Sunday, August 28, 2011

How I Met Your Mother: Part 3

So here was the situation from part 1 and part 2, Alise and I were great friends, but she had also made it clear that she was not interested in anything more.  I however, was drawn to her more than any other person I had known.  I enjoyed being friends with her but felt that if I could not date her, I didn't think I could stand to be around her anymore.  Why was I so drawn to her?  What made her different?  For one, her purity.  She was so innocent and pure.  The best way for me to describe it was a pure outlook on life - she could see the goodness in everything.  She loved God and was determined to follow that love.  But what really set her apart for me was how she made me feel: she made me want to improve myself, to make myself better.  It wasn't that I wasn't good enough for her, it wasn't that she told me that I needed to be better.  She was such a great person, she deserved someone who wasn't satisfied with mediocre.  To steal a line from movie "As Good As It Gets" - she made me want to be a better man.  Cheesy, but I can't think of a more real description of how I felt (and still feel) about her.  At Christmas that year I bought her tickets to see the Broadway musical "The Lion King" and was hoping she would ask me to be the one to see it with her.  She didn't ask me, but she didn't ask anyone else either, so I had a little bit of hope.

A couple of days later the two of us were headed to Paraguay together to meet up with our mutual friends, the Hernandez family.  The days leading up to the trip as well as the travel time itself were really good for us.  We spent a lot of time together, had some fantastic conversations and truly enjoyed each other's company without the stress of trying to impress.  The same went for the time in Paraguay itself; we often found ourselves hanging out together even though we were there to see our friends.  Like in Yosemite, we even found ourselves taking several pictures of each other and quite a few together.  But even though we were enjoying each others as friends, the romance was not quite there yet, and although she was opening up quite a bit, she was still holding back quite a bit.  There was one particular day while we were in Paraguay which I saw as a change between us: my birthday.  It was Sunday and we had a big service scheduled and I was going to be giving the sermon.  There was also going to be a church feast afterwards and Alise went into town with our friend Angel.  Later I found out he had a heart to heart conversation with her about her feelings towards me and it helped her realize that she did have feelings for me and she should move stop putting up emotional barriers towards me.  It wasn't like she fell in love with or anything, but it was a big shift for her mindset.  The service went great and the dinner was a blast, people in low-income countries know how to have a great time with what they have.

The next day however, was not as nice.  Alise was trying to work through her feelings and figure out what she felt towards me.  It was one of last days in Paraguay and she was annoyed with me all day.  Picking on every little thing I did and generally acting "bitchy" towards me, for lack of a better term.  When we were cooking dinner for the Hernandez family I finally had a few minutes alone with her and I confronted her about the way she was acting towards me and she admitted it was because she was confused and did have some feelings towards me.  I don't remember much more of the conversation after that because after she admitted it, the rest was a blur.

We started the journey home the next morning and I knew I had her cornered; we had a total of 18 hours of travel ahead of us with much of it sitting next to each other on airplanes.  Taking our time to be true friends to this point had made me comfortable enough with her that I could have this conversation with her.  To address her concerns about me and put myself out there.  It was a conversation which I needed to have with her or we would never be able to move on.  On our second flight I made my move and asked her the big question: What was holding her back from dating me?  As she has always been with me, she was honest and didn't hold back.  But I was up to the task and addressed every one of her concerns:  The biggest was her fear of long distance relationships, she had one which hurt her badly.  But I explained to her I had been involved in several in the past and I knew what was necessary to make them work.  Next was my divorce; not something young girls dream about when they are young.  I spent an hour or so talking about it, why it happened, what I did, my role in it and what I learned from it.  She was concerned about my: I am almost ten years older than her.  However, she is very mature for her age and I am pretty immature so it was a pretty easy answer.  Finally was the discussion about my looks, physically I was not exactly what she saw herself getting married to - primarily the bald part.  Not much I could do about it though - I would probably look worse with a comb-over.  By the end of that four hour flight we were both exhausted  but decided we would give dating another shot - and take it seriously this time.  And by the end of our trip home she did finally ask me to be her date to see the Lion King, and I happily took her.  About a year later we were married.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

How I Met Your Mother: Part 2

To backtrack slightly from part 1,  there is one thing I forgot to mention: While I knew as soon as I saw Alise that she was special, she wasn't exactly attracted to me.  In fact, I think to her, I was just another guy at church.  During the time when I was trying to get her attention and she was trying to figure out who I was, I had a very strong desire to become a missionary, with no idea of what a missionary really does.  So I spoke with my friends Angel and Malia who were living in Paraguay as missionaries to come and visit them.  They told me that Alise had asked to visit them as well and suggested we travel together.  Since I was already drawn to Alise I thought this would be a great idea.  Alise was a little more skeptical and after a week or two to think about it, finally said yes.  It took her a while to decide whether or not she wanted me to travel to a third world country with me or if she would rather go alone.  Eventually she decided that it would be safer with me there than without me there.  We scheduled the trip for later in the year and I finally I had confirmation that she knew I existed.

