Love With A Capital L

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

Tragedy — September 26, 2022

Tragedy

This weekend, I watched a Netflix documentary series that was one of the most depressing things I have ever witnessed. And what I’m going to try to do is find beauty and hope in it. Try.

First, let me tell you about what I did Saturday. We (my family and some visiting in-laws) piled in a car and went to the local amusement park. It’s local but it’s also known around the whole world. That’s always an interesting dichotomy to reconcile in my head. Something extraordinarily famous is in my backyard, making it feel familiar and routine, like if Lady Gaga was your sister.

(But I always write about taking amazing things for granted, like kissing the Angel and kindness and Morrissey, so I won’t today.)

What was striking about this park is the extent of the corporate greed on display. I recognize this is nothing new in commercial America, where industry is built at the altar of MORE. Parking fees and food prices are obscene and attendees are shoehorned in until actually riding rollercoasters is nearly impossible, as receipts pile up. I rode 3 rides and waited an hour and a half for the privilege of buying hot dogs.

I am not an idiot. I have a business degree and a working knowledge of insurance and hidden costs. I don’t even have a problem with rising profits. This “wonderland” provides a service that is specific and fantastic, they should all get filthy rich on it. My problem is the contempt they showed for me and all of the other suckers who essentially paid to stand on their property. I can take the fact that I am not their #1 priority. So, I’m educated as a business major and a marketer, but I was raised in the ‘90’s to distrust and rage against any, and all, machines. Especially the machines that can’t even manage to even pretend that I’m in their top 20 list of importance.

Which brings me to the Woodstock 99 documentary, Trainwreck. This is, first and foremost, a story of dollars > people. But it’s also a story of people who are either a) treated like animals because they are, or b) behaving like animals because they’re treated like animals. I happen to believe it’s the second. Probably even the sweetest bunny rabbit will bite if it’s cornered and beaten for long enough. Most of us will lash out if we are hated loudly enough. Maybe we wouldn’t set the town on fire, but we might kick the dumb insincere peace and love signs down. And it does take a special kind of monster to sexually assault another simply because they are in close enough proximity to do so.

Which brings me to the thread that ties all of these together. Simply because we can doesn’t mean we should. Because the amusement park is the only game in town doesn’t mean a 1,000% markup on popcorn is any less offensive. Because the Woodstock promoters can have 1 water fountain for every 100,000 people doesn’t mean it’s acceptable, and because some frat boy can grope a woman (and much, much worse) without being stopped doesn’t make it less abhorrent.

Now. There is a bright side. “Mob mentality” was referenced over and over in the doc, and that same concept applies to board rooms and management meetings. We all think so (or we think we all think so), so we all go along. We say, “we could probably raise prices another 100% before it begins to keep anyone away,” and we look around for agreement, salivating over bonuses and perks, drowning out any voices of dissent, and we end up raising them 125%. We see those neanderthals setting fires and pulling down towers and the internal voice that objects goes silent and, the next thing we know, we’re turning over nearby cars and trying to break into ATMs.

We’re social creatures, looking for belonging and acceptance. The good news about this is if we were to, say, replace the violence for generosity, switch anger for care. You know when you’re around someone relentlessly positive and hopeful, you feel buoyant and like maybe this ship doesn’t have to sink? Same principle. If we, just 2 or 3 of us to start, were to treat the women in our midst with respect instead of trying to rip their clothes off at a concert, maybe everyone would. Probably everyone would. Certainly everyone would. And those that wouldn’t would find their actions met with strong resistance and protection. If we would begin to love each other, treat each other like the treasures we are, then we could make new paths that are easier for the rest of us to tread. And then Woodstock might really be about the beauty of humanity and its creative spirit and we’d all be rich beyond our wildest imagination.

When Nothing Changes — September 20, 2022

When Nothing Changes

Last week I spoke about marriage, relationships, and the importance of not believing the story is over with the commitment, with the “I do.” But sometimes we do, things fall apart, and we wake up to the reality that what we have is miles away from what we had, or what we wanted, or dreamed we’d have. This is not exclusive to marriage. Our children, careers, health (whether mental, physical, spiritual, and/or financial), and on and on, all are susceptible to this heartbreaking disappointment.

I’ve struggled with food (sugar, mostly) & weight for almost my entire life. I would lose some weight, then once I would reach a goal, or “arrive,” then I would lose focus and over time, get back to a situation where I would have to lose some weight again. Obviously, I’m not the only one, the diet industry is massive and thrives on this sort of behavior. We’ve all been in jobs where they’re not what we signed up for – or they are, but we hoped they’d change, or hoped we could change them. We have relationships that have fallen into abuse, or infidelity, or disrepair.

