Tuesday, February 14, 2012

5 Loves: The One

I was born a lover. Something about me falls easily for other  people. I love to love. As a tribute to the holiday of romance I am writing about the five great loves of my life--for better or for worse--after all what's romance without the heart break?

My first year of marriage with Christopher was a very lonely time for me. I had expected to feel honeymoony nights and breathless mornings. There was none of this. Instead I felt like at any moment Christopher would come through the door of our condo on the hill and say good bye to me forever.

He had not transitioned well from bachelor-to-boyfriend and from boyfriend-to-husband. His inability to hide his anguish left me worried for our future.  When I'd try to unveil him he would become physically uncomfortable, sometimes falling to coughing fits or stomach upsets. I knew he loved me, but I didn't know if he loved us.

Our one year anniversary fell on a hot Sunday in July. My entire family was together milling about on my parent's front lawn waiting for the photographer to take our family picture. As my nieces and nephews climbed all over my tall, beefy husband, I sat down next to my dad who instantly noticed the shadows around my shoulders.

"I don't think we're going to make it Dad," I said breathing in manageable gusts.

Another failed love for me. But not just any failed love, Christopher Kendrick. I loved him from a place of divinity. I loved him because I realized it was my choice to love him, and this empowered me to absolute devotion. He was my choice, and my choice was important to me.

"Well, you can always come back home," my dad said with more compassion he'd ever shown me in my lifetime, "these things happen sweetheart."

Really? I thought. Two divorces in two years? These things happen?

When the photographer showed up I could tell Christopher was uncomfortable posing with my family. I looked around at my siblings--in the throes of seemed perfection--gorgeous spouses, happy offspring, solid careers. What was wrong with me?

Christopher didn't want to have children. He didn't want anything that would bind us together for longer than he could stand. He didn't want to be sealed to me in the Mormon Temple (with it's promises of eternal marriage) and he didn't want me to change my last name to his. Even still, he broke these sentiments to me sweetly, kindly, as though he were killing me with dignity and compassion.

That was the year I learned how to move through valley of the shadow of death.

This was also the year I came to know Heavenly Father honestly, truly exists. When in the face of absolute devastation I learned to put my trust in God. I began to listen to the thoughts in my mind that said,

"Hold on. Don't give up."

I allowed him nights of crying. I listened as he told me he felt hopeless. I stopped controlling everything and just let it be. I started to train my mind to believe that true romanticism was a man and a woman dedicated to work. The battle of it all was one of self-worth, we had to fight to know who we were, and what we were capable of.

I came to realize this:  we think we go from partner to partner because there will be someone "better" for us. In reality, no one is better for us, we just get better for ourselves.

And this: relationships work when we sacrifice negative beliefs about ourselves, and in that process we become the best thing that's ever happened to anyone.

And this: a successful marriage is about two people engaged and dedicated to overcoming selfishness--for the rest of their lives.

Four months after our first year anniversary we were sealed in the Provo temple. After that life was too busy to think much about ourselves--houses, careers, infertility, deaths, birth, birth, birth. When our anniversary rolls around each year we opt out of gifts and instead say simple re-dedication proses to each other,

"I'm dedicated to our work."

Our relationship stands now as the part I love most about myself. He is the reason I can be honest. This respect I feel ranges from serious to silly. Sometimes I feel old in our marriage and sometimes I am as giddy as the day we met. But I am loved by Christopher Kendrick, do you know what that means?

There is not a day that goes by I don't thank my Heavenly Father for cheering us on.

Who knew God was such a romantic?

Epilogue: We are the sum of all our relationships, and that is why I can't regret any of mine. All of these bits and pieces add up to my soul and at the end of the day it's compassion (not travel) that makes us open-minded and wide-hearted. I've said it before, I will never regret emotion spent on falling in love.

Thank you Ashmae for letting me use your images this week.
Visit her blog, Birds of Ashmae if you like lovely words and lovely art.