During the time of which I speak it was hard to turn the other cheek

To the blows of insecurity

Feeding the cancer of my intellect the blood of love soon neglected

Lay dying in the strength of its impurity

Meanwhile our friends we thought were so together

They've all gone and left each other in search of fairer weather

And we sit here in our storm and drink a toast

To the slim chance of love's recovery


I spent a decade in an ill-advised relationship with a college boyfriend, one utterly destined for failure. The kind of pursuit that – some years removed – makes you wonder what on earth you were thinking. Of course, as with so many ventures in one’s 20s, sheer willpower seems to rule the day, and it did in this instance as well.


Many friends got married right after college, and that fact, together with an over-reliance on more traditional models of courtship, seemed to mean that I needed to make this pairing work, despite countless red flags. “DANGER, DANGER,” was the theme of that time, but once you’ve committed that far, you sometimes feel like you have to earn your way out.


There I am in younger days, star gazing

Painting picture perfect maps of how my life and love would be

Not counting the unmarked paths of misdirection

My compass, faith in love's perfection

I missed ten million miles of road I should have seen

Meanwhile our friends we thought were so together

Left each other one by one along the road of fairer weather

And we sit here in our storm and drink a toast

To the slim chance of love's recovery


Only about half of the couples from that era survived intact. Divorces abounded, separations were frequent, and for a still fairly traditional gal like myself, my view of love and romance was positively shattered. I could not imagine how I’d gotten it so very wrong.


I had a core group of college friends who’d managed to stay in touch since graduation. And not just in touch, like we’d see each other once a year, but really in touch, like we emailed [this was in the years before group texts] each other every day, all day, for years. Jokes, griping about work, dumb stuff we’d done the night before, whatever you can think of.


We’d scattered across the country, but thanks to the miracle of Hotmail, we were bound together through all the challenges of post-grad young adulthood. We counseled each other on relationship fumblings, we encouraged each other to take new jobs, we gave backup for hard choices, and we got each other through a lot of tough times.


That same group had heard my complaints so often, they were exhausted by me, as much as they were still my friends. They talked to each other without me on separate threads about the abuse, my poor choices, and what they should say to me – what would even make sense or break through. They watched me shrink away into a person they didn’t recognize much anymore.


I didn’t recognize myself much, either.


Rain soaked and voice choked like silent screaming in a dream

I search for our absolute distinction

Not content to bow and bend

To the whims of culture that swoop like vultures

Eating us away, eating us away

Eating us away to our extinction


It took learning I was going to be a mother to change course. At the time, I couldn’t comprehend a better life for myself, but I knew I wanted a better life for my child. I moved home, rebooted my career, became a Mom, and thought, OK, this will be my path. I consigned myself to focusing on mommyhood and work, and letting all that hard work of trying to build a life with someone just go.


As my favorite oceanography professor once advised me, you have to fall in love with yourself first. So, I worked on that – and on the considerably easier business of falling in love with my newborn daughter. My friends remarked that the me of college seemed to return, finally. I relaxed. I laughed more. I wasn’t the frenetic, hand-wringing, tear-stained mess I’d been for so many years.


And as it turned out, one of our close-knit group and I fell in love. We were already great friends. We already knew all the things about each other that test newer relationships. We’d each hit our bumpy roads with those college loves, and we’d both learned a huge amount from our failures. And each of our life partners happened to be right under each of our noses for a decade. For me, it felt quite like a romcom, where the leads – friends for ages, constant sounding boards for failed romance after failed romance – finally look at each other… differently.


Oh. There you are.


Our individual tribulations and ultimate recovery from those foolish years had taught each of us an awful lot about life and love. Expectation and reality. Failure and true achievement. Frankly, life had beat all the nonsense out of us, and shaped each of us to be use to ourselves and to each other.


Once I abandoned any preconceived notions of how my life would go, I allowed that recovery to get underway, and my life began to unfold in a great many wondrous ways.


It’s the release that brings forward the recovery that has been a lesson I learn, and relearn, continually in life.


Oh how I wish I were a trinity, so if I lost a part of me

I'd still have two of the same to live

But nobody gets a lifetime rehearsal, as specks of dust we're universal

To let this love survive would be the greatest gift that we could give

Tell all the friends who think they're so together

That these are ghosts and mirages, all these thoughts of fairer weather

Though it's storming out I feel safe within the arms of love's discovery


How - and what - have you recovered in life? What lessons of recovery can you share with others?


Lyrics: “Love’s Recovery” Written by Amy Elizabeth Ray, Emily Ann Saliers • Copyright © EMI Music Publishing, Universal Music Publishing Group

Image credit: Mental Health Ireland