Tag Archives: Relationships

All Out

Last summer I bought bulk size bottles of shampoo and conditioner. During that same summer, I decided it was time to start researching grad schools. I remember skyping with Spoonbill and telling her, “I want to move to Europe for grad school one year from now. The timing is good because by then I will have probably used up these huge bottles of shampoo and conditioner I just bought.”

Spoonbill replied, “That’s as good a reason as any to do a Masters degree.”

And here we are, one year later. My flight is booked, my bags are packed, my apartment is empty and I’ll be moving in with two complete strangers on Sunday. And I’m all out of shampoo and conditioner.

I’m going to Wageningen University in the Netherlands. Aptly named, it is located in the town of Wageningen, about 1.5 hrs southeast of Amsterdam by train/bus. I say train/bus because there is no train station in this town. I read somewhere that there is a joke about Wageningen in which they were offered either a train station or a university, and they chose the university. I’m not sure if there’s supposed to be a punchline to this joke but I’ll let you know if I ever figure it out.

My emotions are all over the map now. This is exactly what I wanted and planned for, but I’m devastated to leave Edmonton. I’ve moved around a lot, but this city feels like my home. Not simply by virtue of having lived here the longest (4 + 2 + 6 + 1 = 13 years spread out over 26, aka half of my life). I didn’t really start to love Edmonton until I moved downtown, got involved with a fantastic volunteer group, started working for a small consultancy company that really supports their people, and met some people who have completely changed my life for the better. It’s been a big year. A great year.

I had a dream last night that a boy and I were walking down my street, completely surrounded by pink bubbles. And I was just really happy. The boy in the dream is David. Spoonbill introduced us back in November and we became friends. It took me a little while to realize and admit that I really liked him, and then we finally, finally kissed a few weeks ago, after months of non-dates that were the best and funnest dates I’ve ever been on. I haven’t blogged about him before because it does not feel right to publish anything about this guy without his knowledge. Even if it is anonymously with aliases. He’s just really wonderful. That’s all I’m going to say about David. Except that I’m going to miss him.

But the dream really symbolized what this last year has felt like. There’s been ups and downs like there always are in life, but at the end of the day it has felt exactly like I was walking through a city filled with pink bubbles, surrounded by loving friends. And even while I was floating through the bubbles, I was making a plan to leave it all behind. It’s hard not to feel like a fool for willfully giving up the best time of your life. Like getting a divorce when everything in your marriage is wonderful.

Actually that’s another great analogy to make about my feelings for Edmonton. Shortly after moving back here last summer, I broke up with a guy that just wasn’t right for me. I also haven’t blogged about him before because there was nothing to say except Good Riddance. A few months ago I was skyping with Spoonbill and I speculated that perhaps I developed such strong feelings for Edmonton because I was on the rebound and instead of falling for another guy, I fell for a city. Spoonbill shares the same love and passion for this city as me, so she was able to wisely advise me that Edmonton is no rebound relationship. She told me, “Edmonton is your marriage. The Netherlands will just be a fling.”

So goodbye for now Edmonton. I promise to come back. I know you’ll forgive me for stepping out on you for awhile because you’ve already accepted me once, despite all my flaws. And I think what we have now is real, unconditional love.

And I promise to recycle the shampoo bottles before I go.

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Banana Bread

Spoonbill and I recently had a conversation about when you should say “I love you” in a relationship. There are probably more opinions on this topic than there are definitions of the word itself. And for the record, dictionary.com lists 27 definitions of the word love. I won’t type them all here because that would be tedious and unnecessary. Instead I will provide you with my own rambling thoughts on the subject. (Which may also be tedious and unnecessary but I’m going to labour under the happy delusion that everything I write is fascinating and wonderful instead).

Love Defined by Ibis

1. to really really like something, experience delight and joy as a result of it and be ready for more of it at all times: I love banana bread
2. to feel a strong affection towards your friends and family: I love Spoonbill
3. to feel passionate about someone that you are committed to having a long-term relationship with, during which time their happiness will be as equally important to you as your own: I love Mr. Smart-and-Sexy (note: imaginary character…does not currently exist for me)

Let’s take the above as our working definition of love. Yes, I only defined love as a verb and left out definitions as a noun and the delightful collection of idioms and mysterious “verb phrases” that dictionary.com included. (“Love up” made the list and apparently means to hug and cuddle! I shall be using this on someone as soon as possible. Ex. It’s raining and I’m watching Pride and Prejudice for the millionth time. Please come over and love me up. Bring ice cream.) But I digress.

