Last week, I talked about why I decided to participate in a 52-week Gratitude Challenge. There are so many things I am grateful for, I thought it would be a healthy exercise to do, while also sending out some love into the universe.
This week, I am grateful for the one human being who has been the biggest, most positive influence in my life over the past few years - my boyfriend, Keith.
Prior to Keith, I had been married for a decade. When my marriage ended and I was single again, I was no longer the wide-eyed, naive twenty-something with fairytale dreams. I had become a strong, independent woman beginning a new chapter in her life. Yet even with this new lens, l knew I needed guidance and support. I had never lived on my own and had moved directly from my perfect, nuclear family to my new husband; something not uncommon in Asian cultures. Once I was single again, I truly learned what ‘adulting’ was, but forced into it given the circumstances at that time and while in my 30s. As you can imagine, this was terrifying yet liberating at the same time.
When Keith and I first started dating, he lived in Paris and so a long-distance relationship ensued for over two years before he moved to Vancouver. While such distance can be challenging, it did come with its benefits. During this time, I was learning how to finally be on my own - while also caring for two children. And with a full-time job you can imagine how frenetic my life was at any given moment. Keith was incredibly supportive, often coming to visit me in Vancouver and provide guidance and that much-needed calm in my hurricane called ‘life.’ This was amplified when I moved twice before I found my perfect apartment. Looking back, I really couldn’t imagine how I would have done it without his support. That said, his physical absence when he was still in Paris allowed me to flourish and grow on my own; it was a forcing function for me to figure things out without relying on a partner who was physically there day-to-day. I was never really ‘on my own’ , though, as despite time zone differences and technology, he was also at least virtually by my side.
By the time he moved to Vancouver in 2013, I was more than comfortable being on my own but emotionally ready to have him with me to start our journey together as a couple in the same city. I can’t begin to tell you what a fun ride it has been since we’ve been together. Although we met through work (and still working for the same company today), our shared interests go far beyond the corporate walls.
He inspires me to live life to the fullest. We are both passionate about this, but perhaps he is even more so than I am - and pretty much says ‘yes’ to anything and everything. This means being open to new opportunities - be it travelling far and wide, evolving into new jobs, being introduced to new people and cultures, trying something we’ve never done before, testing out new recipes together, hosting large and small backyard parties and touring vineyards in Napa or Bordeaux or the Okanagan. And even if I’m hesitant about something, Keith will give me the courage to take that leap. He will always try anything once - and that attitude has rubbed off on me too. That attitude also includes an assumption he takes with him into every meeting with every individual - that he’ll always assume the good. He always says that there’s two sides to every story. And he’s right. He has taught me that perspective - and even the patience to wait for the goodness to materialize.
He taught me to be a better human being. That compassion and empathy he shows for people extend to all walks of life; to all groups in our society. You can see it in his eyes when he mentors teens in inner city schools on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) topics. The look of pride for these kids when they showcase their projects - and he just beams when he gets home. And the compassion for those he serves food to in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, many of them suffering from mental health and marginalized from the rest of society. Keith has taught me kindness, patience, calm, active listening (although I’m still working on it) and empathy.
He loves his mom. I couldn’t ask for a better step-father for my kids. He challenges them to do better, to be better and to be kind and polite. In fact, one of the earliest lessons he taught my boys was “Always be kind to your mom.” He is the living embodiment of that statement. I’ve seen how he is with his own mother and I can only hope that one day my boys will be that loving and kind to me.
He is my rock. No matter what, we are partners and have committed to supporting each other. Sometimes that means one of us is taking on more of the load when the other has a deadline at work. This can last for days, weeks or even a year. It’s not always easy but our commitment includes solid communication - so we always know where we stand. Even if we’re mad at each other and tired of the stress. I’ve learned that letting it out is healthier than holding it in.
He loves me. Unconditionally. I’m often not the easiest person to be around. I’m passionate about everything I do, and that means I can be spirited, cranky, impatient, and really, often impossible. But Keith will not go a day - even when he’s upset at me - without telling me he loves me. Now that is true love.
It’s been nearly an incredible ten years together and I couldn’t have asked for a better partner to spend my life with. I am so eternally grateful to have Keith as my love, my partner-in-crime and my inspiration. How lucky am I!