Love Lessons

“This old heart of mine, been broke a thousand times. Each time you break away, seems like you’ve gone to stay.” ~The Isley Brothers

I am no love expert. I feel like I should qualify that first. Love is not always sunshine and roses. I feel the need to qualify that second. Because, while love can be the most beautiful feeling in the world, it can also be the most confounding, the most frustrating, the most devastating at the same time.

For me, love has been several roller coasters, going everywhere but never really stopping. And it’s taught me a lot, in its various incarnations.

  1. Unrequited love is the worst. Having feelings for someone who doesn’t share those feelings can drive you insane. Keep in mind, though, that unrequited means they know of your love for them but do not reciprocate. If you love someone but keep it to yourself, it doesn’t qualify in this category. I’ve learned that it’s best to be honest, to get it out there, because keeping it in doesn’t help.
  2. Love has expectations. It’s interesting to me when people say that love doesn’t expect anything from you but to be yourself. This isn’t true, specifically because most relationships are doomed by a lack of communication. When you love someone you should stretch outside of your comfort zone at times so you can understand each other.
  3. You can’t force love. No matter how “great” someone looks on paper, no matter how many of your friends think you’d be perfect together, it’s not about paper, and it’s not about friends. It’s about how you feel inside, and you can’t make yourself love someone you don’t love. Yes, you can cover over your true feelings, but eventually they will come out, and regret will set in.
  4. We don’t stop loving people. If it’s real love, it doesn’t just go away. Sometimes it can morph into a different level, or it can be put on the back burner because of the actions of the individual. Often, love isn’t enough to keep people together because there are so many other factors that influence that, but the excuse that “love died” is not true. If you feel that way, then you never loved in the first place.
  5. Don’t mistake lust for love. In true Romeo & Juliet fashion, too often we are struck by the newness of a situation, we are overcome with emotions that are attached more to our libidos than to anything else. It’s easy to think this is love, but it’s really love-adjacent. It’s really one facet of a multi-faceted emotion, and often times we can have lust without love. Beware.
  6. Love needs cultivation. Just like with anything else, if love stagnates it can be detrimental to you overall as a person, and to your relationship. Taking love for granted, settling into routines where you aren’t receptive to the other person’s needs, is easy to do. It’s one of the reasons love isn’t enough by and of itself. You need to show that love instead of letting it settle.
  7. Love can be harsh. Because we can’t choose who we love we can get ourselves into situations that are detrimental to our overall mental, physical, and emotional health. I’ve seen it time and again, people who are in dysfunctional relationships because they love that person even though they’re being mentally, physically, or emotionally abused by that same person.

Love is so powerful because it tugs at our heart strings. It’s the kitty in the shelter we just have to bring home with us. It’s the book we can’t stop reading even though it’s 4 in the morning. It’s the twisted sheets, the notes under windshield wipers, the pop-ins just to say hi, the shared tacos, the phone calls that never end. It’s everything. Except that it isn’t. At least, that’s what I’ve learned so far.

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Caught in the Middle

“Reckless abandon wrapped in common sense. Deep water faith in the shallow end, and we are caught in the middle” ~Casting Crowns

I stood on the edge of a future fraught with possible landmines, I had no idea if I even wanted to jump, and who would have blamed me for standing still? Believe me, I was the last person to know what I wanted in that moment, in the pause that seemed to stretch into forever with how long I waited it out.

Looking back, I was hoping a decision would be made for me, that things would be packaged up and all I would have to do is put the bow on it. But that’s not how life happens, not often enough anyway. What life does is it waits until we’ve finally made the decision, then it changes our plans, whether we like it or not.

So what was I waiting for?

You could say I was always the one to look before leaping anyway, that I would generally weigh all possible options before wading in, or I wouldn’t wade in at all. I can’t tell you how many opportunities passed me by while I was sitting there waiting to make a decision (or 20).

I’m not sure if it was being careful, meticulous, or just indecisive, but it seemed to work relatively well for me. Continue reading “Caught in the Middle”

Redemption?

