“Joy is the experience of knowing that you are unconditionally loved and that nothing–sickness, failure, emotional distress, oppression, war, or even death–can take that love away.”
I am feeling particularly loved today. And so, particularly joyful.
One of the most cherished gifts I have received was when my dearest girlfriend looked me in the eye and said, “I will always love you. No matter what. There is nothing you can ever do or say that will diminish this love. Nothing.“ What freedom she unleashed in our friendship with those words. With them, she gave me permission to be myself always with her, no pretense, no holding back.
Twenty-four years ago today, my heart-mate and I promised each other essentially the same thing in front of a sanctuary of witnesses:
“Today I give you my heart, as you have given me yours. I will love you and cherish you in the future, as I have done in the past. I will rejoice with you when you are happy; I will comfort you when you are sad. I will share my thoughts openly and honestly with you. I will always respect and honour who you are.“
How could I know on that day, as I whispered these forever words, of the many moments of joy and the sorrow and the stretching and growing and deepening that would come with them?
Back then, I was anxious to please, needy for reassurance. That striving is gone now, no longer necessary.We now move comfortably…with and around each other. I need no sound to know he is in the house. I need no touch to know he stands alongside me.
We’ve moved past the need to hear the words and reached the place where the love resides in the tiny gestures; the quiet hollows; the absences, as much as the presences.
We have laughed and cried, and laughed until we cried. We have traveled, climbed mountains, shimmied down gullies run long distances and danced in the rain. We have wallpapered, cleared brush, raised a dog, built a home from scratch, and squared off over how to create a garden waterfall. We have picked up after each other, cooked for each other and scrubbed each other’s back. We’ve lost friends and buried loved ones. We’ve suffered and celebrated together.
He has quietly loved me through my nasty turmoils, my selfish outbursts, my dismal failures and my childish tantrums. He has honoured my requests, even when he didn’t understand them.
I love that he is a wise and fine and honourable man. I love his honesty, his independence, his loyalty, his thoughtful nature, his generosity with friends and strangers alike, his humour, his stubborness, his brilliance with making things work, his bow-legged swagger, the endearing part between his teeth.
He sees and feels me, even when we are apart. He knows exactly when I most need his tenderness or his strength…as well as he the times when I need my space. He has held me and lifted me from my knees, calmed my fears, defended me, rescued me, taught me, and pushed me out the door when I need to stand on my own. He has been my best friend, my comforter, my confidante, my protector, my provider, my teacher.
And so today, for all that he has helped me to become, I love him beyond words.
To my Friend
“I love you not only for what you are, when for what I am when I am with you. I love you not only for what you have made of yourself, but for what you are making of me. I love you for the part of me that you bring out.
I love you for putting your hand into my heaped-up heart and passing over all the foolish and frivolous and weak things that you can’t help dimly seeing there, and or drawing into the light all the beautiful and radiant belongings that no one else had looked quite far enough to find….You have done it without a touch, without a word, without a sign.
You have done it first by being yourself.”