Monday, February 6, 2017

Fly like a bumble bee

Ever since I officially entered a relationship with Elaine on Facebook, I've gotten many in person and online questions of how I got a girlfriend. So since I'm such a private person I thought I'd write the story down. She doesn't remember it going quite the same way I did but of course that means she's wrong...

I've spent a whole lot of time and effort into being single. That's not entirely correct of course because there were people I went out with, some people would call that going on dates, others would call that dating, I fervently denied to anyone including and above all to myself. A messy end to a 10 year marriage left me gun shy. If there are places where my humor coping mechanism got me to avoid questions... that was it. People asked me if I was afraid of commitment so I'd wise crack with a simple answer, "No I'm not afraid of commitment, I'm just committed to being single." I'm not sure that I can make an argument why those girls were bad fits for me or good fits, possibility just was closed off and probably like anyone I've ever been attracted to, they could easily do better.

But anyone who knows me knows I'm not afraid of commitment, I'm afraid of breaking commitment. My divorce decree states that I'm against my divorce but that I respect people's right to walk away... It's a question of whether I'm stubborn, a man of my word, or just trying to always show my endurance that I stick with my commitments but I'd rather the motive be debated without the result ever falling into that.

How I ended up on a relationship on Facebook is actually a pretty simple story... in an age where many, myself included share probably a little too much on social media (I mean if so many of my friends care about my traffic situation or outfit every single day, we all probably need a bigger focus). But recently for no grand reason at all, like today on no particularly special date, I made a video of pictures Elaine and I had shared for the over a year we'd spent sharing adventure. Like sending someone flowers because it's Tuesday or accidentally wearing matching t-shirts, it was a moment that danced between being organic and being conscious and being affectionate... I'm too manly to be that sappy in person. Because she's more intelligent/introverted and doesn't share so much on social media (the girl bought a new car recently for crying out loud and told a few friends and her parents compared to me who you know thinks a car has cool license plates and wants Facebook likes over it), she heckled me asked when I was going to put that video up on Facebook and I joked that I would do so right after she put is on a relationship on it. That was over chat and a few minutes later, she had put us up and since this was unfamiliar territory for either of us we were not quite ready for the reaction it got... (I did put the video up on Facebook by the way but because of copyright music purposes it got taken down 30 seconds after I put it up).

But I digress, the question wasn't how it ended up social media but rather how I ended up getting a girlfriend. So back in April of 2015 when she and I were both dating other people I asked her to be my vice president as I started running for President of the Austin Runner's Club. She didn't quite understand why I'd be asking her, a 23 year old hardware engineer who had no event background to be 2nd in command and the race director for a club that was older than both of us. She accepted and we set on the adventure of taking the club to rhyme with the past while accommodating for the future.  I would save her a spot at the Boston marathon bus and we'd sit pre-race and just chat. She'd hit her PR and made a joke about me in her race report which the coach would respond to that I was just trying to get myself on her radar. I was so hurt that he would disrespect me that way that it got me to make a couple of jokes out of it. She got a PR but I've still not received a thank you note that it was because she was bored enough on the bus to be able to sleep right before the race.

A couple of months later she would be turning 24 and invited a few of us to do a trail race to celebrate. It was a night trail race and with no spatial orientation, uneven footing, I was hesitant but I signed up just because if you celebrate your birthday by doing a race, how do you not say yes. It was my first trail race but I would sign up for the 10k with a few others while most were doing the 30k.  Somehow the universe was kind enough to where I would win my first trail race. A while later, she came in and it was the first time ever she won a race taking the women's 30k title. I gave her medal and her trophy at the finish line because I'm a big fan of handing out happiness.

It was a series of races but I was at that time only doing the first one. She went back out to the second and between the two both of us had actually stopped dating other people. But at the second one someone who barely knew her came up and asked where her boyfriend was and she said, 'we broke up' but wondered how they knew about it to begin with since they'd never met him or had a conversation. At the 3rd race, where I was absent, someone came up and asked her where her husband was and when she replied she wasn't married she got the response that they thought the guy who handed her the medal and trophy was her husband. She laughed it off and would share the story with me and we'd chuckle together.

Two curious things had kept happening during that time because of our working together. The first was that she would watch the way I interacted with people more, in speeches, in one-on-one. She correctly diagnosed that I was somehow irreverent and reverent, that I'd sit there and make fun of people in a way while being completely serious, that I had a bluntness I hoped was effective even if uncouth. She said that the way I got along in the world was like watching a bumble bee fly; it didn't make sense that something could stay afloat so counterintuitively (even while were friends she was already calling me out for being fat). We were moving to tweaking some things at the Austin Runner's Club with some strong support and some opposition, minor but vocal for messing with somethings that had stood for longer than either of was old (and I have 11 years on her). It was and is still primarily working though it's ruffled some feather but somehow the bumble bee's wings are still there and I'm still hoping to get some things to bloom.

