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easyloveLove is easy… when it’s reciprocated. When it’s neither tied down nor coerced. When it’s head and heart entwined together. When it’s not long distance. When it’s two-way street. When… well, when a whole lot comes together in perfect alignment… then it’s easy.

I’ve had two loves, and neither one was easy, not when things counted anyway. Both were easy at the beginning, when everything was shiny and new, because we didn’t know any better. We basked in the warmth of an emergent love, secure in our notion that love was all we needed.

Which is the major issue, isn’t it? Love is never all we need. It’s never the salve for everything that ails us. It can never do the heavy lifting because love wasn’t built for that. It is the emotional component to our relationships. Necessary? Yes. Independent? No. Love can be a foundation, but it can’t be the only support for a relationship.

So yes, love can be easy when everything else is in place. When a relationship also has honesty, cooperation, trust, and a host of other supports firmly in place. Obviously, bracing your relationship with all of those supports takes time and effort, takes trial and error, takes hard work on both sides.

Unfortunately, that’s why so many relationships these days fail, because we live in a world where not many people are willing to work through the struggles, to talk out the issues, to be completely honest with each other, not just about their feelings, but also about what they need from their partner. So it’s not easy, and instead of working harder on it, they let it go. They let it drift away when they should be diagnosing the problems so they can get to the next step.

11743693133_c154198945So yes, real love is easy, because it’s surrounded by a scaffold of everything necessary to keep it alive and to help it flourish successfully. My first love was young love, which thought itself self-sustaining, but all the love in the world wouldn’t have saved it. Because we weren’t on the same page, both of us thinking that love would be enough, that we would be together forever because we wanted to be together forever. When the end came we were still scratching our heads, wondering what went wrong.

The second time around, though, from the start it was difficult because we were both older, and we both knew that love wasn’t enough. We both knew that it would be challenging, but it was a challenge we were ready to take. Because we knew that if we got through the tough times, the challenging decisions, the difficult confessions, we would emerge together at the end.

So yes, love is easy. When you know that it’s not enough.

Sam

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“Oh, I know that this love is pain, but we can’t cut it from out these veins, no.” ~OneRepublic

im-just-trying-to-avoid-being-hurt-again-quote-1I’m in pain. I guess it’s time I admit that to myself after all this time. Because I’ve been in pain for a very long time. Because I channel it differently, though, it wouldn’t have been easy for you to see it. So I don’t blame you for not noticing. I blame me for being that good of an actor. But every actor has to leave the stage at some point, and this is my time. Because I’m in pain, and I need another outlet.

My father had a stroke a few days ago, and the news of it hit me like a sledgehammer, but that is not the pain I spoke of before. That pain came a long time ago, when he disappeared from my life. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not exclusively blaming him — far from it. I’m taking responsibility for my own part after the fact. It cut me to the very core when he left, when he took off, first emotionally, and then physically. But I smiled. I said I would see him soon, that I would visit often, and he said the same.

That didn’t happen, for many reasons. Then my life happened. It exploded into many different offshoots, and I was able to bury myself in all of that, to hold my breath while he did whatever he was doing. I don’t think any of it would have mattered, because it was obvious he too had moved on, that the mantle of father was a coat he wore twice a year. It was like the act of moving on physically was the dividing line. There were no longer any excuses to pretend a relationship.

And I hurt. I hurt because I depended on him to make those things right, because to me it was a two-person effort and my mother was straining at the seams doing everything for us, as she had always done. I hurt because it seemed like no matter how many times I called him, how many plans he made for coming up, that nothing mattered. Because there were always the excuses, the other things that materialized that were more important than me, that were more important than us.

All this while I burned inside. Not a white hot anger, but a slow burn, a crackling and withering heat that turned that part of my heart to ashes.

“I know you’re feeling insane. Tell me something that I can explain.”

What hurt the most were all the promises. Perhaps if he had just left it alone, if he had allowed me to stop missing him the wound would have been cauterized, cut off from that part of me that mattered. But he couldn’t bring himself to go that way, to allow me to stop hoping, which was so much worse. And I guess I was always a glutton for punishment because I would put my misplaced faith in him time and again. I opened the door time and again, just to have it closed once more in my face.

