When Dana Met Marty, Revisited

This is my first ever re-post, faithful readers. Today is the 8th anniversary of the day that Marty and I met (and, coincidentally, started dating.) Since many of my readers are new(ish) to the blog and haven’t been around since the original post (Dec 2009), I thought I would share the story of how we met with you all once more. Enjoy!

Marty with what we fondly refer to as his "terrorist beard", and me with my "terrorist, in-sore-need-of-some-threading eyebrows"

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In November of 2003, I was decidedly single. Mr. Wrong, my on-again/off-again beau (if you could even call him that), had up and moved to Japan in August of that year, and we had only e-mailed each other halfheartedly a few times in those three months. I was waking up at quarter to five every morning (!!) and going to the gym for 2 hours as soon as it opened. I was also going to bed between 8 and 8:30 pm every night (out of necessity, to help facilitate my ungodly early morning routine), so yeah– I was definitely single. Fit… but single.

On December 6, 2003– a Saturday– I was spontaneously invited to a party by one of my friends from university, Colin. I sighed. Not only was I experiencing the heaviest period EVER that day, but my hermit tendencies were flaring up really badly and I didn’t feel like socializing with anybody or pretending to have a good time at some party (which of course, I wouldn’t be.) Besides, how would I be able to wake up for my morning workout if the party didn’t even start until after I would normally go to sleep? I didn’t tell Colin any of these things, but I mumbled that I couldn’t go.

He pressed on and urged me to come. He was hosting a ‘listening party’ for one of his sets on CBC Radio [note: this is Canada’s national public broadcasting station, for my non-Canuck readers]. It would only be aired once and it was a big deal for him to have been selected as the emcee/DJ for this particular radio series. Plus, there would be 50 people there, so I could blend into the walls– cramping and kvetching all I wanted– without anybody noticing if I felt like it. All in all, he would be hurt if I didn’t at least make an appearance.

Ah, the Guilt Trip… such an effective weapon to wield against somebody like me!ย  Reluctantly, I agreed to attend the listening party. But I resented Colin every second before the party started for pressuring me into going. I was a full blown social recluse at that particular point in time, and I hated him for making me be interactive and festive.

Marty, in the meantime, was racing back to Calgary from Victoria. He had received an odd phone call from Colin that there was going to be a party thrown to celebrate some radio show. The only problem was– Colin had planned to throw this fabulous party at Marty’s house and had already put Marty’s address on all the invites. Fifty people were going to show up, so long as Marty would be there with the key to let everybody inside! Frustrated at Colin’s blatant disregard for his own plans and schedule (Marty had been housesitting Robertina in Victoria for the past 5 weeks), Marty left Robertine with the next door neighbours and made the 16 hour trek back to Calgary. He figured he would host this stupid party for Colin, pack his bags, and move to Victoria permanently the very next morning. He was ready to leave Calgary for good. Harumph! (Robertina, by the way, proceeded to dig up the next door neighbours’ entire backyard in Marty’s absence. She was so. very. upset. with him, and hell hath no fury like a puppy’s love scorned!)

On Saturday night, Colin picked me up at 7 o’clock to take me to his listening party. I felt bloated and cranky. And resentful. Marty’s house happened to be only 5 minutes away from my own house by foot, so we arrived there in no time by car. (We drove why..?) Marty, freshly back from Victoria, ushered us inside and let us know we were the first people to arrive. He was a very welcoming and gracious host, despite having gone 16 hours out of his way to be there. Excited, Colin unloaded hundreds of dollars worth of food out of the car and onto the kitchen table in preparation for the big night!

Half an hour passed, and we were still the only people at the party. We ate pizza and waited for the other guests to arrive…

An hour passed and we were still the only people at the party. By then, it was painfully evident that nobody else was coming, and that we had a mountain of food to chisel through by ourselves. I felt bad for Colin, stood up by most of his so-called friends in his hour of glory, but even worse for Marty, who had come all this way to hang out with two solitary people and listen to the radio.

We passed the time before the actual radio show by flipping through some of Marty’s photo albums. I noticed with a flicker of appreciation how great Marty’s legs were in the shots (Deep Thoughts by Dana L.), but at that point, I was still bloated and kind of cranky. I was mostly ready to listen to this radio show and then head home to bed.

