This is a personal project of mine, one that will likely stretch for the next year. I want to write our love story, in detail, so many years from now I can remember what drew us to one another. The introduction of Forge can be found here and Part One can be found here. Part Two can be found here. This is Part Three.
An unrecognized number appeared on the screen of my iPhone, where it rested on my desk to the left of my iMac. It was summer wedding season and a jammed one at that. With more weddings than I knew what to do with, my days in the studio were focused and productive. And included a lot of coffee. Opening up my iPhone, I read, “Hey, it’s Randy. Hope you are having a good day. On my way to pick up that lamp for Kelsey. Be there in 10. Can I get you anything from Starbucks?” I hesitated, looking at the mug on my desk, before texting back, “No, I’ve had too much coffee today already, but thanks. See you soon.”
A few months ago, Randy (a friend of a friend I met quickly over dinner the year before) moved from Vancouver Island to Langley. The contracting company Randy worked for was planning to expand to the Lower Mainland. Eager for a chance to move out of his small town, he offered to move and manage the new venture. Knowing Kelsey and her husband Jason in Langley, it was a natural fit to rent a basement suite near them and start attending their church. He was actively involved in the Tuesday night youth ministry where Jason, Kelsey and I served as leaders. From afar, I noticed his ability to build friendships and connect with people. Our paths crossed at church or at friends’ parties but conversation never moved much past a pair of polite “hello’s” or “how are you’s?” To be truthful, Randy made me a little nervous. He was too nice. (Yes, there is such a thing as being too nice.) I didn’t know what to do with him and his smiley face and his spontaneous offers to pick up Starbucks.
There was a knock on my studio door ten minutes later and I jumped up to open it. “Hey!” He smiled. He stood outside on my deck, hands buried in his baggy jeans pockets. “Hey.” “How’s it going?” “How are you?” I cut him off. “Ah, I’m good.” I laughed nervously, scolding myself for the pathetic inability to carry on a small-talk conversation. “Come on in,” I motioned with my left hand to my tiny, 100 sq feet studio behind me. “There’s the lamp,” I pointed, winning the award for most obvious statement of the day. “Great.” Settling back into my computer chair, I re-opened Adobe Lightroom. Having returned from the treacherous four-step journey to the other side of the room, Randy was back leaning up against the door with the floor lamp in hand. “Do you meet clients in here?” Oh, still small talking. Got it. “Yeah, I do.“ We exchange a few sentences and after two seconds of silence, waved goodbye with “Have a nice day!” Glad my lamp sold, I thought, using the keyboard “plus” key to boost the exposure of a wedding image from the weekend before.
My spring and summer sped by with impressive speed, as springs and summers and every good thing has a way of doing. Three of my close friends got married in a span of three months. Two out of the three weddings were out of town and I was a bridesmaid in two out of the three weddings. This, of course, was in addition to photographing twenty eight weddings for work. It was a wedding-filled, activity-filled summer.
For the first time in years, my heart and brain space was wholly unoccupied by the male specimen. I was as free as a girl could be. When reflecting on my last five years, I had a moment of enlightenment. After muddling through all the crap of ending a relationship, I was coming to see what a beautiful time “post-ending a relationship” can actually be. I had new eyes to see the world! I wasn’t dating anyone! I wasn’t trying to “make” something work! And to my joy, dating someone and then, not dating someone, doesn’t change the course of your life. I was still me! But wiser now… with a serious mistrust of men and women who said they could be “just best friends” without any romantic interest.
By the end of the summer’s travelling and photographing and celebrating the marriages of my best friends, I started to think critically about this elusive future man I would fall in love with someday. I never had the freedom to think about the kind of man I needed before without a male face (or two) in the forefront of my mind. Rather than focusing on who I wanted, what did I want?
Hmmm. I wanted a man with a generous heart, someone who held his time, money and possessions loosely, with an open hand. Giving money is central to my life’s vision and being in a partnership with someone who struggled with giving freely would introduce a lot of conflict. I wanted a partner who thought entrepreneurially, someone with a business mind, a go-getter spirit. I compromised with boys all the way through my young adult years. I’m asking too much. Maybe he’ll be the artist, I’ll be the business-mind. Maybe that’ll work. No, I knew in my heart I needed a man who could at least come alongside my conversations about business and marketing, if not lead them.
