extraordinary love

He wakes in the morning oh-so-early, but he comes back to bed in time for my alarm to go off just so he can experience waking up with me again each day.   Why he would wish for this I do not know. I am a forest animal in the morning, all prickle and smell, defensive gestures designed to ward off human companionship and allow me the time and space I need to feel somewhat human.

But there he waits, faithful beside me, a one-woman-man if I ever knew one.  If I am ready to be held he will hold me, with the utmost gratitude and affection, as if I am a fragile treasure he is lucky enough to be gifted with for just this short time.  If, instead, I hold myself aloof from him, he simple lays, quiet, beside me, sharing with me his patience, his tolerance, his good will.  When I apologize for not wanting to talk, touch, or acknowledge him he says ” just being with you is enough for me.”

And I believe him because it is so clearly true.

This is what it is to be loved.  Shocking, embarrassing even, humbling and oh-so-safe.

I do not find it stifling because he has somehow always known how to let me go, how to release me into my independence whenever I call for it.  He knows I am not the faithful type but he also knows that I wish not for other men but simply for a life lived fully, to explore all the fragile corners of myself and the world around me.  He trusts me to do this, and daily he risks so that I may.

When I look back at our photos I see his joy and love shining clearly in his eyes in each one, his hands, tenderly on my back or around my shoulders, his body pressed as close to me as it can get.  The look on his face always reflects a deep peace and joy that he is simply there, beside me.

And when we wake in the night and look at each other in the moonlight and speak with only our eyes for a while or laugh at something silly the kids did or simply run our hands wild over each other, it is he who so often whispers: “I’m so lucky I get to spend my life with you.”

He tells me his favorite thing about me is that I am the most interesting person he has ever met.  And somehow this is just the right thing to say to a woman whose heart hurts regularly and who feels things too deeply and who has always wished, deep down, to be far more beautiful than she actually is.

And when we walk through bookstores on our occasional dates, he notices the books I fondle a little too long and he says “let me buy that for you.”  And even though I find it hard to spend money on myself, somehow when he spends money on me I revel in it.

He loves a comfy couch as much as he loves nature but he walks in the woods with me just to see the look on my face when I catch sight of beauty.  He loves the way I light up in the stillness and the way I skip home afterwards, full of delight.

To be loved by this man is the most exquisite gift, perhaps, that God has ever given me. To walk through a life together, stumbling over so much and reaching out for even more, has been a sign and a wonder.  We have wandered so far together, so far from where we began.  And yet still we wander, hand-in-hand, one of us sometimes ahead, sometimes the other.

We talk science and religion and politics and literature.  We ponder the meaning of life. We do hard things with great love and we hold each other up when it all feels too much.  And after our long full days we tag team our children to bed each night: I’ll do the jammies, you do the teeth, I’ll do the stories, you rub their feet and scratch their backs.  Then we drink beer and splurge on barbecue potato chips and bacon chocolate.  We watch Sherlock and House of Cards and Scandal and the occasional movie.

This is what it is to experience extraordinary love.  It doesn’t look like much at all.  It doesn’t make the news or get talked about in front of the church.

But this, this changes everything.  This is what makes us strong and kind and good and brave.  With this love in our heart and our hands we can do anything.

To love well is the most ordinary thing in all the world. And also the most extraordinary.