You Did… What… to Your Keyboard?

I wore it out.

Yesterday was a marathon. I wrote for at least eight hours straight. Revised and added new material spanning 23 pages. I closed the computer, watched Gladiator and sewed spats, and then went to bed.

This morning, I woke up, turned on my computer, and my password wouldn’t work. I was locked out.

It took many tries before I realized what the problem was. My “n” key wasn’t working.

Finally I got in, and realized that it wasn’t just “n.” It was “a,” “b,” “n,” both “shifts,” and “enter.” You could make them work a little bit if you rolled your finger back and forth on the key for several seconds at a time, but even that wasn’t predictable.

Clearly this was not an acceptable state of affairs. So I packed my computer and headed to Best Buy, its point of origin, hoping that there was just something stuck under the keys (You know, those things that creep around getting stuck under keys at 2 am when the computer is shut.)

The Geek Squad, unfortunately, couldn’t do a thing for me, but did point me down the road to the best computer repair shop in town, the Bad Apple.

I pulled up in front of the Bad Apple and got out… but there was a sign on the door. Today, it said, the good people of the Bad Apple were taking a special lunch break and would be back at 3 pm. It was 2:30.

So I got back in my car and sat in the heat, sweating in my black Blind Guardian t-shirt, intermittently reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and texting my best friend morosely.

There was a line when the employees returned. One extremely talkative woman dropped her computer off and, while they ran diagnostics, sat there cheerfully, greeting everyone who came in, asking them, out of curiosity, what was wrong with THEIR computer?

It made me wonder if folks ever do that in the hospital–you know, cheerfully discuss and compare maladies just because, after all, everyone who’s there has got one. Common ground, you know.

Eventually it was my turn. I gave them my computer, wrote down all my passwords, and explained what was going on.

“We’ve got a two week wait list on PCs right now,” said the repair man. (I have gained a new respect for computer repairmen. Handling people stressed out about their damaged electronics has got to go on the list of most-unpleasant-jobs-ever.)

“I’m a writer,” I said. “I can’t just leave it here for two weeks.”

“You could leave it here for a day for a free diagnostic.”

I liked the sound of “free,” but I’d driven over an hour to get there and said so.

By now, our conversation had reached the ears of someone in the back, someone who had the authority to open up my computer then and there. “We get a lot of people coming from Oak Harbor and Anacortes,” he explained. “We like to get their stuff back to them the same day, if possible. I’ll open it up right now and see if there’s anything we can do.”

For the next two hours, I introverted quietly in the corner of the repair shop, listening to the loud lady cheerfully inquire about strangers’ computers and strike up conversations with them. I avoided eye contact and eventually went back to my car to get my book. I was developing a massive headache and was in no mood to discuss my computer’s health.

“Oh!” her voice cut across the waiting room a few minutes later. “You’re reading Harry Potter! Those are my favorites; I’ve read them like twelve times. I keep telling people they need to read them, and they say, ‘Oh, those are kids stories.’ My mom, she said, ‘Oh, I don’t like books about magic.’ But they’re about SO much more than magic, aren’t they? Which one are you on?”

She would be a Harry Potter fan.

I was saved by the repairmen–her computer was ready now.

The crowd dwindled, and finally I was the only one left in the corner.

“Erika?”

I got up, somewhat reluctantly, to hear the verdict.

“So, your keyboard needs to be replaced. We can order a new one and replace it ourselves, or send you the link and you can just order it and bring it in. It’ll cost about $60 to replace.”

“All right…”

At this point, the mysterious guy in the back who’d been performing surgery on my laptop came up to the desk. He had a beard and was wearing a Goonies shirt. I decided I liked him. “You know, I wouldn’t take this apart more than you need to.” He listed off a long litany of the things he’d found, including missing or broken screws and the like.

“What exactly does that mean?”

He shrugged matter-of-factly. “It’s wearing out. It’s going to die eventually.”

I laughed. “So… I really should just get an external keyboard and save up for a new computer.”

“That’d probably be best.”

“Well… I appreciate your honesty.”

