On My Mind

Truth: the former US First Lady is be­yond in­spo on just about ev­ery level. But as she re­cently told Oprah, she – like ev­ery­one else – has to work for her #Re­la­tion­ship­Goals mar­riage and tightknit squad. It all started when she Œirst met Barack…

Cosmopolitan (South Africa) - - CONTENTS -

OPRAH WIN­FREY You write, about meet­ing him:

‘I’d con­structed my ex­is­tence care­fully, tuck­ing and fold­ing ev­ery loose and dis­or­derly bit of it, as if build­ing some tight and air­less piece of origami… He was like a wind that threat­ened to unset­tle ev­ery­thing.’ At first you didn’t like be­ing un­set­tled. MICHELLE OBAMA Oh God, no. OW This I love so much – a mo­ment that cracks me up: ‘I woke one night to find him star­ing at the ceil­ing, his pro­file lit by the glow of street­lights out­side. He looked vaguely trou­bled, as if he were pon­der­ing some­thing deeply per­sonal. Was it our re­la­tion­ship? The loss of his fa­ther? “Hey, what are you think­ing about over there?” I whis­pered. He turned to look at me, his smile a lit­tle sheep­ish. “Oh,” he said, “I was just think­ing about in­come in­equal­ity.”’

MO That’s my honey.

OW You re­ally let us into the re­la­tion­ship. I mean, down to the pro­posal and ev­ery­thing. You also write about some ma­jor dif­fer­ences be­tween the two of you in the early years of your mar­riage. You say: ‘I un­der­stood it was noth­ing but good in­ten­tions that would lead him to say, “I’m on my way!” or “Al­most home!”’

MO Oh gosh, yes.

OW ‘And for a while, I be­lieved those words. I’d give the girls their nightly bath but de­lay bed­time so that they could wait up to give their dad a hug.’ And then you de­scribe this scene where you’d waited up: he says, ‘I’m on my way, I’m on my way.’ He doesn’t come. And then you turn out the lights – I could hear them click off, the way you wrote it. MO I was mad. When you get mar­ried and you have kids, your whole plan, once again, gets up­ended. Es­pe­cially if you get mar­ried to some­body who has a ca­reer that swal­lows up ev­ery­thing, which is what pol­i­tics is.

OW Yeah.

MO Barack Obama taught me how to swerve. But his swerv­ing sort of – you know, I’m flail­ing in the wind. And now I’ve got two kids, and I’m try­ing to hold ev­ery­thing down while he’s trav­el­ling back and forth from Wash­ing­ton or Spring­field. He had this won­der­ful op­ti­mism about time. He thought there was way more of it than there re­ally was. And he would fill it up con­stantly. He’s a plate spin­ner – plates on sticks, and it’s not ex­cit­ing un­less one’s about to fall. So there was work we had to do as a cou­ple. Coun­selling we had to do to work through this stuff.

OW Tell us about coun­selling. MO Well, you go be­cause you think the coun­sel­lor is go­ing to help you make your case against the other per­son. And lo and be­hold, coun­selling wasn’t that at all. It was about me ex­plor­ing my sense of hap­pi­ness. What clicked in me was that I need sup­port and I need some from him. But I needed to fig­ure out how to build my life in a way that works for me…

OW You also write, ‘When it came down to it, I felt vul­ner­a­ble when he was away.’ I thought that was kind of amaz­ing, to hear a mod­ern woman – a First Lady – ad­mit that.

MO I felt vul­ner­a­ble all the time. And I had to learn how to ex­press that to my hus­band, to tap into those parts of me that missed him – and the sad­ness that came from that – so that he could un­der­stand. He didn’t un­der­stand dis­tance in the same way. You know, he grew up with­out his mother in his life for most of his years, and he knew his mother loved him dearly, right? I al­ways thought love was up close. Love is the din­ner ta­ble, love is con­sis­tency, it is pres­ence. So I had to share my vul­ner­a­bil­ity and also learn to love dif­fer­ently. It was an im­por­tant part of my jour­ney of be­com­ing. Un­der­stand­ing how to be­come us.

OW What was so valu­able to me – and I think will be for ev­ery­one else who reads the book – is that noth­ing re­ally changed. You just changed your per­cep­tion of what was hap­pen­ing. And that made you hap­pier.

MO Yeah. And a lot of the rea­son I share this is be­cause I know that peo­ple look to me and Barack as the ideal re­la­tion­ship. I know there’s #Re­la­tion­ship­Goals out there. But whoa, peo­ple, slow down – mar­riage is hard! ■

GET YOUR HANDS ON MICHELLE OBAMA’S MEM­OIR, BE­COM­ING

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