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Football, Fairytales and Everlasting Love

Some people get addicted to the hormonal high that comes with new attraction; the nervousness and excitement.  I asked someone recently what it was like moving from one relationship to the next and he replied that it was exciting.  I nodded and bit my lip.  Exciting.  Well, that wasn’t going to last.  And sure enough, in no time at all he had added someone newer on top of the someone new.  He had lots of justifications for it but I truly believe it was boredom more than anything and a desire for sex without strings.  And it appears to me that he’s still “hunting”.

He’s not the only one.  I see people doing it a lot.  Women do it as frequently as men.  They get addicted to the fairytale feeling that comes before he burps and farts and collapses on the couch to watch football for several hours during which he only yells and grunts.

The excitement and illusion of fairytale perfection aren’t permanent.  As grown men and women one would think we’d get that but so many of us do not, so we serially jump into new relationships trying to capture the first blush of romance over and over again all the while bemoaning the lack of worthy men and women.  The loneliness of not having found “the one”.

I’m pragmatic by nature.  I always have been.  I never thought of myself as a princess and I never dreamed of a Prince Charming.  Maybe it was the example of my parents.  They had a true love.  It was gritty and real and romantic and committed.  When my mom became ill, my dad cared for her.  People asked him why he didn’t put her in a home and he would always respond with a blank look, as if he suddenly didn’t understand English.  He loved her.

But most people don’t seem to understand the nature of lasting love.  That it sticks through boredom and drama.  That it lasts during sickness and health, times of prosperity and want.  Ah, I seem to be reciting traditional wedding vows.  I didn’t do so intentionally.  I’m discovering what I want to say as I say it.

The thing is, if you want lasting love you have to be willing to let go of the flutter of excitement and the fairytale.  You can build passion and it’s better than excitement any day of the week, in my opinion.  You can build fantastic sex.  It usually gets better over time, not boring, not worse.  Better.  You learn to connect and trust and that’s a very deep and cool thing.  So much better than simple lust.

If you don’t want a relationship, be up front about it.  There are plenty of men and women that want friends with benefits and random sexual encounters.  Stick with those folks, don’t mess with the people who are looking for a true and lasting connection.

And remember that women will almost always equate touch with love.  In the beginning they may say they’re okay with sex – no strings attached – but they’re thinking you’ll change.  That you will come to want only them.  We’re funny that way, we women.  We believe we can change men with sex.  wry smile  The truth is – and we all know it – it just doesn’t happen often enough to mention.

What makes a lasting relationship?  Commitment.  That’s it folks.  That’s the foundation.  You have to want it and you stick with it.  You don’t go looking for a distraction.  You look at the person you love, take a deep breath, and remember all the things you loved in the beginning.  You remind yourself of why you said forever.

Imagine how different our lives would be if we did that.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to have an amazing couple of months with someone.  I don’t want to experience the pain of an ended relationship.  I want the kind of love that sticks through the hard stuff and grows.

That’s it.  Remember when I “talk” I’m not preaching.  I’m speaking to myself as much as I’m speaking to you.

Legacy of Love

What do you do when your body betrays you and you can no longer command your limbs or your eyes or your tongue?  What do you do when your walk becomes a stumble and then you fall and there’s no way up except on another person’s arm?

I remember the first time I saw my mom fall.  She had stumbled before and I’d noticed that it was happening more frequently but one day she fell and couldn’t get up again.  Her tears frightened me and I ran to help her up but all I could do was get her to the edge of the room where she could lean up on the wall.

I remember asking her what I should do.  I was panicking.  She told me it was okay.  She would wait for my dad to come home from work.  Until then, she would crawl where she needed to go.  My voice rose and broke as I repeated, “Crawl?”  She smiled through her tears and nodded.  Then she told me that she was grateful that she could.

I learned about Multiple Sclerosis that day.  I learned about the diagnosis and why she’d been sick for so long.

Eventually, she was unable to voluntarily move at all.  She wore diapers and received nourishment through a gastronomy tube.  And she never lost her smile or her gratitude.

This morning, the last day of 2013, I’m thinking of the legacy of love and gratitude that she left me.  The legacy of faith and grace.  She wasn’t blessed with health and it’s hard for me to think about the struggles.  About the way she suffered silently, but think about it I must because it’s in the light of that suffering that she shined so beautifully right up until the day she died, body bent and broken and ruined.

I want to create that kind of legacy for my children and the people I love.  I want to create that kind of legacy, period.  In the end it’s all that survives, the love and kindness that we show.  Or the opposite.  That survives too.

Each and every day we are living our legacy.  We are teaching our children how to be.  We are touching the world.

In 2014 I want to grow ever more in the direction of love and kindness.  I want to be like my mom and create a legacy of love.

The Forever Dream

 

She dreams of standing in a field of dry knee high grass in a bright sundress, barefoot and brown and beautiful. Closing her eyes she smiles into the breeze and feels the soft brush of wishes against her shoulders and cheeks. Small dandelion dreams born on the wind, brush past her eyelids and catch for a moment on her bottom lip.

 

As the wind picks up and lifts the hem of her dress, she turns in slow circles, arms outstretched, bright sun raining down on the crown of her head, turning it bright and golden.