It’s been a week since Tiger Woods shocked the world and won his 5th Masters title. For those non-golf fans out there, don’t tell me you didn’t already know. It was everywhere on social media, on the news, even in articles about Notre Dame (I know, right?). Well, Tiger Woods is larger than life, isn’t he? His problems, his foibles, his innate humanness, they were also larger than life in the intervening 10 years since he crashed his car into a hydrant. Such is the curse of being really good at what you do, and at having what you do be in the spotlight.

But hindsight is 20/20, dreams hardly ever come true, the Easter Bunny isn’t real… All things you should know by now. Part of that obvious list used to be that Tiger Woods would win more majors. It was in his DNA, after all, having captured his first on that selfsame august course he was playing this time last week (pretty damn early too). When 13 others followed in quick succession (can you believe the 1st 14 came in only an 11 year period?) it was easy to think they would keep rolling in.

However, golf is a fickle sport, and man is a giddy thing. Continue reading “Redemption?”

Aquarium Bones

“Be careful what secrets you unearth, for the secrets that unearth you are not far behind.” ~Theodicus

I used to have an aquarium. Not the kind with fish. That would have been too simple, or too complicated, whichever you prefer. But the kind with treasure in it. You know the sort, the one with sand at the bottom, a little rake up against the glass, and the opportunity to mine for gold, or scarabs, or just the faded bones of fish who used to live in those environs before the water went away.

It seemed morbid to me at the time, the idea of an aquarium without water, a place without the one thing that gives it its name (aqua = water), the idea that “once upon a time” and “nowadays” were two distinct terms to label that glass walled cage. Eventually, though, I got used to the idea that nothing was as it seemed, not just in the aquarium, but in the wide world as well. I realized we are all nothing but aquarium bones, waiting to be unearthed when someone sifts through our lives many years from now.

I think of all the people who have come before, all the generations and generations of folks who felt, in their lifetimes, that the things they did mattered, that the time they spent was worthwhile. Continue reading “Aquarium Bones”

How I’m Doing

20180224_094000~01.jpgEveryone asks how I’m doing. As if they all have a stake in my happiness. I tell them I’m doing great. Because I am. I’m doing about as positively well as I possibly can be at this moment in time. It’s like my metaphorical ship has come in. But it doesn’t quite feel real yet. Maybe because I spent so much time in the desert, squabbling over a patch of sand in the midst of a sea full of the same golden stuff.

They ask how I’m doing because I seem different. Whenever people notice difference, when they notice anything at all, their brains can’t seem to make out what the change is. Did I get a haircut? Am I somehow taller? Is the tilt of my head the same, or have I begun to incline to the other side? All these questions chase themselves around in the brain of the questioner, and they settle on simply asking how I’m doing. Can’t go wrong with that, right?

I guess I’ve been so melancholy for so long it’s obvious that things have changed. I’m thinking solidly about the future for the first time in years. Perhaps that wistful look has returned to my countenance. Maybe that sense of peace is permeable, oozing through my skin to be vividly clear to others. Every “next day” doesn’t fill me with dread as it had for far too long.

I am here on the weekends. I cannot stress enough what a novel extravagance this is.

So, how am I doing? I’m doing about as well as I possibly hoped I would be doing at this point in my life, although I’ve taken a circuitous path to get here. How are YOU doing?

Sam

A Patently Incomplete Manual For Living

“I wanted the world, but you knew better. And that all we have is immortality.” ~U2

be_nice_spread_the_word_postcard-r049d89a720a84595b7ad70470c712e18_vgbaq_8byvr_324It’s tough, this thing called living, this invitation to a dance where sometimes we have partners and sometimes we go it alone. I see it every day, from the Facebook posts of those souls who feel that no one loves them, to the people around me who hunch their shoulders down as if preparing for a long, harsh winter. A real part of it is that there is really no manual for living. There are no hard and fast guidelines that everyone can follow to guarantee a quality existence, to guarantee friends, to guarantee the kind of life we all want but few of us ever seem to attain.

If I had carte blanche to write a manual for living, a firm guideline would be:

(1) Be nice to people.

It should honestly go without saying, but some of the harshest critics of others are the ones most vocal about having no friends, about having no life, about pretty much everything that’s going wrong in their own lives. When we judge others we seem to forget that we also have issues.

Of course, sometimes even when we are the nicest human beings to others there is no positive correlation for us. Sure, we can get the good feelings from being a good person, but that’s often not enough to sustain us. It’s a good start, though.

