(If you’re looking for links to other parts of the story, scroll to the end of this post.)
On Monday, July 22nd, the day after “I love you” I wrote in my journal…
“I’m still a little scared of ‘I love you.’ I felt good saying it yesterday. I didn’t regret it. I haven’t regretted it. I felt like it was exploding painfully in my brain before I said it. Hence the tears. When I told Randy I liked him for the first time, I don’t remember being ‘fully’ confident of it. (I can’t be fully confident of emotion, it messes with my brain, I find it hard to decipher.)
But I grew in confidence. I feel like loving Randy will be the same. I want to commit to him and know him and grow with him and open up. I didn’t expect emotion to be so “uncomfortable” for me. I also certainly expected to “feel” in love and giddy and crazy. I’d love to feel that now. To look at him and know he’s my husband.”
As the months went on, I began to understand more and more about how my (INTJ) brain worked. Thoughts were thought of and feelings followed. First, I had to logically determine my thoughts about Randy and wait until my subconscious felt safe enough for emotion to appear. (Yes, I was, and am, a complex little thinker.)
I didn’t regret saying telling Randy I loved him (or kissing him!) but I wasn’t fully, fully, without a doubt, confident I loved him in the days that followed. I couldn’t stop thinking back to April, when Randy first told me he liked me on the pier. It was a surreal moment. I “felt” nothing.
My brain seemed to say “yes, this is a good decision, Jamie“ and so we started a “relationship” going on dates and talking on the phone. The next month, in May, Randy started to talk more about a serious relationship between us and my brain froze. Did I even like him?
A few weeks later, through hours of shared time and conversation, I logically considered “I like him and a relationship would be good” and soon, grew comfortable with the concept of “being his girlfriend” and soon, felt emotion about the decision. I wanted to be his girlfriend.
I liked this man. Now, I logically thought, “I must love him, this must be love” and deemed it necessary to step out with the “thought” and wait for “emotion” to follow.
“I waited for my emotion to follow” may seem super cold and formulaic to an overt-feeler… but I don’t at all mean it that way. I sobbed for a full hour, overcome with emotions, before I told Randy I loved him down by the river on that Sunday afternoon. There was so much emotion it overwhelmed me in a way I had never been overwhelmed before.
When I feel things, I feel them deeply, almost deeper than I can articulate. That was a huge difference between Randy and I. If Randy was ever tearful, he could define why. He knows what he is feeling because he is acutely aware of his feelings. When I am tearful (2,789x more often than he!) I can rarely say why.
My best analogy for my emotions during this time was a fuzzy radio station. I often told Randy, “there’s information on the channel but it’s not clear. I cannot decipher my thoughts.”
One day, I could break down in a weeping pile of “I love you so much,” like the afternoon at the river and the next day only occasionally think about Randy and be perfectly fine to wait until the evening to see him. (Randy however, thought about me every other minute and counted down the hours.) I was really, really craving a “giddy, I’m soooo in loooooove” emotion because I thought that’s what I needed, I thought that’s what being in love was.
There was so many factors about deciding on a life partner my brain felt it had to sort through today. Was I supposed to be giddy to see him? What if I wasn’t? Did I not love him? Exactly how much were we supposed to have to talk about? After dinner by the lake one evening, Randy and I laid side by side on a blanket. We played a round of cards together, people-watched fellow lake-goers from afar and now… I couldn’t think of anything to say.
I racked my brain trying to think of something… every topic I could think of we had talked about. I was at a standstill and the silence was getting louder. His family, okay, good, ask another question about his family.
Randy took his time answering, carefully sharing details he may have missed in past conversations about his upbringing. I loved listening to his observations about marriage and family and people. I thought, “He’s the best.”
And then ran out of anything else to say.
It’s laughable thinking back now (so what, we didn’t have anything to say… we had seen each other every day that week?!) but it was frightening at the time. The added pressure of “now we both love each other, everything is supposed to feel different” stressed me out.
Somehow I put my introverted self into a relationship and although I knew (logically) my personality wouldn’t change… when it didn’t change I worried it meant I wasn’t in love. Everyone else (whoever ‘everyone else’ was) was squealing over their boyfriends online, talking about eternal butterflies and days full of romance.
I almost expected myself to be a giddy, bubbly, Disney princess character, always having something to say, full of intriguing topics with my boyfriend. (Which clearly, I’ll never be a Disney princess. Nor ever harboured the desire to be.)
Randy and I had grown so close with one another over the three months we’d been dating… we were open with our feelings. We were honest even when it hurt. But my heart knew we had room to grow before I could be fully myself with Randy. I didn’t feel like I was holding anything back – certainly not by choice – but I wasn’t ready for any talk about marriage.