A few months later our study group decided to take a trip together to Yosemite.  Alise generously volunteered her parents house for us to stay at.  Since I was the group leader and we were staying at her parents house we worked together on planning the trip.  She knew I existed and while she was friendly to me, she showed no signs of attraction to me at all.  I still remember how nervous I was asking her out at the first time, mainly because I knew she was special.  I was shopping at Trader Joe's for the trip and used the old "should I get white bread or wheat bread?" excuse to call her.  I asked her if she would go out on a date with me after the trip but her response of "sure, why not, I guess we could do that" was a little underwhelming.

The trip itself went great - regardless of my intentions with her I had a great time.  It was one of those iconic trips which I will always remember - not just because of Alise but with all our other friends who went as well. It was also the first time I met her parents, which was a bigger deal for me than it was for her.  Seeing her interact with her family drew me to her even more.  Family is a big deal to me and seeing her with her family speaks volumes about she felt about family.

Our first date a few weeks later went well.  We had a nice dinner a restaurant called Tarragon, then played pool afterwards.  The only thing which concerned me was the conversation - it felt superficial and restrained.  But as it was only our first date I held out hope we would be able to connect on a deeper level.  Conversation is tough for me when the other person does not engage, I have a tough time getting it going.  There was no openness one would expect or hope for on a good date.  For the next few months this continued as we went out on several dates.  We did spend a lot of time together, Tuesday nights for the study group she lead and Friday nights for the study group I lead and usually a date on Saturday nights.  Frequently we had dinner together with a few other friends on Tuesdays and Fridays as well.  Our friendship grew over the next few months, but romantically there was little chemistry as both of us seemed to be holding back from taking that first step of emotional intimacy critical for a relationship.  After three months of this she broke my heart.  We went to a hockey game (one of our favorite activities together) she told me that we should stop dating because there just wasn't any chemistry.  It was tough for me to argue as I knew it was true as well.  But I also knew the reason I was holding back was because every time I gave a little bit in conversation, I didn't get it back in return.  I knew things weren't going well and protected myself from saying things I wanted to say to her.  Once she broke up with me however, the floodgates were open.  I told her so many things I had been wanting to say to her and we had an amazing conversation - staying up until 1 in the morning talking.  In the end we still broke up and my heart hurting, but on the other hand, I still had hope because it was probably the best conversation I have ever had.  After I left her apartment we were still texting each other for another hour or so.  Years later I found out that she called her mother crying saying she just broke up with the "greatest guy."  Not only were we still very much involved in church together, we had also already bought airline tickets to go on a trip to Paraguay to visit our friends Angel and Malia.

Needless to say, we had to maintain our friendship or things would be very awkward.  More importantly however, we truly enjoyed each other's company and spending time together.  During the next few months we spent a lot of time together preparing for our trip and we did so without trying to be romantic or thinking too much about whether or not some small action "meant" something.  We continued to have dinner together on Tuesdays and Fridays and our friendship grew.  The problem for me was that my attraction to her continued to grow every time we spent time together.  In the weeks before our December trip to Paraguay, I decided that after the trip I was going to tell her I couldn't be friends with her anymore because it was driving me crazy.  I also had a test of sorts.  The Broadway musical version of "The Lion King" was coming to town and I knew she wanted to see it, as did I.  I bought her tickets for Christmas.  I had purchased the tickets before she broke up with me and in good conscience I felt I couldn't give her just one and keep the other for myself, but I also knew there would be a pretty good chance that if I gave her two tickets I wouldn't be going. I like all of my friends but no way would I spend almost $200 on any of them for a Christmas present.  Especially knowing I may decide to end the friendship a couple of weeks after giving her the tickets (our trip to Paraguay was on December 28th-January 8th.)  In the end, I gave her both tickets and as I watched her open them I held out hope she would ask me to go with her: she didn't.