Sorry I couldn’t give them more business, I left and headed back to Best Buy, where I acquired the cheap USB keyboard I’m typing this post on. It’s ungainly but, hey, I can write on it. And even having to replace the computer soon is not such a big deal. If I do well at my next couple of craft fairs, I should be able to replace it before the end of the year, no problem. Provided the car doesn’t die again, but that’s always a variable.

I should be more upset about my computer’s demise than I am. I think at this point I’m just a little astounded and proud of myself, though.

Because, according to the good fellows at the Bad Apple, my keyboard died from sheer use.

I wrote so much I wore out my computer. 

It actually feels kind of badass.

 

 

On Pursuing the Genuine

A friend and I were texting tonight and laughing about those old journals we kept when we were fourteen or so that we wish we could burn but we kind of can’t because that person was us at one point–or maybe just because the journals were cool and expensive and so shouldn’t be burned.

Just thinking about that person who-used-to-be-me makes me die of embarrassment. We are talking about a teenager who looked for super-long knit dresses at the thrift store because that was what was “cool” at church, who judged everybody on sight and by very narrow standards, who was trying desperately not to grow up in some embarrassing ways. Basically the only thing from those years that doesn’t make me cringe is the part that was the very worst during those years–my deep struggles with faith and what I could believe about God and the world around me.

I think that part isn’t too embarrassing because it was genuine. It was mine and mine only.

At some point I shifted from fierce conformity to fierce individualism. And in the middle of all that was this great, genuine grappling with what I believed, with what really counted in life.

Interesting.

One of my friends posted today about conformity and the value we place on it in conservative circles, that she felt like water, easily taking the shape of every vessel she was poured into. She was not being bitter, but simply reflective about how the very qualities that make one an excellent citizen and family member are also qualities that can make one wonder who, exactly, one is.

I wondered as I read her post, because I was once her, and I am no longer.

Not that I don’t try to conform. I mean, my goodness, even edgy little subcultures have their set of ways that one must dress and behave, and woe to the one who doesn’t! I mean, a goth who doesn’t care for skulls? A girly girl who doesn’t like pink? A geek who doesn’t watch Star Trek? Can such things be? The second you realize that you’re comfortable in a subculture, there’s a pressure to start checking off the boxes you don’t already have checked.

Nevertheless, at some point in my life, I kind of scrapped everything and started rebuilding myself based on what I genuinely believed and genuinely liked. It started with the faith crisis, it continued in college as, you know, I got to choose my major (and chose something I liked) and then got to choose elective classes (Seriously, I was a writing major with an education minor and I took medieval history and choir just for kicks). Then I got a job doing (surprise!) something that I liked. And I have decided that because I feel called there (deep personal beliefs) and because the fact that I enjoy it is more important than the fact that I don’t make much money, I am staying there. On a more day-to-day level, if I like certain music, I will listen to it. If I like a show, I will watch it, provided I don’t have grading to do. (And if it gets canceled I will throw a several-year tantrum.) Life is too short not to do things that are genuine–things I genuinely like, things that genuinely matter to me.

Of course, to make sure I’m being spiritual enough, I should add that it does matter to me that God and I can still talk. If something clearly isn’t helping with that, then it does need to go. But even then, that standard isn’t because someone else is telling me to have it–it’s because that is truly important to me. It is genuine.

Seriously, when taken with a grain of salt, “follow your heart”–as in, base your life on what you genuinely believe and what you genuinely enjoy–is not half bad advice.

Does  come with some snags? You betcha. Such as, you know, a paranoia of disapproval if I mention movies or music I like around people with stricter standards. Or accusations of intolerance if what I genuinely believe about God isn’t in keeping with what’s popular. But whatever you like or believe or feel, there will always be someone who disapproves of it. Always. And if we let that stop us, nothing would ever get done.

If I could go back and tell that horrifyingly awkward fourteen-year-old in those journals one thing, I think it would be an encouragement to be genuine. To only do something because she really wanted to, because she really liked it, because she really believed it. And to value the genuine in herself and others.

