Tag Archives: Appreciation

The Moments

The rhododendrons bloom outside my house for just a couple short weeks each year. A reminder to slow down. To live in the present. And that these little moments end up being most important.

The rhododendrons bloom outside my house for just a couple short weeks each year. A reminder to slow down. To live in the present. And that these little moments end up being most important.

It was a slow death.

Not a major trauma—like a shooting or stabbing—that killed the marriage.

More like a terminal illness that could have been cured with early detection.

Despite having lived with my wife in my house for seven years, the daily surroundings don’t trigger memories and emotions within me the way one might expect.

But the opposite is true of places we visited together.

I took my son yesterday to a learning and discovery center geared toward teaching children about plant and animal life on farms.

While we waited for our friends to show up, we spent time playing on a little playground near the parking lot. The last time I stood there, it had been the three of us. The family. Dad. Mom. Son.

Together.

And it was a little heavier than I wanted it to be.

I didn’t feel it in the morning at the house in which we lived together.

I didn’t feel it looking into the eyes of our beautiful son who we made together.

But I did feel it standing on this relatively nondescript playground in a place I’d only visited a few times.

It’s because those are the moments. Sometimes they don’t feel like they matter now.

But they often feel like they matter later.

This Fleeting Life

My rhododendron bushes have bloomed.

My house looks particularly nice from the street for about two or three weeks each year. That small window is now.

The bushes stand there, green, nearly all year round. But during this short period as spring gives way to summer, they bloom, their vibrant pinks and purples providing a rare splash of color to enjoy each time you pull in the driveway.

They’re here today, gorgeous in their rarity.

Soon enough, perhaps even from the next hard rain, they won’t be. Because I watch this cycle year after year, I’ve learned to appreciate the moment. I’ve learned to appreciate how special and fleeting their simple beauty truly is.

I’ve learned to pause. To look. And look.

And look.

Willing the image into my mind. Willing gratitude into my heart. Willing more growth into this body.

Because these little things are the big things.

These moments are life.

How We Break Connection With Those We Love

I’ve written several times about my favorite book on male-female relationships—How To Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It.

I think the reason I believe it’s such an insightful, helpful book is because it, within the first 25 pages, absolutely nailed the way my marriage (and certainly millions of others) ended.

Authors Patricia Love and Steven Stosny wrote this about the female tendency to practice fear avoidance and the male tendency to practice shame avoidance, and how that instinctual behavior and dynamic poisons our relationships.

Women build alliances with other women by doing what they learned in early childhood: exposing vulnerability. Marlene doesn’t have to mention to her girlfriends that she feels sad, unhappy, lonely, or isolated. They infer from her body language or tone of voice, just as she can tell if something is wrong with them. As soon as one woman senses a friend in emotional need, they become more interested and emotionally invested in each other.

“But what do you think happens when Marlene tells Mark that she feels bad? (She has to tell him—his defense against feeling failure and inadequacy has blinded him to her emotional world by this time.) You guessed it—once she forces him to face her vulnerability, he feels inadequate as a protector. He responds with typical shame-avoidant behavior: impatience, distractedness, defensiveness, resentment, anger, criticism, or ‘advice’ that sounds an awful lot like telling her what to do.

“After a while, a woman will stop exposing vulnerability to the man in her life and turn more to friends, allowing the emotional void in their relationship to fill with resentment. Marlene doesn’t know it, but she already has one foot out the door. The probable catalyst for their breakup will be one of the following. Marlene becomes ill or depressed or loses a loved one. Feeling inadequate to help her, Mark withdraws emotionally yet again, leaving her to face her ordeal completely alone. When she recovers, she will see no need for such an unreliable alliance and leave him, thinking that they have grown apart. The other likely breakup scenario has one or both of them starting an affair, Marlene to ease her sense of isolation and Mark to prove his adequacy. Fortunately, a breakup can be avoided by paying attention to each other’s innate vulnerability.

And so we’ll think back on all that time together.

What destroyed my marriage?

And you have the tendency to think about how the relationship changed when your child was born.

