I was walking to class my first semester at Davidson College when I passed by a cute boy. It was early in the semester, so early that I was still taking a shower, primping and dressing up in nice outfits. I still had a couple of years ahead of me when sleep deprivation took over and I was lucky to throw on a pair of stretchy elastic shorts, a tee shirt and my fuzzy leopard print bedroom slippers before trudging to class. The cute boy wore preppy khaki shorts and a collared polo shirt. He even wore a brown leather braided belt, very cool in the late 1990’s. As we passed each other, he nodded politely and smiled, showing a dimple on each cheek. Dimples have always made my heart flutter. I went to school in the South, so his politeness was not unusual or foreign, but something about this boy caught my attention. Though all-nighters and sleep deprivation became more common as the semester progressed, I made sure to walk to class early so I could see this young man and return his sweet nod and smile.
I was 19 years old. My heart was still sore after being dumped by my high school sweetheart. I could still hear him saying “out of sight, out of mind” as he clumsily told me he wanted to break up before college. I thought I wanted to take a break from romance until I passed this polite boy. In fact, if I honestly listed my freshman year college activities, “stalking” would have to be added alongside the College Republicans, Army ROTC and Intramural Sports. I memorized his schedule, learned where his 1st floor room window was and planned to run into him as much as possible. For weeks, I stalked him and exchanged small talk. My friends were reporting “cutie” sightings to me each night during study breaks. One late evening I was dancing at a party with my friends when I spotted the cute boy in a corner talking to another guy. I seized the moment, abandoned my friends and approached him. I learned that his name was “Jeff,” and that he was from Denver, Colorado. We stood in the corner talking to each other as the loud music blared in the background. I was on such a love high that I called my parents at 0100 to tell them about this great guy I just met. I didn’t say anything to them like, “I met the man I am going to marry,” but I knew that this guy was somebody special.
Who knew he would turn out to be my lifesaver?
We exchanged the vows of “in sickness and in health” in the Fall of 2002, having no idea how life would challenge our allegiance to this particular vow. Chronic pain has been at the root of nearly all of our major marital challenges. When my back injury turned into chronic pain and my frustration overcame my once bubbly personality, he stuck by me. When my athletic military physique softened because I couldn’t exercise and I fed my sorrows with Swedish Fish candy and Coconut M&Ms, he stuck by me. He stuck by me when finding pain pills became the most important thing in my life and I lied to him to cover it up. He patiently waited for me to find my new self and unconditionally loved who I became. He became my reason for living when I quit living for myself. Though I’m sure he had momentary doubts about me in my worst moments, I never felt that. All I felt was that he had faith that I would pull myself out of my self-inflicted misery and take control of my life with my trademark positivity and gusto.
Now we have a 3-year-old son who looks just like Jeff. Every day I see his replica dimples, infectious, sweet smile and identical cowlick at the back of his head.
I see how our son curiously observes his Hotwheel cars, a ball rolling down a ramp or how the mulch in our garden beds look spread all over the patio and I see the man I have loved from the beginning. Love is the most powerful medicine of all. If only we could bottle it up and prescribe it to all who need it. You can’t get enough of it. You can’t overdose on it. It can be the only thing to live for sometimes, and there is no pity or misery in that.
Living a life in chronic pain robs us of many of life’s joys. Some days I’ve wondered how I am still thriving, but the answer really is clear. Marriage has taught me that there is nothing pathetic or shameful in living for someone else. In fact, there were times I valued my husband much more than myself. We have to tap into the positive people and forces in our lives not just to survive day by day but to appreciate the many joys we can still experience. Thank you, Jeffie, for showing me the power of unconditional love and believing that I could overcome our most significant challenge so far.
Darisse Smith is a columnist for the National Pain Report who is a chronic pain sufferer is a veteran, a wife and a mother.
The information in this column is not intended to be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Only your doctor can do that! It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s personal experiences and opinions alone. It does not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of National Pain Report or Microcast Media