So, imagine my surprise on Christmas morning, when Daniel handed me a fat envelope marked "C" and said, with a shrug, "I know I wasn't supposed to, but this is for you." I pulled out a typed letter he had written, and I quickly dissolved into tears. Daniel and I aren't known for being generous with our words all the time. It's a mutual flaw. Nor is Daniel big on writing. But this letter contained words I hadn't known I needed to hear. Proof that he'd heard me, that he'd seen me, as I had navigated the other side of what had been a difficult few years for him professionally. I am not a big crier, but I ugly cried so hard that I needed to take a break, so hard that I hid my face behind the letter when the kids became uncomfortable. I didn't need anything else. He could have just given me that letter, to read over and over again, and it would have been gift enough. But he gave me something more.
If you just meet me casually or come to a gathering at my home, you might be surprised to find out I'm an introvert. I love people. But if you really know me, you'll smile and recall my awkwardness in the face of small talk, the way you can tell I'm peopled out even if I don't say it; you might notice how I disappear when I'm hosting even family to steal a minute alone. As my life has become joyfully more crowded, I have craved solitude, and it has become increasingly difficult to find. I have stated the need for time and space, even as I couldn't articulate what that meant or how to obtain it, over and over again in my 12 years as a mother, the desperation building as our family has grown and my world feels it has shrunken. Often Daniel's well-intended solution might be to plan a date for us, or a night away together, both of which I relish. But, much like you might feel after eating a delicious Chinese meal when you were actually craving pizza, at the end of those events, I'd still be left wanting. The thing I'd had was decidedly good, but it hadn't been the thing I had needed.
For this reason, the paper I pulled out next was a revelation. Daniel had booked a half-day of spa treatments at a nearby hotel for me and then a suite with a fireplace for me to enjoy for a night by myself. I'm not sure what meant more to me: The excitement and anticipation of a day spent alone, or the fact that this man, with whom I have lived and loved and struggled for the last fifteen years deeply knows me. He isn't threatened, at least not anymore. He isn't hurt. He feels overjoyed to give me this gift, as much as I do in the receiving.
Today, I packed a suitcase just for me, drove a car with no car seats. got a manicure and pedicure, a massage and a facial. I drank two cups of tea in a beautiful conservatory while I thumbed through fashion magazines and looked forward to a night by myself in a hotel. What would I do? What would it matter?
Thus far, I have eaten crackers and cheese and the chocolate-covered almonds I told my brother-in-law I didn't have (sorry, Keith), drank wine out of a plastic hotel cup, cracked open a new novel, caught up with a friend, and dusted off this ol' website. Room service is coming soon.
I hesitate to tell you any of this, because I know it's dripping in privilege. I know this is extravagant, and it doesn't matter if I tell you it was paid for in points and Fantasy Football winnings; the point is, this is extra, and I am well aware that it's not accessible to a lot of people. It hasn't been and won't always be accessible to me. Of course, I am not saying this is the only way to love or to be loved. But I am saying, it took us 15 years to get here, and I'm not talking about money now.
I'm talking about the time it took in our relationship to get to a point where we knew and understood each other-- and ourselves--well enough to give and accept a gift like this with the joy that we're able to. And I think that is worth sharing, despite my discomfort with how unnecessary all this is. Please, don't dream of telling me I deserve it. Of course I don't. I live a comfortable life where I have been afforded plenty of choices and luxuries, and I hold that loosely enough to realize it could all be gone tomorrow and tightly enough to know how fortunate I am. I am deeply grateful for this life, for knowing ourselves and each other better with each passing year, and for this this man who really sees me. It is such a joy to be fully known and loved anyway. (I'm looking at you, Justyn, who delivered my room service and did not hide your discomfort that I wanted to give you my breakfast order too. I am not leaving this room until you kick me out, and I am not ashamed.)