We met 12 years ago today in that little coffee shop next to the ferry. I saw you through the large window, sitting calmly in your independence, your head gently bent over a book on global issues. Your big ideas, your worldly view and experiences, your easy presence drew me in as we sat for hours talking, drinking coffee.
More than your experiences, I was intrigued by your candor and passionate beliefs, your firmly held views. That was attractive to me. I knew the stories you shared were a cover for something deeper; of course, your wild tales would usually work as a great introduction, a type of foreplay... I was sure most girls fell for that... and your English accent.
I wasn't that kind of girl though. I wanted to know more. Not just what you did or where you traveled, but what you liked and what you read and why you did what you did. You said you were taken in by my smile.
You felt disarmed that I could see beneath the layers and scratch under your veneer. There wasn't any real trick to that: I just listened. Maybe you needed that.
Who knew a coffee and hours of talking would change our lives. Within a year, I would sell all my stuff, pack-up my belongings, move to England, and start a new adventure with you. We weren't engaged. No promises were made. Friends thought I was crazy. I knew I could go back home if it didn't work out.
Those coffees led to a strong friendship; love; marriage; travel; multiple moves to many countries on four continents; a beautiful, fierce daughter; a painful separation; getting back together and trying again; and then... now... to divorce.
But that first day we met, in the car, on the long drive to my home from the ferry station, you said, firmly, "I'm never having kids and I'm never getting married. I value my independence above all else." You said it.
Later, you tried so hard to pull back some of those words, to make sense around how you felt about us. "Maybe I just hadn't ever met the right person," you said. I watched you struggle putting those words in your mouth. That never changed -- the struggle. You tried to swallow them -- all those words whole. You tried to be one kind of man and then another kind of man and tried to make sense of it. I kept being me and attempted to hold it all with both palms open and my heart wide, but cracking, because neither of us could keep the opposing, pulling sides -- forever. Not within the constructs of anything resembling conventionality.
Not to say that we were conventional. (Neither of us is.) And I loved that about you.
There was so much that we understood and that was good. That keeps us friends. We don't fight. We don't yell. Or call names. But the wind wasn't calm and you wanted something more raw -- while I needed grounding. This conflict, our weather... we brewed high pressure. That hurt you. It hurt me.
Yet, I have a lot to thank you for. We have 12 years' worth of words. You gave me your friends, your family, and they became ours. I gave you mine. Now -- yours belong to you and mine belong to me -- but that's OK. It was beautiful. And I got to love more people.
You opened new countries to me... countries I will always carry in my heart... countries that have changed who I am. I'm better, stronger for it. My perspective is wider and through even more friendships, I spread love out across the sea. Though I need a home, my roots, a base -- my appreciation and my desire for travel was split open because of you. That door will never close.
Thank you for loving me in your ways. Thank you for allowing me to fully love you and experience being your wife and best friend. My life is richer.
Thank you for teaching me about mosquitoes, parasitoid wasps, malaria, dengue, the Amazon, adventure. Now I know to pack some of the heavy stuff at the top of a backpack; how to put a duvet in its cover; how to make coffee in a French Press.
Thank you for England: football; Pims; being twirly; scotch eggs; Hob Nobs; PG Tips; Galaxy chocolate; pubs; for teaching me how to pronounce my t's; the Cotswolds; Dover's Hill; Scotland; Wales; and magical Christmases with your family.
Thank you for Kenya, Ethiopia, Myanmar, UAE, Germany, Thailand, and Malaysia. Thank you for Mardi Gras and rainforests, countless safaris, learning about the different species of zebra and giraffe. Thank you for giving me Africa. Photography. For Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. For Battlestar Gallactica. For pulling me out of my literary snobbery.
Thank you for sarcasm and wit. For perspective.
Thank you for asking me to marry you on that bench with the lamppost. Then asking me again, years later, this time on your knees, at the same spot... even though, now... things have worked out completely differently. I knew you meant it then.
For that New Year's Eve in Nairobi -- the one where you asked if I would be a parent with you -- I thank you the most for that. Because from that night, that decision, we are parents to an incredible child. This girl will have -- has had already -- an unconventional life. Thank you. Thank you for our daughter. Just. Thank you. She is the best of you. The best of me. (And we're in trouble!)
Thank you for really deciding who you need to be and saying so. You told me the truth even when it was brutally hard; but it was the truth. And my heart knew it. And for telling me the truth, I found compassion and forgiveness.
Thank you for asking me to let you go. Because I loved you, I did. And I know you asked me to let you go because you loved me, too.
By letting you go, I have reclaimed part of myself, a freedom. By letting you go, I have moved -- in many ways -- towards a new life with a new set of rules and principles that are my truth. Ones that work for me, that shift and soar. This feels good and right.
We are both on separate journeys; yet, you will always be within me: I owe part of the woman I am now to you. Without you, I would not have had these experiences. I am stronger, clearer, braver.
You gave me much. Even the tough, the feeling of brokenness (which has healed), for the parts you fell short and I fell short: I'm thankful.
Now, I know what I need.
What I want.
What I'll accept.
I know how to be better. Different.
Thank you for supporting our daughter and for helping to support my dreams. You believed in me.
You've given me the opportunity to learn to forgive, to practice love unconditionally, for understanding love alone does not make a marriage and nor does a piece of paper.
Sometimes love means letting go to allow room for a new growth, a new life, to take root.
Thank you for the coffee. For 12 years.
I wish for you what it is you wish for... with my whole heart and much love.
Becky writes a regular blog at beckycavender.blogspot.com, where this post first appeared.