Anyhow, I love you
I wouldn't trade a tree for the way I feel about you.
“I wish I had a dime
For every bad time
But the bad times always seem to keep the change
You been all alone
So you know what I'm sayin” - Guy Clark
I did not know how lonely I was, how isolated an existence I was experiencing inside of myself, until I met him. I crept, unwilling at first, from my mental solitude, cautiously assessing this new kind of man while waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Because I lived my love life smashed into the tread of the dropped shoe.
Ever so slowly, like the Earth orbiting the sun, I allowed myself to fall into alignment with him, with his tender certainty about us, about me. Finally, even though vulnerability feels like the panicked moment at the top of a rollercoaster before the stomach-churning plummet, I ran full speed into his soft radiance.
I am still running to him. Over and over again.
We liberated each other. I saved you saved me saved you saved me.
Cory surprised me with a new bike for my birthday in March. I spent a good chunk of time riding many years ago before I was forced to sell the bike to pay for a post-divorce bankruptcy attorney and hadn’t been on a bike ride since.
I love riding down a stretch of road that feels like a runway to the sky. Being on a bike as a kid felt like one pedal away from flying. Being on a bike now ignites those forgotten childhood feelings of confidence, freedom and excitement before life became complicated and confusing. I feel so happy, strong and free whenever I'm on a bike.
We rode bikes together all summer, my fella and I. Strapped them onto the back of our overloaded minivan and hauled them with us to the Jersey Shore for a beach week with our kids in June.
Experiencing each other in a new context, a different environment, one that tested our strength and determination, was a revelation and a testament to the benefits of trying new things with those you love until the day you die.
We happily rode through beachside towns, marshes, on boardwalks, over bridges then spent the remainder of summer pedaling through the beautiful Pennsylvania countryside surrounding our home.
Historic villages, old farms and rolling cornfields giving way to woods with lush trees and shrubs crowding the ribbon of faded asphalt to catch a glimpse of us as we rode past. Cory, up ahead, motioning off the road with his arm to make sure I see a doe and her fawn standing vigilantly in a meadow of weeds and wildflowers silently watching us pass them by.
Heavy black clouds releasing fat rain drops that send us racing beneath leafy umbrellas. If you fuck in the forest and there’s no one around to hear it did you really make a sound?
Pockets of cool air baptizing sweaty bodies as we stand up on pedals to force our bikes up the next hill before an exhilarating drop sends our pulses racing in excitement and fear. Hearts pounding as we hit speeds we know would cause serious injury to our middle-aged bodies if a rock or crack in the road caused us to lose control. Catching eyes knowingly as we race downhill, faces nearly split in half with goofy grins and then bursting into laughter like a couple of twelve-year-olds.
Falling even more in love with someone you already love intensely. Realizing that a deeper love than the one you have is possible is an incredible experience.
You’re humming along at the breakneck pace life with four kids and two full-time jobs demands then one day you’re cruising down a country hill together on your bikes trying to break 40 miles-per-hour and you look at each other and giggle with the sheer joy of being alive doing something you love with someone you love.
Real connection. Deep, validating, unembarrassed eye contact soul connection. Hey you. Hi. I see you. I see you see me, Thank you for seeing me the way you do.
When Cory and I first began messaging each other seven years ago he sent me an audio recording of him playing the guitar and singing Guy Clark’s wistful love song, “Anyhow, I love you.”
Cory’s voice so pure, sweetly hitting those high notes like an old bluegrass singer in the vein of Bill Monroe or Roy Acuff, made me feel things I’ve never felt about a man before.
His voice, like his personality, is innocent and earnest. A shy, gentle sincerity that is a stark contrast to the angry men to whom I had grown accustomed. Small, scared men who wield words as weapons. Men who slingshot words like cunt and bitch at the slightest provocation and fling your secret fears and confessions back at you in the heat of an argument.
Cory is teaching me and our children that true manhood is someone unafraid to show sensitivity. An emotionally intelligent man who is consistently interested in his own evolution as a human. Someone who, by his selfless actions every single day, shows his family that love is a verb. A man who not only equally shares the physical workload of running a home with four children but a man who closely monitors our kids’ emotional and mental well-being and has regular one-on-one time with each child to clearly communicate his interest, support and love.
My childhood was lacking a lot of the formative stuff that lays the groundwork for how typical humans successfully function in all kinds of relationships. Early on, my parents’ resentment was palpable. I experienced it as dislike because, essentially, it was. They loved me, I think, but they definitely did not like me.
There was physical abuse, verbal abuse and a lot of neglect. These chasms in my foundational relationships earthquaked into dysfunction in my adult relationships.
When most of the relationships you experience involve screaming, anger and physical altercations you don’t really know how to communicate. When the people who are supposed to love you and care for you dislike you, hurt you or are largely absent, it’s tough to believe you are worthy of love, especially from those who are not blood relations.
As a result, I maintain a knee-jerk defensiveness and an inability to be vulnerable that persists, even now, well into my forties. I grieve for that little girl but I am also glad her journey led to this life, to him. My favorite human. The most beautiful person I have ever known. A man whose gentle nature, kindness and patience has allowed me to become a woman I am proud to be.
