Three Hundred & Sixty-Five.

Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty five thousand moments so dear
Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?
“Seasons Of Love” – Rent

One year. Twelve months. Fifty-two weeks. Three hundred and sixty five days… And I’m still as twitterpated as the day we met.

Oh, sure, the novelty has worn off. We don’t text all day, every day. We don’t shower each other in compliments or “I miss you”s after an hour apart. Most of the time, our “romantic” date night consists of picking up the week’s new comics and watching Star Wars in our underwear for the eleven billionth time. I no longer try to avoid offending you when we disagree. Hell, I’m quite happy to call you an asshole on a regular basis.

But you know what? You ARE an asshole. And I love you anyway.

The past year has been full of growth for the two of us, both individually and as a couple. You’ve held my hand through some pretty major career changes, and I’ve picked up pieces I don’t think you even realised were broken. I don’t want to say it’s been easy – we’ve fought, we’ve upset each other, we’ve struggled with the distance every step of the way – but it’s never been difficult. I’ve always known that whatever happened, we’d face it together. Since day one, it’s felt like it has always been, and always will be, the two of us taking on the world.

I laugh to think that just a year ago, I had no idea how my life would change. How a shoe store on a Friday afternoon could be the catalyst to the most incredible love I’ve ever known. How one date could leave my head spinning, my heart racing, and my lips knowing that I wanted you to be my last first kiss.

Through thick and thin, we’ve weathered the storm. Angry, sad, scared, and happy (so happy!) – you have seen me through it all. I couldn’t ask for a more amazing person to share my life with. Jeff Gordon, you are my superhero, my wonderwall, my big picture. I am so blessed to love you and to be loved by you. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for us.

Love always,
T

Your Perception Of Love Is Bullshit

Someone once told me that true love means 100% happiness. That it means perpetual beauty. That your true love will never make you feel less than perfect.

To be blunt, that’s utter bullshit.

As young girls, we’re lead to believe that one day, Prince Charming will appear. He’ll be strong and handsome and will tell us how beautiful we are every day. It’s implied that he’ll do his share of dish washing and laundry folding and won’t leave wet towels on the bedroom floor. He won’t snore, or stay out late on poker night, and he will never make us feel like anything less than the lust-inspiring vixen we have worked so hard to become. (Thanks, media!) Prince Charming, you see, will be perfect for us, because we deserve him.

Now, I’m not saying that we should be settling for less. Nobody – male or female – should be with someone who treats them poorly, disrespects them, is unfaithful or abusive or is an asshole in any other imaginable way. I think a lot of us stay in bad relationships because we don’t want to give up – but that’s a whole different tangent.

Simply put, I’d like us to re-asses what “true love” means. Does true love mean blind devotion, even in the face of betrayal? Does it mean surrendering the right to be one’s authentic self for the pleasure of the other? Does it mean repressing our feelings or avoiding arguments because that would indicate imperfection?

I’d venture to say it means none of those things.

True love is about being the most authentic, disgusting, absolutely bare-souled version of yourself and having someone still think you’re rad. It’s helping them break down their walls and discovering that they’re breaking down walls you didn’t even know you had. True love isn’t perfect. Sometimes it means bickering. Sometimes it means full-on fights where you don’t even want to look at them because you’re so angry. But true love means knowing you’ll work through it. True love means having someone know all your quirks and habits and flaws. It means that they will sometimes point these flaws out, and you will feel stupid and ridiculous and probably a little hurt. But true love means they’ve pointed it out as a means to help you own the behaviour, whether or not you change it is immaterial.

True love sometimes means wanting to spend every waking second next to them. Sometimes, it means you want your own damn space without them all up in your bidness and knowing that they will understand if you don’t want to cuddle right now. True love is dirty dishes and mortgages and fighting children and being so frustrated with each other that you want to scream.

True love is a choice you make every day to cherish and support your partner through both good and bad. True love is not 100% happy. It’s not always beautiful. It’s not about how perfect they make you feel. It’s not the faerie tale ending you’ve dreamed of. True love is blood and sweat and tears and sacrifice. It’s realising that the flaws that make us human are what make us capable of love. And it’s knowing that, despite the flaws, you’d pick them all over again.

