So my birthday is tomorrow. My 30th birthday. I’m currently in San Diego with John. Well technically we’re in Coronado at the Hotel Del Coronado. And I’ve been thinking a lot (one of my favorite pastimes.) I’ve been thinking about milestones.
Those milestones always have a way of making me take a step back and reflect. With my day mostly occupied of very specific, relatively small, blocks of time, otherwise known as appointments, it’s easy for me to forget the larger meaning of the day and of my life.
And I really think that the meaning of life is to cultivate unconditional love in our relationships, our professional pursuits, and in ourselves.
Well. That’s kind of a big statement.
I first understood unconditional love from my mom. When I was little, she cut up her satiny nightgown to make a blankie for me, because I used to find comfort in rubbing the end of it when I was worried. (I still hold it that way every night when I go to bed. Yes. I still do that.) That was symbolic of her endless desire to nurture us. She continually finds ways to nurture and care for me through my adulthood if that means making her meatballs for me midweek and dropping them off or responding to my emails as I sort through a potentially stressful day.
That extends to my siblings. I never felt particularly compelled to have a lot of close friends, because I felt completely fulfilled with my siblings. My sister, Courtney, and I used to sit in her room, listening to Dave Matthews Band, while I would act out the songs or sing along. My brother, Reilly, and I were inseparable, because he was just a grade below me, and we ran track and cross country together. We used to sit in his room on Friday and Saturday nights speculating about our performances at each meet for the upcoming season. My brother, Michael, and I would drive in my 1997 Nissan Centra, while singing Creedence Clearwater Revival (we are terrible singers) with the windows down on our way to Borders (remember that place?) to purchase overly-priced, mostly sugar, coffee drinks for him with the money he didn’t have because he was 14.
Of course, we fought. We had a rough moments. But the perspective never changed. We could always reorient ourselves back to that unconditional love. My mom and siblings are my first loves.
With the ending of a previous engagement, I really didn’t think I wanted to get married. Yet I couldn’t deny the love, sensitivity, and consideration that the Giacalone family endlessly offers. And I say the Giacalone family, because that love really didn’t begin with John interestingly enough. It was his father, John, who I affectionately call “John the Original” or JTO. My now father-in-law was rooting hard for us from the very beginning, confidently proclaiming that he met the person his son should marry the day we met and had lunch. We just needed some convincing.
John’s mother, Peg, hugs and kisses me when we greet each other. Then when John and I go to leave, she hugs/kisses us; then if we’re there for another minute longer, we hug and kiss again as a final seal. John’s brother, Joe, and I have a particularly special bond formed from our mutual love of cooking. The first time I ever met him was when he was cooking Christmas dinner, and I joined in to help him, because that’s where I naturally gravitate toward. John’s sister, Margie, is the little sister I never had. I’m so proud of the woman she is, and I always look forward to hearing what she’s doing at college. I really have gained an additional 5 members of my family, so much so that our families celebrate holidays together.
And then there’s John. My dear husband. This is the first birthday that I’m celebrating married. I never have met a person with such endless love, sensitivity, and thoughtfulness. I am an individual that requires all of those in excessive quantities. I’m super sensitive person that would rarely be considered easy-going. Lots of fluctuations in my emotions in a given day (though fortunately they rarely deviate toward anger and meanness. I dislike confrontation too much for that.) John levels out those fluctuations with constant communication, empathy, and problem-solving.
John pushes me when I’d rather not be pushed, because fear of failure often immobilizes me. I am writing this blog because of his push. I work with him outside of the safety of paid time off, benefits, and job security of a typical corporate physical therapy position. Yet I find the confidence to try and the security to pursue my work in him but more importantly from how his love has created a greater sense of self-efficacy than I had ever previously experienced.
And I guess that’s kind of what unconditional love does. It allows us to experience life with more depth and breadth. I am forever fortunate that I have been afforded the opportunity to experience that.