Somehow, these circumstances (whatever they are) become uncomfortable, or unfulfilling, or destructive. And then what? What do we do?

We want to lose weight and don’t transform our lifestyles, don’t alter our behavior in the kitchen. We hate our jobs, yet resign to mindless routine. Our marriages are eroding and we continue to walk the same steps in the same old snow. There are a million examples, as unique as we are, but the heart posture is the same; despair. It is what it is. Really? Is it?

What if we could restore our families? What if we could reconnect with our spouses? Or find purpose in our careers? Treat our bodies with care and respect? All of this is totally possible, but none of it can happen while we’re stuck in the same ruts made by the same thinking and apathy that caused them. We don’t make new lives at a wishing well alone, don’t create new worlds saying “new worlds” while grasping with white knuckles to the old ones.

Nothing changes if nothing changes. We live these loops, rather than risk taking steps into unknown. These things require dreams and imagination, but not only dreams and imagination. They are the vital beginning, but then, they need to pass into action. Otherwise, the dreams will die, our imagination gets sucked away, and we mourn for the promise of what yesterday was and what tomorrow could be.

I think it’s time to break those soul-crushing loops, and they are simple enough to destroy. All it takes is the courage to move. All it takes is leaving the wide worn path we’ve been walking down. Of course it’s scary, taking (and missing) shots, stepping (and falling) into darkness, making new futures, but we’re all in this together. And to paraphrase the great philosopher Tim McGrath (of Rise Against) says, “let’s take this one step at a time, I’ll hold your hand if you hold mine.”

Love Stories — September 14, 2022

Love Stories

I’m reading a book called Just Like You, by Nick Hornby. This is the same author who wrote High Fidelity (one of the greatest works of art this planet has ever seen) and About A Boy. He’s written many other books (fiction and non-) and they are all fantastic, as is this one. I can’t understand why it’s taken me so long to finish, every time I pick it up, I don’t want to put it back down. It’s about an older woman (and by older, she is years younger than I am now, so it stings a little to write ‘older woman’), Lucy, who is falling into a relationship with a younger man named Joseph. The back cover says it’s “brilliantly observed, warm, tender, but also brutally funny,” and that’s true. It’s also a pretty great description of everything else he’s written.

I’m thinking now about how many (all) love stories detail the beginnings & ends of relationships. As they start, and feelings grow, the conversations brilliant, clumsy, each word & phrase carefully studied, every touch charged with electricity, tomorrows are uncertain and wildly exciting. The characters wonder if, maybe drift away and run back, and the story ends with some sort of commitment. The other, heartbreaking kind illustrates what happens when that love, that commitment, screeches to an emotional train wreck. The heightened passion that contained such promise transforms into screamed insults, abuse, broken dishes & furniture. The tears have a different cause, the soundtrack changes keys. The first part is a rom-com, the last is award bait.

The only phase that doesn’t warrant telling is the middle, unless it’s marked by infidelity, secrets, lies, homicidal nannies and boiled rabbits. It would seem a happy marriage is either unbearably boring, or a unicorn, stunning but imaginary.

But that’s simply not true, and maybe the widespread cultural acceptance of such a damaging belief is the very reason it persists.

We meet cute, ride a wave of romantic emotion, hearts in our eyes, get married and settle into a monotonous routine. We take the other for granted and “remember when” things were new and fresh, our best feet and underwear forward, and lament as this person in front of us gets sick, has morning breath, in-laws, period panties, and hogs the bed and all of the covers. We think we know them, their dreams, heartbreaks, and their stories, the pursuit ends, and wonder when everything fell apart.

The truth is, we broke when we thought we fell in love and stopped falling in love. When the wedding vows folded into the end credits. Our relationships got boring because we got boring, and we got boring because we thought there was nothing left to do, thought there were no areas of our partner left unexplored. We stopped talking, asking questions, listening. We thought our love story ended, so it did.

Playing guitar doesn’t get less interesting the more someone plays. Shooting percentages don’t go down with more and more practice. The artwork of a carpenter doesn’t suffer as they continue to build.

Percentages go down, artwork suffers, and things get less interesting as less interest is given. If you think sex is worse the more it happens, and that the first time is the best time, I don’t know what to tell you. When bodies and souls learn each other, and move together as one, as 2 people love in spirit as well as flesh…that sort of beautiful dance is not the fumbling of beginners any more than Hendrix’s is the fretwork of a novice, or Steph Curry’s jump shot is one of a weekend warrior at the local gym.

