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Posts Tagged ‘love’

One is a very odd number.

March 22, 2014 1 comment

Yesterday, Michigan’s ban against same-sex marriage was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge. There was lots of cheering in my home state and around the country. In my living room, as I watched the news, there was a little shout of joy. Straight from my heart. My first thought was, “Finally, Michigan, you’ve done something right.” My second thought was “Good. Now there won’t be so many people alone.”

I know that’s a simplistic way to look at this news. And marriage is certainly no guarantee against loneliness. Not by any stretch of the imagination. But when your heart tells you that you want to be with someone and one of the things in your way is a ridiculous law that tries to tell you that you can’t, having one less barrier is always a good thing.

Besides, we humans create plenty of obstacles to happiness all by ourselves. Without the government’s help, thank you. I don’t know much about constitutional law and I am the furthest thing from an activist, but I am all for anything that allows 1 + 1 to equal 2…no matter what the chromosome police say.

Selfishly, I feel this way because “one” is not fun. I have come to know this fact intimately in recent months. Oddly (to me, anyway) at age 56, I suddenly find myself pretty much alone. It’s not something I’ve ever really experienced. And now that I have, I must admit that I am not a fan.

You see, I have spent most of my life in the very close company of others. I grew up a member of a family of six in a two-family flat. The other family – three of my father’s sisters — always had company. Always. Sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews, friends, grandchildren. One year, an entire family of cousins spent most of the school year — an amazingly fun and memorable school year — in our home. Depending on the time of year, anywhere from eight to 15 people could be found roaming around the O’Connor compound. It was fun. It was noisy. Sometimes, we ate in shifts, gathered around hectic but happy tables. It was occasionally very, very crowded (only two bathrooms in the whole place). But it was never, ever lonely.

Bedrooms were also in high demand; I didn’t have my own room until I was 25 years old. That lasted only 4 years, but it was okay with me. Night times are so much better when you are comforted by the sound of the rhythmic breathing of someone you love sleeping nearby.

I got married and had two kids. Busy, active, engaged, noisy, complicated, brilliant, high-maintenance-but-amazing kids. They filled the house with laughter and tears, joy and frustration, dirty clothes and missing homework, and all of the comedy and tragedy that is part of growing up. And I was happy. Exhausted and stressed out sometimes, but happy. And never alone. Now they are gone, off to college and marriage and all the stuff grownups are supposed to do.

Recently, because of some complicated issues, I have found myself in a place where I have three bedrooms, two bathrooms, two empty living room couches and a very empty bed all to myself. There’s plenty of room on the bathroom shelves. Only the closets are full (in addition to enjoying being around other people, I love to buy clothes and shoes). There’s also lots of space in the refrigerator because, I have discovered, cooking for one can be a little depressing. On Sundays, I buy enough groceries for four people, freeze a lot, poach some chicken or bake a pasta dish, and call it dinner for the week. Not much reason to go to any more fuss than that.

As oxymoronic as it seems, I am an introvert who loves to be with people more often than not. I have never done “alone” very well. Ever. I was used to waiting my turn for the bathroom, cleaning up after other people’s messes, yelling at people to turn down the TV or the music. I enjoyed finding the toilet seat in the “up” position. I loved the happy (and occasionally unhappy) chaos that is created by the thoughts, needs and actions of other people packed tightly into the same living space. I like it even more now that it’s gone.

Now, I work at home. Alone. I eat at home. Alone. I mow the lawn and shovel the snow. Alone. I watch TV and read at home. Alone. I watch the news and debate the issues with myself (at least I always win). It’s not as much fun to watch my beloved Detroit Tigers play baseball or catch a Red Wings’ game on TV because when the Wings score when I am in the other room and I run in to see what happened, no one answers my question, “who got the goal?” I just listen to the echo of my own voice and wait for the replay.

I guess I should learn to deal with being alone. As Jean-Paul Sartre said,  “If you’re lonely when you’re alone, you’re in bad company.”  And maybe someday, I will come to accept it or at least be comfortable with it. In the meantime, I can live with merely being secretly happy, from afar, for all of those other people who now have one less reason to be alone.

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My apologies to Hallmark…and 1 Corinthians

February 14, 2011 3 comments

I used to think that I knew what love was.

I knew it as a naive, dewy-eyed pre-teen who had watched her parents’ loving and way-too-short marriage through the eyes of an 11-year-old…which is how old I was when my father died.

From watching Ann and Patrick O’Connor, I thought love was a husband who accepted his wife’s chronic asthma and bookended his long workdays spent outside toiling as a forester for the City of Detroit with stints making breakfast for his four children and later, long into the evening, scrubbing dozens of pairs of kids’ dirty socks by hand on a washboard because that’s the way his mother used to do it.

