96: I Chose Love

96: I Chose Love

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Happiness

I Chose Love

Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads which sew people together through the years.

~Simone Signoret

I often wonder what roles little girls of today assume when they are playing pretend. Are they astronauts, doctors, chief scientists and CEOs? When I was a girl, I was always the nurse, never the doctor. Although I am almost two years older than my brother, in our role play, he got to be the boss, the Indian chief, the policeman, and I contented myself with being the helper, the wife, the assistant. My only act of rebellion in this role allocation was that when we played with other kids, I insisted on being the companion of the most notorious boy in the neighborhood. His name was Hermann. He had red hair and freckles and he was always missing a tooth or two. He was the wildest, the scariest, and the most admired — and I was his bride.

When we played cops and robbers with other kids, I would be the jailer in charge of our prisoners. I would be kind and bring them extra food and special treats to make up for Hermann’s roughness. When we played cowboys and Indians, I was the squaw engaged to the courageous chief. I would get special gifts and was allowed to ride the fastest horse (bike). When we played family, I was the stay-at-home mom waiting for my husband to come home from his important work, a delicious grass and herb dinner ready on the kitchen table.

I never questioned this set-up. I actually enjoyed playing the “supporting role.” It never occurred to me that I could be the hero, the boss, the captain. I still influenced the outcome of our games in my own way, by being the secret advisor to the “chief” behind the scenes. That was enough for me.

When I went to college in the late seventies, I studied French literature. Reading Simone de Beauvoir, I realized the role my gender had played in shaping my identity. I was mad at myself for the limitations I had not only accepted, but actively chosen, as a girl. It was time to claim my power. I cut my hair and dyed it red. I banned skirts from my wardrobe. I primarily read female authors wherever my syllabus allowed and chose the few women professors over their many male colleagues wherever possible. I broke up with my boyfriend when he wanted to get married because I felt too young to settle down. Although this turned out to be the right decision, it was highly influenced by my new misconception that family was a prison and only an independent working career would bring forth my liberation.

I landed a great job and got a taste of the life of a career woman. I jet-setted through Europe, attended important meetings, and signed significant contracts. But while my agenda and my bank accounts were getting fuller, my heart was getting emptier.

The reality of my working lifestyle and a couple of years of unsuccessful dating brought the possible bliss of love and marriage back into perspective. When I met Rob, it was love at first sight. He was a colleague and a rising star on an international career path. So against the advice I had given to so many young women before and without a second thought, I quickly conceded, “I’ll go where you go! I am flexible.” And I was. I did not consider arranging my life around his a sacrifice. Instead, I felt that my life story was yet to be written and I was happy for it to be co-directed by Rob. I was open to doing different work in different places. I wanted to be with the man I loved, be loved in return and do what was necessary to help him be successful and us to be happy.

Our life became an exciting ride. We got married and together we moved from Belgium to Italy to the U.S. to China and back to the U.S. Although Rob’s career was the driver of our moves, I managed to both have my own satisfying work in each location and to create the environment in which our love could flourish. Today, twenty-five years later and happily retired in Florida, we look with gratefulness at the amazing life we have had, the places we have seen, the friends we have made and — above all — the enduring love we have for each other.

For a long time I believed that I had once again contentedly chosen what I considered the supporting role. But Rob never saw it this way. In a rare moment of doubt, I told him that I did not like standing in his shadow. He looked at me in complete puzzlement and said, “How can you stand in my shadow? You are my sunshine.” I was amazed at the imagery. And then I smiled. I slowly nodded my head. He was right. And he had reminded me of the true motive for my life choices. As Khalil Gibran said, “Love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.”

~Rita Bosel

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