When the honeymoon ends…
This is forgiveness week. On Saturday (February 15), if you signed up for email delivery, you’ll receive my monthly post about forgiveness. The focus of February’s forgiveness journey is family.
But it also Valentine’s Day week.
So this week I want to share some of my previous pieces on love with some new thoughts on a complex matter.
Like that light bulb that needs changing, romantic love is a subject I would rather avoid.
I mean–I don’t feel secure enough to talk about love to my friends. I would rather talk about football or drywall or that damn light bulb.
So why the hesitation to talk about love?
For most men, our reluctance to talk about any subject remotely sensitive comes down to our innate fear of embarrassment.
Our masculine ego is fragile and sacred. Keeping our egos free of effeminate blemishes might just be the most important thing in our life. Foolish? Absolutely. But we want everyone from here to Home Depot to know we’re, without question, a man.
Sadly, we traverse our entire lives wondering, “If I do this or say this or like this– am I less of a man?” (My mind turns these questions every time I write a post–seriously.)
It sounds silly but most men would rather self-destruct than talk about their feelings.
But if you want to learn, if you want to grow as a person (and as a writer) you must entertain subjects you’re uncomfortable with.
So here we go– when you grow up, score a spouse, have some children, and fall into the malaise of adult life–romantic love will not assume the priority it once did. This is truth. When the honeymoon ends and real life begins–expressions of love become subtle looks and hugs that happen in between the chaos of life. And sometimes you may have to squint to see those moments.
The following piece “Taking Notes: A Love Story” is one of my favorites. It’s about how I realized that love is as simple as my wife taking notes.
This week, let’s agree to pay attention to the little things your significant other does. Maybe it’s the way they sing when they think they’re alone or how they fold your t-shirts or the way they fall asleep on the couch.
“Taking Notes” happened 6 years ago and to this day and when my body aches and life is difficult I often think about how, in one of the darkest times of our life together (that damn light bulb again), she brought light to my life. She took notes.
Taking Notes: A Love Story
In a world with Nicholas Sparks it’s hard to write something original about love.
Love is a well-traveled topic. One, I’m sure, you’ve taken plenty of notes on.
Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is engraved your heart and scrolled among the stars.
Love is in air. Love is an open door. And, if you find the right station, love is a battlefield.
Anytime you write about love you ink a fine line between cliche’ and Nicholas Sparks. So, in my attempt to avoid such fate, the only thing I can offer is a secret love story about love. So secret that when my wife reads this, she will know it for the first time.
I’ve written about my health issues and personal shame and failure but writing about love is something I’ve avoided. For me, writing about love is a little embarrassing. A little too revealing.
And plus, how do I write about love in such an authentic yet impenetrable way that it’s not the subject of dissection, comparison and judgment?
Truth is– you can’t.
It’s simple emotional physics (which should’ve totally been a 90’s emo band).
To love is to want. And to want is to have weakness.
Therefore, you can’t open yourself to love without subjecting yourself to dissection, comparison, and judgment.
I fell in love with a girl when I was 16.
The first time I saw her standing in the blue painted threshold of the doorway to her biology class I just knew, with an absolute bone-certainty that I would marry her one day.
And 10 years later I did.
Even though that story is absolutely true, I understand you’re skepticism. And I don’t blame you. It seems too easy and yet, at the same time, too impossible. Too Nicholas Sparks.
So I’ll tell you another story that’s more believable. Yet, in some ways, just as fantastical.
Cindy and I are sitting at large round table, the kind guests sit around at weddings. We’re in the back of a Las Vegas hotel ballroom, the kind couples rent for weddings.
Except instead of a DJ, there’s a UCLA professor at the far end of the ballroom. He’s standing on a stage, behind a podium. To his right is a movie screen holding an MRI of a human brain. A brain whose cerebellum is damaged. A cerebellum that looks a lot like mine.
The room is filled with people of all ages. Some people in wheelchairs. Some people clutching canes and walking sticks. The same haunted glow in everyone’s eyes.
We’re in Las Vegas attending the National Ataxia Federation’s annual conference for patients with neurological disease because seven months earlier I was diagnosed with cerebellar atrophy.
Cindy and I are surrounded by people of all ages stricken with rare neurological diseases. ALS. MS. Huntington’s Disease. Brain tumors.
Some people sit with their spouse. Some sit their parents. Some sit alone.
The UCLA professor is discussing advancements in stem cell research as a way of improving and repairing brain growth.
Cindy is beside me taking notes.
Her hand moves in small yet amazing ways. She is writing down what the professor is saying as fast as he is saying it.
Her penmanship is catholic school perfect. Her notes are well-spaced and organized and her margins are aligned.
It was a secret moment in my history. One I’ve never told Cindy about.
A moment of enormous fear yet as my eyes trace the ink-curls of her words, a small moment of enormous comfort and safety. A moment where love was learned. A moment when I finally realized I was lucky enough to find a woman who cared more for me than I could possibly care for myself.
A moment that gifted me the eventual courage to roll my shoulders and write these sentences–
Let my cerebellum soften to oatmeal. Let my brain cells explode. Let my eyes go blind. Because there’s a girl with green eyes standing in the blue doorway and she’s not moving. And she never will.
And that is what love becomes. After all the romance and celestial promises of the initial courtship, love becomes a lifetime of small moments that add up to make something enormous.
But even that seems Sparksian.
A chronically sick man whose hands are shaking, whose body aches, whose teetering on the edge of self-destruction is sitting beside his wife in a Las Vegas ballroom. They’re high school sweethearts. They have three children together. But seven months ago things suddenly got harder.
And yet she still takes notes.
As the professor speaks and the damaged brain that holds the screen looms like a thundercloud over the room with her free hand, she reaches across the table to hold his hand, to ease him, to feel his pain.
My 2020 resolution is to learn more about and practice more forgiveness. There is growing research that forgiveness is the key to a happier and healthy life. Check out my forgiveness journey and share with someone you think may be interested.
Need some encouragement? Some reassurance? Need to stay positive? This hardworking, suburban soccer dad with fancy hair can help. Subscribe and, like a pizza, get my posts delivered to your door ( your email inbox).