 

When she opens her eyes she sees a bright reflection in the near distance. Like a human divining rod, she smells water and heads in that direction, brushing open hands against heads of wheat grass that tickle her palms.

 

The river rises up to meet her and changes its course to lie down at her feet. Boarded by rocks, a crystal clear, still pool invites her to shed her clothes. She lifts her arms as the breeze plays against her knees and slides gently up her thighs while the flowered sun dress spills into the grass and takes root.

 

She bends to pluck a flower from the field of her recent sundress and steps into the water which is cold. She shivers as a chill travels ankle to chest, and she crosses her arms beneath her breasts, but heat follows the chill and leaves her burning.

 

Sinking into the water, she smiles back at her reflection and softly sighs as hands run up her inner thighs. She is liquid and light and solid and melting; born of earth and water.

 

Whose hands play against her skin? Whose lips are those? Who is it who pushes her back on the bank of grass, hips in water, sand against the small of her back?

 

She knows the feel of him but not his form. His voice is familiar but unknown, Rest your feet here against my shoulders, just like that.

 

Grabbing her hips, he pulls her down to meet him. His lips are a breath away from hers. Her knees are pressed back and open.

Please… she says, I want…

 

A pause

 

You want what? He asks.

 

She wants to say his name, but it’s forbidden. She wants to ask for things that are not hers.

 

Teasing, he circles his hips, brushes his lips against hers, You can’t ask?

 

She shakes her head no even as she says, please just…

 

She gasps when he moves inside her.

 

The earth softens and welcomes her as she sinks down, down, down.  Warm sunshine against her face, warm earth against her back, warm body pressing in.  She sinks down again.

 

She cries out, sinking her fingers into the earth as he fills her with the bright promise of new life and gently pulls away. Her eyes flutter shut as warm earth closes around her and the last thing she feels is a kiss.

 

Her soul is quiet as she lies fertilized and planted, ready to be born again; a child of earth and water.

 

Stand by me

A long time ago I had a pastor friend that stood by me during one of the hardest phases of my life. My father had died unexpectedly, my six-year old daughter had been raped and I’d voluntarily given up the job of my dreams overseas to return to the relative safety of the USA and extended family who I felt needed me.

I was exhausted, traumatized, worried and wounded by life circumstances and by a church that in effect abandoned my family in a time of need. But this one pastor, this dear friend, stood by me and let my pain and hurt wash over him without judgment and without internalizing any of it.

While I recognized his love and patience as being extraordinary, I was too wounded to reciprocate. I took him for granted, willingly accepted his practical help and moral support and limped along occasionally raging, often crying. I know I wasn’t much fun to be around.

His loving presence and acceptance of me without needing to correct me and without judgment seeped into my heart and began to change me. I felt the power of his love and commitment and I was softened and warmed by it, and my life was changed.

It’s that memory that keeps me faithful and whispers patience to me when I want to give up.

It takes discernment to know when to stay and when it’s time to pull the plug. There’s no one pat answer. I’m simply relating my personal experience to say, don’t give up too easily. Maybe, just maybe, your patience and love will make all the difference.

Catfish

I recently discovered the MTV show Catfish: The TV show.  Apparently, a Catfish is someone who poses as someone else online or lies about who they are in one way or another in order to lure people into relationships.  I actually ran into a psychopathic Catfish back in 2007.  He was trolling for attention, sex, fantasy, money… The truth is, I can’t begin to understand his psychology.  I only know that I will be happy if I never encounter another person as devious and sick as he.

The episodes of Catfish that I’ve seen haven’t featured anything as sick as what I encountered personally.  Generally, the Catfish seem to fall into a couple general categories:  1) The unhappy man or woman in a committed relationship, looking for fantasy and escape, and 2) Men and women who wish they were more successful, better looking or more exciting.

While I cannot imagine pretending to be someone other than I am, I can understand the desire to escape or present a “better” version of myself.  For instance, I used to post pictures taken at specific angles, designed to make me look thinner.  I got to be fit and it was fun and so much easier than actually working.

I also found myself living somewhat of a fantasy in that I was phenomenally social online and a virtual hermit offline.  I express myself best in writing so being on a social network provided me the opportunity to put my best foot forward: Kate 2.0, that was me.

Eventually, even the small alterations I made became a burden.  I wanted to be accepted in my imperfections.  Connection isn’t  real until it sees and loves fully.  I didn’t want to be a fantasy.  I just wanted to be me, full of imperfections but doing my best to be a kind and compassionate human.

One of the dangers of our cultural obsession with online media is that it tempts us to post only the best pictures of ourselves and it’s easy to white wash our lives, causing us to form incomplete connections.

I used to believe that online friendships were purer and more honest than offline friendships because they level the playing field.  It doesn’t much matter how we look or what we do for a living or where we live.  The thing is, those details do come into play and they’re very much a part of who we are.  When we alter them even slightly we’re presenting ourselves falsely in varying degrees.

I started out online only showing my feet and knees.  It was my thing.  Eventually, I began to show me but always in the best possible light and like I said, it truly bothered me.  It was a long process for me but eventually I came clean and said, “This is me and I’m nowhere close to being your fantasy.”

