The Continuing Saga…Part 2 of 3 from Joel’s Perspective

I am a lover of great stories. Ever since I was young, I loved faerie tales and adventure stories and anything that was large or grand…romantic and captivating. There was something in the grandeur of myth and legend that excited my heart. The first books I ever read on my own were books of legends and Greek myths. I remember reading of how Perseus received the help of Hermes so he could travel to the island of the Gorgons…to kill and steal the head of the Medusa. I devoured the Chronicles of Narnia more times than I can count. The first full length book I ever read was at the age of 11 or 12 when I tackled the Iliad. I always loved stories that seemed so much larger than my life. It was not an escapist thing…an attempt to feel as though I was in a different life. Rather, it was something inside of me that always understood that I was meant to be a part of a story…something dramatic and amazing. Of course, the dreams of my future wife and family were always at the forefront of my desire for adventure. So, I looked for my unfolding story everywhere I could.

I have always known that I was supposed to one day have a family, so I did what any normal person would do in that situation: I searched. I assumed from a young age that I would be married or engaged by the age of 22, and when that did not happen, I was obviously behind schedule and quite due for the events to change. From around that time onward, I kept my eyes open…very open. The potential relationships came and went with little success or flair, but there were those few occasions when I met someone new that truly seemed amazing. Shannon was definitely one of those girls, but sadly, a relationship was an impossibility. She was moving to Los Angeles to go to school, and I was working in St. Louis to build up my new t-shirt shop into a viable business. Normally, this would not have stopped me from pursuing her (or, at least pining over her and moping about it for months or more), but somehow, I did not do that. Looking back, I am convinced that God held me back from rushing ahead, which is a very normal thing for me to do. So, time when on, and I continued to search for my future wife.

No luck.

I tried recommendations from friends, I tried visiting other churches, I tried Eharmony several times, and I even tried *gulp* Craigslist. I had some interesting experiences and enough hilarious stories that some of my friends think I could use them to write a book on failed dating attempts. There were two very short relationships in the span of years, but neither of them really had the potential of becoming anything substantial. There were several girls that I was deeply interested in but they never returned the feelings. Basically, there were a few very rough years on the relationship front. Time was growing on, and I was beginning to lose some of my hope. I am a die-hard optimist, but even “die-hard’s” eventually can still die…it just takes a lot more wounds and damage to make it happen. Honestly, I began to lose some of my lifelong confidence that I truly did have this amazing story…this epic romance waiting for me one day. I had to accept as a reasonable person that perhaps I misunderstood why God gave me this heart…perhaps it was something that I was meant to use in other ways and be willing to sacrifice for His cause. I did not know…nothing made any sense anymore. I was in my late 20’s and without a reasonable relationship possibility on the horizon.

Ok, yes…I was picky about girls. Very picky. Not in terms of physical things or the normal things that most guys are picky about…I was looking for a very special type of connection with a woman that I knew I was born to have. My reasonable side tried to talk me out of having these extremely vague and emotionally based judgment criterion when there were many very “good” and proper girls in my life who would certainly say “yes” if I asked. But, my heart fought against it vehemently…it tried with every bit of strength it had to keep me holding on for what the specific heart for which it was waiting. After years, though…even my heart began to waver and consider accepting defeat.

But, oh what changes the new year can bring…

Ever since that trip to Orlando, Shannon was always lingering in the back of my mind. Our lives clearly had gone different directions, but I still thought about her from time to time. I would check in on her online and see what she had been up to, but that was the extent of our interaction. Although, whenever I came across her page or thought about her, it would always make me smile. She was definitely one of those few girls that I consistently held in very high regard…high enough to consider a relationship with her a truly great thing.

Late last year, Shannon created a page on Facebook, and this gave me a chance to keep up with her a little more. Ok, I admit…started sort of e-stalking her a bit. This probably began in December or so, but it kicked up come January. I would regularly find myself on her page for a few minutes…looking at her photos…thinking back to those few days years before that were so wonderful. In January, the whole “25 Random Things” survey was floating around, and I filled one out (which I pretty much never do….surveys or quizzes are things I generally avoid on principle). I had tagged Shannon in it, and one of my 25 things was that I was sick of people telling me that they could not understand “how a guy as together and amazing as you, Joel, could possibly still be single.” Shannon filled out the same survey a few days later, and when I read it, I was floored. I saw that she not only gave the same point as one of her 25 things, but she also referenced me as the one who initially said it. When I read that, my heart totally leaped. I remember thinking that how great it would be for two people in the same circumstance to end up together…two people that have the respect and love and prayers of so many individuals. Again, though…I did nothing about it. She was way out there and I was here, and there was certainly no way that a girl of her culture would ever be interested in moving to St. Louis when she is used to California. But, after that day, I did start making my presence a bit more known with her.

