He’s not a bad man. In fact, he has one of the purer hearts I have seen. His intentions and his loves are true. His convictions are firm and just. His heart is soft underneath. I spend too much time thinking about how he is not perfect.
Last night was wonderful until it wasn’t. We went to the new 5:00 gathering for the first time. We had been discussing how it has felt difficult lately; the church hasn’t felt like home for some time, like it used to.
Sometimes marriage is flinging every hurtful word just to spread pain and ensure you’re not alone in yours. Sometimes it’s throwing things when you know you shouldn’t, and doing it repeatedly. There’s that anger again, just like when you were a kid. Sometimes it’s threatening to leave because you just want the fight to end though you never meant it.
It’s been almost a week now and I’m still trying to process. We’ve had such a story, he and I. A tumultuous one filled with mountain top moments and deep despairing valleys. When the proposal finally came, for us it would mark a massive and miraculous triumph, bringing an end to a long and, at times, back-breaking battle. I wanted it to feel like a victory cry and I wanted us to metaphorically cry that cry together, to the world, at the top of our lungs.
We sat on a bench in our favorite not-so-secret secret garden in Queen Anne, enjoying the sun. He said casually, “Oh I finally did some modeling for Zulily, I’ll show you.” Surprised and genuinely interested I began scrolling slowly, per his directions, to find the photo of him. He told me it would be subtle. It was not. A large, grinning Tyler with a sign in his hands that said, “Chelsey, will you marry me?” The caption read, “I do—Do you? The deal of a lifetime.” I thought it was a joke and then I knew it wasn’t.
Valentine’s Day has never meant much to me. I spent most of my life without someone to call a valentine so I came to regard it as nothing more than the day you buy obligatory cards for all the kids in your class or wish a happy day to those that did have someone special. I wasn’t bitter about it. It just wasn’t for me. But this year I forgot that my guy is sentimental and squishy inside—which I love—so I hurt him when I planned over it. But that’s not my point. He gave me a letter he had written to me four years ago. It starts like this, “You’ll notice there is a gap between my previous letter and this one.” Yes, he has been writing letters to me for years, even when we weren’t together and this is the first one I’ve ever seen.
Yesterday, February 7th, was what I’ve deemed Best Friendship Day. It’s the day that Tyler Johnson asked me to be his best friend (jokingly when we had first met). Of course I said yes but I had no idea that we would actually become best friends. Yesterday marked 5 years since that day. Let me tell you, being a best friend is hard work and each day we keep learning more and more about what it actually means. I’m so thankful for you, Tyler. Yesterday you kept me sane through a 12 hour work day and demonstrated so well what our Best Friendship Day is all about. I am thanking Jesus for you.
We sat at dinner. It was absolutely delicious which was a major consolation for the frigid wind that had struck my face numb and consequently caused my speech to slur. We talked easily and we joked; we discovered things and we dreamed. It sounds silly to admit, but I felt witty, desirable, even flirtatious. After four years of knowing each other and nearly three years of dating, those things lose their priority. It’s hard to keep them up and it becomes less important.
At one point, to my utter surprise, he revealed that he doesn’t think he’s good enough for me. “Really?! But I thought that you thought you were the sh*t!” I joked, almost embarrassed.
“Do you know what I’m going to say?” “No, I don’t.” I was surprised. This felt weird. It’s my mother; we can talk about anything. But we don’t talk about everything and that’s my fault. I told her with fumbled confidence that I wanted to marry Tyler. I felt sheepish and translucent.
I don’t spend enough time thinking about or giving it. I know very well that I need forgiveness for the better portion of who I am, how I behave, how I love others. I am selfish down to the core. It follows then that my actions and words are motivated by my desires, needs, dissatisfaction, moods, etc. I don’t need feminism or the larger culture to tell me to love myself more. I don’t have low self esteem. I esteem myself too much. I look out for myself better than I look out for anyone else. Yet I find that that philosophy isolates me and brings well-earned shame and guilt upon my head. A wise friend said to me yesterday, “love changes us, not condemnation.”
This morning I was thinking about the phenomenon of a crush. I have no idea why. When I was in middle school, I had it bad. He was a few years older than me which, when you’re young, feels like a forbidden gap. He was also a country boy with a squeaky voice who liked guns, country music and country things. I loved horses (that’s about as country as I was willing to be) and that’s why I didn’t appreciate guns. But his family had horses so what was a girl to do?
I’m shocked at how often my reality does not match what I imagined life would be like. And at how often I let that ruin its goodness and pull me down into despair and disillusion. How silly. I’ve been thinking and sensing a growing conviction inside me and it’s this: dishonest, idealistic, fantasized art is largely to blame. To be completely transparent, I’m talking about love as it’s portrayed in films and media. There really are magnificent, miraculous love stories out there but I don’t ever get to see the whole story. I don’t feel the whole story. Or perhaps I see what I want to see.
I remember each choice I made today to love. And yet it happened so quickly. One quick exchange cuts me down and I am crushed. My love feels worthless. So I withdraw and spit fire. It’s what I always do. And though it feels right, it is always a mistake.