Bob and I have been in a committed relationship for more than a year. Our first date occurred on February 28, 2015, and this watershed evening portended more than lasting love. It was followed by respective winning streaks that continued straight through New Year’s Eve.
My partner enjoyed a string of personal records and new achievements in his marathon career, lost some extra weight and celebrated another year free of Crohn’s disease suffering. My own list bordered on embarrassing. So many riches: eczema remission, a loving new home with doggie siblings for Dino, a more satisfying and remunerative day job, a warm welcome into Bob’s family, travel and a teaching offer. I couldn’t lose. And for a writer (already predisposed to darkness) with a stupendously maladjusted biography, the change in fortunes was most welcome.
As 2016 commenced, I felt optimistic but understood that the year was likely to be less fantastically eventful. Settled into the 9-5 position, relaxed into an easy domestic rhythm with Bob and the fur babies, I looked ahead to the new challenges offered by teaching and several trips we’d planned together. For a very long 2015 moment, I was aware that I had everything I’ve ever wanted and worked toward. It was exhilarating and frightening. So much of my life has been conducted on the operating principle that I have nothing to lose. Go for broke became enjoy and protect last year.
Yet the deep, haunted part of me that has experienced sudden, frequent catastrophe remained alert. Things can and do fall apart. I refuse any longer to let dread prevent enjoyment, but there’s very little benefit to Pollyanna-ism either. Hot streaks can’t continue forever.
So it seems only logical that a lengthy dash of “winner, winner, chicken dinner” (as my friend Meg characterized 2015) collided with reality early and often in the first quarter of this year. I welcomed January with viral pneumonia. Within a three-week February span, Dino and Meko died, breaking our hearts and leaving Jude a confused only child. With Meko’s passing, differences between Bob and I were exposed vis a vis end of life philosophy. There was a painful argument and for a brief spell, we turned our pain on each other.
Also in February, my partner’s clan received shocking news about a heretofore unknown family member. This led to complicated reflections on truth and the past. My beloved aunt broke three ribs and punctured a lung. My baby sister contracted shingles. Close friends lost jobs, buried loved ones and battled illnesses. And on Easter weekend, I experienced the first migraine of the year, causing several days of bedridden vomiting, alopecia and a vow to rid myself of my menstrual cycle once and for all.
But it’s April 6, a new month and quarter. With the benefit of limited hindsight I’m grateful for this early wave of challenges. Yes, I’m filled with gratitude. Because honestly? I think Bob and I were just a little too perfect, too untested to know how strong our bond actually was. In the back of my mind lay a lingering taunt that went something like this: “Sure everything’s just ducky now. But what happens when the rubber meets the road? What do we look like when confronted with life outside our love bubble?”
The answer? We’re a little bruised and one of us (Bob) even limped for a few days. The shine is off. We’ve seen ugliness. And it’s beautiful. Lovely even. We’re not perfect. We make mistakes for which we have to apologize. We’re capable of hurting each other. But we’re also absolutely certain there are two of us in this boat, doing our best to row in tandem against life’s tsunamis.