Love With A Capital L

A journey towards living an inspired life of love in the modern world

Strange, Moon Knight, and Wanda Maximoff — May 9, 2022

Strange, Moon Knight, and Wanda Maximoff

Yesterday I saw Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, last week Moon Knight wrapped up, and there is something quite interesting about them. They aren’t for everyone. I can’t remember previous Marvel films about which I could’ve said that.

Doctor Strange was a mind-bending horror trip through multiversal universes. I don’t even know if that last sentence makes any sense to you, but spoiler rules dictate that I can’t say anything else. I will say one of my sons and I liked it very much and my other son and wife, the Angel, didn’t at all. (That she didn’t is no surprise, we had come to terms with that long ago – however, that I took her on Mother’s Day is a term that we’ll need a bit more time with.) After the movie, I received a text asking me how it was, and I couldn’t exactly answer. I said it’s not for everyone, and that’s 100% true.

Moon Knight was a series on Disney+ about a relatively unknown… superhero? Avatar? A man who is awfully handsome and awfully mentally ill whose multiple personalities are being manipulated by an Egyptian god that may or may not be the skeleton of Kevin from Up. I liked the promise of the 1st episode, liked the series less and less through episode 4, LOVED episode 5, and episode 6 was fine. The first 5 were less standard superhero stuff and more painfully honest character study, until they lost their nerve and returned to a standard final act which resolved until the last 30 seconds, when it didn’t.

I feel a certain way about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that it is our mythology. Why those stories are treated with reverence and studied in English classes, and these films are treated as lowbrow trash is so confusing to me, maybe it actually is the perfect illustration. Maybe I am the lowest common denominator. Who knows? I don’t really care, though. I’ve long since left behind the term “guilty pleasure.” I am drawn to artwork that helps me understand the human condition and emotionally connect. I can’t think of a better wide AND deep, completely relatable depiction of grief than Wandavision. Or a more relevant dive into our complex mistrust of authority (sometimes we are paranoid and they really are after us) than the Winter Soldier. And though the movie was pretty disappointing, Iron Man 2 saw and highlighted our collective struggle with our own mortality in the middle of a backbreaking responsibility and a clear call to something greater.

I am not a witch destined to rule or destroy the cosmos, (at least as far as I know), but I have lost people, knew that my heart was irreparably broken, and wailed under the weight of “what do I do now, without you????” You too, right?

Anyway. What I think about these latest 2 installments of the MCU is, they were ok, not for everyone and it’s THAT evaluation that is so hopeful to me. The things that really affect us, that really mean something, probably aren’t the things that are sanded down to avoid all edges. McDonald’s “hamburgers” are engineered to be ok to everyone – that’s how you sell billions, but they’re nobody’s favorite. Your favorite probably has bacon and cranberries and a special kind of hot sauce or pickle, right? And maybe the person with you sits there wondering how you, how anyone, could possibly like that!?! Ask 3 people about Wandavision, 1 of them will have HATED every moment of it. And 1, like me, will think it’s PERFECT and go on and on, write blog posts about how deep and wonderful and real it was.

It’s funny to talk about a studio that makes movies that bring in billions of dollars like this, but I might really dislike this next Thor movie and that prospect thrills me.

Inertia — April 28, 2022

Inertia

These last few weeks, I’ve been a little… Well, it’s a little like running on a treadmill. More of a walk than a run, actually. The late winter months are usually pretty hard on my spirit, so recently I’ve made allowance for this heart sickness. A friend said last week in a contemplative retreat, “be excessively gentle with yourself,” and that’s what I’m doing.

Since I began this post last week – which was supposed to be about inertia and how if I get up and start working immediately, or jump out of bed, get dressed and go to the gym before my body can even argue, that seems to snowball for the rest of the day. And the opposite. If I come downstairs and sit down and watch an episode of Catfish first, it’s exponentially more difficult to get up and go. And it gets harder and harder the more things get between stagnation and movement. Right? It’s this way for all of us because of the simple concept of inertia: and object in motion tends to stay in motion and and object at rest tends to stay at rest.

Either of these is ok. I place no judgment on rest and no pride in motion, like we can easily do. I am being excessively gentle with myself.

But as last week’s post runs into late this week, my body is more and more achy and sore, my mind more and more dull, and my soul heavier and heavier, I wonder if this is simple inertia. Not that I’d have any idea what else it could be. Maybe I’m still wheeling this low grade illness around mindlessly like luggage at an airport.

