Friday, May 25, 2012

my life: the proposal

Currently doing a auto-bio series, hoping to reflect, learn, and grow...and for you to get to know this blogger better!  To catch up read:
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He was like a breath of fresh air.  Everything about him: the way he was dressed, his hair, his mannerisms.  It was like I was meeting him for the first time -- like we were on a first date.
during our sushi date...uh, clearly still feelings there!

It was my first time eating sushi -- he ordered rolls and pieces that were gentle on 'beginners,' and then showed me how to eat it properly.  I loved everything about it, even his wine choice - it all tasted sweet on my lips.

I got the feeling he had grown up from the boy I had fallen in love with.  Now he was a man, living on his own, with career aspirations and even more confidence than he had before.

During our conversation I began to wonder why I had been wasting my time dating guys that I had known in my heart weren't compatible with me.   Why had I settled with less than I knew I deserved?   Paul was interesting, intelligent, fun, ambitious, polite...the type of man I should have been looking for.   And now here he was, right in front of me, smiling warmly and making me feel something I hadn't felt in forever:  hope. Hope that there would actually be a sweet ending to my love story...not just a bunch of crazy, albeit interesting, beginnings.

Towards the end of our long and enlightening reunion lunch, and I enthusiastically suggested I fly to Tennessee to visit him for a weekend.  He, to my surprise, did not exactly jump at the idea.  He said maybe.  He'd call me.  We'd talk about it.  It was kind of like he didn't really want me to.  

Wow.  I was disappointed, but hid my feelings and agreed to talk more about it later.  I didn't really get it, as he said he didn't have any serious girlfriend there.

Turns out he was guarding his heart.  Who could blame him?   I felt like I had trampled his heart about a million times over the past few years.

I eventually did end up visiting him in Jackson, TN  -- St. Patrick's Day weekend.   We tried to keep it casual at first, but very quickly it was clear we were both wanting to try things again.  Er, actually I made it pretty clear by making the first move.  

We had such a great weekend. In Jackson we had a blast hanging out at his apartment, touring where he worked, even attending church together.  Then we drove to Memphis, ate at a Brazilian steakhouse, danced on Beale Street, and decided, after much discussion, to get back together.  To try a long-distance relationship while I was finishing college.   We both were financially able to make it work.  Whether or not we would emotionally be able to handle it was another story.  We knew it would be tough, but we felt so strongly about each other that it would be crazy not to at least try.

And so began our long distance romance - me still in Minnesota, with less than a year of college left, and him in Tennessee.  
Paul's apartment in Jackson -- I promise we're not naked.
derby eve - louisville 

after brunch with his family - louisville

central park, nyc

out in st. paul
kentucky derby - the infield
We managed to survive the trials and tribulations of a long-distance relationship for the next four months.  Each time we saw each other was a whirlwind of fun and excitement.  I guess this was okay, considering the first time we dated we spent nearly every second together, living in our tiny apartment, experiencing all the mundanities of normal life.

We travelled to see each other, talked on the phone a lot, emailed, he made a couple completely surprise visits...which were amazing. There was our typical bickering, and a few major fights.  I'll never claim we've ever been that couple who never quarreled -- we did on a regular basis.  In general, though, it was going very well.  We were definitely hopeful for a future together, someday.

In late June of 2005 we took a trip to Cincinnati.  I'd never been, and he wanted to show me around this city where his career was going to take him soon.  He would be done with the position in Tennessee within the next six months and would be moving to Cincy.

I really liked the city from the start.  Not in the same way that I loved the Twin Cities...but I can say that I immediately felt comfortable and "at home" in the much smaller city of Cincinnati.  Kind of strange, as I'd been to many large cities and never gotten such a distinct "liveable" feeling.  Again, this was God at work in my head and heart.

Paul excitedly showed me everything he could that he thought I might like.  We went to the nearby amusement park, drove around trendy neighborhoods, stayed in a hotel downtown and explored the area thoroughly...I had no idea he had very specific reasons for wanting me to like Cincinnati. 
fountain square
the 'purple people bridge'
view of mount adams
where paul would eventually work 
On Saturday night of our Cincinnati trip, he told me to get dressed up.  This wasn't really surprising, as I dressed up a lot and always had a dress packed just in case.  He knew I loved 'getting fancy' every once in a while.

So I donned a short black dress with pale pink piping, and he, of course, coordinated with me in a pink dress shirt and black pants.  (Yes, we are nerdy like that.)

We went to a popular dining and drinking area called Mount Adams - I made fun of it because it is more like a big hill, unlike any mountain I had ever climbed, but it was very quaint and sort of I was enamored by his choice.

He led me to a tiny seafood place called Mount Adams Fish House. We had drinks and a wooden slab full of decadent sushi pieces.

