I’ve spoken about the ‘First Love’ initially in this series, simply because I am going in order of chronological experience.
I experienced love for a boy when I was a teenaged girl. Then, very shortly after him, I fell in love with my ‘Forever Love’.
This love isn’t feverish. It isn’t the sort of love you feel that manages to rip your molecules apart and reform them every day. This is an organic, fulfilling, soul-nourishing entity that inhabits your body, heart and soul. Forever.
May 2003 – 20 yrs Old
I had no idea what to expect.
The world was a painful, horrible place at that moment in time for me. I was still in a huge amount of pain over the break-up with the First Love and I did not think there was a light at the end of the tunnel.
Yet I’d had my epiphany. During the early days of my break up, I had learned that in all actuality, I was the only casualty in the entire debacle and therefore, should not waste another moment longer crying over someone who never even loved me to begin with.
I wanted someone who was essentially, the polar opposite of the First Love. Someone who wasn’t required to love me or me him at first, but just someone who treated me properly, just so I could experience it. I felt I deserved that.
So when a young man of my acquaintance became single after his girlfriend of a couple of months dumped him, I decided to take a chance.
When I had first met him, a couple of months before, my initial thoughts were that he was simply very handsome and very kind. As I was engaged to be married to the First Love at the time, I gave him not a second thought.
Then our friendship blossomed when I became free. He was honest, kind and wonderful. Plus, he was foxy as hell.
I couldn’t have picked a better candidate to take my first, tentative baby-steps into a new relationship.
He was the warm hearth after being out in the cold. The safe haven during a terrible storm.
“If you’re broken I will mend you and I’ll keep you sheltered from the storm that’s raging on now” – Lego House, Ed Sheeran
He was beyond kind, patient and thoughtful. I genuinely couldn’t understand, at first, why on earth he was being nice to me, without expecting something in return. It took me a long time to actually realise that the only thing wanted from me was, well, me.
He would hold my hand and kiss me in public. Tell me I was beautiful several times a day and tell me it was okay to wear whatever the hell I wanted. I had permission to be me without restraint.
I was still under the complete delusion I was offensively ugly, fat, stupid and worthless. It frustrated him no end that I believed that and it took him a long time to undo that level of damage.
Undo it, though, he did.
“I really wanna start over again. I know you want to be my salvation, the one I can always depend” – Patience, Take That
I wasn’t ready to love. I wasn’t ready to feel, but I was ready to try again and prove to myself that I was something. That I wasn’t going to gather dust on a shelf somewhere, waiting for the First Love to deem me worthy of him again.
It was terrifying to strike out again with another guy after being so used to another and another pattern of behaviour, but I found my last vestige of courage and did it.
He was endlessly interesting and clever. We could sit up all night talking to each other and never run out of things to say. He didn’t carry frightening or bizarre beliefs; he was just the funniest, caring and fantastic man I’d ever met.
The amount of times we’d sit there talking and talking and then realise time had run away with us became the complete norm in my life all of a sudden.
Delightful, positive things that he would bring in spades became my new normal.
I found myself trusting him much quicker than I thought possible for that period in my life.
I still would flinch instinctively if he touched my face without warning or moved towards me too quickly, but we got through it. He didn’t feel insulted by it; he just accepted that there was an awful lot of repair work needed with me and that the job was his if he wanted it.
And he did.
I just marvelled at him. He committed himself to me and that was that. He looked after me, worried over me, supported me, encouraged me and helped me. It was beyond weird to experience someone putting me first and asking for nothing but to simply be in my company.
When it came to his graduation in July 2003, we were inseparable.
He tells me that the moment he knew he had fallen in love with me, was when he saw me on the platform of Lancaster train station in a short blue dress and white sandals. He said that was it.
For me? I don’t have an exact moment. It wasn’t like the first time I had fallen in love. It wasn’t an instant were I knew I had fallen. For me, it was like acknowledging that I needed air. It was so integral and part of me that by the time I knew I loved him, it felt like I had loved him forever.
It was as though I had been living my life, passing the time, until he came into it. It felt like the first love served the purpose of a life experience rather than anything substantial, because I was intended for the Forever Love.
Whilst on our first holiday, five months in, we got engaged. I thought I must have been mad to have been engaged to two guys in the space of a year – but I knew it was the right thing for me and the Forever Love.
He was a nurturing, kind, warm and wonderful dream. He would wrap me in his arms and make the big bad world disappear. He would show me off to everyone and constantly sing my praises. He would look with sad eyes at the rest of the world because I was never going to be with anyone else but him – and he felt sorry for them.