“Do you ever think about how much you’ve changed and wonder if you’re even still the same person?” I texted my friend. (I may have been binge-ing Dollhouse and having some deep metaphysical thoughts about personhood.)

“Lol,” he replied. “Hopefully I’m not!”

The more I think about it, the more I don’t think I am. And the more I think about it, the surer I become that that is a truly excellent thing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Wanted This… Why?

Turns out there’s a great deal more romance in WANTING to have plenty of time to write my story than there is in actually having the time and trying to write. It’s so much easier to roll one’s eyes back in distress and complain about the agonies of never being able to commit your worlds to paper than it is to actually do it.

But I don’t think these things through. Not till, you know, I’ve saved my tail off and eaten rice and beans repeatedly and started a new business and actually made my summer-to-write happen.

One fine summer’s day not too long ago, I sit down, open my computer and start reading my last draft of Book 1, just, you know, to get a sense of what I still need to do to it.

And Chapters 1 and 2 are actually a delight to read. See? This isn’t so bad! I’m going to finish this thing yet.

Then I hit Chapter 3 and get an odd sense of deja vu. Didn’t that conversation between two main characters already happen? And wait, why are they suddenly pretending that they know nothing about the very important issue that they already discussed in Chapter 2?

My valiant all-day read through comes to a halt at Chapter 7. It’s too much of a wreck to keep reading. All that mess needs to be reworked before I can even begin to formulate what needs to be done to the remaining 2/3 of the draft.

I have made a full page of notes in a separate document. And I have become thoroughly disgusted with myself for imagining this kind of labor as some sort of reward. I send a few moaning, depressed texts to friends, wait for their gratifying responses, and decide to sew cravats for the rest of the day. At least THAT feels productive.

Writers are such masochists–this isn’t fun. Not in the least. It is, in fact, forcing me to confront the fact that I’m not very good at what I most want to do, and that I do not, a great deal of the time, actually want to do what I tell everyone I most want to do. It’s forcing me to confront all of my inadequacies and insecurities. It’s depressing and time consuming and frustrating. And it is NOT fun.

I open up my computer and begin making planned changes to Chapter 1.

Now, three days later, I’m finding myself wishing that I didn’t have plans this weekend so I could start sorting things out on paper, organizing the wreck that is Chapters 3-5, breathing new life into it, wrangling with the characters until their words and facial expressions come out so right that I’m smiling like an idiot and reading it out loud to my cats.

It’s just a different kind of work, and in a way, harder than my usual summer jobs. It’s not even work I’m sure I want to do half of the time. But I’m somehow driven to it. I know that I will be more unhappy if I never do it than if I make myself sit down and do it. And who knows? Maybe, someday, something will show up on paper that validates everything.

So bring on the pain, summer. I have been waiting for you.

 

 

Why I’m Opening Another Online Business (Or, the Lunacy of Hope)

Two months ago, I was on the way home from the thrift store. I had just picked up a long maroon corduroy coat because I couldn’t be parted with it. On the way home, I began imagining the cuffs trimmed with velvet, black lace on the back. And in between thoughts of, “I didn’t need this coat to begin with!” and “Another project?” the little thought slipped into my mind… “Hey! I could sell that!”

Thus GaslightEmporium was born.

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The maroon coat that started it all. (Model: Rachel Hammons)

Two months later, I’ve just launched a second Etsy shop. With uncalled-for optimism, I’ve laid out money for over fifty items at local thrift stores, spent countless hours hand-stitching embellishments onto them while watching my favorite shows, paid $150 for a professional photography session, and launched a second Etsy shop.

This, on my busiest school year yet, the same year that my school opened to 6-8th grade as well as 9-12th. I’m so busy with my classes that at the beginning of the school year, in favor of preserving sanity, I canceled almost all of my fixed evening activities to free up that time for lesson prep.

Oh, yeah, and I’m still running that art business and going to conventions and selling it and all that.

I needed another Etsy shop like I needed a hole in my head. Why and wherefore? And shouldn’t I be investing that time in, you know, things for the kingdom of God, like, say, my local Awana club or something at church?

