Like any great pursuit this relationship was impelled by joy

He always makes a point of mentioning it.

In fact, no “how-did-you-two-meet” invitation to tell our story is ever complete without my boyfriend Zane eagerly volunteering his perspective that I  hit on him.

He does it all in good humor, of course — and with great relish, as he knows I will immediately object and counter with my assertion that while I may have said the words that indicated some interest beyond a casual hello, he actually made the first move to open that door.

Last weekend, as we shared our respective versions of the story with his sister and her boyfriend — where I again insisted that my suggestion to meet for coffee some time was not a pickup line and he cheerfully ribbed me about my reluctance to admit to such an atypical reaction — he did, however, note one point upon which we both agree.

When he first saw me, as he shared not long after we began dating, I appeared to be lit up with happiness. It was that joy — and my smile — that first attracted him to me. And I have to admit that it was my own glimpse of his inherently joyful nature the night we met that in large part propelled me down a path that stripped me, with surprising ease, of the reserve with which I’d always imagined myself tiptoeing back into the world of dating.

Zane and I met in 2007 at a dance night held at a local yoga studio. It was hosted by the interfaith community to which we both belong, though until that night, we had, amazingly, remained unaware of each other’s presence despite having likely attended some of the same events. That night turned out to be Zane’s first at the monthly dances I had been attending for some time. I had come with two girlfriends. He arrived by himself, one of only two men in a group that tended to comprise predominantly women.

Throughout the two-plus hours that we danced to music from around the world, we never said a word to each other, save for an unexpected compliment — “What a beautiful smile!” — that he shot from across the room at one point, which I acknowledged by smiling even more widely though there was nothing in that moment to intimate we would be exchanging phone numbers at the end of the night.

As others clumped themselves into small groups of dancing buddies and occasionally partnered up, Zane and I managed to somehow stay clear of each other. But I did pay him enough attention to be impressed by his dancing and how comfortable he seemed in his own skin, and it was my own praise later on, commending just those observations, that launched my purported pass at him.

I was retrieving my shoes from the cubby hole where I’d stashed them when I felt a hand just above my hip and heard a male voice saying, “Excuse me.” I turned to find Zane behind me — i.e., making that first move — also reaching for his shoes. It was after we’d stepped into our respective pairs and were moving toward the door that I shared how I’d admired his dancing, a compliment he returned. The exchange went no further, but as I was leaving the studio with my girlfriends, Zane and I both stopped at the same time to thank the woman who’d hosted the dance, and after she disappeared to collect her things, we were left alone in the hallway. He then asked me my name and you could say that things proceeded as they normally would from there.

But the fact that I was the one to suggest getting together over coffee after some lighthearted banter was in no way normal, at least not for me, considering, at that point, I’d been deliberately single for almost three years and had always, in the past, left the asking out to the guy. In my mind, however, this would not be a date. Zane happened to live close to a friend for whom I would soon be dog-sitting, and not knowing anyone else in that neighborhood, coffee seemed like a fun and harmless excursion. It wasn’t anything we committed to that night, just a possibility lingering between two people at ease in each other’s exuberance.

And it was this, I believe, that shaped our beginning more than anything else — the joy that bubbled up between us, like an overflow from the rich expanse of our individual lives winding now along a new path, beckoning with the hint of even greater happiness to come. The invitation to explore that path proved irresistible. And so I found myself willingly, and quite giddily, tumbling into the arms of so much elated promise.

But there was a great distinction between this abandoned leap and the relationships I’d embarked upon in the past. I didn’t need a relationship in my life. I hadn’t even been looking for one. And when I thought about dating, it wasn’t to fill a void or with the expectation that I’d somehow be more fulfilled or happier with a partner by my side.

No, I met Zane after a long period of intentional and rewarding aloneness. Prior to that, I’d exhausted myself in one of those devastatingly impossible on-again-off-again relationships that I will from now on refer to only as ED (as in, Epic Disaster). A doomed romance, wracked as much by a grand and desperate, needy kind of love as it was by the treachery and tortured personal histories that would eventually sink it for good, ED left me depleted on so many levels that I seized its ending as an invitation to a life overhaul.

And as I worked hard to emotionally clear out the old, making room for whatever the new would be without any expectation, I also began to invest, heartily and doggedly, in the pursuit of my own happiness. I traveled with my mom and savored every enchanting moment with my family. I cultivated new friendships and deepened existing ones, learning along the way what it meant to be truly vulnerable and finding freedom in sharing so openly and courageously of myself. I sought new experiences — from kirtan chanting to African dance classes — and stretched into the ones that surprised me — an offer to begin performing wedding ceremonies well before I’d even considered becoming an interfaith minister, among them — trusting that all these new threads were weaving of my life a tapestry more bright and beautiful than anything I could even imagine from my constantly expanding viewpoint. I even developed a crush, one that I knew would go nowhere but which allowed me to safely gauge the progress of my healing heart.

All those parts of me that had been lost or recklessly entrusted to ED, I carefully and lovingly retrieved them, so that when I met Zane, I’d blossomed into a fullness of self that would not be so easily capsized or consumed by another relationship. He’ll likely always stick to his story that I hit on him the night we met, but in reality, I believe we were both following a simple rule: that anything worth pursuing is usually accompanied by a feeling of joy and a sense of lightness and ease.

Life in LaLa Land, published in The Intelligencer and Bucks County Courier Times