Everything's coming up roses

You have to take risks. We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen.
— Paulo Coelho

Sometimes the most scenic roads in life are the detours you didn't mean to take.
— Angela N. Blount - "Once Upon an Ever After"

But maybe someday, my weird will be somebody else's perfect. And it will be absolutely amazing!
— phydeaux - "The Pursuit of Happiness"


A lot of the time, life is kind of predictable and gives you exactly what you expect. Sometimes…… not so much.

Occasionally, you're just walking along, minding your own business, and notice something out of the corner of your eye. So you cautiously wander over to take a closer look. And what you find is a wonderful garden. A hidden treasure filled with the most beautiful roses you've ever seen. Lovely and fragrant, filling the air with that undeniable perfume that has been the backdrop of so many Valentine's Day dinners, marriage proposals, and romantic comedies.  The sunlight refracts through the dewdrops turning the entire glade into a sparkling wonderland. 

And you never want to leave.

I've stumbled into that garden, dear readers, and within these pages we shall call her "Erica."

"Oh, Lord!  Here we go again," I hear you saying. "Didn't we just get off this ride a while ago? This idiot never learns, does he?"  Just hear me out and withhold your scorn, mockery, and derisive name calling until you hear the whole story. Or at least the opening chapter of the story, which is really all that has been written so far.

Let's begin with a little history.

I've been playing a certain game on my phone for a couple years now. In it, you play against others all over the world in a turn-based guessing game. With actual peopleses on the other end — in most cases anyway since I'm pretty sure one of my opponents is a fake that the game uses to spark engagement — there's a built-in chat interface by which you can interact, share game tips, talk about life, and maybe make some friends.  For example, I've met a teacher in Cocoa Beach who is a fellow cancer survivor.  We've shared treatment war stories, compared and contrasted Higher Ed and Elementary Ed, discussed lots of COVID stuff, and talked about church stuff a bit.

Anyway, the game recently introduced a new feature that gives you daily challenges which need to be completed to get in-game bonuses and, based on the pattern of their play, you can usually tell when someone is trying to complete one of the challenges. One evening in mid July, Erica and I were obviously both working on the same goal. We kept playing against each other trying to get the correct answer but it just wasn't showing up. After many rounds of going back and forth I said, "It has to show up at some point, right?!" Light conversation ensued.

Over the next month we exchanged a message here and there, always about the game and the challenges. One evening, however, she asked me a question about something I had posted in my profile. I initially gave a rather cursory answer but that opened a door for a more in depth one. That led to a couple flirtatious comments which she thinks I didn't pick up on but, in actuality, I chose to politely sidestep.  You see, it apparently only takes an open chat interface for the male half of the species to reduce themselves to veritable troglodytes, driven forward only by their basest of instincts.  Seriously, the number of women's profiles I have seen that complain about getting hit on is mind boggling. (Ladies, on behalf of the testosterone laden gender, I'm sorry.)  Anyway, I make it a habit to tread lightly when chatting with female players, keeping everything above board to avoid any potential misinterpretation of my meaning or intent.

In addition, it turns out that we both thought the other was younger than they actually are. That means that she thought we were closer in age than we are while I thought we were farther apart.  Granted, these assumptions were based solely on a single profile picture on each side and were, therefore, flawed from the start.  But still, I chose to err on the side of caution.

Then Erica sent another couple messages that built on the earlier ones and it was obvious that there was a spark of interest there.  It was at this point that our hero (?) said to himself, "Self, that's a lovely pool of water there.  You ought to at least dip your toe in and see how it feels."

And that dip of the proverbial toe opened the floodgates and started what has now been three weeks of nearly non-stop communicating and getting to know each other.  From the very start, we've both been very transparent and honest with each other, which is very refreshing to say the least. The connection between us is undeniable and palpable — as Tripod say, "You can palp it." — and that just drew us both further up and further in. There has been no pretense. We are very alike in a lot of ways, very different in some others. The more I get to know her, the more I like her. She is intelligent, capable, witty, caring, and beautiful. And she gets me. She understands my weird because she has some of it too. Our Venn diagram has a pretty big overlap.

The downside?  About 500 miles lie between us. But we're committed to figuring out how to deal with that until it's no longer something we have to deal with.  On a related note, I sometimes turn on the Vevo channel and have 80s music videos running as background noise while working on something.  It's a little like reliving the actual music playing days of MTV. As we were chatting last night, the Proclaimers song "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" came on.  I thought to myself that these guys had the right idea.  If Erica and I really want to give this thing the best chance at success, we'll do what we have to in order to handle the distance.

She has seen my puma-attacked face and she still likes me. She has heard my goobered up post-surgical speech and she still likes me. She knows about my insecurites, my physical problems and that I'm sometimes an emotional hot mess. And she still likes me. (She won't like me saying those things that way but she can start her own blog and complain about it there.)  I told her that I keep thinking that she's too good to be true. That I'm suddenly going to wake up and the whole thing has been like season 9 of Dallas. Bobby's gonna step out of the shower, I'm gonna Macaulay Culkin scream all over the place and then probably hit myself in the head with a ball-peen hammer.  If this is a dream, I don't want to wake up.

We both realize that we are still in the early days.  In that ooey-gooey infatuation phase.  And that's great. There's nothing wrong with the ooey-gooey.  But the ooey-gooey, as wonderful as it feels, isn't real relationship.  It is the doorway to it but real relationship takes time to develop roots to withstand the bad, not just soak up the good. If I say something insensitive or she does something that pisses me off and we consciously and intentionally decide to work through it together rather than walking away in a fit of emotion, that's real relationship. That makes you each stronger as individuals and, more importantly, stronger as a couple.

We've talked a lot about what might be, what could be, and what may not be. We don't know what this looks like in the end. I believe we both have the same potential in mind but whether we get there or not is unknown. What I do know is this.  My weird seems to be her perfect.  And her weird seems to my perfect.  So we're moving forward and looking to build a new, unique weird that includes us both.  If we can do that, it will be our perfect.

And it will be absolutely amazing!