The lunch break that changed everything...
Ten years ago, on my lunch break from some Corporate job I hated, I married a man I adored. I didn’t have a beautiful dress or a photographer capturing every little detail of the day. There were no fairy lights or first dances. No toasts from our loved ones to celebrate us joining together. Instead, I had a polo shirt with the logo of my company on it and two witnesses that worked with me at the time, but I couldn't remember their names if I tried. The judge yelled at me for chewing gum, and I had to go back to work after our ceremony. But the outcome was the same….the start of a new chapter in both of our lives.
He was this presence in a room; this magnetic energy I just couldn’t stay away from. He made me laugh, and had the best taste in music. Our first date was almost 12 hours long, and I remember crawling into my bed after a very long night with him, and my phone going off with a text notification. It was him. He sent me a song. I loved him. At least I thought I did. I loved him in a way that felt addictive. I simply could not get enough of him, and couldn’t imagine a time where I wouldn’t want him around. It’s funny how we can look at our younger selves and see so clearly now with amusement how little we knew.
Looking back, I see this girl completely lost in the idea that this feeling would stay forever; that this live wire would stay exposed until she turned 90. Turns out, I don’t think that younger me had any clue what love really was. She was in love with a feeling. Aren’t we all, to some extent? It feels good to be wanted, and sexy and fun. It feel s good to tell jokes that someone thinks are hilarious, and to have someone want to touch you all the time. There’s nothing wrong with that...it’s awesome. I had been lonely for a long time, and this man quickly became my best friend and made me feel like I was the most special human being alive.
But I don’t think that’s love. I think that’s infatuation with a little touch of lust added for flavor. I think I loved the way he made me feel.
We settled into marriage; buying homes, and raising a child and a few dogs. We got comfortable with each other, maybe we stopped trying to impress each other a little bit. After a while, the magic fades in only a way that picking up someone’s dirty laundry or cleaning their toilet can do. I have never not been attracted to this man, but the nature of living in the same space as someone for a long time removes certain mysteries that made him a superhero in my mind initially.
We moved across the country and stood by each other through terrible losses. When I found out my brother had taken his own life, he was the first one I wanted to talk to. He understood the layers of grief and regret I had like no one else could. I remember the first time I saw him cry so clearly. The loss of his friend made him even more human to me. I didn’t know this friend well, but he had always been such a huge part of our story, and seeing this man that I viewed as invincible be so vulnerable turned the page of our book to a new chapter. There was something so deeply beautiful about him letting me see him so sad.
We kept on chugging. We stuck it out. It wasn’t pretty, ya’ll. We threw shit, broke things. We had hard conversations, screamed and yelled at each other, did really shitty things to each other, but always came back around to the fact that we didn’t want to live life without each other. Even when shit was so hard, neither of us would choose to walk away. His hand in mine always brought me back to where I wanted to be.
I watched my husband face more challenges with his health than anyone should ever have to face. I watched him lose himself to those challenges, but then find himself in it again and climb out even better than he had been before. He’s watched me change careers, lose myself, find myself again, and then turn right back around and do the same damn thing again. He has stood by me as I navigate adjusting to our new way of life after his hospitalizations. I’ve failed hard, and learned and gotten a tiny bit better every time. I’ve mourned the loss of that old relationship to some extent, and am learning to actually speak my mind after 40 years of not doing so. And he’s still here.
Any marriage has its challenges. I am of the mind that every single one is damn near impossible, in fact. But ours...it’s one for the books. From deployments to cross-country bike rides, to hospitalizations to life threatening infections, we are really trying to set records over here. We like to go big. What can I say? There have been more moments than I can count that I have had the desire to walk away. I screamed and cried, and pushed him away. I’ve called my sister or my best friend and said “ok, this is it”, and they both listened, and let me have my feelings, deeply knowing that wasn’t true. Because me and him, we are just supposed to be together. But once that all faded, I walked through the door and back into his arms. Because that is home. That is where I know, deep in my gut that I belong.
That, my friends, is love. I know it now. Remove the physical attraction, drunken silliness, abundance and look around. Do you still want to be there? When there’s no money, or you aren’t feeling comfortable in your own skin, who do you want around? When you hate who you've become, is this person the one to help you fix it? Do you want to wake up next to this person when shit is bad? If the answer is yes, I think you have it. Love feels comfortable and safe, but also terrifyingly vulnerable and scary as hell at the same time. Love feels like knowing that you can throw anything at this person, and they aren’t going to bat an eye, but rather say “ok...how do we do this?”. Love feels like that feeling you have after a really good cry. Love is home.
I don’t always feel like the most special human to him anymore. I don’t think it’s realistic to expect that from someone else anymore though. I think that’s on me. I want him to see that I think I’m the most special human in the world and want to share that. I believe he’s here to help me learn about myself; to push me to go deeper and learn. I’m here to support him when he’s down, but not to carry him.
My vision for myself as an old lady has changed over the years. I used to believe I wanted to be with someone that was my whole world. When he died, I would die because I was so in love with him and the loss made my life meaningless. What can I say....I’m a sucker for romance. Now, what I know is in reality, when he dies, I will keep going, because he’s given me way too many memories and moments of joy to leave. I want to sit on the porch with my friends and laugh about the things he did or said. I want to go into a store with my daughter one day and both of us laugh when we see something that reminds us of him. That feels like true love to me.
I don’t regret that lunch break at all. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done. But damn that girl had no idea the wild ride she was in for.
Tomorrow, we are going to celebrate our life together, in a way that is probably very different than either of us would have said we would 10 years ago, but it feels perfect. He is here, and so am I, and in 10 more years, we will have a completely different story of love all over again.