Or how the relationship changed when you lost your job.

Or how she completely changed when she lost her father.

But those are just like the highlights on your curriculum vitae. The real job experience was gained going to work every day in each of those listed positions.

Those traumatic moments were opportunities to temper the marriage in fire. To make the relationship stronger than before. An unbreakable force forged in a little bit of sacrifice, a little bit of paying attention, and a whole bunch of choosing to love every single day.

It wasn’t the big events that changed my life.

It was the seemingly inconsequential ones. The things we take for granted.

But life gives us occasional glimpses of truth to help us keep our minds focused on the right things.

Like a random playground.

Like the fleeting beauty of a rarely seen blossom.

Like the very next time you speak with your wife, husband, boyfriend or girlfriend.

An opportunity to make better, wiser choices.

An opportunity to take nothing for granted.

An opportunity to stop, to breathe, to look, and cherish all the beauty that surrounds us.

The moments.

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The Hand That Rocks the Cradle

A great mom I know loves tulips.

A great mom I know loves tulips.

Many aspects of the human experience unite us.

Commonalities. Things we all share. Our DNA is similar. Our biology and physical make-up is similar. And our emotional reactions to what happens to us are similar.

The world tries to tell us how that person over there isn’t like you and me. And if you believe the lie, hate and disconnection are perpetuated.

Don’t believe the lie. We’re not so different.

We all have moms.

Everyone not made in a laboratory has a mom. For a variety of reasons, a small percentage of us don’t know our biological mothers. But I hope even people in those situations are able to take a step back and be thankful for what their mothers endured to bring them into the world. And to the people who helped fill the maternal void in their lives.

‘Mother’ is a Verb

Planned or unplanned, your mom once looked at a penis and thought: “Sure. You can put that in there.”

That’s courageous.

Planned or unplanned, your mom took a pregnancy test or visited a doctor and found out: “Whoa. I’m pregs. I’m totally freaking out right now.”

Then, for eight or so months after figuring it out, she volunteered—literally the inside of her—as a guest room for you to spend the first almost-year of your life.

The physical AND chemical composition of her body forever changed from that moment on. She voluntarily AND involuntarily changed in order for you to feel like the center of the universe.

She sacrificed the only identity she ever knew from her earliest memories to the moment she learned she was pregnant in order to change from a me-first being to a you-first being.

It’s a level of bravery and selflessness that I imagine only a mother can truly understand.

To all current and future moms: Thank you.

“All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.”

– Oscar Wilde

Happy Mother’s Day

To my stepmom:

During those rare times I was around throughout my childhood, my father showed blatant favoritism toward me over your daughters. But you never showed blatant favoritism toward your daughters over me.

You treated me as your third child every day I can remember knowing you. Thank you for teaching me that blood and genetics are not a prerequisite for being family.

I love you.

 …

To my grandmother:

You gave birth to eight children. My mom was the first. Thank you for my mom. Thank you for making my objectively dysfunctional childhood not feel at all dysfunctional. Thank you for teaching me what love, kindness, patience and forgiveness looks like. Those are gifts that keep on giving.

I love you and I’m so sorry if you ever read this and find out about all of the bad things I say, do and think about. But I know you’ll love me anyway. Thanks for that.

 …

To my ex-wife:

I’m not brave enough to type what I sometimes think and feel. Too much fear and pride and fuckness.

It’s a mad world. I’m sorry I couldn’t protect us from it.

Thank you for our son. I can’t explain how I feel when he’s not here. Maybe you feel it, too. I can’t express how much I appreciate not only being able to trust you to love and care for him, but admire your deep dedication to making his life beautiful.

He is the most-important thing to ever happen to us. Thank you for all you gave. Thank you for all you give. Happy Mother’s Day.

 …

To my mom:

Maybe you’ll stumble on this one day, mom. Maybe you’ll read every post and be absolutely appalled by some of the things rattling around my brain. After all, we’ve never exactly seen eye to eye on some of these “life” things.

Maybe you’re disappointed. Maybe even ashamed.

