Finally Learning What Love Is

romance couple

Is it possible that after fifty years I have finally figured out what love really looks and feels like? I mean, really feels like. Deep in your heart and soul. It’s not that my life has been without love for that long but until recently I don’t think that I really understood love. How powerful it can be and how it can complete your life and bring you contentment and peace. I have been happily married for almost fourteen years but in the last couple of years I think that I have finally accepted how great love can be.

When I met my husband I had only been separated from my ex husband for 10 months. I had some trust issues you could say. I had pretty much sworn off men but my co-worker was convinced that I needed a date. She even went so far as to list all the single attractive men that worked for our company. I hate to say it but I said “no way” to her suggestion of the man who is now my husband. He was eight years younger than me and well, did I mention that I had sworn off men. As a new mom I just wanted to try to enjoy the few moments I had to myself outside of parenting and work. Yet somehow, on a company road trip to Seattle to see a basketball game, I found myself drawn to this man. And once the connection was made a couple of months later, there was no turning back. I knew right away that I would spend the rest of my life with him. So much for swearing off men.

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There was a moment very early in our relationship when I knew I could fall in love with my husband. It was just before Christmas. We had been trading emails and chatting a bit at work. I must have mentioned the fact that I had lost all of my Christmas tree ornaments in the divorce and had a tiny little Charlie Brown tree with only a couple of sad ornaments on it. I walked past his office one day and he called me in. On his desk was a gift wrapped box. Inside were four beautiful dark green glass ornaments and matching green and gold bowls. I was so touched that he not only remembered but had been so thoughtful. My divorce had left me in a fairly fragile state and this simple gesture restored my faith and put me on the road to learning about real love. Every year I take them out and tell my kids this story while we decorate the tree. My seven-year old thinks it’s romantic. My eighteen year old just rolls his eyes and sighs.

The journey from then until now has not always been an easy one. We have been separated for long periods of time due to work. We have had differences of opinions MANY times. We have co-parented with a sometimes difficult ex husband. We have made the decision to not have any more children and then changed our minds and embraced our little fireball. We have struggled through self employment and all that it entails. We have fallen down and learnt how to get back up. We (I) have given up trying to control the direction my life and the life of my family takes. We have cried and raised our voices and gone to bed angry. Yet somehow we are still married and in love.

The reality is that I love him more now than I did on the day we got married. I know him better. And he knows me better. He has taught me so many things. Because of him I am more open to love and kindness. A combination of the way I was raised and a bad first marriage left me closed up and afraid to get hurt. Did you know that you can be angry with somebody and then let it go and move on? I didn’t. I believed that if somebody did something to make you angry that you stayed angry at them. For a long time. Who knew that letting go of anger so quickly was so easy. I also didn’t know (or believe) that if I had done something to make somebody angry that they could forgive me and still love me. On the same day even. Again, I believed that forgiving and moving on took days. If it happened at all. But I now know that this is what love really looks like. The security of knowing that you can screw up and the sky won’t fall on your head. This is what my husband has taught me.

A perfect marriage is just two imperfect people who refuse to give up on each other. The Best Thing in Life is that over the years he refused to give up on me and I refused to give up on him. So, don’t just look for love. Look for real inconvenient, ridiculous, can’t live without you love. Because that’s the love that you deserve. And don’t give up. It may take years to fully embrace, but it is most definitely worth it.

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Being Kind

As she parked in the parking lot the nerves started to grow. She hadn’t seen some of these people in years. Would they even know who she was? Would she recognize anybody? The receptionist directed her upstairs to the banquet rooms. She made a quick stop in the bathroom to check her hair and makeup. Did she really need to impress anybody? She was happily married with two great kids and a loving husband. Old habits die hard she told herself. When she finally made her way to the room where her twentieth high school reunion was being held, her nerves seemed to disappear and all she felt was excitement.

At the door to the banquet room there was a table covered in name tags and a dark haired woman was bent over putting them in order. She looked up suddenly and squealed. “Oh my god it’s so great to see you. How are you? You look great. Here, I have your name tag. Wow, it’s been so long but you look just the same. I would know that smile anywhere.” As the greeter rattled on she thought “She has no idea who I am.” You could have knocked her over with a feather. She stood before the table smiling and nodding and remembering. The greeter looked just the same too. She would never forget her. Not after that day so many years ago.

It was grade five and she was in Mr. McBride’s class at West Bay Elementary School. She had been outside at lunch playing dodge ball in the courtyard with a bunch of other kids. A silly school yard game but hey, she was in grade five and that’s what they did at lunch time. When the bell rang she ran up the stairs past the library and janitors room to her classroom. As she entered the room she saw one of her girlfriends and said hi. Her friend looked at her, but then quickly looked away and whispered something to the girl beside her. That’s a bit weird, she thought and took her seat. During the rest of the afternoon she caught them whispering a few more times. She even noticed them whispering to another friend as they came back from art class. Hm, wonder what’s up? She thought.

The afternoon dragged on forever but when the bell finally rang she grabbed her bag and coat and headed for the door. “Forgetting something?” Darn, she had forgotten that Mr. McBride had asked her to stay and go over her multiplication tables. She really needed to know what was going in with her friends so she told a small lie and said that she forgot she had piano that day. “Okay, but tomorrow for sure?” Sure, she said, and turned away quickly, feeling guilty. She burst out the door and ran straight into a group of her friends. “Hey, what’s up? What is everybody whispering about?” They all turned to look at her but only one person spoke. “You. We’re talking about you.” The dark haired girl said. Me, why would they be talking about me she wondered? “We’re all really sick of how immature you are. We saw you today on the playground jumping around like a preschooler. What is wrong with you?”

She looked around at the group of fourth grade girls now surrounding her. Some of them looked away, some of them looked at the girl speaking and some looked back at her blankly. Acting immature? She had been playing dodgeball? She stammered trying to find the words to explain what she had done. What she had done? She hadn’t DONE anything. What was going on? She looked at each of them for some kind of explanation. Her face was suddenly hot and her hands were shaking. She turned away and ran towards the bathrooms. She stayed in one of the stalls for what seemed like hours. When she finally ventured out the halls were quiet and empty. She walked home that day feeling hurt, embarrassed and confused.

It was all flooding back as she stood there at the entrance to the banquet room. It was years ago, but at this moment it seemed like just yesterday. The greeter apparently didn’t remember, as she had already moved on to the next person coming down the hall. It hadn’t happened again after that day but she would never forget the hurtful words directed at her. The embarrassment of being singled out and that the dark haired girl had, for that moment, turned her friends against her. She would never know why and it truly didn’t matter. The damage was done with just a few words in only a matter of moments. As she stepped into the room full of her school friends she reminded herself that The Best Thing in Life is to teach your kids to be kind.