Conversations still crackle with energy, a kiss still is sweeter than lemon pie, coming home still carries the quake of anticipation – if only we allow them. We are all endless fountains of changing currents, the people we were as we exchanged rings are not the people we are now. We’re still just as fascinating as we were on the first date, except tonight, we have history and experience as well as surprise and novelty. She’s still as strong, he’s still as funny. Her smile still makes you lose your memory, his sharp intellect still amazes you. If only we allow it. If only we pay attention. If only we don’t stop falling in love. If only we keep choosing to love the other, every moment of every day.

Marriage & commitment is far from boring, it moves and carries us and gives us new blessings and wonders every day. It’s not easy, nothing worthwhile ever is, and it sometimes hurts like crazy. But we are in this forever and no amount of hurt can ever wear the shine off of the 10 million hours we’ve given to each other. Boring? Not even close. It’s totally real and it’s spectacular. If only we let it.

The Differences — August 18, 2022

The Differences

2 years ago, we all decided to draw battle lines over a pandemic and a shot (or 4). There were many conversations (often very contentious) over a vaccination, whether we would or would not, with just as many reasons why or why not. The one I found most compelling was the one centered around a growing mountain of conflicting information. Scientific wisdom shifted almost daily, the evidence we staked our arguments upon became obsolete seemingly as soon as we adopted them.

But if we so much as suggested this confusion and mistrust, we were quickly branded anti-vaxxers, or right wing conspiracy theorists. I am neither. I had questions, concerns. I believe we all had some experience with this, no matter what we believed. No matter what questions we asked, they were met with wild aggression.

Now, the CDC is admitting that public guidance was “confusing and overwhelming.” Dr Rochelle P. Walensky, director of the CDC, says, “we are responsible for some pretty dramatic, pretty public mistakes, from testing to data to communications.”

I’m watching The Vow right now, an HBO documentary on the cult NXIVM. I’m sure I’ll talk more in depth about this a little later, once I finish the 9 episodes. But in the one I was watching this morning, a woman was speaking under the condition of anonymity to avoid the snap judgments she had faced. People were unbearably rude to her, calling her all sorts of nasty adjectives before (and often without) knowing her name. “How could someone be so stupid to willingly participate in a cult like this?” those on the outside asked.

I’m positive there are parallels as well as distinctions to make between the CDC and NXIVM, and I’m also positive I don’t want to make them. My concern is how it’s so easy for us to decide another’s why, so easy to lock another in boxes in which they can’t ever escape. We fought like animals (mostly on social media) because we all made assumptions about those whose only crime was to arrive at a different conclusion – and in my case, I hadn’t even arrived. Sometimes, the crime was to not agree fast enough.

When did honest questioning or respectful discourse become such terrible transgressions? I know this didn’t start in 2020, with Covid-19, but I don’t exactly care when it started. I do care about how it ends.

I have a good friend who is a transgender woman. As a white man, I know nothing at all about the perspective of a transgender woman, so I ask a lot, A LOT, of questions. And she, who is endlessly graceful, answers them all. And that is why we call each other ‘good friends.’ We don’t agree on everything, have vastly different experiences, homes, families, and we certainly don’t see the world through the same lenses, but we don’t have to. We just have to care for each other.

A monochromatic world is totally uninteresting. I don’t know why that woman chose to do the things she did in NXIVM, but I do know I’ve done things I regret for reasons that made sense at the time. The CDC is admitting they mishandled a situation in a big, high profile moment, but I don’t think they’re evil, and I don’t think they meant harm. They did the best with what they had when they had it. I don’t know that we did the same. Fear caused us to resort to cheap generalizations and instant uninformed judgment. Fear caused us to forget the honor and dignity inherent in being human. And fear caused us to build walls.

This nonsense only ends when we erase our battle lines, knock the walls down and open the cell doors to our shared humanity and the beauty of me & you, and start loving each other, even, especially, the differences.

Want To — July 26, 2022

Want To

Chuck Klosterman is just the greatest.

My 5 favorite authors are (in no particular order) Kurt Vonnegut, Nick Hornby, Chuck Pahlaniuk, Rob Bell, and Klosterman, all for very different reasons. But all of them have 1 important thing in common, and I think most great art has this same characteristic.

They all make me want to write. Or paint. Or Sing.

