Yes, I know I kind of cheated on Days 3 and 4 — they both ended up being things I needed to forgive myself for instead of one that was myself and one that was another person. But what can I say, I’m struggling with a lot of guilt at the moment.
I will try to do better today.
Today’s challenge: Something you hope to do in your life.
I understand that there are a multitude of ways I could answer this and that my answer to this question might change from day to day or hour to hour or minute to minute, based on what my heart is yearning for at that moment. So, recognizing that, I am going to go with the first thing my heart said when I read this prompt.
I hope to grow old with James.
I hope that we are afforded the opportunity to see our children grow into healthy, happy, and productive adults. I hope that we can turn grey and hard-of-hearing and stooped together. I hope that we have the gift of loving each other through heartache and illness and, eventually, inevitably one of our deaths. This may all sound very macabre, but I assure you that I am not writing from a place of sadness or hopelessness. On the contrary, I see the possibility of old age with the man I love as an amazing blessing. And part of the reason for that is because I finally understand the idea of love getting better with time.
Just before Thanksgiving, I had dinner with my friends Annie and Helena. Helena had just started dating someone, but was feeling somewhat apprehensive about allowing herself to really enjoy it. Her deep-seated fears stemming from her abusive marriage and brutal divorce were holding her back from sinking into and truly enjoying the fun of a new relationship. Annie did her best to comfort and encourage Helena, reminding her that the early, heady days of romance are the best and sweetest times in a relationship. Initially I agreed, but something about that didn’t feel quite right to me, so even after the conversation had progressed beyond that point, I interrupted and told my friends I needed to revisit that concept.
Because, this is the thing: I can understand why the beginning of a relationship feels rife with uncertainty and fear for Helena. I know why it’s hard for her to relax into the fun and just sit happily in the bath of warm and sexually-charged emotions that are so prevalent in those early days. When you’ve been damaged — and I mean seriously injured emotionally in a relationship — it can be very difficult to relax and trust a new thing. New things are dangerous and unknown and risky. They are full of potential for harm, and it’s hard to believe that something wonderful might actually result from the crapshoot that is falling in love.
So, I get it.
My early days with James were fun, for sure. Discovering each other and exploring all that you might be together is heady stuff. But it was also a very insecure roller coaster ride fraught with fear and misunderstanding. Even after we bought a house and moved in together in 2013, it was just plain hard. I began to wonder if we’d ever reach a place of peace and understanding and unity. It took a Hail Mary pass in the form of couples counseling to move us beyond that stuck place.
What struck me sitting at that table with Annie and Helena was that James and I are actually happier and more in love now than when we first fell in love 5 1/2 years go. It’s true… our love has deepened and strengthened over time in ways that I have never experienced before. For the first time in my life, I can genuinely imagine that being in love with James when we are both in our 70’s might actually be better than what we have now. And that thought simply astounds me.
So these days I find myself day dreaming about the days when we are empty-nesters and free to create a life together that does not revolve around our six children. Money will be tight (to put it mildly) as we struggle to put the five younger ones through college, but we are good at spending time together cheaply. Then later, after the worst of the college expenses have passed, I can imagine us traveling a bit, exploring corners of the world together for as long as our physical bodies allow us. And then there will be, hopefully, the days of very old age, in which you support and care for each other through the aches and pains and failings that accompany the passing of those final years.
Maybe these are strange things to dream of. Maybe I am odd for being so excited already at the idea of grandchildren and downsizing our home. Maybe the dreams will change as life and its circumstances hurtle toward us. But the essence of my dreams, the best part of my dreams, won’t change: that James and I will still be in love and growing and evolving as individuals and a couple. All the rest is just scenery and props.
That is my most sincere hope, and I pray with my deepest heart that I have the chance to experience it.