The Unrequited Love Saga Pt 6

I’d love to wrap this saga up in a nice little bow. I’d love to say I have no more insecurities and my confidence now brings all the hot men to the yard more sufficiently than my milkshakes. But I can’t.

I can’t notice Falk’s qualities without instantly feeling the weight of my flaws. I fight it, but it is definitely a struggle that I’m not entirely sure how to fight.

All I know is to focus on what the Lord is teaching me. What He’s shown me.

It has definitely been a month of asking and listening about all this. And also Jesus answering.

divider-line

9923a580971b68b0826918008fabb5b2

I recently watched the Meryl Streep film Out of Africa for the first time. Now, I haven’t experienced dramatic love affairs in the African savannah, or even dramatic love affairs in the US…or even dramatic love affairs…

…or …love affairs.

BUT

What resonated with me the most was that, yes, Karen was a strong character and she did what she had to do and she survived, but at the end of the day she didn’t want to do it alone. Was she capable? Yes. She proved that to everyone.

The real tragedy in the movie wasn’t the death of the man she loved. To me, it was that, though she was capable of going it alone, she didn’t want to have to. She wanted a partner to help her do life. And none of the men in her life were willing to truly be there. They wouldn’t step up. Were they capable? Yes. But they chose not to be there, annoyed that she even expressed that desire. He uses the excuse that his freedom was a better mark of his love for her. That he comes back because he truly loves her and not because he’s obligated to. He doesn’t see that she’s tired. He doesn’t see that for once she doesn’t want to fight alone for herself and her livelihood. That she wants him to fight for her by fighting alongside her instead of galavanting off to his easier life and leaving her with all the work and toil and uncertainty.

How often have I desired that? Am I capable of doing this life thing without a man? Yes. I am. And thank Jesus I’ve got the Holy Spirit so I’m not truly alone. But at times I long for a partner to help me carry my life’s burdens as I carry theirs. I long to have someone in my corner. Someone who has my back and shares the load of “running my African coffee farm.”

This lack also extends beyond the romantic realm. Sometimes it is very discouraging in ministry when men don’t step up…almost as if they view relational ministry as “women’s work.” I’m the head student ministry leader and it’s hard to see the girls growing and the number of guys dwindling. Us female leaders can only lead the boys so far. We can’t teach them how to be godly men and we can’t invest very deeply without it being inappropriate. They need male leaders. Male disciplers and mentors who lead them by example and invest in their lives. We have volunteer leaders but none of them know how to invest relationally. At times their presence seems to be more of a hindrance than a help because the example they set is to be passive, aloof, and clicky. The opposite of servants.

What’s more, around the time I watched Out of Africa I also was, once again, having attitude issues with the guys in the band.

Quite often I go through bouts of questioning why God decided to make me the leader. Why God? You know I’m non-confrontational. You know I’m not good under pressure and especially when I’m angry. You know I’m like a fish out of water when trying to relate to men. You know how hard it is to lead while trying not to come off as a bossy “bitch” who is disrespectful to the men she’s in charge of. Why did you put me in a job where I’ve got to handle people? Lead them?

The attitude got out of hand one Sunday and I was so shocked by what he said to me I didn’t respond. I could only stand there in unbelief at the level of disrespect he’d just shown in front of everyone. I didn’t get the chance to confront him about it afterward in private either and was so upset that week, feeling like a failure and also hurt that he’d acted that way and hurt by what he’d actually said. Mostly mad at myself for not handling it when it happened.

That week at the small group I shared my struggles, thankful that this group of people was unrelated to the rest of my life and a safe place. I needed encouragement that God would enable me to lead if He’s called me to lead. I’d even have been happy for some advice for how to talk to the guy in the band and deal with the issue. Some of the people did encourage me. But then Irishman, who is also a worship leader I look up to, asked me how long I’d been in my job. When I told him he said that maybe I needed to look elsewhere.

He didn’t say it as though it were a word from the Lord or anything. He said it kind of flippantly. But it hurt because he basically was affirming the idea that they were never going to respect me no matter what, that I’m not cut out as a leader, and I should just quit. He didn’t hear me. He didn’t see my need. He didn’t see me.

Already feeling unseen and misunderstood, things got worse when Shanks arrived super late when Dreamer and I were the only women left. Dreamer asked this young guy what kind of girl he was looking for.

“Oh, I’m not worried about that at this point,” he answered.

“That’s true,” she mused, “You’re only 22. You have time.”

Then Shanks piped up, “I don’t know, though. When I was 22 I thought I had time but when you get to be my age the dating pool is ugh!” And he pulled this face of disgust.

“It’s super late and I’ve got a long drive home,” I declared and left fairly abruptly. Between the house and my car I paused and seriously considered going back inside and giving him an earful.

“Ace Rosalind, you get into your car right now and drive away,” I commanded myself. You know it’s bad when I’m considering actually chewing someone out, swearing included. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve lost control of myself in anger but when it’s happened I scare myself. INFP’s ya’ll. Great depths of emotion that don’t come out very easily but when they do…boy are they strong! Like a bursting dam.