I would post random things on her page every once and a while…her responses always made me smile. A few days after Valentine’s, she posted on my wall and brought up the card I wrote to her all those years ago. She thanked me for it…and she thanked me for just being me. If my heart leaped before, it soared this time. After that point, I was constantly checking her page and reading her blog…sometimes commenting and sometimes not. But, I read it all, and I loved every bit of it. I saw more and more how amazing this woman was…what a treasure she was.

The months went on with little bits of very light flirting here and there, and then I saw that it was her birthday. I remember the moment when I was at my t-shirt shop early in the morning when the sudden urge came on me to call her and wish her a happy birthday. I had not spoken to her in years, but it seemed the right thing to do. I picked up my phone and pulled up her name and number. One thing that stands out to me now is that over the years of separation and zero speaking conversations, I never lost track of her phone number. When she would change it, I would update my phone with her new number.  In the years since Orlando, I had changed phones 4 times (change 1. old phone and new contract, 2. lost in Mexico, 3. broken phone, 4. new contract), and each time, I had to manually transfer phone numbers from one phone to the next one. I was not blessed to have phones that I could automatically transfer the names and numbers. Honestly, many numbers never made the transfer for various reasons. Maybe they were not people I often spoke to, or maybe they were no longer often in my life. Maybe I was just too lazy to transfer every thing, and numbers that had little use to me were tossed out. Shannon’s number was transferred…every time. I had not spoken to her in years, but I still wanted her number in my phone. I pulled up her number and called her. It was early and I left her a voicemail. Later in the day she returned my call and got my voicemail. She was very surprised and said it was very sweet of me. She was clearly happy to hear from me.

After this point, I knew I could fall for this girl in an instant, so instead of taking the typical Joel pattern of reckless pursuit, I decided to be patient and take my time. It was not in some devious plan to work my way in, but I just wanted to test the waters and see if there might be any interest there. So, I bumped up the e-flirting a little bit here and there. When she would comment about needing a job, I would respond that there was a job waiting here with me that she could have any time she wanted. She would respond playfully, but she would never yet give any truly open door. There was the chance that I was going to be traveling to L.A. for a work trip, and we excitedly discussed spending time together while I was there. It ended up that I did not get the trip, and we were both disappointed. I was very sad about it, but I could tell that she was too…more than I would have anticipated. This made me happy. We joked back and forth occasionally about various things. The frequency of texting increased. I was still waiting for that open door, though. One day she playfully made the comment that I should come and visit her. That was it…that was what I was waiting for. It was go time.

After that point, I was thinking about her regularly…always checking her page…reading and re-reading her blog. I would send random occasional text messages to her. We exchanged many texts the night of the opening for the new Harry Potter movie. I remember going to sleep so excited…thinking about her. I started talking about her to a few friends of mine. I told them about this girl in LA that I knew for years and in whom I had a growing interest again. Still, it seemed rather unlikely that anything would come of it (as all the other possibilities all lead to nothing), but I could not get her out of my mind.

I went up to Vancouver to photograph a wedding on the first weekend of August, and while I was there and staying with some great friends, they had a talk with me about my relationship situation. It was always a regular subject with the three of us…how my relationship life sucked and how it really should be better. They had some insight and admonition to give, and all they said was very good and true. I remember thinking, though, about Shannon…thinking about how amazing she was. I went home to St Louis, and the very next weekend I was in Boston shooting another wedding. More and more I was thinking of her…wondering what she was doing…imagining going to visit her. While at the wedding, there was this one girl that again brought Shannon to mind…she reminded me of her. Looking back at the photos, she really does not look like Shannon at all, but I was thinking about her so much that she was just always swirling around there. I sent her a text message after not having talked with her for a few weeks saying that I was at the wedding and a girl there made me think of her. I had not even spoken to the girl yet, and I was all ready falling more and more for her.

