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“We accept the love we think we deserve.” ~The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Why does she stay? That’s a question I ask myself so often when I read stories of women who have been consistently abused by husbands, boyfriends, or other men in their lives. And I honestly don’t think there’s one answer that stands up to scrutiny any more than the others. Every woman is an individual, and she has her own reasons for staying, but I can’t help but pose the question inside my own head anyway.

I saw this quote a while ago, and it resonated with me, about accepting the love we think we deserve. On some level it struck me as being brutally honest, for several reasons, but on another level it was an attempt at answering the question that keeps haunting me. Why does she stay? It’s quite possible she stays because she’s accepting whatever she thinks is the love he offers her, that she believes this IS love, even when he hurts her both emotionally and physically.

And I use the term “she” with a caveat, with a disclaimer that not all victims are women, but I come into contact with more of these issues involving women than anyone else. So I use the term, but I understand it’s not all-encompassing as it is. Nothing could be, though in this society we try to make everything fit. Regardless, these emotional and physical scars are everywhere, and those who inflict them often get off scot-free when it comes to getting a proper comeuppance, living to torture their victims another day. To think that victims believe this is love is beyond me, but it happens all the time, and it has happened over and over again.

These patterns are honestly depressing to see, but there is no end in sight. “We accept the love we think we deserve,” says more about our own feelings of self-loathing and poor self-esteem than they say about the other person. These other people manipulate us because they know they can, because they see in us these signs of low self-esteem and they prey on that. Shame on them. They say they love us, but they don’t know what love is. They only know how to pretend well enough to reel us in, and then they lower the boom, in more ways than one. Once we are caught in the web, it’s so incredibly difficult to extricate ourselves from it, because we become believers.

At least that’s how I see it. I could be completely wrong, but it’s what I see from those of my friends and acquaintances who have stayed, who have put themselves secondary to someone who is literally not worth it. The quote, to me, means that we, as human beings, can’t quite wrap our brains around the fact that we’re worth so much more than a punching bag, either emotionally or physically. When we have been neglected and cast aside it becomes easier to accept that any sign of interest on the part of someone else might be the only interest we will ever get in our lives. It becomes easier to accept it all, despite the warning signs, and throughout the relationship, even when the hard times come.

Why does she stay? She stays because she thinks he will change, even though she knows he won’t. He says he will change. He sometimes gets emotional and cries on her shoulder, and she thinks that’s a sign things are looking up, not the manipulative move it really is. Or maybe he honestly thinks he will change, but when faced with a similar situation in the future he simply goes back to his previous ways because they are hardwired into his brain. She stays because she believes in the goodness in him, despite the fact that he often shows her his negative side. She stays because she thinks she cannot find anything better, and she believes what he is giving her is what love looks like.

This is the love she thinks she deserves, and it makes sense. But it also makes me so utterly sad for her, for me, and for mankind, that this is what we think we amount to in the grand scheme of things, that too often we are belittled and taught to think we aren’t worth very much. We deserve so much more, every single one of us out here just wanting to be loved, to be appreciated, to be seen for who we are and embraced for it in a way we haven’t been before. It’s never enough just to settle, to give up essential parts of ourselves for people who don’t care, who just want to control us in a way we wouldn’t accept if it was anyone but us. But we often have blind spots when it comes to those who we believe we love, when it comes to those who have already broken our will, our self-esteem, and our emotional capacity.

She stays because she thinks there’s nothing better for her in this wide world. And that’s an absolute travesty.

Sam

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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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fatecoincidencecoincidence: a remarkable concurrence of events which have no apparent causal connection with each other.

fate: the development of events, beyond a person’s control, regarded as determined by a supernatural power.

Everything happens for a reason, doesn’t it? Growing up with a strict religious background it was something that was just understood. It was God who brought about everything, and we were just the paeans who had “free will” but who were just endlessly spinning our wheels, lost in sinful pursuits. I’m not going to say that we called it fate, but it was a close cousin, at the least. Manifest destiny maybe?

So I grew up, and I discarded my religious upbringing — well, discarded the vast majority of what I considered flawed thinking. But did I jettison this idea of predestination as well? I didn’t really give it much thought, but I did know that I believed we as individuals had some say with the way things turned out in our lives. I knew that sometimes when things happened that I hadn’t anticipated, or that in retrospect turned out to be advantageous, I couldn’t always pin it on coincidence.

Case in point: in February of 2003, my special lady and I decided that we would get married on May 20th of that same year. The date was set in stone because on the 18th I was to graduate from college, on the 19th we were to bring my mother back to the train station, so we knew well ahead of time what the schedule would bring. We also knew at the time that our favorite band, the band that was responsible for bringing us together, was going to release an album that year as well, but it wasn’t until late March that they settled on a release date. Guess when? May 20th.

It doesn’t end there, though. That same band broke up in 2009 and went their separate ways, but late last year they decided to reunite after nearly 8 years apart, to release a new album and embark on a tour. I swore we would go see them if they came anywhere near Philly, but we had to wait a couple weeks before they released a list of tour dates. Tour dates just came out, and guess when they’re coming to a venue just a quick ferry ride from Philly? You got that right. May 20th.

