I am a difficult woman to understand. For the longest time in my life I was nothing more than a ball of smothering love and sulfurous self-hate, mingling together until neither side could determine who would win and one moment I was loving the world and the next minute I was sobbing over broken incense burners.
How do you love someone like that? How do you dedicate—willingly—your life and spending it with someone who’s apparently emotional maturity is that of a confused and angry seven year old?
I don’t know.
For the longest time, I couldn’t imagine loving myself, let alone anyone else.
And yet, there is Shawn.
Shawn has seen all sides of me. All the sides. ALL THE SIDES. The sides which people don’t get to see. The angry, the jaded, the hurt, the insulted, the temperamental. He saw me at my worst—when everything in my life seemed like an argument waiting to happen. When I was so lost within myself I was sure everyone and everything was out to get me. When I was angry for no reason. When I was depressed. When I got so depressed that I was actually blind to my own depression.
I cannot say that I have been a good wife these last ten years (officially married and not officially married.) I forgot to iron his clothes. Sometimes I forget to wash them. There are dishes in the sink and crumbs on the floor. Some days I roll out of bed in a pair of pajamas and shuck them to put on another pair and my idea of primping myself up is making sure I am clean and my pony tail isn’t too messy.
I have never heard him tell me he was giving up.
At the worst of me, he never left. He never, ever, gave up.
There were times in the beginning where he had to simply get up and go for a walk—but he never gave up. He always came back. He always tried. He has always tried to understand, to be supportive the best way he can be, and he has always, always been in my life.
For the last decade I have never truly been alone even when I have convinced myself to think I am. If I fall, he laughs at me for being a goof and picks me up. If I yell at him for no reason he yells back to inform me I’m yelling at him for no reason. If I cry, he wraps me up in his arms and holds me. And if he finds out I cried without him he chides me for crying alone and reminds me that he loves me and I can cry whenever I need to.
I don’t know what I did to deserve a man like this who has been patient in the storm that I am. Who sighs and picks up the socks I promised to pick up two days ago but I forget because I am busy trying to get to level 50 in SWTOR. My house and my life and my insides might be a mess—but that never mattered to him. All that mattered was whether or not I was happy.
It took a long time to get to that point. But I am. I hope he knows it—I am happy.
I can’t imagine loving me like he has through all of this.
But he does.
And for that, there are no words eloquent enough, pretty enough, or poetic enough to say: thank you.
I love you, too.
Specifically, I love that as I am on my own I can celebrate the holidays–within budget–how I see fit. I can’t understand how celebrating in your own way, where it harms none, becomes a point of grumbling to some.
Yesterday I begged Shawn to take me to the Dollar store to see if we could afford a few more decorations for Halloween/Samhain/All Hallow’s Eve. We spent less than $10 and I was able to walk out with 2 head stones, orange pumpkin garland, spider webbing, creepy cloth, a jack o’ lantern lamp and two black ravens. Add those to the orange lights with the mickey mouse light in the front window with the cut-out I printed from the ‘net, plus the dark purple lights in the bed room with the glow-in-the-dark skeleton, I think that’s a good start.
I spent the better part of an hour or two putting everything up but I dream bigger. I dream of big front yards I can festoon with witches silhouettes, homes that have a place for me to plug things in outside–dozens of carved pumpkins lining the walkway to the steps. I want flashing creepy lights and ghostly presences in my windows, bats on my front porch and cawing ravens with hissing cats and scary music weaving from the window. I want a pointy black hat and play into the stereotypes and eskewed traditions because it doesn’t mean anything anymore. It’s just about leaning over and crying, “Boo!” or scaring yourself and laughing hysterically about it afterward. Especially when you realize how fake it looks and it was just a plastic prop anyway.
When I was done everything Shawn came out and stood before it with a quiet sort of look; the sort of careful scrutiny a man gives his wife’s handiwork when he isn’t sure if he should run screaming or kiss her on the cheek. He settled instead to shake his head slowly then tip up one corner of his mouth in a grin he couldn’t help.
I knew then like I have many times before, it didn’t matter what ridiculous dream I had or wanted–he’d find some way to make it come true and to smile about it.
Once upon a time there was a little girl. She was much like other little girls in the late era of leg warmers, spandex, temperature changing tie-dye clothing and cell phones the size of and weight of a brick. She lived in a far away place where snow fell nearly half the year (or so it seemed) and summer was haze sunflower yellow sun, laughter and magical pony tails.
