sometimes the list gets in the way

Oh, dual-meaning subject lines. I love you.

First, a quick life recap for this week: Dumped by church singles group, speed-dating make-up canceled due to disappearing coordinator, made a date that involves a four-hour drive to Alabama next weekend, spent entirely too much time talking and laughing on the phone, got -5 hours of sleep, felt like it was -5 outside, agreed to babysit for three children tonight and sustained myself solely on the joy of having the house to myself.

Now, the subject line. I won’t go into meaning #2 quite yet, but meaning #1 is that I’ve been making this list of potential blog post topics, but now that I have said list, I can’t decide which one to write on first. Both major ideas are fairly timely, but both also have a solid chance of screwing with upcoming Alabama date. But I will be brave.

the absolute fucking mystery of love

I have several problems with love. Not the kind you give your brother or your best friend, but the kind you shower upon the (presumably) opposite sex. I think my problems with it stem from the fact that I’m totally inept at it. Or what I think is “it.” That might be another problem.

As I believe I’ve mentioned before in this very journal, I’ve said “I love you” quite a bit in the past 6 years. I’ve gone through four major relationships full of “love” and swooning and ridiculous plans for a future that just didn’t exist beyond the 11-month mark. In Tod’s case, it was longer, but the end was inevitable. But was the love real? I have to think it was. I have to think that because it felt so much more real than in the past.

But I am a slave to overanalysis, so I can’t just sit here assuming that I was experiencing actual love. And the kicker is that love is so subjective, there’s no thermometer out there to show me whether I was actually in the right zone or not.

So, as I swim around in the crazy world of dating Web sites and singles groups (assuming I can find a new one) and late-night phone calls with southern men, I have to wonder if I’d recognize love. Even if it slapped me across the face like a cold trout, I’m not sure I’d know if it was real.

How do you know if you’re in love? Is “the one” any sort of reality for the average person? Is there an idiot’s guide out there for people who’ve gone through their lives developing major crushes but never really connected with someone who gave them chills or made them walk on air? Because I’ve never been there. I’ve swooned, sure. I’ve felt tingles while kissing and blushed often and smiled when I saw a certain number on my caller ID. But was that love?

I know a handful of couples who are in the engaged phase right now. I think I might envy them more than the ones who’ve graduated to married status, because even though there’s a chance that follow-through will fail, it’s so slim and they’re so insanely happy that they can revel in the absolute glowing joys of love without yet having to deal with the long-term struggles of mortgages, mid-life crises and wrangling their kids. But how do they know? Why are the chances of failure presumed so slim? Is it because they are in that pre-honeymoon honeymoon phase that allows them to be blind to the toils of the future? Or was it something that screamed out to them, ‘This is it!’ the moment they met, on their first date, with their first kiss, on some overly romantic night under the stars?

I look at Mandy and Jason and long to know how they know, how they knew, how they decided that they were the right people for each other. (If you guys have an answer, please feel free to comment with it.) Jenny and Chris. Other couples who don’t read my blog. Did you get that overwhelming feeling like they write about in books and convey in tense movie moments? Was it immediate or was it gradual? How did you know there wasn’t someone else around the corner who would have just as much in common with you, or make you feel just as much at ease or maybe even make you smile even more?

That last question is toughest for me. I feel as though each subsequent relationships of mine has been more valuable than the previous, as I tend to follow the typical pattern of learning more about myself and my wants, and also not repeating mistakes. But I still find myself getting all doe-eyed pretty easily, and I wonder if I’m not reacting for the worst possible reasons, instead of real, tangible, meaningful ones. I have to wonder how many great relationships sprang from stupid crushes or immediate infatuations that grew and developed into something bigger and better. But at what point is it meaningful? And at what point can you look at each other and think, “My future,” without wondering if they’re looking at you and thinking, “Just one more date, then I’ll let her down easy.” And how do you know that this guy – not that guy, or that one over there – is the one? Or do you just eventually stop wondering and enjoy what you’ve found?

It is all this confusion over love that tempts me to forget about the opposite sex. Unlike the normal woman who’s rolled through life with relatively uneventful relationships, maybe a few crushes here and there, I’ve worn myself out on misplaced, unrequited affection. I got too interested too fast and fell hard – usually right on my face. So, even though the most recent edition of that behavior barely has had time to get cold in the pan, I have reverted to this sort of guarded, jaded, skeptical, hard mass that refuses to believe that anything good can come of those moments where I feel my knees turn to jelly or my heart rate increase dramatically for some reason other than an intense cardio session.

Recently, I started talking to this guy in Alabama. And, before that, I had a single date with a nice Memphian who has yet to suggest getting together again. And I look at these two individuals who are very, very different, and because they’re both from OKCupid, I am forced to wonder if either of them is my “soul mate.” But because wondering that often tends to cause me great grief, and muddy the waters needlessly, I am trying desperately not to.

Can you kill a soul-mate connection by being in the wrong place at the wrong time? Is God involved in this whole situation? How are you supposed to know what to do? Is it possible to compartmentalize your life enough to set aside your other priorities and focus on figuring out whether you’ve found someone great? Or will those other compartments inevitably spill over and remind you that you’ve got all these things going on and you have no time for love?

I’m pretty sure this entry now contains a record number of mostly unanswerable questions. And practically no direction or point, except to say that love is an absolute fucking mystery. And there are times I wonder if it actually exists, or if we aren’t all just looking for fulfillment through an activity partner, someone who matches us in bed, someone who knows (or learns) how to touch us in just the right way to make our hearts beat faster or someone who maintains high levels of good chemicals in our brains by making us laugh or looking really, really hot on a daily basis. It all boils down to science and hormones and instinct, but I really would like it to be more meaningful than that.

So, if you have answers, please share them, as apparently there is no Idiot’s Guide to Love on the marketplace today. Or at least not one that makes sense to me. In the meantime, I will continue being the world’s biggest skeptic and trying not to get ahead of myself. And hoping that the list – and this time I mean the list of requirements I seem to have pieced together for a potential mate (meaning #2) – doesn’t get in the way.

(Also, as feared, this entry did not come out dripping with eloquence as I’d hoped. But this is what you get for now, until I can regroup and come up with something better. For now, I have to drive to Mississippi and watch three lovely kids for two hours while their parents go on a much-needed date. I am challenging myself!)

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Filed under dating, love, recap, thoughts

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