Coincidence? I think not. If it is, then it’s one hell of a big coincidence, that they would be playing the perfectly placed venue on our anniversary, so many years later. I think it was meant to be — kismet — fate — destiny — whatever means the same thing in this case. I love it that these parts of our relationship dovetail so neatly with the band that brought us together in the first place, time and again. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy, so secure in some kind of plan for my life, be it divine or whatnot.

It’s funny how those things happen, and I guess it doesn’t even really matter if it’s coincidence, if it’s fate, or if it’s some weird amalgamation of the two. What matters is that my wife and I are heading to Camden on May 20th, and we’re going to see an amazing show as our anniversary present to ourselves. And that’s something special.

Sam

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the_tombstone_meme_by_v_oblivion-d50bjhxOn this day, 18 years ago, I got married. No, don’t congratulate me. In fact, for the entire first half of today I had completely forgotten about it. It’s actually been a few years since I’ve even remembered that fact. You’d think it would be the most important day of the year to me, but it’s merely the answer to an obscure trivia question now.

It was raining that day, 18 years ago, when we went to the Knoxville City Hall, a modern building that somehow still exuded age and decay. I neglected to mention to her that I was on the rebound, having recently been rebuffed by another, and she didn’t ask. That should have been a red flag, but it wasn’t.

Yet time was of the essence. I needed a place to stay, so I married a woman I had met only two months before that rainy day at the Knoxville City Hall. Every shred of common sense told me it was a bad idea, but at the time I was between a rock and a hard place, an area where common sense fears to dwell.

And for the next three years I celebrated the day, like people are supposed to do when it belongs to them. Even though I never felt like it belonged to me. Because I realized pretty early on that I wasn’t in love with the woman I had married, because she had only been playing a role when we met. So this day, October 19th, became a time of dread, even as the celebrations commenced.

october19Then it was over, but memories don’t just go away. I’ve never understood how people can go into a new relationship and simply forget what existed before. Perhaps they never do. Maybe they just pretend they do because they think it’s healthy. But I disagree. I think it’s important to remember the past because that’s the only way we can truly get past it, the only way we can learn and not repeat it.

So I’ve remembered on and off these past 15 years, ever since the death of the relationship, but I feel like I’ve learned all I need to learn from it all, from that tortuous time in my life. I’m ready to lay this date 6 feet deep where it belongs, to give it some new meaning other than the last sad gasp of a relationship that never should have been, but one that changed me nonetheless.

I’m ready to cleanse it again, to make it just another day, like it used to be before that rainy day, 18 years ago, at the Knoxville City Hall. So rest in peace, October 19. May you find contentment in knowing that others will use you as their reference point from now on. Just no longer me.

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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12-ParisRules of the Flash Fiction Challenge:

  1. Each entry has to follow a set prompt
  2. Each entry has to be 1,000 words or fewer
  3. Each entry has to be written specifically for this challenge

Getting back to my roots has been an amazing experience already as I’ve begun to dive into this Flash Fiction Challenge. My first story was well-received, and even more important than that is the feeling I got from writing it. It’s interesting to have a topic, a prompt, that I have to work with and through, and to be able to adjust it to myself and my own style.

One of the primary reasons for my completion of the Flash Fiction Challenge is to stretch my boundaries, to dig deep into my writing resources and come up with completely different pieces of work for each challenge. I also want to keep each entry fresh, so I’m challenging myself to only look at the prompt right before I begin writing the particular challenge, then to create the piece all in one sitting.

The more difficult the challenge, the more ultimately fulfilling it will be for me in the end. To that purpose, here is entry #2: I Didn’t Go There.


I never ended up going to Paris, not with Moira anyway, which according to her means I never went to Paris. Whenever I want to bring it up I have to remind myself that I didn’t go, that three months of my life never happened. I have to shift the whole of time, to stitch together the frayed ends on either side of those months, for my own sake, and for the sake of harmony. And even though it was five years ago, the time between then and now has not gotten any easier.

There is jealousy, and then there’s whatever Moira is, but I don’t question it because questioning always leads to yelling, and I’m for smoothing everything over. That’s why I never ended up going to Paris, because to admit that would be the beginning of the end, and I’m not ready yet to say goodbye to the woman I can’t help but love. There’s just something about her that makes me want to lie early and often, to cover over all my rough spots so that I come out smooth enough for her and her world.

She couldn’t go that summer, which is what started all of the issues in the first place.

“So I know you have this amazing opportunity, but you can’t go,” she told me in a matter-of-fact tone.

“Glad to know we can talk calmly and rationally about it,” I said, my ire starting to rise, a sure sign that I was approaching the invisible line she had drawn.

“I’m just saying,” she said in that lilting voice of hers that drew me in from the start, “that you don’t really want to go without me.”

It was a statement, not a question, but I heard it the way that suited my rationalization. Truth be told, yes, I did want to go, with or without her. It was a huge opportunity for me to further my career, and to be in a truly international city at the same time, two things that weren’t exactly mutually exclusive. Yes, I was with Moira, but who was to say we would even be together past the summer, regardless of if I went.