The Way You Love Me

The way you love me is understated. It’s silent, rarely spoken, never hidden but likewise never flaunted. It’s buying sriracha and not gagging when I liberally douse everything I eat with it, and only laughing a little when I eat too much and my stomach hurts. It’s playfully teasing me about my veganism but sending back my veggie burger with cheese when I’m too shy to bug the waiter.

The way you love me is under the blankets, my cold feet pressed up against whatever warm body part I can find. You’ve never complained about it – not once, not even when I wore ridiculously cute shoes that were incredibly inappropriate for the weather and lamented my frozen toes for hours afterward. It’s pushing me to the far side of the bed even though we both know we’ll wake up pressed together with limbs entangled.

The way you love me is a quick fix of my skirt’s hem when I didn’t even notice it was tucked. It’s your eyes scanning me over, drinking me in, and the appreciative “you look great” that I would doubt coming from anyone other than you. It’s taking so damn long in the shower that I eventually give up and just hop in with you. Once I do, it’s in your expression watching me scrub myself – such a mundane action, but your shy half-smile makes me feel like I am the most beautiful woman you’ve ever seen.

The way you love me is a lazy Saturday with no kids and no pants and a marathon of classic movies we’ve never seen. Steve Martin is running around as The Jerk and your head is on my chest and everything in the world seems to stand still. The movie ends and I notice how regular and even your breathing is, and I feel so blessed to have this moment – this little flash of perfection.

The way you love me isn’t loud. It isn’t flashy and those who don’t know you would completely miss its existence. But to me, the shine in your eyes is as unmistakable as the sun; it’s always there, even when I’m not looking for it.

Time Stood Still

TRIGGER WARNING: DOMESTIC & SEXUAL VIOLENCE, RAPE

 

May 13, 2005
On a dingy bathroom floor in a house full of addicts, she waited. The test sat on the counter, scarce inches away, yet she couldn’t look. One… two… three minutes passed. It was now or never. Her hands shaking, she picked up her future, wrapped in a disguise of plastic and paper and urine. Positive. She closed her eyes, unsure if she was relieved or disappointed. Time stood still.

January 27, 2006
The hospital was crowded, as if everyone in a fifty mile radius had decided to give birth right then and there. A blur of lights and sleep and strange beeps and frantic calls and pain, oh the pain! She couldn’t quite remember how or why she had ended up in the operating room or why they wouldn’t let her hold her daughter right away or anything beyond the overwhelming agony that every second away from the child caused. A bundle was placed in her arms – The bluest eyes she’d ever seen, the blackest hair, the most perfect little mouth. The world melted away and she finally knew the meaning of her life.

July 15, 2006
She could smell the whiskey on his breath before he entered the room. Her heart beat faster as she clutched her baby closer. One foot out the window, easy does it, twist and turn and grab the ledge … – his hand wrapped around hers and in a single breath she was on the bedroom floor again. The baby bawled in his arms as he hurled accusation after accusation, stepping more firmly on her throat with every uttered syllable. Her life flashed before her eyes and in the moment before the stars became darkness, time stood still.

June 1, 2007
He stumbled in at 9am, drunk, though god knows he’d gone to work last night. She lay awake – eyes closed, breathing regular – hoping he’d think she was still asleep. Their daughter stirred; a heavenly coo from the cradle next to their bed. She jumped up to attend before his clumsy hands could reach the tiny being, but not before a slurred “Stunned cunt, let me sleep” escaped his lips as he collapsed into the pillows. When the darkness overcame him, she methodically packed her belongings and drove to the new apartment across town. Furniture would have to wait, but in that moment, her life started over.

December 17, 2011
The night was young, the music loud, the tequila flowing freely. Across the table, he winked and smiled and she had never felt so sexy. The bar closed, the after party started, and before she knew it, 3am had arrived and it was only the two of them awake. He kissed her, she kissed back, he reached up her skirt. She said no. He stopped. He tried again. The no became more urgent. He conceded and allowed her to drift into unconsciousness. She awoke long enough to kick him and roll over as he peeled her panties off, then returned to the nothingness she had been roused from. Seconds… minutes… ages later, her mind snapped out of the fog, feeling him inside her, momentum building, grunts of pleasure escaping his lips. Her body froze. Words caught in her throat. As he emptied himself into her, time stood still.

