|Posted by Lucille on September 30, 2016 at 3:55 PM|
Sometime last winter, I came home from clinical with my heart, mind, and body aching from caring for a patient whose situation I can only summarize as a profoundly tragic love story. I cried all the way home. I got myself under control in the parking garage, made it into my building, and then lost it again in the elevator.
This was right around the time that I had decided there was no hope of me getting into the midwifery program this time, and I was looking into local nursing positions. Travis had recently been to DC for a conference. He sent me letters while he was away, though most of them had shown up after he did. At this point, all but one of the letters had arrived.
I opened the door, and even though my vision was blurry with tears, I could tell that Travis had planned something special because the apartment smelled amazing. He had just taken something delicious out of the oven and had the table set up for a romantic dinner. He took one look at me, and made some modifications to the plan that involved helping into a onesie and handing me chocolate and tissues.
I kept apologizing. He kept smiling at me with one of those looks that is so tender and loving it feels a little too bright to look at. Where I saw myself as having ruined everything, he saw me as being elevated to tears by the power of loving on people through tragedy. May we all have the gift of occasionally glimpsing ourselves the way our people see us.
And then he handed me the last letter. And a ring.
I wasn't one of those kids that imagined a proposal or wedding in detail growing up, but if I had been, my fantasy would have been nothing like this. It might have involved looking gorgeous on a beach somewhere. Instead I was in a onesie, red-eyed and greasy-haired, and I smelled like hospital-grade hand sanitizer. And here was my favorite human, that I had to blink to see clearly, telling me I was his favorite human too and that he wanted to commit to loving each other in all our imperfections through whatever our lives would bring. Even when, maybe especially when, I couldn't stop crying and reeked of hand sanitizer.
It was perfect.
And then I got into the midwifery program (yay!), and that 'someday' where we won't be full-time students and might actually have the time and resources to do something like plan a wedding moved a few more years out into the future. We hadn't announced our engagement yet, and decided not to until we had income and were ready to plan a wedding. We decided to be ninja-engaged. I kept the ring but wore it on my right hand, and we worked on getting him a matching one.
Fast forward a few months, to hiking up to Castle Dome. We had been talking periodically about announcing our engagement sooner. We've been referring to ourselves as partners for a while, because boyfriend/girlfriend just doesn't feel right. We aren't dating. We're co-habiting, co-owning pets, co-pursuing mutual goals, and co-planning our lives together. Friends and family have been joking that we basically eloped a few years ago and are just being the last to realize it. We're part of that growing generation of couples who are starting their lives together a few years ahead of having the financial resources to make anything official legally. But we'd reached the point of wanting things to be a little more official, even if only unofficially.
The problem is that once you're ninja-engaged, it's easy to overthink the timing of making an announcement. Why today as opposed to tomorrow, next week, next month? Maybe we should wait for our anniversary? Hell, we could just tell everyone at the wedding! Sitting at the top of Castle Dome, I proposed that this was actually a pretty good time, as I had just graduated and we were about to be seeing his family in person. One of the ways that we are more complementary than similar is that Travis is more introverted than I am. "But if we tell people," he said, "We'll have to deal with the fallout."
"Do you mean the attention? Of getting congratulations from the people who love us?" I laughed, "Travis, your hermit is showing."
He laughed too. "Okay. Let's do it."
I have several friends who collect heart-shaped rocks when they're hiking. I had been looking for them on the hike up to this point, but hadn't seen any, and at that moment I looked down to see a tiny heart-shaped rock right next to my shoe. Some stories just write themselves. We climbed a mountain with our rings on our right hands, found a heart-shaped rock on top of the world, and climbed back down with our rings on our left hands. How's that for symbolism?
After talking with our immediate family (who all said some version of, "Congratulations and color me shocked,") we made things internet-official. It seems like a lot of ritual considering that nothing about the state of our relationship has actually changed, but even if our relationship won't be legally recognized for a few more years, there's something powerful about announcing your commitment to your community.
I'm really excited that I get to call my favorite my fiance now.