And how could I be? It had been three months. That’s crazy.
Summer has always been crazy for me as a wedding photographer… made even crazier the last few years as a twenty-something. Every summer, I have my own schedule full of weddings, and then weddings to attend or be a part of in our friend group! The last weekend of July, I was booked to shoot a wedding in Penticton on Saturday and be a bridesmaid in a wedding back in Langley on Sunday. The two cities were more than 4 hours apart. It was a challenge, but I was up for it.
Saturday evening, I was schedule to finish work at 10:00pm in Penticton… but I needed to be at my friend’s home in Langley by 9:00am the next morning. 11 hours to back up images, get organized for the next day, sleep, shower and drive four to five hours.
As the weekend approached, Randy said he wished he could drive me to Penticton and back, so I could rest after my wedding and before the next one. Ever the independent one, I shrugged him off, “I’ll be fine, Randy! We’ll stay overnight on the Saturday, sleep 5 hours or so and drive back Sunday morning. See you Sunday. I’ve done it before. This is summer to me!”
But he was persistent. Only 48 hours before the weddings, Randy texted, “I looked up one-way flights from Vancouver to Penticton. Only $132. You drive up Friday evening and I’ll book a flight on Saturday. After the wedding, I’ll be there to drive your car home Saturday night. That way, you can rest after work and sleep in your own bed in between the two weddings.”
I smiled, agreeing to his plan only if he let me pay for his flight. There was no way he was going to spend his own money flying to Penticton only to hang out all day alone while I was at work and drive home until 2:30am the same night.
He agreed to my terms.
Friday evening, my friend and second shooter Taliah and I drove to Penticton to check in and get organized for the wedding the following day. The next morning, an hour before Randy was scheduled to land, she asked over coffee at Starbucks, “Are you excited to pick Randy up from the airport?”
I shrugged. “Kinda.” I didn’t know. Everything was happening too fast to process. The memory of “I Love You” last weekend had changed my view of our relationship drastically. There was pressure. To keep my word. To actually love him. My goodness, we were even kissing now! This was crazy. It was a lot.
When Randy walked through the doors of the airport, I walked to greet him, feeling content to see a familiar face. But inside, I was still secretly waiting for the ‘giddy’ to strike. I was confused and disappointed when it didn’t.
I wanted what the other girls said they had – the “I’m sooooo happy you’re hereeeeee and I’ll just dieeee if I don’t see you today!” I couldn’t feel that, I didn’t know what. It was just good Randy was there.
The three of us spent what was left of our mornings exploring the vacation town, driving around the desert landscape, admiring the lakes, walking around the street market, going for lunch. Randy dropped us off at the wedding and we started our work day. I thought about Randy throughout my day, wondered how he was passing the time. I couldn’t believe he gave up his Saturday, woke up at 5:00am, drove to the airport in Vancouver, boarded the plane for a flight and is now hanging out in town alone, simply to drive me home tonight.
What a guy.
When the sun had set and the bride and groom were happily dancing the night away with their guests, Randy drove my car up the long steep driveway of the lakeside venue.
“How are you?” he greeted me, jumping out of the car to grab my bags.
“I’m good. Just thirsty, hoping to grab some water when we change at the gas station or something.” He pointed in the car. Two water bottles, freshly chilled waited inside.
We started the long drive for home, Randy driving, me in the passenger seat, our friend in the back. We came prepared with pillows, hoping to catch some sleep while Randy drove but to no avail. The radio provided a solid selection of singable songs and I found myself giggling and singing the majority of the four hours. Randy laughed alongside – refrained from singing – while my poor friend tried her best to ignore me in the back and get some rest.
It was fun. Surreal. Randy still didn’t feel real. I had done wedding seasons for six years on my own and here was this man: dropping me off and picking me up, with fresh water in the car? Driving me home? Weird.
I was used to doing this by myself.
By the time we arrived at my house after three in the morning, Randy had been awake for 22 hours straight. After a quick goodnight kiss, he hopped in his truck and back to his own bed. Six hours later, Randy was at my doorstep to drive me to my friend Kelsey’s house – it was her wedding day!
I sleepily grabbed my bags full of wedding attire and made my way to the truck in the driveway. Randy took my bags, held the truck door open and softly shut it behind. Of course, a Starbucks green tea was in the cupholder waiting.
It is always an honour to be a bridesmaid and Kelsey’s wedding was no exception. It was special to spend the morning with Kelsey, her mom, and four other bridesmaids. I loved feeling the excitement build as the ceremony inched closer… I couldn’t believe this was Kelsey’s day.
Wow, marriage is crazy, I thought. It’s forever. Kelsey is signing up for forever… woah.
