The first week of medical school in August of 2002, we had a class outing at Dave and Busters in downtown Philadelphia. At this bar, I met him. Little did I know that I would get to keep him- FOREVER.
We spent time in a group setting for the first few months, and by Thanksgiving we were inseparable. Many people had speculations regarding our relationship, but the truth is that we were best friends. It all felt so easy and natural. I attributed this to Mark’s laid back nature.
Then something crazy happened. Mind blowing really. I had a realization that I was head over heels in love. The thought went something like this, “if he meets someone who becomes his girlfriend, I will be absolutely devastated.” I made the choice to confess my love to him.
Just after our first year of medical school was completed, I decided that I would tell him how I felt. This seemed outrageously bold to even consider. I was the girl who was friends with all of the boys. Truth be told, I never had an actual boyfriend in the romantic sense.
I remember our exact conversation. My stomach still has butterflies when I relive the moment. I said, “I am in love with you. But, if you don’t love me back, then I will need space from you. I can’t JUST be your friend anymore.”
Those clear blue twinkling eyes looked right in mine. They looked confused with a bit of regret. He said, “I want to JUST be your friend. Nothing more.” I held it together long enough to get into my car and drive away. I had set a boundary. I realize now that this was an act of self preservation.
I drove 3 hours to my childhood home. I cried….a lot. I planned to spend the rest of the summer away from him. I would use this time to heal from the rejection that I felt. I wish I knew then that I was 100% responsible for feeling rejected.
I’m smiling as I write this because what I would have wanted to feel in this situation was proud. But, if I wanted to feel proud, then I would have had to think, “Damn girl. Good for you! You took a chance on love. You were vulnerable. You set a good boundary for yourself.”
Now, are you ready for the best news ever? My vulnerability inspired Mark to take a chance. Two weeks later he called to tell me that he as getting in the car to visit me- immediately. I warned him not to, but he did anyway.
The anticipation of this visit was interesting. All of the thoughts left me with a deep seeded confusion. I set the boundary, why was he breaking it? Why did I let him? I watched for the grey Honda Civic all afternoon.
The car pulled in the driveway. I can’t remember feeling anything. But, I remember hearing everything. He said, “Ali, I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you.” I seriously laughed out loud. How can this be?
We often talk about the beginning of us. I had assumed that he did not want to be my boyfriend because I wasn’t enough. Period. Isn’t it interesting when you ask for the actual answers to your questions? We are often way off.
So why didn’t he want to be my boyfriend? In Mark’s words, he didn’t want to be my boyfriend or even JUST my friend, he wanted to be my husband. When he decided to date me- he really decided to marry me.
Isn’t it ironic that it rained on our wedding day? Would Alanis Morissette be surprised that I could have cared less? My dad was my wedding planner, and he threw an amazing party. I didn’t care about the details…except one. I was marrying the man of my dreams.
Today we celebrate our 10-year anniversary. How did the time go so fast? I believe that I have an amazing marriage. I feel so blessed, but I also feel so proud of our commitment to keep growing and improving our relationship.
My love for Mark comes from the many thoughts I have about him based on my experiences with him. Today, September 6, 2018…this is what I want to tell him.
There is a reason why we don’t fight. I want to thank you for being so open to communication. You have encouraged me NOT to “shut down.” You have always encouraged me to discuss my thoughts and feelings. You listen openly and you never judge. I promise to assume positive intent- always.
Remember when we signed the lease on our first apartment? Right after signing, we went to the local bank and opened a joint account. We weren’t even engaged! I TRUST YOU. I trust you because you show up as yourself- you always have. I promise to do the same.
You make the best out of every situation. Wasn’t it the best when we were post call together? After working 28 hours, my favorite thing was to come home to find you already asleep. After sleeping the day away, we would go to Iron Hill and reconnect over dinner. Because of you, residency felt easy! It is safe to say that I would do it over again and again- but only with you.
You are so incredibly thoughtful. You made sure to include both of our families the night you proposed. I still love that you asked me to marry you at Maggiano’s. That day was so incredibly precious, and now so many others are able to reflect on that memory.
You are my number one fan. You make me believe that I can do anything. Remember the day our first was born? 30 hours of labor, 4 hours of pushing, and finally a 9-pound bundle of joy. You coached me the entire time. I was successful because you believed in me.
Then there was my struggle with post partum depression. You carried me. You helped me to heal. You loved me UNCONDITIONALLY. Clearly, the only judgements you made were warm. I know this because you had the ability to love me so fiercely.
You helped me through the shame I felt for not being able to breastfeed. Some of those days felt so dark. I thought that I was failing as a mother. How could I knowingly set my baby up for more ear infections, allergies, obesity, etc. Remember you told me that she would be perfect- you were right.
I still remember when our second baby was two weeks old. I was rocking her while you laid on the bedroom floor and said, “She’s cute, but I do not want any more babies!” See- I secretly wanted one more. But, I wanted to respect you the way you have always respected me. I now believe that we made the best decision, and our family is perfect.
There is only one person that works harder than you. And I can say this because you would agree!! With that being said, I admire your hard work. You put others before yourself so that you can provide the best life for us. I promise to be standing by incase you ever need a break.
We built our dream home together. All of the intricate details were decided in 48 hours. Crazy it seems! I never worried about making the wrong choice because in my mind- you are my home. And to me- you are perfect.
You never sweat the small stuff. You remind me not to either. Thoughts about the big picture will always serve us better. I still think it is hysterical when I come to you with a thought that suggests worry and you respond, “Do some CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) on yourself.”
Cliché but I love the saying, “through thick and thin!” You have undoubtedly praised my body no matter what. After gaining and losing 50 pounds with each pregnancy, you loved my body the same. You also taught me to love, appreciate, and respect my body. I never thought this could be possible.
Your favorite line is, “You are the main character, and I am thrilled to be the supporting cast.” You have always made me feel like a star. You don’t have to tell me that you are proud of me, I feel it. You make me feel proud of myself.
I can’t go on without mentioning the physical connection I have always felt with you. In fact, I have never felt this connection with anyone else. Even in our early friendship days I recognized this pull towards you. This is one of those circumstances that makes me believe that you were custom created for me to love.
As we celebrate today, I want you to know that we are just getting started. The best is ABSOLUTELY yet to come. My dream is simple. I want to grow old- very old- with you. Thank you for giving all of yourself to me. Mark, I love you more today than yesterday- but not as much as tomorrow.