This task sounds somewhat vain, doesn’t it? I mean everyone has, hopefully, at least one love story. Why would I think ours is extraordinary and in need of publication (even if it is just for my Dibbuns*?)
*explanation of the term Dibbun is given on post from July17th
According to statistics, approximately 107 billion people have existed on this earth, I cannot even begin to wrap my brain around how many potential love stories that may have created. Many of these stories are far more glamorous or touching. Also, from a global perspective, despite some difficulties, all in all, my family lives a life of privilege. Why then, does this love story need to be heard? Perhaps it doesn’t, but maybe I just need to tell it. Probably more for myself than anyone else.
I have realized, as a long time journal-er, I really only recognize my exact feelings when I read them back to myself. I have literally read back things I wrote and thought to myself, ‘who is that crazy bitch?’, or, ‘wow she is so confused’, and sometimes even, ‘way-to-go girl! You made it through that!’
Anyways, one of the lovely things about growing older is with age; a little selfish, eccentricity is usual. So, thank you for indulging me and listening! I believe there exists a place in all of us that craves to be heard. To feel like our own unique voice may make a ripple in the water. That, just maybe, our story has shifted the patterns of the cosmos in some little way.
I have not done extensive research on this; however, generally, I think the typical cherished love story follows a fairly predictable pattern. Two people meet, chemistry (either antagonistic or smoking hot) confusion, obstacles, blah, blah, blah, – cue the music – finally, admission of everlasting love! We feed (yes I’m talking to you Disney, you vermin) courtesan of happily ever after, these stories to our children from babies on. That’s fun, and it makes our hearts flutter, but it’s not reality or deeply satisfying.
As you guys all know, I am not a cynic, I’m quite the romantic and refuse resolutely, along with my friend Jeannene Ziegler, to take my rose-colored glasses off! Jeannene and I could be sitting in a pile of horse poop, and she would say, “Well, I hear camel poop smells far worse!” However, if we are truly honest, our souls long for a love that’s bigger, rooted, more substantial, more challenging, just more… Lucky, lucky me, I found that gritty, messy, breathtaking passion that makes your soul sing and pushes you farther than you thought you could ever go all at the same time.
Mine and Dennis’ love story has been magical, sweet and lovely, maddeningly unpredictable, downright heartbreaking at times, but mostly a metamorphosis. For my younger readers, perhaps, you will be awakened to the idea of love coming in a different package than you imagined.
Relax, my young Dibbuns, you will see the goal in life should not be happiness but purpose. Purpose is what brings real happiness. I recently read a great book called The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson. He explains it this way, “Some of the most difficult and stressful moments of our lives end up being the most formative and motivating.”
To my more mature readers, I’m hoping you will find companionship with me in our mutual struggles. I will take a bumpy road with fellowship any day over a smooth road alone. So thank- you for listening to our small tale of love. The waters of love are rapid, breathtaking and unfathomably deep. When we choose to dive in everything is changed.
Once Upon a Time. in the real world…
On June, 17th 2004 Dennis and I married in Jamaica. It was a beautiful day, there was a sparkling, aqua, blue ocean, and the scent of a thousand exotic flowers laced the warm air. We were also blessed to have great friends with us, all of whom seem to have Indian blood in them! The plan was that we would wait until the end of our week in Jamaica to get married. I imagined that after six days in the tropical sun I would be a glistening bronze goddess!
Ya, things didn’t quite turn out that way. Each day I added about 300 freckles and a pink tinge to my body that resembled the color of a soft shell crab. On the other hand, each day, my future husband and friends got darker and darker. I don’t want to start any rumors, but I think some of these people might want a DNA test!
Isn’t this a lovely picture of pasty me and my native Jamaican friends on our wedding day!
Anyways, bitterness aside about my Dutch genes, it was a fantastic day. We promised each other that we were now sailing on the same boat, wherever the currents would take us, we were on our way with the wind behind us.
What you can’t notice in this picture is that Dennis has secondary progressive Multiple Sclerosis. On the day we met, two years and change before this wedding picture was taken, Dennis drove his handicapped adapted van over to my house for a massage. I was fresh out of massage therapy school and quite nervous. He drove his wheelchair from his van to the door of my massage studio and darn it if there wasn’t an 8-inch step, I had failed to notice.
