I like watching couples fall in love in the movies. The experience is always sweet, breezy, and lighthearted. I'm sure having a musical score doesn't hurt. However, I doubt there is a soundtrack peppy enough to counterbalance the turbulent start Danielle and I had when we first became a couple. Sure, we had plenty of blissful moments feeling the first flush of love. It's just that, at that time, we still thought we were just friends. (Idiots.)
At the height of our headiness about the wonderful "friendship" we'd found, Danielle and I moved to separate states to begin our teaching careers. I remember the profound sense of loss I felt when I drove her to the airport and watched her embark on a new journey without me. I was irrationally and obsessively concerned that I might become a lower priority in her life, that I would no longer be important to her.
I needn't have worried. During the year we spent apart, we talked on the phone each night for at least an hour. In addition, we wrote letters to one another and even kept journals that we mailed back and forth periodically. (You know, totally normal friend stuff.)
As I became more integrated into my new community, the middle-aged ladies at my new church took me under their wings and set me up on two blind dates. For the duration of both dates, I remember wishing I could just sit across the table from Danielle instead of making polite conversation with strangers. My connection with her was the deep bond by which I judged all other relationships. Needless to say, my underwhelming enthusiasm and investment in these fledgling relationships led to no second dates. The guys I met, nice though they were, did not make me laugh or make me feel as myself as Danielle did (and still does).
For her part, Danielle recalls checking her phone frequently on these date nights. The longer the night went on without a phone call from me, the more worried she became. She admits to being secretly relieved each time I called to give her some ho-hum report about my brief forays into the dating world. (Again, isn't it typical for best friends to hope their best friends have only bad dating experiences?)
Much of our year apart is a blur to me at this point. I remember feeling pretty down much of the time and chronically homesick for Danielle. That spring, I decided that I would leave my job at the end of the school year and move to Washington, D.C., with Danielle. Danielle offered to fly from D.C. to Texas, where I was living at the time, to ride with me during the move.
Once our road trip was planned, we could talk of little else. The promise of a fun-filled adventure together became the carrot we dangled in front of ourselves to help us survive what was, unequivocally, a difficult year. Two best friends traveling across the country together- what could be better?
Plenty, it turns out. Even though we were riding in a Toyota Corolla jam-packed with my belongings, there seemed to be ample space in the car for tension and angst. We spent long stretches of time not talking while our minds raced, worried, and questioned. We had always felt so comfortable together, but something wasn't connecting now. What wasn't lining up? I began to question my decision to move in with Danielle. Maybe our relationship wasn't going to be what it had been. Danielle feared that I would hate living in D.C. and resent her for encouraging me to move. Of course, the move was a sensitive and potentially volatile topic, so we chose to avoid the subject- or any subject, for that matter. It seemed the weight of even one word would break the fragile eggshells we walked upon. When pressed about that road trip today, Danielle and I tend to laugh and exclaim in unison, "That was awful!"
The road trip angst ended up being a harbinger for the drastic changes to come in our lives and relationship. I won't go into the nitty-gritty details, but once I moved in with Danielle, we shared many kisses that we did not talk about. At all. For weeks. I eventually wrote Danielle a letter to ask her what our relationship was and whether or not we should pursue a romantic relationship. Conveniently, I gave her the letter before I left for vacation with my family. You know, to keep the whole not talking thing going.
Initially, Danielle was understandably fearful and apprehensive and expressed that she did not want us to become a couple. I handled this news very badly. Here is an illustrative example from that time period: when Danielle and I had lunch together at a local diner, my passive aggressive jukebox selection was Patsy Cline's "I Fall to Pieces". I find this is hilarious now, but I was absolutely serious about it at the time.
Eventually, Danielle and I were forced to address our fears. Fears of jeopardizing our friendship, of coming out, of being ostracized, of being so very vulnerable with another. We could no longer deny that our bond ran deeper than friendship. This time period involved more crying, hand-wringing, and drama than a telenovela marathon. We were not at our best. Our story would have made for a wretched romantic comedy.
But, we got through it. Even though our life still has its challenges, I truly believe that for us, the hardest part is over. I don't feel particularly nostalgic for those restless nights or the pens I emptied scribbling furiously into my journal. I do experience a certain wistfulness, however, as I marvel at how fragile we were in those early days of couplehood. Very easily, there could have been no us. And yet here we are, eight years later and going strong. That realization fills me with overwhelming feelings of gratitude, abundance, and faith in the Thread that guides and connects us all.
You know, kinda the opposite of angst.