“You never loved me!”
I didn’t answer back. At the time, I didn’t know how. The accusation wasn’t true, yet there was some truth in it.
I had loved my ex-husband, even in that moment, but my love wasn’t that our-hearts-beat-as-one love. The soulmate, I-can’t-live-without-you “true” love.
A side note: I’m not including in this tangle of thoughts love for children or parents or pets. This is about romantic love.
You never loved me!
I felt the raw pain in his accusation. After three children and more than fifteen years of marriage, there it was, this half-truth squatting uncomfortably on the shards of our relationship.
That moment haunted me for years. The untrue truth didn’t prompt the demise of our marriage (we had other problems), yet for years, I struggled with the notion that I had a defect in my love gears that made me incapable of “true” love.
Is true love a childish fantasy or daydream? I don’t think so. I know couples who have “true” love, who feel they are soulmates. At times, I felt envious. I compared myself and wondered, “Why can’t I have that? Am I broken?”
In an effort to untangle the nature of my love mechanism and hoping to find out what was broken, I committed quite a bit of thought and energy to these questions. I looked in, but I also looked out.
Looking out, I became aware that assumptions often made about “true” love and other relationships fall apart on scrutiny. Couples who feel they are soulmates are not without their ups and downs and missteps. Even soulmates must work on right relationship. Couples who don’t fancy themselves soulmates can enjoy depth of commitment and compassion. Old solid relationships may still have embarrassing middle-school moments, and budding ones often work through hurdles with maturity and wisdom.
Looking out, I confirmed what I already knew: romantic love comes in many sizes, shapes, and tones.
Looking in, I started defining the expectations I had going into a relationship and understanding the qualities I wanted in a partner and partnership. Pretty damn practical. Share in all things domestic, complete projects together yet have projects of our own, communicate with compassion and patience, journey together and journey apart. My list did not include requisites such as “must be my soulmate” or “I would die without him.”
The observations and introspection helped me understand that I wasn’t broken at all. Perhaps I guard my heart, perhaps my love is not “true” love as conceived by many. Yet I would argue that my love is true.
Explain? OK. I love my partner of nine years. I’m still working on domestic equity, but we share, we fuss, we communicate, we have projects, we take trips, and we have independent interests and endeavors. We’re not soulmates, but our love is good. True love? I would say that my love is true, but I would hasten to point out that, if he were to die tomorrow, I would be sad, deeply sad. I would mourn and grieve. But I would not be devastated or feel lost. Is that because he’s not my soulmate? Is it because I guard my heart? I’m not sure what the answer is. I do believe, however, that the “trueness” of my love should not be measured by my dependence on the presence of that person.
For those who would accuse me of settling for a partner I can love instead of waiting for the soulmate I can’t live without, let me assure you I didn’t settle, I chose. We chose each other. That said, I’m not writing this for those doubters. I’m writing this for the other people like me, who, at some point wondered if they were getting it all wrong, if they were incapable of true love, if they were broken because they couldn’t surrender their hearts with abandon.
While we can make generalizations about love, define it, classify it, even qualify it, those intellectual exercises confuse the love we live. I don’t believe in hard edges that define where you cross into or out of true love. Instead of ideals and definitions, I would have been better served as a young adult by this kind of advice:
- Don’t chastise yourself if your love doesn’t fit a standard definition.
- Observe others in love but don’t belittle your love for being different.
- Your unique love journey should start from within, loving yourself, understanding your expectations and needs.
- Be true to yourself and your love will be true.
My ex was a little right but mostly wrong. I did love him. In some ways I still do.
In the end, no matter what size, shape, or tone, love is love. Be true to it.
Copyright © 2015 by Pennie Nichols, All Rights Reserved.
Hi. My name is Pennie, and I’m an eke addict.
I eke things for everything they have. I like to squeeze all the life out of the foods and products that come into our home. A few of my peccadillos will sound familiar to some of you, even if you only slightly struggle with this addiction: boiling chicken bones or shrimp shells and heads to make broths, boiling rib bones to enhance the dog food, using compost buckets instead of garbage disposals, keeping a compost pile, and wishing the recycling truck would pass twice a week instead of once (the regular garbage truck could pass just once a month).
Although I’m an amateur addict, I know I am in advancing stages of this addiction because I have some less familiar habits.
I keep a second compost bucket for eggshells that I eventually grind for the garden. I have a worm colony that thrives in a tub outside my back door.
I use flat cardboard boxes from Costco for starting seedlings.
Additionally (and this habit may border on eccentric for some of you), I ferment citrus scraps —peels and pulp— in reused plastic bottles to make cleaning enzymes.
To feed my addiction, I cull the Internet for ideas. Pages like Food Parts That Are Surprisingly Useful and DIY Life Hacks: 25 easy ways to reuse commonly thrown items make me jump out of my chair and dance around the room. No wonder I can’t stop. The possibilities seem endless.
Back to my addiction. I sometimes —this is starting to get uncomfortable, but I suppose this is why we’re here— I sometimes try to raise the dead. Dead plants, that is.
I finally faced the fallout from the freezes. Dead pepper plants. Hundreds of cayenne, scorpion, and scotch bonnet peppers, now ghosts, snuffed out in their prime. Even the stems closest to the roots snapped dry, lifeless. I knew it was time to let go. As I took a deep breath and began to harvest the dead peppers to add seeds to my already enormous seed collection, a possible eke path revealed itself to me.
The cayenne peppers (did I mention there were hundreds of them?) were dry and crisp, like the red ones I had harvested and dried out months before to make cayenne pepper powder.
I could grind the cayenne pepper ghosts and make a unique pepper powder!
I was dancing in the dead pepper garden.
Ghost Cayenne Pepper powder! No. That would confuse people and ghost pepper fans would be disappointed. White Cayenne Powder? No, boring. This was making me dance. I needed an exciting name to fit the mood. Cayenne Angel Powder? Possibly, although still tame for the moment I was experiencing. Whatever it will be called, the deed is done.
So that’s my story this week. In a nutshell: I resist letting go. When something goes wrong or when something seems used up, I try one more time, one more thing.
This compulsion is not confined to food, gardening, cardboard boxes, and dead plants, but creeps into my work practices and personal relationships as well. I find ways to reuse and re-purpose the good stuff at work. A rift in a friendship, even a dismal one, is a path to healing and reconciliation, a way to eke more (and better) life out of the connection I have with that friend.
Dead pepper plants become a unique pepper powder. A misunderstanding with a friend becomes a path to deeper communication. I confess I will continue to resist letting go. I will continue to eke out the good in things. I can’t help myself.
Hello. My name is Pennie and I’m an eke addict. I’m not looking for a cure. I’m looking for enablers.
Copyright © 2015 by Pennie Nichols, All Rights Reserved.