It’s February 14, 2014, at least for one more hour as I’m writing this.
Oregon turned 155 today, and the weather here in central Texas was 75 degrees and sunny. It should be a crime to be this beautiful in February, but I guess our good fortune now will haunt us in July. Regardless, two days ago we spent the day mostly below freezing, and that’s what it’s like here: changeable.
It was a busy day for me, between class and tea and paper-writing and people-meeting and eating tacos and eating Oreos and watching the Olympics and FaceTiming with friends and eating chocolate and avoiding paper-writing. I walked through the Texas sun and felt grateful, and I laughed with friends at a taco truck and felt grateful, and I answered the door to find chocolate waiting and I felt grateful.
I’m grateful because prospective graduate students are in town, checking us out. We’re also checking them out, but I want Waco in all of her brown dusty glory to put her best foot forward. She’s not pretty but she’s home. And I’m grateful to remember a year ago when I wasn’t here but I was thinking about it, and I’m grateful to be here now, and I’m trying to be grateful even when I’m so stressed out I could eat all the chocolate in the world.
I’m even grateful it’s Valentine’s day.
I’m sorry, dear, that I didn’t write last year. It was going to be hard to top 2012’s letter, when I was powerful and strong and bold. That was the year I went overseas by myself, and the year I went running a lot. All those endorphins.
Since then I’ve moved to Texas, and for a moment I thought I’d find you here, that you’d be just sitting, waiting outside of Pat Neff Hall on a bright summer Texas morning. When I approached, you’d stand up, brush off the back of your jeans, and say with a smirk, “Well, it took you a while.”
(In this scenario, you’re Scottish. Why not?)
Needless to say, it didn’t happen like that. Or it hasn’t yet, anyway. I think now you’re the one who’s late. Unless we’re meeting elsewhere, in which case, let’s just meet later. We’re obviously not ready for this.
This whole letter thing can be scary, and rarely for the same reasons. Last year, I was afraid of writing a phantom. The year before, a fetter. The year before, a stranger. Now, I’m just afraid of not writing. To you, to anyone else, to myself. Because truth is I don’t write this letter because I think you can hear me and find me and save me. I write because you can’t hear me, and you won’t find me, and you don’t need to save me.
I’m grateful for that.
The truth is, I’m being saved every day by people who surround me with joy and love and presence and text messages and chocolates and video calls. They’re not you, but they’re part of me. They’re not filling your gap; they’re filling the gap that would be there if they were not. And I don’t feel empty because you’re not here; in fact, I feel if you were, I might just be too full to function.
Here’s what I’m gratefully relearning daily: just because I’m alone, it doesn’t mean I have to be lonely. Because I’m single, that doesn’t mean I’m just one. And because I’m unattached, it doesn’t mean that I’m not trying to become attached to people around me in whatever ways I can.
Sure, it’s painful and tiresome and worrisome. But I’m just practicing for when you come around…or when someone else does who needs me too.
Darling, you already know I’m not waiting, sitting by Pat Neff Hall twiddling my thumbs. I told you that two years ago. And truthfully I hope you’re not waiting somewhere either. There’s a bunch of people in your world who need your love. Funny thing: whenever I do show up, I imagine you’ll have more love to give me. I guess it’s the point of practice; the more you love, the more you’ll have to give away. Cheesy, yes, but perhaps still true.
You really are dear to me, or at least the hope of you is. I’m here whenever you’re ready. I know you’re there whenever I am. Let’s meet in the middle someday.
I love you, or at least I will. Sleep well; guard your heart. Speak your truth; find your way. See you soon, I hope, but not sooner than is right. I’m grateful for the chance to go my own route until then.