No problem he said, “do you have a plastic patio chair?” (at this point Dennis could still walk a little with aide). I suggested we reschedule and I could have a small ramp built, but Dennis was undeterred. Slowly and precariously, with much sweat and determination, he dragged himself into my massage therapy room. It took him 45 minutes to make it. When he was finally laying down on my massage table, and I put my hands on him, I knew two things for sure. One, Dennis Conway is a very strong man, and two, I was in deep, deep trouble.
At the time, I wouldn’t have said it was “romantic” trouble, but when I shook his hand for the first time, my intuition was screaming, ‘this is significant.’ Now I have let my intuition down many, many times in my life but my intuition has never let me down. I did not, however, have the time or the energy to get involved with anyone in any way, shape or form. So, go away tingly, buzzy feeling, I refuse to acknowledge you.
It had only been three short weeks earlier that I had become separated from my then husband. The arrival of a shocking package delivered by FedEx had blown my marriage of 12 years and two children to smithereens. The details are no longer critical, so let’s say mistakes were made and the marriage was no longer repairable. I was wounded and fragile and felt adrift in a sea of pain and confusion.
At that time, Dennis had been divorced for a few years; his wife had left soon after he lost his ability to walk. It had been a bad marriage from the get-go, and the stress of an incurable neurological disease was the final blow. Alone, fighting to see his children, Dennis’ condition began to progress rapidly. He was taking chemotherapy in an attempt to slow the progress of the MS, so he was 40 lbs lighter, weak and deeply depressed. He also had recently been forced to sell his beloved sporting goods store, his life long dream, as he no longer was capable of running it.
So there we were, two very broken people. Completely unaware that our meeting was orchestrated by something much bigger than ourselves, and that it would chart an entirely new course for both of us.
One of the first things Dennis said to me after he asked what part of Canada I was from (apparently I have a Canadian accent??) was, “You can go as hard as you want, you can’t hurt me!” In massage school, we learn this is called Body Armoring. This term coined by psychologist Wilhelm Reich and it means the armored person does not feel as much physically in an emotional defense to prolonged and intense pain, psychological and physical. So basically, Dennis had so much emotional and physical pain he had withdrawn into denial and numbness. Oh, joy …, just what I needed, someone more messed up than me!
Over the next, months at weekly sessions, I worked very hard physically at loosening and stretching the twisted, tight muscles of his disease-ravaged body. The harder work though was helping Dennis to relax emotionally. We talked about everything, marriage, kids, our native countries, jobs, cooking, etc…While he was having instant physical relief from pain, I could sense his emotions were still wholly bottled up. I finally declared a talking free session. Dennis is a charmer, and damn handsome. Dennis was using his verbal charm as a distraction from experiencing the emotional release that can come with physical touch. Also, I was well aware he had a crush on me, and I thought silence would help me work better with less distracting small talk.
Massage therapy is a dance of strokes, kneading, pressure, and movement. Touch heals in such a profound way especially when the soul is too broken to use language. That day, in that quiet room in the basement of my house, something on a spiritual plane shifted between Dennis and I. Sometimes, words get in the way of what the soul is saying. In the silence, I heard his heart.
A few days later he asked me on a date. I told him I don’t date my clients and he responded, “You’re fired, now can we go out?”. Well, that backfired on me, there went my best customer! So we went on a date and then another and another, and soon we were a “thing.” It was a fun “thing” and a good distraction from the agonizing pain of dismantling a marriage, but I was merely dipping my toe in the water, hovering over the surface not committing to getting wet.
Journal Entry: November 4, 2002
Dennis is so much fun to be with but very, very scary! Incurable neurological disease, confused, damaged children, 13 years my senior… He rattles my psyche to the core. I am afraid to watch his decline, afraid to hurt him, afraid to upset my children. Hell, I am afraid of getting hurt! Shit- ton scared, yup that’s me.
I cannot pinpoint the exact moment I fell in love with Dennis, but fall I did. I understand why we say we “fall” in love because that’s how it feels. One moment you’re standing on firm, reasonable ground and the next you feel weightless headed into an unknown destination. Everything looks different from your airborne perspective, and you have no idea how far down the earth is!