Why, in the name of common sense?

It’s not because I love embellishing clothing items (although I do). Or because I’ve turned my back on serving God (quite the contrary!). Or even because I couldn’t make ends meet.

It’s because I have books I want to write. Stories, that ooze out of me whether I want them to or not, that have been begging to be written for more than ten years. Stories that, if I want to let myself be as grand and pompous about it as I was in college, I feel “called” to write.

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I call this item the “Writer’s Coat.” Maybe it’s a bit symbolic.

I know, opening another business seems somewhat counterproductive in that department. Now I’m sewing in those snatches of time that I could be writing.

But, you see, I had an epiphany several months back. I realized that the quantity of writing, the pacing I needed at this point, required larger blocks of time. There comes a moment when you step back after having written “in your spare time” for the last ten years, and you realize that you have frighteningly little to show for your efforts. In short, you realize that things have to change if you want to arrive at your longed-for destination.

And I decided what I wanted. I wanted my summers. And in that embellished maroon jacket, I saw a possible ticket to a summer off.

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Why not turn a jacket into a steampunk-y vest?

I’m a teacher, but that doesn’t automatically mean that I get summers off. My Christian school is in a small town and is itself very small. I get paid enough to live off during the school year, but not enough to cover my summers. For the last three summers, I’ve worked 40 plus hours a week at a local camp and conference center. I’ve been scrubbing toilets and hauling garbage to support my teaching habit.

When put that way, it sounds shockingly unfair. Either that, or I sound like I’m complaining. Really, neither is true. I work with fantastic folks at both school and camp, and I honestly don’t mind the work at all. Somebody’s got to do it, after all! Why not me?

I wouldn’t mind at all, if there weren’t other things I wanted– even needed– to do. If there weren’t stories shut up in my bones like fire, burning to get out. And, for the first two summers, I actually got some writing done after work. But I’m not getting any younger, and this summer most evenings I’d be too tired. Or just as soon as I hit a good writing rhythm, I’d realize that I really needed to go to bed if I wanted to survive to the weekend. I didn’t get much done. And it felt awful.

I don’t want to do it again. I want my summer this year. I want it to write.

I did the math. I know I’ve got to save at least $6000 if I want to have my summer free, which is an astronomical sum. I don’t think I ever saved that much at once even when I was paying graduate school bills. It’s utterly ridiculous. Ludicrous.

But dreams ARE ludicrous. And the people who achieve their dreams are ludicrous people who refuse to let the odds dictate their efforts.

So I dove in feet-first. I even have business cards.

Here’s to ludicrous dreams and my even more ludicrous self. Here’s to the chance at a summer to write.

Particularly, here’s to GaslightEmporium.

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Here’s me modeling one of my favorite tops in the shop. It’s actually made up of parts from three different tops.

 

 

 

 

Note: You can visit my new shop at https://www.etsy.com/shop/GaslightEmporium or like my page on Facebook  (https://www.facebook.com/GaslightEmporium) to see works in progress.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Blogging Again and Opening New (Classroom) Doors

I could sit around all afternoon and explain in great detail all the posts I wrote in my head between last January and right now. Life hasn’t exactly been boring, and I’ve had plenty to say. I just haven’t said it.

I could have written about the heavy days following the almost-breakup I was writing about in January… but that seemed hypocritical in view of the relatively positive note I’d last ended on. Also, I doubt it would have made very good reading.

I could have written about the really cool Tom Bombadil painting I did (after all, isn’t that one of the reasons I have this blog? To write about my art?) But the time came and passed.

I could have written about my close friend’s struggle with mental and physical illness this summer, but that was not my story to tell. Besides, I didn’t want to embarrass her.

I could have written about my reactions to the whole gay-marriage debate, but I’d grown far too tired of everyone yelling at each other and no one thinking straight (I know, I know, horrible pun) to subject myself to that same scrutiny (cowardly, I know). Also, by the time my thoughts on the matter had begun to gel into something resembling coherence, everyone seemed to have moved on to Cecil the Lion.

