I’m not quite done answering Dawn’s question (of sorts).

We held a dinner party last Saturday. It was nice to see our house filled with lovely people. I took the chance to show some photos from our wedding, and answered some questions about how we met (on the indiepop list); which of course was followed by more questions. To most people meeting your husband on the internet still sounds like an outrageous idea. We explained that we had been moving in the same (indiepop) circles, and we had common friends, we’d been to the same festival twice, in fact we’re pretty sure we once stood on either side of the same person (Ally Cook of Dot to Dot fame) who, however, neglected to introduce us to each other. Not wanting to sound like I regretted not having met Martijn earlier (I don’t) I quickly added that it was best this way. Had we met earlier we would, most likely, have become friends and never thought to fall in love with each other.

That made someone comment that “it was meant to be”. Which made me stop for a moment, and think to myself. “Hmmmmm”. (A particularly deep thought, as I am sure you will agree.)

Perhaps I would be fine with saying that (in fact I used to say it myself) had we lived happily ever after the day we met in London, as we thought we would. Except it didn’t work out that way. A couple of months later Martijn came to Athens, stayed for a week, and got absolutely terrified of the future before he left; while I got a flu I never quite got over for a year and a half. Martijn was stressed, unsure of himself, scared and breaking down more and more often while I felt vaguely or not-so-vaguely sick for months on end. There were terrible arguments. The screaming of ugly things. Sleepless night trying to make up (often on the phone). Endless one-sided conversations trying to understand. And more breaking down. The throwing of objects. More breaking down. The shouting of even worse things. And more breaking down. (I am not exaggerating one bit.) Sometimes it seemed as soon as we made up Martijn would start sulking again, closing the world off, pushing me away. The two months following our wedding contained some of the worst moments of my life (and there is considerable competition). It often looked like it was never going to end, and the breaks between the bad spells became shorter and shorter, almost non-existent. And then, miracle of miracles, we moved to England and it suddenly, surprisingly, got a lot better. It hasn’t stopped, and it still needs to get a ]better, but it is decidedly, unarguably, very much better.

But was it meant to be? Was Martijn meant to shout at me that I should go away and die because I deserved it? To throw soy milk all over the kitchen floor? To hit his head with the iron and come to me with blood running down his face? (It was only a tiny scratch, by the way.) Were we destined to a year and a half of intense unhappiness following a short spell of profound happiness? Were our hopes meant to be dashed, our faith in each other and ourselves and the world tried through and through?*

I don’t think so. What I do think is that people confuse “meaningful” with “meant to be”. Meeting Martijn was meaningful in very many ways, and the events that led up to it only made it even more so. The way we met, the way we got closer and closer, what we felt for each other, how it made the world look, the things that it made happen, even the dismal ones I have described above: they are all fraught with meaning. They contain beauty waiting to be seen and lessons waiting to be learned and messages waiting to be carried off into the future. They say a lot about me, him, and the world. Each one of them happened for a reason. But they were not meant to be. Either one of us could have made a different choice somewhere along the way.

*(Most stupid thing I have heard as a reply to a description of this situation: “it keeps you appreciating what you have”. To be fair, it was a well-meaning comment by a nice person who just happened to be having a momentary lapse in brain functioning. There’s no other explanation, is there?)