Saturday, January 22, 2011

Called Home

So, I had the most interesting experience in the tea house yesterday. I no longer have an office on campus this quarter, so I study at Teahouse Kuan Yin in Wallingford. (They have a fabulous selection of teas, for those of you who also need remote offices.) Being Wallingford, Seattle's hippie neighborhood, I was privy to an interesting conversation at the table next to me. There were two women, both middle aged, who were at first talking about trying to get their kids into middle school. And then one woman said the following:

"Yeah. I put my occupation down as spirit healer. And if they don't like that, well, that's not a community my child should be in."

I was intrigued. The women kept talking about the journey, honoring your core, and all sorts of other new agey stuff. It seemed like one of them really was a spirit healer, and the other was a spirit healer in training. I'm trying to be better about listening both to my core and to my nomad's heart, and this was exactly what these women were discussing. I couldn't help eavesdropping some. And then I went back to my work.

On a study break, I happened to check my email. I have a trip to Europe coming up over spring break (which is why I've decided to grow from starts and not from seeds this year, but that will be discussed in a later blog post). My amazing mom, who does all sorts of genealogy work, had emailed distant Irish and English cousins to let them know I was coming. My cousin Eiblhin had written back the following: "I mentioned to your Mum that there is a flight to Donegal if you were interested in seeing the Cannon homestead. The flight from Dublin is operated by Aer Arann and takes approx 40mins to Donegal. My father would be more than happy to show you around the Cannon homeplace."

Now, Smiley and I had discussed doing this. But our time in London and Dublin is short, and Donegal would be rather out of the way. We'd decided that I'd better save visiting my ancestral home for a different trip. But for some reason -- maybe because the women next to me were talking about honoring the voice inside your heart -- Eiblhin's email got to me. Emotion spread upwards from my chest. And all of a sudden, I'm sitting in the Tea House, trying very hard not to cry. I knew that I needed to find a way to go see where my people came from while on this trip. I was being called home.

Even this morning, writing about it, I'm sitting here with my eyes watering. And I can't explain it any other way. That voice inside of me -- the one that made me fall in love with an impossible country (Yugoslavia) and the one that was practically screaming at me to teach middle school -- that same voice told me that I need to see where I came from. Why now? I have no idea. I just have to. Plain and simple.

My good friend Kevin happened to text me at the moment all of this was happening, and I wrote him a rather long text message with what happened. (One of these days, I will likely write a novel via text message. Mine tend to be long. And pretty much grammatically correct. U is a letter. You is a word.) I told Kevin "My heart is telling me that I need to go see where I came from in Ireland."

"Can't argue with your heart. It usually wins anyway," he wrote back. And he's right. In the daily battles I wage of head vs. heart, my head may be the practical one, but my heart dictates my actions. I'm becoming a middle school teacher because my heart told me that's what I need to be doing. I can't do things halfway. I either commit, or I don't. When Jason and I were dating, I remember telling him "my gut has decided that you're okay. So therefore, you are."

Same goes to all of you still reading this. My gut has decided that you're okay. So therefore, you are.

At this point in my own lifelong journey, I'm reaffirming how important it is for me to listen to my heart. It's going to win anyway. If I don't listen to it, I won't be happy.

I'm working out a Donegal visit with Eibhlin. Because my heart is telling me that I have to go see where I came from.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Freedom to Fail (Or, Marcus Aurelius was Hot)

So, I went out on a date on Saturday. Nice guy. We'll call him Kris -- even though I doubt I'll go out with him again. Friendly, interested in the outdoors, and talked a helluva lot. The bar we were at had the Packers game on, and he didn't seem to mind when I got distracted by the game to draw his attention to an interception or a touchdown. He kinda overshared a little bit though -- said he was trying to lose a few pounds and physically grabbed his gut to show me, and mentioned over and over again how he was broke and was trying to pay off some student loans. (Um, you do not need to draw attention to your perceived physical flaws on a first date.) But I was willing to forgive that. We had a nice conversation. I had to leave rather abruptly, though. I've been fighting off a cold/sinus thing for the past week and a half, and towards the end of dinner I started getting a nasty sinus headache. He still had beer left. I apologized and took myself home. I ended up on my couch watching House (this is bad when you're sick. It makes me think I have all sorts of weird diseases.) wrapped up in a blanket. I had turned on the fire (love gas fireplaces), was wearing a fleece hat and fleece pants, and even under my Mariners fleece blanket I just could not get warm.

Until yesterday, I had been planning on going out on a second date with him. The conversation was good, and he was kinda cute and geeky -- and I like geeks. My "type," according to my good friends John and Scott, is a "geeky mountain man." When John and I were in Paris in 2006, we visited The Louvre. I saw a bust of Marcus Aurelius, turned to John, and said "Dude, Marcus Aurelius was hot. If you find a guy that looks like him, let me know." John busted up laughing. This led to a discussion of my "type." Up to that point, I'd dated tall, slender guys who were pretty geeky. "What you need, Anna, is a geeky mountain man," John said. Who is a geeky mountain man? He's preferably tall, has an awesome beard, loves hiking, backpacking, and all of the outdoor things I love, and has something he geeks out over. Be it sports, science fiction, board games, or Star Trek -- just something to geek out over.

And this guy seemed to fit my type. There was maybe a little bit of chemistry. I chalked up the deficit to me not feeling all that well. Since I felt bad about leaving early, I sent him a text yesterday evening saying "So sorry I left early. I ended up running a slight fever and went to bed early. Hope your Sunday was good!" I figured I'd get a text back saying "let's get together sometime soon." Not a phone call asking me to get together the very next day (today). I was driving home from sushi when he called, so I didn't pick up. When I listened to the message asking me if I wanted to get together today, I went from interested to overwhelmed. From interested to "holy crap, this guy is a little desperate." My fight or flight response kicked in -- and when this happens, all I want to do is go barricade myself in a corner and tell everybody to go away. Seriously. Stop asking me out. Just. Go. Away.

I texted my pastor and called my friend Dylan, who laughed at my story and said that he feels similarly sometimes. He agreed that calling to go out so soon seemed a little on the desperate side, and understood why my fight or flight response kicked in.

When I called my pastor, the first thing I said was "I'm okay." She's helped me through some tough stuff this past year, and I felt like it was important to let her know that I'm okay, but just needed to chat. I explained what happened, and asked her if I should quit dating altogether. Her response lifted a big weight off my shoulders.

"Maybe you should approach online dating this way -- you're going to fail. And it's okay. You wouldn't be feeling overwhelmed and wanting to run away if it's the right person. That wouldn't be your reaction. Something doesn't feel right about this, and you're learning to listen to that."

She's right. I have the freedom to fail. I have the freedom to say no when something doesn't feel right. I have the freedom to tell myself "he's just not that into me" when I get disappointed. Failure doesn't have to be negative. It can be liberating. Failure can open me up to new possibilities and interesting new people. I don't have to start a relationship after every good date I have. That's not what it's about. It's about getting out there, meeting people, and eventually finding the right person. It's about being brave. It's about standing up and saying "this really doesn't feel right to me" when it doesn't -- and not about trying to change the situation or changing myself to make it fit. You can't force two people to fit. It doesn't work.


I'm not going to go out with Kris again. Something doesn't feel right. He may be perfect on paper, but my gut is telling me to go pursue other opportunities. And as difficult as that is to say to someone, I will say it. I'll be a little nicer about it, though.

And if you happen to know a geeky mountain man who looks like Marcus Aurelius...let me know. :)