The show finally came on and ended an hour afterwards, at midnight. Incredibly, I was still awake. The show itself was a really amazing collection of songs by Calgarian musicians, and for the first time that evening, I didn’t feel so resentful or upset that I was dragged the whole 10 blocks away from home to come to the party. I actually enjoyed the radio show! Then Colin, being the zany and offbeat character he is, suggested that instead of retiring to our own humble abodes for the night, we all sleep over at Marty’s house.

The universe must have been working its wacky magic at that point, because ordinarily– being both a Catholic girl and a certified hermit– I would never have agreed to this ridiculous idea. (And oh yeah, did I mention I was having the heaviest period EVER??) I would never, ever— in my right mind and better judgment– have agreed to sleep at a strange man’s home under these circumstances. But like I alluded to earlier, I was simply a pawn that night and the universe made me do it. So there.

Under the spell of the universe, I found myself agreeing to sleep over at Marty’s house and then changing into Marty’s pyjama pants (!!!) so I wouldn’t have to sleep in jeans. I said a quick prayer to the universe that I wouldn’t bleed through Marty’s (light blue) pants overnight and silently wondered to myself what the hell I was doing. Seriously, the whole night was so out of character for both Marty and I… there is no way we were acting on our own accord.

(I should also mention that at this point, I didn’t have a crush on Marty or anything, and I’m pretty sure he felt the same way about me– I was just randomly changing into his clothes and climbing into his bed. For real. Chalk everything up to Colin and his zany schemes… and of course to the mysterious workings of the universe.)

Even though there were three whole bedrooms in Marty’s house, somehow all three of us: me, Marty, and Colin– ended up piling into Marty’s bed for the evening. I was feeling wildly uncomfortable in between the two men (with my period, I might add. Again), and I was certainly beginning to wish that I had just walked home for the night when I had the chance. After some silly photos captured our night for posterity (Colin’s idea– I was freaking out), I closed my eyes and tried to drift off into an awkward, G-rated slumber.

A few moments later– I don’t know how much time had actually elapsed– I felt compelled to look at Marty. The side table lights were still on and I was as nervous as hell, but I slowly opened my eyes…

And that’s when I fell in love.

Marty was looking back at me– also nervous, awkward, and probably acting against his better judgment– but his stare was so deep and warm, it was all it took for me to fall in love with him. Funny, I had looked at him all night without really seeing him. At that moment, though, my eyes were truly opened and I finally recognized him as an offering to me from the universe. He was everything I had been searching for.

It sounds cheesy and clichรฉ, but time literally stood still at that moment. (And puppies barked and unicorns galloped beneath rainbows!) It was like in the movies when all of the background noise gets muffled and the only thing that matters is what’s right in front of the main character… and Marty was all that mattered to me just then.

(Colin, btw, decided to go home after all and left Marty and I to fall in deep sweet love together. His spider senses must have suddenly alerted him to his impending Third Wheel Status Of Doom, so he bolted out of the bed and left in a real hurry.) Marty and I, finding ourselves alone ร  la that infamous Tiffany song, stayed up all night talking to each other (for real– not used as a euphemism here) and discovered with amazement and excitement what a perfect match we were together. I remember how happy my heart felt that night and how overjoyed I was to have met such a wonderful person under such awkward and unlikely circumstances! I WAS IN LOVE!!! AGAINST ALL ODDS!!! I was brimming with jubilation and thankfulness!

The night gradually gave way to morning, and Marty and I still hadn’t slept a wink. [Insert cheesy sitcom moment here.] Of course, Marty had already arranged for some of his other friends to stop by the very next morning so he could make them pancakes to celebrate one of their birthdays. (This was when he still thought he would be booting it back to Victoria ASAP and before he knew he would be meeting the very woman of his dreams the night before: the pancakes would provide good road trip fuel en route back to Victoria.) The friends arrived promptly at some ungodly hour on Sunday, December 7th, and they were greeted by a sleepless Marty and some strange– also sleepless– woman wearing Marty’s pyjama pants: me. Ahem… The looks on their faces said it all: who the hell are you and why the hell are you wearing Marty’s pants??!

Good question.

Best photo of me ever. Ahem. No wonder Marty fell in love... (?)

We all ate wholesome buckwheat pancakes with fresh raspberry sauce that morning. It was an awkward encounter, for sure. (Them: “Gee, I don’t recall Marty ever mentioning you before..”, Me: “Um, we actually just met last night.” [painful silence]).ย  However, when I left Marty’s house afterward, I did so knowing that I had found my soulmate and that we were in love with each other. That was Sunday morning, and by Monday evening, Marty and I had moved in together. (Taking it slow, like the slow learner I am.) On Wednesday of that same week, we said the ‘L’ word out loud to each other (and meant it!) And a year and a half later, we were married.