I was having a grand time, as always, with the man that I loved...and didn't feel dorky eating sushi in front of.  Even though I might have looked dorky.
During dinner, I couldn't help notice an unusual amount of nervous energy in my date.  Paul seemed to be really energized - much more than usual.  As we conversated he could not keep a huge grin off his face.  I didn't think much of it, except that it was kind of odd.

Then he suggested we take a walk.  Again, didn't think much of it.  Paul is a romantic guy who frequently surprised me.  A walk was not uncommon, except that it was pitch black out and he didn't really seem to know where we were walking to.  Several times he led us down a street and then decided it was not the right way to go.  Finally, he led me to a staircase.  A steep staircase covered by a thick arbor of tree branches.  I couldn't see the bottom.  To be honest, it looked scary.

I refused to go down it - visions of attackers in the shadows with knives dancing in my head.

He was not expecting my reaction, and tried for several minutes to coerce me down the steps.

No success - I wouldn't budge.  I'm not easily coerced into anything.  Plus, I didn't feel like dying.

So he aquiesced to my stubbornness and abandoned the staircase to find another way down to wherever it was he was trying to take us.  He still wouldn't specify.

Finally, we reached our destination.  A park bench situated on the side of the cliff, and the end of a tiny dead-end street.  It gave us a panoramic view of the lights of Cincinnati:
sorry - cheap camera and only photo I have!
It really was a fantastic view of the city and I took that to be the reason he had gone through all that trouble to get me there.  I was completely oblivious to any other intentions.  Completely.

Since I had my camera with, I suggested we take some nerdy, romantic self-pics while we sat there.  He , of course, humored me and we snagged a few lovey-dovey shots:
he hates this photo...I love it
Then his mood turned serious.  Even though I couldn't see his face, I could tell he wanted to tell me something important.  Still, I was completely oblivious.

He started out saying he had "not been honest" with me about something.

Not a good start.  My heart quickened and stomach tightened.  I thought he was going to tell me he had cheated on me or something equally heartbreaking.   I held my tongue and listened as he explained.

"I told you I went to a movie with a friend the other night, but I didn't go see a movie..."

"Okaaaaaaay..." I had no idea where this was going.

Then he went into a long explanation of what he had really been doing but, to be honest, I cannot remember anything he said because all of a sudden he was down on one knee, on the side of the "mountain", in the black of night, pulling something out of his pocket and asking,
"Will you marry me?"  
I was in complete and utter shock.  This was the moment every woman imagines her entire life, and all of a sudden it was happening.  Here I was, twenty four, being asked by the love of my life to marry him.  It should have been an easy answer.
However, my heart was in my throat, and all I could honestly think was, "I'm not ready for this yet!!!"  I wasn't done with school yet, we still lived in different states, it had been forever since we'd had a "normal" dating relationship...was I even ready for the huge commitment of marriage?  Was he? 
At the same time, I couldn't imagine saying no.  I knew in my heart he was the only man I could ever marry.  He truly was who I wanted to spend my life with.  Have babies with.  He was now asking me to do just that.   It was the perfect night, the perfect proposal, the perfect guy...How could I possibly say 'no?'

So I swallowed my doubts, and, I'll admit it, panic, and exclaimed, "Yes!" and we tearfully kissed and embraced, and the diamond ring I still hadn't even seen was placed on my finger on that dark hillside.

Then, of course, we snapped a few "newly engaged" photos:

this princess cut was exactly what I imagined on my finger - simple and classic
We then proceeded to do the things that newly engaged couples do: tell our families and friends and start planning the wedding.

None of it felt real to me.  At 24 I had no idea what kind of wedding I wanted.  While I had always daydreamed about being proposed to, I was not the girl who had been planning her wedding since she was four.   I felt overwhelmed at the prospect of making decisions about such a huge event.

Plus, we still both lived in different states!  My whole life was in Minnesota.  I still had to finish college.We tossed around the idea of a destination wedding, but that didn't really seem right either.  My mom and sister took me dress shopping, and even though many of the gowns looked gorgeous, I was strangely detached and uninterested.  Not a good sign when shopping for the most important dress of your life.

I did not feel ready for any of it.  I felt overwhelmed.  I felt suffocated.  I felt out-of-control of my own life.  I did not want to plan a wedding yet.  I was mentally incapable of dealing with all of the changes being thrust upon me.

I loved Paul with all my heart, but...

I freaked out.

A month later, while we were on a camping trip with my family in northern Minnesota, sitting in a canoe in the twilight, loons crying in the distance...

I gave the ring back.

Tearful, scared, but resolute.  The hardest thing I've ever done.

The engagement was over...but were we over?

Next up...
College Part 3: Graduation