We are all composed of our past experiences, loves, and failures – and yet we are more than that too. There are parts of our past that we feel are intrinsic to who we are that even our best friends or spouses don't know, and yet we nevertheless feel they do know us.
I've been thinking about this a lot lately, as this last year has given me the gift of sharing some aspects and memories of my youth that are deeply rooted in my sense of self with my wife, Audra. She knows me as well as anyone, but because I was ill for so much of our early years, unable to travel on doctors' orders, there are parts of me that she hasn't seen.
Each time I'm able to introduce her to one of these memories or places that I hold so dear, I find myself terrified that she's going to hate it. I remember thinking that she was never going to want to go up to Lake George again as we were driving up for the first time – and I began steeling myself for the possibility that I may not be able to go up as much as I would like to. But that wasn't really what I was afraid of, not going up to the lake, so much as a misalignment on what we value and hold dear.
Today, we are on our way to South Bend, Indiana for a Notre Dame game (full disclosure: I'm writing this on Friday because, well, I'll be driving when I normally post this) and I'm feeling that same anxiety. There's a big, important piece of me that is being set out for display – and, while I don't expect Audra to love it the same way I do, there's the very real possibility that she'll experience it and go, "Meh."
Allow me to let you in on a secret.
For almost my life, I've kept what was most precious to me hidden. I didn't want anyone to hurt it, to reject it – to make it small. And that worked okay, but it kept me small, too. If I didn't share what I really and truly loved with anybody else, that joy couldn't grow.
Here's the secret: my wife taught me to share that joy, she pried open my white-knuckled fists and invited me to stop suffocating it.
I don't think I've ever shared this with her, but the first moment that I really began to feel safe opening up to her was when I did what any good 90s kid used to do: I made her a mix tape. Well, a playlist (I met her in 2016 and made the playlist in 2017 and, uh, don't have a tape player anymore...).
She listened to it. And she loved it, and she loved me. And I felt unburdened by the weight of protecting all of my little precious treasures.
Here's that mix tape. Go Irish!
ETA: Twist ending! Our puppy Clare has been sick all night long and we're not about to ask my parents to watch a dog who is both frantic and has no bowel control. So, I guess we'll try this trip again another time. Does anybody nearish South Bend want our tickets? I think I can transfer them. Let me know.