Monday, April 28, 2008

Celestial Room with A View

Okay, I have a sudsy one for you:

About a year after I broke up with Jack, (who it turns out was using me as his friend, confidante, and love interest during the week while making out with some other vixen on the weekends -- a whole nother soap opera story) his eccentric aunt called and wanted to line me up with someone. Weird, but I was open to it. The guy was from New York, which sounded exciting enough. Turns out he was the caretaker of someone else’s fabulous estate. So I went out with this guy when he was in town one weekend, and he was perfectly good-looking with impeccable manners and treated me great -- spoiled me, in fact. Sounds wonderful, I know. So where’s the soap, you ask?

Well, he was also WAY older than I was. I don’t know how much for sure, but I was 23 or so and I think he must have been at least 30. Probably well on his way to 40. Besides the fact that this guy literally lived in a fantasy world, his age and his inexplicable into-me-ness scared me. Besides, he was a teensy-weensy bit straight-laced and, dare I say, boring? :) We’re totally talking Cecil, from A Room With A View. Well, thankfully he was on his way back to New York so Lucy Honeychurch here really didn’t have to worry about a thing. Or did I?

A couple of days later he called me from New York. It was flattering, but we didn’t really have anything to talk about. A day or so later he sent a dozen red roses. The next day he called me again. And on it went...lots of long-distance calls with not much to chat about. The roses were barely wilting and along came more gifts. And the next thing I know he’s made airline reservations for another trip out to visit.

“I guarantee you he’s coming out here with a ring”, says my ever-wise mother.

Holy cow! I started praying he’d find someone else. Literally.

I was involved in another long-distance romance at the same time. I was being written to, phone called, and successfully wooed by this other (younger, funnier) guy, named Jeff, from the opposite coast (California, to be exact). And Jeff, with whom I was rapidly falling head-over-heels, was planning to be in town the same weekend as Barry. I had visions of one of those crazy Ginger Grant / Eva Grubb “Gilligan’s Island” episodes where I’d be frantically scurrying back and forth carrying on with two guys at the exact same time and trying to keep them on opposite sides of the island. But then it occurred to me that I could schedule things in advance and avoid all that awkwardness. So I booked most of the weekend with Jeff and saved a Tuesday night for Barry. (Not proud of this...but better not to lead him on, right?)

So Barry gets into town and calls to find out when I’m available, and I tell him Friday and Saturday are completely booked, and I had a deadline for work on Monday, but I’d love to see him on Tuesday. Well the weekend came and went and I had the time of my life with Jeff. Then Tuesday rolled around...and no Barry. He stood me up! I totally did not get it. My heart was not remotely broken, I just didn’t understand how this guy could be so obviously smitten...calling me non-stop and sending me flowers and trinkets and long wordy letters...and then just disappear.

But it all came to light a few weeks later when I got a letter in the mail from Barry. He explained (in his perfect longhand) that he figured if he flew all the way out to see me and I couldn’t make any time for him until Tuesday there was something wrong. (duh) So Tuesday morning he went to the temple, and there waiting in the celestial room after the session was the girl of his dreams. They met and talked -- and then he asked her to marry him right then and there! He even slipped a ring on her finger. A ring that likely was intended for me.

Man! That was a close one! But what can I say -- My prayers were answered. And so were his. (And 20 years later, I continue to be head-over-heels in love with Jeff.) :)

Friday, April 25, 2008

Happiness: The Ultimate Crime

True story:

My dad was on the faculty at the local University, and we lived less than 3 miles away, which during spring and fall made for a lovely walk. I found this great shortcut that was like a hidden secret right in the middle of the city -- there was a little hiking trail running alongside a stream, complete with grasses and wildflowers. There were even a couple of wooden bridges. It made you feel like you were someplace very removed.

I must have had a great day at school, feeling all excited about some new ideas as I walked along. Just being on that trail was a real lift. The trail let out into the parking lot of a church on Sunnyside Avenue, and just as I stepped out onto the street, this cop car flashes its lights and pulls me over! Calls out to me to stop. I’m thinking, “There’s no way I’m speeding on FOOT. Maybe I was jaywalking. Or worse -- maybe somebody owns that property with the little trail. Crap! He must have seen me coming off that trail and he’s going to ticket me for trespassing.” Hesitantly, I approach the patrol car and brace myself for a citation. Slowly he rolls down his window and motions to me to come closer. Then, completely out of the blue he asks, “Why are you so happy?” [Happy? I just got pulled over for being too happy?!]

I was too floored to give an intelligent response, so I just shrugged and said, “I’m always happy!” and then he drove off. I’ve thought a lot about that experience since, and wished I’d taken the opportunity -- or would be given another -- to really explain the depth and source of my happiness.

I had a similar experience at lunch with my friend Miss A a few years ago. We’d been talking and laughing uproariously for an hour straight, and suddenly this lady who was dining alone across the aisle from us leans over and says, “Excuse me, ladies,” interrupting us mid-sentence. We were sure she was going to Shhhhh us for disturbing her meal with our lively banter, and looked over apprehensively, bracing ourselves for a scolding. But instead, she said how refreshing it was to see and hear two such happy, positive people when all her friends do nothing but complain. She went on and on about how she wanted to be around us, and wanted to know what made us so happy. (We didn't have the heart to tell her that a dear friend had just passed away, and we were joyfully reminiscing about old times.) Caught off guard once again, we gave her an answer, but it was pretty superficial. What I would have given for one of those pass-along cards right then! I prayed for her for weeks afterward, this nameless woman in search of my brand of happiness.

So...What makes you happy? What REALLY makes you happy?
Do happy people really stand out that noticeably from the crowd?
What would you have told my friend the police officer? Or the lonely luncher?
How happy are you right now?