If I had only held a crystal ball back then, or at least if I had known I would have to alter the events of that summer for more than five years, maybe then I wouldn’t have gone. Maybe. But I had no such talisman of the future, so I went, and when I got back I had to hurriedly re-script things.

First it was the photographs, of which there were many. I downloaded them to a flash drive and buried it deep in my file drawer, officially erasing every shred of Parisian memories from our shared camera. Next came the clothes, which she claimed smelled of France, of beaches that I never visited, of tours I never took, and of the Eiffel Tower at sunset. It was the only time she admitted that I went. Once the clothes were burned the trip essentially went up in flames as well.

Paris became our Bermuda triangle, and it has been so ever since. June, July, and August of five years ago have passed into the ether, have tumbled down the rabbit hole with Alice and left me breathless. My mind maintains that I went, that I enjoyed myself, that there were several women I made breathless love to on the trip, but that’s the only place any of those memories will ever exist, in my mind. Which is the one positive from the whole thing, the denial of the thing, that I need no excuse for anything I did while I was over there. While I wasn’t over there.

“You have got to go with me to Marshall’s,” Moira told me this morning while we were getting ready in our bathroom. Her hair was securely in a towel bun, and I was naked, preparing to get into the shower.

“What’s so special about Marshall’s?” I asked, not wanting to go shopping again.

“It’s not about Marshall’s,” she whined. “It’s about being with me, about wanting to spend time with me. I’m your girlfriend, and we haven’t been out in ages.”

“It takes two,” I said quietly, but she heard me anyway.

“And what’s that supposed to mean?” she asked, getting heated.

“It means you should have let me go to Paris,” I spit out, and five years tumbled out along with it, five years of regret, of pain, and of a sublimation I hadn’t thought I was capable of, all out like so much vomit. “It means you should have given up something for me just once, that you should have come with me instead of standing firm against it.”

“But you never went!” she practically screamed in my face, her own getting red, the towel slipping from her hair.

“Yes, I did, and it was glorious” I said, getting into the shower and pulling the door closed behind me. I could see her silhouette through the glass shaking with sobs, but I couldn’t get out to comfort her. The time for comforting was past, along with the time for denial.

“You asshole,” she said under her breath, but I heard it just the same. There was a rustling on the other side of the glass, her towel dropped to the tile floor, and she was gone. I assumed she was heading to Marshall’s without me.

But it simply didn’t matter anymore. Our relationship was toxic. It always had been. I just hadn’t seen it because I had been so preoccupied with forcing Paris from my mind, for her sake. I hadn’t seen it because I wanted us to be something we were never meant to be. I turned on the water to drown out the cacophony in my own head. And to remember Paris instead.

Sam

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fallinginloveThere is a difference between loving someone and being in love with them. When my wife first told me she thought she was falling in love with me it carried so much more weight than a simple “I love you” ever could.

There’s just something about the process of being in love that is dynamic, that is special in so many ways. I liken it to making love a place, a room, a safe haven, but not just anyone can enter. Only those who have a key can get in, and then the two of you are IN love, and it’s perfect.

Okay, so it’s not quite perfect. As I’ve said before, love is not some flawless thing that you can set down on a shelf and admire. It’s a living, breathing thing that needs just as much attention as another person would. Being in love with someone means taking the time and the energy to understand what being in love with them means.

Being in love means compromising. It doesn’t matter how in sync the two of you are, there are always issues, some big and some small. Every single issue matters, because it’s often the ones you initially categorize as small that can tear you completely apart. That means spending time hashing things out early on. If you know you’re in love with them then it should be a labor of love to sit down and figure those things out.

I can love you like a brother, or a sister, and that’s swell, but when I’m in love with you it means we are in this together… until death do us part. Why beat around the bush? If the feeling is mutual, if the two of you are in the same place, why not make that ultimate compromise and join together in holy matrimony? Now, I know it’s a human construct, but the joining of two souls is precious. When you’re in love that should be the goal, right?

And this business about falling out of love, it’s all horseshit. You can’t fall out of love with someone. If you can separate yourself from them then you were never truly in love to begin with. Maybe you loved them, but you weren’t in love with them. Perhaps you were in love the-truth-is-we-are-not-afraid-of-being-in-love-we-are-only-afraid-of-not-being-loved-in-return-quote-1with the idea of them you created in your mind. That happens way too much in this day and age. We get these ideas in our heads of who people are supposed to be, and we see them through this haze… until we don’t anymore, and everything falls apart.

Being in love means communicating early and often. It means giving the other person more of yourself than you ever thought was possible before. It means being more vulnerable than you’ve ever been. And sometimes being in love means understanding that you might be the only one in that place. That’s hard to fathom, that we could fall in love with someone who doesn’t feel the same, and yet it happens all the time.

Sometimes being in love means letting go. Sometimes it means pressing down our feelings for the greater good. It’s lucky when the person you’re in love with is also in love with you. Hang on to that feeling. Work hard on that relationship, to keep those feelings at the surface and maintain their deep roots as well. Because it’s the most special, most important, and most spectacular feeling in the world.

Sam

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