I could have written about writing, but, after all, isn’t it more time-effective to just go ahead and write the novel instead of writing about writing? (Besides, my summer job consumed so much of my time, I barely wrote. Why write about writing when you’re frustrated about not being able to write much in the first place? Talk about counterproductive!)

The time for excuses is past, though. A new school year is upon me, a new convention season is coming up, more people are going to be taking my business cards and looking up this hapless blog… so I’d better post something worth reading, sooner rather than later.

And what I’m going to post is, surprisingly, that I’m thankful to be still here, still posting. I’m thankful for the bad times and the good times I’ve had since January. Because even though there’s been an awful lot of awfulness this year, all of that awfulness has, I think, had its good sides. It’s refining me into a person who is better able to face life fearlessly and love others even when things seem bleak. It’s teaching me to take action, to cut out things that aren’t really worth my time and energy so I can focus on the things and people who really do matter so much to me.

And also, all of this has somehow inexplicably made me very thankful to be starting a new school year. I feel at home in my classroom, almost safe, settled. I love having students come to me, watching their faces light up as we talk about things that I love. I love seeing them learn. It is a beautiful thing.

It’s also, I might add, a particularly exciting school year. After years of such low numbers that most other schools would have given up, my little Christian high school has expanded… we’ve grown from the six students we started last year with to twenty students (!) from 6th through 12th grade. For the first time, I’m teaching middle school. For the first time, I’m teaching enough classes to merit having my own classroom (!!) which I spent way too much decorating. There was a lot of energy and excitement leading up to this past week, the first week of school.

And then the students came in the door.

And, after a week of organized chaos, the rhythm of a new school year has begun to settle–and it is good.

With this rhythm, I’ve even had time to work on my story. And, later today, I fully intend to get a new art project started. I’ve got big plans to do an Eowyn piece before GeekGirlCon next month. Maybe, if the first one goes well, I’ll even do a set.

I guess there’s a reason we have seasons. There’s a sense of refreshment as an old season closes and a new season starts, as a summer ends and a new school year begins.

It’s just enough refreshment to kick me into blogging again. Maybe I can keep it up for a while this time.

Some Days

Some days you don’t want to go to bed because it means waking up the next morning. At that point, you know that the next day is going to be SOME day.

That was last night.

Then today actually started. I don’t need to go into all the details, but it included a fairly intense conversation with a parent before first period was even over. An hour into the school day, and I felt like throwing up and really just wanted to crawl into a dark hole and hide. I felt like I was splitting at the seams, and if you poked me too hard, all the stuffing would come out.

Unfortunately, it didn’t take much. During lunch period, in front of my high schoolers, a fellow teacher and dear friend asked a harmless question that sent me into defensive mode. The stuffing was leaking, and there was nothing I could do about it. There was tension. There were tears. I left the room.

Not only had I hurt her, but my poor high schoolers, who certainly don’t need any more drama and emotion in their lives, were treated to tension between two trusted teachers. Not okay. Not in any way okay. And it was all my fault– unquestionably my fault. I frantically scooped up the stuffing, grabbed a needle and thread, and got to work. Apologizing to my friend in front of the kids was the best way to patch up the situation, but it was, after all, a patch where something had been irreparably torn that should never have been, and I left school today feeling like the biggest waste of oxygen on the planet.

This happens, you see. I make mistakes. Even worse, I do things I know are wrong. And I keep doing them. Then I realize I’ve been doing something wrong, and I sit back and imagine God’s perspective. But, after all, I am human, and this projected dialogue with God is a dialogue with my humanized imagination of God. It usually goes something like this:

Erika: “So I did it again. I know it was wrong, I knew it was wrong when I was doing it, and I did it again.”

God: “All right. I love you anyway, but hey, girl, I want to USE you. I want you to be an important part of my story here, and you’ve got to get your act together if you want that. You want that, don’t you?”

Erika: “Of course I do!!!”

God: “All right, then. Get your act together!”

