On the Other Hand

my new camera

Continued contemplation, along with a recent conversation, reminds me of all the good I have collected from my past relationships. (dark thoughts about men of my past) Though my history shows many stops and starts with people I attached myself to, I was always genuine in my attachments. Cheesy as the expression may be, I liked learning the phrase “serial monogamy,” because that is how I operate. I haven’t been able to stay with one partner for many years, but I went into each one thinking that I would. My intent was pure commitment. Usually, the end of each relationship came as much as a shock to me as to the other person, though often it was I who had the guts to walk away.

Jess was my first love, and made it a great place to begin. We connected at a core level, with common interests and perspectives. I found out right away what a joy it can be to share life with someone who appreciates the world like I do. We are still friends, and 25 years later we still manage to reach the same opinions with the same thought processes, and we still love the outdoors in the same way for the same reasons. Talking with him is always validating. Aaron was a dreamer, and also validated my love of dreaming about my future, imagining the possibilities. He loved me for it, and taught me very early on to continue to express this precious part of my character. Lynn reminded me that there is so much to love about things that are not dreams, things that are real: the earth itself, simple pleasures like fishing, and children.

My first husband, Mark, brought a lot of music into my life. He played guitar and taught me new things to listen for. He introduced me to classic musicians and new musicians, and made concert-going a regular part of our lives. I even learned to love Bob Dylan! He went out of his way to spend quality time with his friends, and taught me that is how to be a friend. He took me camping and exploring, and we eagerly discovered Colorado and Nevada together. Mark and I shared politics and Northern Exposure. We worked together and did some growing up together. We took some chances and made great discoveries because of it. He sang Till There Was You to me, when I was sick.

Bill taught me so much about family. About loving all of them no matter how they drive you crazy (he had 9 brothers and sisters!). About making an effort to stay in touch, and reaching out all the time because that is what you do for family. Dennis, my second husband and father of my child, proved to me that a man can change his stars. There is never “too late.” A difficult beginning does not predict the outcome, and the love of a child can be the motivation to re-invent an approach to life. Through him I was introduced to the world of addiction, and of recovery. Of setbacks that don’t erase hope. He is, of course, still constantly in my life, and continues to represent a person who decided to become better, and did, and continues to do so. He doesn’t always know the right thing to do, but always wants to do the right thing. He never ceases to hope.

Jeff knew what he wanted and was able to show me that you can love someone and not be destined to be with that person. He taught me about respect. We had intelligent conversations and really engaged with things we didn’t agree on. We learned about each other and forgave differences and fell in love by accident. Jeff called me nearly in tears one morning, on the 11th of September while he watched smoke coming from the Pentagon from his office window, and will always be linked to that day in my mind. Kevin introduced me to surfing, and the inside story of Big Oil. He showed me that rich people are still people. Kirby loved his family, and wanted so much to share his family with me; wanted me to love them like he did. Through his family I learned a new way to conceive of family love and support. Miguel was filled with passion. Everything he felt was huge. He showed me that a man can express himself; can be overcome with emotion, and still be a man.

My third husband Vic taught me that achievement is an attitude, and that anyone can have it. Where we go in life is a matter of where we see ourselves. Though I have always thought of myself as a woman who could accomplish big things, Vic illuminated for me that I was thinking too small. His vision of me was a woman who belonged in a greater category of human beings, and then pushed me to believe it, too. I was attending school at a community college and he said, “If you want to go to school, why not Harvard? Why not MIT?” And so I applied! Vic also helped me develop an exercise regimen, and a love for running when I thought I hated running.

Mark helped me become introspective again. He showed me a better way to forgive, and to be tolerant. I credit Mark with setting me on the right path to be able to respect Dennis again, which was necessary because we were co-parenting. He also reminded me to forgive my father. Mark constantly strives to be a better man, to do the right thing. He will selflessly dedicate himself to a fellow human being in need, even without an idea of where to begin. He reminded me of the delights of surprises and tradition, and shared memory.  Mark brought laughter back into my life when my fierce challenges had hardened me. Laughter is a true gift.

So, I love them all. Yes, I have occasional fits of angry words couched in emotional wounds and surrounded by virtual fists swinging, but I am not sorry for what we experienced together, not sorry that the love has painful sharp edges. Though each relationship hit me with its own unique sucker-punch, I am stronger and wiser now. My phoenix rises more beautiful each time. I am a better woman today for having known them. So thank you, all of you men, thank you.

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