But the second thing was that while we were getting work done was often after workouts, chatting at one or the other's cars because there are conversations that are better in person than workout over long emails (or blogs for that matter). People kept asking if we were dating and we kept saying no because we weren't. It certainly wasn't on my radar because even with silly Jr High relationships and up (I didn't start any earlier than that) I had never sought to turn a friendship into a relationship other than friendship. Those type of relationships I was hitting on the girl on day one. In my book, if you didn't notice that immediate 'chemistry,' well they have a word for people who don't have type of chemistry, it's called friendship. We'd blow them off and get back to work talk.

At the very last race of the trail series, I would return with Kiana for her first 10k, her (and mine) first night race, her first trail race, her first time camping. We would get it done and we sat up by the camp fire till late making s'mores and not too late into the night, Elaine would come in and also win that race, another night 30k. After getting to bed, I woke up and Elaine was sitting outside the tents unable to go to sleep and we started chatting. Because our friends were camped all around us, I suggested we move a little further away not to wake anyone up and we sat and chatted as the sun was rising over a lake. My friend Chris came over and sat with us for a while and he would say, 'this is why everyone thinks you're dating.' A few moments after he walked away she turns to me to said in what I read as sarcasm, 'we should just go on a date and tell everyone it didn't work out so they stop bugging us.' I responded with a sarcasm of my own of 'oh are you asking me out' and she made it clear it would only be one date.

We'd go to a Russian restaurant she picked out that she'd never been to but had heard of; I was impressed she would do an adventure to a brand new place. I'd pick where we went and it was an improv festival because at that time and in college she had done improv; she was impressed I had thought of finding something so specific she was into. (By the way in case you're wondering when we saw the reaction that being in a relationship was getting to we couldn't figure out what date to set it to and it was decided to that first show).

Just by virtue of busy-ness and single parenthood and travel, our second date would not be for almost 2 months near the end of October when the James Bond movie came out. In my social media oversharing approach, and because  this was the first time I was going to a Bond movie with a girl, I asked if this made her a bond girl on my Facebook status... and boy did I get lectured and reminded of what happens to most of the Bond girls. Somehow in Specter it works out that Bond's female companion Swann are still together at the end of the film. To this day, I still call her the Bond girl and I'm thankful for the different ways we've bonded... I own the song from Sam Smith there, Writing's on the Wall

I've been here before
But always hit the floor
I've spent a lifetime running
And I always get away
But with you I'm feeling something
That makes me want to stay

Perhaps there was something to be said for the song that headlined that movie.

I was heading to Brazil to head to Christmas that year to finally use my passport. I had invited a few friends and the Bond girl but somehow she was the only one available out of the ones who said they might be able to and if anyone thinks I wasn't like oh boy, all pressure with a girl you've only dated a short time to be taking her on both of your first international trip in a long long time... but it was a 'wonder'ful trip and seeing the statue of the Christ was nice too.

It would continue well. Despite all the races I've been fortunate enough to win, she was part of the weekend where I'd get my first breaking the tape moment at the Lucky Trail Marathon series. We'd win the half marathon relay together both wearing ARC shorts that might as well have said, do these make my butt look fast. People kept saying we looked good together but I think it was just the average of the two.

We kept working well together with ARC and each other and actually in all of those interactions there was never a backing each other up just because. There were times where we have disagreed and voted and both won and lost against what the other one was thinking. Some of those arguments ended with stating 'thank you for your opinion' when the tone really did have something else that ended in k and followed by you implied. Her retort to my humor was to say that the entire point of working with her was a 'long con.' The best wit I could reply was I'm a fan of being constructive, that's what con is short for there, right?

But despite races together, besides each other, where we were behind the scenes, I still had never to her, to me or to anyone called her my girlfriend. I'd made enough progress to where I'd at least acknowledge that I was dating her. What the distinction is between those is so clear that obviously I don't need to spell it out cause everyone knows (or I have no clue and can't possibly imagine being that creative). But last year when I got to be part of Coaches Vs Cancer at March Madness' Final Four, my teammates, some of the media as they interacted with her, Mike, a friend from Livestrong who was there, all without exception called me out on the fact that I wouldn't call her my girlfriend. I'm not a ceremonial guy which is why I've skipped the podium when placing and winning at races, I wanted to skip graduation even though he was the first in his family to get a degree. Because I'm not ceremonial or obviously official somehow since I was acknowledging or in my book getting a real girlfriend for the first time since high school, I actually sat her down and asked all cheesy like if she would be my girlfriend. She said yes and we celebrated with ice cream and donuts for dinner followed by wine then bourbon. That after all is what it means to be an adult. 