She had blond hair like her mother and blue eyes like both her mother and father, a single dimple which her father, the King, often said she was given to her by her father’s father–a distant Lord whose demons had long since caught up to him before the little girl had a chance to remember his smile. She dreamed strange as well as wonderful things, sang to the birds, danced and talked to a man in the moon she insisted was there. She told stories to anyone who would listen, cried deeply over the smallest things but laughed just as quickly after. She was given everything she could need or want and never saw the patches in her father’s coat or her mother’s struggle to make sure food was on the table and the princess had all she needed for her tutoring as well as lessons.
When winter came, she was warm. She smiled to see the brilliant hand of winter stretch sparkling-white-blue strong; endless places slumbering under the coat of white. She made men out of it on the castle grounds, shrieked after friends in games of toss-the-snow as well as tag and knew no sadness. She bruised her knees in the grass during summer, ran through fountains in the afternoon and ate frozen things that tasted sweet, sharing them with her friends.
She knew love, this little girl. The love of a father, of a mother, of an aunt and grandmother. She was happy.
And then one day the little girl was not so little anymore.
Winter became less about snow-men or throwing it and more about grades. Summer became a relief in between lessons. And then one day the little girl was a young woman and she realized the cruelty fellow young men and women her age held in their hearts. At first, she seemed heartbroken. Then as time wore on she began to reshape herself in the image of those cruel children. She no longer laughed or played winter or summer but slouched in shadows, was sneered at for being different and sneered at those different from her.
She remembered as a little girl the stories she told. One day the young woman found a musty old place filled with books. Tales written about fantastic places that might have never existed, or perhaps they did and the world–like dreaming dragons on their gold–had forgotten about it. She took as many of these as she could get a hold of and filled her head again with these words. Tales about men in shining armor, dragons and witches, fair folk, elves, and most of all–stories of love. Love between two people that was as beautiful; no one screamed at one another or hurt each other…Or if they did, they always came back together more adoring than before. Stories of great triumph over sorrow, stories that filled the little-girl-grown-odd-young-woman with hope.
Then, she noticed boys.
Then, a boy noticed her.
The young woman drew further and further away from her parents and from the real world. Her head, as they (whomever those stuffy, gray suited ‘they’ people are) say, was in the clouds. The boy and the girl did not find a happily-ever-after, abruptly it turned into what the young-woman thought to be an aching hole. Her parents watched with great sadness their sweet little girl turn into a hungry-for-attention, hollow reflection of what once-was. They ached to tell her to come home and to realize everything would be alright. But she didn’t listen.
She always had her stories, however. She drifted far from her friends and her tutors. She left the kingdom of her father and mother coldly. She dreamed of better things, turning a blind eye to all the paths open to her and sought to fill the strange, open wound in her middle with anything that the road would hand to her. A dangerous thing, for outside of the kingdom were dark things. Dark men and women who used her instead of helped her, who took instead of gave and eventually left her–empty handed and confused in the dust of the road behind them.
The young woman grew into a full grown woman, bitter and chipped obsidian jaded. She did many things to drown the voices of the sweet little girl, the hopeful young woman. She took many paths that were twisted, confusing and wrong. She lead herself down them, let herself be led down them, or unwittingly followed the sweet talk of wolves to find herself down them.
One day she found herself bedraggled beyond help standing at a great cliff. A divide that split down the great kingdom she had traveled in for so long, there was nowhere else to go but down. To the rocks below it or worse. There was no where left to turn. The choices she had made in her life had lead her here. She had made so many mistakes that behind her, even the darkest of paths closed to her. She began to feel herself despair. Until she noticed a tired man on the cliff with her.
He had kind blue eyes and dark, dark brown hair in waves. He too, looked tired but when he smiled at her, just a tiny smile, such a little smile– she felt something lurch inside of her.
“Do you like stories?” he asked her wearily, the sound of his voice startling her.
“I–” she blinked. “Yes. I do. Do you know any good ones?” She hesitantly asked. He nodded, then found a place to sit down. Slowly, she crept near him then sat down too as he began to tell her stories. Great tales about men in shining armor, men in dusty robes with wrinkled smiles, stories about love and hope. Beautiful things that moved her from inside. She begged him to tell her more stories, until his throat was raw and his smile was easier. Then she told him stories. Stories about dragons gleaming in sunsets, proud elves, magic that wove amazing things between people. Stories she had long forgotten but always knew. She told them to him until her voice was hoarse and she could no longer speak.
They had forgotten about the great cliff. All they could see was each other. They fell in love.