I happen to believe that we have all been gifted – that’s a big part of the first 2 chapters of Genesis. That an overwhelmingly creative God created people in His own image, making those people fantastically creative beings as well. That’s why I have such trouble making sense of those who would ever want to stifle another’s creative expression, whatever it is. Instead, it seems to me, that we should be doing all we can to encourage taking those gifts out for a spin to see what happens, what we’re actually capable of.

Chuck Klosterman writes the books I’d like to write, if I were as talented as he is. What makes his work so wonderful is that he’s Chuck Klosterman. Nobody else is. His personality and perspective is totally unique. What he isn’t – and will never be – is the Angel. Or me. Or you. We also have a personality and perspective and voice that is uniquely ours. Why would we ever want to pretend otherwise? Why would we want to take our squares and fit them into circles?

I often find that people move quickly through their own stories, thinking they’re ordinary and regular, when they are anything but. I always have a thousand questions because you are marvelous, exotic, individual and totally extraordinary. Each of us is a brilliant artist, we just might have shied away from that so far. Or maybe no one told us what’s possible. They only lied and told us what isn’t.

I can’t write Fight Club, or sing There Is A Light That Never Goes Out, or design the Louvre, or cook a fancy meal like a cartoon rat. Of course I can’t. What I can do is give last week’s Sunday morning talk, hug everybody close enough to hold, and write Chronicles, Nehemiah and Other Books Nobody Reads. I can be the kind of husband and dad that only I can be, one that loves so deeply and so passionately it drives everybody else crazy.

Here’s the best part: You can do the same thing, live your life out loud, dance, write, love, but none of it will look like mine. It’ll be cool and original and it’ll inspire all of us to create our own.

yes — July 13, 2022

yes

My boys and I are having conversations about the word yes.

Teenage boys are very familiar with no, they are very clear on what they do not want to do. Sometimes it’s not only teenage boys, it can be a 30 year old man who has recently lost his father and realized that his entire life was built upon who he would not be. That 30 year old is me, and I absolutely knew then that I did not want to be like my dad. I had a very long list of things I would not do, say, or think, and almost nothing on the side ideally detailing what I would. My boys know that they don’t want to go along, clean up, mow the grass, or eat the vegetables. But where do they want to go, instead? What do they want to eat?

In the Scriptures, we are commanded to rest. (Let’s just put aside that we don’t want to rest. Nevermind that the world will stop spinning and fall apart if we don’t produce for a day a week. This is called suspension of belief in the movies. Let’s pretend this is a world where we can and do want to rest.) The thing about rest is…well, God rested after 6 days of creation. There’s no rest without work, no ceasing if there’s nothing from which to cease.   

Part of the big problem with politics nowadays (Ha! I say nowadays because it sounds old-timey and implies that there was ever a time when it was different. And maybe it was, just not that I remember) is that we are given 2 choices and asked to choose which one we do not want. Have you ever heard or said the phrase “lesser of 2 evils?” We stare at the ballot and cast our vote against one of the candidates. Political advertisements scream, “Don’t vote for him/her!” and never “Vote for ____!” We hear what their candidate has done wrong, never what our candidate has done right.

Don’t eat sugar. Don’t watch so much tv. Don’t spend so much time on social media. Don’t worry. Don’t. Don’t. Don’t. But what am I supposed to do instead???

If I simply don’t, there is a vacuum left that will be filled. This is probably why so many resolutions fail. I say I won’t eat chocolate, but when I want to eat chocolate, I think about not eating chocolate instead of what I will do, or eat, instead.

Of course, there are times for No. But no makes much less sense without a yes. Maybe I do want to go along, or maybe I do want to clean up. Who knows?

A burning desire for comfort isn’t filling us up with purpose and passion. Living from a negative posture hasn’t changed anyone’s life.

I know, I know, they’re teenagers and boundaries to differentiate, to discover where I end and they begin, are so, so valuable. And of course there is a place for knowing where we do not want to go, or characteristics we do not want. But when Jesus asks any of us, “what do you want Me to do for you?” Or, as God asked Jacob, “Who are you?” we might want to have an idea what that answer might be and why. Obviously not etched in stone, but the sooner the question begins to shift from ‘who am I not?’ to ‘who am I?’ (a super scary shift, to be sure) the sooner we can begin to move from ‘freedom from’ and into ‘freedom to.’ The difference between the 2 is shockingly wide, and it all starts with a baby step, a hesitant jump, a whispered yes.

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.

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.

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.

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.