This was my imagined rant to Shanks:

If you had ended that sentence with, “the dating pool is smaller,” or, “it’s so much harder to find people who aren’t married,” I would agree with you and would have no problem. But “ugh!?” Really? You’re really going to say that in front of me with no hesitation? I’M IN YOUR FREAKIN DATING POOL! So either I’m “UGH!” or I’m so far beneath you you don’t even consider me as in your UGH pool! What’s more, you say this to people who are part of the small group that is full of beautiful, intelligent, single, Christian women. No wonder you’re single, you jerk!”

After raging all the way home I tried to go to bed. I couldn’t sleep. I let God in on my thoughts and emotions and found myself crying and felt my heart breaking.

Lord, it’s not just Shanks. It’s also the men I do ministry with and my friends and these singles. God, they’re breaking my heart! I feel like Karen in the movie. I want help. I want to be seen. I want them to want to understand. But they don’t. Not in ministry or friendship and certainly not in dating.

For the first time I felt a discouragement about men that caused actual despair. That night, What Men Lacked seemed to have a weight of its own that crushed and buried me. They lacked the ability to care to see. I lacked the ability to cause them to. I felt that I would forever go Unseen, Unknown, and completely Misunderstood.

The irony in all of this is that Bushbaby gave me a Giving Key with the word “Cherished” on it. Basically the idea behind The Giving Keys is that you give someone a key with a word engraved that the Holy Spirit directs you to give. That person wears the key until they embrace the word and then they pass it on to whoever the Lord directs.

So I’m trying to embrace that I am “Cherished.”

Screen Shot 2016-04-03 at 12.39.11 AM.png

Over the past months I’ve felt quite the opposite of cherished. Loved, sure. I know God loves me. But cherished? How can someone Unseen, Unknown, Overlooked, and completely Misunderstood by what felt like everyone around her be cherished? 

But then that Saturday I put on the new Bethel album as I drove and the Holy Spirit directed me to pay attention to the words of a certain song. I cried as I listened and then I listened again and cried more. I love it when God speaks like that. So specifically to your need. And not only to dispel lies and speak truth but also to prove that I am cherished by the fact that He does so!

After worship and much prayer, the Lord affirmed me in the leadership role He gave me. Throughout the Bible He never says that He will take away the weakness of those He uses. I’m not going to be cured of the things that cause me to struggle as a leader. However, He always tells them that He will be with them. He equips them to do the work. On their own they can’t, but He will act out His will through His power and their weakness will be the means of displaying that power. The same goes for me. He’s called me to lead. I’m not equipped on my own but I don’t have to be. He will give me what I need in the moment. I must rely on Him to come through in my weakness.

He did. The next day went really well. I got some attitude from the one guy. Instead of inner turmoil the Lord gave me the words and the tone and an inner peace that were perfect for the situation. He came through for me.

I went on a mission trip. It was very challenging for me this time. Again I was in a situation where I had to work with someone very difficult. I wondered why I was even there and felt useless and Unseen in totally new ways. And yet, I ran to God in the midst. And in each instance where I wanted nothing more than to lose it on this difficult person or get snippy or really passive aggressive, I asked Him for patience and self-control. For grace. And He sustained me. I’m still shocked that I contained my frustration as well as I did, and can only say it was Jesus doing it in me. He was very much my refuge on that trip. And in the end I was exhausted because it had been hard but I was also very much in love with Jesus and so thankful for His care in the midst.

On the trip there were some very precious moments of connecting with people. Even though the work I went to do was disrupted and frustrating, these moments of connection were the bright points. One of these moments was a conversation with a leader from another group that was staying the same place we did. (This was not a romantic thing) He and I talked about theology and philosophy, but occasionally he would say something like, “You seem like a (insert descriptive word here) person.” And he would totally nail it. Like…he got me. He saw who I was after only talking to me for half an hour. And as I walked away I felt really encouraged and heard the Holy Spirit say, See? There are people who can see you and get you. I’m not the only being who can. And there will be men who can too.

What matters, what He has been showing me through all of this searching and questioning and feeling and hurting…well, basically I’m cherished by Him. Maybe the idea isn’t to cure me of my insecurities about other people. Maybe He’s brought this up in order to show me His sustaining power, His tender care, His deep personal desire to show me that I’m understood completely by Him and so loved for who I am. And to show me that His desire is not just for me to understand that He loves me, but that I was made for loving Him in return. The kind of relationship I long for He longs to have with me! He wants me to seek to See Him and Know Him and Understand His heart.

This is the song that He led me to, that I’ve gone back to over and over lately because I need its truth to sink in. To seep into my cells. It’s super good…and then the bridge hits and it goes to a whole new level. COMPLETE Lyrics are below (The vid only has some).

