Three years ago on Valentine’s Day I’d only known my partner (now husband) for five months - it was a long distance relationship. Each time we met there was just us, usually no children - all shiny, happy, sparkly and fresh. On our first Valentine’s Day he presented me with the key to his home attached to a heart keyring as a romantic sign of his commitment and a symbol of our intention to live together “one day”. It was a full on chocolate and flowers sort of day beginning with heart shaped poached eggs for breakfast.
Intellectually I recognised what was going on in those early heady days of a new relationship often likened to a form of mental illness. A slight losing of my grip on reality with the intoxicating high of love hormones flowing through, but the romantic part of me, as always, thought this was the one, unlike any other one as opposed to the one before the next one. Surely at my wise age with all the lessons learned from the failed broken relationships of my past - never my fault of course - I’d learned enough along the way to recognise that this REALLY was it. Woohoo. Plain sailing from here.
Whoever could have dreamt that one month later a global pandemic would kick in and I would be using the symbolic key on the heart shaped key ring for real as my son and I moved in. What could possibly go wrong?
There really was a honeymoon period in the beginning with the gorgeous endless summer heat along with the novelty of no school. Our children loved each other and we all got on so well - hell we were a modern day Waltons family.
Fast forward to the Autumn and everything seemed to have gone wrong. The novelty of a new sibling had worn off for all our children and the inevitable grief of leaving London in such a rush kicked in as I cried and hollered most days, judging myself harshly for not holding it together as I swung on an hourly pendulum of deciding whether to leave as I just wasn’t the same person I “used to be”. I could not allow myself to stay when I was in such a miserable broken state - what did I have to offer? How could the high summer with the Waltons turn into a miserable wet weekend at the Bates motel?
Thank the goddess for the patience of my partner along with yoga and poetry- the two other loves of my life - all of which allowed me to stop and surrender to what was.
As Wendell Berry puts it so eloquently
It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
And so my real work began. Learning how to heal, to let go of trying to control the uncontrollable, to trust that someone could really love me for who I was. Practising forgiveness for my perceived imperfections - sometimes every five minutes - as I was snappy, weepy, frazzled, martyrish, uptight and tense. Learning how to love myself.
It’s been a momentous three years and I’m grateful for a lot of it. It’s a happy home we’ve created in Southampton and whilst we will never be the Waltons it’s pretty cool as it is and I love the balance of a sweet home studio in Southampton whilst still getting the buzz from working in London.
This year, as I have every year, I’ll be spending Valentine’s Day with the love of my life - I just didn’t recognise her for the first 55 years. I hope you are too.