By Tiffany Potter
I should tell you up front that this is not a review of the movie. Truth be told, I have little interest in critiques of any kind (movie, theater, movie, book, etc.). No, this isn’t about one girl’s opinion regarding set design, costumes, acting abilities or plot lines; this is more about what resonated with me from my experience of spending a few hours in Stephen Hawking’s world and love life. See, at best, movies evoke reflection and lessons to be carried into the future; they bring about appreciations and empathy in a way that nothing else that we experience can do, and this movie is why I am compelled to reflect.
In the last four years, there have been two movies that have resonated with me so strongly that I am practically reduced to emotional nothingness thanks to their subject matter and their ability to mirror my life back to me so profoundly. The Theory of Everything and Love and Other Drugs speak to a piece of my puzzle, my love life, that has been painful, tumultuous, beautiful and at times more raw than one little heart can take.
I mentioned last month that I have a disability, which in most every other aspect of my life means absolutely nothing on some days and absolutely everything on others. I have come to accept my journey, manage my struggles and embrace the hard days for I understand that is how we grow. However, there is one part of my life that has challenged me in a way that most could never prepare for. These movies remind me of my life as I know it since I hit puberty. The reality of my relationships as I have and currently do experience them while I bring others along for the ride is difficult to escape when sitting in a movie theater.
There have been those in my life who have decided to hitch their wagon to my trailer for a time. Some who have turned tail and ran as quickly as they possibly could (the blind date who snuck out the back door of the wine bar while leaving me to sit on the patio waiting for him to come back with our order). Also, some who wouldn’t entertain the idea of being in a romantic relationship with me because of the perceived burden that would come with dating or marrying me. I suppose they see neediness, selfishness, superman abilities required to take care of them, and me and fear. Fear of the future. Fear of the unknown. Fear of what it would mean to have a child with me. Fear of what being with a disabled girl means for them. Hell, lord knows that I have my own fears of the unknown and of the future. All of these are undeniable and valid concerns albeit, and while I recognize that not every relationship dead end was solely because of my disability, it does mean that I was starting behind the eight ball even before our first date more times than not.
To date, I have been married once, which ended in him leaving when it got hard, when it was not fun anymore. He quit on us, on me, and I lost faith in my judgment or ability to ever find someone who found the value in sticking it out. I have also dated more men than I can count but none “stuck” beyond a date or a few months. Until Him.
Four and half years ago, I met Him.
Now, I have never been a mushy one. As a rule, I don’t publicly swoon or declare my love (unless we’re talking about my animals; then you can’t get me to shut up). I don’t wax poetic about love in all of its forms, I’m not sentimental or overly romantic, and I don’t partake in PDA beyond handholding. But my love runs deep and it runs true no matter. However, this is the month of February and if there was ever a month to be inspired to talk of love, this would be it. So, dear friend, allow me this one opportunity to write what some may consider being the most unconventional love letter you’ll ever read (but I believe the most heartfelt one around).
This love letter doesn’t romanticize the feeling or idea of love with flowery words to swoon over (“You complete me”? ugh), but more so recognizes it for what love truly is—action. Action and choices. On its best days and on its worst days, love (at least in my world) is about the choices to stay on the ship no matter how rocky the seas versus abandoning it. And action to get up every day and do what needs to be done when it needs to be done, no matter how unsexy or uncomfortable it may be.
So thank you, my love (you know who you are) for choosing every day to not only stay on the ship but look forward to the adventure of what the high seas will bring. Thank you for doing what needs to be done when it needs to done with no complaining, no guilt, no attitude. Thank you for making it look natural and effortless even when I know it isn’t always, and for doing it all with a smile. Thanks for being so easy to love with your gentle heart and your easy spirit and for not focusing on my imperfections (lord knows I have a lot of them) more than my perfections. Thank you for being a stand-up guy in a world of flakes. Thanks for being the best pet co-parent a girl can ask for, for knowing that the best gifts that you could give me include books on either powerful women, any Ganesh I don’t currently have, or something sparkly. Thanks for understanding my overwhelming need to stop for every stray animal we see—even bringing them into our home to foster regardless of how taxing it may be on our time and bank accounts. For every Starbucks run, every laugh, every mind-numbing evening sitting with me on the couch to watch The Bachelor, your presence at every finish line I have crossed (literal and proverbial), patience with every mood I get into, and for always driving the more scenic route solely for my enjoyment.
Yes, our love is a two-way street, but I want to take this opportunity to say that your half of our partnership does not go unnoticed.
It is true that I do not know what the future looks like for us, but I have learned to appreciate the moment. So for right now, at this place in our lives, I can say wholeheartedly that you have made every disappointment, every broken heart, every lonely night worth it because our life together is more than this little heart could have imagined during my darkest of times.
Life Lesson: If the end of the story (any story) does not end happy, then it’s not the end.
Tiffany Potter is an entrepreneur, inspirational speaker and change agent. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.