“You Don’t Miss A Thing”
When You stand I feel the floor of Heaven tremble
As You breathe we live and have our being
When you speak oh I feel it in my chest
When You sing all my fears are put to rest

CHORUS

What a wondrous thing
I can stand to sing
Cause when I fall to my knees,
You’re the one who pulls me up again
What a mystery
That You notice me
And in a crowd of ten thousand
You don’t miss a thing
You don’t miss a thing

When you sigh the wind becomes a sonnet
When you laugh the storm around me ceases
You whisper and all my enemies are scattered
You surround me with angels on assignment

CHORUS

And I am seen
And I am known
By the King of Kings
And Lord of Lords

There’s no place I can go
Where your love won’t find me
No place I can hide
That you don’t see
There’s no place I can fall
Where your love couldn’t catch me
You see it all,you see it all
Through the eyes of love

There’s no place I can go where your love won’t find me
No place I can hide that you can’t see
No place I can fall where your love wouldn’t catch me
You see it all, you see it all
And you’re in everything, you’re all around me

When I withdraw, still You pursue.
There’s no place I can go where your love won’t find me
No place I can hide that you don’t see
When I’m misunderstood your love understands me
You see it all, you see it all
You’re in everything

You’re all around me
You surround me

There’s no place I can go that you won’t find me
There’s no place I can hide that you don’t see
No place I could fall your love wouldn’t catch me
You see it all, you see it all
Through the eyes of love

So come and see me
Come and know me
Come and search my heart and make me
Like You, like You
I just wanna be like you

Come and see me
Come and know me
Come and search my heart and make me new
Make me new
I wanna be like You

 

The Unrequited Love Saga Pt 5

There is a reason I’ve written this saga. It began the night I wrote part 1.

divider-line

I lie on the air mattress at Dreamer & Irishman’s house staring at the ceiling in the wee hours of the morning, unable to sleep.

Why am I so insecure? Why do I hold back? I really do care too much about what people think. 

These thoughts dredge up the past and then I’m lying there going over and over memories in my head. Seeing the night my 8th-grade crush walked with Gleam under the stars. Then the realization hits me.

It’s been 15 years. FIFTEEN YEARS. And somehow I’m in nearly the EXACT same scenario. How did I get here again!? 

The similarity is too uncanny. It’s more than coincidence.

Lord, what is going on? This has to be for a reason. Why are you doing this? What are you trying to show me?

divider-line

Dreamer and Irishman started a small-group that I’ve started attending. It is for creative Christians and so far it’s been really great for me. First, it has inspired me to keep writing my novel and I’ve made tons of progress since beginning to attend in January. Second, it’s awesome to have a group of people MY AGE, who are a nice mix of singles and marrieds, who are outside my normal social bubble and with whom I have a lot in common. Finally…and more pertinent to this blog… there are single, Christian, attractive men.

I will discuss the two who are on my radar at the moment. At her New Years party, Dreamer suggested I consider the first one, Shanks.

The first time I met him I didn’t. Meaning…I met pretty much everyone there except him even though there was ample opportunity for us to meet. The reason was that he seemed to be avoiding me like the plague or just actually physically couldn’t see me at all. Because he ignored me. Like, would talk to the people next to me and his eyes would glaze right past me like I wasn’t actually there. It was rude. If he had paused I would have introduced myself because that’s what everyone at that party was doing. They are a group of very nice people. Not him. At least, not to me. He was super friendly and chatty with everyone else, it seemed.

Needless to say I was very quickly turned off by this. I can’t stand people who act like other people aren’t important and I don’t like people who are rude to everyone but their friends. In this setting it was rude.

By 4 in the morning most of the guests had left but a small group of maybe 8 of us. Shanks brought a game and we decided to play it. It was the best kind of game. A game to show your wit by writing down things. And I was funny. And often in the lead. And often pitted against Shanks. He had no choice but to acknowledge me. I felt so inwardly smug and justified when my answer beat his over and over again.

secretly-smug

That’s right, I’m a person, I thought, and my brain is a force to be reckoned with. There’s some gold in there and you gotta deal with it.

When I attended the small group a couple weeks later I made an effort to talk to him. Just because he was rude didn’t mean I was going to be. He did talk with me some but it was by no means very engaging.

Dreamer asked me about talking to him later. I mentioned how he’d ignored me at the New Years party and she responded, “Yeah, I noticed that, too! You know, Ace, I’m starting to think that he’s just awkward around girls because that seemed so out of character for him”

That gave me a little more grace. After all, I’m an expert at feeling awkward around attractive members of the opposite sex so I’ll cut him a little slack. But only a little😉


Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 11.57.47 AM


 

After the New Years party I was a little confused as to why Dreamer thought Shanks and I would be a good match. Didn’t she know that I prefer friendly, warm, fun, and engaging men? Shanks was definitely cute, and seemed like he could be fun once he let you in his club, but he didn’t see anyone outside of it. Whoever I end up with has to see people. He has to care about those around him. A man might treat me like a princess but if he’s oblivious to how he makes everyone else feel then what good is that? It only shows that his love extends to those from which he wants something.

I love people. I don’t ever want to be inconsiderate of their feelings. That’s why I’m drawn to people who also care about those around them. We may not be perfect at it but at least being considerate is important to us.

The second man on my radar, Falk, is one of these people. I met him the same time, and instantly felt seen and important. He’s fun, caring, confident, and a good listener. He’s physically attractive and has never met a stranger. He introduced himself to me and every time I’ve seen him he makes a point to talk to me. I shared with him a job situation and the next time I saw him he asked me about it. He treats everyone like that, from what I’ve seen.

