This is beyond doubt the most personal, revealing (and rambling) post I have ever written. Believe me, I am so far out of my comfort zone right now, I’m in another country. But write it I will – for the record, and for anyone else who has lost their Old Self to depression, love and all. As one of my favourite writers, the fabulous Neil Gaiman, said, “The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you’re walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself, that’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.”
So here goes.
Depression did a lot of weird things to me, including wiping my feelings for my husband. Yes, the very man who stood by me throughout everything, supported me, cared for me, never stopped loving me, even when I was more than a few cards short of a full pack. I didn’t feel anything negative towards him, I just … didn’t feel. It was never a physical thing. I always have and always will find him beautiful. After all, it was the first thing I noticed about him. It was something at a deeper level that had switched off inside me. I understood that this was a huge problem, but me being me, I decided to pretend it wasn’t happening at all. And perhaps I could have gone on ignoring it for months, for years, even. But then he got a job on the other side of the country and left to work there – and it was two months before I could take the kids and join him.
Two months – even with three kids – gives you time to think. And it gave him time to think, too. So that when we finally got together again, we talked – really talked – about everything. We stayed up until three or four in the morning every night, like we used to when we first met, and we hashed it all out. I tried (completely inarticulately) to explain that I didn’t not love him, but I was just blank. I was just lost. I think he even understood me. And he told me how he felt, what he saw for us in our future together.
Then, slowly, slowly, something inside me started to wake up.
The first thing I registered was that he’d sat down and thought about all this stuff. A thirtysomething bloke who, let’s be honest, is not the type to talk about his feelings. Even though he hadn’t done anything to break this, he wanted to fix it. It was so important to him. I was so important to him. I mean, that should be pretty obvious since we’re married, but it hit me like a ton of bricks. Back when we were in our early twenties, I was his world. He adored me, he would have done anything for me … and he still felt that way, after everything. It blew me away.
I started to see him. I mean, really see him. I’ve known him since the day after my nineteeth birthday, and I guess I just got used to him. I realised that he has qualities that I lack – that I envy. His ability to say ‘no’ to people, to put himself and his family first. His ability to really, truly, honestly not care what anyone else thinks of him. His ability to never be fake, but to always genuinely be himself. These are things I cannot do. These are things he can teach me.
I finally realised what a smart guy he is. He’s not book smart (you know, apart from being practically bilingual) but I knew that from the beginning. I didn’t think it would ever bother me because he had such a good heart. But then sometimes, later, it did bother me. How can someone not know the year Britian joined World War II? Or have to think about the answer to 7×7? But I realise now that he’s far more intelligent than me – with my straight A grades, my offer from Cambridge University and my first class degree. He’s the one that can read people, who knows what he wants and does what he loves, who knows himself, who knows me.
I noticed that he’s completely fair. He stands up for me and that makes me feel so safe, but he doesn’t let me get away with anything. He calls me out when I’m being a bitch, when I’m taking things too far. And he’s always right, dammit. All these years I thought I was running rings around him, that he wasn’t paying attention, that he didn’t remember. He remembers everything – but he doesn’t hold any of it against me.
It hit me that all this time, I’d been trying to change him. In small ways, little things about his character, things that bugged me. And it also hit me that he has never once tried to change me. So I asked him – what should I do? What should I change to be better for you? And he told me … nothing. You are perfect just the way you are. He actually said that. And, no, not sarcastically or while rolling his eyes and sniggering. He actually meant it. Me. Perfect. The one-time-crazy and still sometimes-crazy, angry, moody, bitchy, self-loathing, never-good-enough mess that is yours truly. Freakin’ perfect.
In the end, it was a combination of all these things and more that brought me back. I really did fall in love all over again. With the same guy. Not in the same way, I guess, but to the same degree. … Does that make sense? It was less like going on an exciting unplanned roadtrip and more like coming home.
Do you know the poem Fidelity by D.H. Lawrence?
Man and woman are like the earth, that brings forth flowers
in summer, and love, but underneath is rock.
Older than flowers, older than ferns, older than foraminiferae,
older than plasm altogether is the soul underneath.
And when, throughout all the wild chaos of love
slowly a gem forms, in the ancient, once-more-molten rocks
of two human hearts, two ancient rocks,
a man’s heart and a woman’s,
that is the crystal of peace, the slow hard jewel of trust,
the sapphire of fidelity.
The gem of mutual peace emerging from the wild chaos of love.
I always hated that poem because of the last few lines. It sounded so boring. Being young and crazy is fun – who wants a sapphire of fidelity? A gem of mutual peace? Yawn. But now I look at the other lines: “underneath is rock … the soul underneath …” and I get it. Aside from ‘love’, there is no better word than ‘fidelity’ to describe how my husband has stood by me through these last few years. It just took me a little longer to get there.
I thought I’d be sad to admit that we’re not the pretty, wild flowers of summer anymore. But it doesn’t. Perhaps it’s because I’m a bit of a geology geek, but being a tough, beautiful, unbreakable gemstone sounds pretty cool to me.