So this stroke, the call that told me the news, it hit me just as hard as if I had seen him yesterday. Because even now I can’t close off that part of myself. Even now I see a reunion where he will realize how much he misses me, where he will become that perfect father I always wanted him to be, or at least a reasonable facsimile of such. Even now I have these pie in the sky ideas of what my father should be and could be, those old wounds once scabbed over bleeding again.

992ccde83c279b535e65281153600837Someone asked me how I feel, and the word that keeps coming back to me is confused. I guess I didn’t realize how much I still want those things, how much I felt I had closed myself off but I really hadn’t. When I thought in that moment that he could have died, that he could still die, it hit me hard like concrete. And this pain, I realize it will always be with me. I will always hurt when I think of those wasted years, all those missed opportunities, all the excuses and misplaced trust.

Because I love my father. After all of this, after all this time, I love him. Maybe it’s because I’ve been conditioned by society to love him, or maybe it’s just that’s part of my nature, or maybe it’s even as simple as biology. I don’t know, and I guess in the end it doesn’t even matter. My heart broke when I got the news, which says something more profound than words and contrivance ever could.

So this pain, this hurt that I’ve lived with for three quarters of my life, it’s here to stay. It means that I’m still alive, that I have a lot to be thankful for, but that my life is not securely mine, that it belongs to this heart of mine too, and to the people who fill it, for better or worse. He’s hopefully coming home from the hospital today, and I will be trying to find a flight to get down there, because that’s who I am.

And life is too short. So let’s hurt tonight.

Sam

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f7341efd46aa972e3a7e95bc3f33a9985ef383fbShe stands in that space between ecstasy and agony, forced to make an impossible decision between two men who equally have her heart, or maybe not as equally as she’s led everyone else to believe. Because if it were as balanced as she has hinted at, then this, this would be impossible. But we, her impartial viewers, can see it in her eyes, the choice she has already made, and one man is about to be completely blindsided. One approaches now, shrouded in the shadows of all the men who have already exited, stage left. He is not the one, and we, her impartial viewers, can tell, by the tilt of her head, by the pursing of her lips. But he is coming, and he can’t know, not until the ultimate moment when she tells him not to kneel…

For me it all began with Kaitlyn, but if I’m going to be honest it happened long before that, because people have been choosing each others’ fates for eons. They just haven’t been doing it on TV all that long, which is the place where Kaitlyn and others of her ilk have existed for the past fifteen years or so, for as long as there have been Bachelors and Bachelorettes. Last night the most recent Bachelorette — JoJo — made her monumental decision on one of the biggest stages ever, in prime time. But yes, for me it all began with Kaitlyn.

Because, see, it was Kaitlyn, the previous Bachelorette, who stood there in that space between the two extremes, who had the impossible decision that really wasn’t as impossible as all that, between Nick, on one side, and Shawn, on the other. Nick was ice, and Shawn was fire, the one cool and unflustered, the other a roiling volcano of emotions threatening to explode at any moment. Yes, these were her choices, and up until the very end Kaitlyn kept her cards close to the vest. That’s what the show is all about.

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But Nick was always destined to be the bridesmaid, and never the bride. As he made that walk I saw the signs in the woman of his dreams — the tilt of her head, the pursing of her lips. She was going to break his little heart into a million pieces, and I was happy about it. Yes, I was happy about it, because I allowed myself to hate Nick, a man I have never met and will probably never meet. I hated him because of what he said about Andi, how he weaseled his way onto the next season with Kaitlyn, and how he snowed her the whole way to that remote location when it was down to the final two men. So I smiled as he approached, as he was so totally oblivious to what she was about to do.

He got down on one knee, and she pulled him back up. She literally pulled him back up. I laughed because it was so classic, and he was going to be spurned yet again. Then he exploded. He was neither gracious nor contrite. After all that he had done to others time and again (none of the other guys liked him in either season) he was getting his comeuppance yet again. I laughed because it seemed like the right thing to do, since he had been painted as the villain and I had eagerly arrived at the gallery to see the finished product hanging on the wall. And I’m ashamed now.