After the New Years party I was further confused at why Dreamer didn’t consider him for me. Later she revealed that they were hoping to set him up with her sister.

My mind and emotions chewed on that one for a while.

Dreamer’s loyalty to her sister is greater than her loyalty to me and so her sister should end up with the best guy she knows, and/or she really does think they’d make a better match than he and I would be. Both are understandable and I’m not upset at Dreamer about this.

I can’t say I’m thrilled about the situation, though. Finally, here’s a handsome, Christ-loving, people-loving, fun, kind, engaging man who isn’t married (and who is not too young for me!) and who is in a good stage of life, and my friend basically betroths him to her sister.

And her sister is Gleam.

divider-line

I mean seriously, Lord?

Now I’m sitting up on the air mattress, mouth hanging open with the realization that once again doubts and insecurities are creeping up because I’m comparing myself, and I happen to be comparing myself to the same freaking girl who won the heart of my first major crush!

She’s still beautiful, still bubbly and sparkling. Still has that thing. That same infectious laugh.

Somehow wounds from that tumultuous age tend to take longer in the healing, and that same feeling of disappointment washes over me as my hope deflates. And all over again I’m alone on that porch swing witnessing their romance under the stars.

All over again I’m walking past Lara’s door, stomach dropping as I see her in George’s lap and the barely contained joy on his face as her arm drapes around his neck.

These wounds…so many years later and after so much growth and coming into who I’m supposed to be…they are still there. They are not healed as I thought. Why?

So I pick up my laptop and write, beginning the process of sorting it through.

divider-line

I don’t fight to be seen. Or can’t. Or I won’t. Something about fighting for attention, fighting to be heard or noticed goes against something ingrained deep inside me. The very thought causes me some distress. Perhaps it is from numerous times of being ignored while trying to address a group of people.

My voice is at a pitch that naturally blends with other voices, no matter what volume I’m speaking. It’s frustrating because often I try to speak up, no one listens, and I feel unseen.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not uncomfortable with attention. I’m on stage for a living and I lead people and I can capture their attention if I have to. But just to be seen in a social setting…It’s different. I have plenty of conversation in me and I like talking to people, but if there are loud voices and personalities that make no space for me unless I force space for myself, then the majority of the time it’s not worth it. I’d rather sit quietly than try to fight to be heard.

The aversion to fighting to be seen and heard is on a whole new level when it comes to dating.

I hate competing against another woman for a man’s attention. It feels so wrong and stupid and I hate it and I won’t do it. And I don’t know if it feels that way because it is wrong and stupid, or if it’s because in the past I’ve always been passed over for someone else and so I don’t have any confidence that I could actually win. (But even saying that makes me feel wrong because I can’t help but think of the other woman involved and how I might make her feel…how Lara made me feel.)

I recognize that Falk is fair game. He’s not dating her yet. And just because Dreamer is picking out their wedding present doesn’t mean that they are automatically going to like each other. There is nothing wrong with me being warm and a little flirty just to let him know she’s not the only option out there.

And yet, there is something in me that recoils.

See, what I’ve come to realize is that it isn’t the exact same situation as 15 years ago. Very similar, and yet I see her differently. For all her charm and mystery and unquenchable sparkling beauty, Gleam, like me, has yet to win in love. Despite that thing she’s just as single as I am.

What’s more, since going to the small group, I now see her as a person in a way I couldn’t before, and definitely didn’t when I was 13. Then she was only this popular creature who had it all. Now I know that she was very lonely during high school. She didn’t have good friends. I think the girls in her class were, like I was, jealous of her. When you are jealous of someone you only see what they have and not what they need. I assumed she was perfectly happy because how could she not be when everyone desired her or desired to be her? I didn’t understand the isolation she felt because she had no friends who were girls. I’m guilty of adding to that isolation by not really seeing her.

Gleam has had it hard in her romantic life as well. She has had a few serious relationships that everyone, Gleam included, thought would end in marriage but only resulted in heartbreak. The first one of these ended when she found out he was cheating on her. How devastating that must have been for her. My heart aches when I put myself in her shoes.

After we talked and she shared with me her struggles in high school and then later shared with the group about her heartbreak, I realized what an enormous ass I’ve been. Even now I feel terrible for my selfishness and jealousy. By comparing myself to her I not only damaged myself but overlooked her need for love and acceptance. I told her I was so sorry that she was lonely in high school. I told her I wish I’d realized and had tried to reach out and bring her in.

I see her now, and I see that the issue isn’t about competing. It’s about comparing. When you are unseen by the one’s you want most to see you, sometimes it’s easier to blame the shininess of someone else for their ignorance. I always feel like…if they could just notice then they might catch a glimpse of my beauty that tells of yet more beauty within. But they don’t notice so I go on unseen. And this lack of notice is so painful, so damned frustrating and reaffirming of the lies that I’m not enough and too much, that it’s easier to  not hope as soon as some other girl is in the picture.

Hope.

Hope.

When it comes to this hope is a sacrifice of worship. One that makes me want to scream and rage at God.