Pick any aspect of our relationship before or since then and it's by no means conventional. This was the first relationship that grew out of friendship from me that came from working together and me doing an event I was afraid of. There are aspects of it like her sharing a story once about her grandmother's dementia that made me think she had the capacity to understand some of my approach to cancer but there's been moments where she's been there with me at the Livestrong challenge, at the Brain Power5k, at the UT medical school cancer institute kick off where she's seen and shared how comfortably uncomfortable I am being an advocate. I've joked in complete serious that she's the first girl to make it past 2 MRI' but at the last one she said she should actually come to the next one and the results. There was something really spicy in whatever we were eating that day. There's been times where she's had emotional days for various where I've been sympathetic and ones where I've shown zero sympathy because I say that there's a reason tears and anger are built into the system like pain during running, it almost always just shows your threshold but there's times its an indicator to stop or slow down and other times it's exactly how you build strength and one should avoid the avoidance not the pain. The imbalance of the fact that I come with so much baggage is something I'm not quite sure why she embraces but I am actually reconciled by a moment long before most people thought we were dating where at a house warming party a friend's roommate thought we must be together because of the way her and Kiana played games together since 'there was no way she'd spend time with or get along so well with my kid if we weren't together.'

A few months ago, literally a few months ago if how slowly I move towards relationship isn't evident, a conversation began about moving in together. For people who are old fashioned and traditional like say, my church members, my family and oh... me, this really is a step that should be reserved for marriage. We had conversations with friends and family about it and decided to move forward and she's moving in of all days on April 1st. There's been method decisions like she and Kiana went for their first run together ever recently (Kiana said she talks about more fun stuff than me). They are both children of immigrants (by the way because I have 11 years on her, there's been some heckling from long standing friend, 'well at least she's closer to your age than Kiana's' or 'oh so you never want to have a girlfriend than you find a cute 25 year old IBM engineer and suddenly you're open to a serious relationship.'). For Chinese New Year, they cooked together. There is an arguable defense that this step should be reserved for marriage and that this is a life of sin and well, I'm not going to argue much but just restated what I said to a church friend I thank God for this here life of sin. 

I've started preparing for her moving in. I'm a pragmatic guy so that original just meant cleaning out the closet and garage, than it turned into building the closet to have more shelves and hanging space. The closet now has a barn door cause apparently my girlfriend is a hipster (she picked it out). That made me realize the hall closets needed some work which required new door knobs which should match others... This girl and I have been to 3 world wonders, to some great races but moving in we just realized that details matter even if almost no one is ever going to see them. I almost entitled this entry cleaning out my closet actually because of this but they weren't dirty, they just needed more room. I've done things like that in real life that were awkward but the right thing to do like tell Kiana, tell Kiana's mother and introduce Elaine and Kiana's mother officially. There is beauty in practically. The bumble bee's flight perhaps never quite makes sense but it's work amongst the flowers that makes life grow in a healthy direction.

You know I don't know what's next with us... never mind I do. We did both of our 1st race in 2017, I ran my first 8 mile run and she was out doing 16. We've won  3 relay races since then and we've both won other races and had other PR's since this all started. But somehow after the wine, cheese and chocolate celebration of us deciding to join places, it was the first joint race that night trail race, for both of us in a place and distance neither of us had ever run before.  

She's moving in on April 1st but it's not a fool's errand. Between now and then we are headed to California where I went to college where I'll help with Huck Cancer. We are headed to Beaumont where I won the marathon and we're both doing the half marathon, a cycling time trial and a weight event. Elaine, Kiana and I are doing our first trip together to my last World Wonder and Kiana's first one, the Great Wall of China. Without exception on each of those trips we're all going to places one of the parties have been too but sometimes isn't a good relationship taking on new things together and other time getting acquainted with each other's previous  life?

Just to not mess with karma to celebrate it I also took her to the same place we went on that first date, the Paramount Theater. But I also dreamed forward and we have medical appointments, social and races on each other's calendars as far down as October, well past the next MRI. I honestly don't quite know how this work, Aerodynamically, the bumble bee shouldn't be able to fly, but the bumble bee doesn't know it so it goes on flying anyway. So we will too... if you've gotten this far in reading about it you're probably much too nosy or like me a hopeful romantic... If that's the case and you want to watch the video that got all this moving on social media and this blog, check our our video here. So yeah I have a girlfriend and this bee has fallen under her spell but what do you know, it's up that I fell... 


  1. WOO!!! Lucky to find, and be found by, a person who makes you happy! Congratulations to you both and Kiana!!

  2. I wish you nothing but happiness. One of life's greatest beauty's is to share it with someone special. God bless.

  3. Aw <3 congrats! Happy for all three of you!!

  4. Sending you much love, Iram. I hope to meet Elaine soon! I will be permanently in Tampa as of June 1 if you three can visit. We're close to some really beautiful beaches and I'll cook for you. Please plan a trip to see us! ~Susan