One of the things that inevitably happens when you spend time with a friend who’s known you for a long time is that you talk about the past, right? It happens to all of us. And it’s inevitable that when I spend time with Kira, we cannot help but marvel about what a long, strange trip it’s been.
When we first started talking, four years ago, we were both in a place of grim determination, I think. I know I was. It was emphatically NOT a place where we’d overcome adversity and knew that a better life was coming. It was more of a place where we’d overcome adversity and we were just hoping that it wouldn’t always be quite so HARD, all of the time. We were okay, I guess (some days we were more okay than others), but it would be a stretch to say that we were HAPPY. We were… MANAGING. Some days we were even HOPEFUL. But comparing life back then with life now is less apples and oranges and more moldy bread crusts vs. a ten-foot-high chocolate fountain. A CALORIE-FREE chocolate fountain.
That’s not to say that life is EASY now; life is always full of challenges, for most of us, but life is infinitely better, now. We are happy, both of us, in ways that back then we thought we never would be again. (Sometimes it’s so very good to be wrong.)
Now the tricky part, of course, is that I dislike the implication that ANYONE needs a mate to be happy. I don’t like it when TIME says it that way and I never want to frame it that way, myself. Because while it’s absolutely true that Kira’s life is much richer with Clay and my life is a billion times better with Otto, it is neither CLAY nor OTTO who is responsible for (nor capable of single-handedly creating) our happiness. You cannot rely on a PERSON for happiness, because the last time I checked, people were fallible and that’s a crappy paradigm for emotional stability. Just sayin’.
I believe that we are all working out our own salvation. Put plainly, we don’t get what we can’t handle or what we’re not ready to receive. I won’t speak for Kira, but I am positive that—while Otto is fabulous and all, don’t get me wrong—this phase of my life fell into place once I had done the personal work necessary for it to happen. And if you’ve read me for a long time you also know that I view the first time we dated as ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL for BOTH of us in terms of getting our lives in order so that we would later be ready for THIS. (That does not, by the way, mitigate the SUCKTASTICNESS of our break-up and time apart, but it was a necessary step towards what we have now.)
I think these great loves came into our lives when we were finally ready for them. We are happy now in large part because we have mates with whom to share our lives, yes, but we have those mates in large part because we’d figured out how to be happy without them. See?
So Kira and I tend to talk about how great our husbands are and how neither of us ever could’ve predicted this, lo those many years ago, when we used to chat on Instant Messenger late into the night while hanging on to our lives by our fingernails.
And while I make a point of telling Otto how much I appreciate him on a regular basis (because, really, anyone who has to live with me 24/7 deserves a steady stream of thanks), I do try to stay away from gushing about how great he is. Because Otto is a mighty fine man with lots of fabulous qualities, but he also has kind of a big head, already.
(It’s endearing! But no need to encourage it, you know.)
Last night, as we lay in bed, Otto and I talked about the weekend and I mentioned how Kira and I can never resist comparing Life Back Then to Life Now, and how despite the differences in our paths we both—somehow—found our way exactly as we needed to go. I was marveling at how lucky we’ve both been, and how much sweeter it is that we have each other to share the victories with, too, and generally just waxing sappy on the abundance of life and such.
Otto listened and nodded and picked up my hand and kissed it. “You deserved a better life than you were living back then,” he said. And in an odd way, I found that a really touching moment. He wasn’t buying into the whole “Me man! Me save delicate woman!” schtick, he was expressing a sincere belief—based upon having known me for a looooong time, and knowing how hard a few of those years were—that my destiny was bigger and better than that difficult time. It wasn’t a premeditated or pat offering, it was heart-felt and utterly HIM.
I wanted to reciprocate, I guess, and so I opened my mouth to say something equally sweet.
“And you deserved a… louder life than you were living back then,” I said. And we both burst our laughing.
He had to agree that the kids had certainly made the louder part true.
Lucky, lucky Otto. (I think it’s possible I got the better deal, here. Shhhh, don’t tell.)