Real love, Really

I don’t pretend to be an expert about anything- as a matter of fact, all those old sayings about knowing less the older you get ring disturbingly true for me. Disturbing because I remember being younger and thinking “Well, that’s a bunch of crap.” Because, of course, things were extremely clear to me, then. I had opinions about LOTS of things, and it was super easy to make up my mind about other people and the way they ran their lives- why not? There was a right way, there was a wrong way. It was black and white, good or bad, a should and a should not, and that was that.

Of course, that was before I had ever been forced to make any hard decisions of my own. Before life really got it’s hooks into me and swept me fast and far out into it’s turbulent sea…I thought lot’s of things, before that. Some of those things include, but are not limited to: Abortion is wrong, period, end of story. Anyone on welfare is a low life, no exceptions. All drug addicts are hopeless, worthless, lost causes who will rob you blind. Those are the biggys that come immediately to mind, but there are others, lots and lots of them. I believed that stuff with all of my heart until the day came, and it unfailingly has- with ALL the things I have been so sure about, that I had to stand in those shoes and face the reality of that situation. Every single one of them.

I thought I had an idea about what love was, back then, too. Looking back, I could not tell you why I did, since there are clearly no honest examples of it. I had lots and lots (and LOTS, shut up.) of boyfriends…we said we loved each other. So we must have, right? EH. I mean, I can’t speak for them, of course, which makes me feel bad about what I’m going to say next- I don’t think I had a clue how to love somebody, or what love really was. Sure, I was great at the unrequited love affair with the unattainable boys- sometimes these affairs went on for long, long periods of miserable time. I poured so much energy and devotion and imagination (and basically the entire decade of my twenties plus the bulk of my teen years) into these “relationships”, I never had a chance to try out a real one. Honestly, though, with the amount of drugs I was using, there was no chance of any love surviving under my care, anyway. I doubt I could have been around a normal, healthy person without breaking out in hives and cold sweats in fear of being found out. Not, you know, that they couldn’t have just looked at me and figured it out. I thought I was pretty sneaky, but looking back, not so much.

So, I got to be thirty, my life improved drastically, and I met somebody. He’s not the somebody I’m with now, but he was somebody important because he is the one who kind of gave me an idea of how to behave myself in a relationship. I didn’t really know you could be with someone, have a fight, and then stay together. I didn’t know you could get mad without exchanging phrases such as “You stupid bitch.” and “You dumb mother-f-” Well, you get the idea. He sort of initiated me into the world of decency and respect one can have if you both work really hard at it and blah, blah, blah…so when we broke up (on good terms and as friends) I REALLY thought I knew how to do this thing.

Then I met Devon. Oh my gosh, Devon. I figured he was just my rebound relationship. I’m pretty sure he just wanted to get laid (what, do I have like, a SIGN on my back that says “easy”?!). Fast forward four years, three houses, two cars and a baby later…but I’m jumping ahead. Every single thing I thought I knew about relationships has been erased. Every single thing I swore I never would put up with has been challenged. We have done things, said things, behaved in ways I would not have believed possible for me to tolerate had I not lived it. Without getting too specific, I think it’s safe to say we have really broken each other down, in every conceivable manner.

Why did we stay together? I have no idea. We certainly tried to leave each other, on many occasions. When one of us gave up, the other one held on for dear life, and we took turns. I’m not saying it was the best way to keep a relationship together, I’m not saying it was smart, I’m not saying anything other than- this is how it was for us. I do know this one thing- I tend not to question the relationships of others anymore. He did WHAT? And you’re STAYING? Yep, I get it. You’re willing to risk EVERYTHING for HIM? Yeah, I totally get it. She hurt you this much, and you are STILL gonna go back for more? I understand. Because sometimes, it’s worth it.

I saw a quote recently, I think it was credited to Mother Theresa, and it said something like “When you are busy judging people, you have no time left to love them.” I spent SO much time judging Devon for so long, so much time acting like I was better than him…I’m ashamed of that, now. Of course, I’m not making excuses for the stuff he is responsible for, I’m just saying it’s pretty hard to grow something loving between two people in an atmosphere of less-than, better than, you know? I can be so harsh and mean, sometimes, and I saw what I wanted to see. It’s been a rough, rough road. I was way too busy judging instead of loving.

Today, I understand that you can’t fit love into a comfortable definition. It doesn’t work like that. The one thing I am pretty sure of is that really loving someone means knowing them well, and accepting them in spite of it. Lets be real-we are all big, flawed messes. I am incredibly hard to live with- I’m moody and messy and unpredictable. I require more attention than the baby and the puppy put together sometimes…last night, for instance, I was in a really goofy mood. Devon was trying, after a long day of work followed by a long night at a birthday party for a one year old, to get a load of laundry done. Our laundry room is very small, but I had wedged myself in there with him and was pestering him about this, that, and the other thing. Finally, he sighed and looked at me. “Do you need some attention right now, Courtney?” He asked. “Yes.” I told him honestly. He gave me a big hug and I said “Thank you for understanding me and loving me anyway.”

If I had left him or he had left me over one of the many very good reasons we had for doing just that in the past, I would have missed out on so much. I would have missed out on that little moment last night, and millions of other little moments just like it- and that’s just the little stuff. I would have missed out on the big moments, too- how he held my hand when I was taken in for my emergency c-section, and how he was looking me right in the eye the first time we ever heard our baby’s voice in this world, the way we both cried. If I was still spending all of my time finding fault with him instead of forgiveness, I would not have been able to see how hard he works to make our lives better. If something needs to be done, he just does it, he never complains or even points it out. Unlike me, he doesn’t seem to need a letter of congratulations every time he mends a fence or washes a dish. I admire that.

Most importantly, though, I would have missed seeing him become one of the most fabulous fathers I have ever seen. He is absolutely my partner in this, and I don’t know what I would do without him. Had I thrown in the towel because what we had did not fit my idea of what love is supposed to be, my life would not be what it is today, and I would not be able to tell you that this, this thing I have in front of me, right here. This is everything I ever wanted in my life. Warts and all.

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