When I think of love I think of Mike Tyson
When I think of love I think of Mike Tyson.
You know, the ex-heavyweight boxing champion of the world, who spent four years in prison, has a tribal tattoo on his face, and once kept three Bengal tigers as pets.
But more specifically, I think of his famous response to a reporter’s question about Evander Holyfield’s fight plan against him preceding their 1996 Heavyweight Championship fight, “Everyone has a plan till they get punched in the mouth.”
Tyson lost that fight. In their rematch, he was disqualified in the third round for biting a piece of Holyfield’s ear off.
This year, Cindy and I will be celebrating our twenty-sixth Valentine’s Day together.
The morning will be marked with the usual thirty-minute sprint of complaining, cereal, grooming, and bus fetching for the kids, work for Cindy and to the recliner for Maggie and I, so I can write and we could both take naps. The afternoon will require snaking through traffic to pick up Haley from play rehearsal and carting the boys to soccer practice. Our dinner, probably some sexy beef-in-the-crockpot dish will be shoveled down without savoring any of it’s sexiness. Valentine’s Day will be just another suburban day.
In the last chapter my book (Well, hello Mr. Pretentious so glad you could join us this week!), I wrote how, as doe-eyed teenagers, Cindy and I dreamed how blissful our marriage would be. How perfect our kids would be. How every day would be like a Barry White song.
You may not believe this, but I always knew I would marry Cindy. Just one look and I knew: Love at first sight. Soul mates. Kindred spirits. A cosmic connection. Whatever you want to call us, I knew from the first time we saw each other, we were fated to build a life together.Excerpt from “Bedtime Stories for the Living” written by me (Mr. Pretentious)
“Everyone has a plan till…”
In 2013, when I was diagnosed with a degenerative brain disease, the Barry White song ended rather abruptly and our plan stunned by a stiff jab. Our life together suddenly became something we didn’t recognize. Doctor’s waiting rooms, life insurance, internet searches beginning with “life expectancy…” and, for the first time in our lives together, apprehension toward to future.
If we were boxers, in the early years of my diagnosis, we were covering up. Our gloves against our faces. Scared to take another hit. Longing for the bell. It was in those long rounds we leaned on each other, breathing hard, like tired boxers. But it was in those long minutes of exhaustion and fear that taught us we needed each other to survive.
I’ve learned marriage takes love and love takes endurance and courage and guts. I’ve learned that love is not always pretty or romantic. Love is resilient. Love is having the willingness to eat life’s uppercuts together. Love is knowing your ready to be hurt and that it will be okay. And love is knowing you’re ready to take a chance on living.
Call me sensitive or cheap or lazy, but instead of getting Cindy flowers that will wilt in a week, a stuffed bear that Miss Maggie May will playfully disembowel on the living room rug, or a box of chocolates that will get pushed behind the Tupperware filled with sexy beef leftovers, I made a list of real reasons why I love her. A list about my wife inspired by former Heavyweight Champion Mike Tyson.
26 Reasons Why I Love You:
1.You make me happy.
2.You don’t judge me.
3.You won the Gym Award in high school and still use it as evidence to prove your athletic prowess.
4.You supported my dream of writing a book.
5.You once lost the car keys, blamed me, had the kids and I turn over the house for an hour until you found them in the pocket of the sweatshirt you were wearing.
6.You hug me for no reason.
7.You let me freely buy books and you let me leave them scattered around the house.
8.You often suggest we order buffalo wings.
9.You believe in me when I struggle to believe in myself.
10.You are supportive and honest with our kids.
11.You watch Lifetime Movies with terrible titles like, “Deadly Ex Next Door Neighbor”, “Deadly Babysitter”, and “Deadly Garage Sale.”
12.You once ran a 5k for me because two weeks before the race–a race I trained months for, a personally important race because it was going to be a physical triumph over my disease–I succumbed to migraines and vertigo and couldn’t run the race. So you ran in my place. And you could barely walk the next day. And you said it was worth it.
13.You don’t laugh when I fall down.
14.You laugh when the kids laugh.
15.You fold clothes with American Eagle Employee-of-the-Month precision.
16.You are organized and accept my disorganization.
17.You request I make hamburgers or tacos for dinner as a rotisserie chicken browns in the oven.
18.You make me want to be a better person.
19.You enjoy taking naps.
20.You work hard at everything you do.
21.You enjoy going to baseball games.
22.You let me play my music, Frank Sinatra, Bruce Springsteen, Rage Against the Machine, at dinner.
23.You tell me you’re proud of me.
24. You fill out my important paperwork because you know my handwriting resembles that of a fourth grader doing his homework in the back of the bus.
25. You trust me to write about our life together.
26. You still get embarrassed when I croon like Barry White about how beautiful you are.
I want to welcome everyone who recently subscribed through the Book Funnel promotion and received a free eBook version of Bedtime Stories for the Living. I hope my silly, dad brain brings you insight, comfort, and humor each Friday.
Through Book Funnel’s February promotions, I’ve teamed up with over 120 awesome authors who, for a limited time, are giving away their eBooks for FREE! These books are nonfiction and range from self-improvement to memoirs of resilience. Please checkout the links below and help emerging authors get discovered:
Portal into Knowledge:
Fabulous February Reads:
Poem of the Week: Mountain Dew Commercial Disguised as a Love Poem written by Matt Olzmann, read by John Green.
This poem is rhythmic, quirky, beautiful and, in a strange way, provides a clear description of what love is. How the simple act of buying a single bottle of Mountain Dew symbolizes the sacrifice one person is willing to endure to make the person they love happy. It inspired this week’s post. And it’s one of the finest love poems I ever read. Hope you enjoy!
If you would like to share something with others (a photo, a poem, a song, a quote, etc.) that tosses some positive vibes into the world, please send your suggestions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!
For those in the Philadelphia Area: A limited number of signed copies of Bedtime Stories for the Living are now on sale at Commonplace Reader in Yardley, Pennsylvania. The Commonplace Reader is a local bookstore with a wide selection of books, super nice employees, and plenty of cozy reading nooks.
This Valentine’s Day, give Bedtime Stories for the Living to all the people you love or like or simply tolerate in your life.
If you happen to read BSFL, I would love an Amazon review! Due to some Jeff Bezos concocted algorithm, more book reviews lead to greater exposure. And greater exposure equates to higher book sales and as I wrote in BSFL, “college for three ain’t free.”
Are you a reader? Looking for your next good book to read or listen to? Check out my new page “Jay’s Book Shelf” for some book recommendations.
Here’s what I’m currently reading: Flashback Girl by Lise DeGuire
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Jay Armstrong is a writer, speaker, and a former award-winning high school English teacher. Despite being diagnosed with a rare neurological disease, that impairs his movement, balance, eyesight, and speech–Jay presses on. He hopes to help you find joy, peace, and meaning in life. For Jay, a good day consists of 5 things:
4. Hearing his three children laugh
5. Hugging his wife
(Bonus points for a dinner with his parents or a beer with his friends)
Jay hasn’t had a bad day in quite a long time.
You can also visit Jay at jayarmstrongwrites.com