We had fallen in love months before, but one of our first “real” dates happened during a six-day visit Jill made to St. Louis. Having a relationship with someone who lives hundreds of miles away redefines one’s concept of a “dating”. The average couple might settle for dinner and a movie. For Jill and me, though, sharing a bag of Cookies and Cream Chex Mix on an extra-long, your-girlfriend-missed-the-exit-twice car ride felt like a treat.
It had been a few (or many, many more) years since either of us had dated, and neither of us had ever been on a date with a woman. While she was here, though, it wasn’t necessary to fill the time going from place to place. Instead, we wanted to know what everyday life was like together: shopping for groceries, cooking dinner, sharing wine with friends, or maybe just reading on the couch. We both wondered if the day-to-day might feel awkward, forced.
But the “everyday” felt normal, and comfortable, and important, and it wasn’t about being with a woman for the first time. I felt all of those things because I was with Jill.
During her visit, I decided to take Jill on a real date to the St. Louis Art Museum, an ideal place for two nerds who love creative genius and tangible history. The museum’s featured exhibit that month was “Impressionist France”. Enjoying my favorite artists while hand-in-hand with the woman of my dreams? Perfect. Date.
The Impressionist exhibit was beautiful, and sharing it with Jill was, indeed, perfect. Near the end of our visit, we rounded the corner and there was one of Monet’s Water Lilies panels. To me, this piece represents all I love about Impressionist art. Stand close and you see tiny brushstrokes of colors. From several feet away, however, you’ll see a magnificent composition.
I stood back to take in Monet’s painting (getting all teary like a baby, of course), but Jill stood to the side. Then she said something even more breathtaking than the art in front of me: “I wish I had a picture of you looking at that painting.” Jill already knew how much I loved this piece and was more interested to see my expression, my wonderment, while looking at it than she was to see the painting.
In that moment, I understood what it meant to be enough.
My whole life I tried to be all the things to all the people–and still felt like nothing, an almost-but-not-quite. I’ve seen myself the way one might look a Monet painting up close: fragmented like the disjointed strokes on the canvas. But you can’t appreciate the piece when all you notice are the tiny imperfections or the places that just don’t seem to fit.
That day in the museum, though, I saw myself through Jill’s eyes–stepping back to see the beauty and stepping aside to appreciate the wonder.
These days, I don’t find myself asking, if I’m good enough, or pretty enough, or thin enough. And because she sees the way I love her, too, Jill doesn’t either. I’m just me. She’s just Jill. And that’s more than enough.