Throughout my adolescence, whenever I thought of my life I divided it into Before and After Dad, and then in later years Before and After War just for variety. I felt divided and unhealable, in the wake of all those deaths and bombs. And I spent most of those years in grim survivor mode, battening down hatches against love and the possibilities of loss and rejection.
My twenties have become the Before and After Z years. The life I have now would have been inconceivable for me in 2003. If you had asked me then I would have shaken my head at the possibility that I would be doing this - loving and trusting again, and being loved so profoundly in return. Z has seeped into my life, under my skin slowly and unobtrusively, almost by osmosis until one day I realised how much my world had been smoothed and changed by his being.
Talking about stabilising influences and cheerful optimism doesn't sound like the stuff of thrilling romance, but they are the essential components of this deepest, happiest love story I've ever known.
For so many years I thought and talked about myself in the languages of brokeness- abandonment, bereavement, betrayal, loss. Probably I will always be a bit dented and scuffed, but I am not broken now.
Whatever may happen between us, Z has loved me and nurtured me and in his wake I shine. And a lot of this relationship, and of me, is summed up in this song*:
*Z hates most of what he calls my 'waily waily girly music', of which this song is a prime example. However, considering that he spent his formative musical years sporting misguided facial hair and playing electric guitar in a heavy metal band called Orion, I don't think he's in any position to comment on taste.