So I'm sitting here listening to a website with samples of possible music for the ceremony. Rain is falling outside and I have a warm puppy snoozing in my lap. There's a man asleep in the next room who absolutely adores me. And it strikes me that as much as I've written about random things here in the last few months, I haven't written much lately about him.
I can't believe how lucky I am. Last year at this time, I was drifting along through life. I had friends, band, school, my family. But in the back of my mind was always the pain over Frank that hadn't yet left. I was still living with it, still trying to convince myself that there was a reason to get up in the morning. My heart might have healed by then if I hadn't kept going back to him, but I was. I had gotten past the point where my longing for him was controlling my life, but it was always there. I was also dealing with a very complicated situation with another special guy that had me on the phone in tears almost every night. So by the time November rolled around, and I was facing another Christmas alone, I was checking my online dating sites more out of habit than out of genuine interest in finding someone. My heart was too unstable to process the idea of someone new.
But early in the morning on November 7th or 8th, 2007, I was browsing the profiles on Yahoo! Personals. And there was Ryan. I messaged him, he found me on MySpace, and the rest, as you know, is history. He was in Iraq, and by the 18th of that month we had declared ourselves a couple. 10 days later he said he loved me for the first time. People called me insane and I know there were friends of mine that judged me and thought to themselves, "Even after all she's been through, she hasn't learned a thing." But I've always followed my heart in these situations, and despite the naysayers, I believed it was bound to pay off eventually. Christmas morning, I awoke to find a pile of presents from this man I'd never actually met, but who was falling in love with me anyway, somehow. The best of those was a tiny silver promise ring which went on my left finger immediately. It became my prized possession and I couldn't stop looking at it. All the while I felt guilty because a large part of my heart still belonged to Frank. I was still seeing him a lot, and though Ryan had knowledge of this, it didn't make it any more right in my mind. January rolled around, and I finally told Ryan that I needed to be free to resolve my relationship with Frank on my own, and find the strength to end it on my own terms. So this amazing man, through his tears on a phone 7,000 miles across the ocean, promised to wait for me and to fight for me. He vowed that he loved me more than Frank ever had or could and that he wasn't giving up. He made me promise to be strong. "Be strong like I know you are, my love." He made me promise to come back to him. "Do whatever you have to; just come back to me when you're done."
Just about two weeks after we had that conversation, I did it. Almost two years after our saga began, I broke away from Frank voluntarily, just as I had lain awake so many nights praying for the strength to do and not being able to find it. I still consider it my greatest emotional accomplishment. And I honestly believe that Ryan's love for me, and his faith in me, his belief that I had strength even when I didn't feel it, was what helped me to do it. Because of Ryan, I knew that I deserved to be loved by someone whose feelings wouldn't change from day to day, and who poured as much into our relationship as I did. Ryan's voice in my head telling me to be strong is what helped me to drive out of Frank's apartment complex for the last time and not look back. And as I sat on the phone that night in joyful tears with my soldier, and we realized that we had made it through something that would break most couples, THAT was when I realized I wanted to spend the rest of my life with Ryan. He stepped back and let me have a relationship with someone else, even though he and I had declared our love for each other. He kept his tears, his anger, his fear hidden from me so that he could be my rock. He gave me the greatest gift anyone could give: the gift of faith. He had faith that I would be strong enough to come back to him. He gave me faith when I had none. He sat there, night after night, and listened to me cry over another guy, even when he couldn't understand why I would give my tears to someone who clearly no longer deserved them. I have never been loved like that, and I'd venture to say a lot of other people haven't, either.
I remember one conversation where we were talking about my whales, and my love for them was evident in my voice as it always is, and he said, "My favorite thing about you is your passion. You have this aura around you that just exudes so much passion and love for so much. You have a dream that is so special and so important, and just by talking about it you make others realize how special it is." Nobody, outside of my mom, has ever really understood me in such a way. I was struck dumb by his perception of me.
And then came March 16th, the day he came home. The day we held each other for the first time and cried in each other's arms at the sheer joy of finally being together. Every touch of his hand, every embrace, every kiss was electrifying and set my entire being on fire. There is nothing like being in your lover's arms after waiting months to do so, especially for the first time. By the middle of April we were engaged. I don't remember the exact day we got engaged, because I didn't have my ring. It was more just a conversation, because by that time we both knew what we wanted. The ring came later. My parents knew it before we even announced it. They had noticed the change in me and the happiness, and contentment, that I now carried with me.
And since June we've been creating this home together. It's been a hard road. Learning to live with someone is not easy. We've had a million fights about nothing that have ended in tears or silent fuming. But always, always, we are able to talk it out and work through it.
He still rushes home to me at the end of the day, calling me as he does so. "I miss you, I'll see you soon, I love you." Every day without fail. My heart still speeds up when I hear his key in the door. He wraps me in his arms and I feel like nothing can hurt me. We laugh together over our inside jokes. He cooks and I clean up the kitchen, then we cuddle up on the couch with Charlie and the remote and just enjoy being together. He brings me flowers every month on our anniversary. He goes to every USF game, crappy seats and all, and cheers for my Bulls just because I want him to. He tells me how good the band sounded and how proud he is of me. He makes me sit down with him and go over the finances, asking me for my opinion so I can learn how to balance a household budget. He even helps me clean if I ask him to. He quit smoking just because I said it was a deal-breaker. He tells me every single day that he loves me, I'm beautiful, and I make him happy. He insists on cuddling all the time, and keeping up with our sickeningly cute little things that we do. Yet, he's this unbelievably strong, capable, intelligent man that has been through hell and back, fighting for the country he loves so much. He's led teams of soldiers directly into combat and kept them all safe, thinking of himself last. He believes in his principles and can back them up. He truly believes in my dreams of my whales and has vowed to help me achieve them. He's all for moving to the Pacific Northwest after he retires from the Army so I can do the only thing he understands will really make me happy. He's always honest with me, even if it hurts, and I believe that that characteristic is slowly making me a much stronger person. He does everything he does for me, to keep a roof over my head, clothes on my back, food in my stomach, and as much extra fun stuff as he can afford...and even some he can't. He puts up with my neuroses and my emotions. Despite the fights we have, we really are blissfully happy together. I can't wait to marry him. I just can't wait. I am absolutely the luckiest girl in the world.
I just wanted to say it.