Can’t I just stop hoping and wanting? Can’t I just be content with the fact that You see me?

divider-line

This Saga is not my normal writing, so thank you, readers, for bearing with me. Writing has helped me process. This Saga is not so much to inform my readers (though maybe you might understand me better), but to work out the source of these insecurities.

I started writing this post maybe two days after my last one. It has taken me this long to sort through my thoughts. I hadn’t figured it out yet. Hadn’t known where to finish. I still don’t think I have fully. So bear with me yet again as I finish with:

(To Be Continued….)

 

The Unrequited Love Saga Pt 2

High school passed with a few crushes rolling by like tumbleweeds in the barren desert that was my love life. Two years of college produced little more than a friendship my freshman year that was almost something more until I realized I didn’t want it to develop beyond that, and meeting a couple of guys I would have considered had they not already been taken. Women outnumbered the men at my school, which made the odds worse. So I studied and socialized and worked hard, with a gut feeling that I wasn’t going to meet my future husband at college. Or even that anyone would catch my interest. I was right and I was wrong.

I saw him first perform in an improv show my junior year. He was cute and absolutely hilarious, but not cocky about it, and I was immediately attracted to his warmth and liveliness. I’ll call him George.

Some time later that fall, my roommate (whom I’ll call Lara) brought George back to the apartment and introduced us. They invited me to hangout with them. This turned into the three of us together quite often that semester.

My time out of class was mostly divided between hanging out with Lara and George or hanging out with my two best friends – the guy I turned down my freshman year (I’ll call him Gamer) and Reader. In the midst of this very busy semester I was blindsided when Reader announced one day that she and Gamer were dating… as in not just going on dates but actual boyfriend and girlfriend. It totally threw me. After the somewhat short conversation I skipped my next class and walked the campus to try to wrap my head around it. These were my two best friends, the people I considered closest to me in the whole world at the time, and suddenly they were dating!? How had I not known? How had I not seen it? Were we not the close trio that I thought? And then came the shameful thought of, how could he choose her over me? Even though I knew I had no right to that thought since I had passed him up. He really was over me. And then the realization that Reader! Awkward, abrasive READER had a boyfriend before me!

After a few hours I was able to accept it and get over myself, but felt a sense of loss. Things wouldn’t be the same anymore. Their dating had changed things.

And in this I was definitely correct.

Reader was a very selfish person. In many ways she was a bully. And I am naturally a peacemaker, and at that time in my life I was one to a fault. So having a differing opinion from her was something I tended to avoid unless it meant enough to me to be willing to argue with her. She almost never lost an argument.

Part of what had made me realize that I didn’t want to be with Gamer was that he put the people he cared for on pedestals and saw them, not as they were, but as glorified versions that he made them out to be. His love was extremely blind, which scared me because I wanted him to see me for who I was, not as a paragon of something I could never live up to. What was scarier was that his brand of devotion gave me way too much power, and I knew I would take the lead in the relationship and could steer him however I wanted. This was not the kind of relationship I was after, and not the kind of love I wanted.

Add the two together and throw me in the mix and our trio quickly became all about Reader. Gamer would never back me up on anything now that she was in ownership of his unwavering devotion. We did only what she wanted, catered to her every desire, and I lost my voice even more. I didn’t know how bad it was until I got out of those friendships, how much I was loosing myself to cowardice. Looking back I don’t wonder that my college years were the worst of my life so far.

And so I lost my place in the trio of my best friends and became a third-wheel. A lesser party. I watched his need to give and give devoured by her insatiable selfish taking and felt so unseen.

So I spent more time with Lara and George, who weren’t solely wrapped up in each other but welcomed me. I saw that George liked her. It was obvious. But when I asked her about it she annoyingly denied it, stating that they were just friends. The more time I spent around him the more I liked him. He had such a great sense of humor and not at the expense of others. Nor was it to gain attention for himself. He simply loved to make people laugh, enjoyed bringing a smile to their faces. He was interested in their lives and an active listener. His mere presence brought me joy.

I asked Lara if she was interested in him.

“If you are please tell me, because I’m starting to have feelings for him and if you like him I want to reel them back because he likes you and I don’t want to get in the way.”

“We’re just friends. I really don’t think he likes me.”

“He definitely likes you, but that’s beside the point. Do you like him? Please just tell me and I’ll take care of my feelings. I won’t be mad at you at all. I just need to know.”

“No, I don’t think of him that way.”

“You sure?”

“Yes.”

“Ok, well if that changes please just let me know and I will be fine, I promise.”

“Ok, I will.”

“Thanks.”

I’m not one to compete. I don’t play games. I’m honest. And I valued her friendship and her feelings too much to compete with her over a guy. If she liked him then I wanted them to be together. George and I were very unlikely due to his crush on Lara, I knew that. And what’s more, I wasn’t blind to his flaws and would have to seriously pause if he did ask me out. I never expected him to, anyway. And lastly, he was graduating that semester and moving far away to Chicago so there wasn’t much point.

Yet my feelings did grow and I stopped fighting them.

In the years previous, I’d started wondering if it was even possible for me to fall in love. I think it was mostly because I had friends who fell in and out of love constantly, and also (now understanding myself better than I did then), I think I was suffering mild depression during my college years.

