right now, i'm sitting on a couch in topsail island, north carolina, listening to the waves of the ocean with james taylor singing on the speakers about this very place. it's no wonder he wrote a song as a tribute--there really is something about this beautiful state, with layers of green so thick you can't find your way out of it. and the beach here is healing, especially in the moonlight.
we planned this trip so many months ago--saving and working and over-working for more paid time off--that it feels a little surreal to actually be here. i wonder when it's over if i'll have the same feeling i did as a kid when christmas day was coming to an end, or i was going on my last ride at disneyland, or tasting the final vanilla-y crunch of my ice cream cone before it vanished.
it's interesting, what my mind can do when it has quiet and freedom to think. i've been so thoughtful these past two and a half days, traveling with only myself and ben. this is the first time in over 8 years that we've spent more than one night together without our kids. we miss them terribly of course, but i'm remembering again what it feels like to fall in love. we're connecting on a level that is built with hours of conversation without interruption, sitting next to each other without a little human bursting into tears, devastated that one or the other of us didn't sit by them, laughing our heads off over something that no one else is a part of except for the two of us, dancing together in the middle of a crowd of strangers who are also dancing to celebrate love, not caring if anyone else is even glancing at our incredibly lame moves.
i'm realizing how deprived our relationship has been of emotional intimacy.
i looked at his hand intertwined with mine as we sat on the airplane side by side and wondered when i had last noticed them with intent, concentrating on what it felt like to live in the details of a moment with him again the way i did so long ago, when he was the only person inside my world.
there is warmth here, with him. he is my home.
during a long drive toward one of our destinations this weekend, he asked me my perception of him--the good and the bad, saying he was open to hearing whatever i had to say, answering any question i wanted to ask. i thought for a moment, focusing on what was beneath the outside shell of him, under the hard-working grad student, the dedicated husband and father and the many other roles he plays.
i knew, through all of these years together, and changes and trials, my perception of him is still the same.
"you are sunshine to me," i said, and apologized for the corniness of the statement.
he smiled, and i explained that he is what has kept my head above water during a time when i thought the dark and twisty of the world might take me under. i wanted to surrender to it for a while, feeling it must be what i deserved. he kept holding on, and i worked one day at a time until i could feel my worth from the inside-out while he patiently waited. now it is his turn, and the last year and a half has taken its toll as one wave after another has threatened to pull him under. i have learned from his example, following his lead to be a gentle, quiet and patient support as he works on his inside-out self worth.
we talked about how scary this feels--digging your way out of a hole you didn't even realize you were in until life wouldn't let you not look at it anymore, and how it could be so much easier to give up and succumb to the ugly that is desperate to pull you under. we are recognizing that relationships can't truly reach the deepest level of trust and intimacy unless both people are willing to work on themselves individually, owning their issues and trying to extract their unhealthy pieces and then coming back together to rebuild a newer, better foundation.
as i told him how proud i am of him, of his ability to face the hard and painful issues of his childhood, i couldn't help but cry. the words caught in my throat and the tears streamed down my cheeks. he reached across the car and took my hand, and i repeated the words i have been saying to him for so long, only now i was feeling a new depth and sacredness in them.
"i love you."
tonight we walked hand-in-hand along the beach as the waves crashed over our bare feet, picking up seashells along the way, saying hello to strangers as we passed. the sun was setting, and we knew we needed to walk to the small grocery store before it closed, so we started the way back toward our beach condo. suddenly, i turned and kissed him. it was a kiss reminiscent of our dating years, starting from my toes and working its way up, and the spontaneity of it took us both by surprise. for me, it was my way of acknowledging a new level in our relationship. he kissed me back and i again made a conscious memory of this moment, living in the details of it.
we have two more days here, and then it's back to durham for our flight out on tuesday. i don't know if it's possible, but i'm going to do my best to prioritize time like this with him every year. not just for a few hours at a movie or dinner, but a weekend where we can reconnect in ways we're unable to otherwise.
i had no idea how much we needed it until now.
There ain't no doubt in no ones mind
that loves the finest thing around,
whisper something soft and kind.
And hey, babe, the sky's on fire,
I'm dying, ain't I? I'm going to Carolina in my mind.