It's been an incredibly busy six weeks, and I've been sorely out of touch. Summer break for the boys was surprisingly busy, especially for Max who was gearing up to start high school. (High school! My baby is in high school!) I was working when I could, and I was constantly doing homework or in class—completing the 15-hour class load for the summer session. It exhausted me, but I managed to pull off a 3.8 GPA for the semester and both boys are still alive.
"How do you manage time to date?" he asked across a ginger beer.
"I just do it," I replied. "If it's important to me, I find the time."
That was an issue with so many of the Fragile Cats before. They would often say they were too busy to be regularly available, but they also had the expectation that I would be happy and welcoming when they wanted to drop a dead mouse on my doorstep. As most of the Castration Committee will attest, I thrive in chaos; I am generally at my best when I am forced to prioritize and organize and be efficient in my decisiveness. I could always find time to spend with Bounder or Katniss or Rex or any of them.
They wouldn't always find the time to spend with me.
As I realized over the year-and-a-half of dating after my separation, I was mostly drawn to avoidants—the asshole Fragile Cats who justified running hot and cold and often made me feel like it was my fault for wanting or expecting them to follow through on their word. Yes, if you tell me you're going to show up or call, I actually expect you do show up or call.
Somehow they were always surprised when I felt hurt or angry with them for not doing what they'd said they would.
Eventually I learned it wasn't me at all that had screwed up in these exchanges. La Bruja told me months ago that I would eventually find an amazing guy who wasn't like that, at which point I would cease to even see the avoidants who were trying to get my attention.
She was right. Kind of.
I still see them; I'm me—I can pick them out of a crowd in five seconds flat. But I don't pay attention to them. I don't feel drawn to help or empathize or soothe. Usually I smile and nod politely while mentally running through my to-do list for the upcoming days. Sometimes I just roll my eyes and walk away.
Given my own hectic life, it's surprising that I even bothered to try one more time. I was determined that July 2nd would be my last date for a very, very long time. I'd intended that to be the case if and when it turned out that he was another avoidant asshole. Never did I expect the guy to actually be Rango.
Because he mattered to me, I had to make the decision very quickly to incorporate Rango into my life. He was willing to accept me and my crazy, plus my two sons and the logistical issues that divorced parenting brings.
Somehow, because I matter to him, he finds the way and the time to make me and the boys a priority. When a recent family illness brought an unexpected road trip to Alabama, he didn't hesitate to offer to go with us. He hasn't shied away from meeting my family or friends.
More importantly, when I woke in the middle of the night crying a few weeks ago, he didn't shy away from me. The logistics of my life were taking a physical and emotional strain, and I woke at 4 a.m. to a barrage of hot, angry sobs. He was awake elsewhere in the house, trying not to wake me with his own sick and sleeplessness.
I laid there for a moment in the dark, paralyzed with fear and hurt. All the nights I woke alone like that came crushing back, and I couldn't breathe. Then I remembered that I had begged the Universe for someone who could help shoulder that weight for me. I had prayed for someone to be there in the middle of the night when I was crying.
I padded down the hall to where he was in the kitchen. He looked at me, saw the glint of streaming tears in the dim light, and dropped everything just to hold me and listen while I sobbed against his chest. Eventually he put me back to bed and stayed right there with me until I fell back asleep.
Impossibly, he was still there the next morning.
Rango doesn't shy away from my heart any more than I do. I warned potential suitors that I was a lot to handle, and they always said they were okay with that. He is the only one who has consistently and unabashedly embraced the intense chaos that swirls in and around me.
He loves me not in spite of but because of that intensity.
Queen Frostine commented the other day that I had not once called her crying or lamenting some stupid thing Rango had said or done—totally unlike any of my other relationships.
"He grounds you," she noted. "He keeps you centered."
I quickly pointed out that I do the same for him. Even though it's a tenuous balancing act some days, it's easy to be with him, to love him. We are open and honest in our communication. We are true to ourselves and to each other. He is the same way with me that I am with him... that I was with the others who couldn't manage to get their furry heads out of their own asses long enough to realize that it didn't have to be so damn hard all the time.
Interestingly, he doesn't make me feel like I want to puke. Yes, there is the excitement and the giddy and the uprush of love. There are no underlying warnings, no red flags flapping above choppy waters that bring the seasickness.
Invariably, I am me. Stephanie is prone to moodiness and difficulty. She attracts sea monsters, curiously dancing with both Scylla and Charybdis, struggling sometimes to stay afloat in a hopscotch board of eddies.
Hurricane Sassafras is always swirling, in danger of whirling me under my own upsurge. My biggest fear is that I accidentally pull Rango into that riptide.
But this one has his own undercurrents, his own battles and strengths that pull against mine. Somehow we manage to moor each other into the safety of our own harbor, like Puerto Rango is the capital of Glamazon Island. (In my head, it kind of looks like the lagoon on Gilligan's Island.)
It's natural and easy. We just fit in ways that we've never felt together with someone else. Even with all of the awareness of the past and cognizance of the present, it feels effortless to love each other in the ways we each need to be loved.
Rango and Sassafras live contentedly in the eye of the storm, looking up at brilliant skies in the midst of so much buffeting wind. And if it means a lifetime of my cracking coconuts for dinner and his building radios from the hollowed shells, so be it. At least there will be piña coladas and music.