My feelings for George showed me that my heart still beat and it could love. My love for George wasn’t like the crushes I’d had before. Infatuation fueled by my overly romanticized imagination. I didn’t care that he and I had no future together. I just wanted what was best for him. I wanted him to find peace with his faith and see himself as God saw him. I wanted him to go after his dreams and succeed and I wanted him to keep laughing and making people smile. I wanted him to have joy and for his life to be full, whether I was in it or not.

And I think I would have been fine if things had continued this way, but things didn’t. Hope intervened.

People dogmatize hope. Scripture places it amongst love and faith in importance and I believe that.

I also know that hope can be one of the most painful things in existence.

 

(To be continued…)

 

The Unrequited Love Saga Pt 1

My periwinkle blue sweater brought out the color of my tear-filled eyes as I watched the desire of my 8th-grade heart walk hand in hand with another girl under the starry October sky. I’d bought the sweater to wear to the bonfire because I knew he’d be there and I wanted to look pretty. I was taken aback and pleased when he said hi to me and our mutual friend, Molly, with a, “Hey! Nice shirt!” at the start of the evening, but I had no chance to be around him after that. He was spending all his time, energy, and efforts on her.

A year older, Gleam was the girl who had that thing about her. That elusive thing that made her irresistible to the guys and envied by the girls. Never seeming to go through an awkward adolescent phase, at least by all appearances, she had it made. He felt about her the way I felt about him, but until that evening I thought he was simply dreaming. She was gorgeous. He was a year younger and round with baby-fat. She wouldn’t be interested in him, right? But I stepped away from the party to sit on the front porch swing for a moment to myself, and witnessed them walk through the yard hand-in-hand, laughing and speaking softly. Apparently Gleam saw what I did. A guy who was fun and kind and easy to laugh with. Someone who actually cared about people. And just like that I was crushed by disappointment. My little dreamer heart was shot out of the sky to come crashing down to the reality that I didn’t have what she had. That I was passed over for something better. That in order to attract the kind of guy I liked, I needed that confidence or that personality or that type of beauty or whatever that damned thing was…and I didn’t have it.

What’s more the magic of my shirt/eye combo didn’t work. I mean, he actually noticed my shirt! Which meant that he saw me at my most beautiful and it had no effect on him.

Molly confessed to me the next day that she’d told him that I’d bought it just to impress him. I was angry and embarrassed both at her lack of discretion and that I’d been so excited that he’d complimented me in the first place.

To this day the incident sticks out in my mind. I remember so vividly sitting on that swing in my blue sweater and the heartache I felt hearing their laughter.

A Confession of a Bad Excuse

I was texting a friend tonight who also struggles with masturbation. He was telling me about this video game he was playing that he’s been grossly invested in in the past couple weeks.

His character fell in love with another character and he said he was surprised when a seemingly innocent conversation option led to a graphic sex scene. He said it was really awkward and “bad bad bad.” To which, knowing the struggle, I gathered that it was fuel for his fantasies.

I tried to call him a while later about something else and he sent me to voicemail. Sadly, my thought was, “He’s either in the middle of playing that game, he’s asleep, or he’s masturbating.” Because, after him telling me about the sex in the game, I assumed about him what would very likely happen if it were me.

Often, when I consume the sex thrown at me in entertainment and advertising, I give myself the excuse to masturbate. “Well, I didn’t see that coming so now that it’s in my brain I’m going to have to get it out.” And of course in order to “get it out” I rationalize that the only way to truly do that is by getting off. Getting it out of my system. Like it’s some sort of food I’ve digested and the only way to pass it is by having an orgasm.

And in some ways this becomes a truth, even though it’s twisted. It is possible to consume sexual material and develop a hunger for it…a need for it. Ask anyone with a porn-addiction and they will tell you the same. But food’s main purpose is to nourish, and sexual material does nothing of the sort. It leaves you wanting, longing, itching for relief from the loneliness and the lack in the places you wish were being filled. It’s more like a drug.

But when it comes down to it, when you shine the light on it, it’s not that either because it’s not an actual substance. It’s a thought. An image. It doesn’t actually have tangible physical properties. Which means you don’t have to physically expel the material! It doesn’t require digestion like food. It doesn’t have to run through your veins like a drug. It absolutely can pass into your mind and back out with only a mental response instead of a physical one.

So basically my excuse to masturbate when I’ve viewed something that got me going is not really an excuse because I can change the channel, I can think of something else, or even rebuke the thought in Jesus’ name when it comes back later. And I don’t mean being aroused because that can happen really fast and is usually a natural response to viewing sexual material. But just because we were aroused doesn’t mean the material has to stay in our heads until we can satisfy that arousal. Because, again, it’s a thought. It has no physical substance and therefore needs no physical processing, only mental.

On the flip-side, when you look at a sexual relationship the way God designed it there is no lack. There is an actual physical person requiring an actual physical response. You physically consume one another while mentally processing real experiences instead of mere ideas. Seems a whole lot more satisfying and…well…natural, I guess.