This was on the first Monday. Yes, I am wearing Marty's sweater AND pj pants and am busily knitting an acrylic scarf. I think I had bed head for a whole month after meeting Marty.

For the record: our friends who shared those awkward breakfast pancakes with us ended up being our Best Man and Maid of Honour at our awesome impromptu island wedding ceremony. And we lived happily ever after! (cue puppies and roll credits)

Our first awesome 'couples' shot, a la junior high grad. Ah, young love!

Half A World Away

Believe it or not, today marks the 5-year anniversary of my escape from the Ivory Tower. (Well, I didn’t so much “escape” from university as I “successfully defended my Master’s thesis”, but the fight-or-flight hormones were pumping all the same that day!) I am so far removed from the person I was in grad school that it’s hard to remember even being there. Ever. Some of my friends like to tease me and say, ‘Hey! If you weren’t such a quitter, you could have finished your Ph.D. by now’, but I can’t imagine having spent the past five years still in school. Talk about torture! ๐Ÿ™‚

Hmmm... five more years in university or a World Cup soccer game viewing in Old Town Square, Prague? Decisions, decisions!

Going to university after I graduated from high school never seemed like an option for me, and by that, I mean I always just assumed that I would go to university. (In retrospect, I’m glad I felt this way, but my parents would have loved me all the same if I announced I was going to take up semi-professional karate after Grade 12. Their love for me is the very definition of ‘unconditional’.) But yes: There was no choice involved in me heading off to post-secondary school– it just was. It was almost as though I believed that getting an undergraduate degree was as mandatory as attending K-12. So I got a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies and then applied for a Master’s Degree in the same field, because WHAT’S ANOTHER $15,000 and 2 YEARS DURING THE PRIME OF MY LIFE when you’re already in that game? ๐Ÿ™‚

Me (via dramatic re-enactment in Prague): Gee, I might as well keep hanging out here...

Well. My lifelong love of school and my mad academic skillz were put to the extreme test about 2 days into my MA studies. Listening to one of my peers babble on and on excitedly about some “critical issue” or another in my COMS of Biotechnology class, I realized with a mixture of surprise and boredom: Maybe I don’t love Communication Studies as much as I thought I did, and Perhaps I’d rather die a slow and grueling death than be a university professor in the future. This was not a fun (or timely) discovery to make, seeing as I had just started the graduate program, so I resolved to “give it some more time” and, failing all else, to force myself to graduate. Unfortunately, time did nothing to soften up my bad attitude, so I ended up undertaking, writing, and defending a 100+ page thesis, hating everything the entire time. I was a smart girl, and I was not a quitter. I would earn those “M.A.” initials behind my name if it killed me!

And it nearly did.

My personal Coat of Arms during my Master's Program. (Actually, this is inside one of the chapels in Kutna Hora, Czech Republic.)

During the 17 months it took me to complete my coursework and write/defend a 105-page thesis on women’s experiences with various methods of contraception*, I transformed from a positive, life-loving young woman into a anxiety-ridden, majorly stressed-out basket case. I carried a gigantic burden of PAIN and SUFFERING with me the whole time, and every. little. thing brought me to ugly tears. I remember my dad phoning to wish me a happy birthday after my first year of grad studies and not knowing how to react when I responded to his cheeriness with high-decibel wails and frustrated sobs (probably about discursive theory or something equally rage-tastic).

I couldn’t help myself.

Me vs. Me

I developed a considerable case of first-time depression during my MA program, and I worried constantly about alienating my remaining friends and even worse: losing my still-new marriage to Marty. (Poor man had a rough go when his blushing bride morphed, almost overnight, into a screeching banshee!) I became hyper-vigilant and continually monitored my behaviours and thoughts, which only made me become more robotic and Not At All Fun To Be Around. I should have more fun. Why am I not having fun? I’m no fun to be around. Why would anybody want to be with somebody so un-fun? I will lose all the friendships I’ve ever had because I’m not fun. BEING NO FUN IS NO FUN AT ALL!!

I can’t pinpoint exactly what it was about Grad School that caused me to become such a horrible shadow of my former self. Was it the workload? Was it the forced classroom dialogues over issues I could care less about? (Foucault again? Really?) Was it the extremely rocky relationship I developed with my former supervisor? The subsequent fallout I had with my former supervisor? The fallout that effectively burned a gigantic bridge between us and precluded me from ever using her as a reference again, forever and ever amen?

