Gusts of cool wind wash over me as I lean against a large boulder. Gazing toward the horizon I watch the first rays of sunlight break through the treetops, dancing between the leaves and branches as it slowly pushes back the pre-dawn darkness. I close my eyes, relinquishing conscious thought and letting my emotions flow over me. I can still feel the remnants of years worth of wounds interspersed with the aches decades of simply living have produced in my body and mind, but I also feel something new. Something I struggle to identify as I let my mind begin to follow currents of thought once more. For the first time that I can recall in ages, for possibly the first time ever in my adult life, I feel waves of happiness, of completeness, of love and devotion, of loyalty and dedication, and a true sense of inner peace. My mind grapples with these feelings, unaccustomed as it has been to their embrace. I think back to prior retrospectives, to the pervasive thought that kept me going for so long: bloody, battered, scarred… I still stand.
For a long time I struggled with the concept of what it means to be happy, and whether or not the best I could hope for was simply contentment. I even allowed myself to accept such a fate, thinking it better to know and be content with myself than to hope for more than the concept of being at peace with myself. Even now I could debate the merits of whether happiness is truly a state in which we can exist or merely a label we apply to an attained level of mostly persistent contentment, but it is a discussion that should remain philosophical in nature for our purposes here.
Happiness caught me by surprise. I let myself build up defenses against others, regardless of their intentions. I isolated my mind and emotions to the best of my ability, refusing to open the tiniest crack of a window into my thoughts, my feelings, and even my hopes or desires to anyone who came along. Humor and sarcasm were my weapons of choice. Misdirection and the art of spinning a conversation into philosophical or sociological/psychological discussions became second nature. When those paths floundered or seemed not to work, I resorted to withdrawing from others either physically or mentally. I became a master at keeping myself hidden from others in the metaphysical sense, and even to my own thoughts and emotions at times.
One person managed to crack through my defenses, and I didn’t even see her coming.
I will never be able to express how thankful I am for that turn of events.
My eyes open as the warmth of the sun’s rays caress my face. Cool air fills my lungs as I take a deep a breath, turning my head to look at our campsite as I hear someone stirring. My heart skips a beat as I see her emerge from the tent, sunlight creating a halo around her head reminiscent of the angel she is to me. Even now I am awestruck by her beauty and grace, and a fresh wave of sheer joy threatens to overwhelm my senses.
In the deeper, darker corners of my thoughts and emotions I still struggle with the wounds of years gone by. Honestly, I will probably carry those forward for the rest of my life. Every so often the aftermath of the experiences I’ve had find their way into my life again, trying to pull me back into the abyss from which I struggled desperately to claw my way out of some time ago. It is a battle I no longer have to fight on my own, and yet it is also exponentially easier to repel those inner demons without anyone else’s help or support simply because of her presence in my life.
Finally, the unimaginable has happened. Not only have I found myself to truly be at peace with myself, even with the intrusions of my inner demons from time to time, but I have also discovered what it truly means to be happy, loved, and unconditionally devoted to someone whom I cannot imagine not having in my life.
Her arms wrap around me as we both watch the sun rise, briliant shades of red, orange, and yellow reaching ever higher into the sky. Her touch soothes the tidal waves of emotion running their course through me, and helps settle my mind once more.
Now, new experiences have presented themselves to us both. Only two short months ago, our son arrived and changed our lives forever. Just when I thought I I knew the greatest sense of happiness and contentment possible, I learned just how wrong I was to try to quantify the feeling.
It will be quite interesting to reflect back upon the ways things change during these next six, twelve, twenty months.
Thank you, Emily, for simply being who you are and being a part of my life. You have truly been an angel… the greatest gift I could ever imagine… and now we get to experience the greatest gift the two of us could receive as an entity in Jacob.
I only hope I can provide such an overwhelmingly positive impact on both your life and his as both of you have done for me.