I was enjoying myself. When I hung up the phone, I knew I needed to see her. I suggested we meet one week later.
But something in the back of my mind kept reminding me that this couldn’t be real. There had to be something I wasn’t seeing clearly. I started to second-guess everything. After five years of building up too many hopes based on a profile and a few emails, I was not going to get ahead of myself again.
That entire week my email presence was diminished. I was terse. Why was she so interested in me?
I didn’t realize how jaded I had become.
Maybe that’s what happens when you’ve had a string of failed relationships. I fell for the person too early, got close too quickly, then woke up a couple of weeks later with the horrible feeling that I had gotten myself into the wrong situation. I would feel as if there was a weight on my chest and a knot in my stomach. How had I fooled myself? Why didn’t I wait? How am I going to get out of this?
The best way I can describe the online dating situation is to say that it’s upside-down. In the real world, someone catches your eye. You bump into someone you didn’t expect and feel the stirring of an attraction. You feel different when you’re in their space. You talk to them. Light conversation at first, then more serious things. You meet for coffee, maybe dinner. You begin to have longer conversations. You’re excited when you think about seeing them again, so you meet more often. That’s the way it’s usually happened for thousands of years (except maybe the coffee part).
When you read an online profile, all at once you know deep things. Life things. Things you wouldn’t even bring up until the third or fourth date, after you’ve decided whether things are headed in the right direction. You begin to email, and before you know it, you’ve developed a relationship of sorts with someone you haven’t even met. That is something that I think really throws most of us. We get to know someone, then we meet them. And when the sparks aren’t there, we don’t know why.
I tried to explain all of this to Allison as an excuse for the diminishing length of my emails in the week between our phone call and our face-to-face meeting. I was protecting her from disappointment as much as myself.
She wrote back that she understood: “Maybe you’re not jaded. Maybe you’re just wise.”She’s a very patient lady.
After a long week of short emails, the day of our meeting arrived.
Our first date turned out to be a walk in the park. Literally.
We planned to meet at a restaurant in her town and take a walk outside afterwards in a park across the street. No less than three minutes after we sat down in the booth I realized it was going to be a great day.
We ate, we laughed, and we clicked. We were able to shift from deep thoughts on religion to pop culture references with remarkable ease. There was a lot of comfortable eye contact, and when I told her I had a prayer room in my house her face lit up and she bounced her fingertips on the table.
Where had this woman been all my life?
That walk after our lunch is something I will never forget. She made me laugh. I was touched by the way she noticed the beauty in the winter landscape that many seem to overlook. She’d point out the inky lines of a bare tree against the sky. Toward the end of our walk, as the sun was closer to the horizon, I turned and saw her painted in a warm orange glow and asked her to stop. I just needed to see her in that light for a few moments.
I can’t really pinpoint it, but sometime between meeting Allison in the parking lot of the restaurant and seeing her in that light I was struck with the thought that this was my future wife. She was an answered prayer.
Sometimes when I believe a prayer of mine is answered, I either forget to offer thanksgiving or I begin to question it. Who am I to receive this? Do I deserve it? Is what I think is happening really happening?
When I arrived home and dipped my finger in the holy water font just inside my door, I skipped the doxology, looked heavenward and said “thank you” as I crossed myself.
Read the first installment of Erik’s engagement diary here and check back next Sunday, Feb. 5, for the third installment.