Life Is Short, Even On It’s Longest Days

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There are times in our lives when inevitability and expectation crash together and we’re forced to accept that it’s inevitability that has the best odds. In a fleeting moment, circumstances and life take a sharp curve at a bad angle and suddenly we’re not as surefooted as we may have believed we once were. People in our lives, no, important people in our lives die, and we’re left behind trying to figure out what it all means to us, what we’re supposed to do, and more importantly what are we still capable of doing without them.

In the outrageously short span of a couple weeks, someone in your life who is outwardly strong, weakens and dies. My mom’s husband of thirty-two years, Bill, died last week. He’d been a part of our family story far longer than our own deceased father. There were some good memories and some bad too but this is not really a story about Bill; its about me and you.

Emily is probably reading this right now and saying, “of course, its about you”, and she’d be right of course, but I’m still determined to move forward with the usual piles of babble and gibberish I normally produce anyway, ignoring all the subtle innuendo and eye-rolling. Without any benefit of having literary fans, I’m merely forced to live up to my own expectations which aren’t really all that high – so read this at your own risk.

So if Bill isn’t the subject of this blog, why are we all here; all three of us? Well, it’s complicated. The easiest way I can explain it is that I’m a person who normally lives in my head and right now I really need to be living inside my heart. I think a lot of people, like myself, go into our heads when we’re sad or wounded because we think we’re smart and we need answers, or we want to take prisoners and need to build places to put them.

But sometimes a person just needs to get out of their head and into their feelings. The problem is that my feelings have grown an entire pant size since I last wore them. Alas, at the age of 54 I’m suddenly realizing the true value of stretch pants. I should be thankful that hearts aren’t made to stretch like old-man-jeans or else I may be tempted to live more comfortably in my heart, defeating the purpose of being born with a Y chromosome.

The overriding and principle motivation for this blog being that I really just want my mom to be OK. This is her second husband to leave her behind and I can’t imagine the experience of uncertainty and grief that she must be experiencing right now. If your life is lived a certain way, perhaps very independently, and something like this happens, it turns your world upside down because you can’t help but to visualize your life exactly as it has thus far been lived – only without your partner in tow or pulling the plow.

Those are valid thoughts and for many people who don’t have children or family to step up and into new roles, these kinds of fears can become our realities. But losing a spouse at an advanced age doesn’t necessarily put you in some predetermined box, especially if you have important things you want to do or say or be. You’re only limited by your thoughts; its the same for 8 year old’s as it is 80 year old’s.

While the moment is emotionally overwhelming, yes, time itself is not necessarily definitive. Who better to reinvent or reinvigorate their lives than a mature person who could give a rat’s ass about what other people think of them? Sometimes, you don’t need a plan, you just need to breathe, let go, and see what happens.

Maturity is the great equalizer isn’t it – you can finally take advantage of it. If life isn’t or hasn’t been giving you things to look forward to, do things or say things or write things that frame what precious moments you have left of your life in a way that is truly worthy of how you want others to know you – and look forward to whatever new beginnings you choose to cultivate.

Crisis need not be the catalyst for growth or change, but it sure does bring things into perspective. The selfish side of my personality is excited about having my mom all to myself again but the nicer of my temperaments ache for her as she so obviously craves some higher level of acuity as to her near and distant futures. It’s a challenge to find the right words sometimes, when you know someone you love needs to hear something they can cling to – or most importantly, believes.

Did I mention that one of my best life-long friends passed away last week too? Yeah, that one was a real kick in the gut. I think he deserves his own blog so I don’t want to wallow around in the emotion of that in this story and I don’t want to diminish the importance of the message I’m trying to convey here either. Everything in its own time right?

So let’s sum this thing up so that Emily will actually read the whole thing. We’re all getting old. Time is ticking for the 5 year old and it’s ticking for the 50 year old’s. Although the damn clock continues to tick, it also tocks…, tock rhymes with rock so lets rock shall we? There are only so many summers left and I intend not to waste them being old.

I don’t want you to waste yours just being the old chic either. Don’t be old, be vast and brilliant and expressive. Or you can be one of those fake palm reader persons, OR, your could be an old lady prostitute if you want, just be and be happy being. Life is short, even on it’s longest days. It’s not about existing, it’s about living. You can do this; we can do this together.

Emily; A Whole ‘Nother Year

OK, I’ll admit it. When it comes to outwardly living, acting and reacting to emotions, I’m a curmudgeon. I don’t laugh out-loud near enough to express how happy I am and I don’t cry nearly enough to express the deep emotion that helps you to know that I’m not some weird robot from outer space. I’m sure you sometimes read the things I blog about and probably wonder who is this guy eating leftovers off my plate and what did you do with my husband? My mind is always jam-packed with thoughts but they just seem to come out better through my fingertips than from my mouth.