That gave me the courage to finally go out and meet people I’d known online for years.  I was afraid but I knew they weren’t expecting Kate 2.0.  Without exception, we clicked as well face-to-face as we had online, if not better.  It was a hugely freeing experience for me.

Back to Catfish.  Some of the most compelling stories I’ve seen have been stories of goodhearted, well intentioned people who were afraid they’d never be accepted because of how they looked.  In most instances, appearances didn’t really matter once they were revealed because people had formed heart connections.  The real issue seems to be dishonesty.  Nobody likes being lied to.  It erodes trust.  Better unattractive or dirt poor than dishonest.

Like I said before, I haven’t seen any episodes of the show where there were huge deceits like the one I dealt with in 2007.  Malicious, sick pretenses.  I’ve mostly seen average people who wish they were other than they are, looking for connection.

I wish more of us would get offline and back into life with all it’s challenges and imperfections.  I wish more of us would work to make honest connections and in the process accept ourselves more fully for the beautifully flawed people we are.

Finally, I think the escape element of online life is incredibly damaging and keeps us in unhappy relationships.  Instead of talking to our significant other we escape to a place of fantasy online where everything is shiny and easy.  I love that Nev and Max on Catfish always insist that people deal with their offline relationships before they seek to meet anyone from their online world.  They encourage honesty and courage.

May we all seek to be honest and courageous.

Have you ever met a Catfish?  In what ways do you “manage” your online image?  I’m curious to hear your stories.

Babies not Biological Material

Fetus.  I hate that word and all it has come to mean.  A fetus isn’t a person.  It’s biological material that can be sucked out and thrown away.  Disposed of in any number of ways.

Sometimes I go to the Museum of Science and Industry in Portland, Oregon and look at the display of unborn babies suspended in formaldehyde or some other preservative.  In jars like pickles.  Little tiny people.  It’s meant to teach and I know it does but it makes me feel physically sick to see them there.  It feels to me about like I imagine it might feel to walk into a home and find Uncle Albert’s head mounted above the mantle like a deer or elk.  Those are tiny people in those jars.  How can anyone not see it?  I understand that it’s much more comfortable to think of those developing babies as mere biological matter.  It makes it acceptable to erase a “mistake” and continue on as if nothing more has happened than the removal of a mole.

And those of us who have miscarried, who didn’t want to get pregnant but somehow did and considered it a miracle and a gift rather than an inconvenience…

I have nothing more to say right now.  I can’t type through my tears.  What’s wrong with us?  How can we do the things we do and feel perfectly justified doing them?  It’s monstrous.

The Ghost of Christmas Past

A blur of lights and green, happy voices, a single wheel of a wheelchair, red-socked feet.  The camera tilts upright and finds it’s focus, pulling me like the Ghost of Christmas past back to another time when my parents were alive and the children were so small.

My mom in her wheel chair is singing and clapping.  Her voice is tuneless and her hands miss more than they connect but her smile is joyful, beautiful.   Our oldest son appears in frame, grabs his grandma’s hands and helps her clap in rhythm.  Spasms pull against his child’s strength but together they match the Christmas music in the background.  Our oldest daughter squeaks, “Good job, Grandma!  Good job!”

My brother is being a good sport in a pillow stuffed red sweater and Santa beard.  It’s clear he doesn’t know what to do.  The camera bounces as I pull my eye away from the view finder and tell him to find presents.  “Be Santa,” I say.  “Find something for Dad first.”

In response, our dad’s big booming baritone rises over the song that’s playing on the radio as he sings All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth! The words are all wrong, expect for the chorus, but his enthusiasm is sweet.  I remember how I smiled to hear him.  I turn the camera to capture him but only get to his chest before the camera tilts and flashes back to my brother, pulling from under the tree a present.

The video is about 15 minutes long and not once do I capture my father’s face.  I watch and smile through tears.  The only evidence that I was there is my voice and feet.  The only evidence of my father is his voice and flashes of his plaid shirt and brown pants;  hands carefully folding back paper from presents.

The kids run in and out of view, sometimes pulling faces and holding their arms out TA-DAH! as they jump into frame and out again, hamming it up for the camera.

I’ll never forget those Christmases past, those bright shining moments when we were happy and life seemed forever long.  It’s hard for me to believe that both of my parents are gone.  It was my father’s last Christmas.  He died two weeks prior to Christmas the coming year.

One day my children will sit as I am, remembering Christmases past and I’ll be nothing more than a memory.  I want more than anything to leave them with happy memories, which means that I have to live well now.  I have been given no promise of tomorrow.

My friends, I encourage you to do your best to put aside petty worries and concerns, family squabbles, stress.   I well know there are bigger, insurmountable obstacles in families.  I have my own.  But I lay those aside and focus on what’s possible.  I practice love and kindness, court patience.  I try not to sweat the small stuff.

“…once or twice when there were angry words between some dinner-carriers who had jostled each other, he shed a few drops of water on them from it, and their good humour was restored directly. For they said, it was a shame to quarrel upon Christmas Day. And so it was! God love it, so it was!”

A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens