The Postmortem

Well, seems like I was mistaken about the previous last post being the final say on the whole situation. Though there are a few corners of the Internet that I could post this on, the fact is this is the corner that it’s proper for. The people in my life are largely unaware that this has even happened, and I’d like to keep it that way for a few reasons — the bottom line is that the people who I can trust know what’s gone on.

Hence why I put my thoughts on it here, as opposed to the other corners of the Internet that I occupy.

When we last left off, I had just declared my reasoning and thoughts on why my brief relationship with Abbey had a decent shot of being continued. That was on a Friday. The next day, I was told by Abbey that we should be “work friends” and shouldn’t really see one another outside of work.

As you can imagine, that pretty much quashed any thoughts of a rekindling of things between us. To be bumped from “friend” to “work friend” was not a pleasing thing. We engaged in a two hour long Facebook conversation about the reasoning behind it, which basically boiled down to, “I don’t want to go back on what I said” on her part. She thought it best if we just stay away from one another for a while, especially since I admitted that I still liked her quite a lot.

And I can’t exactly blame her for that. In fact, I get it … she doesn’t want to make a liar out of herself or further entangle things between us, which is wise in a certain sense.

It’s sad in another. Twenty minutes after that conversation concluded, my best friend called and we talked for about an hour and a half, bouncing around multiple subjects that were either directly or indirectly related to the Abbey situation.

Sunday I found myself vacillating from depressing thoughts to angry ones (all while being trapped at work from 5AM to 2PM). I wanted to write on the subject then but my head was still cluttered with all manner of things.

Monday was just about getting to today.

And this is where we are now. I sit in a Starbucks, a stone’s throw away from Birmingham, Alabama. It’s about a 90 miles trip from where I live. I came today because I felt like I needed to get away from it all, at least a little away, and try to arrive at some conclusions.

I’ve titled this entry “the postmortem” not in reference to the autopsy, but in reference to what my journalism professor did at the end of every news broadcast we ran. At the end of every broadcast, just after we’d left the airwaves, he would assemble us all in the studio and go over the things he saw us do — good, bad, or otherwise — and advise us, praise us, admonish us, or render some sort of judgment, one way or another.

He called it “the postmortem”. The show was over and there were lessons that had to be learned from it: there would, of course, be another show the next day, and we’d have to carry over what we learned from the previous shows to that one. We were always striving to be better some aspect of the show than last time, even if we had horrible technical difficulties or if an anchor read the prompter wrong or if a light blew out in the middle of the show. There was always something to be learned.

And, thusly, I title this entry that for there is something to be learned. Despite my hesitance to call this a “learning experience” (simply because I don’t like thinking of a person as that), this is basically what it boils down to.

Though I did cover the things I learned before, consider this a more macro view.

The beginning …

We start with why I ended up in Birmingham. For some reason, the idea came to me yesterday night that I needed to go here. I could have chosen any number of nearby areas, but I chose Birmingham simply because it was far, but not too far.

And I desperately felt the need to go to Mass. So, that’s what I did. I woke up this morning, knocked out all my chores for the day, and set off for the city that SHOULD be the state capital of Alabama. They had a pretty nice looking Catholic church here, so I went there for the daily Mass.

I’m converting to Catholicism from being a Baptist — the process started on Virginia, went to Ohio, came back to Virginia, and now I’m quite a ways into it here in Alabama. As you can imagine, Catholicism runs a distant second (or third or fourth) to being a Baptist in this state. It’s hard to find churches that offer a daily Mass, especially ones that work with my hectic schedule.

But this one did work. I had the day off and I went.

The Mass was fairly quick (about thirty minutes), but the homily was right on point. It spoke of the Advent and the three comings of Christ. The first, of course, being his birth. The second being his return at the resurrection. The third being constantly at our side.

It was in the third coming where the homily hit home for me. The priest spoke of how Christ is with us through all our trials, all our sufferings, and listed some examples. Among those listed, at the end of his examples, was the end of a relationship.

From that point on, the tingly feeling was in my head; it’s the feeling I get when something important is being learned. It happens when I go to Mass pretty often, but it hasn’t been happening of late — not since I got back to Alabama, really. But it happened at this Mass and the point was made that Christ is there beside us to help us through our sufferings, to get us through them, and that those sufferings will make us stronger.

The homily ended and, of course, next came Communion. I loathe and love Communion — loathe it for the fact that I must remain in my pew, unable to take it (for I’m not Catholic), and love it for what it represents and how those that go and get it do so with reverence.

After that, we ended the Mass and I sat in the pew for about ten minutes, trying to wrap my head around the beauty of the place and trying to decide where to go next. I eventually decided to head to Starbucks, but upon exiting from the church I was approached by an elderly gentlemen whom was a beggar — homeless, likely, dressed in old clothes and eyes tired.

He asked for enough money to buy food, pointed to a soul food joint across the street and asked me if I could buy him a meal there, that I didn’t have to give him any money at all. Of course, the cynical side of me said that he was probably just using me — hitting up church goers after Mass for money screamed “ploy” to that part of me.

But I couldn’t deny his need. He looked hungry. I reached into my wallet, pulled out a twenty dollar bill and handed it to him. Told him I trusted him to get food. He was genuinely thankful, shook my hand, and walked across the street to grab a hot meal on a cold day.

Normally, you wouldn’t find me doing that, especially since I’m trying to save up money to get back to a state where Catholicism isn’t in the minority (that state being Virginia). BUT, I had just finished up a lesson in my Catechism the day before about showing God’s love through acts of charity and other good works.

I don’t know if it was a test. I don’t know if it was a ploy or if I just gave that guy a hot meal and a bottle of booze (or some other drug). I don’t know for sure why he was waiting out there ten minutes after the Mass had ended (did others say no?). But I gave him the money. Did I hesitate? Oh, yeah, for about fifteen seconds I looked at him quizzically.

And then I took an action.

About twenty minutes later I entered Starbucks, found a seat, ordered myself a Pumpkin Spice Latte, sat down, and took out my Catechism.

Lesson 14 was about the second coming of Christ (tying back into the homily I heard earlier).

Coincidence? I don’t honestly believe that. I can’t believe in coincidence anymore, not after the last few weeks, certainly not after the last three and a half years. And after the events of today (and how they tie in with recent events), I certainly can’t claim coincidence.

Lesson 14 focused on the second coming of Christ at the end of the world. It was a pretty deep lesson, actually. It brought up the judgements (the general judgement at the end of world and the particular judgement upon one’s death — the differences being the general rules publicly whether you are headed to heaven or hell, while the particular tells you whether you are headed to heaven, purgatory, or hell) and then dove into the reason we suffer.

The reasons we have trials and crosses to bear, which is to purify our love of the Lord, to grow it, and allow us to enter heaven with perfect love for our God.

Bringing me back to my least favorite (or most favorite, depending on the day) phrase: Everything has a reason.

I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t understand why Abbey was brought into my life. I have theories (to teach me how to not be a complete noob with a young lady?) but nothing concrete. I don’t know if I can call it a trial or a cross to bear; at least, not the week of bliss I had with her.

That week was a joy and, even after being bumped down to “work friend” status, I still can’t be bitter. I’m not bitter — I’m not even angry, really. Not at her, not at her reasons, for the reasons make sense to me even if I wish they didn’t. Am I disappointed? Yes and no. I don’t feel like I failed at something. Despite how poor I was at my brief romance (honestly, what guy needs to be told where to put his hands?) I don’t feel like it was a contributing factor to the end of it.

Ultimately, she ended it and the only feeling I have for that is sadness. The sadness — the regret at what apparently isn’t going to be — is my suffering, my trial, my cross to bear I think. This point was driven home in one of the discussion questions at the end of the lesson.

Q: If a boy or girl omit many easy opportunities to go to Communion, is he or she ready to go straight to heaven upon death?

And my answer flew from my fingertips before I even really had time to think about it. Once I read it back, I could only shake my head.

A: No; only by accepting the opportunities presented to us, trusting in God’s plan, can we please God, and make our way straight to heaven upon death.

I bold those two phrases above because those are two things I fail at often in my daily life. They may be the things I fail at most often in my daily life. I have a bad tendency to over-analyze and over-think things. Often, I’m presented with opportunities and I circle around them, over and over again, trying to make sure they’re something I can do or want to do.

As one would expect, by the time I figure out whether those opportunities are something I want, they’re usually gone.

Trusting in God’s plan is another difficulty I have, simply because I’m a bit of a control freak.

Both these points were brought up in my late night conversation with my best friend Saturday night. Both those points had been brought up before by her and by others. Both those points are probably among the most talked about points in relation to myself and “the grand scheme of things.”

I find it hard to trust in God’s plan because I don’t know it and that bugs me. It bugs me because it seems completely contradictory to things I see and hear and feel. It bugs me, especially now, because I don’t understand why I was granted the opportunity to enjoy Abbey’s company for just a week.

There were so many little moments and things in that week. I recited the “Never gonna give you up” part of the Rick Roll song to her (because I had been Rick-Rolled earlier in the day on Facebook) while we were holding one another in the parking lot, swaying to the wind. Poor taste? Maybe. But she laughed.

The physical component of the relationship is the most confusing thing of all to me, really. Even now, over two weeks after it has come to an end, do I still have feelings and eyes only for her. I think it’s a biological leftover from the physical contact (otherwise known as hand-holding and kissing in this case).

I don’t know. Certainly there are, objectively, prettier girls. Certainly plenty of them around me on a daily basis (Target attracts them in hordes for some reason). And not a one of them catches my eye like she does.

Why that? Why her? Why us for a week? Why did it even happen at all?

I simply don’t know but, damned by my own answer, I must trust in God’s plan. I accepted an opportunity presented to me when I asked her out for lunch. That opportunity evolved into something more for a brief time period before it became … this. Whatever this is.

It seems that whatever effect I could have on her will be minimized now since I’m just a “work friend.”

But, if I need to look to anything for an answer, I simply only have to look at my Catechism. Lesson 12 covered the four marks of the true church.

Those would be that it is one, holy, apostolic, and catholic (otherwise known as universal) church. The marks are where my answer lie, I think. In any relationship with Abbey, our differing beliefs and ideals would be tested. But in no way would I be able to profess that the Catholic Church is one, holy, apostolic, and catholic. That would make the Catholic Church the only true church in existence, a belief which I have come to. If I were deep in a relationship with her and still professing that, I would be indirectly condemning her.

There would be no way she would ever attend Mass with me (as that phrase is prominent in every Mass) and there could be no way I could attend Temple with her. We would both be violating our beliefs and our faith, and we’d both hate ourselves for it.

To her credit, she realized this far sooner than I did. I would expect she has a better understanding of the Catholic faith than I do (she has studied it significantly due to the degree she’s going for and her own historical interests). More than anything, it reflects poorly on me that a Mormon girl has a better understanding of my own faith than I do, but I’m converting, so I’ll give myself a pass … for now.

The phrase “One, holy, apostolic, and catholic church” never added up before to the understanding expressed above. They were things said during Mass, things that I was aware of in a sense, but I didn’t realize they were part of a one whole thing; I thought they were four separate things in a list.

(As a complete aside, Catholicism kills me as far as grammar is concerned. There are certain things that are capitalized and things that aren’t, lists that aren’t lists but an entire phrase … the Catholic faith — and possibly all religions — seem to disregard the rules of grammar and, for a writer, that’s a bit of an annoyance. I’ve been trained to write in one way and now I have to write in another, at least as far as this subject is concerned.)

I think I’ve arrived at a better understanding of it all now. Today, I ended up in Birmingham. I went to Mass, gave a beggar money for food, and now I sit in a Starbucks, where the people around me are my age (unlike Mass where there were only three others around my age), where most of them are students (Birmingham has many college campuses) studying for finals, and I’m studying the Catechism.

For the first time in a while, I don’t feel like a poser around the students my age. I’m not here creatively writing, I’m not here sipping on coffee and jotting down theories on life.

I’m here studying a subject just as relevant as anything else in this place.

I don’t have all the answers. I can’t claim I ever will. I still don’t know for sure the answers to any of the questions posed here or posed before. I still believe a good thing is being left to wither between Abbey and myself. I still believe it’s wrong that we aren’t pursuing it, even with the understanding that it would likely end poorly anyway between us because of our differing faiths and beliefs.

That said, Abbey did teach me many things and she did burn one particular bible verse in my mind. It was the verse she used to explain why she broke it off.

1 Corinthians 14:33

For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace.

It is that verse that she cited as the reason why she broke it off; it made her feel confused, our relationship, even though we got along so well. I pointed out that maybe it wasn’t me that was the source of the confusion and she noted that point, but she still said she felt better about having made a decision to end it.

I don’t necessarily know if I’ve arrived at a peace. Her ending it has confused me, that’s certain, but I’m not as confused now as I was. I’m being led to a peace, more than likely, and the process will take time.

In time, all this will look either really stupid (likely), really dramatic (as likely), really smart (less likely) or fall somewhere in between (probably the right answer).

I have many, many questions and thoughts (which I will expand upon further, no doubt). But, I must hold to my own words and trust in God’s plan.

It is with that thought that I end this entry. As always, any and all comments are welcome. Thank you for your time.





It Was Unexpected Pt. IV

So, we’ve arrived at the final post on this subject. I’ve told the story, I’ve given the context, I’ve listed some life lessons and some writing ones, but now we come to the answer on why all this even matters. After all, she DID break it off.

“Why do you still care?” you ask.

The answer is simple, at least on the surface: I want Abbey.

Yes, it’s a rather trite turn of phrase, isn’t it? I’ve had multitudes of discussions on this entire situation over the last two weeks, with people on the forums (whom have provided great advice and insight) and my best friend (who has counseled me with similarly great advice and insight). The trusted people in my life, from my family on the forums to my best friend (whom is family) have all agreed: don’t push, be her friend, but don’t assume it’s dead — she didn’t say “never again” after all.

And guess who else told me to have hope? None other than Abbey, the night before she broke it off. She admonished me for being a hopeless romantic and told me I should be a hopeful one. I’ll admit, probably reading into that too much, but it’s a point in my favor, IMO.

I want her and I’m not under the impression it’s a one way thing. She initiated the hand-holding, the arm-looping, and the kissing — not me. That has to take a certain amount of “want” from the initiating party, doesn’t it?

But, why exactly, does any of the above matter if she ended it? Because, being on this end of things, doesn’t feel right. It feels wrong. Here are the reasons why I think this has a chance of working.

1. We get along really well.

I click with this girl like I have with few others. She’s ideal in multiple categories and, though I acknowledge that’s a dangerous thing, I don’t see it that way. She’s incredibly intelligent, has traveled (she’s seen various places in Europe, from Paris to Rome), is cultured (likes plays, dancing) and is a nerd, like myself. Her nerd love is Dr. Who, mine is Star Trek, and we’re both watchers of both things (though she’s still got a long way to go for Trek).

I’ve clicked with people like this in the single digits — add in the gender, and she’s one of three girls I’ve ever clicked with like this and she’s the only one out of the bunch who was single at the time.

2. The odds are against us.

The odds paint this as a harrowing, difficult, nearly impossible thing to pull off. Our respective religions don’t make this easy.

“Shouldn’t that be a bad thing?”

No, not for me. Historically, I thrive on long-shot odds. I lost 133 pounds in 11 months time. I survived two tire blowouts going really fast on busy interstates in the span of two months. I managed not to kill myself by refusing to go to the hospital for nearly two weeks (not my best moment), I survived multiple self-inflicted injuries over my childhood (I’ve never broken anything despite some amazingly poor decisions on my part) and my nearly 22-year-old car is still going (despite my poor automotive skills).

This is a long-shot thing. Just like the two of us meeting was (even though we had lived in the same area for over a decade). It’s a hard thing, a difficult thing, and a big thing — a combination of things that doesn’t make me scared.

3. She brings me peace.

Consumed as I have been with this, you’d think I’d have trouble sleeping. But I haven’t. My mind has a tendency to park itself in worst-case scenarios at night — whether that’s reflecting on horrible things that could happen to people I care about to reflecting on horrible “what ifs” from my past, sleep is not a given for me.

But it’s a given these last few weeks as I’ve had my focus on Abbey. One could call this obsessive and maybe it is, I don’t know for sure and I’m certainly not objective enough to clear myself of all charges.

4. I have eyes only for her.

This might be improper to admit, but I’m a guy and our eyes tend to wander during this stage of life. I’m a mid-twentysomething male with four eyes (glasses count) and they don’t wander anymore, not since this whole thing began. Is it horribly cliche and completely corny? Probably, but it’s true.

5. We have just as many differences as similarities and that’s pretty cool.

The biggest difference is that she’s a Whovian and I’m a Trekkie … 😉

Really, the big thing is the difference in religions. And this is where a lot of soul searching has had to take place, at least on my part. I was sure, sitting in my car and listening to her break up with me, that we could make this work. I said as much, but those things said in the heat of the moment could easily change with time and perspective.

Even with as much research as I’ve done, with the accounts I’ve read, with the measurements I’ve taken of my feelings and thoughts, I still strongly believe we’d make it work. Not because either of us are weak in our own faiths (a common phrase found in the accounts I read), but because both us are practical enough to understand we’re not enemies.

We’re not enemies. We’re different, but that doesn’t make us enemies and this isn’t some war to win or lose. It’s not a battle. It’s one person’s beliefs working in tandem with another person’s, not against.

I can’t convert to Mormonism for her because A) she doesn’t want me to (her words) and B) I don’t agree with some of their beliefs.

Mormonism was something she was raised with, since she was a kid, and it’s helped make her … her. It can’t be all bad if she’s a result of being raised in it. This is probably the one thing I’d like to say the most out of everything else listed here … this is the thing that might have allowed it NOT to end in my car two weeks ago.

As such, if Mormonism helped make her into the person she is then it has positives, even if there are things I don’t agree with. If it came down to it, in a hypothetical future scenario, I’d let her raise our hypothetical future kids in it.

Despite knowing the hell and flak I’d catch for that decision from multiple parties, I have no right to condemn something I don’t fully understand. I’m converting to Catholicism for God’s sake and it’s not as though Catholicism has been free of crimes in its history. No religion is innocent of anything because religions involve people and people are sinful, no matter what their title or position.

6. Life doesn’t seem so scary with her.

Life is big. It’s full of big things, big decisions, and a constant, ticking clock that could stop ticking any second of any day. Life is short, it’s long, it’s a conundrum and it’s blessedly simple, all in one.

It’s a scary, scary mess. And it doesn’t seem so scary with her.

Sure, you could easily make the case that I’m just stuck on her, and you might be right — I can’t claim to know what the feeling is. But I don’t feel that’s the case.

7. Everything happens for a reason.

Remember, I didn’t want to be here. I didn’t even really want this job because it’s retail, during the holiday season, and I pulled this stint last year and it wasn’t fun. I hated work last year. I tolerate it pretty well this year.

And I can’t believe in coincidences anymore. I just can’t.

The first day of orientation, when I was called in to run through the stupid employee videos and such, we were all crammed into a room and we had folders in certain seats with our name on it. Except, we all just chose our seats. I picked the seat with Abbey’s folder.

“Small, insignificant, random drivel! That doesn’t matter!”

Probably not. Maybe I’m looking for a pattern that doesn’t exist, but maybe I’m not wrong. Everyone always assumes that such things are just dumb little coincidences and that any case made otherwise is wrong.

What if I’m right?

8. Stop looking for the right person and become the right person.

She makes me a better person. It’s not simply because I’m better feeling but because, in our brief time together, I haven’t lied to her once.

Think about that in the grander context.

I’m a better liar than I’d like to be (a skill I improved on significantly in college). I can lie at the drop of a hat; coming up with fiction is easy. But, for some reason, Abbey inspires a sense of honesty about me that makes lying a far second to telling the truth. We’ve exchanged some hard truths with one another during that week of bliss, truths you don’t necessarily tell a person in the beginning of a relationship. But we told those truths.

And it worked. I don’t know if I am the right person for her (I hope I am, I want to be) but she makes me a better one.

9. We flirt like hell with one another.

If this were truly dead, the flirting wouldn’t happen. It wouldn’t exist. It would be awkward and a bit depressing, but this has been anything but that. There’s a pulse here and, though I’m rather unschooled in the ways of this, that says to me there’s hope. It would be something if she was like that with other guys, but she’s not (as far as I’m aware).

10. I care about her.

And that’s probably the only reason that matters. Even if this doesn’t have a chance of working (a strong possibility), I do care and I want her to be happy: I think I can do that, I think our interactions prove that, but it takes two to tango, as the old saying goes.

For now, I’m dancing alone, but I’m not dead yet.

My mantra is simple: I want Abbey. I’m not going to push or pull, I can’t say anything I’ve said here (at this point), I just have to try and figure out where to go and what to do. It’s not easy, it’s rather confusing, but it’s not depressing.

It’s hopeful.

It Was Unexpected Pt. III

So, the background has been given and a few life lessons have been learned. But, how has this entire thing benefited my writing? Well, in a few ways actually, so let’s roll down the list.

1. Relationships are far more nuanced than I originally gave them credit for.

You know, I figured there were only about three different states of relationships: the friend, the boyfriend/girlfriend, and the one-sided feelings. That was it. My writings reflect this, I think.

As we speak, I’m somewhere in between the friend stage and the boyfriend stage … I don’t know what to call this stage other than “more than friends” but that implies a certain level of physical intimacy that simply doesn’t exist between us (at least not in the traditional sense).

I’m stuck in this in-between zone and I don’t hate it; it’s certainly weird, and it’s different, and I like aspects of it (namely, interacting with her) but there seems to be a ceiling — I have yet to actually hang out with her as a friend only (and all attempts to do so have been turned down, though my attempts haven’t been outstanding by any measurement).

In my writings, this area that I’m in simply doesn’t really exist — you could make a case that Hank/Bethany might traverse into this territory during the latter stages of their relationship, but I never envisioned it things like this.

2. Flirting is fun.

I write a few flirty characters in my stories, but the level of fun they have seems small compared to the fun I’ve had. Playful dialogue and witty remarks are rife within this entire situation of mine and I don’t think I’ve portrayed that nearly as well as I could have.

There’s a certain level of tension in the interactions between Abbey and myself, a tension that’s not bad but there … the best parallel I can come up with is an instrument: guitar strings have to have tension in order to play well.

I feel like, in this situation, that tension between the two of us is part of the reason WHY we get along so well. Why we play so well together, so to speak.

In my writings this seems to be a missing element, at least in comparison to my feelings now as opposed to my feelings during my multitude of writings.

3. Heartbreak is more like an illness than a feeling.

Being heartbroken sucks, let’s just get this out of the way. I’d like to lobby to change the word to “heart sickness” but I doubt it’ll catch on.

Heartbreak feels like getting sick and just being done with life for a period of a few days. During my LONG weekend to think about how it all came crashing down, I felt like I was ill. I don’t recall feeling quite so bad in the past, but I’ve never gotten this far in the past.