Watching them, I thought love was when Pat gently teased Ann about her “elephant” pajamas as she stood ironing school uniform shirts and blouses early one morning.  She looked less than sexy as she stood over the board, sweat dripping down her neck, her bed-head hair poking out in all directions, her baggy pajamas, covered with large, printed elephants balancing on orange circus barrels. Yet as he got ready to go to work, he walked to her side, whispered in her ear, gave her a long, deep kiss, then reached down and gently squeezed her backside, before walking out the door whistling.

I watched this love scene from behind the bedroom door, unwilling to interrupt their most private moment, but wanting more than anything to be right there, snuggled between them, soaking up their love like the thirstiest of sponges.

I thought I knew what love was, as I saw them, night after night, stretched out on their matching vinyl couches in the living room, watching TV as we kids sat on the floor, and knowing that when we went to bed, they’d pull out sheets and pillows and sleep on those same couches (because they never had their own bedroom in our home). They’d watch Johnny Carson together and share their only “alone time” of the long day.  That’s what love was, I told myself.

And I thought I knew what love was when I watched them have the only “fight” I can ever remember them having: Mom wanted to go to a Jerry Vale concert in Windsor at the Top Hat Supper Club. Dad said they couldn’t afford it. She put her head down and wept, quietly, while he put his arm around her and told her he understood her disappointment, but that he just couldn’t change his mind about spending money they didn’t have. That was it. No ill will. No angry words. No blame. No resentment. Just sadness, then resolution, and then, moving forward to another day. Together.

For Ann and Pat, it wasn’t about money, or travel, or gifts, or “working out” together, or “date night” or worrying about what top college we kids would get into, or stressing how much they had in their IRA. Hell, they never even owned their own home. For Ann and Pat, it was about the sheer joy they found in simply being with one another…no matter what. Pat and Ann were, as a dear friend of mine recently said about his own love life, “dumbass happy.”

Even though all I knew of love back then was filtered through the brain of an 11-year-old, when I became  an older-but-still-naive bride who did not relish the pomp and circumstance of a big wedding but had one anyway, I still thought that “love” was pretty easy: all we had to do was follow what was written in the 1 Corinthians passage that was read at our wedding. It was a neat, little roadmap for a marriage, all wrapped up in a few beautiful lines.

You remember:

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

And I thought, based on everything I was sure I knew about love, that it would be a cinch to make that happen in my marriage.

It wasn’t.

We tried. We really did. But love wasn’t always patient. It wasn’t always kind. It didn’t always bear all things, believe all things, and hope all things. And in the end, it didn’t endure all things. And when that happens, one tends to forget all about what one thinks love is.

Since our 20-year marriage ended nearly four years ago, I like to think I’ve relearned a bit more about what love…is.

Love is cooperative. It works out its problems together. It doesn’t say, “I don’t know what to say and I’m not going to counseling but you can if you want.”

Love is flexible. It accepts moodiness and the tendency to spend too much, to worry too much, to whine too much.

Love is dependable. It shows up when it says it will, does what it promises, and hangs around no matter how many unpleasant, nasty, miserable and scary things life conjures up.

Love is tolerant. It sticks around even when the other person is overweight and unattractive, or sometimes has messy hair, unshaven legs  and a fairly loud snore. No matter what, Love sees the beautiful soul and loving heart beneath the elephant pajamas.

Love doesn’t quit. It stays around, no matter how tough the going gets. It works long and hard to renew itself, to find every reason in the world to keep going…and no reason whatsoever to throw in the towel.

Love  is thoughtful. It is the husband in a 50-year marriage asking the intensive care nurse for a tweezers so he can pluck the stray hairs that have grown on his wife’s chin since she fell into a coma.

Love is fearless. It talks out its fears and weaknesses and seeks to learn and grow from them and never lets them get in the way.

Love is deep; it is never superficial. Love is listening to the same story for the 1,000th time. Love is listening to whining, bitching and complaining…and thanking God that you are able to still hear the other person’s voice. Love is truth…and sometimes, its little white lies that make the other person feel better at exactly the moment she needs it. Love is acceptance…and talking the unacceptable things through to a resolution. Love is a partnership in which both parties have equal footing…even when one of them needs help getting up the stairs. Love is a fairly young man understanding that his wife’s devastating illness has robbed her of a normal life, so he spends every waking hour making her laugh and tending to her every need.

And mostly what love is, is really, finally for once and for all, understanding that in the end, love is simply all about being dumbass happy.

With apologies to Hallmark, St. Valentine, and Corinthians…

February 14, 2011 2 comments

I used to think that I knew what love was.

I knew it as a naive, dewy-eyed pre-teen who had watched her parents’ loving and way-too-short marriage through the eyes of an 11-year-old…which is how old I was when my father died.