In any case, once I became so stressed out and apoplectic about everything, I had a very difficult time recovering. Marty would try to take me hiking on the weekends so I could have a few hours of *not* thinking about my thesis. Of course, the entire time, my panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains would be obstructed with thoughts like “I should be working on my thesis. All of my classmates are probably working on their projects right now. I feel guilty for not working on my thesis.” I’m not even exaggerating the extent of my awfulness. Somebody else from the Legitimate Science Department could have undertaken a quantitative study on “The Degree of Dana’s Horribleness During Her M.A. Program”, and the objective, hard data results would have come back: 98th Percentile of Terrible.

After months and months of withering away into a toxic, shriveled-up crisp of a person, the day finally came for me to defend my thesis. I was the first in my cohort to bring my thesis up for defense, and boy oh boy, was I a wreck! (Aside: I was not the first in my cohort to use academic-sounding words like “cohort”. Not a chance! I just threw that in there to sound smart.) Anyway. I had developed a severe stutter the night before my defense, and as I tried to rehearse my opening speech beforehand, I had poor Marty’s ears panicking (and probably bleeding). C-c-c-critical f-f-f-em-in-in-ist dis-dis-dis-course. I kept telling myself: Three hours and then it’s over. Three hours and then I can have my life back. Three hours of PAIN and SUFFERING and then everything can go back to normal… if I pass. (For the record: failing my thesis would have been soul-crushing. It’s rare for students to fail a defense, unless they plow ahead with the exam against their supervisor’s better judgment. Me? I had tickets booked to Europe for June, so I needed everything done and behind me before I left. PASS OR DIE!!!)

For the record: a nice, long trip to Europe cures any/all school-related blues.

I had allowed my exam to be “open”, meaning that anybody could come and watch. Yes, anybody! (The alternative was keeping it “closed” but risking tougher questions from the panel, who wouldn’t have an audience to hold them accountable for their meanness.) I ended up with an audience of about 5 people– Marty included– plus my panel, which consisted of my supervisor, the Department Head of Qualitative Psychology, and the Department Head of Women’s Studies. Tough. As. Nails.

I managed to get through my opening speech without stuttering, which was a miracle in itself. Then all I remember is saying “discourse” and “discursive” about 8 billion times over the course of a few hours. It was a blur of discursiveness. Marty watched on politely the entire time, trying not to let his eyes glaze over with the residue of Academese. What a champ! The tough questions came to a close. My panel conferred in private. It was announced that I had passed. Just a few revisions needed to be completed on my thesis, but then my program would be over and I could officially have my life back.

WHEEEE!!! Let's go and BE GYPSIES for a few months!

It took me a long time to fully recover from grad school. The program had pulverized my soul and heart with dramatic, overzealous kicks and stomps, so the transition from She-Beast back to Ordinary Woman did not happen overnight. I still have a difficult time staying out of my head, so to speak. It’s natural for me to analyze and over-analyze everything, and as much as I detest debating for the sake of debating, occasionally I find myself making a gigantic deal over nothing, just because I can. (I’m always so ashamed to catch myself doing this!)

If you can believe it, I seriously considered pursuing a Ph.D. in Sociology soon after I finished my Master’s Degree. (Yeah, a Doctorate in Delusional, maybe…) It wasn’t because I wanted to do it, but because I felt I should. My supervisor, channeling a Greek chorus, told me that I belonged in the university and that I could never escape my destiny, and for a while I believed her. But then my paltry iota of Street Smarts finally (FINALLY!) kicked in. I didn’t want to be in school for another 5+ years, and then possibly for the rest of my life!!! I wanted to travel, to work at a ‘real job’, and to just plain old live for a little while. Screw the Ph.D.! I would dig a hole out of my so-called destiny and chart a new path!

My starring role in "The Shawshank Redemption". Just like Tim Robbins, but with a darker tan. And only one leg in this shot (??)

