Love in the Thin Air

Last weekend, I spent three perfect days in Telluride for a close friend’s wedding at Schmid Ranch near Mount Wilson. The golden aspens stretching up to the wild and unpredictable sky, snow covered mountains surrounding the valley the ranch was nestled into, a dozen of my beautiful friends in attendance all so excited for the bride, and my handsome date, a wonderful man I’ve been lucky enough to have in my life for four months now.

For a brief moment on my solo drive across the state, I couldn’t help thinking of another wedding I went in the San Juan mountains five years ago, also with a guy I had been involved with for several months at that point. The two events couldn’t have been more different. The 2012 wedding was awkward. I didn’t care very much for the bride and groom, the bride clearly didn’t like me at all, my date barely spoke to me during the wedding and reception, and there was only one other person there I sort of knew. It was awful. But I had wanted to go to that wedding because the groom was a very good friend of my then-boyfriend. They had known each other a long time and were likely going to be in each other’s lives forever. At that time, I believed my relationship with my ex was on track to turn into forever as well, and so I felt that being at the event was important.

Skip all the intervening years to 2017 and I still haven’t lost that sentiment that people who mean a lot to you should be at the big moments in your life. I dearly love my friend who got married this past weekend. I can’t remember the last time in my life I felt so immensely happy for another human being. It’s the kind of feeling you have when you are in love and you think your heart is going to explode out of your chest, but I was feeling it for someone else’s romance. I’m still feeling it as I draft this post because the bride and groom are so right for each other and truly deserve the fairy tale. As for my own romance, (I’ll call my date Ironman, partly because of the race he participates in but partly because I’m continually impressed at the mental fortitude he’s had to overcome so much adversity in life and become successful, and even more, to help everyone around him be successful too), well, Ironman and I are bonded. Inviting him to the wedding wasn’t about simply having a date. My friends and I have such fun no matter what we do that I didn’t need a date to enjoy myself.  The invitation was about him and us, about adding to the long list of beautiful memories we’ve already built together, about reveling in the mountain air and the love and the joy specifically with him, specifically at this momentous occasion. And he drove almost 2,000 miles round trip to do just that with me.

In early summer 2016, my ex and I went to see Pat Benetar, master of passionate 80s love songs. I have always been a fan. She’s one of my go-tos on nights home alone when a little too much wine makes me feel like singing at the top of my lungs and dancing wildly in my living room. As I listened to her that night, when my relationship was in an unhealthy and almost dangerous state but I was still fighting against the recognition that it was never going to work and struggling to figure out how to extricate myself, she sang Love is a Battlefield. And it was. My love was, anyway. And as she sang, I felt depressed because I knew that wasn’t what I wanted. Love can be a battlefield when you’re a surly teenager, when you’re Romeo and Juliet, but as a successful, intelligent, caring adult, why would you want a relationship that can only rightfully be described that way? How had I gotten myself into that position? I had to hold back the tears. I knew that I would never be able stand up in front of my friends and family one day and say that I wanted to commit to him for the rest of my life. I couldn’t envision that moment. There was too much conflict in our relationship. It was practically a war.

I almost started a paragraph in this blog post by saying that my relationship with Ironman is complicated because we don’t live in the same state, but it’s not complicated. It’s anything but. We have been each other’s champion and encourager and inspiration and friend since the day we met, even during the first five weeks when I couldn’t understand why I was so drawn into these almost daily text conversations with someone I had only been on one date with and didn’t think I would ever see again. We are honest and emotionally open and willing to be vulnerable. We respect each other and are thoughtful and considerate. We get silly together and get serious together. We get adventuresome and curious and creative together. We listen to and learn from each other. How we relate to each other is right and good.

I don’t know what lies ahead for me and Ironman. No one ever knows. Of course I have hopes and intentions and fantasies, but life sometimes happens in ways that human willpower can’t manipulate and desire can’t overcome. The physical distance between us is real, and we both have established, successful careers and vibrant, fulfilling social lives in our respective cities that neither of us is willing to walk away from, at least for the next few years. But the way we treat each other would do Pat and Neil (and my newly married friends the Schumachers) proud. And we are laying a foundation so that regardless of what happens with us romantically, we will, as he puts it, know each other for a Winnie the Pooh length of time. And that makes him someone I want by my side at all my friends’ weddings.

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