I don’t really want to write this. Writing makes things real for me and I wish reality would have been more accommodating to my heart.
But I am a writer so write I must
It felt like it was meant to be. A story of two old friends, who had both endured devastating losses, finding love in each other’s arms. I dare Nicholas Sparks to write a love story more compelling or characters more deserving of a happily ever after than me and Doolin. But life isn’t a fairy tale, I know that too well. Reality makes demands on us all, even the greatest of romantics.
Doolin and I have decided that, as much as we want a future together, right now our lives don’t blend so we have transitioned our relationship back to friendship.
We came to this decision together over the course of the last couple months. It’s not something either of us wanted to have to happen, our hearts are for each other. But we both are the sort who make decisions from a place of logic no matter how strong the emotions may be.
A few weeks after our final post in the 3 part series of our story, just before Doolin was to leave for his next contract, he got the exciting news that he was being promoted. Not just to the position above the one he had been in, but a step even higher. A double promotion with a good chance he will be promoted again next year. Even as I expressed my excitement to him my heart sank. I knew, even if I didn’t want to admit it yet, I knew that the promotion had just turned his job into a career. A career that would keep him traveling the globe. A career Doolin loved.
And then another development hit. My 2 year old daughter started asking about Daddy for the first time. No mother should have to explain to her 2 year old that she can’t go see daddy because he’s in heaven. My daughter deserves to have a daddy, she can’t have the one she lost, but she deserves one nonetheless, as does my son. No matter what my heart wants, my children must come first. I’m fairly low maintenance and was content with a long distance relationship. I would have been happy continuing to seeing Doolin in person every couple months so long as I got to talk to him each day. But my kids… they deserve more than a long distance daddy and now Jocelyn was beginning to notice that she doesn’t have one.
We both could feel the shift, though, for a while neither of us brought it up. But eventually Doolin and I addressed the elephant in the room. Our problem was cyclical. In order for him to leave his job and move to Nashville he would have to be certain that we were going to get married, but before we could be certain we were going to get married we would have to have a decent amount of time dating in person, which would require him to be off the ship. But for him to leave the ship…
We both knew the logical conclusion but neither of us said it. It wasn’t something we wanted to do over Facebook messenger. So we put that conversation on the shelf knowing that we would finish it when we saw each other again in November. Until then we would continue to enjoy our conversations and support each other as best we could.
We were both in transition. He was dealing with the stress of learning a brand new position and I was settling into Nashville and working through some hard issues that came up through the process of being in school. We needed each other to vent to and lean on.
November came and I made the long drive to Florida with my kids to spend Thanksgiving with my family and spend my last week with Doolin as his girlfriend. We had an amazing time. We hung out with friends, went to a nerd pub, beat an escape room, saw Thor… all the while we never said the thing neither of us wanted to say but knew we were going to have to. Occasionally we would pause and lingering in our gaze was a sad longing for one another and an understanding that our time was short. As the week went on it got harder knowing each day meant one day closer to good bye.
Finally Doolin brought up the topic.
“I know we are on the same page with this so… should we even address it when I leave? Or just say goodbye and leave it as an unspoken understanding?”
“No,” I responded, “I want to say goodbye. Nothing long and drawn out, but there are some things I’d like to say before you go.”
There were several things that I wanted to say, but there were three little words in particular. Three words that had sat on my tongue begging me to speak them. I had said them more times than I could count through my lips when we kissed and my fingertips as they traced the lines of his face, but never out loud.
But I needed him to know.
I needed him to know that he was loved. I wanted him to have a memory of someone loving him that wasn’t tainted by betrayal. I will always have 7 years of memories of being loved by Jon. They are bitter sweet but they aren’t defiled and no one can ever take them away from me. Doolin doesn’t have that luxury and it was a gift I wanted to give him. I wasn’t sure if he was in a place to say that he loved me but it didn’t matter. If he was going to set off to travel the world for the rest of his life I wanted him to be able to look back and know with certainty that someone had loved him.
It’s because I love him that I had to let him go. I may have been able to guilt or manipulate him into leaving his job for me. But that would have been selfishness, not love. It’s because I love him that I want him to have the most amazing life possible, even if that life isn’t with me. More than anything I want him happy, even if that happiness requires that he doesn’t choose me.
On our last night together we went to the Tiki bar where we frequently had hung out back when we both were refusing to admit that something was growing between us. We had a drink and talked about our time together and how much we meant to each other. Afterwards we walked over to the dock were we had our first real kiss and kissed once more. We didn’t want to end the night but some seriously bad karaoke in the background was killing the mood so we grabbed some fast food and went back to his place and watched some stand up comedy. We laughed and joked like we weren’t about to say goodbye soon. But eventually we got quiet and just soaked in each other’s presence.
I knew I would have to leave soon. I knew if I didn’t say it I would miss my chance and always regret it.
I didn’t want him to feel like I was pressuring or expecting him to say those three words back so I whispered,
“Doolin.. I want to say something and when I’m done all I want from you is a kiss.”
“I love you, Doolin. I just.. I really wanted you to know that before…” I couldn’t finish the sentence.
He leaned in and kissed me softly, then pulled back, ” I love you too.”
I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time. I wasn’t trying to get him to say that he loved me but I hadn’t realized how much I had wanted him to. We kissed for a moment more and then he took me home.
Saying goodbye was hard but not painful. Perhaps in the future our lives may shift to where a life together is possible. Now just isn’t the right time for us. We knew from the start that there were obstacles. The possibility that we might not be able to overcome them was openly discussed. That is why we were able to part without any hurt or anger. We had maintained transparent communication and valued our friendship and each other’s hearts over our own desires. Doolin is not an “ex”, he is a friend. We have been friends for 11 years and we will continue to be there for each other throughout life even if we never are able to be the more we were hoping for.
And if the rest of you would indulge me, I’d like to finish with a few words to Doolin.
There were words said when your marriage ended that have echoed in your mind. I’d like to be the voice that replaces them.
You are a good man. You are kind and compassionate, loyal and trustworthy, capable and strong. A man among boys. You treated my heart with such tenderness and respect. You could have easily taken advantage of your position in my life but instead you chose to value and honor me. You are a good man and you deserve every happiness.
Finally, I’d like to leave you with this blessing,
May the Lord bless you
and protect you.
May the Lord smile on you
and be gracious to you.
May the Lord show you his favor
and give you his peace.