I know that porn has always been around, but I try to imagine what it would be like to live back before TV and internet and billboards infiltrated every facet of our lives. Back when sexual material was something you had to go specific places to seek out instead of something you had to go to specific places to retreat from. I probably would still have masturbated. As I’ve mentioned before, my imagination is fantastic. But perhaps I’d have one less excuse.

(P.S. For my more literal readers…by “the places you wish were being filled” I mean need for relationship and also the vagina. In case that was too metaphorical for you I thought I’d spell it out. Again, Relationship and the Vagina. You’re welcome.)

The Rapunzel Analogy

So two posts ago I referenced the movie Tangled to describe some of my feelings about dating. Since then I’ve discovered the best analogy!

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my pleasure to introduce:

The Rapunzel Analogy!!!! *brilliant fanfare ensues*

You know how I was talking about being sparing with my affection unless I’m certain of my feelings?

So it goes like this: I’m Rapunzel at the top of my tower. A man comes along and takes interest. Well, I can see him. I’m even interested enough to let down my hair, but he’s still got to climb the tower in order for us to be together. I’m incapable of pulling him up on my own, and I do not have the patience for that kind of laziness. I’ve got the hair, you’ve got the muscles. If you want to be with me you’ve got to climb. It takes effort and time and careful planning of the next foothold.

When Puzzles put his arm around me he had not gotten remotely close to the window yet. He basically put his arm around the base of a stony and cold tower. I felt awkward and I know he felt it, too.

Different women have towers of different heights. Mine is particularly high, but I’m willing to let my hair down. I’m working on doing that. Other women need to stop jumping out of their towers in desperation. Their tower could be a little higher. Some women have super tall towers but refuse to let their hair down for anyone.

Also, women need to be pursued even after the tower has been scaled. There’s always a tower, always new heights to climb. And in different aspects of a woman’s being as well. It isn’t just emotionally. This is reflected in sex. You can’t just jump on her and expect her to like it. Got to climb that tower, buddy. Emotionally and physically. I know it seems unfair to always have to be climbing but that’s part of why men and women work. A woman can always present a new adventure, a new challenge, just by her very nature.

And if she is a good woman who sees your worth she will do her best to pull you up as well. To help you out a little. And to give you the enormous reward of her love during those special moments when you are both in the tower together.

A couple weeks ago a new man presented himself at the base of my tower (he contacted me on EHarmony). Almost offhandedly I thought, “Eh, why not?” and replied. And let me just tell you. He’s climbing.

That’s right. I’ve actually got a love interest!

Just dating but I’m actually excited about this one. When dating Puzzles Mom would ask “Well? How are you feeling? Do you like him?” And I’d always reply, “I don’t know.” Like this:

But after I met this new guy I answered “I dunno…” like this:

Okay, maybe I wasn’t THAT girly about it but it was a much more optimistic “I dunno!” and that’s saying something.

He’s a good man. He’s a man of character. He’s a communicator. He comes from a very similar background and I have yet to have any red-flags about values and beliefs. And he’s kind and full of joy. He sees people and loves people. And conversation is definitely way more natural than with Puzzles. And he’s fun-loving and goofy.

I don’t know what to nickname him…oh wait! Yes I do! My 5-year-old niece met him (that’s another story for another time) and told my sister out of the blue, “I like Aunt Ace’s friend. He’s really smiley. They should be friends for a long time and then they should get married.” How cute is that!? So I’ll call him Smiley. Thank you, Neice #1.

On the second date I definitely had moments of “Oh, crap! This could actually go somewhere!” Which of course terrified me. We’ve been on four dates by now and the last one was really good. I’ll explain why with another story.

This story is a confession because it’s really embarrassing.

In college I dated this guy for about a month. Didn’t get as far as calling him my boyfriend or anything, just going on dates. Well, the whole time I dated him I was trying hard to figure out if I liked him romantically. Same sort of situation as Puzzles.

Again, I must reiterate how inexperienced I am when it comes to actual real-life romance and dating. And back then even more so!

We were watching a movie at his house and while sitting on his couch poor innocent inexperienced me gave him the “Hold My Hand” signal without realizing it. He reaches over and tries to take my hand. Right as he gets to my hand, I clench my hand tight in a fist.

What have I done!

I gave him the signal! I totally just gave him the signal! But I closed my fist so now I’m sending the opposite signal…why isn’t he getting it!?

The guy took the unintended hint #1 but refused to accept hint #2…well a tightly closed fist isn’t even a hint! He wouldn’t take handholding rejection! He kept trying to pry my hand open!

We struggled this way for a moment and then I finally pulled my arm away from him and mumbled SUPER awkwardly, “Don’t hold my hand.”

How. Mortifying. So painful even after all these years.

It was really tense until after the movie and then I had to try and explain that I didn’t mean to give him the signal and then reject him, I just wasn’t ready. Which is in itself embarrassing.

Also, when I was “going out” with a boy in 8th grade I broke up with him when I found out he wanted to hold my hand. Apparently holding hands is a big deal to me based on my reactions. Some of my favorite movie romance moments happen when handholding is emphasized such as Ivy and Lucius in The Village and Wall-E and EVE. Not to mention countless Doctor Who hand holding moments.

Sigh.