But maybe you’re proud, too. Maybe you see your son—misguided as you may occasionally consider him—doing his teeny tiny part in trying to make this whole being-alive thing the best experience possible.

I hope you’re proud, mom. At least a little bit. I hope you know how desperately I want to be one of the good guys, and what a huge factor you were and are in instilling that desire.

You’ve put me first for 35 years. You’ve dedicated your entire life to your children. When you’re alone with your thoughts, I pray you feel it has been worth it.

Thank you for my life.

I’m trying. And failing.

And then trying again.

I hope you think that’s enough.

I am so sorry for every moment I made you feel like I take your love and sacrifice for granted.

I hope that never happens again. Because you didn’t just give a lot. You gave everything.

I love and appreciate you more than I can express with a keyboard.

Happy Mother’s Day, mom.

“Men are what their mothers made them.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Take Nothing for Granted

taking things for granted

Statistically speaking, 146,000 people will die today.

I wonder how many of them will see it coming.

Millions lose jobs unexpectedly. Happens all the time.

Money markets shrink—or collapse—wiping out people’s life savings.

Tsunamis strike out of nowhere.

Countless husbands and boyfriends will cheat on their partners today.

Not to be outdone, wives and girlfriends will do the same.

People who matter to someone will disappear.

Some of those will be children.

Other people will get unwelcome medical diagnoses.

Families will break.

Lives will crumble.

But It’s Not All Bad

Others will win the lottery today.

Or get asked out by someone who excites them.

Happy couples will learn they’re going to have their first baby.

Proud parents will hear news of their child doing something great.

Someone will have an opportunity to save a life.

Someone’s life will be saved.

Another’s disease will be cured.

People will be reunited with loved ones.

Families will come together.

Lives will be enriched.

Must Stay Mindful

My heart could stop beating before I finish typing this sentence.

A jet could fall out of the sky and land directly above where I’m sitting, killing me instantly.

My commute home could end without me arriving at my destination.

Today could be the day I get another phone call about someone I love dying.

A friend could move away—someone I haven’t worked very hard to see or talk to because I’ve been so self-centered for the past six months.

My friends’ marriages could be falling apart.

My grandmother could have a stroke and not recognize any of her 18 grandchildren anymore.

Nuclear war could erupt over the weekend.

An EMP attack could make this the last thing you ever read. The last thing I ever publish here.

I do not mean to come off dour, morbid, depressing, or like Chicken Little.

The sky is not falling.

Uncertainty is simply part of our all-inclusive stay on planet Earth. I choose to focus on the good while being mindful of the possibilities.

Please Take Action. Not Later. Now.

Because we all have someone who should hear from us today.

Maybe it’s your wife or husband.

Maybe it’s your mother or father.

Maybe it’s your child.

Maybe it’s a friend who could really use a phone call.

Maybe it’s an opportunity to grow professionally and help secure your financial future with unequal effort at work.

Smile at people.

Tell those who matter that they matter.

I’m serious.

Right now. Pick up your phone. Send five texts to five people. Make sure one is the person who deserves your love the most. Your husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, son, daughter, brother, sister, whoever.

It doesn’t have to be long.

“I love you. And I can’t wait to spend the weekend with you.”

“I’m so proud of you. I hope you know how much you’re loved, son/daughter.”

“I’m sorry I don’t call more, Mom. I’ll pick up the phone after work and check on you. Love you!”

“Hey. Got the Facebook reminder that today’s your birthday. Really miss you. I’m sorry life is so busy. Can we get together this week so I can buy you dinner and play some catch up?”

“I know you’re going through a hard time. If there’s anything I can do to help, please let me know. Your courage inspires me every day. Thank you for leading by example.”

There are a lot of things you can say.

There are a lot of things you should say.

So your partner knows he/she is top of mind. That you value and appreciate them above all else.

So your children know they are the reason you live and breathe.

So your parents know how much you appreciate the sacrifices they made for you.

So your friends know how valuable they are.

Tell people who matter that they matter.

Pretty please.

And be kind to strangers.

Because those people matter to someone, too.

I love you all.

And I don’t take you for granted.

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