Spoonbill told me that when you say “I love you” in a relationship, you are talking about definition number three. And when you say it, it represents your relationship reaching a certain plateau. She doesn’t believe that you can un-love someone when you are talking about definition number three. (Spoonbill, please feel free to correct me here if any parts of my interpretation of our conversation need redefining in a “Love Defined by Spoonbill” post). Other people use timelines as their rule of thumb to determine when it should be said. Six months, eight months, one year. But the general idea on this side of the spectrum is: do NOT fuck around when you’re saying “I love you” to your significant other. Love is serious business.

I understand and respect this opinion. Love is serious business indeed. The overwhelming majority of the posts on this blog are written about the pursuit of love or the loss of love or the frustrations of love and so on. When it comes to definition number three, I also do not fuck around.

But when saying “I love you” to a significant other, I am notorious for dropping the L-bomb way early. Another person makes me feel a rush of happiness/pleasure/sheer unadulterated joy and I want, nay – need, to express it. And thus far, I have not found another way to adequately describe what I am feeling to the other person. I’ve tried: I really really really like you, you make me unbelievably happy, you are indescribably wonderful, I am having the greatest time with you, you’re the cookies to my clods, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. That just doesn’t cut it.

For example, I tried as hard as I could to suppress my urge to say “I love you” for as long as possible when I was dating Jack, because I understood that he was in the serious business camp when it came to I-love-yous and I wanted to respect that. But I didn’t last very long. We probably started dating in November, let’s say I wanted to say it by December and by February I had cracked and said it. He balked and didn’t reciprocate the sentiment until a week or so later. (On Valentine’s Day. Which I personally thought was kind of lame. A little spontaneity feels more genuine to me. And by then, I don’t think I was even concerned about him saying it back or not. I was just so relieved that I had finally said it to him.) In the time leading up to me saying it, I was an emotional wreck. After we had sex I would lie there with him wanting to say it so badly, knowing that I had to bite my tongue. This would make me feel so frustrated that I would start to tear up and then of course he would say something like, “Oh my god what’s wrong? What have I done to make you cry?” And I’d always say, “Nothing at all, I’m really happy and these tears are absolutely nothing to worry about.” And he would say, “Ok but it is really upsetting to see you on the verge of tears after every time we have sex.” And I would say, “Ok let’s stop talking about it and just have sex again.” Lather, rinse, repeat.

As an entertaining sidebar, I’d love to share with you some more tragic poetry written by yours truly during this emotionally fraught time in my life:

You ask why I’m crying

I’ve never been at a loss
to express what I feel.
I’m so overwhelmed
that it’s frightening. It’s real.

They form in my heart,
they die on my lips,
I trace the words on your skin
with my fingertips.

But that’s just not enough!
Still it’s far too soon.

If I say the words now
I fear that I’ll ruin
the potential we have
for soul mates to grow.

Deny me the rush.
It’s much better slow.

But I must have an outlet
or I fear I may die.
So there’s nothing to do
but lay here and cry.

I hope the recounting of my poetic undertakings is as entertaining for everyone else as it is for me. Or perhaps you are reading this and getting that uncomfortable squeamish feeling that you experience when you witness someone doing something unbelievably embarrassing and awkward and you quietly pray for lightning to strike them suddenly and put them out of their misery, thus ending your agony as witness. I’m ok with it if it’s the latter. After years of hiding journals of poetry from everyone I’ve decided that it’s better to share them. They are nowhere near the perfect and tender genius of say, Tanya Davis, but they were fuelled by all the honesty and passion I experienced at the time, and what more can I ask from a poem?

When my relationship with Jack ended, one of my takeaways was that treating the words “I love you” with reverence was not going to be my thing. It didn’t change the outcome of the relationship and it didn’t mean that I never stopped loving Jack (because I did, eventually). All it really did was make me miserable and deny me the sincere happiness to be had by honestly expressing myself in a moment of rapture. So now I just say “I love you” when I feel it.

The caveat is that when I say it, I do not mean definition number three. I might be so head over heels for the person that I *think* I mean definition number three, but I do not. How could I possibly mean definition number three when I have known the person for what is very likely only a short period of time? (To clarify, it is usually something like one or two months, not one or two days). What I really mean when I joyously declare “I love you” is “I love you like I love banana bread!”

I mean definition number one.

This might seem terribly careless and cruel and perhaps it is if the person on the receiving end of these words is in the serious business camp of love. But I have tried doing it the other way and all it accomplished was embarrassing tears post-coitus and some emotionally fraught poetry with a lazy rhyming scheme. To be fair, when my partners say to me “I love you” early on in a relationship, I assume they also mean they love me like they love banana bread.

And if I ever say it and I mean definition number three, I like to believe that both my love and I will understand what is really being said. No dictionary needed.


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