I’m ashamed because of what came after, something that had absolutely nothing to do with Nick, and everything to do with the cyclical nature of the show itself. Because, before she rejected Nick, Kaitlyn broke the heart of “good guy” Ben, who in turn was made the next the-bachelorette-with-jojo-fletcherBachelor. Then, barely four months later he himself stood in that same place making a major life decision that would lift one woman to the heights and send another one to the depths. The girl he didn’t choose was JoJo. The definitive cruelty was that he told her he loved her before the end. Ouch.

So JoJo became The Bachelorette, and she had her own moment in that same harsh sun last night, when she made the monumental decision between her own extremes, between Robby and Jordan. In dynamic fashion she too admitted to loving both of them (after only about 6-8 weeks of showtime), and she too broke one man’s heart, Kaitlyn-style. Except this time I could see things through the lens of the “other guy.” Robby did everything right. Robby loved JoJo the way she needed to be loved, but she fell for pretty boy Jordan, becoming the cheerleading captain to his letterman quarterback.

Now I know the difference, looking at the harsh look of despair in Robby’s eyes when he was cut loose, the utter shock of the moment, when she didn’t even let him get down on one knee, after he had poured his heart out to her. Either she’s some kind of sadistic bitch or she’s some angel who touched his life for a moment and then had to return to heaven. Because there’s also a harsh line of extremes in that moment for her too, not just in the selection she has to make.

JoJo, though, tried to be as open as possible to each guy up until the very end. Which is why, even though, with Kaitlyn, Nick seemed blindsided, it was obvious in his reaction that he

ROBBY, JOJO FLETCHER

wasn’t, not really. It was clear from his belligerent side after the fact that he saw it coming a mile wide, and he was trying to get his digs in late. It was obvious from the reaction that he never loved Kaitlyn. To Nick she was the sadistic bitch who turned on him instead of giving him what he felt he deserved, which was to win.

That’s the rub, isn’t it? That this is a competition first and foremost. I think Chad said it best. “I’m not here to be best buddies with these guys. I’m here to win.” He didn’t say he was there to fall in love, to meet the woman of his dreams, any of that. He said he was there to win, which is why reality dating shows ultimately only have a 50/50 shot of the couple working out in the end. When there is no longer a competition, when the Bachelor or Bachelorette has given out the final rose, when the proposal is over, what is left? Real life. That’s what. That’s the ultimate reality.

And I bet Nick is still pissed.

Sam

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“Loveless and cold, with your last breath you saved my soul. You smiled at me like Jesus to a child.” (Jesus to a Child) ~George Michael

black-jesusI remember a story about Jesus taking out his aggression on the moneylenders who were turning the temple of God into a marketplace. He supposedly overturned tables and used harsh language in running them out of the place in disgrace. It was a life lesson I’m sure many of them never forgot, or it was a blip on the radar of their lives that was over almost before it even began. I reckon it was the former. I imagine Jesus could be quite domineering when he wished.

There’s another parable about a woman with an issue of blood who only wanted to touch Jesus as he passed through the crowd. She was only able to get her fingertips on the hem of his garment, but she was instantly healed. The story showed that even if Jesus wasn’t paying attention the power still emanated off of him in waves, saving those who had purity of heart and righteous wishes.

These stories of Jesus are contradictory on the surface, but they go hand in hand to explain the character of the man known as the Son of God. He wasn’t some hellion who used his brawn to force people out of someplace for kicks. He was instead a man who had strong beliefs and the will of God backing him up, a holy terror when something of this world incensed him. This same man was superhuman, but only used his power when it was to right a wrong. Sounds like some guy.

If Jesus was indeed God made flesh and bone, then he was the perfect mix of power and mercy. Unlike the God of the Old Testament, the so-called “King of the Jews” was a gentle giant who used stories as lessons to hopefully help those around him, and through the Bible, to help those for generations to come. If God was the stern father who destroyed the world with a flood, Jesus was the wandering son who had more wisdom than people could see at the time.

love-like-jesus1

That’s usually how it works, right? People are blind at the time, but later their vision is 20/20, hindsight conquering all blind spots they previously had. Jesus was like that. After he was put to death, was resurrected, and returned to heaven, after the earthly access to him was gone, that’s when people began to study him, to observe his teachings, and to properly revere him. And others like him have suffered similar fates throughout the years, never honored until it’s too late.