July 19, 2013
Eight hours of magic was coming to a close. She thought it was going well, but one could never quite tell with a first date. They placed a bet on the last bowling match – if he won, she had to say yes to a second date. She lost, albeit unintentionally, though she was far from disappointed at the prospect of more time in his company. He walked her to her car; she thanked him for a wonderful day. The sun was setting just behind him, a brilliant cascade of light gleaming over his left shoulder. He hugged her and she could feel the restless energy stirring within him. In a moment of impulsive desire, she pressed her lips to his and held on tightly as the rest of the world became irrelevant.

November 8, 2013
They lay in bed, her head on his chest, his arms protectively cocooning her. He kissed her goodnight, and just as he was dozing off, a timid whisper asked if he was still awake. Now alert, he asked her why. Seconds passed as she took a calming breath and responded with some off-pitch statement about needing to tell him something. With a hint of suspicion, he probed her intentions. Her heart beat faster as she attempted to gather her courage. “I love you,” she breathed, barely audible, as she buried her face in his neck. He gently lifted her chin, gazing into her eyes through the dark. “I love you,” he responded, kissing her tenderly as time stood still.

Missed Opportunities

The first time I thought I might love you, it was August. We’d driven two hours to the racetrack, only to see a “Closed due to rain” sign on the gate. I laughed when you replaced it with a sign blaming the closure on the drivers’ diarrhea. On the way home, you held my hand and sang “I’m On Fire” along with Springsteen. You dozed off, but you wouldn’t let go of my hand. Every time I looked over at you, I couldn’t help thinking that you were absolutely, breathtakingly perfect. But it was too soon, so I swallowed my words and kept my eyes on the road.

A few days later, whilst laying on my bed, you told me about growing up without a mom, how your step-mom was never very nice to you, how your relationship with your dad is good, “good but complicated.” You seemed almost ashamed of your vulnerability. Instead of meeting my eyes, you buried your face in the curve of my neck. I could feel the pain in your words, and all I wanted was to hold you, to make it okay, to take your heart in my hands and fill it up with so much love that you wouldn’t even notice its scars. I listened and stroked your hair; I told you I was sorry and that I would always be there to listen. You were so vulnerable that the words caught in my throat, so I kissed you and tried not to cry.

Weeks passed. One night, cuddled up in bed, I asked if you were sleepy. You told me you were, but asked what was on my mind. With a single deep breath for courage, I poured out all the hurt and pain and trauma from years past. I saw the sadness in your eyes – not because you didn’t want to know, but because it hurt you to know what I had been through. I buried my face in your chest and sobbed, and you didn’t flinch; You hugged me closer and told me you were proud of me for speaking up. I felt the words bubbling up, but it was late and I was scared, so I thanked you and went to sleep.

The moments started coming quicker: The night you told me that I am the only girl you have trusted not to cheat. The day at the park when you referred to us as a family. Thanksgiving Day, when my mother picked a fight and you snuck into the bathroom to tell me it would be okay. The day you found your ex’s belongings in a long-forgotten storage closet and happily threw every last one of them in the trash. The first time you scored a goal and flashed a brilliant smile up at me in the stands. The reasons started to become smaller: Your smile. The way your eyes light up at any mention of Star Wars. How you grill every waiter at every restaurant about what your vegan girlfriend can eat. The gigantic piles of kindling you cut me with no complaint. The way you – a man who doesn’t do PDA – always seem to end up with your arm around me as we walk. How you turn up the heat for me, even though you’re always too warm. The little texts you send to say you miss me when you’re gaming with the boys. Just every little thing you do and say and are. But the moment was never right, so I kept my mouth shut.

The moment I knew unequivocally that I love you was almost laughably mundane. It was a Saturday afternoon, and you were napping . I lay next to you, lost in a book, when I briefly glanced over. I can’t even explain why, but you took my breath away so completely. It was like I was seeing you for the first time, whilst feeling like I’d known you all my life. I wanted to wake you with a kiss, snuggle into the little cocoon your arms always seem to make, and whisper in your ear that I love you beyond measure. But I’m still afraid that you don’t love me back, so I turned the page and decided I’ll wait.