Yesterday, at the Target, I spent an unreasonable amount of time scouring the supplements for anything that would address my non-specific symptoms. Of course, non-specificity breeds non-specificity, so that was obviously unsuccessful. As if there would be a bottle that said, “For General Blah.” Maybe there is, there seems to be bottles for everything else, but if there was, I’m not sure I’d take it. If they can’t tell me clearly what it’s for, then…

I still do the things I do, I’m still writing this post, lifting weights (though they are significant;y lighter weights than 2 months ago), still laugh easy, still sit outside and watch high school baseball games in the frigid cold. I am being excessively gentle with myself.

You know one of the most important things I’ve learned? In the past, I’d cancel appointments and hide away, but I don’t do that anymore, and that helps a lot. The Bible says it’s “not good” for us to be alone, and that’s really true. I agree that people are the worst, but people are also the absolute best. (A cool thing is that a very good friend is likely concerned and texting me as she reads these words. So to her: I am fine, just a little non-specific blah. Everyone should have beautiful friends like I do.) So I’ll keep connecting and wheeling this baggage around, driving the principle of inertia (or let it drive me). Maybe the low grade will fade imperceptibly, little by little, until it disappears altogether. Probably.

I’ll keep being excessively gentle with myself and I hope you are, too.

Patterns… — April 14, 2022

Patterns…

I can’t count how many posts I’ve written on Catfish, which I suppose would have to be called my favorite tv show right now. The last 2 shows on Netflix I’ve watched are Inventing Anna and Bad Vegan. There’s something about that…a pattern…

Bad Vegan was the account of a fancy vegan restaurant in New York City. Mostly, it was the account of it’s owner Sarma, her striking rise and equally striking downfall that landed her in prison for a few minutes. It was also the account of her husband Shane (or Anthony,) who was maybe insane or maybe just a lying fraud. I guess it’s possible he was just misunderstood, was actually fighting evil forces and was totally going to make Sarma and her dog immortal once the fight was over. For the first 2 episodes, I wondered how a brilliant business-woman could be duped by such an obvious con. But during the last 2, I wondered how I was duped by such an obvious con for 2 episodes.

One of my favorite things to say to my sons is, “You can’t possibly expect me to believe this – I’m not one of your dumb little buddies.” It’s condescending and rude, I explain, to assume I am the kind of person who is so incapable of reason and intelligent thought that I would accept the excrement you’re shoveling.

But maybe I am that kind of person. Sarma assumed I am exactly that kind of person, too. She also assumed you are, and so is everyone we know. And I DID buy it for 2 episodes!!!!

Whatever, I don’t really care about Sarma, her marriage, restaurant or her immortality. What’s interesting is how the vast majority of the things I like have everything to do with identity; who we are and the bizarre ways we contort ourselves to portray characters different than the ones we truly are.

I pastor a church and the main problem we all have with churches and the people in them is what we call hypocrisy. In the Bible, the word is an acting term, so calling me a hypocrite is exactly like saying I’m an actor, playing different roles for different audiences. This isn’t a phenomenon exclusive to the church. In fact, the harshest words in the Bible are reserved for these actors, it seems it’s not just our main problem. I spend tons of time on Sunday mornings talking about authenticity, being fully present as we are – instead of holding up this exhausting facade.

I bet this is so important to me, and why I gravitate to this sort of art, because I spent an inordinate amount of my life pretending to be someone else, someone cooler, more capable, smarter, more awesome. Once I was able to begin to set some of this baggage down and walk around as simply me, it felt light, airy, and wonderful, and I desperately wanted that for everyone.

Then of course I’d pick the baggage up again, and see the worst parts of me in that million-part Anna series and Catfish and in the kids in the high school where I work, and become overwhelmingly frustrated with them. That’s probably why I can’t stand hypocrisy, isn’t it? Because I just can’t seem to stop myself from acting.

On A Daily Basis — April 8, 2022

On A Daily Basis

Today is the most beautiful. The sun is brilliant in the cloudless sky, and that’s a pretty stark contrast to the past few days or weeks, when it had rained often and the sky was always the color of cement. The Angel tells me not to use the words always, never, and “all the time,” and I suppose she’s right. Maybe in the past 2 weeks, the sky wasn’t the color of cement for 15 minutes in the late morning. I just don’t remember it.

