About 22 years ago this week, he asked me on our first date. For those doing the math, he was 14 and I was 16. We have been together ever since.
“Awwww… that’s so cute! High school sweethearts!!”
I hear that all of the time, then I tell people we met when he was in my brother’s kindergarten class, and they nearly swoon.
It’s not cute, though. Well, it is and it isn’t. In 22 years there are so many phases in a life, and we have lived them together. Some of them were cute, some of them were sweet, some of them were fun, some of them were hard, some of them were painful, and some of them nearly broke us into a million tiny pieces.
Over the past year and a bit we have struggled to regain a sense of normalcy post-cancer, and it has been hard. Issues that we ignored pre-cancer could no longer be ignored; COVID saw us in each other’s pockets constantly; recovery and mental health issues continued to be harder and longer-lasting than we anticipated.
It has definitely not been cute. It has been hard and it has been long.
But the thing about 22 years is that it feels worth the work. It feels worth the hard, and just like every other hard phase in our more than two decades as ‘us’, it is worth the work. We choose to put in the work, and we choose to keep going.
Even if it is hard.
Lately, I have seen the cute coming back. We are making each other laugh and talking. We are sharing things, and talking about the things we avoided pre-cancer. I still think he is funny, and smart, and lovely. We still like to spend time together, and just like every other challenging time, we will be ok.
Actually, this time, we will be better than ok. 22 years means that a lot of habits – good and bad – develop and patterns emerge. This time, we are working to break the bad habits and to notice our patterns so we can find our triggers and develop new, healthier patterns.
After 22 years, this man’s smile still makes me smile. He still makes me laugh. And he still gives me what our daughter once called “true love kisses”.
So maybe it’s a little bit cute.