Last year, I fell in love with a girl in Denver, Colorado. It’s a long story. A good story. Perhaps, a bit tragic.
I’ll keep it short and sweet (for the sake of brevity and because I don’t feel like throwing up this morning’s cup of coffee).
We grew up in the same town in Southern Indiana.
She had always been a serious crush of mine. She eventually moved away. I moved away not too long after her.
A decade later we got reconnected ( on Instagram of all places) and I fell hard, from afar.
One morning, I wrote her and asked if I could fly out and take her to coffee.
She said yes (after apparently tossing her phone on her bed in disbelief).
A couple mornings later, I flew out to meet her at a splendid little coffee shop called the Black Eye.
(Look it up if you ever find yourself in Denver’s wondrous LoHi neighborhood.)
She pulled up nearly an hour late, looking so damn pretty I couldn’t believe it and the trip that was meant to be a day or so turned into a week and that week turned into a year with someone who I will forever consider to be one of the great loves of my life.
What we had was breathtaking, in so many ways, but there was one major hangup… 1,200 miles of grasses and mountains and rivers and roads separating Nashville, Tennessee and Denver, Colorado.
We spent the year going broke, pulling the trigger on every plane ticket we could get our hands on, pouncing on every opportunity to steal a moment or two in the same room.
But, ultimately, we couldn’t go the distance.
On the 4th of July of this year, she phoned me. I picked up. She said goodbye. I hung up. And, that was the end of it. Just like that. It had ended as quickly as it began.
It’s been four months since it all came crashing down (though the plane was burning for a couple months before that mother fucker of a heatseeker caught up to us) and I finally feel I have enough clarity to write about it without over-romanticizing what the two of us had and, ultimately, lost.
What I can say is that long-distance was one of the most tremendous teachers I’ve ever had.
When you take the tumultuousness that comes with love and place it in the pressure cooker that is long-distance, you learn a lot about yourself (both the pretty and the unpretty).
However, despite this education, I would never wish the banshee on anyone more than once. After one tour of duty, you get the joke. While certainly a thrilling riot, you eventually must pay-up for the ticket to attend this riot. The price you pay is the time in between seeing each other.
For us, the time in between was hell.
Simply keeping the relationship intact felt like treading water in an ocean filled with islands the two of us could rest on together for a weekend at a time.
These weekends were bliss but our existence earning these weekends was spent kicking and screaming apart from one another, walkie-talkies in hand, fighting like fucking hell to survive long enough to rendezvous on some island in the future.
Rinse and repeat.
Having done long-distance for a year, I’ve established the following theory…
It’s impossible to be happy (truly happy) in a long-distance relationship because you’re rarely if ever present with your person. And, as a result, you’re rarely if ever present with yourself.
To survive, the two of you constantly have to be thinking about tomorrow and the day after tomorrow and so on and so forth.
Now, let’s place a pin in the long-distance relationship talk, just for a moment. I promise this will all come together towards the end.
(Or, at least I hope)
If writers write enough, eventually they will become known for a particular line or turn of phrase. This, unsurprisingly, isn’t by choice of the writer but instead by the reader. One line I’ve written that readers seem to hang their hats on is…
“Humans have this propensity to believe that heaven is wherever they are not.”
When I first wrote it, I didn’t think it was profound (I still don’t think it’s profound). However, it has resonated with a handful of folks. So, it’s worth commenting on, I suppose.
It has some spiritual undertones. But, it also pokes fun at the fallacy of “I will be happy when…”
A cancerous fallacy that haunts me (and most everyone) constantly…
I will be happy when I write a best-selling book.
I will be happy when I make $500,000 a year.
I will be happy when I’m the reigning king of advertising.
I will be happy when I have a million in the bank.
I will be happy when I am a widely read poet.
The list goes on.
What’s ironic about the above list is that just simply writing a book was once enough for me… that once upon a time simply making a living writing, getting hired to write and having enough money in the bank account to be comfortable was enough.
But, as I met these dragons head-on and conquered them, slitting out their tongues and nailing their skulls to my wall, I created the next dragon, a bigger, badder more beautiful dragon ever harder to kill.
I’ve come to realize that when you make your “happiness” reliant on something that’s not here now, it becomes impossible to ever be happy. You have to find happiness in hunting life’s dragon(s) not postponing your happiness for the day that you may or may not behead the mother fucker.
In this way, happiness is time-sensitive. It can’t under any circumstance be experienced in the future because we can’t physically live in the future.
Am I making sense?
Jesus, I hope I am making sense.
Last week, I was having coffee on the balcony of a condo in Clearwater Beach, overlooking a stunning bay with calm waves and sailboats and pastel-colored stucco homes and birds and clouds slow-dancing in a soft blue sky.
It was a moment I had been looking forward to forever (when are we not forever looking forward to our next vacation?).
Yet, I couldn’t enjoy it because the sound of a chainsaw was blaring several stories below me.
Some guy, just doing his job, was chopping down the overgrown branches of several palm trees and it was so belligerently loud, I found it nearly impossible to experience any sort of peace or calm or happiness looking out at the bay.
I began to sit up and walk inside. But, then I stopped. I sat down. I listened to the chainsaw roar, I sipped my coffee and I tried my best to smile despite the ruckus.
I grinned and bared it because I had this realization that if I couldn’t find happiness looking at a bay with a chainsaw blaring as loud as an EDM concert in the background, it’d be mighty damn difficult for me to find happiness an hour in the future on the beach with nothing but the sound of the waves lapping against the sand.
This is happiness, at least for me.
Happiness is learning to be happy and present washing the dirty dishes, so you can be happy and present enjoying the meal served on the dishes you’ve washed, tomorrow.
And, so today, I write to you with mixed feelings of both happiness and sadness (I’m still trying desperately to figure out the former).
I’m a thousand miles suspended in the air — or at least I was at the time of writing this — on a flight home to Nashville, Tennessee.
My flight is a connection.
Any guesses where it’s going after it touches down in Nashville
Take a wild fucking guess?
Her birthday is coming up in a week and like a vegan jaguar, I’d be lying through my fucking teeth if I said there wasn’t a part of me that wishes I could get off the plane, buy another ticket in the airport, reboard the fucker and just sail with it to its final destination.
But, I can’t. I won’t.
Because what I’ve come to know is that in a world where humans have this propensity to believe that heaven is everywhere they are not, living a happy and fulfilling existence is not believing but knowing heaven is where you are now… whether that’s overlooking a bay with a chainsaw blaring, or feeling a chainsaw in your chest as you get off the plane before it’s reached its final destination.
What killed her and I was the same bullet that kills happiness for most… not having the ability to find presence and happiness in the moments in between seeing one another… while washing the dishes… while listening to the chainsaw blare.
This is where I’m working now, figuring out how to smile in the moments in-between.
Because in-between is all we have. It’s all we ever will.
But, I digress.
By Cole Schafer.
Sticky Notes is my email list reserved for entrepreneurs, creatives, marketers, writers and freelancers looking to sell like hell (without losing their soul).
Originally published at https://www.honeycopy.com on October 27, 2020.