In my writings, heartbreak is portrayed as more of a feeling … and that’s simply not the case, at least not exclusively. Heartbreak is an illness more than anything, and like any illness, it can last varying amounts of time.

The only reason I’m still not heartbroken is because I work with the girl, and we still work really well together (on multiple levels). That gives me hope (and other things as well, but we’ll elaborate on that in the final post).

4. The future is heavy.

Writing primarily in the 24th/25th century, there are just some things about the future one doesn’t worry about. Money, healthcare, finding a place to live … the universe of Star Trek has all that covered. It’s actually pretty nice, from a writing perspective, but it doesn’t mirror reality at all.

Reality is far starker than that. In my theoretical assumptions, in my time lost down the rabbit hole, I had to consider a lot of future scenarios and finances, healthcare, and housing arrangements all reared their ugly head. This stuff MATTERS and it’s fine to consider it in theory, but it just isn’t hammered home unless you’re really thinking about it.

Which, I did, and it wasn’t a set of pleasant thoughts.

In my writings, I definitely need to find something that echos this concern for the time-period; galactic politics, race relations, scary technology … something along those lines would probably work.

5. It is absolutely possible to be fixated on just one girl.

One of my enduring self-criticisms in my writings comes from the Hank/Bethany relationship and how Hank always has her on his mind in some form or another. I always found it a straight bit of fiction, definitely something that couldn’t really exist.

I find myself agreeing with my portrayal — maybe not over that long a time period (staying on someone’s mind is much easier when you see that someone often) — but it’s definitely possible over a short time period. My thoughts have been centered on Abbey for most of the last three weeks … admittedly, I am trying to solve a few problems and constant analysis is my go-to solution to do that, but the point remains that it’s possible.

6. Describing the sensations felt during the process of kissing/hand-holding is hard.

My descriptive process in that realm needs a lot of work. Not sure how to put the things felt during those things into words … but those things felt were awesome.

That’s the end of the list, at least for here. In the next and final post, I’ll go ahead and throw out my conclusions drawn from all this (there are a lot). As always, any and all comments are welcome. Thanks for reading, folks.

It Was Unexpected Pt. II

So, where did we leave off? Ah, yes, Thanksgiving week (continuing with more context, then we’ll get to the other things).

I have little appreciation for Thanksgiving nowadays. In the past, it was always a holiday I could look forward to for the great food. But, since I lost weight, I’ve viewed the holiday as more of an excuse to eat poorly than anything.

That, combined with the usual loneliness, makes Thanksgiving my second-least favorite holiday (Valentine’s Day is the first). This year, like the year before, I had to stay back and work while my family went to visit my relatives in Florida. Coming off a break-up (or whatever you could call it), I wasn’t in a particularly good spot last week.

Monday rolled around and I was still heartsick over things. Our shifts were scheduled separately, so I didn’t get to see her really that day. I was stuck on the afternoon/evening shift, and she was working the early morning shift. I thought I had missed her by the time 12:30 rolled around and part of me was glad.

But my head was stuck in it and I missed her. And then, as I glanceed down the main aisle, I see she’s walking toward me. We strike up a conversation, like we had so many times before, and things flow easily between us. We snark at each other and relay what’s happened to us so far that day, and it’s like it was before for a brief moment.

Then she leaves. I spent the rest of day trying to figure out what had just happened. Saturday I was told “Let’s just be friends” and Monday I’m being just as I was before with her, when we were more than friends. How does that work, exactly?

The next day it was more of the same, more fun and flirty, and I made time to help her out with her stuff as seeing mine wasn’t particularly pressing. We were great. I asked her, point blank, how long I had to wait before I could suggest doing a fun activity with her.

She didn’t know. It seemed, for once, that we were both equally stumped on how whatever we had should play out. I suggested something for that Friday, but she had plans already (hanging out with her cousins, watching Dr. Who — can’t knock those plans, though I did suggest Dr. Who be at the center of our potential activity).

Thursday rolls around — Thanksgiving, D-Day. I was given the dubious honor of being one of the cashiers for the beginning of our Black Friday sales (at 6PM on Thanksgiving Day). I didn’t expect her to be there, but she managed to snag a shift in the backroom (avoiding the rush of the front and working with our boss, Jeff, whom she likes to playfully suggest I’m jealous of — whom I’m not jealous of for I have more hair, am much younger, and don’t date people 17 years my junior, unlike Jeff).

It’s nice to have her there but I don’t expect we’ll see one another. The first few hours flew by fast as people come through, sales occur, and the process repeats itself.

And then my lane is clear and she shows up in it, her mom and aunt behind her. She introduces us, we do our flirty/friendly thing, and I get the impression her mother isn’t overly impressed with me (but she doesn’t seem to hate me). I notice that Abbey is wearing that same lip balm she kissed me with (I recognize what it looks like).

Later on in the night, after I clock out, I find her and ask if she’d like to grab some food afterwards to celebrate our survival. A late Thanksgiving dinner, of sorts. She turns me down, says she’s going to go home and sleep once she gets off (about twenty minutes later).

I’m disappointed but the night isn’t a complete waste: I got to meet her mom and aunt, which adds a new layer of information to the data I’m amassing.

I’m off the next day but back on Saturday. I get the close shift and our paths intersect again, where she stops me — unprompted by myself — and relays to me how Jeff (our boss) told her he thought I liked her, but didn’t have the guts to ask her out.

Abbey tells me she corrected him on that and Jeff, according to her, has a new level of respect for me (which he’s actually displayed this past week, amazingly enough). She’s smirking throughout all this and I’m pleased that she was able to defend my honor, little of it there was, and I’m wondering why she came up and told me this.

But I take it in stride, resume our playful/flirty dialogue, and try not to overthink it.

