Have you ever questioned what “real love” means? Do you have your own definition of “true love?” Has your opinion ever changed? My concept of love radically shifted over the past year mainly due to my feelings of self worth. I wrestled with love and found myself at the core. To get love I found, I must first give love and in a big, honest, and unselfish way.
I was having dinner with my step-mom and dad when they brought up my recent blog post about Susan. My step-mom said, “It was like reading any love story!” However, from my perspective, she was both right and wrong. She was correct, yes, two people of the same sex can share a great love, and yes, it ‘s similar to any other traditional love affair. But where she’s wrong has to do with an unspoken context of her comment. The inaccuracy of her statement exists because our love isn’t just a story about two people. My relationship with Susan is vastly more generous than just my love for her, and her love for me. Our love creates space for personal expansion, and it encompasses an entire family! Our love is a truth that engulfs many lives, and personally- has made me want to be a better person.
Last week we were tested. Our anniversary fell on a Sunday and I had the kids. We wanted to be together and include them in some way. Thursday night I told the kids we were going to celebrate the one- year anniversary of my special friendship with Susan. Miller was quiet. I should’ve known then what was to come, but characteristically, I pushed the feelings aside.
Before I go on, I need to fill you in on a little back-story: over the past year Susan has made such a huge, but respectful effort to get to know my children. She has made it her business to develop a relationship with them aside from her relationship with me. At first we started slowly by only having her visit with them when Jon was around. We wanted them to know her as a friend before anything else. It was important to involve Jon as well so that the children would feel safe. Susan and I decided to limit her interactions with them until our relationship was solid. She’s demonstrated such grace throughout the whole process. You can’t imagine how hard it was for her to come into my marital-home because she felt like the wedge in our family. In reality, she was only the catalyst; I was the one with the power to make such a radical shift. Her convictions regarding my family were so strong that she denied her love for me and told me many times to stay in the marriage. Or maybe it was her love for me that didn’t want to see me suffer the pain and guilt she knew would come. Either way, her heart has always been in the right place and she’s remained steadfast. It took someone so special like her to have the courage to walk bravely into the lives of others, and to do it in such a loving way.
I’ll never forget the first time our family took on its new form. Jon and I (still living together, but separated) invited Susan over for a “tea party” with the kids. Sage was busy setting the table, arranging who was going to sit next to Susan. The kids already knew her from my trips to the clinic, and from seeing her at the gym. Sage filled our princess cups with water, while alternating between dipping her petite, pink fork into the quarter slices of red velvet cake. With each dip she licked the dreamy cream-cheese frosting off the tip of her fork. She became impatient running back and forth as, she watched out the window for Susan’s car. It was a beautiful and unseasonably warm November day. The sky was cornflower blue with mounds of over-sized cotton balls drifting under the autumn sun. The temperature hovered around seventy degrees that late afternoon. I was staring in a daze outside the kitchen window listening to and watching the leaves blowing in the trees. Sage skipped up behind me and asked, “Mommy, is Susan your friend?” I said, “Yes Sage, she is my friend.” She asked, “Do you love her?” And I replied, “Yes I do.” She said, “I love her too, but don’t tell her.” I giggled to myself not really understanding what she meant, but knowing the emotion behind it was positive.
When she arrived, Miller instinctively asked her to play chess with him. To me it seemed like he knew she was there for them, and not for me, and he was right. That day was about them and we wanted them to know that everything was OK.
Although Jon and Susan were friends prior to our separation, this was the first time they met eye to eye since my disclosure. I felt so acutely alive and aware of everything, as if I was actually connected to space and time without distinction. I couldn’t have asked for a more poetic slice of life being served up by my own thoughts. I was actually getting everything I wanted and it felt good and deserving. By respecting Jon, Susan, and myself I was able to open this vast octave of awareness. The five of us started our rendezvous with love on the highest level.
In the depth of my being, I knew that moment wouldn’t have occurred had I not been honest with Jon, (nor had I not have shown restraint and disrespected Susan.) In return, Jon loved me enough to do this for me, he allowed me to be happy without punishing me. I think that was a pivotal point in his life too-he showed the world what he was made of and it took strength greater than any self-doubting voices he’s ever battled. He loved me enough to give me my freedom without taking away my family. For the first time ever I really understood what unconditional love meant, and the goodness of it shattered my heart into a million pieces. I was awe-struck by the concept of love versus the feelings of love. The foundation of any love has to start within- the falling in love with the self. I realized I was worthy of his love because I had loved him enough to set him free. My love came back to me.
So you see, as the couple’s therapist said, “I really choose well.” The people in my life I choose to love reverberate loving and caring qualities. It took two exceptional people to ride the choppy waves of my family plan. I’m lucky I didn’t fall off my own boat.
After the first few months of family togetherness, Susan and I (with Jon’s approval) decided that she should start spending more time getting to know the kids. Steadily, we started involving her more in ours lives. Once we had been dating for six months we increased the shared time a little because our relationship proved to be sound. Eventually the kids started calling her “Grandma Susan”, because she spoils them. We never told them she was anything other than “Mommy’s Good Friend!”
Over the past year we’ve ebbed and flowed with the emotional rhythms’ of my children. At times we pushed forward only to be taken aback. We proceeded with caution when Jon moved out of the house. We silently rejoiced every time the kids asked for her when she wasn’t around. I almost cried when Sage slipped up and called her mommy. I did cry when Miller told me that she was like part of our family. But those moments were balanced by the times when the kids acted out in slight ways towards her. The therapist said no matter whom the new love interest is or how perfect that person may be, the kids will act out because they want their parents to be together. (That part was the hardest thing to hear. It crushed me knowing that I was the one keeping them from getting their hearts desires.) But what I have down right, and what has remained consistent is the agreement to always put the kids first.
The timing for our test to uphold our oath couldn’t have been more ironic than on the date of our one-year anniversary.
The weekend began with a seemingly normal tone, with the exception of a few slightly odd facial expressions sprinkled in by Miller-the foreshadowing. After school on Friday, Susan and I picked up Miller and Sage from chess club and gymnastics. We went to the auditorium first to watch Sage since gymnastics let out earlier than chess. We walked into a room filled with squealing little girls in a rainbow of leotards. The girls were broken up into groups of four for their lessons. Sage was in the floor routine corner learning a cute, little, booty- shake. We watched as her fuchsia ruffle bounced around. (Not really sure what that had to do with tumbling.) In any event, as soon as she spotted us she bounded over with a twirl and a hop in her step! Her eyes were bright and cheery, as she was happy to see us both.
We headed down the hall of the elementary school passing walls of elaborately colored works of art and groups of chattering children. As we rounded the corner towards the library the afternoon sun faded in through the oversized windows. In that moment I felt a twinge of concern. I had not informed Miller that Susan would be with me when I picked him up from chess club. Miller is the type of child who likes to know what to expect. Normally I wouldn’t have thought anything about it, but I was feeling sensitive due to his quiet reaction when I told him about the celebration. I had no idea what was about to come. (To be continued.)