I do get it, I’m not the most outwardly expressive person on the planet; probably not even in the top five billion. I’d venture to guess that there are probably a few ISIS soldiers who are more emotionally expressive than I am. When you’re laughing out loud, I’m just grinning. When you’re overjoyed to tears, I’m just smiling. But what you don’t realize is that those tiny little expressions on the outside of my face are representing billions of happy neurons colliding among the fat cells underneath. I do love and I do feel things strongly, my face just doesn’t always cooperate with my mind.

I like to believe that you get me, that you know the real me beneath my dull and undemonstrative exterior. In a utopian world, you would appreciate the rock-like foundation that supports who you are and what you’re doing no matter what mood I’m in or what has happened at work. That’s utopia, not Fairfield Pike, so I guess it probably helps to get a personal dose of emotion and passion from your husband now and then, especially when it’s your Birthday. This might be an attempt to do you some justice as you are far too important to me and your friends to be let down by the one you lift up so perfectly.

First of all, Happy Birthday! I wanted that to be a sentence all by itself but then I looked at it on paper and decided that it looked lonely. That just wouldn’t do. I never want you to be lonely. That is why I can mostly be found clutching your hand in mine. Your hand is, to me, a perfect hand. It touches me and comforts me in ways that are difficult to write about. It’s the thrill of a soft caress and the solace of a late night head scratch that heal me. It’s the kneading of biscuit dough or the mechanics of a sweet thank you letter that move me. Your hands untangle the knots in my soul while they weave a life worth living. You have the kind of hands that are worth holding and I love holding them.

You are the best friend a person could ever hope to have. I love that you are still friends with most of your childhood friends. That demonstrates that you are loyal and kind and thoughtful. I’m so thankful to get to be the guy who wakes up with and falls asleep beside you. I never suffer from a lack of sleep because I’m forever at peace knowing that I won. I beat the odds and I beat every single other man out there who was looking for the perfect wife. They lost and I won. My rewards and reminders are the long red hairs I find daily entwined in my clothes and in precarious places on my body. When I find one, I laugh (internally of course) then pinch myself to remind me that this whole amazing thing is actually real – that I get to be the one who kisses your lips and holds you close every day of my life.

I love your laugh. You have an infectious laugh and I guess that is why my laughs seem so insignificant and barren. Your laugh makes my laugh look like an indifferent mime without the cool striped mime costume and makeup. Who could ever smile as big or laugh as hard as you? No one can. That awesome laugh cheers me up and makes me want to deserve you. The lines on my face are from 8 years of perpetual smiling. I’m totally getting wrinkles on my face because of you and I don’t even care.

Emily in Slovenia

I think you are absolutely beautiful. If you were a president, you would be named Babe-a-ham Lincoln. In Latin, you would be called “babia majora”. If you had lived during the Renaissance period, it would be called the Emily period as all of the masters would have painted you. You hair is like silky sunshine and your eyes are like maple nut goodies. If you’d let me, I’d lick you all day long. That’s creepy I know but, alas, no licking allowed. It’s ok though, because you do let me hold your hands a lot.

I could never write great things about you without mentioning your amazing cooking but I really don’t need or want to because your fantastic cooking has more to do with the love you have for each of us that get to eat it than it has to do with skill. For you, cooking is a metaphor for love. It’s just one of the many things you make an effort to do that reflects the size and capacity of your heart. You love harder and stronger than anyone I’ve ever met and that makes you an amazing wife and an incredibly rare friend. I pray I never lose you.

I hope that this Birthday is one fraction as special for you as is it is for me because for me it means that I just got to spend a whole-‘nother year with the woman I love and the best friend any person could ever hope to find. My love for you grows exponentially each and every year as I continue to discover more wonderful things about you. Just when I think I’ve seen the whole of you, another rose bud springs forth that redefines the meaning of perfection and the vernacular of love. You are absolutely amazing!

Happy Birthday Emily.

See, I did give it its own line.

My One True Love & Cracker Jack’s

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My whole life I’ve heard about the idea of true love. There are many ways to express it (i.e., real love, made for each other, perfect partners, soul mates, numero uno, love of my life, my one and only, etc.) but how many people out there can really comprehend the idea of such a thing in its full context? We’ve all had our ups and downs and most of us end up tied to someone special eventually but are you truly with your “one true love” or did you just settle for someone just a little less perfect than you expected?

Most people can’t wait to get married. Sometimes it’s because they just want to get out of a bad home environment or sometimes it could be that they just want to grow up and move on with life or perhaps it’s because all their friends are getting married and having kids and they think they’re supposed to do the same thing. But when you’re young and fresh out of school you’ve not lived and navigated through enough personal relationships by which to judge whether your current person is really the best person for you or not. That is why statistically more marriages fail than survive.

I’ve blogged about the idea of perception versus reality several times because I truly believe that each of us have our own special reality shaped by several things including nature (DNA), nurture (parenting and mentoring), and experience (what we do with both of those things). To truly experience something as rare and complex as finding your soul mate, don’t you have to live just a little? We also have to suffer just a little in order to appreciate just how low things can be with the wrong person. Experience develops our individual perceptions and helps us to recognize not only what is special about a person generally…but what is particularly special about that person from our own perspectives – through our own jaded and subjective eyes. These are two distinctly different things.