She tells me that because I am naturally inclined towards exaggeration. I’ll say I haven’t slept in weeks, but when pressed, I have slept but not well, and then when pressed on that, I realize that I had a night last Tuesday that was alright, so who knows what’s true anymore?

None of this always/never business matters at all because the point is that it’s a lovely day and lovely days feel like possibility, and not much has felt that way lately. This central Pennsylvania weather is an apt metaphor for the state of the world about now; raining, gray and depressing. We’re also in Lent and if you go for that sort of thing, it’s an invitation to self-reflection and, in a heart state that corresponds to late winter, melancholy. This week ahead in the church asks us to engage with the passion (which in this context means suffering), and in a culture that tries so hard to avoid uncomfortability, it’s no wonder we feel so torn apart. We simply can’t turn a blind eye to the near constant negative stimulation. So now what?

I’m happy I didn’t write this yesterday, because the tone would have been quite different. Yesterday it was raining and today is awesome. That’s enough, sometimes. Yesterday the best we could do was to just barely hold things together. Today we are 1 step away from changing the world forever, today is when my love pyramid scheme is not far away, when it’s not only possible but totally reasonable.

Tracee Ellis Ross is an actress on the tv show black-ish. She wrote a piece about the final season in Entertainment Weekly, and in it, she says, “black-ish was an opportunity for me to be free and to shine and to embody all of my values; to be able to strive for a level of excellence in the work that I do, and how I interact with the people that I work with, and to be of service and fight for equity and joy on a daily basis.”

I love it and her, I’ve read it a hundred times.

And as we’re talking, if you replace “black-ish” with anything, with whatever we do, whatever we care about, how we spend our time, and who we spend it with, her writing describes a design for our lives that is much bigger than a tv show. The “work we do” is loving each other, is holding each other’s hand and walking through the pain/suffering and flying through the celebrations, is picking us up and reminding us that we can keep going. “Fight for equity & joy on a daily basis.” Right??!!?? We continue to fight, in Lent and on Easter, yesterday in the pouring rain and today in the blinding sunshine, in late-February and in September. All isn’t lost when we’re reading horrible news while our hearts break, it just means we work the way we were designed (if your heart isn’t broken sometimes, that’s what is truly concerning) and the world doesn’t. And on those days, when we keep showing up, fighting for joy, we display an overwhelming courage that inspires us all when we wonder if we can go one more day. We can. And we will. We will be free and shine, embody our values, and keep fighting.

Anna — March 28, 2022

Anna

Inventing Anna is a new buzzy Netflix documentary-ish film. Each of the 9 episodes begins with the clever disclaimer: “The whole story is completely true. Except for the parts that are totally made up.” A wildly unlikeable “German heiress”/con artist dupes plenty of people who should have known better and (I won’t spoil it for you if you don’t know the story) may or may not end up convicted for these acts/crimes. 9 episodes. 9 long episodes about this woman and the superficial culture that made all of this possible. 9 hours of my life I won’t get back.

The acting was terrific. The writing & directing were good, music was great. The events on which it was based were surreal and fantastic. The cultural critique was sharp and pointy. It’s exactly the sort of thing the algorithm would figure I’d love, and normally it would be right, it is the sort of thing I’d love. But I hated it. I don’t have to like everything, and I don’t have to always agree with the algorithm.

There was a square of 4 desks in “Scriberia” and 3 of the 4 characters there and the trainer, Kacy, were alright. The husband of the journalist who broke the story was awesome. Everyone else (I might be swayed on the lawyer) was absolutely awful, carefully crafted images of human dollar signs.

[Awful isn’t always a dealbreaker, the greatest tv show in the history of tv is Seinfeld and there aren’t many redeeming qualities to be found. The show acknowledged this with the finale when they all ended up in jail for essentially being terrible people. But Seinfeld is the exception, an outlier. Whether they succeed or not, we need someone we like, someone to root for, someone to care about.]

Every good story – the ones we like that stick with us – contains a character arc. The protagonist is one way, and through conflict or obstacle, changes, grows, and becomes someone else by the end. We’re just the same in real life. We are who we are. Then we find ourselves (intentionally or otherwise) thrown into spaces where we learn, adapt, rise, fail, lose, win, get up or stay down. Either way, we are transformed at the end of this particular journey. Sometimes the stories hurt like crazy, but significance isn’t measured by enjoyment. And eventually the next story beckons and we engage.