Looking back, I feel okay that I pursued my Master’s Degree. It still doesn’t feel like the *best* thing I could have done with those two years of my life– and I definitely wasn’t rendered any more intelligent or competent by real world standards because of it– but then again, what would have been the best thing to do during that time? Take up semi-professional karate? ๐Ÿ˜‰ I take comfort now in believing that I am taken care of by the Universe, even if I don’t understand the bigger picture at any given point (or at all– let’s be honest here).ย  Part of me also secretly believes that an opportunity will present itself one day and will demand a Master’s Degree (in COMS, no less) as a pre-requisite. Then, won’t somebody be glad she went through hell and back to earn those silly initials behind her name…

Anyway. This was a really, really long way of saying Happy Five Years Of Being Out of Grad School to me! I’m happy to be sharing the more cheerful version of myself with all of you, but I’m certainly not above signing this particular post off with the initials that rendered me decidedly less cheerful than I am now:

Dana, B.A., M.A ๐Ÿ™‚

Inadvertently looking smug. I am the Master of Smugness.

*Don’t ask me how this topic relates, in any way, to Communication Studies. My logic: People spoke to me about their experiences, and Speaking = Communicating, therefore I win COMS thesis writing!

One Year

Dear Robertina,

It’s difficult to believe that a year has passed already. Even though I can still feel your gentle presence– *constantly* in my heart as I go about my busy days– it has been one year since I’ve nuzzled my face into your soft fur;

one year since I’ve lounged beside you on the floor in a sunbeam, stroking your ears and listening to you breathe;

one year since we’ve gone exploring some boulder-strewn trail together;

one year since you’ve dragged our asses down some grassy hillside, bounding ahead of us and then looking back up to make sure that we were still hot on your tail;

one year since you’ve greeted us excitedly at your door, smiling and fetching us your stuffed bear or squirrel to play with;

one year since you’ve pulled all the stuffing out of one toy or another;

one year since we’ve seen your snout on the windowsill, watching us drive away until our next visit;

one year since you’ve woken me up with the soft jingle of your collar;

one year since you’ve tried to get away with sleeping on the couch;

one year since we’ve fed you your favourite vegetables with dinner– yams and broccoli;

one year since you’ve propped your exhausted head up in our van after a hike– so tired but never wanting to close your eyes in our company if you could help it;

one year since we’ve offered you a peanut butter-flavoured dog biscuit, even though we still find them in our jacket pockets to this day;

one year since we’ve played together on the beach– with you running back and forth, back and forth, back and forth between Marty and I;

one year since you’ve chased squirrels and chipmunks in Uplands Park;

one year since you’ve kept Marty company on the sunny deck while he worked on drawings or paintings;

one year since we’ve caught you eavesdropping on our conversations about you– you would just avert your guilty eyes and pretend to be concentrating on something else;

one year since we’ve been together as a big, extended family: you, your ‘real’ owner, me, and Marty (your eternal man crush).

I miss you dearly, Robertina. Losing you last year brought a sharp sting into my heart, but it was an incredible honour to be allowed in your presence when you crossed over to the other side. I am still eternally grateful for that. Saying goodbye to you was an amazingly, unfathomably difficult thing to do. I didn’t even think I would be able to do it, because you– more so than anybody, in a different way than everybody– were a great friend to me. Never before had I lost somebody so close and special to me.

Marty and I cried together for what felt like hours… weeks… months after your death without stopping. We couldn’t imagine our lives without your unconditional friendship and companionship. We didn’t want to move on without you, and we actively resisted the cliched efforts of time to “heal our wounds”. (Time can be such a jerk!) Naturally, we hadn’t wanted you to suffer with your cancers and arthritis at all, yet we still wept greedily and wished that we would have had more time with you. Life seemed unfair without you in it.

The first few hikes without you after your death brought back pangs of sadness. Gradually, though, those painful shards were tempered with the gentle waves of happy memories with you. We’d remember the time you dragged me through the mud and brought me crashing into a tree while you were chasing a squirrel at high speed, and we couldn’t help but smile at your silliness. We’d recall you rolling in seal crap or something equally foul on the beaches, trying to disguise your dog scent, and soon we’d be sharing animated stories about you together.

Such dirty paws. Such undeniable pride!

It has been a while since I have openly cried at the thought or mention of you. That said, this First Anniversary brings me right back into the realm of missing you, missing your friendship, missing your personality, and missing your love. Yes, I am misty-eyed right now (if by ‘misty-eyed’ we mean that I am weeping uncontrollably like a schoolgirl.) I just miss you, dear pup, but I cherish the time we did have together deeply. Words feel awkward and stilted in my mouth and heart right now, so I’ll end this letter with a simple thank you: Thank you for your love and friendship, Robertina. I love you and I miss you.

xoxo, Dana