We didn’t meet in a coffeeshop. Or on match.com or OkCupid. Or at a bus stop or a bar or on the beach. We didn’t meet at a retreat or a poetry reading. In fact, we didn’t meet in person until nearly three years after we “met” through my blog and a mutual friend, the one who teaches without teaching and reminds us both to look at what’s right in front of our noses.
We didn’t meet because we were looking for love in all the wrong places, or even the right ones. We met because we were looking for our lives. At the time–April, 2009–I was anchored by my marriage, and the beautiful foursome it led to, the life we had created and were devoted to nurturing. She was married, too, with three children. And she was in love with a woman who didn’t know it yet (and I don’t mean me).
She clicked over to my blog from Cheerio Road and landed on a post I’d written that day about being brave. Then she sent me a long email about deciding to tell this woman about her feelings, knowing this decision carried huge implications for, well, pretty much everything.
From my perspective, what she shared came out of the blue, and I was moved by it, in that “Wow, people actually read my blog?” kind of way. Honored that a complete stranger in Phoenix would open up so much of her heart to me as a result of a rambling blog post about parenting and budgets and overeating and Jewish holidays. (This also happened to be the post that led to the phone call that led me to fly to California two months later for Maezen’s first Mother’s Plunge. Coincidence? I think not.)
A few months later, she wrote again, with an update. She was happy. And I was happy to hear it.
One year after that–June, 2010–I wrote this poem, exactly two weeks after the moment that shattered life as I knew it, the one something in me had always anticipated and feared and essentially crafted my ways of living and loving to avoid.
She left a comment: “Wow. Jena, you just captured the essence of my Brave New World. Heartbreaking and electrifying, profound, and liberating and devastating, all at the same time.” And then she sent me an email, suggesting we talk. She just knew, without really knowing a thing about me.
And then life kept happening at an accelerated pace, the kind of momentum that takes everything down with it, that won’t be tamped down, with the power of a natural disaster that I could not yet separate out from disaster itself, the kind you have no choice but to survive.
Another year passed. In April, 2011, I drove south from Vermont, en route to a Jewish LGBT Retreat. At the last minute, I canceled my plans, retreating instead to my sister’s house here in Amherst. That weekend, I wrote a long email to a small circle of women who lived all over the country–Chicago, Bellingham, Phoenix. These were women whose blogs I had read; I had met a couple of them in person two years before, and simply felt a powerful connection with the others and knew that there were overlapping circles of “real-life” friendships there. These were the people I needed to invite into my life now, to connect with, to lean on. I shared deeply that day, about my vulnerability and confusion and loneliness and longings.
Her response was so wise. So completely attuned to where I was at. She wrote to me about falling in love with myself, and she did so with no agenda.
And that is what I did. Slowly, not necessarily steadily, and not without causing pain and experiencing loss. By this time last year, I had chosen to be alone. Single. I wanted to know what it would feel like to be myself now, without a partner, to stand in my own life, on my own ground. And I also imagined being with someone whose joie de vivre would be contagious. Someone whose light was irrepressible. Someone who was in love with her life. I couldn’t picture this person exactly, and certainly had no idea whether she actually existed. So in the meantime, I stopped looking. And I started 2012 with a post about saying yes.
I had by this time purchased a plane ticket to fly out to Phoenix for a birthday celebration with these five women as well as five others, gathering not only from Phoenix, Vermont, and Chicago, but from Utah and Wisconsin to boot. With the exception of two, these were people I had come to know intimately online. I had no romantic expectations.
But romance is what wound up happening. So unexpectedly. As she might say: True story.
It was easy, and the fact that easy existed the morning after astounded us both in the best possible way. Less than two weeks later, she flew to Burlington for the weekend. I played her “Green Eyes” by Coldplay in the car on the way out to dinner, and said I imagined this song at my wedding should I ever get married again. I asked her if she thought she’d ever get married again, and we both got kind of verklempt before changing the subject. A month or two later, I told her about the vision I had had, of Maezen officiating a wedding, on a cliff in San Diego overlooking the Pacific. She gasped. She had pictured exactly the same thing. Then it turned out one of our closest mutual friends had dreamed this image.
Somehow, as the year spilled over into changing months and seasons, we defied budgetary reason and managed to visit each other many times. I met her three girls. She met my two. By the summer, they were beginning to complain that it wasn’t fair that the moms had met the kids but the kids hadn’t met the kids yet. I lost my job, I got a new one, and I splurged on three tickets to fly to Arizona during the winter break.
Now here we are, on the other side of that trip, my girls’ first time out west. Being all together out there was so easy, just as our first latte together was easy. Happy. Home. The friends I’ve made over these years, friendships that began in this strange invisible sphere called cyberspace, have become rooted and strong. They were there with us Thursday night–in person and in spirit–when she proposed, with more than a little help from our kids and friends.
And tonight, I am lying in bed looking up at a banner made by ten- and twelve-year-old girls bonding after all of four days together. The magic marker says, “Will You Marry Me?” And the pink cut-out hearts name the beginnings of a new family constellation.
Of course, I said yes. The best yes ever. The yes that unfolds, just as the path unfolds, each step appearing, even–or maybe especially–when you’re absolutely sure it won’t, that all there will be is that cliff edge, and it won’t be for a happy occasion.
Whenever I start spiraling–and believe me, I spiral–I stop and remember the moments along this chain of events when I didn’t ignore myself. When I really paid attention to what was calling me, some whisper, some inkling, sometimes a scream. Call it intuition. Call it whatever. There is no room for doubt. The things we see, the glimpses and glimmers, the images we might dismiss as mere ideas, whims, distant or simply impractical–these are always, always, our lives calling.
Four years ago, or even two or one, I never would had imagined I’d be wearing this pearl. That I’d be so fully forgiven. So embraced.
From the ocean we came, and to the ocean we will return.