A love letter
When I was 50 years old, after I’d been in many relationships that never had a chance to work out, I had the amazing good fortune to meet Jodi. We were co-teaching a class at the time, and we were each newly single. We talked after class all semester before either of us broached the idea of a romantic relationship. When she finally did, I was scared to death and said no. My fear came partly from the fact that she had not been in a same-sex relationship before, but it was mostly triggered by the fact that she seemed like the most optimistic and hopeful person I had ever met. Naturally, you’d think this might be a draw, but it wasn’t for me.
I grew up in a wily family full of people who were a bit questionable emotionally, and it always seemed as if things were going to topple over at a moment’s notice. They never did completely, but I was frequently on the edge of my seat waiting for impending disaster. I’m not sure if it was a direct result of this experience, but for many years thereafter, I found myself in relationships with people who I thought needed my help or who were a little wobbly themselves. When I met Jodi, a woman who says yes to just about everything, I thought she couldn’t possibly be for real. I was sure that anyone that game would fall apart at the first sign of trouble or stress.
Our connection is well beyond any romantic notion I’ve ever had about relationships because it’s as real as she is.
Because she was also beautiful and smart and funny and engaging, though, I eventually relented and stepped toward her instead of away. To call it the best decision I have ever made would be selling it very, very short. But it wasn’t like I just lost my fear and went ahead full-bore. It’s taken me most of the 20 years we’ve known each other to trust that she really is just an open, optimistic person who has the confidence and agency to manage what’s in front of her. It isn’t always pretty, but she is fully present in her life—and mine—and she gets through whatever is required. Best of all, she does it without radically disrupting our lives—a way of being that is totally foreign to me given my upbringing. Perhaps because she is so self-contained, she has also gifted me with something else that I didn’t see in my life growing up. She sees me, she listens to me, she lets me change and grow, she encourages me, she supports me, and she gives me room to be a separate person. And, she does all of that in the most loving and kind way I can imagine.
I didn’t see all of this at first, of course, and we’ve both grown in our appreciation of each other and of ourselves together. But all of it has made me realize the power of being loved by someone who has the capacity to love unconditionally and responsibly. It’s helped me to appreciate those same qualities in my closest friends, and it’s been a great model for how I love people in return. In this year, when she is turning 60, I am turning 70, and we have known each other 20 years, we are celebrating so many things.
I am grateful beyond measure, for getting to teach with her all those years ago when she and I began our journey down this road. Our connection is well beyond any romantic notion I’ve ever had about relationships because it’s as real as she is. I’ve written many love letters to Jodi over the years, but I am writing this one now because it’s this year—the one with these special anniversaries; the one in which we have found ourselves suddenly house-bound together and yet feeling lucky for every day; and another one in which I see even more levels of who she really is. When I think that I might have passed this by, I kind of shudder. That I didn’t makes me believe there is some force in the world larger than my scared self. And for that, there is not enough gratitude in the world.