(2) Think twice before acting.

I can’t tell you the number of times (because I honestly can’t recall) when I’ve done something that I look back on with jaw agape, with no clue how I could have been so godawful stupid. By going with first instincts we can often lose the focus we need to make solid decisions. Most times a simple “time out” to think about whether or not we really want to take certain actions can be a godsend.

(3) Don’t let your self-worth be determined by others.

stop-letting-other-people-define-you-be-yourself-and-be-proud-of-it-quote-1You know those people who need to be loved by everyone, who derive their own value from what others think. Maybe you’re one of those people. It’s hard to shut down that part of ourselves that needs validation. That’s only more true now that we have social media where people can “like” what we say and how we look. But we are more than just the number of “likes” we generate. If you can’t be happy with yourself without the validation of others then it’s easy to lose your way.

(4) Do what you love.

Wow, if someone had told me this a long time ago the sinuous pattern of my life might have changed exponentially, but no one did. Instead, they told me that it’s okay to love things, but that I needed to be practical. Well, guess what? We can do both. Being practical can take care of monetary issues, but taking time out to also do what we love can take care of that space in our souls that needs to be filled. People often ask me how I write as often as I do, and I always defer to the quote that “We make time for the things that are important to us.” If you want to stand in the middle of a train station and sing, then do it. Life is too short.

(5) Draw solid lines.

This means simply that even though you’re nice to everyone, don’t let anyone else compromise your sense of who you are, or what your values are. It’s so important to find ourselves, and not to lose sight of who we are and what we stand for, as human beings, and as individuals. Too often people who masquerade as friends ask us to betray our values for them, who try to guilt us into doing what they want. Draw those lines, and don’t let yourself get dragged over them. If they don’t stay on your side of the lines, then they aren’t good for you. Move on, no matter how hard it might be for you.

(6) Make and maintain goals.

Too many people live from moment to moment, never planning for any kind of future because they don’t want to think that far. The problem is that the future comes when we aren’t looking, and we can influence that. So why not influence that? Goals range from minor ones to major ones, and often attaining those minor goals helps us achieve the major ones in time. It’s fascinating how that works. It means that ten years down the line, instead of being the same, and doing the same things, we’ve done more and are more personally fulfilled for the journey.

(7) Do things that stretch you as a person.

“A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.” It’s so easy to let life take us along for a ride, but that’s not living. That’s passive acceptance of the passage of time and consequence. Being comfortable is a beautiful thing, but when it lulls us into a sense of passivity there’s something not quite right about it. Think about why so many rich people aren’t satisfied. It’s not about the acquiring of stuff. It’s about getting out there and doing things that scare us sometimes. We never know how far those things can take us. A friend of mine is exactly this way. She goes for what she wants, even if she’s not quite there yet, because it helps her figure out how far she needs to get to make it happen in the end.

(8) Keep an open mind.

Too often we close ourselves off to alternative positions to our own, even if we’ve held those positions for so long that we don’t even remember why we follow them anymore. Just because someone else does something different from you it doesn’t mean they’re wrong and you’re right. It is our own individual experience that makes us who we are, as individuals, and being around other people can help expand that experience. By closing ourselves off to other ways of seeing things we shut down our chances to grow and become more complete versions of ourselves.

(9) Don’t be fake with others.

You know we all are to an extent, when we’re at our jobs that we’d like to keep, when we’re around family friends who don’t inspire us, when we’re somewhere around a majority of people who aren’t like us in some way, shape, or form. It’s easy to be fake, to put on those Cheshire Cat grins and pretend everything is fine, or that we are just like the others around us. It might seem like a good thing to do, to keep the boat from rocking, but it takes a toll on us, this practice of being fake. I know, for me personally, the switch between being fake and letting everything out is so ingrained I don’t know who I am at any given point of time. It shouldn’t be like that.

(10) Be honest with yourself.

It’s easy to not just be fake with others, but to also fool ourselves into believing what we will about ourselves. We may not be the kind of people we hoped we would be growing up, but we are who we are. Covering that up doesn’t change anything except that it hampers our growth. We have to know where we’ve been, to accept all the parts that have gotten us to this point, in order to advance, to get somewhere, both mentally and emotionally.

What would be in your manual for living?

Sam

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