I am doing it again.
"If I do it," I tell myself; "there is comfort in a plan B." I know myself now, or at least, a bit more than I did the first time.
And what I've learned is that I am the kind of person that needs to understand there is a way out before she goes in. So that whatever I do is a choice. It minimizes my natural tendency to want to bolt. After years of trying to fix me, I've finally just embraced this idiosyncrasy, and so far, this strategy seems to work. A roadmap that only I can read, but it gets me where I'm going.
And because it is my second time, I am perhaps more solemn, but also more courageous. I have the cojones to really work at this and to strip myself, if not bare, at least down for love. And always, I am comforted by my own resolve, an adage I remind myself of daily: you don't control this. It will work if it does, and won't if it doesn't, and whatever happens, we will all be okay.
The ring sat in the box for days after he gave it to me. That first night, when he asked me, I barely slept. I was wracked with anxiety that shocked my body. And in the short moments of sleep I had those weird fear dreams. He was unfaithful; then in retribution, I was. In one dream I leaned over and whispered to him, "I will pay you back. Watch me." In the next dream we were simply fighting, the circular kind of fight that inevitably leads to the end.
There it is. What I am afraid of. The engulfment, and then the abandonment. The end. Of love.
So I woke him up and told him, "I'm so sick with anxiety I can't sleep."
"Why?" he asks.
"Because I'm scared to marry you."
And he laughs in the way he does, pats my shoulder and says in his German-English vernacular, "it will all turn out for the good." Then he rolls over and goes back to sleep.
Just like that. He's not worried at all. I want to wake him up again and say, "Are you sure it will all be good? We are talking about me, after all."
Yes I'm one of those women. Complicated, I've been called. A bit moody. Intensely loving and giving and just as selfish too. Not perfectly beautiful but striking in rawness and strength. Somewhat unpredictable. And I can't stand the pain of boredom in long stretches that seem to accompany long relationships. Somebody, please, set a match and ignite this dying thing.
So I lay here afraid. Of commitment, and of freedom, but mostly of the horrifying thought that we might start to dress the same, and with that familiarity our passion will march out the door in matching khakis.
Because just now he shines a light in my dark places. We are still unbuttoning each other. And he is a gentle man with enough cool edge to keep me balanced between the platitudes of comfort and her wilder sister, discomfort.
And I need this.
I am not interested in predictability and security only, although I want that too. Yet there is much I need not to know, of his mystery and my own. An endless discovery.
I watched him, over the week, to see what he would say, or do. Because still I had not taken the ring out its box, opening it only to point at the diamonds and admire how they reflected brilliant colors under the light. How it is stunning in its simplicity. It would be easy to wear, I said, no points or obtrusive angles to snag on sweaters or to accidentally poke into my children's eyes.
And yet he said nothing. There is, as usual, little drama. I am often grateful for a lack of variation in this regard. He simply waits, either until I am ready, or he has had enough.
I know that when he has has had enough, he will do as he has in the past. He will hold me over the edge of the relationship, and he will say, "do you want this? And if you do, show me now." And I will look back at him half outraged and half terrified, and say, "you know we can't ever really have each other, and please don't let go." And he hasn't let go, and here we are, still doing our dance.
It is that dance I don't want to lose. The dance of not knowing, of staying distinct from him but still connected, so we can want each other.
And a week after the proposal, I come home to this. Soft piano music. A table set. A bouquet of roses, a fine California red, fresh French bread, an aged Canadian cheese, two tenderloins ready for the barbecue, and quite typically, a dearth of green vegetables.
And the book, Lonely Planet's Great Adventures.
"We will pick one adventure each year," he says, as he wraps his arms around me. He has already traveled around the world once, solo. And now we will travel, together.
"And I want you to wear your ring," he says. "Do you? Want to? I don't think you've said." Love. A terrifying adventure.
As Mary Oliver penned, "There are a hundred paths through the world that are easier than loving. But, who wants easier?"
I slip the ring on.
How do we know that it will work this time, the second time around?
We don't, thankfully. Perhaps believing that we do know is what makes us lazy, expectant, complacent, in our relationships.
I don't want to know. I want to say, "I choose you, and you choose me, each day."
And just maybe it's living on that edge, in the tension of not knowing, between comfort, security, and familiarity on the one side, and mystery, intrigue, and ambiguity, on the other, that is what keeps our relationships lusciously, daringly, alive.