I’m sure there are a few very lucky people out there who were fortunate to find that special someone on their first try but I seriously doubt the probability of that happening very often. Most of us think we know, then proceed to jump off the proverbial cliff of sanity directly into a pit of uncertainty then swim against the current in the river of probability then drift slowly toward an ocean of insolvency and finality. Those are not great odds. To make it worse, our own ego sometimes refuses to allow us to quickly resolve a mistake and let go before we become so entrenched that leaving becomes problematic or even dangerous.

We fail mostly though not because we hitched our wagons necessarily to bad people but because we had no idea who we were in the first place. Our idea of what a relationship should be is just as undeveloped as our sense of who we are or what makes us happy. How can we begin to address the issue of what we can do to please another person when we’ve ignored our own needs and wants? That’s not selfish, it’s absolutely critical. If we ignore what’s inside, foregoing that critical component of personal happiness and instead focus on making someone else happy, then we are doomed to eventually implode with anger and expectation of reciprocation. But it becomes unfair to the other person because they’re expectations are based on who you started off as, no matter how unrealistic it may seem.

Well, I’ll let you in on a secret. When you give yourself an honest opportunity to figure out who you really are, forgetting about the idea of love or marriage, the internal images of prospective mates is suddenly illuminated. Sort of like the secret decoder ring in the box of Capt. Crunch, you suddenly have a magical lens by which you see the world that illuminates that which is good and healthy and filters out that which is…maybe a bit unripe. That’s a kind way of saying that sometimes people who will eventually become great partners start off with no idea of what being a great partner is and will potentially hurt you. We are not all ready at the same time or at the same age. Thus, a great partner for me may not make a great partner for you. No matter how awesome my wife may think I am for her has no bearing on whether I would be viewed as equally awesome to another person.

Cracker-Jacks

We’re all like big irregularly shaped boxes of Cracker Jack’s. We all have a little prize inside but since we’re all looking for something different, the value of that little prize weighs more or less to whomever it is that gets to open your prize package. Some folks may love that little magnifying glass you have but I just think it’s cheap. So, here we are, you with a cheap magnifying glass and me with an awesome rubber ball. On a higher note, just because one person doesn’t fully appreciate the value of what’s inside or what you have to offer, doesn’t mean that someone else won’t.

After my divorce, I was single for 16 years. There were moments where I thought I’d be married again and moments where I believed I’d be single my whole life, mostly the latter. I think my son was more worried about me than I was. There were times when I embraced the idea of being single and times when I wept about it. There were girlfriends along the way, some good, some better, but with each failed connection I was forced to excavate the archaeological remains of failure and grow a higher understanding of me.

Initially I had this superficial mental idea of who I was supposed to find, not realizing that there was a real person inside of all that perfunctory shallowness. Then slowly but surely I got to know me better which added some depth to my minds-vision of who I should end up with. The best way I can describe it is like comparing a road-map to a relief-map – with all the mountains, rivers, bumps and valleys to provide some perspective. When you’re ready, your like a blind person reading braille – you can feel your way along the route. For me, it took a little while longer than it does for most people.

When I first met Emily there were no questions and no concerns. I already knew her from my mind. I wasn’t looking for a hair color or a particular personality, I was looking for her and there she was. But even though I had that initial easiness about her, she wasn’t all that prepared to meet me. She believed, like I did, but wasn’t ready to accept it until about a year later. There were, of course, obstacles to overcome and trust to establish but the hard work was done internally in both our minds while we both recovered from previous bumps and bruises. Fortunately for me, she was looking for me too. All I had was this stupid rubber ball but it turns out that she loves stupid rubber balls.

cracker-jacks

I got the better end of the stick. It turns out that her Cracker Jack box was chocked full of generosity, kindness, a sweet spirit and awesome twice-baked potatoes. In my mind, my rubber ball really didn’t really compare to all that but I guess it must have been exactly what she was looking for because it turns out that Emily is my one-true-love. She is the perfect person for me. Seven years of marriage, some seriously screwed-up butter cream cake-frosting, a job related police-raid, failed business venture and tumultuous local election later and we still love spending time with each other and she is still bringing me breakfast in bed. Not only do I love her immensely, but I can feel how strongly she loves me too. When you have what we have, you never feel jealous and you never feel insecure. No matter how our bodies evolve through age or how many mistakes we make, the love we have for each other is always profoundly present.

True love, soul mates, perfect partners…call it what you want. There are so many bad things that never enter your mind when you’re with the right person. Similarly, there are so many good things that are always on your mind when you find that certain someone. It’s a wonderfully liberating, incredible, and rewarding feeling to be with the one person in the world who really knows you inside and out, loves you unconditionally, gets all your jokes, and still wants to spend time with you regardless. When you read some of my jokes, you may understand just how lucky I truly am.