Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Today was unseasonably warm and golden. For the first time in months, we walked to the old tennis courts and played. Grateful, grateful, grateful. For the swing of my arm as it rises to meet the ball without my conscious volition--thwack! For the towering pines that ring the court dropping cones and pine needles and littering the ground with yellow and orange leaves. For the sweet mild air, for the squirrel skittering across the court boldly, for the sliver of new moon rising in the late afternoon.

Most of all grateful for my sweet companion, his back 97% healed, once more swinging and running and swooping and diving all over the court opposite me, once more calling out encouragement and challenges, once more saying "Good game!" as we walk home through the sunset haze. Grateful for the new moon, for the turning season, for our weathered, vital middle-aged bodies and the pleasures they still give each other.

I wanted to live inside a good marriage and I despaired many times because I didn't think I would get one in this lifetime. I feared I was too old, too damaged, that there was no one left, that perhaps I wasn't capable of that kind of love, that perhaps no one would ever love me that way. I feared my ideals were too high, that I wanted too much, that I was too much, that I had missed my chance.

I looked around and didn't see any marriages that I could imagine myself in. I knew I wanted a level of intimacy that was unusual; that I wanted total trust, that i wanted acceptance and humor and good food and bedrock values. I didn't imagine it would be Christopher. I had never known anyone like him and when I first met him I had no way to recognize him. We joke that if we had met as housemates one of us would be serving a life sentence for trying to murder the other. We would have hated each other; he is so fastidious, and I am so...not. And yet because of this love-thing, this chemistry-thing, this I-don't-even-know-what-to-call it thing, it works.

I didn't know what a good relationship would feel like, smell like, be like until i was in one. It feels like a remarkable absence of drama. I have worried about him when he was late coming home, worried about car accidents and heart attacks because that's how I was raised, to worry. But I never worry about whether or not he loves me, about whether he'll be faithful to me. I know there are millions of women who are younger, prettier, better housekeepers, and more successful wage-earners than I am. Yet I know now that love is not conditional on any of that. It just is. This is what beings tears of gratitude to my eyes when we kiss. I don't have to do anything to deserve this--I can't deserve it. It's too big to deserve.

Sometimes you get the thing you always wanted and it turns out to be a great disappointment. Love is worth it. It was what I was yearning for all those years and I was right to yearn. Even the hard parts, the painful places we come up against when humor deserts us and our differences are too vast to bridge--even then. I am so grateful I got to experience this. Whatever happens, I know what a good marriage is now. I went into it fairly blind. I am not a visionary like so many of my good friends--I am actually kind of dense. I have to do a thing in order to figure out what the hell I am doing. I didn't know if I would know how to be married until I was. And somehow I do.

Which means that the life I'm living now is in many ways a miracle to me. And in many ways it's still the same life. I still struggle with most of my same old issues; I still don't earn enough money and I often feel lost and lonely and unworthy. Christopher hasn't cured or fixed any of my rough edges--thank God. I don't expect him to. Neither of us can shoulder the basic responsibility for living a good life for the other. It's just that life is infinitely better with him. And that he has shown me I am capable of loving another this consistently, this carefully, this day to day. He has given me back a piece of my innocence that was lost. And for that and so much more, I am grateful.


Anonymous said...

i wish for a special person to come along for me
i pray that my wish will come true
'cause i finally believe that i am worth loving

thanks for posting this love story it is Thanksgiving as i read it

Michelle Murrain said...


Such a sweet post, and so sweet knowing the both of you. Happy Thanksgiving!

Anonymous said...


You don't know me, but I know of you through Ruth and Maya S. Years and years ago, Ruth let me read the manuscript of The Largest Possible Life...and Maya has talked about the writing/learning she has done with you. I have, for a long while, checked in on this blog; I find your writing unguarded and pocked with brilliance. (That sounds like a disease, but it's not...certain lines or phrases just swell on the page, more so than the others that simply glow). This post did something different to me. It was like toast. Like that fall sky you cannot take your eyes from. Like loamy soil in the planting season. Home. It felt like you described home better than I have ever heard it described.

Jean R.

Anonymous said...

I am so happy for you, Ali. You deserve every second of the joy that you and Christopher share. If more people were so in love and loved, the world would be a better place.
Much love,

Maya Stein said...

Ali -

I can't begin to tell you how much I need to read this today, as I navigate (or trip, stumble, fall, bruise, chafe, clench, recoil from, reach a series of boiling points, etc.) a relationship that has been challenging the very core of me and from which, whether because of this or in spite of this, I have had a difficult time leaving.

What you said, this piece about no more drama, and feeling that utter, deep sense of trust, and the not knowing until you do but finding that you can, and then, whammo, the real gift you gave me, the idea of lost innocence being retrieved, gifted back. I want to cry. I want to bring you a casserole, a lemon cheesecake, something. Thank you. I feel such comfort reading this, knowing that someone else knows, understands, sees. And that this is possible. That this can be me, too. Yes. Definitely thank you.

Anonymous said...


I want to retract my former comment -- no, amend it. Reading this made me feel like what it must feel like to feel home. Known. Beloved.

Actually, I do want to retract it and just add my name to Maya's comment. (I usually agree with Maya more than I agree with myself).

I don't know you, but, man, I am happy for you.

Jean R. (Again)

Alison said...

Wow! Thank you guys! It is so sweet and heartwarming to read all your comments and the well wishes.

I guess the post touched a nerve--we all want to be simply loved for who we are, and many of us despair of that because (and I don't know why it has to be this way,) love can be difficult to find.

I hope if you are feeling discouraged about the possibility of finding love, that I can offer encouragement, because God knows I was discouraged for years. It's also true that I am a highly imperfect human being. So my point is that if I with all my flaws and failed attempts could finally stumble my way onto this, then it is possible for others as well.

And I really dislike self-help books or articles that provide formulas for how to find love, because I think no cookie cutter solutions exist and it's not respectful to intelligent people to give advice.

So I'll just say that I think it's a worthy dream, that's all, something worth striving for and believing in. And I met Christopher on Craig's List which is a pretty humble place to meet someone--you have to wade through a lot of crazy badly-spelled posts, but there you go.

I tried all the other sites as well. Frankly, by the time I met him I think I'd tried everything. And if I were going to write a self-help book--which I'm not--that's the only thing I would say in it. Just, if this is your dream--or whatever your heart's deepest desire is--then to keep trying for it. Don't give up.