Sunday, March 12, 2006

Happy Birthday, Darlin'

Today is Alex's birthday. He is careening toward 40 (to borrow a phrase from nita) with grace and aplomb...as far as you know, anyway. My dear Alex turned 39 today. Those of you who know him, already love him. Sometimes in spite of yourselves--you just can't help it. Those of you who don't know him...well, you would love him, or if you're going to BlogHer this year, you soon will. He's that kind of a guy. Charm your socks off, he will, but you won't notice it until he's gone, and you're smiling, thinking, "He was really funny and nice...where are my socks?"

We've known each other just over 6 years, been married for 5, and have been parents together for 3 and a half years, to Isabella Faith. It was the first marriage for both of us, and we were in our mid-30's, when we (and our poor, grandchild-desiring families) had pretty much settled into our comfy single lifestyles. When I say it's been a rollercoaster, you have NO idea of how serious I am. He and I have fought some daunting foes together, and there have been times when neither of us knew what the next day would bring for "us" as a unit.

That love-at-first-sight thing? We believe. For us, not in a huge, passionate, swell of violins and romantic sunset beach-walking, dragon-slaying drama, as much as an immediate sense of, "I am more comfortable and happy with this person, not just than I have been with any other, but than I am with just myself." For me, that's what it is with Alex. He is an intrinsic part of me, and I feel most "myself" when he is with me. I want to share every cool, funny, interesting, frustrating, thrilling, or maddening thing I experience with him. And I do, whether he likes it or not.

We have fought, and continue to fight, the formidable demons of endometriosis (mine) and bipolar disorder (his). While both are something we will have to deal with the rest of our lives, I am proud to say that we have, at least, beaten them into submission and chained them both into corners of the deepest dungeons. The closest we've ever come to divorce including an actual separation, was during the fight with the Beast that is bipolar disorder. Mania takes no prisoners, except for the person it's inhabiting, and believe me when I tell you that, in the grip of bipolar mania, the person you know is gone. All you have left to deal with is the Beast. I have never cried or felt as desperate and despondent in my life as I did in that time. Agony is all it was, and I don't want to dwell. But I do mention it for the same reason I talk a lot about endometriosis--so that those of you who may be fighting this Beast, either as the afflicted person or their significant other, can KNOW that there is hope, that there is a light at the end of even the longest, darkest tunnel, and you CAN reach it. That is something that both these diseases have in common.

In our case, another thing that they have in common is that I'm not sure either of us would have made it out alive without the other, and that is not just hyperbole. In my situation, Alex is the one who really pushed for me to get to New Orleans and get the miracle treatment I needed. My parents made it possible, thank God, but without Alex urging me to take my own pain seriously and to continue to seek out better treatment in the face of the medical advice I was getting (telling me this was "the best they could do"), I would have most likely died the year that we met. The endometrial tumor that no one knew about would have perforated my bowel and killed me "by Christmas," in the top specialists' estimation, after it was all over. And without him there, the entire two weeks in the hospital after the surgery and its complications...he was just so intrinsic to my recovery, I don't know what would have happened had he not been there. Him and his Ray Charles CDs, fresh flowers, real spearmint essential oil, and warm, warm hands holding mine.

God, I love him.

And as for his situation in fighting bipolar disorder, it may be his determination to be there for Isabella and me that provided the impetus to his recovery; the inspiration for first taking hold of the tail of the Beast, and I have certainly supported him in this battle in every way I could, including the epically difficult task of providing "tough love" and ceasing to enable the Beast to control us all (truly, the most miserable I can remember being in my life were during the weeks and months that this monster kept me apart from the person I loved most in the world)...and yet, there is no one to credit for Alex's vanquishing of this particular monster but Alex himself. He has shown remarkable bravery, insight, and love in undertaking this long uphill climb, opposed by a slippery foe that denies its own existence and medications with hellacious side-effects. Heck of a choice, eh?

We are coming up on 2 years of blessed, remarkable, wonderful, peaceful life without The Beast, and I have my husband to thank for that, among other things. He is an amazing man, and a remarkable gift from God to me.

And just in case this has gotten too heavy or sentimental for you, this amazing man just informed me that, on his way back from an errand, he "saw two ducks doing it in the road."

You may visit Alex's site for his birthday gift to YOU, Dear Reader.

20 comments:

  1. Happy Birthday to Alex!!

    I'm glad that you both have found each other and were willing to stick it out and face the odds. It gives hope to the rest of us out here:o)

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  2. YAY, ALEX!

    Happy Birthday to Alex and a big **HUG** to you, my dear Belinda, just because you are you! :-)

    (feeling rather mister rogers-esque, today).

    Wanna watch me take off my cardigan?? ]:>

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  3. what a lovely tribute to someone you clearly hold so dear!

    you two sound like you've forged a wonderful bond over your years together... take it from one who knows, when you're with the one you love, it just keeps gettin' better (we've been married over 20 years) we haven't had to face down the "demons" you two did (tho' i'm not so sure he always enjoys my a.d.d. and/or bouts of pms in our early years). the biggest obstacle you've cleared is one of communication/willingness to understand. once ya make it through that part, you get to enjoy the ride!

    hope he enjoys 40 (it's the new 30, in case ya haven't heard...) i loved my 40's even more than my 30's if that's any consolation...

    and i especially hope it's a happyhappy day for one and all! : D

    ps...lovelovelove the notes you sent to "fussy" regarding the dog issues (especially where the negative comments were concerned)... you gave her wonderful and insightful info, and i salute you!

