October 11, 2009

Change - Maybe

I was writing an entry about the closest thing I have to a relationship, my long-distance, steady, on-and-off, friendship with benefits, when he happens to appear on Google chat. Big changes may become bigger.

He is coming to visit. We talk about it quite frequently, but I never believe he’s actually coming until he buys the tickets. A while ago I received an itinerary confirmation from Frontier airlines for an arrival in Omaha on the fourteens and a departure on the twenty-fourth. He’s going to be here for ten days. We’re going to kill each other.

Well, probably not, but we’re both used to spending a lot of our time along and being very independent, so this will be … interesting. I’ll have work and school for much of that time, so we’ll still have our own space. We’ve neither of us lived with the other (or anyone else, I think) for more than five days, and this time it’s on my turf, not his and not neutral ground. But that’s not the most interesting thing.

Last Friday we were chatting over the internet. I mentioned I was looked at PhD programs at Cornell, U Penn, U British Columbia, and CU Denver.

“Denver? That’s really close. It would be nice to have you in Denver, not that I think little old me might have anything to do with your decision.”

“Who’s to say you’ll even be in Colorado next year? You’ve been talking about leaving the mountain center. You could always come with me to Ithaca.”

“Hmmm…that’s an option.”

Uh. Okay. While it is a sincere offer on my part, I tossed it out without very little expectation. So I laid all the cards on the table and told him what my three after graduation tracks were and the five schools I’m looking at, including the Buddhist chaplaincy program at U West in Los Angeles.

“If you want to relocate sometime next summer, you’re welcome to come with me. Either as a couple or just as roommates. Ball’s in your court.”

“That’s a big ball.”

“So did I scare you off then?”

“Pfft. Hardly.”

“Well, I failed GUY 101 and all the romantic comedies say men are supposed to be freaked out by these things.”

“I’m not one for average-man type reactions.”

“Ditto. But for women.”

“I’d noticed.”

“Don’t worry about it too much. I’ll land where I land and you can make your decision then.”

We chatted for a while longer and then said goodbye. He’s always struck me as the kind of person who in the absence of a plan will do nothing. However, I’ve always thought that if he can just get out of there, he’ll land on his feet, even if that just means getting a job to tide him over until he knows what he wants to do. If he wants to use me as momentum or an anchor (and I him) while we’re both trying out something new, that’s okay by me. But that’s not the most interesting thing. Today, even as I was writing this, he popped up again on Google chat.


“Hi. How ‘er ya?”

“Off. The announced today that SMC can only afford to keep 30 year round staff. The rest are going to be let go.”

“Wow. I’m sorry. How soon will you know?”

“Eh. ‘Sokay. Probably while I’m on vacation.”

“Do you have a Plan B or is it still just sinking in? What about your family in Fort Collins?”

“I have no idea what I’ll do. But I think I’d want to get out of here. I really wish I had a car.”

I chewed on my lip and then typed fast. “Well, this is a big if and if you shoot it down I won’t be upset, but what about living in Lincoln for a while? I’m not saying you can move in with me (my place is kinda small), but I’ll help you get situated and you can use my car. Lincoln has the seventh lowest unemployment, so we’ve got jobs.”

“That’s a very generous offer and I’ve actually been thinking about it, but I’m glad you brought it up first. The thing is, I’d be in the Midwest again. But still…hmmm…”

He was raised in North Dakota, much to his displeasure, so he has a prejudice against all places Midwestern. “Lincoln is very progressive. More like Fort Collins than like other Midwest cities. You can make up your own mind when you’re here.”

“Yeah, it’s definitely something to think about.”

So. Wow. I could shortly be in a relationship (loosely defined) with someone who isn’t at least five hundred miles away. That could be good. On the other hand, I could end up being a stressed out thesis bitch for the foreseeable future, which could be bad. In other words, I really don’t know. But the offer has been made and it is sincere. We’ll just have to wait and see.

The truth is I’m uncertain and insecure. I have fantasies, both realistic or not, and I struggle to let them go. I’m worried about emotional intimacy and physical proximity and stress, on both of us. I haven’t even had a best friend in years, a person who knows “what’s up with me” and who I know just as well on a day to day basis. I’ve gotten used to that. I don’t want to invite him here with unrealistic expectations that he could or would want to fill that gap in my life. At the same time, I don’t want to be distant and stand-offish because I don’t know how to be close to anyone anymore or because I’m trying too hard to give him some space. And I don’t want to be disappointed if he decides to follow some path that doesn’t include me.

Admitting all of that – well, even that is scary. It’s easier to pass, to hide behind a detached blasé attitude. It’s the wheel. Damn you, samsara, I shake my fist at you! I want to be able to let go of my expectations and dwell in a place free from fear and uncertainty. At the same time I want to let go of the idea of letting go, of all the should, would, could scenarios, of all the “If I were better, then I would/wouldn’t…” I want to give myself permission to feel things I don’t want to feel. That’s the hardest part, I expect – feeling.

But I can deal. I can, I have, and I will continue. What happens will happen and I’ll feel what I feel. In the meantime the sun will rise and set because it doesn’t give a damn, which I always find reassuring. I can be the best person I can be, tap into that little bit of buddhanature I’ve got snuggled down somewhere deep inside, next to my heart. I can love and support and be a thesis bitch sometimes, too. Sometimes I have to write it down to make these things seem real, to remind myself of the potential I have in me – and the potential he has in him, too.

Things will change, but probably not in the ways I ever expect they would.

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