It’s amazing, the clarity that getting older brings. I know, I know—”older” in quotation marks, because I’m still very young. I really do know that. But–as my Aunt Debbie would say–now that I’m the oldest I’ve ever been, the perspective with which I interpret the world around me has a steadier, more fulfilling depth.
Things just aren’t as big a deal as they used to be. I mean that in the sense of the everyday casualties that used to bring such intense ups and downs: bombing a final, losing a favorite earring, not hearing from a lover within an expected time period. Not long ago, these would have been the difference between a good weekend and a frustrated, bitter few days. Everything changed faster than I could wrap my head around. My handwriting refused to stay the same, the clothes I bought last week totally did not reflect my personality this week, the person I had wanted so badly two months ago I regarded as boring and asinine today. I wanted consistency but I couldn’t find it, least of all in myself; I, Elizabeth, felt fundamentally different from day to day, and in the face of that uncertainty, every little thing caused an emotional earthquake.
Well. I guess the experiences that unavoidably come with time force you to have more perspective. I couldn’t help but realize after mending a cherished but broken friendship after six months of not speaking that maybe six months was really not that long after all. Or, as I’m now approached by relatives I thought would never want a relationship after I left Mormonism, even five years doesn’t have to be much time in the scheme of things. It’s kind of a powerful thing to appreciate.
More powerful is that in realizing this now, when I am still quite young, the understanding of how much time I truly have sometimes amazes me. Not time to waste on making poor decisions, or unhealthy relationships, or inconsequential jobs. Rather, time to spend doing the things that make me happy, that bring fulfillment, that really expand my tiny view of our big, big world. I have an unlimited supply of Sunday afternoons to snuggle with Lois and read e.e. cummings. There is going to be a summer, every year, for the rest of forever, and so winters aren’t a sad time anymore. I will someday have a piano that I will play and play and play until my fingers fall off, and then I will reattach new fingers and play my piano some more. And while I wait to have that piano, there are other things I can do to pass the time. Right now is a delightful time of coming into myself and realizing how much time I have to continue doing exactly that. Luckily for me, I’m in the perfect city to do it in.
I suspected when I left Utah that it would be the best decision I had ever made; but I admit, there was no small amount of worry that my dissatisfaction with life would follow me into a new location. Since, as I once read, wherever you are, you’re there—I was afraid that I would bring my attitude of overwhelming skepticism and constant irritation to my next home. Writing newspaper articles that outraged the Logan locals was funny to a pissed off twenty one year old, but it came with nearly complete alienation from my peer group; did I want to do that again in Chicago? And what if it really was me, and not Utah? What if I really was an outlier on the political and social spectrum, what if I was wrong, what if it was me who was crazy and not the cramped culture around me? But I think, deep down, the greatest thing about living in Utah was exactly what made me so desperate to leave—the personal baptism by fire, as it were, that gave me absolute conviction in myself. I had faith that there was life outside of Utah, outside of Mormonism, outside the guilt and the shame and the anger that made me want to antagonize everyone and everything. And I was right. Even though leaving Utah led to some of the scariest, loneliest, most desperately independent points in my life, I feel vindicated in my decision every single day because I am so happy here.
And the more I’m happy, the easier it is to find thorough satisfaction in life. Happiness really is a habit—it took some time practicing it every day to shake the feeling that I was fooling myself, to be convinced that my general sense of contentedness was not just a brief reprieve before something awful happened to fuck everything up. But now I’m a believer! And how sweet it is to feel that guiltless appreciation for the little things that make every day a place and time I deeply want to be a part of.
So there I was, a couple of months ago, lying in bed just a little drunk on a fine whiskey, and thinking about how nifty life is. I had the next day off of work. The house was swept clean of hair and chewed stick detritus. There was a blizzard raging outside, and everything I could see over the top of my blanket was a lovely, soft monochromatic black and white. I wiggled myself just a little deeper into my sheets and pushed Lois’s face out of my armpit, grabbing her fuzzy snout and giving it a big kiss (on the top part, not the boogery tip). She breathed a sigh of resignation, turned over, and promptly began to snore.
All I could do was lay there and feel wonderful. It was so good. And then, for the first time really since I had come to Chicago and been on my own, I had this thought: I want to fall in love. Just like that. It wasn’t a steamroller of an epiphany; it didn’t slap me across the face. It was just a quiet little idea that floated into my mind like a drifting feather. I sort of mulled it around, watched it sway this way and that, until it settled right between my ears and I found I had unwittingly convinced myself. There wasn’t anything in the world that could make my life better, except having someone to share it with (and a piano).
I know! I know what you’re thinking. Stop it right now. Since when did buttheaded Liz, the raging atheist and lover of all potty jokes, get all cliché and romantic? Writing about love and mushy sensitivity isn’t something that I usually do. But I think the general lack of angst has brought out a softer side of me, and in the interest of full disclosure, I admit I like this Elizabeth much more than the pissed off, racy, loud mouthed character hell bent on proving everyone, including herself, wrong.
And I think now that I really like where I am, and who I am, the idea of finding a companion who will complement (not complete) the picture is appealing. So just fucking humor me while I explain myself, ok?
I want to fall in love. I want to meet someone, and revel in the part of the relationship where everything is a pleasant surprise. Anything they do seems to confirm what you suspected all along—that somewhere out there exists a person who really can be funny and sweet, whip smart and maddeningly witty. I want to delight in discovering the quirks and oddities in their personality, the little things that irritate them, the hot topics that get them inflamed and the poetry and music that moves them to tears. I want to hear them tell stories about their parents, their childhood, the people they love and the dreams that they hold.
But I want more than that. Because after the first burst of delirious romance, I want the settling of our friendship to make something even better, a connection that is practically tangible in its intensity. I want a companion who can understand that when I come home from work, I don’t want to talk, and so we sit and read together in the living room, not saying a word. I want a partner who will constantly think interesting thoughts and write compelling lines, and share the things they discover with me, and encourage me to do the same. I want someone who will feel at home listening to me practice the piano for hours, even if it irritates them, and who will tell me—kindly—that what I made for dinner sucks and that we should probably just order in. I want someone whose actions demand respect, who I can argue with without fighting, who makes things become important to me just because I know they are important to them. I want someone to lay in bed and hold hands and stare at the ceiling with, to fall in and out of sleep on lazy mornings, to kiss my nose and forehead. I want someone who will hold me when a book makes me cry, who will listen when I talk and understand when I won’t, who will dress up and go to the opera with me even if we have to find change in the sofa for tickets. I want someone to make love with, to sing with, to take road trips with, who will inspire me to be better, to learn more, to push myself harder. And then, when we exhaust the most important things we want to do together, just us, I want someone who will inspire me to make our own family.
I am selfish. But to find that person, I will give in return whatever it is—and who are you, what will it be?—that makes them feel as loved by me as I do by them. Endless back scratches? I can do that. Time alone? That’s fine with me. Your favorite meal that I hate at least once a week? Tough, but I can be accommodating. The give and take, the push and pull, the sacrifices that make a relationship hard but not unpleasant work, the unspoken respect that is emblematic of the kind of love that leave people saying, “Those two are really special. I know they’ll stick together.”
That’s what I want. Too much to ask? I think not—I’ve seen it happen before. And if there’s one thing about me that will never change, it’s the stubbornness that makes me wait and work and want something until I get it. Which, of course, I will.
And when I do, I’ll be sure to write about it as mushily as I possibly can. You’re welcome.