Lastly, he needed to have a strong faith in the Lord. Not necessarily a “Bible school” faith. Not necessarily a “I read lots of C.S. Lewis and love theology” faith. Not necessarily a “I’ve been in church since the day I was born” faith. None of those qualities equaled faith, necessarily. I wanted a man who was tested and tried, unsheltered from the big questions and knew, with confidence, what it meant to marry his faith with real life darkness and hardship.
I was twenty-two years old and the single boys near my friendship circles fell short. I was in a pattern of compromise. But at the time of those interests/relationships, it truly didn’t feel like a compromise. I was being “realistic.” I couldn’t expect a twenty-one year old boy to be as driven as I am. I couldn’t expect him to love business. I couldn’t expect him to love knowledge and learning new things like I do. I couldn’t expect him to give too much money away. He was young! Growing! Yes. He and he and he and he was young and growing but I was fooling myself over and over again to think this was my problem. Let them grow, Jamie.
You need one already grown.
I was afraid of articulating the qualities I would need in a man. It seemed a lot to ask for and a lot to wait for, without any promise of such a man (who would meet ME! and choose ME!) existing. Regardless of the looming improbability of finding this man… the personal epiphany felt incredible. I was done with wasting my time and energy and conversation on boys. Dating and relationships and marriage would have to wait a few years. Maybe until I was thirty. Thirty seemed like a nice even number. My mother was thirty when she married my Dad. Seemed to work out nifty for the two of them. Plus, at thirty, there’s a higher percentage of men available with full-time jobs and clean cars who held basic life skills like folding laundry or changing the oil on a car. (Um, no, I didn’t know how to change the oil on my car… which is obviously why I was looking for a man with skills who could.)
It was the month of October, my favourite time of year. The air felt fresher, the sunshine a little bit softer and there was no beating the sweater, jeans and boots combo. The sentence “Sure, I can hang out on Saturday” was inserted back into my vocabulary with my summer wedding season coming to a close. A friend and I were driving downtown headed to West 4th Avenue for good espresso and some boutique shopping. As she fiddled with the radio dials, searching for a station with suitable tunes for the sunny drive, I passed the time arguing with my brain. I should talk to her about Randy. What, why? What is there to talk about? I don’t know what there is to talk about. She settled on a station playing Gwen Stefani and a few more minutes passed. I feel like I want to bring him up. What am I going to say? I don’t like him. I’m going to bring Randy’s name up to say I don’t like him, even though she has never asked if I like him or even brought up his name in conversation? Yes, exactly. The internal argument went back and forth.
I took a deep breath. “I… don’t know why, but I can’t stop thinking about Randy.” My friend signalled left, quickly shoulder checking before changing lanes. “Oh?” She looked my way, turning down the volume on the radio. “Yeah, I mean, not like ‘Ohhh I can’t stop thinking about himmm’ or dreaming about him or anything. I just, I don’t like him. I know I don’t like him. I’m not attracted to him. But I feel like… I get these ‘vibes’ from him. I don’t know how to take him. Or handle him. I’m not interested in him.” I fidgeted in my seat, crossing my legs and uncrossing them. “I don’t know what I’m saying. Except that anybody else I’m not interested in, I simply decide upon meeting them I’m not interested and the I move on. I’m not sitting here telling you about the fifty single men I met last year I ‘don’t like.'”
She listened before responding, “I don’t know why you’re thinking about Randy either. But if you don’t like him, I don’t see what the topic of conversation is about. There’s no problem here. It would be a different story if he liked you, but he doesn’t, so it’s not something you need to think about.”
“Right.” It made sense in my brain, what she was saying. And the verbalizing of my contradicting thoughts “I don’t like him but I’m thinking about him but I promise I don’t like him but why I am thinking about him” did zilch to bring clarity to my situation. The non-existent situation.