I was questioning everything: The love letters, the romantic weekends spent in dreamy cabin getaways, the laughing ourselves off of the bed, the tender moments spent staring into one another’s eyes.
We weren’t getting pregnant. Months were racing by and turning into years, and that gaping absence was calling for walls to be built between us. I was coming to resent him every time he nonchalantly said: “Just stop worrying about it. It will happen eventually.”
Why was I the only one being pricked with needles and curling over my computer, researching the right teas to drink and the mantras to speak into existence? Having lost my birth mother to a tragic accident at six years old, I accused the divine powers that be of denying me the one thing I longed for madly. Could I not – at least – be granted the luxury of mothering another? And, if my husband could not see how significant this was to me, did he truly love me?
Once upon a time, I believed that falling in love and rising in success would fulfill me. I thought those realizations would connect even my most isolated puzzle pieces. But, life was revealing to me that such belief held no truth. And, so I was questioning everything I knew.
One night, sadness asked that I crawl into the bed alone and find a state of quite stillness. In reality, I was encompassed by abundance: an adoring husband, a budding career, stamps on my passport and a supportive tribe of family and friends. But, on the inside, I was aching – anaesthetised by an illusion of lack. On that evening, I ached so furiously, even my tears were afraid to join me. They thought it more safe to remain in their hiding place. And, it was getting rather crowded under my skin.
So, I spoke softly to my pain.
I said, “I’m sorry, friend, but I cannot hold onto you anymore. You’re foggy and turbulent, and you’re preventing me from seeing clearly. I have to let you go.”
I then breathed a breath of surrender. Almost immediately, something from the deepest well of myself surged to the fore, eager to deliver the clarity I needed. That “something” was love, and it had shown up to remind me who it was. Memory-by-memory, my tears began washing the veil of illusion clean as love showed me angles of its face:
#1 Love was my grandmother’s saturated ball of tissues at my mother’s funeral.
She was holding onto me for dear life, and so that ball of mourning was sandwiched between her trembling hand and my tiny, six-year-old chest. I remember finding that wet spot on my dress when I looked into the bathroom mirror. I turned my eyes away and shivered at the sight of it.
But, I now know that underneath the grief, shock and ugliness, it represented only one thing: love.
#2 Love was my father’s surprise poem in a brown paper bag for my school lunch.
I was in the sixth grade – caught between childhood and early teen angst. On a white piece of paper in blue ink, the note read: “A beautiful baby girl was born on August day. When I first saw her, I knew she was perfect in every way…”
He underlined every rhyming word. I vividly recall discovering that folded piece of paper among my sandwich and Doritos. And, more than two decades later, I still have it. And, it still makes me smile.
#3 Love was a man sitting alone at a muddy gravesite in the pouring rain.
I encountered that heart-wrenching sight late last summer while driving on a rural highway en route to the beach. There was only him – eyes lowered, a red umbrella and a piece of paper in his hand.
#4 Love was my long-haired dachshund, Lucy, gagging and whimpering in the middle of the night.
My husband leapt from the bed with her in his arms, spread a towel across the carpeted floor and rubbed her head as her furry, 14-pound body trembled and vomited all over it. Once she hurled everything she had within her onto the towel, he pulled her to him and consoled her. She turned her eyes upward to meet his gaze, rested her delicate paw onto his chin and gave him a defeated lick as if to say, “Thank you.”
#5 Love was my sister-in-law walking down the aisle on that early October afternoon.
Her makeup was flawless, her skin perfectly lit by the late afternoon sun, and every strand of long blonde hair intact. She looked ethereal, otherworldly – like a fairytale in motion. But, the minute her heels met the grass and she locked eyes with my brother, the intensity of her emotion unlocked the gates holding back her tears. She wept with every step down the aisle, and intermittently while saying her vows. It was more beautiful than the bouquet she held in her hands.
#6 Love was the back of my friend Sam’s head as he was shuffling through the grass full of exhaust.
He was searching for our friend Leland’s phone. The week prior, Leland was tragically killed in a car accident when he fell asleep behind the wheel. Some of his belongings were missing, and his father requested that we go to the formidable scene in hopes of retrieving them.
Sam was determined to thumb through every blade of grass until he found it. He searched tirelessly – despite the biting chill in the air, despite the cold beer waiting for him at the hotel, despite the stains accumulating on his shoes, despite the fact that there were likely a million other things his heart and mind would rather have been distracted by that afternoon.
#7 Love was the twinkle in a 95 year-old World War II Veteran’s eyes.
While interviewing him for a story, I inquired about the events that unravelled in the years upon returning from service in 1945. His countenance instantly brightened as he replied, “I met and married my Chloe… my Chloe Winn. And, I built her the greenhouse she always wanted.”
His eyes glittered as though having been hijacked by a galaxy. He said her name as though it were a buttery chocolate truffle in his mouth. And, then – as if to prove his labor – he showed me the honorable calluses on his hands before releasing a playful cackle.
And, in my own marriage, I recognize love as a million fragments of beautiful things: It’s my husband safeguarding my mind from scary movies scenes. “Baby, just keep your eyes shut,” he says. “I’ll tell you when it’s safe to open them.”
It’s the way he lights up like a Christmas tree when he prepares my coffee perfectly, and the protective anger swarming his gaze when someone wrongs me.
Love could show me ten million more angles of its face, but even ten million would not be enough to encapsulate its presence within the hologram of my story.
Love Says, “I Am the Opposite of Perfection Because I Always Thrive In Spite of It.”
We often expect love to be as hair-raising as we want it to be foolproof. We want to be rendered breathless by its offerings – to be whisked away by the magnitude of its spine-tingling emotionalism. When we’re young, we expect love to overdose us on perfect exhilaration.
But, love is the opposite of perfection because it is energized by its ability to thrive in spite of it. It causes us to ruin our makeup, to sit in the pouring rain, to get blisters and calluses on our hands, to get exhaust and grass stains on our shoes and to stay up in the middle of the night when we’d rather be sleeping. Sometimes it calls for us to shriek with joy, and sometimes it calls for us to ache. But, its breath flows constant – like an unwavering stream – through the euphoric highs, the crushing lows and the unremarkable moments in between.
I don’t know what a perfect life looks like. I cannot predict with certainty if my story will include children. But, I do know what love looks like – I know it is the one thing I am encompassed by. And, I’ve decided that – for me – love is more than enough.
©TheDailyDoll.com / Lacey Johnson 2017
If you enjoyed this, you may also enjoy Life Will Have Its Way With You; Are You Having Your Way With It?, and my piece on Cosmopolitan, The First Father’s Day After Tragedy Struck Our Entire Family.