming. They’re a whole lot. But I felt something pulling me, and I didn’t ignore it. I tugged the thread.
I flew home with him from Austin after having the sweetest phone discussion with the Southwest Airlines agent who cried on the phone when I told her I was getting my very first puppy – she had lost her dog that March and wasn’t sure if she should get another one. I hope she ended up getting one. She gave me advice on puppies, and wished me all the best.
Watson is an Australian Shepherd, and he’s my dog, so obviously he’s a handful. He’s ridiculously smart, gorgeous, fluffy, and adorably sweet. He’s perfect. I fell in love with him immediately, and I think I fall more in love with him every day. He’s currently sleeping on my feet under my desk. I decided that I’d pour all of my energy and attention into caring for and training him, and that perhaps October would be a good time to dip my toes back into the dating world. By then, I imagined, I’d be ready.
Instead, I felt compelled by some odd curiosity, perhaps brought on by lack of sleep from being up every two hours with the dog, and I downloaded an app and added a few photos and answered some questions. I was determined to be nothing but honest, selective in my choices, and incredibly clear about what I was looking for in a potential partner.
The first notification came through. His question was something about what I thought the meaning of life is (based on one of the snippets of text in my brief profile). I answered honestly: I used to think it was love in all forms, with high emphasis on romantic love, but lately, it had been anything to do with separation from the capitalist mindset and my rage against the structures that bind us to drudgery for corporate gain. We chatted back and forth, those long stretches of nearly paragraph-length text that tend to be so rare on internet dating apps, and he asked me if I’d like to meet. I agreed, and after some confusion about scheduling, we set a date and time.
He said later that he’d hesitated; he couldn’t tell what I looked like from my pictures, I was slightly older than him, but something made him reach out anyway. I laugh, because I hovered as well. His pictures also didn’t provide a clear indication of his visage, he was younger, but he had kind eyes. His profile said that he wanted someone who was three things: something, something, and “a little weird.” Well, I was all of those things. So I swiped, responded, and together we set in motion a combined future without knowing what was yet to come.
Of course, that day went nothing like I expected it to – instead of having time to prepare for the date, I found myself working late, trying to get a puppy-sitter to watch 10 week old Watson so I could go out for a few hours, and completely unprepared as far as what to wear, etc. And so I went, frazzled and stressed, eight minutes late.
He was waiting patiently for me outside. I was a bundle of nervous energy, but I’d decided that this was just a practice date anyway (since I imagined I’d be taking a different approach to dating this time and that this likely wouldn’t turn into anything serious – I’d have a couple of drinks, try to be myself rather than present some idealized version of me, and then go home, relieve the puppy-sitter, and make dinner). I babbled on for a bit while we did the cursory introductory talk, and started to find myself settling in and relaxing.
I laugh now to think of how that went – unexpected and intense. Our first date lasted seven hours. Our second date lasted twenty-one. On our fourth date, we planned a beach vacation. On our fifth date, he brought me flowers and steak, we introduced our dogs, I told him I was pretty sure he was my person, and that was that.
Six weeks into knowing each other, we spent five days in Miami, in a gorgeous little place in South Beach, directly across the street from the beach. We ate some of the best (and worst) food of our lives, played in the ocean, laid on the beach, and spent hours pruning ourselves in the hot tub at night. It was glorious. I’ve never taken that much time off of work before, and I’m happily doing so again twice this year, so I can return to Miami and touch the ocean and eat at a restaurant called Bacon Bitch (if it’s still there, which hopefully it is and hopefully it’s amazing), because life is short and because I can.
I remember those early nights, where we’d stay up too late talking about everything and somehow make it to work the next day and function and then do it all over again the next night, when time did that strange thing where it expands while contracting; somehow it felt like forever, both inevitable and yet gently unfolding in front of us, shiny and new.
I can’t tell you what it feels like to feel so genuinely adored and understood; I could try, but it’d get strange and sappy, which it still might. To be seen is so freeing. To be so loved is to be enveloped in endless waves of warmth. I’ve had to stretch past the various things that hold me back, those nagging bits of darkness that live inside all of us that seem to scream louder in some of us than in others. I’m not alone, but that’s not the right word – I’m supported in a way I always dreamed might be possible; I want to grow and reach; I radiate with a warm glow of contentment, certainty, and joy. I am safe. I am home. Together, are we building a life. It’s chaotic, cluttered, and we’re exhausted, but there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.
I’ve been resolute in my adherence to the red thread theory: the story goes that you’re tethered by fate – a red thread that will tangle and stretch, but never break, and it will lead you, through the course of your life, to meet exactly the people you need to in a way that will change the course of your life. I know that I’ve traveled down so many different paths in this life, and learned so many things, and finally, in the letting go, it came to me.
You know when you’re on the wrong path, because everything starts to feel muddy and confused, but then you get so far off that path that you can’t even figure out how to get back to it. Eventually, everything is gray. (One of my very favorite books, The Phantom Tollbooth, would likely describe this sensation as “the doldrums,” and it’s not wrong.) Sometimes, you end up putting your head down for so long that you lose your way, and the only way to find it again is to let go. (I’m not religious, but I do love the saying, “Let go and let God.”) It’s like that scene in Dune when he turns off the ornithopter in the middle of a dust storm, realizing that fighting was going to be futile, disastrous even, and trusts that it’ll find its way. And it does. It’s bumpy and awful, but they emerge, alive, and exactly where they’re meant to be.
The realignment of anything internal, be it joy, love, purpose, or whatever else, is one of the most motivating feelings in the world. Somehow, the slightest shifts start to stack up and before you even realize that you’re moving, you’re back on that path, the way forward lit up brilliantly before you; you yourself aglow again.
Time may be a flat circle, but my hope is that it’s like a stack of pancakes or a spring. I’d live this whole life all over again, exactly how it’s unfolded, to get back to where I am right now. We may be destined to repeat everything, and in that pessimism lies the beautiful repetition of the best bits and the occasional explosive expansion of joy. So even if this somehow falls apart, due to future human error or entropy or the inherent impermanence of everything, for now, it is the most wonderful thing, and I’m doing my best never to let my gratitude for this elation slip away.
After what has felt for me like the longest, darkest night (or a variety of moderately dim, often dark, sometimes decently illuminated years), the dawn is breaking and it’s absolutely glorious. I have a small family; I have a dog of my own; I am loved.
The photo below is not the dawn (I am not a morning person; I just got back from a week at the beach and I did not see the sun rise once), but rather an image that makes me feel radiant joy. As it turns out, I am actually capable of relaxation! All you need to do is give me sunshine, a warm, giant body of water, and enough time to let go and just be.