We all know people who don’t, right? The people who remain the same, doing the same thing, going the same places, telling the same jokes, as the life drains from their, and our, eyes. Bored. Tired. Uninspired. And sometimes that’s us, simply surviving, going through motions, trapped in repeating loops of rut and routine.

Anna was the same in the episode 1 as episode 9. She was lonely & sad as she was chasing & catching excess, treating everyone like trash. She was lonely & sad in episode 9 as she was no longer catching the glamorous life she pursued, and still treating everyone like trash. People were to be used and discarded. At every turn, the characters made horrible decisions, ignoring their families and their souls. I found the show very very sad. I wanted more for them, I wanted them to feel loved and worthy, enough, regardless of how much money was in their bank account or how much their hotel room cost. I wanted them to rest. I wanted Anna to be held by someone who would care for her unconditionally. I wanted the lawyer to go on his vacation and Vivian to stay at home with her baby, reading Goodnight Moon and singing lullabies. (And I know not everybody wants the same things or values the same things I do…)

I also know it was a movie. Maybe she’s lovely. And maybe ‘more’ IS a worthy goal for our lives. I’m not sure, though.

The Pyramid Scheme — March 17, 2022

The Pyramid Scheme

The world is mostly on fire. Every single thing seems to be, in equal parts, depressing and terrifying. I recognize this, every moment weighs on my heart, head, stomach, and in my bones. I tell you I recognize this because we’re about to talk about youth sports again, and that can feel ridiculously insignificant.

Maybe it is, but the thing is that when problems appear to be so BIG and overwhelming, it’s easy to become paralyzed by the sheer size of the monsters in the room. Often the best (and perhaps only) action is, simply, to do something.

There’s a parable of a man and his daughter walking on the beach full of beached starfish. The young girl begins to throw them back into the ocean, one at a time. Her dad says, “you can’t save them all, what does it matter?” And she answers, of the one she’s just returned to the water, “it matters to that one.” Or at least that’s how I remember that parable going, you get the point. Honestly, as I write it, the dad is really disappointing, right?

Anyway.

We’re all watching the news, feeling the bombs and violence chip away at our souls, gas & grocery prices at our wallets, and general hopelessness at our hearts. There’s a palpable darkness that can drag us down a deep, deep spiral. Can I end this war? Can I actually affect any sort of change in the East, in the UN, in the schools, banks, hospitals, or anyone’s lives? It feels like each of those answers are no, but I’m not so sure.

Baseball meetings – it’s likely all youth sports meetings, but baseball has a special gift for bringing out crazy – can drag on and on, begging the question, “how far and how fast would I have to run to get enough force to break through that window, what injuries would the broken glass inflict, and would I survive the fall to the ground?” But as we discussed/implemented codes of conduct (because coaches and parents find ways to ruin everything and force discussions on codes of conduct), I began to consider the kids on my team, thinking about their faces, their voices, their sometimes sad family situations that are beached on the sand.

Maybe we can’t transform Vladimir Putin’s mind today, but if we can create new systems, maybe the next Putin won’t be quite so hellbent on starting a war. The idea (that sounds like a joke but isn’t at all) is one of a pyramid scheme, but instead of leggings or cleaning products, the product is love. If I love you, and you love 2 more, and those 2 love 2, and those 4 love 2 – it’s compounding interest in an economy of grace. Now, this is not the ‘love’ we usually mistake, conditional and manipulative, but a new (old) kind, a generous, unselfish, unconditional love. One that is not designed as a means to get, but as the end in itself, only to give.

In that starfish parable, instead of spreading just more of the same doctrine of despair, instead of trying so hard to break the innocent spirit of his girl, maybe the dad could start helping out and throw some starfish back. Maybe we’re all that dad with the same choice in front of us. We can choose which kind of dad we’ll be. We can keep lamenting, “what can we do???” Or we can start getting our fingers in the sand to make a difference to just one ballplayer (or student or cashier or whatever) at a time in our homes, neighborhoods, in this cracked, violent, messy, sweetly beautiful world.