Lessons From Lovers Past

The One Whose Heart I Broke

I learned to skateboard with your hand in mine. You taught me how to bare my soul without saying a word and how to get lost in the milky chocolate of your eyes. I learned to roll a joint and drive a stick shift with your watchful eye on my every move. You taught me how much words can mean, and how much more meaninful silence can be, punctuated only by the sound of your heart beating. I learned to not expect a phone call when you were gaming with your buddies. You taught me that breakups are never straight forward, and that “I’m no good for you” sometimes means “my friends don’t like you.” I learned that moving on after being dumped ruins second chances. You taught me to say “I love you” when I feel it, not when it’s “acceptable” to. I learned that sex with your ex is always a bad idea and leads to sticky situations forever afterward. You taught me how much it hurts to break someone’s heart.

The One Who Got Away

 You taught me how to play poker, how to change my car’s oil, and how to do a wicked smoke show in the school parking lot. I learned how to play Halo and how to make friends with almost anyone. You taught me how to whole-heartedly pursue the things that make me happy and to leave behind those that don’t. I learned the “rules” of Catholicism, of UFC, of that ridiculous drinking game we made up and couldn’t remember the next morning. You taught me how to truly miss someone – someone who wasn’t physically far away, but was emotionally distant. I learned that no matter how often you let me go, I’d always come running back when you beckoned. You taught me how many people can get hurt in an off and on “relationship,” and how much it hurts that you would never refer to us as in one. I learned that once I stopped going back to you, once I pretended that I didn’t love you – we actually made great friends. You taught me how much it hurts to see someone you still love, years later, dating one of your closest friends. I learned that, 10 years after we last spoke, Kokanee beer, black mustangs, and “Speedfreak” by Motorhead will always take me back to the front seat of your car on the night you told me it was over for good. You taught me that sometimes, what we can never hold on to is what we want the most. I learned that there are people you will never quite let go of.

The One Who Fathered My Child 

Because of you, I learned to stand on my own two feet. You taught me how to drink and smoke more pot than I ever thought possible. I learned that in moments of intoxication, the most mundane experience can be otherworldly. You helped teach me that a mother’s love compares to nothing else on Earth. I learned that no good deed goes unpunished. You taught me that it’s okay to walk away when you realize you’re on a crash course to disaster. I learned to hide my bruises and to make up convincing stories for those that were impossible to cover. You taught me how to duck and cover, when to stop talking, how to plead for my life. I learned to take a hit and go right back to washing the dishes without waking the baby. You taught me that your cocaine use was “no big deal” and something you “had under control.” I learned how to recognize your actions when you were using – the way your eyes would take on that funny glint, how you’d clench your jaw, the unexplainable rages. You taught me that I was worth more than your abuse and that loving someone can mean leaving them.

The One I Thought I’d Marry 

You taught me how to swap out the rear differential in a Toyota Supra. I learned how to start a fire, how to open up and let someone in, how to speak of the unspeakable moments in my past. You taught me to let loose once in awhile, to have fun, to not give a single fuck about tomorrow because the night was young and worries were for the old. I learned how beautiful the stars are on the top of a mountain with only a blanket and your arms to keep me warm. You taught me to hold my feelings in, to never voice them for the fear of being called “crazy,” no matter how valid they may have been. I learned to fear a breakup with every fight because your solution was always to walk away for good. You taught me that my best was never good enough, that no matter how hard I tried to be who you wanted me to be, I would never stack up to the standard set by The Love Of Your Life who broke your heart three years before we met. I learned that being  friends with your ex sometimes means you’re still sleeping with them.

The One I Never Meant To Love

I learned the rules to football – CFL and NFL – and how to be an awesome chaperone for 13 year old boys at midnight releases. You taught me how to ride a dirtbike – first with your arms around my waist as you tried not to cover your eyes, and then on my own. I learned to ask for what I wanted from you, even if you never seemed to deliver. You taught me the beauty in a good morning text and a goodnight text and a million little “I miss you”s in between. I learned that you never really stopped with those texts, you just started sending them to the girl you were cheating on me with. You taught me to never let a man borrow my Darth Vader mug, because I still haven’t got it back. I learned that your family didn’t know we were dating – that they disapproved of me even as just a friend. You taught me to be ashamed of us, to stay hidden so that you wouldn’t have to tell your friends your girlfriend was a feminist. I learned that no matter how much you love someone, they can be done with you in a split-second. You taught me that sometimes relationships end months before we say goodbye.