When Pete and I met our new friend Valentina recently, she paid us a lovely compliment. She thought we were dating. It’s nice to be thought of as new lovers, when in reality, we’re very, very old ones.
Some of you will have seen this photo before. When it was taken in 1984, we were just 19 years old, and we’d been together for about six months. Since our engagement in 1986, I can count on one hand (ok, maybe two) the number of days we’ve been apart. We spend a lot of time together – much more than most married couples – and yet we’ve never tired of each other’s company, or felt the need for “alone” time.
If I was ever asked what I have to show for my life – this is the first thing I would offer. Our close, loving relationship has survived the many obstacles life has thrown at us. It hasn’t been easy, but over our 32 years together, we’ve grown closer than we ever thought possible. This has been my life’s work. It gives meaning and structure to my existence. It defines me.
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And then, there are these two.
Our sons make me so happy that sometimes I think my heart will burst. Even as young adults, they constantly delight us, and I’m always amazed by how sophisticated and varied their daily conversations can be.
Big Boy has a razor sharp wit and a backbone of steel, tempered with loving, gentle kindness. Small Man is quirky, enthusiastic, and ever so slightly brilliant. We found out the other day that he’s taught himself the Cyrillic alphabet and is currently learning Japanese Kanji (for fun).
Our parenting goal has never been to raise academically or fiscally successful children. We’ve never pushed them to excel at sports or music, nor have we intervened in their choice of friends. Instead, we’ve worked hard to ensure they have healthy self-esteems, respectful attitudes towards others, and kind, compassionate natures.
Along the way, we’ve celebrated their individuality – our children are so much more than mere byproducts of our genetic mingling. They have their own distinct personalities and opinions, and a unique outlook on the world. I will often turn to them for perspective and advice.
Every aspect of our family dynamic – the laughing, crying, talking, debating, cooking, eating, teaching, sitting, driving, watching, holding, comforting, nurturing, sharing, rejoicing – all these glorious moments, which even at the worst of times were glorious by virtue of the fact that we were all together – these are the moments which define me. These are the things that I measure myself on.
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There are other things too.
From a very young age, I’ve needed to make things with my hands. It used to drive Pete crazy, but because he’s a saint, he soon became very adept at finding ways to store the paraphernalia associated with my various hobbies.
My enthusiasms have always been a big part of who I am, and the satisfaction I get from creating something from raw materials is enormous. It really doesn’t matter whether it’s a vintage crystal spider, or a loaf of bread, or a polarfleece jacket pieced together from scrap.
Recently, the sourdough mania has taken on a life of its own.
It has become so much more than simply turning flour and water into food. Baking bread has led to friendships within my immediate community and, through the sharing of Priscilla, with a world-wide family of sourdough bakers. It has enabled me to connect with like-minded individuals around the globe in a meaningful, rewarding way.
To a large extent, I believe we’re all defined by our human interactions. My immediate and extended family are amazing, as are my wonderful all-weather friends (I don’t need just fair or foul weather ones). They enrich my life, and I treasure them greatly.
And over the years, this blog, and my interactions with all of you, has become a large part of who I am and how I see myself. I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, but I work very hard not to promote Fig Jam and Lime Cordial. I’ve basically ignored all those articles on “how to have a successful blog” – I don’t tag my posts, I don’t attend blogger functions, I don’t stay on topic. So I know that any of you who read my ramblings, or even more generously, take the time to comment, have found your way here because you’re genuinely interested in what I have to say. For that, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
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As our close friends know, bits of our life are hard at the moment. That’s not surprising – very few people make it to their 50s without trials and challenges along the way. But these difficulties rarely make it onto our blog – not because I wish to present a glossied up version of our lives – but because I refuse to let them define who I am. Yes, things do get a bit tricky at times, and some days that can feel overwhelming, but right now, at this moment in time, life is grand.
This moment, as I sit here in the quiet of an early Sunday morning, scribbling on a scrap of paper, sipping hot chocolate, listening to the hum of the oven, feeling the warmth of the gas heater, watching my dough rise – this moment is perfect. And really, this moment is all we ever have – it’s our only reality.
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I believe…that we need to make conscious choices about what we allow to define us. And that if we take our measure from the positive things in our lives rather than the negative ones, we’re far more likely to find enduring happiness and contentment.
I’d love to know what defines you. If you’re inclined to share, please feel free to leave as long (or as short) a comment below as you wish. ♥