Well, on our last date I was sharing something kind of vulnerable and struggling to find the words. He reached over and placed his hand on mine. It was perfect. He knew that it was exactly what I needed in that moment.

What’s more, I make him really nervous most of the time (which, I have to admit, is pretty darn cute), and he’s usually kinda shaky and tense with nervous energy. But when we held hands he was so calm and sure and it was so sweet!

Later he tentatively reached for my hand again and grabbed two of my fingers. I looked at him with a smile and said shyly, “You can have my whole hand, Smiley.” He smiled back and we talked for a while while palm to palm.

(By the way, I’m a total girly mess right now)

He’s climbing the tower and I’m doing my best to let my hair down and help him along. He may not be Future Hubby, but he’s definitely worth giving a shot and getting to know and taking the risk for.

It’s terrifying but also really nice at the same time.

“Why are they still single? What’s wrong with them?”

Even I am guilty of saying this.

Let’s be honest, the assumption that there is an undesirable reason someone is still single is an easy assumption to make.

Because we’ve all known those perpetually strange folks who are socially awkward. Or those guys who never want to grow up and act like teenagers into their thirties. Or those girls who are super insecure and will date anyone and end up just being used. Or that guy who is stalkery toward women and creeps them out. Or that girl who is painfully shy and can’t even have a conversation with the opposite sex.

It’s hard not to judge someone when they are nearing middle-age and still single. You naturally just wonder what’s wrong with them. I get it. I do it. And then sometimes I wonder the same thing about myself.

What’s wrong with me? Am I unattractive? Am I awkward? Do I have a glaring flaw that I’m blind to?

But then I think of Reader and how she was socially awkward and not exactly the most attractive girl and yet she married WAY before I did. I think of other people who have numerous or significant flaws who have found love, people that you can’t help but raise your eyebrows when you hear they are getting married. I know this makes me sound pretty terrible but you know. YOU KNOW and don’t act like you don’t.

Your mom: Did you hear that So’n’So is getting married?

You:

And just when you are about to process that So’n’So…SO’N’SO of all people!!!…has found someone who is willing to not only put up with but also tap that…THEN the thought hits you–

If SO’N’SO can find someone then what the hell is wrong with ME!!!!!!?

And then your thoughts and self esteem kind of do this:

Your mom is the bird but she doesn’t know it.

But then logic and reason eventually return and let you realize that So’n’So is marrying someone equally strange and it’s nice that most of the time there’s someone for everyone…even the quirky ones, and so there HAS to be someone for you (as if you aren’t quirky at all, right?). And also that you literally do not KNOW anybody and don’t get out of your bubble very much and also you have high standards and you are unique and so it’s going to take someone awesome and unique in a way that compliments you and it’s all going to be okay. You are happy being single. You won’t settle for less than God’s best. You are open and optimistic but also patient and enjoying the time you’ve been given with your friends and the people He’s placed in your life to minister to.

Shut up, Satan! There’s nothing horribly wrong with me. I’m just waiting on God’s timing!

And then you hear that people have been asking if you and your roommate are lesbians.

And then you do a little this:

And then feel John Watson’s pain and inform the messenger:

Because someone is single does not mean they are gay. Because they spend time with their best friend a lot doesn’t mean they are gay. It means they are single and they have a best friend. No one would think a thing about it if I was younger, but because I’m single and nearing thirty…oh I must be gay. Nope. Sorry. I’m interested in men. Women don’t do it for me. Thanks for assuming that about me.

Also, thank you woman who watched me grow up, for not trusting me to drive a van full of students because “Are you old enough to drive a rented van?” “Um, yes. I’m 28 years old and I’ve driven it before, and I’ve never been in a wreck and have been a responsible driver in the 12+ years I’ve been driving.” I bet you anything that if I were married this wouldn’t be in question (I understand I look younger than I am and that that is a good thing, but being treated like I’m irresponsible is really frustrating when 20-year-old married people get more credit than I do).

Married friends, thank you so much for assuming that I’m miserable and worthy of your pity because you are one of the blessed married people while I’m a poor lonely spinster. Thanks for the frequent consolation that he’s out there or that “we’ll find you a guy” when you actually have never set me up with anyone. But, you know, you seem to feel worse about my singleness than I do, so when it comes to your pity, thanks but no thanks.

People assume you are too picky, or you need to get out more. People assume all kinds of things and it’s hard enough sometimes when you are having to fight the lie that there’s something wrong with you that makes you unworthy of love without others speculating and accusing you, too.

That’s not to say that you “Shake It Off” as TSwift would say, because in reality it’s just not that easy. In reality it isn’t bad to question and examine yourself to see where you need to change, where you need to become the person that the person you’re looking for is looking for. But in the end what matters is what God knows about you and what you know about you. You persevere though it feels unjust, trusting that God sees you and truly does have a purpose for the delay. Trusting that you’re life is on the course He set and that is the course that will bring Him the most glory and in the end, you the most joy.

In the end I think “What’s wrong with that person? Why are they still single?” is a harmful way of thinking. Singleness is not actually tied to performance or favor or worthiness. It’s not something that needs fixing. Some single people are walking the path God has laid out for them. Some people are still single because they are doing it absolutely right.