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  4. It sounds like he is as lucky to have you as you are to have him.

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  5. HAPPY BIRTHDAY ALEX!!!

    You two are so slipping lucky to have found each other. Here's to another great year that will only lead to many-many more.

    Love the 'touch my monkey' story, B:)

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  6. I left Alex a comment too but I just wanted to say what a nice post this was. As someone who is also married to their soulmate, I know the feeling of being more comfortable and happy with someone than with anyone else including yourself. I wish like heck I could go to BlogHer and meet you and Alex, but I'll settle for a continued Internet friendship. I think you are both fabulous people.

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  7. I'll go by and say Happy Birthday to the birthday boy!

    I know that you and Alex have been through so much together and you have come through with flying colors! You are both special people to me, as is (of course) Bella!

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  8. I can so relate to living with the beast. YOu describe it so accurately.

    BTW, your blog isn't being picked up by TTLB. Or at least your links aren't. Your link to me doesn't show up anymore, although it is on your blog still. I thought you HAD quit me.

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  9. Happy Birthday Alex! Make Belinda take you to your favorite BBQ place!

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  10. The happiest of birthdays to my brother from another mother.

    That was a beautiful post. I think you guys are a really cool love story.

    And now, I feel my biggest gift to you will be to end this post before my natural instincts kick in and I ruin it by saying something sarcastic.

    Fab out.

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  11. Happy Birthday to Alex!! I think your post is a lovely gift and I hope he reads it.

    ps - your post gives me hope that I shall not end up alone and sad but will find that someone who (yes this is cliched) complete's me.

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  12. Belinda -- when your life slows down a bit and Bella's a bit older you really do need to sit down and write your memoirs. You've got the material and you ceratinly have the voice. I'd gobble it up!

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  13. What a story. Happy bday to Alex.

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  14. Happy birthday Alex.

    I remember some of your e-mails during the rough time with Alex. It's so great to see him doing much better :)

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  15. I'm of the controversial opinion that it isn't so much "love at first sight," as "lust as first sight" that carries the happy coincidence of "best friends at first sight."

    Either way, give your guy a hug.

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  16. That's a lovely post--and your honesty does resonate because everyone goes through the deep dark bad times--the mean reds, as Holly Golightly would call them. And we don't know how un-alone we are until we hear someone else bare their soul.

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  17. This is a beautiful tribute to someone who has obviously touched your life in an amazing way. He sounds like my hotband. My hot husband (hence: hotband) changed my life in so many ways. We are both forces to be reckoned with separately, but together, there is nothing we can't do. It sounds like you have found that kind of extraordinary love. Your daughter will thrive, knowing what a loving relationship is supposed to look like. Good for you for waiting patiently for your soulmate. You deserve the love you bring to one another. With love like that, everyday is reason to celebrate. So, Happy Birthday...to both of you.

    CP.

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  18. Sniff. Sniff.

    I love animals doing it.

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  19. I think most successful marriages, including my own, have excellent teamwork as a factor. You should always feel that your spouse has your back. You two will go far!

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  20. kim--thanks. Yup, just be patient...my favorite thing to remember is my parents telling me that "no man" was going to "put up with all those animals." Let's see...poodle count PRE-husband? Three. Poodle count now? Um...embarrassing. Horse count PRE-husband? Three. Horse count now? Stultifying. So there, you see?

    tony--I will totally watch you take off your cardigan...as long as it stops there. ;-)

    puppytoes--well, he's a good 'un. And 20 years sounds like a looooooong time! ;-)

    n8iv--I'd like to think so.

    dunnster--first, I'm appropriating that phrase, because I've never heard it before! Second, after the whole shrapnel-touching episode, we WERE saying, "Do you vant to touch my monkey?"

    elizabeth--thanks, and I will live-blog BlogHer for yoU!

    donna--thank you. *smooch* Maybe someday we'll even get moved.

    margalit--TTLB is WEIRD. Technorati is much more reliable, and my link count there pretty much stays the same from day to day, unless it grows.

    m'liss--sadly enough, Alex did ALL the cooking on his birthday weekend. But I feel the normalcy returning, minute by minute, and I'll be making him fat again soon enough!

    Mr. Fab--"Fab Out?" I don't know whether to laugh or cry!

    VG--thank you, and you will...took me a while to learn that it's more about unflinchingly cleaning up someone else's vomit than fireworks and heart-skips!

    andrea--I thought that's what I was doing!!

    amie--thank you!

    leslie--the difference between now and then is more than night and day; more than I can express. Thanks for remembering, and sticking by us.

    pat--I agree--it wasn't a swell of dramatic music so much as just a feeling of ultimate "at peace." As long as we're not squabbling, his presence physically calms me. My heart rate slows and my blood pressure goes down, I kid you not.

    zelda--thanks for bringing up "the mean reds." And it's nice to think you won't have them, but also nice to know you're far from alone when you do.

    CP--your "hotband!!" I love it! And yes, individually, we are "challenging" people, but together, I think we're better.

    deodand--you are right, and it's not always something that comes instantly. Goodness knows we've had to, and are still, learning it.

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