Thursday, April 14, 2016
2 years, 10 months and 12 days.
688 mile move.
433 Yankees games.
Infinite cups of coffee.
Immeasurable pounds of frosting.
You could count days or you could use metric tons of whipped Funfetti frosting to calculate the duration of time between when I hit the "single" button on Facebook to when I accepted the "in a relationship" request. No matter what you use to measure the time between the two dates though one thing can be said without question: The person I was watching the tail lights of a pickup truck drive away from my Nashville apartment is not the same person sitting here writing this with a sore face from always smiling.
Like Berlin after World War II, after my last relationship ended I put up a wall. And not just any wall. I constructed a wall with such height and width (and a moat thrown in there for good measure) that nobody would be able to get over or under it to hurt me again. The wall was high enough that scaling it would be impossible and wide enough that going around it would be a waste of time. And after the wall was constructed I began a beautiful yet tumultuous relationship with someone I had never really gotten to know before: Me.
If I had known how crazy that girl was from the beginning I may have tried to run the other way! But I gave her a chance and I'm so glad that I did. I got to know what made her happy and what pushed her to her breaking point. I got to see her at her worst moments (carrying the last box out of her office at the Opry with tears streaming down her face)... her bravest moments (smiling at the doctors as they wheeled her into the operating room to take our unwanted friend Gladys out of the relationship)... her happiest moments (standing on the field at Yankee Stadium singing Frank Sinatra as she waiting for David Robertson to come greet her)... her saddest moments (watching the Nashville skyline disappear into the distance as she drove away to an unknown future in Texas)... her proudest moments (trying not to stumble over her words or feet as she shook the hand of the 43rd President of the United States while he thanked her for a job well done at the movie premiere)... her sincerest moments (when she looks at her reflection in the mirror and sees the scars from a body fighting an invisible enemy and she whispers, "Don't be embarrassed... They're battle wounds you beast.")... her scariest moments (walking the streets of what was left of neighborhoods thanks to Mother Nature's nasty side in a shiny red vest) and her oddest moments (pretty much every minute of every day and definitely when she's driving)! I saw her fall apart and pick herself back up. I saw every tear, heard every laugh, felt every bruise, tasted every piece of cake and experienced every Yankees win like it was their first. I got to know this girl I had put on the back burner for so long while I stayed in failing relationships and fought so hard for others when I should have been in her corner the whole time. I grew to know her and appreciate her for everything she was and all of her imperfections. I learned to love her.
When I moved to Texas I made a friend at work. And soon afterwards I realized I had made a best friend. The kind of friend that you will have the rest of your life. The kind of friend that makes you a better person for just knowing them. He had a contagious smile, a strong heart, a beautiful soul and a broken wing. Yet, even on my worst days he could put a smile on my face. His friendship proved invaluable in my adjustment to my new life in Texas and my new relationship in learning to love myself. He was someone I could always count on to have my back and someone who I could rely on to believe in me even when it was really difficult to believe in myself. I considered myself beyond lucky that I had been blessed with this once in a lifetime friendship. And while everyone around asked "When will you guys date?" I thought to myself two things: One, he's my best friend and you don't date your best friend. And two, I'm in a pretty committed relationship with a crazy baseball loving brunette right now. It was important to get to know her and accept her before I dated anyone again. I owed it to her and I owed it to whomever I was going to date next. They needed the best version of me and that version of me included someone who knew who she was... and loved every ounce of fabulousness and every single flaw.
Then one day in the midst of ringing in the New Year in a Red Cross shelter, a nephew being born and craziness surrounding both of us... I looked across the restaurant table at my best friend and felt a crack. I froze. It was that expertly constructed wall I had spent so much time and energy building up around me. It was a small crack but it was the first one I had felt in the years since I had put it up. And even though the restaurant was loud and waiters were talking and the booths around us were filled with people laughing and eating... I could hear a pin drop when he smiled at me and I thought to myself, "Well... this changes everything."
Perhaps in learning to love myself I learned that I would never fall in love with someone I met on a blind date or someone that I met at a coffee shop. Perhaps in learning what makes me the person I am I learned what kind of person I need in order to compliment me. Perhaps I learned that Little Miss Independent has the ability to love again but it takes a certain person who not only knows her crazy side... her stubborn side... her fanatical side... and her vulnerable side BUT appreciates them all at the same time. Perhaps in learning to love myself I learned that the only person I would allow to break down that wall was someone who already loved me.
Someone who knows not to talk to me during a Yankees game (especially if we are losing). Someone who knows to ask the waiter if there is Cajun seasoning on the food because I always forget and wind up having a bottle of Benadryl for dessert. Someone who knows I'm scared of the rain even if it's not going to be that bad and doesn't judge me. Someone who knows I sing at the top of my lungs to music in the car (and shower) and although I may not sound like Kelly Clarkson... still smiles at my high notes and joins right on in. Someone who knows my blood is blue and I know no other life and he respects that. Someone who knows my scars and my imperfections and loves me through it all. Someone who is my best friend. Someone like him.
So after that initial crack at a random dinner one night I started to hear a few more as days and weeks went on and we spent more time together. And then I heard a few pieces of the wall actually fall and break into pieces. And I knew it was time. I knew that I loved myself enough to finally let someone else love me the way I deserved. It was time to tear down that wall. And so I did.
The comparisons between my life story and his life story when mirrored with the Reagan's has caused us to laugh numerous times. His broken wing is so similar to the one that Ronald Reagan had when he met Nancy. And while I will never be as dainty or feminine as Mrs. Reagan I know that the two of us together is a love story I think can hold up to theirs. And as he has said to me several times... They may even be dethroned.
So as President Reagan brought down the Wall of Communism... I found a man who could tear down the Wall of Kristen. And he did it with a smile and absolutely no bribing me with frosting in the process :)