Mike's StoryLara and I met in 2008 when she was hired to work at IHI Environmental where I have worked since 2001. Our offices were next to each other and we soon struck up a working friendship. We love to debate and discuss all sorts of issues.
We are very different in some ways. I am not at all religious, and her faith is very important to her. But in other ways we are very much alike. We both are filled with delight in the wonders of the world and we seek after truth. We both try and sometimes fail to live deliberate and moral lives. Well, I sometimes fail. Lara does a pretty good job. Lara has often told me that despite our differences she thinks we are kindred spirits. I agree.
We knew each other for over two years before either of us entertained the idea of dating, and to be honest, without our working relationship we would never have gotten to know each other. Lara is very cautious and guarded and I am a bit of an introvert. As we worked together and talked with each other every work day we didn't know it but we were laying the foundation of a friendship that would someday grow into more.
I work late a few days a week to make up for leaving early on other days to pick up my son from school. Lara also works late often to finish her work. We found ourselves alone in the office often, and we would talk. Later we began to stay after work just to talk. I really cherished those times. She is smart and funny. She is full of happiness and questions. She has a keen mind and the kindest heart I have ever encountered in an adult. Eventually, though I wouln't admit it until later she became my best friend.
After a while things began to get strained between us. Our developing friendship was uncomfortable for me because my feelings were deeper than simple friendship. I believe Lara was feeling the same way. So one day we talked about it, since talking is what we do. As a result of that conversation I asked her if she would consider dating me. After making me wait, then talking it out at length, and setting several conditions she said she would.
It hasn't always been easy. Relationships never are. But she has been a consistant source of comfort, strength, and joy for me. A few weeks ago I asked her to marry me. Again she made me wait before she accepted, but when she said "yes" I know she meant it. I've asked several more times since just to make sure I heard it right. It's still yes. Right?
We had been planning to travel to Manila to visit her family, but then the situation at work got less stable and we decided that that big expense was too much of a risk right now. I really regret the chance to meet her Mom, Dad, and the rest of her family before the wedding. I know that when we can we will visit. I hope they can forgive me for not coming to Manila for a proper pamamanhikan. I promise that I will care for Lara and protect her. I will love her and I will work hard to make our life together a lasting love.
The first time I realized that Mike was really special was during an exchange that went something like this:
Lara: "Being poor is not the worst thing that can happen to a person."
Mike: "It's pretty much the worst thing if you can't take your kid to the hospital because you're poor."
Lara: "That's why the government has the responsibility to provide social services."
Mike: Yeah, if only America would do that, like all the other civilized countries in this world.
The exchange developed into a longer conversation that was the first of many long and truly satisfying conversations I've had with Mike over the last few years. As I reflect on it now, I realize that that first memorable exchange revealed two of the most important things that I love and admire about Mike. First is his love for his son. I'm convinced that for Mike, truly the worst thing that can happen is for him not to be able to take care of Ewan. The second thing that conversation revealed about Mike is his intense desire for this world to become a better and more just place.
I realized I was falling in love with Mike when I started to want to see him everyday. I guess I did see him pretty much everyday at work :-) I didn't on weekends, though. And that brings us to another sign that I was getting really attached to Mike. Whenever I was not with him, and I learned about something really interesting -- something I read or saw or something that someone said or did -- I would think to myself, "Oh, I have to tell Mike about this." We've known each other for almost four years now, and I still feel the same way. So this must be either real love or a very protracted infatuation :-)
Long stimulating conversations and wanting to see each other everyday are to be expected when two people are getting to know each other. I've known Mike for almost four years now, and I'm so grateful that I still enjoy talking with him, look forward to seeing him, and miss him when we're not together. The highlight of my week is the time that we spend together. I love hearing what Mike thinks about things. I have told people that Mike has opened new worlds for me -- in literature, music, science, philosophy, and spirituality.
Mike is very sweet and says really nice things about me. But I'm not as good as he describes me. And he has personally experienced the pain of my shortcomings. A long time ago, he described me as being very forgiving. I actually think he's more forgiving than I am. I'm grateful that he loves me and accepts me despite all my faults.
As Mike said in his telling of our story, he and I are very different. As I reflect on my relationship with Mike, a passage from one of my favorite books comes to mind. In Wuthering Heights, Catherine and Heathcliff are from very different worlds, and yet she says of him, "I love him . . . because he's more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same." As I'm writing this, I feel a little discouraged because I realize that Heathcliff and Catherine's story does not end well. However, I take heart when I realize almost at the same time that their story does not end well because Catherine was afraid to be with Heathcliff. And so I'm praying that by God's goodness, I will dare to be a true and brave companion for Mike.