“Of course you’re not perfect. And neither am I.”
My partner looks me straight in the eye, wiping the torrent of tears from my flushed cheeks.
“I don’t want perfect. Perfection isn’t real. I want you, exactly as you are. I want us. Two people who love each other, learning from their mistakes and doing their best in this world, side by side.”
My heart swells with this: his truth. Since childhood I had dreamed of the fairytale. I longed for Prince Charming to fight for my heart as he declared his undying love for me to the entire world. I wanted the roses, the diamond ring and the adoration.
In honesty, I wanted someone to rescue me.
Our very own fairytale saw us swept up in a whirlwind romance in India, before moving across the world to be together in Australia. We lived our twenties hand in hand; laughing, learning, loving. We had our ups and downs, as all good love stories do, but we were happy.
And so, our plot brings us here. To this day. To two survivors of a storm, made more beautiful by the wreckage they have survived. It brings us to a charming man with dark curls and warm eyes. A man who has seen me at my very darkest and most unloveable. The times where I was much more wicked witch than gentle princess, and yet, he loved me still.
Last year I lost someone close to me. It was sudden; unexpected. He was much too young. I plunged into a misery I had never known before. The truth was that I couldn’t hold on to all of the pieces that make me who I am. The pieces I have been proud of throughout my life. I lost myself out there in the darkness. I did what hurt people do; I hurt people.
I hurt myself too. I made so many mistakes and was utterly ashamed of the selfish monster that grief brought out in me. I wanted my world to end so that I didn’t have to feel anything anymore. This wasn’t what I intended my story to be. I had always been the saint, on the straight and shining path, never the sinner. Not many of us would choose to play the villain, and yet he lurks close by, in every hero. I wanted to take back what an awful person I had been, but I knew that I must live with the fact that I never could. As tends to be the way with stories, we can only change the way we act going forwards.
Through it all he stood, unwavering. A bright light in my own private hell, guiding me back to who he knows I really am. He held me tightly in my agony, and gave me space when I turned away, unable to accept his love.
“I don’t deserve it,” I told him. He smiled softly, shaking his head.
“Every single person in this world deserves unconditional love,” he tells me. “And the ones who behave badly are usually the ones who need it the most.”
And here, it dawns on me, stands a Prince. Self-aware, strong and utterly graceful in the face of my utter self-destruction. Masculine, but not macho. Gentle, but no pushover. Loyal to a fault. His love is the stuff fairytales ought to be made of, and he makes me feel like a princess in all of the ways that truly matter.
The candlelit dinners and sunset strolls that once defined romance for me, give way now to something much deeper. We have moved beyond the passionate words that are whispered in infatuation, for any sweet talker can tell you they ‘love’ you in the sunlight. His gesture is the firm hand soothing the small of my back when he notices I am agitated. He knows me well. His romance is the tea he brings me in bed, with a kiss on every one of my freckles, just to start my day with a smile. His passion is his face lighting up when I walk into a room, knowing that mine is the one he has been scanning for all evening. These are the things I have come to dream of.
‘Happily ever after’ is now a journey, rather than a destination. One that we have to work at every day. It’s much messier than the story books would have you believe. We have fought hard for this love, to nurture it to the place we stand today. It’s exhausting and chaotic, and things still go wrong, but there are things (and people) worth fighting dragons for.
A fairytale, I have learned, is not actually about perfection, but about knowing each other’s imperfections, and still choosing them over and over again. It’s less about being rescued, and more about being loved unconditionally whilst you gather the strength to save yourself.
Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future. There’s a little of both in me these days, and my partner accepts that. It makes for a much more interesting story.
Author: JoJo Rowden
Originally published on Elephant Journal here.