"You look exceptionally happy these past few months," Doug, a long time regular at our Starbucks, comments today. "Things must be going well with you and Ricardo?"
His comment catches me by surprise. I haven't felt "exceptionally happy" lately - not that I'm unhappy - but then, I can't see my countenance. Happiness, in my dictionary, is as reliable as the weather reports in Seattle, as stable as the emotions of most pregnant women, its longevity rivaling the latest update of smart phone technology. So I rarely rely on it in my vocabulary. I don't argue because, when I think about it, I know that I am, in fact, happy. And Ricardo plays a huge role in that. But really, I'm beyond happy. I'm thankful.
And I tell Doug that. "I'm blessed," I say. In the God leaned down, squeezed me in a bear hug, kissed my cheek, and handed me a bouquet of creamy blue and violet hydrangeas for no good reason sort of way.
For the few times Doug has talked with Ricardo, he's perceptive. "You've got a quality guy," he says. "He's got this strong sense of being a man without having to assert himself. This confidence and maturity. It's hard to find these kind of guys anymore. You've got my approval, for whatever it's worth." He flashes me two thumbs up.
And again, he's right.
I'm thankful for Ricardo's strength, confidence and maturity, as much as I'm thankful for his gentleness, humility and childlikeness. He's got his pride, but doesn't hold it so tight that he can't dress up as a big plush dog for Halloween and go out to dinner. He's as comfortable shooting straight with his thoughts and feelings as he is receiving the straight edge of mine. He knows when to talk, and when to sit back and listen to my verbal processing. Not only that, he's the kind of guy you want in your corner, because you know he'll champion for you, and he won't back down, but he knows when to walk away from a fight.
In the beginning of "us," he shared one of the best pieces of advice passed onto him from his grandfather, which he's sought to understand in ever widening breadth: "Don't try to understand women; just love them." That we're different is no mystery. We both know I'm, by nature, a more emotional creature than him, full of complexities and layers I don't often know how to articulate. Ironically, for all his laid-back, affectionate acceptance of my female mystique, he often has me figured out long before I launch into an attempt of an explanation. Then there are the cultural differences and the language differences and the faith culture differences, and even when those can creep up and rear-end us at times, that we can always come back to this place of common ground, of mutual respect, of valuing each other's differences and not wanting to change the other, fills me with a deep sense of God's presence.
It's not been easy learning to be loved as I am, to believe that in someone's eyes, I'm always beautiful. I find myself expecting his love to fluctuate with my performance, my moods, the days when I feel someone else has temporarily commandeered my body, and I wonder, "Why is he still here?" Surely this is the end of him, I think, like the revolving door of love. I've grown a lot, healed a lot, but still, work hard at not expecting him to up and walk out on me. The wounds ran deep when he met me, but with time I see, love runs deeper.
While the feelings of happiness, giddiness, the I'm-head-over-heels-in-love sort of highs, I'm learning, may pay a visit in the morning and leave after lunch, the love for this man has unpacked its bags and settled into a room of its own. I'm thankful that ours is not the rose-colored glasses kind of love, the "love that's all pink," as Ricardo says. I've seen him for him and he's seen me for me, and at the end of the day, I just want to be in the safety of his arms, to see his contagious smile and twinkling eyes, to know that I've come home.
It's this man I give thanks for today, and every day.