Ordinary Time — March 8, 2022

Ordinary Time

I haven’t seen the new Batman film yet, but I am watching Inventing Anna on Netflix. Most of what I’m listening to is old Morrissey/smiths cds, although “Plain Sight” by John Dhali is currently playing on my Amazon music playlist called Prime Time. All of the playlist titles are forms of Prime (Optimus Prime, Prime Cuts, etc) and it’s ridiculous and embarrassing how much joy that gives me. I’m reading another long novel, which is still early enough to be daunting without the momentum that drives me to devour the last 1/3 in big bites. For now, it’s sitting next to my chair and I haven’t picked it up since Friday. I have pain in my heel and my lower back that reminds me how old I am (or at least how old I feel). My son is sick, maybe, or just playing hooky, depending on your point of view. He’s in 9th grade and significantly taller than I am. My other son started baseball practice last night. He’s a junior in high school and if I think too long about that, you’ll hear my heart crack. The Angel is lovely, as always, a divine gift from the Creator of Everything who might not have made anything as awesome as she, and is far out of my league. She doesn’t seem to mind, so I don’t bring it up.

We’re early into Lent, for whatever that means to you. At a contemplative retreat Saturday, I confessed that Lent was a season/space that meant almost nothing to me. This is odd to hear because I am the pastor of a church and maybe a pastor shouldn’t say things like that, but it’s true so maybe it’s exactly the sort of thing a pastor should say. I didn’t believe in God for the 1st half of my life because of the damage Christians, tv preachers, and local churches that are indiscernible from corporations have done to my heart. Much of my journey of faith since has been leaving that baggage behind and trying to separate and reclaim things like God, the Church, church, the Bible, and so on, from the offense that has been done in their name. Bringing the baby back in while leaving the bathwater outside, so to speak. It’s been uncomfortable and wonderful. I imagine Lent will be meaningful to me sometime soon. We’ll see.

The Church calendar travels through seasons like Lent, Easter, Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany, broken up by what is called Ordinary Time. With no Lent practice in my life, this is effectively Ordinary Time for me. That’s why I spent the first paragraph detailing my real, ordinary life. It wasn’t particularly interesting (unless heel pain is interesting to you) and it didn’t contain much in the way of what would be called in Hollywood “plot development.” It was just time.

The problem is that I can fall into the trap that says if I’m not painting towns red or jumping out of airplanes, I’m wasting time, therefore wasting my life. It’s like a life lived in sound bites, like we are a collection of EXPERIENCES, is the goal, and (lower case) experiences are boring and unsatisfying.

The thing is, that boring, unsatisfying paragraph is the most beautiful to me. I see a simple life overflowing with gifts and extraordinary ordinary everydays. And there is no such thing as just time.

We have championship games, but we also have evening practices in the gym. If we don’t love the process, don’t love the ordinary, there will be no championships. If we’re always looking ahead, waiting for the caps-locked moments, we’ll miss the other, far more often, quiet days, weeks, months, and years. Our wedding was awesome and I’ll remember it forever, but it pales in the deep significance and rich fulfillment of the marriage. These last 2 days home with my boy (no matter the reason) that feel so uneventful, won’t always be available. He’ll move out and create his own life, and I’ll look back and wish for 2 more uneventful days with him when he was 14. So these 2 days home are miracles that must not be missed wishing we were somewhere else doing something else worthy of envy-inducing photos on social media.

This is my overwhelming gratitude for this big, wonderful, ordinary life that has been so much better than I could have ever imagined in any dream in any universe.

Fidelity — February 25, 2022

Fidelity

I read High Fidelity, by Nick Hornby, this week for what was roughly the 20th time. If you haven’t read it at all, I can’t imagine why. You should. It’s full of music and Top 5 lists and relationships, 3 of the things that make living so great.

Now. Last Monday was the artificial greeting card holiday Valentine’s Day, and I wrote a post about how it wasn’t great, but that was ok because marriage isn’t always GREAT, sometimes it’s average and sometimes it’s hard and that is ok, too. I have the privilege and honor of officiating weddings, and if I could force them to do anything afterwards, it would be to connect with a group of other young married couples and one couple who isn’t newly married.

When you get married, at some point you look at the other and wonder if you’re broken, if you’ll ever get things back “the way they were,” and then inevitably, you’ll think that you’re probably the only couple who is going through this, others are rolling along, laughing, having meaningful conversations and tons of sex. You’ll wonder, “are we over?” You’ll ask one of the dumbest questions in the history of mankind, “have we fallen out of love?” And maybe say something equally silly, “I love him/her, but I’m not in love with him/her,” whatever that means.

