Little main drag, Bolinas…I know you’ll hold me tight when I return.
Ladies and Gentlemen, It’s time to announce the award for the Practical Joker of the Year! Our nominees are:
Tommy, who stole his neighbor’s boat and put it in his pool…that Tommy…so industrious! And devious.
And Bethany, who made chocolate covered peanut butter balls and chocolate covered tuna fish balls, mixed them and left them on a plate in the break room of her office…delicious. Or not.
And The Universe, who responded to dear Cleo’s request to fall in love by being literal and sent a lovable man whom Cleo named Mr. Perfect Timing. I don’t need to tell you the rest of the story. Worst timing in the history of time.
It’s a good thing my awkward teenage years required me to develop a great sense of humor. Equally as important is the journey I’ve been on these past few years. I’m happy to say that I’m consciously competent at remaining centered and grounded, and the timing couldn’t be more perfect. Cuz The Universe and Mr. Perfect Timing have thrown me simultaneous knuckleballs. Have I mentioned I’ve never actually hit a baseball? Many have been thrown. I’ve not connected once.
I ought to try today. I’m feeling Babe-like.
Being with my Mom on Mother’s Day was a gift. That night I curled up next to her and watched the Rangers beat the Penguins to take the series to 3-3, after being down 3-1. (If you aren’t Canadian or a hockey fan, indulge me. Playoff hockey is spectacular.) We talk less, but there isn’t a wasted word. Deeply personal expressions of gratitude flow. I stroke her arm. She’s Mom. Smells like Mom. Feels like Mom. Memories from childhood that were long banked escape to be felt again. I seek out ways to care for her but she’s so low maintenance, with a high return on love. The time moves so fast. The day disappeared. And the next.
Tuesday I received an email from Mr. Perfect Timing, confirming my intuition that he was trying to make sense of what was happening between us. Before I left for the east he drew a curtain half-closed, leaving me with only a partial view. So many wheels were turning. Instead of becoming anxious, although I did wonder what was going through is head and heart, I let it be his to know. Gave him space. Shushed me Ego with this: Nothing is linear. All is simply to be experienced. Go get a milkshake.
Back when I was wearing 600 layers of clothing and eating trail mix with reckless abandon on Mt. Rainer, Mr. Perfect Timing and my Mom connected over her desire to know that I was not destined to be a fossil. I had called her from his house once. She, being always a Mom, saved his number. NOTHING gets by her. When there was no word from me on Day Two she called him. And they talked. I discovered this watching my email load for the first time in a week as we made our way through the forest at the base of Rainier on our way back to IMG HQ. We passed moss covered evergreens that rose from a bed of ferns, the sunlight snaked its way through and around the trees aiming for the forest floor. And I broke out in a sweat when I saw one of our famous family email chains, with Mr. Perfect Timing in the mix.
If not for my climb of Mt. Rainier that connection would not have been made then, with my Mom or my siblings. I only read those emails once. All that back and forth between the sibs and Mr. Perfect Timing felt like hugs and high fives, although I don’t remember specifics. In my state of being then I didn’t judge it as too familiar, too soon, too anything. I was too overstuffed with alpine mountaineering knowledge and newly born and still to be understood epiphanies to grab that thread and try to put it in perspective. Besides, by email two it was all about the NFL and comparing Super Bowl wins. Been there, got the cookie.
Mr. Perfect Timing took it upon himself to call IMG and get updates to ease my Mom’s nerves during the week on the mountain. I didn’t realize until I saw her for the first time after the climb how concerned she was for my safety. It took a toll. Which led to my decision to hold off on Denali. (I vacillate between crossing Denali off my list or putting her in a holding pattern. Like childbirth, the more removed from Rainier, the bigger the urge to climb again.) I am grateful he held her hand from afar through the climb. Her gratitude was expressed with six pints of ice cream (Know someone who is NUTS about ice cream? Get Jeni’s Splendid.) and an invitation to her birthday party.
I just sat back and let it unfold. There’s no reason for my human self to control the outcome. That’s like asking children to organize a closet full of silly string and candy.
As I said before, this was the first time I had skin in the game and could put into practice all that I’ve learned these past three years. My feelings for Mr. Perfect Timing grew, but all along I did not become my feelings. Hail to the Observer Self!
So when I received his email on Tuesday, sent just before he boarded a plane to travel east, a trip mainly arranged to accommodate Mom’s birthday party, I wasn’t flattened. I didn’t turn into a puddle of salty water. I cried, but after having an opportunity to analyze my tears I realized they were mostly made up of respect and admiration. Not sadness or hurt.
I am not the only thing he has going on in his life, for sure. So only part of what he is juggling has to do with me. And that part he would like to put on pause.
It began with this: (In case you’re curious, he has read the blog but won’t read any posts written since he went from the guy in the gym to Mr. P.T. He wants me to be free to write freely. Which I would do anyway. It’s impossible for me to do it any other way.)
I think your instincts were, yet again, spot on about me carrying around a little bit of extra weight on my shoulders lately, and it would be disingenuous of me to not let you in on what I’m ruminating on…
It segued to this:
The other night when I said that you are the type of person I would marry, I meant that. The sort of connection we have on most of the important things is undeniable. There is a genuine fondness and admiration between us that touches a wide spectrum of each other’s lives. THAT is the foundation for a good long term relationship. And if the time is ever right, I would expect those commonalities to serve us both well.
And then this:
I haven’t found my peace with me yet. I’m not ready for the kind of relationship we seem to be heading for… not because its a bad idea to have that sort of relationship, but because I know I’m not ready to thrive in that sort of situation yet. I know what you’re capable of. I know what I’m capable of. And in time, I think we very well could be of equal capability and availability, but that time is not now. What I would like to do is press pause for 6 months and reevaluate everything in November… spending this time doing what I have to do to feel confident about my relationship choices and being ready to build what I want in my life… a strong, singularly focused relationship that is built to last.
I think all this is coming to head because of what’s going on with your Mom… part of me wants to promise her I’ll take care of you so she doesn’t have to worry. Part of me knows I can’t promise that right now. But with our trip coming up I don’t want to put you in a position of having someone who may or may not be a part of your life involved in such a deeply personal and important thing. I’ve been really struggling with whether to lay this out to you in the midst of everything that is going on or just try and cruise through it all and pick this up on the backside, but we have very few walls between us and you read me really well, so I didn’t want a vague sense of dis-ease hovering around you when supremely more important things are present in your life right now.
He expressed that he needed to start the conversation via email so he could get his thoughts straight and hoped we’d talk that night.
Our shared sense of humor didn’t miss a beat when he texted me to see if I had received the email as he boarded a plane. We traded some hilarious lines that aren’t fit for print and then he said this:
Never before have I been in a situation so emotionally fraught with peril that is being handled by two people so capable of handling it right.
Me: Are you referencing your pilots?
Sometimes I can’t help myself.
Last night I sat outside and talked with him on the phone as the moon neared full and swung overhead. (The full moon always watching me on such important occassions.) I felt no need to save us. No urge to lobby for any alternative to his request – pressing pause for six months. My only desire was that we continue to nurture our friendship. Because WAY back when, when I was imagining one day MAYBE being involved with someone, I felt strongly that a lasting relationship would form out of a solid friendship.
He asked what I felt we should do about the time we had scheduled – a dinner with Razzle of Mt. Whitney fame on Thursday and the weekend with my family, both east and west coast having gathered here for Mom. (And a law school graduation – K, nicely done. You are an amazing man. Truly.)
I still hope to see you in whatever capacity feels okay to you, I said.