But God, as we’re clearly told, does not think the way man thinks and doesn’t see the way man sees. In fact, sometimes (usually, I find) His workings are so completely and totally opposite anything we would plan out that there is no way they cannot be “other,” that they cannot be divine in origin. I see this in salvation; no human who really takes sin and evil seriously would invent a system in which their sin gets completely paid by someone else. It’s just irresponsible; we want to feel the pain, we want to feel like we’re atoning for things. We want to earn our way, to do penance.

But oh no. God had another plan up His sleeve, one so “other” that it can’t help but be divine.

It’s easy to see it in salvation. It’s not so easy to see it in the nitty gritty stuff in life.

For example, I’ve been noticing a very odd, very “other” trend. Every time I do one of these things, every time I do something I know is wrong and then feel terribly sorry for it and beg for forgiveness, what I would expect is a setback. I would expect a probation period, a time during which God wants me to come closer to Him and learn some obedience before he gives me a new assignment in his Story. A time to sit in the corner and think about what I’ve done.

But oh no.

Instead, I usually find that within twenty-four hours, I have been thrown an assignment of more-or-less epic spiritual proportions (usually involving a person in need) and have experienced victory in it.

This happens way too often for it to be a coincidence.

Back to tonight.

I think it’s safe to say that today was one of my biggest failures (out of many) that I’ve had in quite some time. I really, really blew it in front of a lot of people who mattered to me and who I’m something of an example to. If there was ever a time for me to get pulled out of the game for a while, thrown into the penalty box to ponder my ways, this would be the time.

Instead, four hours after leaving school in tears, I found myself on the back stairway of my church beside a fourth grade girl as she prayed the fourth-grade version of “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner” and became, as she called it, “God’s kid.”

You see, I’m beginning to understand something absolutely mind-blowing. God doesn’t always respond to my mistakes by telling me to sit in the corner and think about what I’ve done. He knows– he knows very well– that I want to be a meaningful part of the Story. He also knows that I’m weak and have issues. So, instead of dangling a “someday” in front of me and telling me to get my act together, the conversation runs something like this:

Erika: “God, I blew it again. I really messed up. I did it even though I knew it was wrong. I’m going to go put myself in the corner and think about what I’ve done.”

God: “No! No! Get back in the game! I have something I want you to do RIGHT NOW!”

Erika: “But I’m not your person. Didn’t you hear? I knew it was wrong and I did it anyway.” (looks up from the corner) “Oh! Look! Something needs to be done!”

(Goes and does it)

Erika: (comes back with a grin) “That was so cool!” (remembers earlier failure, head droops) “Wait, I messed up. Why did you use me? I need to sit in the corner and think about what I’ve done!”

God: (just grins)

Erika: “WAIT. Hey, that’s not fair. You didn’t play by the rules. You’re supposed to wait until I get my act together before you use me, right? Right?”

God: (just grins)

Erika: “Are you trying to tell me that the whole sit-in-the-corner thing was my idea?”

God: “Maybe. Hey, if I wait till you get your act together, you’re not going to get anything done. That’s too discouraging. So I’ve figured out something better. How about you get back in the action and actually DO some of the cool stuff in my power, and remember how much you like it.”

Erika: (grudgingly) “That DOES sound a whole lot more motivating.”

God: “How about I help you get your act together, instead of you doing it on your own, and we do it WHILE we’re doing the cool stuff?”

Erika: (sigh of relief) “Now THAT sounds like something that could actually happen.”

Of course this is all coming out of my imagination. I’m not even trying to say that God actually says these words to me. But it is actually how He’s been working. No dangling-carrots. No penalty boxes. Just… grace. Grace, which is frighteningly, gorgeously “other.”

And that’s more than enough to get me through some days.

An Open Letter to a Friend

Hello there…

Last weekend we both came face to face with something that we have both tried to ignore, tried to pretend wasn’t going to happen. We’ve philosophized about friendship, we’ve hung out as friends, we’ve talked openly and honestly as friends, I have celebrated our friendship repeatedly on my blog. And yet, we both knew, I think, that at some far-distant point, we would have to face the fact that you are a guy and I am a girl, and that our friendship had, despite our attempts to say otherwise, remained open to the possibility of another type of relationship. We couldn’t escape that door; we could super-glue it shut, but the creature imprisoned behind it was alive, and would need to be dealt with, whether through befriending it or putting it to death.