But for Jesus it was never about accolades, if his teachings are to be believed. It was always about love. Love makes the world go ’round, doesn’t it? It’s not this romantic love that is so popular these days, though. It is the love for our fellow man (and woman), that he espoused so long ago, and that still remains a missing piece for so many of us today. The love of Jesus was perfect in its all-encompassing ability to bring everyone in. Yes, even those moneylenders who he chased out of the temple, he inspired to bring love back with them when they returned for services, not for business.

I imagine if Jesus were alive today he would speak of imperfect love as the standard. That means recognizing the imperfect nature of our love, but doing the best we can regardless. Because while everyone is not worthy of love, neither are we, and he loves us anyway. That’s the glory of love like Jesus’ love, and even if we can’t match it, we can certainly emulate it, and he can do the rest.

You know, if you believe in things like that.

Sam

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“Tell me why I should stay in this relationship when I’m hurting baby. I ain’t happy baby. Plus there’s so many other things I gotta deal with. I think that you should let it burn.” ~Usher

lighting-a-match-2_21209539Why is it so hard to light that match? No matter how toxic a relationship may be, it is still after all a relationship, and those are not easy to come by. Believe me. Sometimes we stay in horrific situations just so we can say we are “with someone.” But being single doesn’t make us some kind of pariahs. Of course that’s easier said than experienced.

“It’s not you; it’s me,” is usually true, no matter how cliche it sounds at the time. You are not the problem. Whatever way he/she views you is the problem. It’s their own hangups that doom your relationship, not the idiosyncrasies you may or may not have. And just because more than one person may have fed you that line, that doesn’t make it any less true the second and third time around.

But it hurts nonetheless, the conversation that ends something you thought might last forever. And the other person moves on while you’re standing still, while you’re going through the stages of grief that should be reserved for someone’s death. But for you it’s the death of love, which can be so much worse than the death of a physical person. Because with the death of love comes the possibility of seeing that person again and stirring up all those feelings again. It’s devastation at its finest.

We all deserve to be happy, don’t we? If being in a relationship makes you happy then enjoy that, but don’t let the initial happiness blind you to what’s becoming of that same relationship. Sometimes happiness dies and is replaced by something else like pity or worse, apathy, a sense of routine that takes over everything and blinds you to the truth. That’s why we should analyze our feelings early and often. Why should we be blindsided by the other person when they say “we have to talk”?

Light that match. Let it burn. Sometimes that’s the only way to be mentally healthy. Don’t think about how much you love him, how much you adore her; think about what being with him or her does for you and to you. Love is not enough. Love is just a Band-aid that can cover up some serious issues at first, and then it becomes an excuse to stay together. Love is just a start. It has to be followed up by real, honest communication and a pact to always have the other persons’ best interests in mind.

Stand still with me.

“I love you, but…” begins so many breakup conversations. And let’s be honest. It’s never really a conversation, is it? It’s really a rehearsed speech by the other person that goes on as planned even if you interrupt. Because it’s not about you. It’s not the time to try and apologize for being the you that you can’t help being. It’s not the time to grovel for them to give you more time, to say that you can change. Because why should you change when they so obviously want someone else? Why apologize for being the person they claim they still love?

You need to let it burn, even if they are the ones who gathered the kindling and rubbed the sticks together. Don’t let someone else determine your self worth. Let it burn down to embers and ash, and emerge from the blazing inferno fresh and new, like a phoenix rising into a spectacular rebirth. Respect yourself enough to realize it was truly about them, not you, that they made the best mistake because it means you’re free in a way you never could have been when you were with them.

Let it burn.

Sam

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couple holding hands

Yesterday, I saw an older couple walking hand in hand. It may not seem like much to you, but I don’t often get the chance to see something so endearing, at least not out in public anyway.

Usually I see people yelling at each other, people yelling at their children, and the general malaise that comes with simply trying to maintain while out in public. That’s why people yell, you know, because they want to present their best face (unless they’re in Walmart, in which case it doesn’t matter), and something the other person is doing is detrimental to that.

