I did get my miracle. It was nothing I ever saw coming. It was nothing I recognized. My inner chemistry has shifted. I’m still absorbing and looking for words to describe it. A month later, I have only told 3 people and that’s because they know me well enough to understand between the lines what I am trying to say.
But today I’m thinking about something else.
I’m remembering what it was like to be a young mother with my first baby starting to crawl and discover the world around him. We had gotten our first house that season; our wedding was a year and a half past. I was sad and lonely and spent long hours gazing at my nursing baby wondering why there was a dark shadow cast over my dream.
By then I knew that I didn’t love my baby’s father. This was the result of realizing that the trust I’d had that he loved me, that we had ever been “in love”, had been a cruel illusion. Not only was first love a temporary, fleeting benchmark for a young relationship…but it had never truly existed. I hated myself for failing to see it. I knew that while my baby was my life, he was also quite permanent. While my friends were doing what college girls did, I was 21 year old mother with an abuser for a husband. There would be no easy leaving anymore. Our friends fell away. The most relieving moment of my day was when He Left For Work and it was just me and the baby at home.
I threw myself into it. The baby and I gardened and took long walks and read stories. Somehow the random times my husband turned to me resulted in siblings for that baby. I threw myself into domestic life without the love I thought would have been the anchor. My dream was marriage and family: I had the family without a real marriage. I did the best I could.
It turns out there are a lot of resources out there to reassure someone living like that. My friends became women older than me with children and families always a step ahead. They were settled and calm in their 30’s, living busy lives that had little room for romance anyway. I think every sermon I heard or book I read said at least something about how “love” is a feeling that wears off and that real love is a decision. It’s something that is there when you don’t “feel” loving.
It became a mantra. There came a day when I didn’t think about how little affection I felt for him anymore. It was automatic, that “duty”, that thing you are committed to when you have no emotion to fuel it. That lasted for years. I accepted it as normal.
Of course that is unsustainable and the rest of the story played out. And now we are free. We are forging our new path, this one, in the light. I don’t listen to sermons or read books that try to quiet my screaming instinct anymore.
I’m also in love. Writing that, it sounds like I just met him. But I didn’t. This is The Love, the one I’ve been loving for two and a half years. The effect of this love on my life rarely can be put adequately into words. But just today I was overwhelmed again and so I must try.
We have been working through a challenge. Nothing as hard as we’ve been through in the past and it’s just the kind of challenge that is normal and expected at our ages. We stole an available hour mid-day for an unexpected lunch together, just because. When he asked me, we both felt sort of giddy and happy, like it was a first date of some kind. I watched us, more devoted than ever to figuring this out while respecting each others’ boundaries and needs, and felt that deep, deep reassurance that I love his company more than any other. I would clear a day just to sit and smell the warmth of his neck. Our fingers entwine reflexively when we walk and we still talk about Interesting Things.
Like disappearing farmland in China. And how we still believe Obama deserves 8 years. And electric cars. And how good smoked whitefish salad tastes on a cracker. And how nice it is to sit outside and watch little Jewish old men pick at their dentures with fat wives eating pastrami on a Friday at mid-day.
He’s my best friend.
So, if I could go back in time and whisper anything in the ear of that young mother rocking her baby in the dusty sunlight of that yellow nursery, it would be to trust her instincts. She still knew somewhere inside her then that the sadness was unnatural. She knew Things Were Wrong. She could have been reminded that love is real, even love that has to endure through gritty reality and challenges that threaten to divide.
Love is not just a giddy electric start between two people are new to one another. It doesn’t go away and never come back. It can roll like a tide, like a circle, like our favorite number: 8. An infinity of cycles.