Happy birthday to my favorite person in the world

I spent a lot of time today thinking about writing this. This is what I do, right? When I need to express myself I write about it. I completely fail at verbalizing my feelings. I just lack that ability. But writing? Writing I can do. I can write about how I feel.

It’s a little intimidating, though. When you read this it will be Nicole’s birthday and I will buy her some gifts and we’ll have dinner at her favorite restaurant and I will, at this point, have helped our nearly 4 year old son make something for her. And I know she’ll love all of it because she’s honestly just too good of a person not to.

But that isn’t enough. No Italian food, no matter how good, can really convey what she means to me. The crazy mess of a gift that our son will make can tell her how much he loves her and the fact that I helped him make it can send a similar message, but it’s still not enough.

I don’t know what is.

I could talk about how much my life has improved since I met her, but that’s placing the focus on me more than her. I mean, it’s true, my life is infinitely better than it was before Nicole became a part of it. And it’s true that only someone as amazing as her could have helped me along my way, but those details are filtered through a lens of me when I want to talk about her.

I could talk about how much she’s changed since I met her because she has. I think part of that is my doing, but I think most of it is the fact that she’s always growing. She wants to be a better person which is a bit insane given how great of a person she already is. But she doesn’t realize that and even if she did I think she’d still try to be better. She’s a perfectionist that way.

She’s surprisingly not judgmental given she’s such a perfectionist. Yes, she will often grade you on a curve if it involves something she feels strongly about, but even then it’s never personal. She wants the best of everyone, especially herself, it’s just that she’s only ever able to see the best when it comes from other people.

She’s puts all of herself into everything she does which, I have to admit, I’m jealous of. She has focus, even for things she might prefer not doing. She’s often not even aware of this because it’s her natural state of being.

She wants to do more. It doesn’t matter what it is, she always wants to do more, she always feels like she has to do more.

She doesn’t.

I think she actually allowed herself to just exist a bit more after we met.

It’s funny to think that, if we were both asked, we’d both say that it was the other’s confidence that pulled us in when we first met. I had never met anyone as confident as her and I think she was attracted to how confident I was. And yet neither of us was actually all that confident.

We learned that about each other over time. We understood each other. I’ve joked that my crazy balanced out her crazy but it’s ultimately true.

I’ve watched as she’s gone through as many emotional traumas as you can think of and she’s come through all the stronger for them (even if she doesn’t realize it). I’ve watched her basically restart her career and triumph. I’ve watched her become a mom and absolutely triumph. I married her and discovered a shared peacefulness that I didn’t know existed.

She’s genuine, which is not something you can say about many people these days. She legitimately cares about others. She is who she is; there’s no pretense. She’s passionate and funny and so, so smart. And she has empathy, perhaps the greatest gift anyone can have.

I can only speak to her life after she met me. I think her life before that was plenty full, if not missing something. I think she would have been happy had we never met, but I also think there would have been a ceiling on that happiness, a high point that she could never pass. And I think that every day since we met has broken that ceiling.

My brother was my best man and in his toast he mentioned that he knew Nicole was special to me because when she talked I actually listened. I didn’t just pretend to listen or half listen while I thought about what I was going to say in return, I actually paid attention to what she was saying. And my brother was right. Nicole teaches me, although I often don’t even realize it’s happening.

So much of writing this has made me realize how difficult having a kid is. Time is so precious and when you have a kid you begin to short hand everything. I don’t listen to Nicole the way that I used to and that is something I have to change. She looks at the world slightly differently than I do and it’s a perspective that could help me if I only choose to hear it.

She makes me better and she makes me want to be better, not out of some feeling of obligation to her, but by example. And I like to think that I help her realize that it’s sometimes okay to not be better.

I wish we had more time to spend together and I wish that that more time came with clearer minds so we could enjoy it. We’re working on it. This is the downside to having two completely dedicated parents. This is the downside of two people with brains that never stop.

Yet that’s why we work. For as much as she will talk about my crazy brain, hers is just as energetic, running at a mile a minute, going this way and that. But I understand it, so we’re able to make our two brains work to our advantage.

Looking back on the above, I don’t think I’ve managed to truly express how much I love Nicole or how phenomenal she is. But I don’t have to. This is just my attempt at doing so, one singular moment in time where I will either succeed or fail. But I will have many, many more moments and at some point I will get it right.

For now I will just say “happy birthday” to my favorite person in the world. I love you so much that it has nearly driven me insane.

But just “nearly.”