The ceremony was beautiful and the weather was perfect. After photos with the wedding party, we arrived at the reception and I went to look for Randy. We had a few moments before the bridal party entrance to catch up, but of course, I’d be seated at the head table and Randy at the “boyfriends/husbands/dates of the wedding party table.”
As the reception program started, I caught a glimpse of Randy across the room and my heart skipped a beat.
It felt like my two worlds were colliding…spending the day with Kelsey and the other bridesmaids, some I had known for years, was natural. It was comfortable. Being single was what I had always known. Seeing Randy, in a room full of people I had known for years, was a gentle reminder: My life is different, now. That man over there is your boyfriend.
Looking back, I suppose it was that tension, that transition between stages but I found it hard to make conversation with Randy that night. Whenever there was a break in speeches, I wandered over to Randy’s table and we… small talked. It felt forced. I felt like people were watching me.
When the dance floor opened, Randy and I walked hand-in-hand to the patio and my brain was overwhelmed. We leaned against the side railing and looked out at the lake in silence.
In all the time I had known Randy, he had been the most affirming man I’d ever known. When we were only friends, before any romance was involved, he was quick to make mention of things he noticed and appreciated.
In a romantic relationship, it was like his affirmation tendencies were on speed.
When we had quiet moments, Randy would be overwhelmed with how beautiful I was, how much he loved me, how incredible I was and never thought twice about sharing. He was a constant record of praise. He knew what he loved and he wanted me to know. I called Randy AFOJ once via text: affirming fountain of joy. (It never stuck. It annoyed him. I stopped.)
We were standing side by side as Randy began to tell me he much he loved me, holding me close. My brain played static radio. I couldn’t put thoughts together. I was agitated with myself, thinking, say something, say something…
I was scared.
Scared because I could see Randy moving further and further down a path of emotion, picturing our future together and I still didn’t know if mine included him. I was embarrassed – embarrassed I had said “I Love You” last weekend and was having doubts again.
I started to cry. Again. I felt like I was always crying in front of Randy.
Now I was annoyed I was crying. Was I really having a melt-down again about how confused I was? After “I Love You” last weekend? After our first kiss? And here, of all places, at one of my best friends’ weddings. Outside. In public. I knew too many people at this wedding.
I spoke in whispers shielding my face against Randy’s shoulder, away from the eyes of other guests mingling and laughing on the deck. I whispered through tears, “I don’t know, Randy. I feel like I love you. I meant it when I said it. I’m not going back on that… but I just know I don’t love you as much as you love me. I know that sounds terrible. I know that’s not nice to hear. But I know you are more into me than I am into you. I like you a lot, I feel like I love you but I just need us to move slower. I need time. I don’t know. I’m sorry.”
I hated putting Randy through these conversations. I absolutely hated it… but not enough to lie about my feelings. I couldn’t pretend my heart was good when it wasn’t. Our relationship was built on trust. Randy always said if we couldn’t be honest, we didn’t have a relationship.
I would have paid thousands of dollars to gain the power to change my feelings.
I wanted more than anything in the world to love Randy like he loved me! To care for him like he cared for me! And I did, I did love Randy, I did care for Randy but I knew, I knew, I knew, he was simply more in love with me. I was slower moving. I needed to hit the emotional pause button.
“I’m sorry. Does this hurt you? To hear my words? What are you thinking?” I wiped the tears from my cheeks, sniffling.
Randy took a deep breath in and out. “If I didn’t trust your heart so much already… and trust your intentions, which I do, it would hurt a lot. But I trust you, more than you know, so it doesn’t worry me. You’ll figure it out.”
I nodded, biting my lip to hold back tears.
He spoke quietly and slowly, “Do you need us to take some time apart?”
“No!” I shook my head, starting to cry more at the thought, “No, no. I don’t want that. I don’t want that. I don’t need that. I just… needed you to know,” I leaned my head against his shoulder and he wrapped his arm around my lower back.
Drying my tears, we left the wedding shortly after (how can you really go back to celebrating after a conversation like that) and on the drive home, we held hands in silence.
I looked over at Randy as he drove, wishing I could make it better, wishing I didn’t have to keep doing this to him. We neared my house and Randy pulled off into a parking lot and parked the car.
“I couldn’t talk about this while I’m driving,” he said.
The introduction of Forge can be found here and Part One can be found here. Part Two can be found here. Part Three can be found here. Part Four can be found here. Part Five can be found here. Part Six can be found here. Part Seven can be found here. Part Eight can be found here. Part Nine can be found here. Part Ten can be found here. Part Eleven can be found here. Part Twelve can be found here. Part Thirteen can be found here. Part Fourteen can be found here. Part Fifteen can be found here. Part Sixteen can be found here. Part Seventeen can be found here. This is Part Eighteen.