I have never felt proud of myself in any other relationship. I felt bruised, misunderstood, lonely, defensive, invalidated, gaslit, hurt, sad, mad and scared. And then Cory came along and, because of who he naturally is, provided a safe space for me to learn and grow.
Without the need to be on guard, defensive or constantly monitoring someone else’s mercurial moods, I am able to focus on myself. What a gift it has been! The unconditional love and space sparked within me a burning desire to be the best person and partner I can because he deserves it. My kids deserve it. Most of all, I deserve it.
But I don’t really like writing about love. It feels simultaneously embarrassing and smug and I’m not quite sure why because it’s the meaning of life, it’s what we all long for in this blink of an eye existence: to love and be loved.
Maybe because I did not believe in it for so long and I’m afraid it isn’t real now? Still waiting for that other shoe to drop?
Maybe because my love feels too special to share? Or exploit. Writing about it taints the purity of its etherial existence between me and him? Or writing about love feels uncomfortable because connection is the most sacred thing a human can experience and I did not believe I deserved what has unexpectedly bloomed relatively late in my life over the past seven years?
Maybe because I don’t ever want to rely on a man for my well-being? But also because writing about love these days feels painfully performative to me. As we come down (hopefully?) from more than a decade of peak social media performance and branding, I remain suspect of those who perform their love online, those people who create online personas and aspirational love stories they put more effort into constructing than their actual relationships.
Have we not seen enough once beloved celeb relationships crash and burn to realize that anyone ramming their love story down your throat likely has the same relationship you do? One filled with wonderful and awful times, moments of intense connection and terrible loneliness. Tom Hanks has definitely annoyed the fuck out of Rita Wilson and slept on the couch, is what I’m saying. Probably. Ok, maybe not Tom but we know Hugh Jackman did and who’s nicer than Hugh?
I used to think love was big and loud, like colorful fireworks booming across the black canvas of night. These days I think love is more like a carefully built campfire. Deliberately placed twigs that spark into a small flame that gets bigger when fed more wood until the campfire is warming everything within its radius. Sometimes the campfire is roaring hot, other times it’s nearly extinguished by heavy rainstorms. You’ve got to feed the fire, protect it. Don’t let it go out.
And when all you can recall is the pain Just you wait until tomorrow when you wake up
With me at your side and find I haven't lied about nothin'
I wouldn't trade a tree for the way I feel
About you in the morning', anyhow I love you.”
He knows me better than I know me. He has seen me at my very worst and encourages me to be my very best. He feels lucky to be with me and I feel lucky that he feels lucky. I am not a romantic. The general notion of romance has always felt as socially contrived as Coca-Cola’s Santa Claus but this lovely man has infused my existence with a gentle, unwavering love that engenders excitement about growing old with him.
But the real secret to our love? It’s the boundaries we set and the carefully cultivated distance. Everyone knows spending time together and creating connections are key factors of a good relationship. But too many people don’t give enough thought to creating the right distances within their relationships. The necessary walls we must erect around our hearts and minds for survival, especially women who have been trained to give of ourselves over and over and over again until there is nothing left for anyone, especially ourselves.
Cory honors my regular requests for physical and mental space and privacy. And I respect his. The distance between us is as important as the connection. The loving boundaries we have engendered with constant communication. The below words by the oft quoted Rilke nail the concept perfectly.
It is a question in marriage, to my feeling, not of creating a quick community of spirit by tearing down and destroying all boundaries, but rather a good marriage is that in which each appoints the other guardian of his solitude, and shows him this confidence, the greatest in his power to bestow. A togetherness between two people is an impossibility, and where it seems, nevertheless, to exist, it is a narrowing, a reciprocal agreement which robs either one party or both of his fullest freedom and development. But, once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue to exist, a wonderful living side by side can grow up, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole and against a wide sky! - Rilke
It is only within that carefully cultivated distance that Cory and I can fit together like puzzle pieces. Tangled arms and legs as we sleep, watch TV, walk, drive, exist. His body is home. Our energies - his steady and sweet with occasional glimmers of irritation and mine: rough and abrasive with bursts of tenderness - feel perfectly different and inextricably connected.
I am not myself without him. Experiences feel lackluster without the beautiful bonus of his perception next to mine, yet I also crave my separateness and independence as much as I encourage his.
We have worked hard to imagine and create this unique and marvelous thing we have going and, for the first time in my life I do not aspire to be anybody else or have any other kind of love. I feel wonderfully lucky not only to have found Cory, but to have figured out the kind of love that works for me. For us.
Happy birthday, sweetest Cory. Your kind and gentle existence is an unwavering delight to me and the world would make no sense without you. Some people believe in a kind of god, others believe in reincarnation or the words in the bible but I believe in you.
You are my religion.
“Everyday it gets
Just a little bit better
And half the gettin' there is knowin' where I been before
I'm sure you understand 'cause I ain't your first man
So when you feel like running' for the back door: Don't.”
Anyhow, I love you.
P.S. I still have the recording.
Anyhow, I love you performed by Cory Neidig in 2016.
IWNDWYT - DAY 53
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