On Saturday, in the gentlest way possible, you told me “that we needed to put a period after the word ‘friends.'” That it wasn’t my fault, but just wasn’t going to become that other kind of relationship. And, oddly, as much as I care for you, I agreed with you. Deep in my soul, I knew you were right. Besides, I trust you.

It was right, but I am sad. I am sad because I cannot be certain that I will ever meet someone with the same qualities I so admire in you. I am also sad because, for very good reasons, we will not be getting together every week or so to watch a movie and talk about fictional characters and fuss about the people we love and our personal struggles. I will miss those things very much. Your friendship, over the past six months or so, has given me strength and support to deal with some very difficult events and issues, and I will miss getting all the texts and seeing you smile and feeling your hugs. I will miss you .

But I don’t want you to feel bad. In fact, that’s one reason I’m writing this. Because you should not feel guilty for being honest, not any more than I should for caring for you. I do not blame you; I do not blame me; the sadness is natural. It makes sense, anyway. People our age are looking for a life partner, and toward that end we make friendships, we have crushes, we fall in love, and then we evaluate the relationship and ask ourselves: is this the one? And, no matter how much we love that person, if that person is NOT the one, we’d better just admit it. Things like this just happen. They stink, but they are not wrong. They are, in fact, part of life.

Actually, I want to thank you. I have been in your place before, having to tell someone who liked me that it wasn’t going to work out. And he took it very badly. You know all about that story. I didn’t want to have to do that again. I would have felt so guilty if you had not spoken up, if you had left it up to me to call this relationship-thing what it was. Thank you beyond words for having the courage and forthrightness to bring it up. Thank you for “being the man” about it, if you will.

Also, thank you beyond words for doing it gently. I did not feel cheapened or devalued by the manner in which you did it. You, in fact, said that you didn’t want to keep me waiting, that you wanted to step aside so someone even better could come. You said that your reasons had nothing to do with my personal qualities, and, in fact, praised me. That’s not to say that I haven’t since struggled with self-worth, but it’s more “No one else will be okay with strange little me” than “He didn’t want strange little me.” Thank you for making me feel like a queen (if a lonely one), instead of something cheap. Thank you.

Because you were so very decent about all of it, you have given me a wonderful gift. Despite a sense of loss and the questions about what’s ahead now, there is no anger and hardly any hurt associated with my memories of our friendship. I have no guilt, no regrets, no hard feelings.

I will always be able to look back on our movie-and-dinner nights with a smile. When I watch Guardians of the Galaxy or I, Robot or all of Doctor Who season 8, I will smile remembering the fun of watching them first with you. When I eat quiche I will remember making it for you and then learning how much you disliked cheese. Or brownies! Heaven help me. I want to laugh just thinking of how you praised them so much out of politeness, so I kept making them even though you couldn’t stand them. When I put on my long coat, I will remember wearing it in the corn maze and wearing it to go see Dracula, and how you thought it was cool, not ridiculous. When I listen to that Anna Nalick album you showed me, I’ll remember our crazy Half Price Books day, when we ate a picnic on a narrow strip of grass beside a busy street in the middle of Lynnwood. When I am struggling to be strong, I will remember that you believed I was.

So much good. So much happiness. So many beautiful memories.

And thank you for being a good friend. For listening when I needed to talk. For being a guy with whom I could feel completely safe. For treating me, not like something “other,” but as an equal. Thank you for all the goodness you blessed me with.

We knew we’d have to figure out what it was someday. Thank you for bringing it up and for doing it in a way that left all the happiness and beauty untouched.

Things have changed. We can’t kid ourselves; it can’t be what it was, even if neither of us are quite sure what that even was. But I wanted you to know that, in the words of the Doctor, “you added to my pile of good things.” And those good things are precious and will never go away.

Again, from the bottom of my heart, I say, Thank you.