It started when I was a toddler with a collection of barbie dolls and cabbage patch kids, imitation and pretend. I absorbed Mom and Dad, the way men and women partnered up, soaked in adult interactions, analyzed the connections, witnessed the good and the uneasy. Modeling their behavior through play (House was my favorite), I used my imagination to dream up a fairy tale about husband and wife, mother and father, woman and man. It was then, at an age before I knew love beyond my family, that I set a standard and began a list of expectations about my relationships - how I would feel, how I would act, what I would receive, what I would give. Before I even reached double digits I had planted a deep seed - laid the groundwork for something I'm still striving to find in my thirties.
At 13, I met a boy who made me shy and put butterflies in my belly. We held hands in the hallway and stayed on the phone for hours with nothing to say. His interest got pulled away by an 8th grader just two short weeks after circling YES.
At 14, I met a boy who felt like a man. He was old enough to drive, went to work, and gave me gifts that his mom didn't have to buy. So sweet and innocent, he made me feel like a princess. We were smitten and so absolutely crazy about each other for two lighthearted years. But I was young and a familiar boy found me interesting again.
At 16, the Middle School fling came back around. I fell in love hard. I scribbled his name next to mine. I daydreamed about our future. Years in, my heart fully committed, I held tight during struggle and forgave when it pained. This was the man, the one I couldn't let go. We married at 26 with our sites on 106. Two years later, we were given one of those ultimate challenges - those challenges that are strategically placed in our lives to uncover one's commitment level, not only to another but to the Self. We chose to stand strong in our individualism, move in opposite directions. We weren't ready to give all that was required to move through life as one.
At 28, I reconnected with a piece of home. We fumbled around in something fueled by emotional intensity and extreme difference. The excitement of the unknown and unfamiliar carrying us weakly for one brief year. We both knew from the start that it wouldn't last.
At 29, I met a man that put the word "adore" into my vocabulary. Never had someone earned that power word before. He brought out my laughter, a sound I didn't know existed. He gave me contentment, peace and protection from the start, standing strong as my partner when cancer hit three months in and stepping up as Family when I was separated from mine. He had me daydreaming about weddings and babies and a lifetime of togetherness after skepticism that I'd never experience that intense knowing again. He's been there for the fallout, the rock bottom, the fragile months, the needy days, the roller-coaster of emotions and moments of despair. Was it graceful and effortless? No. Did it come at a cost? Yes. Less than two years together and we've been handed more tests than some experience in a lifetime. We've seen ugly and uglier. With each challenge resulting in a heart that aches, a tender soul, or dimmer light I can see why many tap out...why my own knee jerk reaction time and time again is to quit, to step out of Partnership and into Independent.
I know this fork in the road. The relationship isn't what I had planned, not quite the sacred vision I've been holding onto. Things aren't feeling their best, hearts have been broken, words have scarred, actions came into question, visions aren't reality, mediocrity has seeped in. I've been in this muck before. It's scary. It's uncomfortable. It's a constant struggle. It's a test and my default is set to WALK.
I don't know how to make it through to the other side - how to keep working, keep healing, keep forgiving, keep loving, keep accepting, keep shifting, keep growing...hand in hand, together, not separate and alone. But I dream about what could be reached if we stuck with this. How amazing our relationship could be. How powerful we could be as individuals and as partners if we fight for greatness. How unbreakable our bond could be when temptation hits or distraction shows face.
I want to know what's on the other side, when the waves subside and we're stronger and greater than when we began. I have faith it could be the very thing I've been moving toward since that first twinge of aliveness hit my heart at 13. Somehow, I have to find more strength and harbor all my grace to see what's waiting for us. It's got to be worth it.