I can remember being in the staff room at Salon and Spa Vanessa with my friend Dina, I was talking about Dennis, and she said, “Look at that smile on your face, you light up like the sun when you talk about Dennis.”
That spring we went on a cruise and Dennis said “Leana, I know you’re not ready now, and I’m sick, don’t have any money, and my children are emotionally damaged, but I love you more than my own life. When, and if you decide you’re ready to marry me, I can promise you I will love you as you have never been loved before. Now I’m not going to say another word about it until you bring it up!”.
Ya … he proceeded to ask me every day after that! Dennis is alive, and who he his because of his tenacity, and I was no match for it, … thankfully.
Things at our house are not all peanut butter cups and kittens though. Nights are a wrestling match of tangled non-working limbs, with very few periods of peaceful rest. We also get on each other’s nerves, sometimes, because we are together literally 24/7 most days of the week. And truthfully, at times we are just plain pissed off at our situation and what can be a very, cold and indifferent world.
Journal Entry, May 19, 2013
I write to push back the walls of our shrinking world.
The outside world is becoming increasingly difficult to navigate.
My love, my Dennis is shrinking in his abilities, leaving behind the shoreline of capable living.
We are huddled together as we draw a chalk line around our remaining strength as we rage “NO YOU CAN TAKE NO MORE!!!!, WE CANNOT BEAR IT!”
And then more is taken and we do bear it. Once again we redraw the line around us, staking a claim on our life together. Fiercely defending our life.
I feel as if I am trying to hold water in my hands.
It seeps through my fingers. Tiny drops evaporate or are blown away by the wind
All that seems left sometimes is a deep, calm, current pushing us together and keeping us afloat.
All this being said, I would marry Dennis again and quicker this time! I have struggled in the past to articulate why this marriage works and why I love Dennis so much. The term soulmate just doesn’t fit. One definition of a soulmate is: ‘A person who strongly resembles another in attitudes or beliefs,’ ya… not so much! Other words have seemed inadequate and underwhelming in trying to explain this unlikely connection.
It took a stranger, who was trying to help us get better prescription medication coverage, to hit the nail on the head, … freaky right? We had been with her about 2 hours going over all our prescription stuff, chatting and such, when she stopped cold and said: “you two are twin flames!”. Oh, Oh! perhaps the drug insurance lady has been dipping into her stash of “medications.” I went home and looked it up.
After some research, I’m still not sure exactly where this concept originated, but generally, this is the idea. Unlike soul mates who are our perfect matches, twin flames are perfect mirrors! Think Ying-Yang. Twin flame relationships tend to be intensely passionate and sometimes intensely painful. Twin flames awaken us like nobody else, and their purpose is to reveal who we are. Well, darn it all there ya go!
Carol, the nice insurance lady, gave me the words I have been looking for, and an excellent prescription plan to boot!
Dennis and I are well aware that we have most likely only weathered some heavy smaller storm squalls and the real hurricane lies ahead. We are on this boat together. The opportunity to bail out is long gone, and the shore is nowhere to be seen. Surprisingly, we are OK. Our life is good, hard but good. Actually most of the time it’s really good.
So, that’s it Dibbuns. I’m not sure how many of you made it to the end of this epistle of long-winded musings, it’s OK if you didn’t. My will shall be adjusted accordingly. Just maybe someday when you are farther down the roads of your lives, you will think, “Hey, Mum wrote all that stuff about her and Dennis and went on, and on, about her blog, and maybe I will reread it?”
Maybe, or maybe Amanda will make good on her many threats to have me committed, and this blog will vanish. She’s been telling me … for years; she has plenty of documentation to have me put somewhere where I am “no longer a danger to myself or anyone else.” There is one thing for sure though, diving in, I mean leaping, with audacity, ignoring our reservations, for real love, is the game changer. Since the beginning of time has anyone won a swimming race with one foot still on land? So surrender and leap with love because LOVE changes everything. It keeps us breathing even when we are underwater.
-This story is dedicated to my children who came along on this journey with me, without being asked, and have never complained. And also to Katie who has been my care partner for her dad. My love for you all is beyond words.