After communicating more and more over text, I admitted to her that I was curious if there would every be any chance for a relationship between her and myself. She said that she wondered the same thing. I told her that I wanted to call her. So, that night I did, and we did not talk for a super long time, but it was wonderful. I felt such a quick connection with her that I knew I had to keep pressing on. We starting talking every day. We knew we wanted to see each other; we discussed a weekend when it would work for both of us. She wanted to come to StL to see me, and we picked the weekend. One afternoon shortly thereafter, she sent me a message to make sure that I was good with the weekend we picked. I, of course, said I was great with it. She replied, “Good, because I all ready bought the ticket.”

Now, I am a very aggressive person, but I was surprised by her, shall I say, shockingly fast purchase. I was blown away, I should really say. But, I was thrilled…totally. She was preparing to leave for Jamaica, and it made sense for her to get the tickets before she left. After that point, she and I were totally on board to see where this thing was going. We started talking every night for several hours…that week I got no more than 5 hours of a sleep any night save one. When she left for Jamaica, we used that week to e-mail each other sets of very deep and serious questions. Each time I read her responses, it was so wonderful. It was not like every answer was exactly what I would have said (although some were), but it was more that I saw a broader picture of a woman of immense value and wisdom. I was quickly and seriously falling for this girl…how in the world was she still single? Any guy with half a brain would have chased her without any hesitation. But yet, she was. And then as I was saying these things about her to myself and to God, He reminded me of all the people that had said the same thing about me…that any girl who realized what I was willing to give to someone would fall over herself to get at me. Of course, at the time of hearing those things it does not mean much. It always seemed like some cheap and rather empty pep-talk. If I was really that great, they would all ready be here! But as I was thinking about it, I begin to see that God was possibly saving Shannon and myself for each other…putting two people of quality together to accomplish something rare and amazing. I am never usually one to classify myself in that regard, but it began to make sense.

It was a long week with her out of cell phone range, and we were both thrilled to be back in touch once she landed. All this time, I knew I was going to be patient with her. Most people often take longer than I do to be comfortable enough to trust whereas I tend to trust first and ask questions later. And, I could definitely feel the hesitation in her to be extremely open yet. I was totally fine with that…it made sense and it actually was probably the wiser thing to do. But, I just stayed in there and pressed in when and where I could. One Saturday we talked for a very long time. We probably spent nearly 5 hours on the phone over the full course of the day, and during our 3.5 hour conversation in the evening, we got pretty heavy into personal history, family history, and other such things, and we learned a mountain of vital information about each other. It was an amazing conversation, and I was so very happy that we had it. A few days later, I could see a slight shift in her attitude and tone. I knew she had made a turn in her feelings for me, and in fact, I sent her a text saying (more or less), “I am not sure if you realize this or not, Shannon, but you are totally starting to fall for me.” And she responded that she thought I was correct.

Everything with us just began to pick up more and more speed, and it was just unbelievable. We had made these basic plans of various trips back and forth before we made the decision if she would want to move her, but as the trip grew closer, we started to see more and more that we likely would not want to wait any longer that we had to. The few weeks before she came were a blur. I was opening my new business and moving my old business to a new location. I was trying to finish our huge building project so we could get the businesses in there on time, and I was trying to complete my biggest t-shirt order of the year. Oh yeah, I also had weddings every Saturday to photograph. So, it was a chaotic set of weeks. The last week I was here was mostly spent getting the house ready for her. During these weeks, Shannon was such an amazing support to me. She put no pressure on me, or extreme expectations, but she was always striving to support and encourage me. I remember the moment that I first wanted to tell her that I loved her, but I waited. That very same day, she sent me a text saying that she wished she could say those “three little words” to me. It sent me soaring.

I was falling completely in love with a girl that I had not seen in years, and she was falling in love with me. I just felt the weight of destiny on our meeting. It seemed foolish to assume that “this was it,” but my heart was telling me to just relax and go with it. The day before she arrived I was frantic. I had her flowers ordered…everything seemed to be in line. Why in the world was she coming for ONLY four days I asked her? “I was not even really sure at the time whether I liked you or not,” she said. We were both sure now. Friday night I took some medicine to ensure that I would actually get some sleep. I got in bed, prayed for her flight, and I went to sleep for the last time as a single man.

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~ by Shannon on October 21, 2009.

One Response to “The Continuing Saga…Part 2 of 3 from Joel’s Perspective”

  1. love it love it love it.

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