Love’s Labours

She burst into my life like a bolt of lightning out of a clear blue sky. I stole that line from Christopher M. Cevasco who said that in reference to reading Tolkien for the first time, but it’s accurate. It was unplanned, unexpected and unsought. I had thought she was beautiful from the moment we met a year ago, but she was in a relationship, about to get “married” – as much as lesbians can get married in this country – and I don’t mess around in other people’s relationships. I kept my friendly distance, stayed acquaintances with her and her wife, and continued my lonely journey.

Six months after the wedding, the marriage soured. Gauntlets were thrown, mud was slung, feelings were hurt and names were besmirched. It was ugly. Ugly and painful for all involved, I’m sure, but the only people who know what truly went on in that relationship is her and her wife.

Five weeks later, I took her on a date, simply because I wanted to give her a moment of sanctity, maybe even a little bit of joy. It had been a long time since a woman had elicited such feelings in me, and it may have been a long time before I met someone who did again, so I took my chance. I saw her more often, my heart growing larger every time. We spent hours talking, kissing, laughing and enjoying our connection. I believed at first that I was a band aid, a means to mend a lacerated heart, and although the thought saddened me I accepted the possibility that this was my only role in her life. I honestly felt privileged to be that momentary salve for her soul. However, despite our best intentions, and even against our own wishes, we fell in love.

We celebrated, publicly and privately, this new discovery of love. We took photos, we shared photos, we accompanied each other to significant events simply because we just wanted to be together, experiencing each other in these moments, as people in love do. Within a month, we became official. We’re in a relationship.

And then the knives came out. Some were sharp, keen and loud; others dull, silent but no less painful. Opinions were formed by those ill-informed, unsolicited advice was delivered with the arrogance of those who have not yet learned to let others be as they are. People started telling us what to do, using mutual friends as catalysts, suggesting that we might perhaps think of others and not be so “cutesy” quite so publicly. We were accused of using social media to be spiteful, of manipulating others’ emotions for our own gain, and for proving nasty accusations against my partner as fact through our inappropriately timed relationship.

And I snapped. I ranted and raved. I lost my temper and my ability to be understanding and compassionate. What we were being charged with sounded juvenile to me. I am capable of being an arsehat, but vindictiveness is not in my nature, so being reproached for that offended me. It angered me, for one very simple reason:

I am happy. And people I barely know are sitting around talking about my relationship like it’s an episode of Game of Thrones and coming to the conclusion that my happiness is objectionable and should not be displayed in a public domain.

I have no shame in declaring that my life has been difficult. I have had many moments over the last 37 years in which I felt I was existing in some circle of Hell. I have fought, and struggled, and heaved my way out of that pit time and again. I have been sexually, emotionally and physically abused by strangers and by people who claimed to love me. I have put myself through trial after ordeal whilst stumbling around in the dark trying to figure out how to be human. I have suffered indignities, sorrow and pain, and through it all I still found the ability to breathe, to find joy where I could, to love as much as my battered heart would allow. And yet I was never really happy. I didn’t think I could be.

She came into my life at a time when I had resigned myself to a continuing reality in which I existed alone. Rather than being a depressive, self-pitying realisation, it was an understanding of who I was and where my existence was at. It wasn’t a reflection on who I am as a person, whether or not I was loveable or worthy, it was simply an acceptance that perhaps my life wasn’t about experiencing that particular kind of partnership, that it was more about my spiritual development, and my art, and my friends, and the more I searched for that elusive love that I craved so much, the more miserable I would be. The thought also occurred to me that perhaps I was simply too damaged to ever be completely vulnerable and let someone else in. So I let it go with an abeyant sense of sadness, and told myself I didn’t like who I became in a relationship anyway, so I wasn’t missing much.

Then she entered my field of vision and everything changed. We are unflinchingly honest with each other about everything: our pasts, our expectations, our faults, the things we don’t like about ourselves, the things we do, how scared we both are, how cautious we know we should be, and how quickly we fell for each other anyway. Maybe it’s a lesbian thing, I don’t know, but I can’t deny that I am in love. So utterly, overwhelmingly, scarily in love.

For the first time in any relationship I’ve had ever, I feel like myself. I am comfortable and relaxed, and I have so many moments where I am present and content. I don’t feel the need to impress her, to compete with her, to hide my crazy, or to be right all the time. I don’t feel the need to be thin to be attractive to her, and I don’t need to play the femme fatale to get her attention. She thinks I’m funny and sweet and beautiful and smart and a dork and clumsy and she loves me for all of it. At last, I think I’m having the relationship I should be having. I’m actually happy, not because she “makes” me happy, but because I like who I am around her.

It’s happened very quickly, and if I’d had my way, I would have preferred her to spend more time single. But it is as it is, and being the sort of person who takes risks for love, art and experience, I have accepted this path that the Universe has put me on. It’s hard, though. Staying vigilant amongst the well-intentioned but ultimately hurtful “advice” that has been sent our way is difficult. Doubt is always a factor in new relationships, but it usually comes from within, not from external sources. Many of her friends believe she has moved on too quickly, but what they don’t know is the hours of discussion between us and our close friends over what went wrong, the times she has wept in my arms over the end of that relationship, her sorrow at the loss of her wife who was her best friend, and her fear of fucking up her time with me. Of course no one else knows this, it’s private. I understand the concern of her friends and mine, and I begrudge no one the right to have an opinion, but I do draw the line at imposing that opinion as fact onto my experience. I would never dare tell anyone what they should and should not say, do, think or feel. It’s insulting.

Our relationship is not a “fuck you” to her ex, a woman who whilst hurting hurt others, including two of my closest friends. Our time together is about us, not about sticking it to anyone else. We share our adventures with our online world because this is the age of the internet, such is the time we live in now. The only person who has any conceivable right to be offended or disaffected by our public declarations of mutual admiration is her ex, who has blocked us both on social media (such is her privilege) and has no access to our private lives. Her name is not mentioned in any of my posts, and I try very hard to be respectful of her perspective of her relationship. But this is mine, and I will not be shushed.

Look, at the risk of sounding overly poetic, love will not be denied. It demands attention, expression and celebration. We as humans need to hear “I love you” as much as we need to say it. I love hard and I love well, and the opinions of a few is not going to stop me from rejoicing in my happiness with the many who have been waiting to see me in that state for decades. If that means I alienate some acquaintances then so be it. I personally think it’s sad that someone’s happiness can be the cause of so much disdain in others.

I love her. She is my illumination, my muse, my paramour, my biggest fan and my greatest ally. She is graceful and erudite, she is considerate and charming, she is accepting and reflective, and is one of the most brutally honest people I know. I admire her strength and her vulnerability, and I hold in high regard her ability and willingness to take responsibility for her own life, to seek help, and to own her mistakes.

She makes me laugh. She makes my heart sing. And yes, she may one day hurt me just as much as I may hurt her, but I choose to take the risk because I’m an adult and have the competence required to make my own decisions.

What makes me laugh is that none of this is actually anybody else’s business, not even remotely. The only people who know what really goes on in our relationship are her and me. The reason I share this now is because I want to. I have nothing to prove and nothing to justify to anybody. This, what you’re reading now, is about me. Little ol’ me, finally receiving the love I’ve always wanted.