From watching Ann and Patrick O’Connor, I thought love was a husband who accepted his wife’s chronic asthma and bookended his long workdays spent outside toiling as a forester for the City of Detroit with stints making breakfast for his four children and later, long into the evening, scrubbing dozens of pairs of kids’ dirty socks by hand on a washboard because that’s the way his mother used to do it.

Watching them, I thought love was when Pat gently teased Ann about her “elephant” pajamas as she stood ironing school uniform shirts and blouses early one morning.  She looked less than sexy as she stood over the board, sweat dripping down her neck, her bed-head hair poking out in all directions, her baggy pajamas, covered with large, printed elephants balancing on orange circus barrels. Yet as he got ready to go to work, he walked to her side, whispered in her ear, gave her a long, deep kiss, then reached down and gently squeezed her backside, before walking out the door whistling.

I watched this love scene from behind the bedroom door, unwilling to interrupt their most private moment, but wanting more than anything to be right there, snuggled between them, soaking up their love like the thirstiest of sponges.

I thought I knew what love was, as I saw them, night after night, stretched out on their matching vinyl couches in the living room, watching TV as we kids sat on the floor, and knowing that when we went to bed, they’d pull out sheets and pillows and sleep on those same couches (because they never had their own bedroom in our home). They’d watch Johnny Carson together and share their only “alone time” of the long day.  That’s what love was, I told myself.

And I thought I knew what love was when I watched them have the only “fight” I can ever remember them having: Mom wanted to go to a Jerry Vale concert in Windsor at the Top Hat Supper Club. Dad said they couldn’t afford it. She put her head down and wept, quietly, while he put his arm around her and told her he understood her disappointment, but that he just couldn’t change his mind about spending money they didn’t have. That was it. No ill will. No angry words. No blame. No resentment. Just sadness and then resolution, and then, moving forward to another day. Together.

For Ann and Pat, it wasn’t about money, or travel, or gifts, or “working out” together, or “date night” or worrying about what top college we kids would get into, or stressing how much they had in their IRA…because they never even owned their own home. For Ann and Pat, it was about the sheer joy they found in simply being with one another…no matter what. To put it simply, Pat and Ann were, as a dear friend of mine recently said about his own love life, “dumbass happy.”

So, since all I knew of love back was filtered by the brain of an 11-year-old, when I became  an older-but-still-naive bride who did not relish the pomp and circumstance of a big wedding but had one anyway, I thought that “love” was pretty easy: all we had to do was follow what was written in the 1 Corinthians passage that was read at our wedding. It was a neat, little roadmap for a marriage, all wrapped up in a few beautiful lines.

You remember:

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

And I thought, based on everything I was sure I knew about love, that it would be a cinch to make that happen in my marriage.

It wasn’t.

We tried. We really did. But love wasn’t always patient. It wasn’t always kind. It didn’t always bear all things, believe all things, and hope all things. And in the end, it didn’t endure all things. And when that happens, one tends to forget all about what one thinks love is.

Since our 20-year marriage ended nearly four years ago, I like to think I’ve relearned a bit more about what love…is.

Love is cooperative. It works out its problems together. It doesn’t say, “I don’t know what to say and I’m not going to counseling but you can if you want.”

Love is flexible. It accepts moodiness and the tendency to spend too much, to worry too much, to whine too much.

Love is dependable. It shows up when it says it will, does what it promises, and hangs around no matter how many unpleasant, nasty, miserable and scary things life conjures up.

Love is tolerant. It sticks around even when the other person is overweight and unattractive, or sometimes has messy hair, unshaven legs  and a fairly loud snore. No matter what, Love sees the beautiful soul and loving heart beneath the elephant pajamas.

Love doesn’t quit. It stays around, no matter how tough the going gets. It works long and hard to renew itself, to find every reason in the world to keep going…and no reason whatsoever to throw in the towel.

Love  is thoughtful. It is the husband in a 50-year marriage asking the intensive care nurse for a tweezers so he can pluck the stray hairs that have grown on his wife’s chin since she fell into a coma.

Love is fearless. It talks out its fears and weaknesses and seeks to learn and grow from them and never let them get in the way of living life to its fullest.

Love is deep; it is never superficial. Love is listening to the same story for the 1,000th time. Love is listening to whining, bitching and complaining…and thanking God that you are able to still hear the other person’s voice. Love is truth…and sometimes, its little white lies that make the other person feel better at exactly the moment she needs it. Love is acceptance…and talking the unacceptable things through to a resolution. Love is a partnership in which both parties have equal footing…even when one of them needs help getting up the stairs. Love is a fairly young man understanding that his wife’s devastating illness has robbed her of a normal life, so he spends every waking hour making her laugh and tending to her every need.

And mostly what love is, is really, finally for once and for all, understanding that in the end, love is simply all about being dumbass happy.

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