Maddie was my childhood chum, best friends forever. From children to adults, we shared our funniest moments, our darkest secrets, the angst of aging mothers, and stories about men. Enter Jack.
Maddie and Jack met at the Philadelphia Airport waiting in a food line. They started a conversation, shared a table, and exchanged numbers. Maddie was returning to Canada; Jack was returning to Georgia. No problem. They wrote, rang up huge phone bills, e-mailed, and arranged flights, all in the name of love at first sight.
When Maddie and Jack made it to Delaware, I met Jack. I know a good thing when I see it. Maddie and Jack were a good thing; two good people suddenly great just for being together.
But long distance relationships are challenging. When being in love involves a passport and when opportunities to physically touch are far and few between, odd things begin to happen. Uncertainties begin to set in, cues are misread, doubts are raised. And when that happened, Maddie’s friends in Canada, who had not met Jack, saw red flags. I saw reasonable explanations and logic for the occasional bump and stumble.
Shortly after Jack had met Maddie, he had become ill and then had become a victim of the economy. He had lost a job, had moved to another state, and was now searching frantically for a whole new career as he wore down his life savings. He was good at what he did; he just needed to find the company who could appreciate his talents for the right price. The race was on, the pressure was on, and timing for a new relationship, especially a long distance one, was horrible.
Through it all Maddie supported his efforts, got on the plane herself, and stood emotionally by his side, even when he had to cancel again and...again. Because when they did get together, it was magic, and they knew this was meant to be.
And then it happened. Jack got the dream job. We were all thrilled and cheering, now knowing the relationship could move forward. Even the Canadians were waving victory flags. Maddie began cleaning out her house, anticipating a possible move back to the states.
Now, it takes a while to fit into a new job, a new suit, a new skin. Jack needed time. Even when the music is familiar, the dance steps aren’t always the same. The problem is this: neither Jack nor Maddie is young. Time is not on their side. And it had been three years since they met in that airport.
The phone calls, the letters, the flowers continued; dreams of having a future together began to look like a sure thing. But then two more visits were nixed as work, once again, took precedence.
It was then Maddie found her voice. She picked up a pen and wrote the letter.
The voice was even, true and strong. The voice expressed love, compassion, and understanding. The voice applauded and lauded, it caressed and soothed. Even when the voice expressed heartbreak and doubt, it remained poetic and calm. By page three the voice had almost said it all. And then ever so gently, the voice said this:
“You and your happiness are the world to me, but I am losing confidence in who we are. I know your time is not your own. But here I am. I deeply long for the privilege and honor of being your wife. When we see each other later this month, will you ask me to marry you, please. If so, my ring size is 5 & ½.”
Maddie sent me a copy of the letter, wanting to know what I thought. After gasping audibly, I declared this: it was the most amazing letter ever. Maddie had simply asked for what she wanted. She didn’t stumble or falter, she didn’t pout or whine. She asked. She wanted what all of us want; peace of mind and clarity.
Maddie had sifted through her emotional muddles, finally getting to that bottom line with understanding, love and grace. She had taken the initiative to understanding who they were going to be. If Jack asks, there will be a wedding; if he doesn’t, the relationship will shift. Either way, Maddie will know where she now stands. It took guts to get there.
There are all types of clutter. The emotional stuff can be more debilitating than the physical stuff that trips us as we try to walk a straight path. Many are beleaguered with angst and uncertainty, with drama and indecision. We tolerate and then stagnate in the status quo; we linger in limbo not sure if we should make waves but desperately seeking change. We become powerless and paralyzed. Unable to move in any direction, we embrace procrastination and inertia instead.
In this world of quick fixes, a letter is still a powerful thing. We can find our voices in a civil manner there. And we can elicit change merely by finally knowing what we want and daring to ask.