Love in a time of lockdown
Fairy tales always end with the Princess finding her person, the one. Then, as they ride into the sunset happily ever after serenades into the sequel. I may not quite be a pillow princess, but Covid-19 brought home just why my relationship dynamics work for me, and why it has helped me face up to certain aspects about myself that I never really questioned before.
Back in the time before, some five years ago this week I swiped left on an app and the algorithm served up a striking Israeli recent PhD graduate. We struck up a conversation, nattering about this and that, with me primarily in awe of her hella smarts. That year I had just come out of a tumultuous two-year relationship, and me doing my usual thing of bouncing back and forth about needing a relationship was quick to try to get back on the horse. This Tel Aviv El’a hit all my weak spots, and before long we met for pizza, with obligatory hats to signal our liaison.
Unlike every other partner I have dated we took it slow, with a mutual agreement of an open relationship from that first meeting. In January 2016 she started a new position in southern China, which lasted for eight months, and it proved to be the making of us. Over the course of the next five years we never moved in together, are comfortable in our respective domesticity, and while we have deep conversations have not had a single heated argument. I feel utterly blessed, and like Meredith Grey I know I have found my One. Of course, I am soppy, and more than a little bit of a hopeless romantic, but my partner has opened up a whole other world of what relationships mean to me, and this is where we were at when lock down started in February 2020.
Just like in 2016 we faced months apart, especially as we lived on opposite sides of the city without cars. In many ways life continued, our relationship a series of messages and face times, solid, caring and tender. We had such grand plans for this year, adventures into the wild side, my first trip to Israel that is starting to feel like Golden Snitch, just out of reach. Our conversation ricocheted through the internet, pinging off satellites and cell towers, wending its way through digital mediums. I started to share more memes, images, videos, articles; sharing in bytes what we had shared in person. In turn I received cat pics, for the lady doth have two amazing cats, and the fluff that makes the heart sing.
The small things have helped get me through this lockdown, especially when depression has occasionally bitten me, and her moments of digital tenderness cut through the icy grip as midsummer sunshine. Talking about feelings is daunting, especially when it is hard to pin down what exactly I am feeling, but my partner is especially good at just listening and letting me talk things through. She knows that often there is nothing intrinsically wrong with me, which I do spell out when things get really bad, and I just need a coping mechanism. Sometimes this is the quintessence of love, the quiet as safe harbour.
Yes reader, I am still very much in love, and we have not driven each other crazy. Yet, given the open nature of our relationship, we always put communication and talking at the heart of who we are. I take great comfort in talking, and living alone I do talk to myself, so when I am in person or face timing someone, I am Niagara manifest. My partner takes this in her stride, and we bounce off each other, our give and take meandering through the shallows and great depths of our respective fields. Who says romance is dead when we dissect Netflix trailers after finally meeting back up and watching awesome South American street food shows?
One of my favourite spots in the corner of her sofa cradling her in my arms as we watch a show or simply talk. The first time we were able to do this the sky had just dumped a river over the city, and I adore walking home in the rain, so I arrived at hers soggy and elated, a glorious combination. We had that awkward Covid moment of can we, can’t we, then we decided yes, we can. So hugs, and nuzzling. Then food. A passion we very much share in common, good food, no, great food. We are gastrononaughts ever seeking out food to make the heart sing, and that night we shared soul food that reconnected on that deep-down level. All the while being judged by cats. The cats were the silver lining, all purrs and batty paws. Into that corner we sunk, and that feeling of coming home clung close. My person, my one, my arms.
Over five years we developed many routines as our lives intersected, lay lines in the course of busy weeks, every one of which crashed and burned as the virus expunged Monday’s flow into Friday. All shook up and no-where to really place the time, yet into the flux no sense of joy fled or evaporated. I think I am very lucky that we started the relationship with an extended long distance, as it set us firmly in the course of each of us being our own person very much overlapping yet without the chemical reaction to transmute into a pure Us. Yes, there is very much an us, but our lives are distinct and joyous we exist apart. Covid brought out the strength in this, and our love grew stronger upon re-union.
Sitting on that sofa, we did not switch any show on that first night for a long time as we just basked in each other’s conversation. There is something about her mind and brilliance that I just want to sing about, as she helps shape my thinking in ways that transcend us as a couple. I will readily admit that while I am very well educated, she is about ten years ahead of me in academic training and career, so I glean what I can from her experiences without, hopefully, making her feel like a teacher or lecturers to me. There are moments when I just sit back, shut up, and simply appreciate her for all she it. These are the moments I treasure, and what the virus stripped out, the joy of being in her orbit, a moon to her Terra.
Of course, nothing is to be taken for granted, and our attention has already turned to September and beyond. Her job at a local university is fraught with viral complications, and I am just starting out on my PhD. Us, we, her and me, have so much travelling ahead of us, both literal and in this union. My smile never fades when I think of her, and if anything, Covid has reinforced just how much she has helped evolved me as a person, very much for the better. Five years ago, I was an utter ping pong ball bouncing around in search of stability. Today, typing this, our deep-seated amour has roots deep and thirsty for the next chapter in our lives.
Love is a many splendored thing, and the peace that dwells within me is due in no small part to her. This lockdown has give me a renewed zest for all that we are, and whatever our many-fold path may offer up I am much stronger with her by my side. My El’a is of wisdom, kindness, patience, and, for me most importantly, the quintessence of hope. Hope abides in her, and my happily ever after has many sequels to come. This is my lockdown tale with her by my side. I hope she doesn’t mind that I put down in words just how quite wonderful life is that she is in my world.