More often than I’d like to admit, I find myself stuck in analysis paralysis when it comes to gifts. I either knock it out of the park and buy someone exactly what we both know they want or I troll endlessly for the perfect something and end up with exactly nothing.
This is especially true when it comes Adrian and any holiday that implies a gift exchange. Even though he has a robust Amazon wish list, I would feel extremely uncomfortable buying him surround sound speakers to express my love and appreciation. (He, honestly, would be super psyched.) Weeks slip into days and days slip into hours before I’m supposed to have a present wrapped and ready to go and, all too often, I show up empty-handed. Which, at that point, you may as well not show up at all.
But, not this year. Nope. I wasn’t going to get caught empty-handed. I don’t do that stuff anymore. Not me…I show up. (*bites nails* )
So, in the event that I did not successfully acquire material gifts, I wanted to have a Plan B.
It’s probably all those Wonder Years episodes I’ve been watching but it occurred to me I should write him a love letter. Not just any love letter, an olde-timey love letter that would demonstrate my love and appreciation far beyond what a set of five speakers could ever convey. The kind of love letter he might keep close at hand, and pull out to read when he was feeling lonely, lost, or better yet, sentimental about me, too.
Easier said than done. I immediately spiraled into a new kind of paralysis. I like to say I can write myself out of any corner, but this…this kind of vulnerability and daring is not my strong suit. I am passionate and emotional and generally pretty direct but something in me stops there. I rarely effervesce with lavish praise and lusty sentiment. About anything. Or anyone. I’ve made a career out of being a glass half-empty girl.
Until I heard the Dear Sugar Podcast episode 2. In it, a woman writes about the abusive rhetoric her boyfriend spews at her and somehow I found myself reflecting on what comes out of my own mouth on a regular basis in this relationship. A glass half-empty outlook translates to a lot of negative commentary over the years.
In an instant, I knew what I was going to write about: I would say precisely what I haven’t said. I would tell him our story with the glass half-full. I would remind him why I chose him in the first place. I would own my shortcomings. I would invite him to walk with me into our future.
It took some time, at least a day or two of some freestyling to get it out of my head. What came out was cathartic, thrilling, scary, romantic, rewarding all at once. But nothing, nothing can top the rush I felt when I actually gave it to him (along with a backpack from his Amazon wish list and two dorky t-shirts).
I highly recommend this exercise, even if you never intend to give it to the recipient. Heck, I think you could use it to determine if you are falling in love with someone, let alone to recalibrate just how in love you are with someone you’ve been with years.
Want to try? You can do it. It feels a little like getting naked in a snowstorm, but that’s what it’s all about. Here are a few questions about your relationship to get you started. More or less, this is the outline I used so if you get all this on paper, you’ll be well on your way to one sweet and steamy letter.
- If you died tonight and had one last phrase to utter to your lover, what would it be? Hint: what one thing don’t you say enough?
- Admit that you don’t say it enough. Then, try to explain why you don’t say it enough.
- How did you feel in the early part of the relationship? Describe the physical and emotional states.
- What is one defining memory that solidified the fact that you had officially fallen in love?
- How did your outlook change because of the relationship? What was suddenly possible?
- What still needs to be said? Are you sorry? Too proud? Too stubborn?
- How will you show up in the future?
- How do you need him/her to show up?
- Shamelessly admit that you are all in, because, after all [restate your phrase from the start.]
Take it easy on yourself. Don’t overthink this. Humor is ok. A little playful self-deprication never hurt. Above all else, be honest.
Below are a few excerpts from my letter, published with permission from its kind and handsome recipient and a fair amount of nerves and trepidation on my part about putting this out there:
[To Adrian, on his 39th Birthday]
I always wanted to die young. You made growing up seem possible. Growing old, even.
You knew how to do things. Like make coffee, boil water, open my mail. You were ok with being sad to be sad. Happy to be happy. Not afraid to admit to me that sometimes you were stuck between the two. I felt stuck too but I was afraid to say it. I was empty, my own self a stranger and always scared to succeed. At anything. Everything. And there you were. You say what you mean the first time. I always wonder what that is like. You screamed that you loved me late one night through the rain while I wandered defiantly in the middle of the street. And in an instant, I was righted. I was enough. Finally, enough.
So let me ask your solemn forgiveness as I say what I need to say. Let me ask that you listen gently as you hear the timid whispers of my earnest heart.
You, my love, are enough. I am proud of you and endlessly in love with you. Any questions I have of you are questions inside myself. Any darkness I find in you is just my shadows talking. Any flaws I point out come from endless, painstaking scrutiny of my own reflection.
I am lucky to have you. To hold you.
The sight of you. The smell of you. The taste of you. The way your skin feels against my hands, your breath on my neck. It is enough for me to watch you work. To watch you sleep. To watch you boil water.
To watch you embody your convictions. To see you drop to your knee meet our sons’ gazes with their same eyes. To catch you looking back at me.
It is enough. This is enough.
After all, you are all I ever wanted.