Last week New Kid
included me in the five-question meme by sending me a set of questions, at my request, but I’m only now answering them because things were a little hectic last week. But after two days of hard syllabus work, not to mention knocking off a couple of administrative tasks for school, I called a halt to work for the day at 3:00 this afternoon. I went out and did some yard work for a couple of hours, because my brain felt too full of details and I needed to do a little physical labor to balance out the brain tiredness. Now I’m showered and sipping white wine, and D. has dinner on the grill, and I’ve got “Iron Chef” (my new TV interest) on TiVO, and I’m ready for a little downtime hangin’ out with the blogosphere. So I’m going to turn my attention to New Kid’s first question, which is a blog entry in and of itself:
"How did you and D. meet/get together?"
Ah yes, a good story. D. and I met in … (wait for it) … a monastery!
Well, where would you go to pick up chicks? What better spot than an Episcopal monastery?
In all seriousness, we were both there for a one-day workshop on “discernment,” which is shorthand for figuring out what the hell God is leading you to do. I have serious issues around discernment—did then, still do—and I was trying very hard to figure out whether I should take an academic job I’d been offered that just seemed completely wrong for me, whether I should keep going in academia at all, whether I should pursue the priesthood, and what I should do about the person I’d been kind of interested in romantically for a year who kept sending me mixed signals but seemed obviously never going to return my interest in any healthy way. Yeah, I had kind of a lot on my plate, and a one-day workshop was certainly not going to change any of that, but I thought that finding out what Christian tradition had to say about discernment was a place to start. Plus a priest had asked a friend and me to teach a four-week class on discernment to the 20s/30s group at our parish, so we thought we should probably figure out what we were going to say; so when we saw this one-day workshop advertised, he and I signed up and then drove up to this monastery together and had a lovely day together.
D., it turns out, was at the workshop because she also had a lot on her plate. She also was trying to decide between academia and the priesthood (and ultimately made the opposite choice from mine, obviously), and she also had some relationship sorting out to do, since she was dating someone but it clearly wasn’t going anywhere.
Not that I learned this at the time. She and I had a moment at the end of the workshop when someone in the hallway said, “Oh, you two are both grad students at LPU. Do you know each other?” Well, no, we didn’t know each other, so we chatted for a few minutes. During which time, I’ll confess, she totally annoyed me! She was way too confident, way too sure of herself, and I was quite irritated by the time we parted ways a few minutes later.
All in all, we made little impression on one another, and we both promptly forgot the other for several months.
Flash forward six months or so. We’re at a cocktail party that’s being hosted by a mutual acquaintance; it’s a diocesan LGB gathering, a bunch of gay Episcopalians getting together for drinks and appetizers. I normally didn’t go to these things, mostly because I had such a bad experience the first time I went, to a pool party that consisted almost entirely of men in their fifties with pierced nipples running around in micro-speedos. I felt completely out of my element and had made up my mind that I wasn’t going to any more of these events, but then a priest at church publically referred to me as “stra…uh…straight” and afterward explained that I’d been single so long that he’d temporarily forgotten that I was bi. I immediately had a crisis of conscience and decided that I needed to make a statement to my parish that I really wasn’t straight just because I was single, dadgumit. So I went to this LGB diocesan cocktail party (which was pretty much just a statement to myself), and, as usual, there were maybe four women at the event.
But one of those women was D., and we ended up talking for the entire evening. At the very beginning of the conversation, D. said, apropos of something or other, “I was at a discernment workshop at Such-and-Such Monastery this winter…,” at which point I interrupted her to say, “Wait, I was at that workshop also!” And then we chatted a little more and slowly the memory of our first conversation came back. (Naturally I didn’t tell her how much she had irritated me!) And then we talked for hours. Later, D. told me that her heart leapt a beat when she found out that I was an Episcopalian academic who’d taken a day to head off to a monastery for a discernment workshop and who was trying to decide on academia versus the priesthood; how much more could we have in common? My heart did not leap a beat, mostly because I had succeeded so well in turning off that part of my heart that I really didn’t have a single romantic thought at that point in my life; honestly, I distrusted attraction so much that I was unwilling to think romantically about anyone that I wasn’t already friends with. The next day at church, a couple of friends who had been at the party with me said, “You know, I think that D. was really
interested in you; there was a definite sexual tension in the air,” but I replied, “Oh no, we just had a lot in common. But I would like to pursue a friendship with her.”
So when I sent her an email that Monday morning with the message, “Lovely to meet you Saturday night. Let’s get together on campus for lunch sometime and continue our conversation about monastic communities” (and no, I am not making that up), I really meant it; no coyness for me—dadgumit, I wanted to talk about monastic communities some more! But she, sly one that she was, replied to my email, “Sounds great! But my days on campus are hectic; how about dinner instead? Are you free on Friday night? Do you like [swanky expensive French restaurant]?” A friend of mine, reading this email over my shoulder, advised me, “WN, I think you need to accept the fact that this is going to be a date, not just two new friends getting together.” And he was quite right; it was definitely a date.
And the rest is history. D. and I still like to say that it was a very good omen that we first met at a monastery during a discernment workshop, even if that’s not when our relationship actually began.
Isn’t that sweet?!