High Fidelity is about that sort of transition from the excitement of a new person, new face, new story, new relationship into the steady state of commitment to the same person, same face, same story, same relationship.

Now, 1 thing about that. In a small crafty shop in a backwooods town in Tennessee, I saw a quote written over the text on a page of a book: You don’t read the same book twice. While the book stays the same, you are always changing (hopefully). The person next to you in bed or across from you at dinner is always changing, it’s never the “same” person, story, or relationship. Part of the problem is that we stop seeing them as growing, evolving, we stop asking them questions assuming we already know the answers.

Everybody feels like they’ve fallen out of love at some point, because a. We think love is a feeling, so when we stop feeling it, it must be gone. Of course it’s not; a feeling OR gone. The other reason is that we are bored, not because they’re boring but because we chose not to find them interesting.

I have always loved to date. I love asking questions, finding out the backstory – why you are who you are, what do you care about, why, what’s the ‘yes’ that drives everyday, and on and on. I love a new album, putting it on and listening to it for the first time. What will I hear? Is there something (a chord change, guitar solo, lyric) that will change my life? And I think, “YES!!! There it is!!” But the new albums have filler songs, too, and after a few weeks, before I even know what I’m doing, The Queen Is Dead is back on and I’m finding new treasures in “I Know It’s Over.”

We think our partners are background noise, Muzak, or just a soundtrack to our lives, and that new person we are seeing on Instagram is the brand new hit with the hot producer-songwriter team. We’re wrong, they are both. Or they can be.

High Fidelity talks about women’s underwear. We think the new is always wearing the sexy panties, while the commitment is wearing the worn in faded comfy underwear. But the new has the comfy ones, too. And the commitment has the sexy ones. We just stopped paying attention.

So if we are honest enough to say, “um, I don’t really like my husband very much right now,” terrified that you’re careening towards a messy divorce and you swore you’d stay married forever and and and!!!! Then we’d find every other couple everywhere who will say, “oh sure, me too” or “that’s normal” or “and?” And then we’ll share stories and laugh and feel like we’re not alone and not broken, we’re just married. And it’s awesome. Because that person with the comfy AND sexy panties, with the constantly changing opinions and dreams, with the lips that are the absolute BEST to kiss, who knows just how to lay like spoons, is still as great as ever. We know what the other likes for breakfast, what pants show off their curves best, what movies, dessert, toothpaste they like. We married them for a reason. And now we choose to continue to get to know them. We choose to care what they like for breakfast. We keep asking a truckload of questions. We keep choosing them. And they do the same with us.

My very favorite song is “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out.” I’ve heard it a gazillion times, it’s playing as I write this, and it is never not amazing. I know what’s coming, but when Morrissey sings, “take me anywhere I don’t care I don’t care I don’t care,” it squeezes my heart in just the right places. When I put headphones on and focus, it’s surprising and fresh and I hear new things every time. The Angel is the like that. To tell you the truth, I think probably the reason I hold marriage in such high regard, is her – my exciting new number 1 with a bullet AND the treasure I know with the lips and curves and chord changes that are always perfect.

Not Love — February 22, 2022

Not Love

There was a Catfish on this morning that ended with the catfishing couple in each other’s arms, the rare happy ending. Only as I was watching, it didn’t feel happy at all. The person answered the gazillion-dollar question of “Why?” with, “I didn’t want her to leave,” which sounds sort of sweet and romantic.

At the end of Guardians Of The Galaxy, Rocket (the raccoon) asks the Nova Corps officer, “What if I see something that I want to take, and it belongs to someone else?” The officer (played by the always awesome John C. Reilly): “Well, you will be arrested.” Rocket pushes, “But what if I want it more than the person who has it?” John C. Reilly: “Still illegal.” Rocket: “That doesn’t follow. No, I want it more, sir. Do you understand?” This sounds exactly like this Catfish. I want it, so I’ll do whatever I have to do to have it.

She said, “I didn’t want her to leave,” and figured that was a terrific reason to misrepresent herself. But what about the other? Who cares??? The only concern was the Catfish and her own interests. She, like Rocket, saw something she wanted to take.

Saturday night, the Angel and I watched the Tinder Swindler on Netflix. This documentary detailed the story of a guy who lied and lied and lied to everyone he could possibly lie to, creating an intricate pyramid scheme. He’d manipulate one woman, “steal” her money to pay for another woman, using her money to pay for another woman, and on and on. He lived this extravagant globe-hopping lifestyle bankrolled by women all over the world that he caught on matching app Tinder.