This past Sunday, we worked once more together (I actually got to leave before her, for once). Upon coming in, she finds me and delivers a fake punch to my jaw (sound effect included). We engage in more playful/flirty behavior, she sticks funny glasses/ornaments/things on me, is generally pretty amused, and it’s like that day we held hands.

Add in the Facebook convos (much like the above) and … well, I’m not sure what we are at this point.

We’re playful/flirty friends, I guess. Can you be that? I’ve never been that.

The questions nagged at me as I was at work all throughout last week … so, I decided to investigate her reasons WHY she chose to break it off, namely, Mormonism.

Lost Down the Rabbit Hole …

It began this past Monday. I typed in one innocent phrase in Google: “Dating a Mormon girl?” and came upon pages, and pages, of results.

I started from the top and worked my way through each one. It took almost three days of research to arrive at my initial conclusions (which are far from final, mind you). I don’t pretend to understand a lot about Mormonism, but the Internet has information out there — I started with BYU, to understand what they taught (since they’re a Mormon school and she went there for five years).

Suffice it to say, the stats didn’t bear out what I wanted to see. The stats were out of date by over two decades, they were collected by the lay persons of the church (since Mormon’s don’t hire specific people to be specific things in the church, the lay people do all the work, top to bottom), and BYU readily admits that this is a bit of an issue, in terms of accuracy, but they go forth and use it anyway.

Let’s put the statistician details aside, for a moment, and get to the bottom line: there is absolutely ZERO way I can ever approach the dream of a Temple Wedding for this girl. It requires me to be Mormon (not happening — she told me she didn’t want me to convert and I agree — me and the Mormon church would be a poor fit) and be in good standing. That’s off the books and, really, I probably should have stopped right there.

But I didn’t stop. Stats were given showing how horrifying mixed marriages (of mixed faiths) were and the one verse everyone uses to justify not having inter-faith marriages kept popping up:

2 Corinthians 6:14 King James Version (KJV)

14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?

This verse was cited by the Mormon church as the reason NOT to marry someone of a different faith and, guess what? The Catholic church says the same thing.

I feel like this verse is taken out of context a lot when it gets cited, and I felt like that here as well. I dove into the Google results, page after page, trying to find reason for hope — could a relationship between a Catholic and Mormon work? Yes, says the results. Could a marriage? That depended on a lot of factors.

This is where things get sobering as hell. For years, it has been a stated objective of mine to get married and (hopefully?) have kids. I’m good with kids. I’m great with kids, better than with adults I think.

But to get kids, you have to be married (at least for me). To be married, you have to have success at dating (which, as an aside, the Mormons and Catholics agree on the premise of “Whom you date is whom you marry”, which is oddly comforting and strange). To have success at dating, you actually need to get a date (this has been my issue).

I suck at romance. It’s not for lack of effort, but simply a lack of experience. At 26-years-old, I am pretty far behind socially. My brief week with Abbey proved this in spades — not knowing when to initiate hand-holding, not going in for the kiss, having her do all the work … it’s a sad state of affairs, really. I learned a ton, don’t get me wrong, but I simply can’t believe our meeting, in the grand scheme of things, was meant to just be an educational experience.

She’s not a book, she’s a person.

Which brings me to the list of sobering things I didn’t even remotely consider when considering the possibility of marriage with this girl (this is where jespah’s comment on the last post comes into play, about how much considering marriage is a rushed action at the very least).

1. Marriage of different faiths requires more sacrifice than normal.

This is probably the number one takeaway I got from the many, many accounts I read of people being married to someone of a different faith than themselves. Faiths, particularly Mormonism and Catholicism, play a HUGE role in the daily lives of those who believe (assuming the believer is an active participant).

Abbey is a believer of her faith, I am a believer of mine, both of us are lax in certain areas, but the two of us are rather sure of our decisions to follow our mutual faiths (at least on the outside — I’d bet she’s just as unsure about some things as I am). In a dating relationship, it’s easy to overlook the differing faiths because you’re in the moment.

I was forever in the moment with her in that one week of bliss. It was an amazing feeling, one which I can honestly say I have never experienced before. I tend to be in the past, or the future, and the present is a distant second to anything else. I’m on autopilot in the present half the time and the other half I’m struggling to keep up with the present.

With Abbey, I was forever in the moment, with her, enjoying what we were sharing, and not thinking ahead. It’s why the time seemed to always fly between us (and still does) and it’s why things like faith are easy to put aside.

In marriage, that’s not something that can be done. Marriage requires getting married … usually in a church and, if I stayed Catholic and she Mormon, neither of us would be able to have a ceremony like the one’s our faiths would demand.

So, the wedding would have to be something rather weird, though not unholy. It’d just be a civil wedding and that’s a consolation prize that’s not very consoling, truth be told. The wedding would be awkward for all sides, the ceremony not quite as special.

“You only get one wedding day,” is a common phrase and one that’s technically true. So, we’d lose out on a mutual dream of a kick-ass wedding. Personally, I’m good with that — the ceremony is probably the least important part of the wedding. The actual getting married part is more important, IMO.

1A. Where do you go to church?

So, the marriage is done, but we’re both living different faiths in our daily lives. Both the Catholics and Mormons encourage a certain amount of participation in your faith — what would the church schedule look like? Would we both be willing to go to church with one another? Would we merely write off Sunday as a day where our individual souls needed to be addressed?

Lots of questions and no immediate answers. But that would be a thing, a thing that would need to be decided. The Mormons would have been accepting, to a point, if I decided to go to service with her. And, certainly, the Catholics would have been accepting — you don’t have to know what’s going on at Mass to go, I certainly didn’t when I first started.

Optimally, I’d imagine we’d do hers in the morning and mine in the evening, keeping the afternoon and night for ourselves. But that’s a hypothetical of the highest order.

2. Children.

Inter-faith marriages are hard enough as it is. Add in children, and the research gets murkier. Accounts range from having a healthy set of children to having children with no faith at all, no belief in any higher power.

Ultimately, it comes down to how the parents decide to deal with the fact that they’re having children and where those children will be raised, in regards to their church upbringing.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t even consider this in my initial assumption of marriage. I always assumed I’d end up with someone of the same faith, simply because of that fact that was an aim — that was something to cross off a list. “Has same faith? Check.”

But Abbey has made me consider otherwise and the scenarios are simply not fun to run. Mormonism and Catholicism, once more, place a big emphasis on children and families being raised in the church. From birth, both sets of religions have things that have to be done.

You can not do them, but if you don’t do them, you come under a stigma. And, if it were just the parents, then I’d be okay with that, but the children come under a stigma, too. That’s simply unacceptable and WRONG, but it’s the reality of it.

And that’s why, in most of my research, I’ve found a majority of inter-faith marriages pick one religion or the other to raise their children in. That’s a sensible thing, I think. I just don’t know where I’d fall on the argument.

I could say, “Sure, they can be raised Catholic!” and make a decent case that’d they’d be fine. Problem is, I wasn’t raised Catholic and being raised Catholic is no guarantee of anything (just like Mormonism). Mormons and Catholics agree on a lot of ethical and moral issues, and I’d like that to really be the foundation of any knowledge passed down to children in this scenario.

But that’s probably not going to happen and you know why?

2A. The mother has more of a right to child-based decisions than the father.

That, above, is merely my opinion, and it’s not just because “raising children should be left to the women folk”. The Mormon church and Catholic church both encourage that to a point (most religions do) and I disagree with that as an ironclad rule.

In the 21st century, in the day and age we live in, gender roles are more fluid than ever. I’ll tell you this much, based on my experience as an older brother, the first member of my particular generation (in my family), working with kids in church/as a nanny, I’m pretty certain I’ll have more experience with kids than my theoretical wife.

Does that mean I’m going to take over and do everything? No.

Biologically, mentally, emotionally, the mother is the closest one to the child during the pregnancy and the birth and pretty much the kid’s first year or two of life. She suffers A LOT through all that and I … I deal with mood swings, I make grocery runs for random items, I try my best to take every stressful thing off her plate, I offer comfort. But that’s pittance compared to what the mother does.

And, because of that, in a lot of inter-faith marriages, the mother tends to dictate where the kids are going to church. And, in this hypothetical (with a girl I only dated a week and have only known for a little over a month, just to remind you), Abbey would insist on the church she was raised in — the Mormon church.

2B. Kids make marriages more difficult and there’s no way around that.

This conclusion is a tough one to admit to, but it’s true based on my research and observations over the years. You add kids to a marriage and the highs can be higher, but the lows can be much lower — they skew things into the extreme.

And things are already somewhat extreme in this scenario. But, there’s a flipside to this …

3. What if she doesn’t want kids?

Abbey is not a traditional Mormon, at least not according to any texts I’ve read. Her behavior indicates a “far from hardcore” mentality. Admittedly, the Mormon church does make it a point to drill home the “get married and have kids” mantra, and she’s an excellent sewer (one who does sewing, not part of a sanitary system) of baby blankets (many have been sewn for many of her friends who are married and have had kids).

She’s spoken of a family in a far off context, but I honestly don’t know if she really wants kids. And I have to ask myself, is that a deal breaker?

To which the answer is … no. But I’ll elaborate further on that in the final post.

For now, chew on this and the reasons given here. In the next post, I’ll cover how all this has affected my understanding of things as it concerns writing.

As always, thanks for reading folks.

It Was Unexpected Pt. I

Life is strange. As I sit here, I just got back home about twenty minutes ago. It’s fifteen minutes till midnight, I just finished a seven hour shift, my legs are tired and I have to report to work in the morning. Normally, I’d head straight to bed (after a shower, of course) on a night like this.

But, I have something to say and my mind has been wrapped up in it all night. I came to a conclusion at work … or maybe part of one. Whatever the case, a couple of days lost down one of the most sobering rabbit holes ever (and I mean it was SOBERING) has resulted in my being here.

This is the story behind this story here. And it’s a long one, and a continuing one.

So, let’s start this from the beginning.

A little over two weeks ago (11-14-14), I managed to overcome my usual lack of self-confidence, my scary over-analytical abilities, and my fear to ask out a cute girl I work with.

Her name is Abbey. She’s tall, she’s blonde, she has the biggest blue eyes I’ve ever seen, and she’s an absolute joy to be around — at least for me, anyway (and I’d wager most anyone). The two of us went out for lunch, spent hours talking to one another, sharing life stories, engaging in pop culture debates, and having a good time.

The story, in short, is that she agreed to lunch with me. I only had money to pay for myself (which, in retrospect, was just stupid but I didn’t think she’d say yes) and I told her next time I’d cover for us both. She laughed at that, but she was cool with it. We talked until it got dark, we went back out to the parking lot and talked some more as we both tried to bid one another goodbye. We eventually succeeded, but that was the beginning.

The beginning of a week of utter bliss. The following Monday, we’d go out to a late lunch/early dinner again (we got stuck at work for hours after we were supposed to leave, I in groceries and her in shoes. I finished up groceries and then went to help her in shoes, which she was quite thankful for). We went to KFC (because she wanted to) and we, once more, ended up talking for a few hours. We traded more life stories, comparing our college years and the difficulties we encountered there.

Wednesday, we went out to grab some Chinese buffet. She told me the entire story of Les Miserables (she’s a big fan, having seen it multiple times) and then we left there afterwards so she could grab some hair dye at a nearby salon store. And, upon leaving there, she looped her arm through mine.

We sauntered into a Goodwill, the two of us quite pleased (and I quite surprised), tried on some clothes there in jest, left there and she then went for my hand.

“Do you keep your hands in your pockets so people can’t hold them?” she quipped after she grabbed it.

I could only tell her I’d never had anyone attempt to hold it before, at least not like that.

We eventually ended up back in the parking lot where, once more, we struggled to actually say goodbye in the biting cold. Even though we were both standing right beside our running vehicles, the heat inside them going, we didn’t budge for almost another hour.

Friday rolls around and we leave work once more. She has to get home and do some homework for the online class she’s taking, so no lunch. We set up at her car and she and I entered a frank discussion on our religious differences.

She’s a Mormon. I’m a Baptist converting to Catholicism. She didn’t want to get too involved with me, despite the fact we were so good together. It was tough to sit there and listen to her reasoning, not because I was against the religion — I didn’t know much about it and, what I did know, came from her (she was quite vocal about it during our lunches) — but because it seemed like such a bad reason to give up on something that could be so good.

I certainly felt it was good. I certainly felt it wasn’t wrong and I made those feelings known, using the phrase “Everything happens for a reason” as justification for why we came together.

She and I have lived near one another for the better part of the last decade here in my small (sorta) hometown of Alabama. We’ve never met before we started working together. She goes to church literally right down the road from me (there’s a Latter-Day Saints church right across the street from the entrance to the neighborhood). She went to high school at one of my high school’s rival schools (as that school was closer), graduated a year after I did, nearly went to the same college I did (but instead went to BYU) and, much like myself, has spent the last few years away from Alabama.

It’s amazing, honestly, that we met at all. And, though I don’t consider myself overly religious (can someone who’s converting be overly religious?), I do believe in God, fate, destiny, and karma. I believe in that.

How I ended up back in Alabama is a story unto itself, but I’ll simply say that I didn’t want to be back here. I wanted to be anywhere but here. Yet, I ended up here.

And I met her.

I told her all this as we stood outside her car, me leaning against it and she leaning atop her driver side door. She was clearly struggling with the decision and I asked her point-blank if she felt what we were doing was wrong. I didn’t feel it was wrong.

And she didn’t either.

So, after all that, the subject of kissing somehow comes up. I don’t have much experience with it (it’s in the lower single digits) and I recounted my few experiences. She recounted her many boyfriends (apparently being a Mormon boy doesn’t make you a better boy).

And then she told me she thought I was going to kiss her on Wednesday night, as we were standing out in the biting cold. I thought I should have but passed on it because I wasn’t sure how. Honestly, I can’t claim to really remember the last time I was kissed (back in 2007). I was hyped up on lots of orange soda and the night is really a blur (I used to get massively drunk on soda, no lie).

Upon hearing this fact, she leaned in and kissed me. I wish I could claim I was smooth, but I wasn’t. I was anything but. I was surprised, I was happy, and I grinned like an idiot. She wiped the smudged lip balm off my lips (it was berry-flavored), leaned into me, took my hand, placed it on her hip, and we swayed to the wind.

We kissed twice more (singlehandedly giving her the lifetime lead in “kisses from a girl”) before she left. And she left happy because we were going to see each other again Saturday for The Hunger Games movie.

And I left happy, too. I got back home and was in a stupid daze for the rest of the day. During the night, she hit me up on Facebook and we tangented into one of the best Facebook convos ever, IMO. We talked about what it would be like the next Monday, as vicious rumors of our scandalous relationship would swirl. We made up stories to tell our colleagues, we considered what our store boss would say (and mimicked his reactions in text), we made each other laugh … we were right with each other.

And then Saturday rolled around. We went to the movie, but our usual snark was muted. We went out to eat afterwards, but things were still awkward. I thought it was because we were playing to a script (in this case, a movie and food) — I’m bad at scripts, much better at improv — but, it turns out, she wanted to say something.

She broke it off in my car, in the movie theater parking lot. She cited our religious differences and how she wanted to be married in the Temple (the big Mormon church) and be with her husband/family forever in heaven (what they call being sealed).

On this count, two things were revealed: one, she thought we could go the distance like I could (and I verbally told her I had similar thoughts) and, two, we weren’t talking in hypothetical terms. This was all rather serious after only a week and it didn’t bother me then. It doesn’t bother me now.

I desperately wanted to argue against it, because I felt very strongly I could win. I still feel that way. But she asked me not to challenge it. Not to make my counter-argument. And I told her I wouldn’t.

I could do nothing but watch it go down.

This is where my story and Hank’s aligns. If not for the fact that all this actually occurred, you could easily call it a work of fiction. Except, it wasn’t fiction, it was life.

Our brief relationship ended in my car, in the parking lot of a movie theater, on a cool fall day. We promised we’d be friends (I literally pinkie swore to that, because, for some reason, I thought it was a good idea. In retrospect, I was using it to cover up how much it hurt, but I think she got that).

She asked if she hurt me, and I told her she had a little. I wasn’t so much disappointed as I was sad. I thought that was it. Once you get friendzoned, there really is no going back. We got into our cars and left the parking lot.

My drive back was not pleasant. I tried to figure out where I had gone wrong, what I could have done better, and I was stuck on how STUPID I was to agree NOT to make a counterargument. For some reason, I’m quite good at convincing people to do things with my words … I try not to, but I have been compared to a used car salesman by many, many people over the course of my life. I’ve never been proud of that skill (used car salesman have always been portrayed as kinda slimeballs in media and I don’t want to be a slimeball), but this was one time where I could have used it to win.

But I told her I wouldn’t. And I didn’t.

The rest of the weekend played out in a morose fashion. It was rainy, it was cold, and life sucked. On Monday, 11-24-14, I wrote this story to explain some of what had happened to myself, to try to wrap my head around it.

As I sit here, a little over a week past that post, I have a new (and evolving) understanding of what happened. I think.

But we’ll get to that part tomorrow. I’m about to collapse into my keyboard from how tired I am and I have work in the AM. Lessons have been learned from this, life lessons and writing ones, which I will elaborate on next time.

For now, I bid you all a good night.