It's Valentines weekend and in a short space of time we have been exposed to the vast array of gifts received by loved ones, spread over the social networks quicker than a case of genital herpes; I find my eyes roll. Of course my feelings on Love are somewhat warped, yes I am a seasoned love cynic. Love has destroyed me somewhat. What does Love mean to you? For me it’s about mutual respect and trust. Love is something we feel for someone or something and can even be described as a chemical reaction in the brain. Some may confuse love with other feelings, like lust, which will most certainly return to haunt you.
Growing up I always felt loved by my parents, grandparents and friends. We were not really a tactile family, but just because some don’t express love with words doesn’t mean they don’t love you. The same as some people can throw out empty words but don’t really mean it. It’s not always about how much you say it, but more how much you prove it’s true. Like everyone else I feared rejection and was conscious that my health was maybe an issue for some. However I tried not to dwell on it too much, nobody knows how long they have on this earth. Don't get me wrong, like all other teenagers I partied, danced and had boyfriends but at the same time I felt like it was a race to get married and settle down always thinking about that ticking time bomb. I didn’t take many risks always fearing for my health. Like other girls I dreamt about marriage and the happy ever after. I wanted the normal life, however even how normal I pretended life was, my life was not normal. As I got older and the prognosis for CF patients increased I thought that I maybe had a shot at happiness if I met the right person.
My first serious boyfriend was when I was sixteen, he was a bit older than me and I thought we were right for each other, but we were more like friends. He was a graduate in business and being young and naive I thought I was aiming high. He used to make me love song compilation tapes for Valentines Day and I'm feeling old even saying that. You would be mistaken to think he was the romantic type, he wasn't. In fact he was what Scots refer to as "tight" and would not have bought anything unless absolutely necessary. Yes we had the same music taste and the tape was appreciated, but within days you'd find that tape in his car stereo or Walkman. His mother wasn’t all that keen on me, I think she thought I was lower class and being ill I would need looked after rather than the other way around with me running after her sons ass. We lasted five years together but with hindsight, I really should have pulled the plug years earlier.
I did meet my Mr Right and for the first couple of years my life felt perfect. As you all know we waited a long time to have our daughter and she was finally born five years into our marriage. I often worried how long I would have with them and I thought about how our life together would come to a tragic and premature end. I still have good memories of the early days and presents I got from him. One in particular sticks out because it felt like it was bought with real compassion. He wanted to buy me a gift and asked what I would like, to his surprise I said a condenser tumble dryer and later that day we went to John Lewis and I picked my sparkly new toy. I still have it! I openly admit I'm a difficult one to buy for. Having always had my own money, if I wanted something chances are I'll have bought it before anyone else did. In the latter stages of our relationship I would pick and purchase my own gifts out the joint bank account and I'm sure there's a lot out there that do the same. Does it mean they don't love you, probably not. When we are submerged in day-to-day stresses of family life, Valentines Day can get shelved. Some would argue it's exploitation of a commercial nature to make people go out and spend money on certain things. To me, it is an important occasion, as is Christmas and for no effort to be made towards you, it can feel like there is something wrong in the relationship. You should know your partner enough to appreciate if the gesture of Valentine’s Day is important to them. That doesn't always mean flashy gifts, but flashy suited me with my inherited rather expensive taste. In fact it meant I would have no qualms reciprocating the flashy gifts. I saw it as an investment into the relationship and didn't care too much about the price of stuff. If you want it you want it right, life is too short and no one knows that more than me. I came so close on various occasions to buying my man his latest dream car or even his own caravan. I thought about the look on his face when he woke up and looked out our bedroom window, imagining the big bow I would put around it and if I could manage to do it without raising suspicion. Then I'd come back down to reality and remember how I used to be in love and how he stewed his goose.
I had very strong views about Love and family life and I wanted to be part of a big family, a normal family. A family who shared the same core values. I knew my health would not allow me to bear many children and so it was important for me to feel like I had a place in the home of my extended family and be treated with respect and valued as my husbands wife and chosen life partner. As a family unit we are a team and no one is more valuable than the other. I viewed my household equal and my love for my husband was the same as my love for our daughter, but some people don’t think like that. I highly recommend love, but it's a two-way thing and needs work. I don't think I realised that in the early days. I guess I thought once the feelings were there and the marriage certificate was in the bag it was a done deal; until death do us part. What I will take with me in the future is that in order to be compatible with your boyfriend, you must also fit in with their family. I played Love safe at times and didn’t take risks but when I did, I took risks that I know I shouldn’t have. People have questioned that maybe things didn’t work out because of my health, thinking the fear of the unknown was too much to bear. I do know my mental health was considerably strained at times with various issues outwith my control and it was hard to keep it altogether. I told someone recently that I believed emotional turmoil can be damaging to physical health and turns out I was right. But, I am made of strong stuff and I live to fight another day. Unfortunately circumstances can change in the blink of an eye, one silly mistake and the rug can quickly be pulled from under your feet. Don’t let it happen to you. They say never feel sad about someone who gave up on you, feel sorry for them because they gave up on someone who would've never given up on them. Sometimes you don't know what you've got until it's gone so love with all your heart, be kind to each other and above all else be honest.