But their story didn’t have dragons in it, it had cats. The man didn’t wear a suit of armor from metal, but business attire during work days as per the dress code. She was not a princess even though she had a tiara and the only time she wore a dress was at a wedding of a friend’s a long, long time ago. The magic wasn’t the kind that felled great mountains or protected whole nations–it was the the sort of magic that makes the heart sing when his hand sought her cheek or shoulder in the dead of night. The sort of magic that starts no bigger than a spark and grows into a copper-penny sun warming the middle of your chest a decade later when they looked at one another and realized it had been forever together and neither could imagine life without the other.
Their battles were small, fierce, quiet–often silly–but fought bravely. Their laughter was true. Their lives woven irrevocably together.
He had saved her from that cliff, so long ago. When she looked down at the rocks and though that is all there is left. When she thought there was nowhere else to go. And at night sometimes she hopes that she had saved him from it, too.
Together they wrote new stories in a note book with wrinkled, yellow paper stained with coffee, smelling faintly like her cotton candy perfume and littered with cat hair.
Together, they proved to the world and themselves that when you write them yourself, fairy tales and happy endings do come true.
It’s dangerous knowing how to make great homemade bread.
At first, it doesn’t seem like it. You fail a few times and chew stoically on your fifty pound loaf that should have come out light and fluffy because damn it, you MADE this and you’re gonna EAT it and pretend to ENJOY it because it took you HOURS to make it. You think back on everything everyone has told you about bread, with their sneering Bread Overlord smug smiles and advice such as: oh, you’ll know when it’s right. You’ll FEEEEEEEEELLLLL it. Then they secretly bro-fist one another behind your back while you blink stupidly trying to understand the great mysteries.
But then one day it happens. Covered in flour, slipping in it across the kitchen you’ve got the dough in your hands and you feel it. The dough, my young padiwan, is right. Not too sticky, not too hard, not to omgwtfbbq did you just chip the counter? It looks right, smells right, feels right. It’s ready. And so are you.
Ready to become the all-knowing bread making evil genius.
This is what has happened to Shawn.
GAZE UPON MY CRUSTY BEAUTY, MORTALS
I watched his transformation this month as we finally moved out into our own place. It started with his sudden fixation on understanding how to make biscuits. Fantastic biscuits, the kind as wide as your palm and as thick as a fist. Golden yellow and flaky, you could pull them apart with your hands. And once he set himself to it–he did it. From there, he wanted to figure out how to make bread. Good Italian bread.
Last night, my friends, he made two of the most crooked, oddly shapped most DELICIOUS loaves of Italian bread I have ever tasted. To celebrate I ran into the kitchen when he was finished and chopped up some tomatoes, basil, garlic, splashed them with balsamic vinegar, dash of olive oil and salt and pepper to slather across that bread. And I did. Like I was doing something naughty and I liked it.
But knowing how to make bread becomes a dangerous business my friends. Soon, he will unlock homemade hamburger and hot dog buns, sub buns, rolls and sweet breads. What next? Croissants? My god--the humanity! Eventually our house will have no need to by the strange, tasteless oblong discs from the grocery store and then what?
It’s dangerous my friends, that’s what.
If you’ll excuse me, I have to prevent some unlucky soul from being endangered by Shawn’s bread by j–OUM NOM NOM NOM NOM.
“This! This kitchen thing you do. There were EIGHT THOUSAND bowls in the sink and seventeen knives. What do you need EIGHT THOUSAND bowls for!”
“Really? Really. Eight thousand? Whatever, Mister Flour ALL OVER the sink and the counter and some on the walls and ooooon the flooooors and socks by his desk and glasses on the desk and never cleans the surface of the–”
“That has nothing to do with the fact–”
“–cabinets or the cabinet doors or the fingerprints on the refrigerator or sweep and mop the floors or vacuum or do the wash or–”
“…that you can’t seem to cook one single meal without–”
“YES. AND SEVENTEEN KNIVES AS WELL, I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT YOU’D MAKE TO NEED THAT MANY KNIVES!”
“WE DON’T EVEN OWN EIGHT THOUSAND BOWLS. THAT’S A LIE. YOUR FACE IS FULL OF LIES RIGHT THERE! BESIDES, WAS THE MEAL BAD?”
“I DON’T…well, of course not. Nothing you’ve cooked in years has ever been bad.”
Smugly, “Then you’ve nothing to complain about.”
“EIGHT THOUSAND BOWLS!”
Three hours and episodes of Supernatural later, I leaned over and quite assertively stated that we do not own eight thousand bowls, thus, starting the entire argument all over again. Which neither of us were very heated about and both of us ended up laughing at one another profusely.
I may be the oddest woman on the earth, but its these small things that let me know I’m also the luckiest.
(To be alive. AND loved. That too. Yes.)