It was impossible to watch the doc and feel any other way than this “Simon” was a monster. (Now, I say impossible, but that’s not entirely true. There were plenty of embarrassing trolls who took to the internet to blame the women!!! Whatever.) But the Catfish played as touching and beautiful, love persevering against all odds. Almost like the lies proved how real the emotions were, the depth of the facade evidence of the depth of the hearts involved. I wonder what the difference was, other than the directors & film editors.

The scene in Guardians was comedy, the Tinder Swindler was tragedy, and Catfish was romance, but all were different versions of Rocket, hopelessly selfish and single-minded in achieving the desired item (even if the item is a human being). All based on one simple precept: If I want it more, I should have it.

This is not romance. This is not love, and in fact bears little resemblance to actual love. Love asks, and in the asking, releases control and gives it to the other, gives the other the power to say yes…or to say no. Love does not take, either by force or deception. This town isn’t big enough for manipulation and respect. Control and love cannot coexist, no matter what the soundtrack is, and I’m pretty sure we should stop pretending they do.

The Worst Valentine’s Day — February 15, 2022

The Worst Valentine’s Day

There are a lot of drawbacks to being married to me, the fact that I’m writing about a pretty terrible Valentine’s Day on the internet isn’t even close to the biggest. But it isn’t great.

The Angel and I have been together for 24ish years, and in the course of those 24ish years, yesterday was The Worst Valentine’s Day we’ve had. (Maybe it’s important to say that I’m not the best at caring about greeting card holidays, but I do love LOVE and I do love my wife, so I’ll participate;)

We often talk about youth sports in this space. Over the years, all of us of a certain age has noticed a trend that we’ll call the Sportscenter-ification of the games. What I mean is that almost nobody watches entire games, we watch the highlights on Sportscenter or YouTube or forwarded GIFs. I coach baseball for boys who have very little knowledge and/or perspective of a game. These kids have no appreciation for the ups & downs, the slow parts, and fundamentals are a completely lost art (I KNOW I sound like everybody’s dad, talking about how it was “when I was young,” and that hurts me a little. Anyway, I am somebody’s dad.) We’ve been conditioned to think a game is all dunks and home runs.

Our culture suffers from this same malady. For instance, we think marriage is the same; all highlights and clip packages, candles, bubble baths, one long music montage set to some bouncy love song. And when it’s not, we think we’re broken. That the love is gone. That we’re doing something wrong. That it’s not how it’s supposed to be.

The thing is, that whole Sportscenter-ification is a lie. Marriage is time outs and bunts and bounce passes. It’s crappy Valentine’s days and wonderful random Thursdays. Life, too. It’s not all mountain tops, it’s Monday mornings, too.

The Church has a liturgical year. Yes, there is Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, and Easter. But there’s also the rest, which is called Ordinary Time. That’s perfect, right? Ordinary Time. We go to work, change diapers, watch tv, eat in the car. Not all of our workouts are personal records, sometimes we’re tired and all we can do is get there at all.

It’s not broken. We’re not broken. We’re not doing anything wrong. I wrote a card to my wife yesterday that spelled out how overwhelming and wonderful it is that after 24 years, our relationship is so much better than it was on our wedding day. And that’s absolutely true. Kissing her slow and soft still gives me butterflies, it’s still shocking that I get to be the one that gets to do it. We make dinner together, make the bed together, change our bunny’s litter box and sit next to each other complaining about our sore backs in bleachers at basketball games. Of course, there are also fireworks and game winning half court shots and championships.

Sometimes the bands/singers on the radio are horrible, sometimes they’re just ok. It’s not always the Greatest, it’s not always Morrissey. And the songs aren’t always There Is A Light That Never Goes Out. And it’s a crazy delusion to think they would be.

The Angel & I communicate very very very well, (even so far as to discuss how the wheels fell off on our Valentine’s Day – it’s not high maintenance, it’s real, and it’s really important). We talk a lot, laugh and cry together, trust each other, find beauty in every day, love each other to the moooon even when things aren’t going perfectly. We advance the runner, catch fly balls, make our free throws and rebound. Teams that do those things win, marriages that do those things never break, and lives built on that are full and awesome, even when they aren’t.

Happy (best, worst, and everything in between) Valentine’s Day, everyone.