But anyway, this older couple was strolling along as if they didn’t have a care in the world, blissfully holding hands and seemingly oblivious to the rest of the world. They are my heroes. I wanted to take a photograph but it was one of those moments that needs to exist by itself, without the intrusion of eyes and lenses.

You have to understand something. I’m one of those old school, love conquers all, black and white movie kind of people. I absolutely adore public affection. But you know how when you get married there are things called compromises? I don’t mind them. They’re a small price to pay when the ultimate gift is getting to be with the love of your life.

And I found the love of my life. She just doesn’t like public displays of affection. She’ll hold my hand for small amounts of time when going into and out of places, and sometimes even when we’re inside (you know, when others can see us). But she is generally for staying focused when we are out and about, and I have to stop her if I want to hold her hand or look into her eyes.

Like I said, it’s a small price to pay, and I can guarantee you that the compromises she makes for me are way more than the ones I make for her, but it’s a price nonetheless. I look at that older couple, and I want that.

While I know that my wife loves me completely and unconditionally, sometimes I want the show too. Sometimes I want the grand public gesture. Sometimes I want the pomp and circumstance. Does that make me a bad person? No. It makes me human.

It’s funny, though, that she’s perfect for me precisely because we are not the same person, because we don’t share every interest and proclivity, that we don’t have the same views when it come to everything (she’s a — gasp — Democrat!). She’s focused on making sure everything gets done in an orderly fashion, and I’m more laid back, not that I can’t get things done too. It’s these differences that make us work, that bring us together.

But I still want to hold hands more often. Maybe I’ll bring it up again sometime.

Sam

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online-dating-header2

Step 1: Attraction. Maybe it’s subtle at first, but something is definitely there. She returns the gaze, you approach, and start a conversation.

Step 2: The First Date. You sweat through your deodorant waiting for the clock to hit the hour. So you can pick her up and head to somewhere where you will talk further.

Step 3: The Wooing. Somehow the first date leads to more, and before you know it your toothbrush has a spot in her bathroom. Others begin to ask you when you’re going to pop the question.

Step 4: The Question. You practice getting down on one knee. You hire a photographer to capture the shot, when you hope she says yes so you won’t have to destroy the film. She does say yes and you’re the happiest man in the world.

Step 5: The Aftermath. For her it’s a calculated series of answers to all the questions you didn’t ask. Wedding venue, floral arrangements, guest lists, and a plethora of other things occupy her for a year or two. You smile and nod, just wanting to get to “I do.”

Step 6: The Wedding. But hold up. Something seems a bit off here, as if this insane scripting is dated, like these steps aren’t leading to where they used to lead. And the wedding, while it should be the most incredible ending to this story (or an amazing continuation), becomes almost an afterthought.

I blame it on divorce statistics. As the number creeps past 50%, meaning more than half of all marriages end in divorce instead of happily ever after, I honestly think people get scared. They don’t want to commit too soon, before they’re absolutely sure that the person they want to spend the rest of their lives with remains the same person, that those feelings remain the same.

So they wait. And they wait. And they wait some more. And this waiting becomes a kind of unorthodox courtship where the two involved in the relationship are playing a game of chicken. If no one blinks and they finally do collide in a fantastic crush of fireworks, then, and only then can they really think about marriage. Perhaps 10 years after the collision they might tie the knot at City Hall and go about their lives exactly as they always have, just now with a bit of paper, a couple of rings, and the almighty LAW chained to them as well.

And guess what? That’s still no guarantee their relationship will stand the test of time. Because there is no absolute guarantee, no matter how long you take before getting married, or if you never get married at all. Sometimes things just happen, and we can’t predict the future. We just can’t. Divorce is just a statistic. It’s when we get all twisted up over it that we unearth problems that aren’t even there. It’s when we hold ourselves back from fully trusting and being vulnerable to the other person that we doom our own relationships, when it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Believe me, I know it’s hard. I too have added to the divorce statistics, but that didn’t stop me from realizing what I had when I first started talking to my wife. That didn’t stop me from following the steps and getting to where we are in the orthodox way. I’m not saying it wasn’t difficult to move on, to trust again, but if you’re going to be in a lifelong relationship then you have to give yourself completely, and they have to as well. That’s how to get your happily ever after.

That’s how you prove that those statistics don’t matter, not to you.

Sam

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