I had never experienced such a calm, beautiful and constant love. He was and of course, still is, a flame that does not go out.
He is woven into my very being and the electricity in each molecule within. He is the world and the light that warms and illuminates it.
He is a multitude of things to me. He isn’t just my husband. As the years have marched on, it has become abundantly clear that he is my lover, my best friend, my husband, the fantastic Dad to my beautiful children, my conscience, my biggest and most honest critic, my soulmate, my light in the dark, my nurse when I’m not well, my keeper, my sparring partner, my agony uncle and everything else in between.
We have faced the absolute worst of days together (losing our two eldest daughters) and we have faced the absolute best of days together (the births of all of our children and our wedding day). We got through everything in the past; and the present holds nothing but joy for us now, even if there are bad times ahead.
There are a few dynamics at work within the scope of this experience.
A lot of different elements are coming together to make this experience of love to be a lot more satisfying personally. It is not, importantly, punctuated at the end of my description, with all-out heartbreak. I’m eleven years deep into this thing as I write and I can personally vouch for its wonderful longevity and persistence.
As a literary experience, it feels like something from my favourite novel of all time: Jane Eyre. It is like I became both Jane and Rochester all rolled into one. I had previously experienced a negative previous relationship and had been sent helter-skelter out of that realm, like Rochester and Bertha. Then I meet the most wonderful person alive and would defy God to be with, including my own demons. My Forever Love became my Jane – my island of love and calm.
“I wish I were in a quiet island with only you; and trouble, and danger, and hideous recollections removed from me”- Rochester, ‘Jane Eyre’ Chapter 19, Charlotte Bronte.
It is true, like Rochester, I was damaged by the fall-out of an unhappy relationship, but like Jane, I wanted love on my own terms. Jane runs away after the revelation of Bertha – unwilling to settle for anything less. She will not be his mistress in that white-washed villa in the south of France. She will not usurp another woman. She would rather live in misery and heartbreak than live in a morally and emotionally corrupted way.
“I want an all time love, because nothing else is good enough. I want an all time love to find me.” – All Time Love, Will Young
This comparison makes me think, as a writer, how much of ourselves we can recognise in our work as we go along and that of others. Many have speculated over the years about whether Bronte had written into her work, her own experiences with love and heartbreak. True or not, there is certainly a sense of ‘self’ certainly evident. We ask ourselves: how can Bronte write so beautifully about the absolute measures of heartbreak and love without experience? Surely, she couldn’t just have had a bit of a guess.
Biron: …Never durst poet touch a pen to write
Until his ink were temper’d with Love’s sighs;
– Twelfth Night, 4.3, William Shakespeare
It is this that I cannot reconcile within myself when writing about love, especially something so strong as the Forever Love that you meet.
I find I have to answer the ‘magic if’ when writing about this within my own work. I have to inwardly examine this sweet and joyous stream of bursting joy and pick from it what I require. Without the Forever Love, I don’t know how I could write about relationships or, indeed, love.
What I have described is a simply joyful state that I found myself in. It doesn’t comprise of a finite amount anecdotes, nor does it have an end date. It doesn’t fizzle out or discovers it drops to pieces just because it hits a problem. It is like water. It flows over and around any problem that stands in its way. It changes its shape and its form in reaction to its surroundings, but always and always stays the same in the most perfectly beautiful, gorgeous way.
This isn’t the sort love that killed Romeo and Juliet; this is the sort of love that keeps you safe and sane and grateful for each and every moment. Capturing that in a written sense can be tough, because you have to identify the incidentals of every day that make the individual strands in the cloth of your relationship.
“Yes you make my life worthwhile, so I told you with a smile, it’s all about you” – All About You, McFly.
Everyday we laugh with and at one another or we moan, or sigh or be silly. Every day we find a way through and by doing so; underline our commitment and adoration for each other.
Every day, I thank God for him. I am one very, very lucky girl.
Let me not to the marriage of true minds Admit impediments. Love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds, Or bends with the remover to remove: O no! It is an ever-fixed mark That looks on tempests and is never shaken; It is the star to every wandering bark, Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken. Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks Within his bending sickle’s compass come: Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, But bears it out even to the edge of doom. If this be error and upon me proved, I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
– Shakespeare, Sonnet 116
~ This blog entry is dedicated to my biggest inspiration for writing, life and everything else: Mr Thomas Mercer. Love you x