Last Saturday, my husband and I celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary. Add on to that the five years we had been dating and we have been together for 21 years.
This is half my life.
Half my life, I have been with this incredible man who alternates between being my best friend, my greatest supporter, and my biggest nemesis.
I can just hear you now…Wait, did I read that correctly?
Yup. You read that correctly.
Best friend. Supporter. Nemesis.
And I love him. I have loved him for nearly 21 years (sorry, it wasn’t love at first sight).
Let’s start backwards and address the nemesis part of my husband’s description.
When I was a teenager, I generally read fantasy novels which, invariably, brought in some element of romance. I hated romance novels, couldn’t stand the formula or the general foolishness that existed between the pages. But a Terry R. Brooks Shanarra novel? Yup, I would keep on coming back from more.
In the romantic sections, the characters either overlooked the various foibles or frustrating traits their partners had, were incredibly patient or forgiving, or were stupid and blind. Or, the characters didn’t have any type of frustrating traits and were merely perfect individuals who were a god’s gift to the world (barf). The point is, these characters never had one of those painful heart-to-hearts in which one character would talk about all the annoying characteristics and personality flaws the other person had. I never read about the fights the characters would have over who made the bed (or rolled up the sleeping blankets), who folded the laundry, who cooked the meals, or who washed the dishes. Apparently, those chores magically did themselves (duh…fantasy novels….).
If these characters fought, it revolved around something like jealousy or a sense that one person was holding the other back (due to fear, maybe the person didn’t cast the spells right). But, in the end, fantasy novels didn’t teach me that much about real-live romance and the spats two lovers can have over something as simple as “You don’t tell me that you love me.” “Yeah I do.” “But you don’t say it first!”
Pat is an honest man. At times, he is just a little too honest which can be rather hurtful when my best intentions can go wildly awry and the praise (selfish moment here) or reassurance is nothing more than him giving me a puzzled look that might be laced with scorn. Sometimes, his honesty is hurtful, but once I have removed the thorns and appraised the imaginary hurts, I can see that his honesty was well-intentioned.
Love isn’t always about sugar-sentences that are saturated with platitudes. Love is about honesty which can make fights happen. But when we wade through the anger and see past the hurt dignity, Pat and I can see that our constructive criticism is just that….constructive.
Because, believe it or not, I really am not that perfect. (Shocker, I know!).
And that is where Patrick isn’t my nemesis. He is my supporter. Because in his honesty and in his ease with offering criticism (as unwelcome as it usually is), I grow and change. I scrape away at all those little foibles which might be driving him crazy and which are likely driving other people crazy. When I started sending my novel out to literary agents and received at least seven rejections, I finally talked with Pat about it.
Over the course of six hours, he helped me untangle my plot, smooth out issues that existed with my characterization, and give me an entire new plot with several new characters. It’s been two years since that conversation. I haven’t started sending out the novel again, but not out of fear. I just know that the novel isn’t ready yet.
But that is love in its honesty and perfection once more. Because what I am writing and editing at this point is far stronger and far better than what I wrote in the past.
As I have been preparing for my new job, Pat and I have chatted for hours as I hammer out different ideas. He was the typical English teacher-student nemesis in high school (see a pattern?) and I use him as a sounding board for different ideas. How would he react to this idea? If I see the look reminiscent of a deer in the headlights, I know I have created a nightmare for students. Change a few things and I have a master plan.
After coming off the Appalachian Trail two weeks ago, Pat has been the one to listen to my joy and love for hiking, for walking with my world on my back, for the ruggedness of the Appalachian Trail. I am training for a hundred mile hike next summer (and that is only one of many hikes I want to take) and he is beside me. As I run, he walks (bad knees). When I stare with longing at different hiking packs, he helps me navigate the different intricacies related to camping packs and what I might need. Today, he bought me a special hat that is defined as “ultralight” and can be used for keeping me warm or to do freezer bag cooking. About thirty minutes ago, he helped me find an inflatable air mattress to help me with sleeping on the ground.
I know this might seem rather duh-ish that I consider my husband as these different traits. But, at the same time, Pat is not the king of romance. One person actually encouraged me to leave Pat, to kick him out. But if I am looking for a man who is consistent, local, compassionate, kind, loving….well then I don’t need to look but maybe eighteen inches to the left of me, where he is currently lying on his side, reading camping information on his iPad.
Happy anniversary, beloved. I didn’t forget. But I wanted to write about you when it wasn’t our anniversary because I wanted to do something that wasn’t routine. I wanted to give you a gift that wasn’t written out of necessity or a sense of duty. But because you are nothing more than a fabulous man, a wonderful husband, and a damn-great best friend.
Love you. Mean it.