I don’t think I’ve ever written a year’s review post, much less a resolution post, and I’m still not writing one.
2012 was a difficult year. Not the most difficult I’ve ever experienced, but difficult. During 2012, I learned that I still can be stunned and shattered by the events of the world, and more so by man’s casual inhumanity to man. I experienced the second year of the heightened pain in my kidney region – although doctors tell me I didn’t. I managed to get by largely unscathed with only one ambulance visit. I danced again with clinical depression and emerged at year’s end with a ceasefire and peacetime talks. I spent much of the year deeply worried by the health and well being of our daughters. I managed to work when I could. I played a bit. I rested a lot. I didn’t feel so bad about it either. Perhaps this was the first year that I was gentle with myself and just let myself be when ‘being’ was all I could do. In the last week, I reconnected for the first time in a very long time with one of my sisters, and in doing so, got some clues about a potential health condition that could be a contributor to the past 22 years of suffering with my mental health.
But this post isn’t about that entirely either. It’s about my beloved wife, my better half, and perhaps the only reliable indicator in this world that I have the best reason for being. She just passed her birthday, and I meant to write this to her then, on December 29, but life has its way of rearranging plans and I’m okay with that because it’s living that sometimes gets in the way of our plans, and isn’t living what we’re here for?
It is almost 15 years to the day when my wife and, for want of a more adequate phrase, a kind and loving person within me declared their love for each other – perhaps not surprisingly so, as a result of watching that great romantic’s (and disaster lover’s) movie, Titanic. Love was declared, and reciprocated, and then began the living and planning as we worked out how I was going to get from one side of the Pacific Ocean to the other to be with her.
My wife is an amazing, loving and compassionate woman. I definitely came to her as broken goods. In hindsight, I’d not long left the most hellish years of my life when I virtually ‘met’ her. In 1990, I left my family, moved to another state, got married (which was mutually exclusive of my decision to leave home so dramatically – it just happened that way), got sick, and became chronically sick. Over the next 5 years I experienced the suicides of two young men I knew, my own attempts, two brief hospitalizations for depression, the unfolding realization that I’d had a dissociative disorder all my life, divorce, and the death of my father.
In learning about dissociation, I both realized, embraced and often ran away from the reason I’d always felt numb, split apart and watching myself at a distance. I had been. I embraced it as an explanation for the fact that I had long running conversations, conflicts and good humours in my own head that weren’t entirely due to insanity. I was many people within a person.
It was difficult to admit that in the past. There was a time when my dissociation was very much a disorder, but over time, I came to love and value the contributions of those who travelled with me. I treasured the company I always had with me, and the often ill-placed and side-splitting commentary of the ‘peanut gallery’. When I say this, it may come as a surprise to the new-found friends I made in 2012 (hopefully not enough to have them running), but not to the many dear heart family who have travelled with me for a long time. What may come as a surprise to those too, is the quietness of my mind. The retreat of all those people who have accompanied me on this journey. The constant chatter and banter and camaraderie is still. Those people I came to embrace and enjoy living with have been quiet for most of the year. I miss them intensely.
It’s a loss that both I and my wife have suffered, as these are the people she came to know when she first met me – the people she loved and laughed with, as much as I learned to love and laugh with them too in time.
It’s how I was when I came to my wife. I came to her as a person with deep-seated physical and mental illness (not the people so much as the other disorders – the depression, the intense self-hatred, the shut-down, broken me). She saw beyond all the labels, the marginalization, and the self-loathing that frequently got in the way of connecting to the world. She loved me. She loved all of me. I was seen, and in many ways, for the first time, I became.
That doesn’t mean that life became easy, even once we’d managed to navigate to each other and be together with our daughters. Life continued to be beset by hardships, challenges and the pains of seeing our own children’s suffering, but for the first time I truly became to another person, which meant that over the last 15 years, I gradually learned to become to myself. This is both the greatest gift she’s given me, and the greatest tribute I can pay to her.
The increasing patience and kindness I’ve shown to myself are in part thanks to the help of a compassionate therapist, but more so, it’s due to the ever-present love and compassion of my wife. We’ve begun to take fundamental steps to self-actualization this year, despite the hardships and pain, in each other’s company. Even as, during the exciting art show we curated together, a stranger looked at my wife and then me and said, “Oh, you’re one of those,” I can just laugh to myself at how wrong the stranger’s dismissive and desultory comment was.
Being in love with my wife has nothing to do with lesbianism and ‘alternative lifestyle’ choices. It was and is always about love, pure and simple. I never planned what gender the soul I fell in love with would be, and that gender is irrelevant in the face of love. As 1 Corinthians 13 states, love ‘bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.’ That’s been my experience of love.
As I face a new year, the limitations no longer seem such a big problem to me. There will be times that I will be in pain or extreme fatigue, and I will need to rest. There will be times I will make commitments and will need to kindly withdraw. There will be times my body will shut down, regardless of my wants for it, and I’ll have to follow. Needing to rest, regardless of what another person might think or say or want – it’s not a point I’m willing to negotiate on, anymore. And my wife’s constant support has led me to this ultimate act of self-kindness.
The progress towards my goals, separate, and together with my beloved wife will continue, regardless of the speed of my progress, or my satisfaction with it. I have no doubt that even though difficult things will happen, good things will happen.
It’s only through the love of my wife, and my deep love for her, I’ve arrived at this calm place after so many tempestuous years. There will be other storms, but together we will bear all.