Believe it or not, I’m not a hopeless romantic. Not deep down at least.
Despite my public love of all-things Nora Ephron and private love of way too many things Nicholas Sparks, I don’t believe in love at first sight, I’m not so sure about soul mates, and three years ago, I couldn’t have even told you what I was looking for in a future husband. I’m not quite a cynic, but I’m definitely a realist when it comes to matters of love.
But over the past three years, I came to realize that all that realism was just fear. Love is scary, commitment is scarier, and marriage is a step beyond all of that. You have to give more of yourself than you ever realized you had to give while taking on more of another person than you could have fathomed existed. You have to have a certain level of immeasurable passion in your heart and an equal amount of impossible to weigh knowledge in your head. And you have to trust fully and completely without ever having all the evidence you’ll need answer the almighty-est of questions: will I love this person forever? Will he love me? Will we make it ’til death do us part?
People always say, “when you know, you know,” but I never believed them. The realist in me thought, what does that even mean? What do you “know” when you “know?” How does a person get to the point where they are sure enough to make the most life-changing of life-changing decisions?
I don’t know, but I did it on Saturday afternoon in a private nook on New York City’s High Line Park (because that was the site of our first east coast date). I don’t remember a word I said beyond YES. I don’t have a clue what R said beyond “marry me?” but in the three minutes before he asked (when I finally realized something might be up) and the endless hours that followed (when all of our family and so many of our friends showed up for the post-engagement celebration) I was sure. I’ve been sure about saying “yes” for a very long time. And the only words I can use to describe that feeling of complete and utter certainty are, “you know when you know.”
But that bothered me last night on the flight back to L.A. as I thought over this big deal of a blog post while staring at my brand new, amazingly sparkly, absolutely-perfect-in-every-way-ring (like !!!!!!!). I’m an overly verbose, over-thinker who has been over-sharing about relationship issues for years. How can I just leave it at the cliche that left me feeling ill-equipped for all these years? And, more importantly, how can I – the self-proclaimed “rational romantic” – have an answer without a rationale?
And so, I feel like I owe it to myself and all of you to end this ridiculous charade around certainty, to explain even a few of those inexplicable feeling you should have before you’re ready to say yes, and, because he deserves it so so much, to explain why I specifically said yes to R.
Here goes – in all it’s mushy, over-the-top, I’ve-been-engaged-for-48-hours glory. You were warned.
- I feel the love I have for R – like feel it in my bones and sometimes my belly but most often that area where I also feel heartburn after too much good food. I look at him sometimes – like after he does something particularly perfect or particularly imperfect – and actually feel love.
- I see R feel that same love for me. It looks like total adoration mixed with general amazement, a little bit of passion and total satisfaction. The result is something really awkward and goofy, but pretty obvious.
- I respect R like a mentor or family member or really impressive celebrity who I look at and think – damn, that person is just killing it at life. I aspire to be more like them. I think, “I’d hire R to do anything,” and, “God, R is good at what he does,” and, “If anyone can do it, R can.”
- I’m able to envision the hard times that will absolutely come and see myself handling them with R. I can see how it plays out, even the scary stuff. It’s a bit dark to picture tragedy, but there’s such solace in knowing how he will love me through that – how he will be there for me. It makes the scary things less scary.
- I don’t “need” R in the fish-needs-water sense or “want” R in the girl-needs-shoes sense, but I want to need him. This is tricky, but I think of it as having the desire to let go of the control in my life so that there is room to let R help me live more fully, safely, happily, you name it. It also lets R love me like he needs to, in addition to loving me like I need to be loved. Full disclosure (though we’re way beyond that…) this was the hardest part for me.
- I notice that R is the same man in every element of his life, and that integrity of self has flowed over into our relationship. We are the same couple no matter to venue or audience, and because of that people know us – as individuals but also as a couple. And it feels really good to be known by other people.
- Life is more fun, exciting, full, challenging and just freaking awesome every single day because of R. Point blank. No further explanation.
These are solid reasons that I can explain and exhibit. They’re tangible. You can see them for yourself.
But when R sat me down on the bench just away from the crowds for his pre-proposal, speech he told me the story he tells me every year on the anniversary of the day we met (which, yes of course, was three years ago this past Saturday – the day he proposed). He told me that when I walked into the bar he saw me from across the room and knew I was the girl he was going to marry. And I cried like I cry every single year when he tells me because, despite all of the logic in my head that says that kind of thing is impossible, I believe him.
I believe him because on our first “official” date – a few days after we met – I stared into his eyes as he talked about his love of music, and his relationship with his nephews, and his family’s house on Copake Lake, and I knew too.
Because when you know, you know.
My wish for every single one of you is that you feel the same inexplicable, heart-bursting feeling that comes from saying YES when the question is finally asked. It is pure magic.