On weekends after my husband and I each take our early morning hours for our respective projects in our own creative rooms, we meet in the kitchen for some breakfast; weekdays when we both work from home we meet in the kitchen for lunch. We cook, eat, then sit together for an hour or so, on the comfy sofas inside in the winter, on the back patio furniture outside when the air is fresh and warm. A lot of times it takes a few minutes for things to get rolling, we sit in silence sometimes for many minutes, but patience usually pays off and our thoughts are shared.
The previous day, when we met in the kitchen for lunch, he came in imitating a character he just watched on the Simpsons while he had walked on the treadmill. I was busy with something else, preoccupied with wanting to ask him a question, and he didn’t get the laugh response he was looking for. His repeated efforts and explanation of what he watched, along with his feigned indignance at my non-response did end up making me laugh after all. Or maybe it was our mutual weirdo-ness that stunned me into laughter. I love that man more every day.
We found each other ten years ago this day and he earned a significant level of trust from me right from the start. I was 43 years old, and had been recovering from a series of events—the death of my mother, losing my job, a surgical biopsy of my breast tissue (benign, thank goodness), my two children entering their teen years thus not needing me as much—that had forced me to turn deeply within. A few days after meeting him I had pulled a book off my bookshelf, Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, a book my older sister had given to me many years earlier. Back then, when I opened and read the first few pages I placed it back on the shelf, not understanding the appeal it held for her. This time when I opened it I could not underline fast enough, there was not enough ink in my pen for all the exclamation points and asterisks in the margins. Its stories were a way to understand myself, a way to sing my way back to myself.
I wanted to share this discovery with him, pulling the book out as we sat in the front seat of his car, having met up in a secluded park to see one another. I read him page after page, including the following passage. “So often a woman feels…she lives in an empty place where there is maybe just one cactus with one brilliant red flower on it, and then in every direction, 500 miles of nothing. But for the woman who will go 501 miles, there is something more.” I wept as I read the words. Even now I find it hard to express the profound experience of reading that book.
But here’s the thing. He sat and listened, held me as I read and cried, and said to me afterward that even though he didn’t understand all that I had read to him, “I can see how important it is to you, how much it means to you.” And that statement set the stage for me to trust him, perceive him as an exquisite listener. It gave me permission to express what I needed without necessity of his approval or understanding. From that day forward I have always felt safe to talk to him about anything, no matter how ‘out there’ or weird. He listens, without judgment, without belittlement or teasing. He has never once laughed at me, or made me feel ashamed to be me. Neither of us are perfect, of course. Our years together include their share of misunderstandings and difficult, painful conversations, but always, we have been able to bring our selves to the table.
Ten years to the day after meeting him, I woke before my alarm, my husband’s side of the bed empty. I opened our bedroom door to find a long stemmed rose at my feet with a poetic clue printed neatly on a pink index card directing me to the next location. A dozen total, the last directing me to his home office where I slammed into him with the big bang power of the day we found each other.
Confession. I cried like a baby as I gathered each rose. Happy tears. So. Much. Love. Finding that man changed my life a degree of magnitude I could not fathom. In those ten years I’ve felt our hearts, both of our hearts, open, broaden, mine to the point of ache so many times, in ways that still surprise me.
We call the day “One True Love Day,” but we haven’t really celebrated it like an anniversary. Which is understandable. It’s hard to crow it out in public when that big bang day happened while we were both married to other people. When there are many who were so hurt in the wake of our discovering each other. And now we have a wedding anniversary during which we can declare our bond out to the world. One True Love day stands for something different, something private, once secret, which if I’m being honest is its one blemish.
One True Love day represents, well, LOVE. Love almost as if it is a separate entity we invited into our lives when we both felt alone and so empty of love. The three of us, my husband, me, and Love. Over the past ten years, we’ve been an amazing team. And Love has been the cornerstone of everything else. Any of the misunderstandings and painful conversations, and more significantly, all the forgiveness we asked for, all the shame we admitted to, Love was ALWAYS there. Urging us on, strong enough for us to fall back on when it felt like too much. True Love. True.
Ten years later, One True Love Day represents not only acknowledging that lovely third wheel of Love at our table, but also permission. This Love allows permission not just to feel the love for each other, but to accept the love we feel from our family, who graciously, if not reluctantly, have come to accept us and love us each in their own way. Permission also to love ourselves, to acknowledge that seeking and finding each other was a grand gesture of self love, a moment when we asked for and allowed Love to enter in. The day marks ten years of loving ourselves enough to place our hearts in its cradle.
After the Simpsons imitations subsided and we ate our lunch, my husband had a lot to say about his projects, his work. When he was done speaking he looked at me kind of surprised.
“Wow, I had a lot to process,” he said, “this really helps me, otherwise everything’s just a big jumble bouncing in my brain. You’re an excellent listener.”
I smiled. “I learned from the best,” I said.
“I learned from…” and we both burst out laughing.
“Now that I made you REALLY laugh,” he stood from the sofa and stretched, “we can continue our day.”
What’s not to love.
Meg Kinghorn is the big weirdo of the Ella/Meg Salty City Writing Workshop collaboration. She teaches Creative Non-fiction and Memoir at the University of Utah and gives herself and any other writer crossing her path unmitigated permission to write whatever the hell they want.