Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Happy for Me

So here's the scoop: I've got a girlfriend. Somewhere out there in the world is a nice young lady who has agreed not to date anyone one else for the time being. More than that, she tells me that she likes me, that she thinks about me when I'm not around, that she longs to be with me.

We're a long-distance couple, see, and so this is a big thing, I think. I've been asking around for advice on how to manage a relationship over miles and miles of space, and the overwhelming response is "Don't waste your time." But I am, I want to, she wants to, and we're doing things to make it worth it regardless.

That's not what this is about—this isn't an announcement. But you need to know something about the situation to understand what I'm trying to say.

Many of you are aware that the last time I was in a relationship was three years ago. You may also be aware that I'm 27, which, in Mormon terms, is often "misheard" as 47 (though that's not what this is about either). So you can, perhaps, appreciate that I'm pretty excited about what's happening in my life right now. Outrageously excited at times.

And yet, I've been terribly cautious about talking about this at all. On the one hand, I'm trying to be discreet. But that doesn't explain why I find myself carefully talking around the fact that I have a girlfriend, why—though suddenly hours and hours of my time are being used to compose emails and place phone calls, though half my energy goes into daydreaming and trying to conjure up the remembered shadow of this girl I've met only twice but decided to bind myself to, though since six weeks ago everything I hear, see, touch, taste, and smell is refracted first through the lens of her imagined heart and only then processed by my own—why, despite all that, I don't allow her name to enter my conversation even a fraction of the amount of times it enters my mind. Everything in my world has changed color, but I'm carefully still calling blue blue, green green, and red red. Just the other day, Kate smilingly accused me of being very excited about it all when I accidentally used the words "my girlfriend" twice in one day. She was right, of course, and I checked myself: I had gotten carried away on little hiccups of joy. The pleasure of hearing those words escape my mouth—"my girlfriend"—had proven too much to refuse.

I've been thinking about why this is so, about why I'm loath to make vocal the way I'm starting to feel about a girl. This is the stuff that songs are written about, right? The stuff that poets eat, that spiral notebooks are graffitied with. So why am I playing it so close to the chest?

Part of it is, of course, common courtesy, and another part of it is a fear of finding myself naïve tomorrow. I realize it's all a little ridiculous and a lot tentative, that what today seems to be a real and lasting connection might turn out tomorrow to be a misunderstanding or a misplaced expectation. But that's the easy and obvious answer, one that ultimately speaks in my favor.

May I suggest an original and honest answer? I fear the reason may be that I find it hard to believe that my hearers will be genuinely happy for me. I know, this sounds absurd, and it is. Why wouldn't my friends and family be happy that I'm happy, that I may have found someone with which to be long happy? In truth, all those I've told have been nothing but enthusiastic and encouraging.1 There have been smiles and interested questions and pats on the back. They've all been dears (thank you, all). But I've met their queries with reluctance, with self-effacement and dodging, in most cases, and widely abbreviated accounts of the truth, and I'm scared of what it says about me and how I see them.

Many of my friends are single themselves, and many of our conversations revolve around past, present, and possible love (or, as one remarked recently, "I thought leaving Provo would end so much talk of relationships, but boy was I wrong!"). Some of them have been single much longer than me and some are older than me, but many are younger or have had more luck. Some really seem to want it and some seem unhurried, and, among the girls who are my confidants, there is sometimes the [mostly] unspoken possibility of love between us. Do I really have so little respect and admiration for these my friends that I imagine, rationally or not, consciously or not, that deep in their hearts they would feel jealousy rather than happiness at my good fortune? Why else would I clam up; why else tiptoe through conversations with my closest and best?

There may be a worse reason. Could it be that deep down in my own heart I lack the ability to be happy for myself? That I don't really believe this is possible, that I don't find myself deserving? Could it be that I believe that I am not destined for happiness, that I am not, in the end, lovable? Could the very reason I almost can't bear to hear myself exult, that her name has become almost an incantation, that I fear to dart and bound lest this collection of stained glass and fairy dust be shaken from my heart be that I respect and admire myself least of all, that what I fear is that I—not she, and not the rest of you—but that I will be the one who finally turns away from me in disgust?

1 The pessimistic advice has all come from strangers or people who didn't know I was asking on my own behalf.


David Grover said...

This isn't a problem-solving conversation and it isn't a sympathize-with conversation—in fact, it's not a conversation at all. I'm just saying, so maybe we should just leave it at that.

You're all gems.

Lauren K said...

I didn't realize guys worry about this stuff so much too ... I hope things work out.

I found your blog off your guest appearance on the Apron Stage and enjoy it. Hope you don't mind a blog stalker.

Jennifer said...

I have to take a shower in the worst way so I can go work out. How stupid is that? But I really am that dirty. Speak of the devil - Gabe just walked in here and handed me my gym card. Is he ashamed or psychic?

Joe said...

You're just trying to be measured and thus protect yourself, dear friend. As you should. We are all insecure in our own ways, but I refuse to believe that Dave Grover is full of self-hatred. You will ride this snapping wave of budding romance until it either peters out or deposits you on top of a mountain. And, in the end, you will behold your fortunes through the spyglass of months and years, and you will sigh and be content.

Drew said...

Stick to Mom's advice: Quit agonizing over it all and start kissing each other.

You got it bad.

The Hippo said...

Dave, you know what i always say. "gals, can't live with them, can't kill them." wish i could tell you i hope it all works out for you, but i'm too jaded for that. so I'll just leave you with a hardy Ba Humbug.

Jennifer said...

What are you talking about, Jon? You live with 2 women. (Now you sound very exciting, don't you?)

Patrick Madden said...

This is good to hear/read. Yo.

Liz said...

The good news is you ain't gay. That's what Jared lives by.

JSK said...

There were cheers in the Kanke household upon reading this blog post! Well, the beginning part at least, not the end where you get all self-doubty, that made us "aww" but one of us is trying not to meddle in other people's lives anymore, so the other Kanke is not letting the former meddler Kanke comment on that portion of the entry So, instead, we'll just say "Congratulations!" "Yay!" and a heartfelt "Woot!"