When Harvey and Sadie met

Sadie looked at him and said, “I did look you up online a little. You don’t have any assets.” It wasn’t a question.

Harvey’s jaw wanted to drop, but didn’t. “That’s true.”

“I have assets.”

“I’m happy for you.” What the hell else could he say? He was too busy keeping his sense of humor pinned to the mat. She had large breasts and when she told him she had assets he could’ve sworn she puffed her chest out. That her breasts had nothing to do with what she meant by assets, he understood. It was simply one of those moments when, alas, the healthiest choice on the table was silencing humor.

They were sitting across from each other at a picnic table in the picnic area of a large town park, boasting some 1,500-square acres. The smell of pine trees turned air into a delicacy. Across the way, kids were playing soccer. It was Spring and you could hear the birds.

Sadie had dark hair parted in the middle, a cataract had reached the base of her neck and stayed there.  She continued. “The last man I got serious with had a problem with prenuptial agreements. I need to protect my assets. You can understand that, can’t you?”

“I can, very much so,” Harvey said, and meant. And he did mean it. Yes, he didn’t have any in-depth  knowledge of life story. However, he knew enough about life to recognize and know she’d been deeply wounded along the way. Her instinct to protect herself didn’t come from nowhere.

Harvey looked down, and then back up at Sadie.

“Sadie, how long would you say we’ve known each other?”

“I don’t know. Between phone conversations, texting, in person? Two, three hours maybe?”

“Today is the first day we’ve met face to face, and you’re worrying about prenuptial agreements.”

“No use wasting time.” 

The Healthiest Word

The woman asked me, “Why do you tell people you love them?”

I’d just said, “Love you, brother,” to the man who bagged up some groceries for me. The man always greets me with a smile and a good to see you. I said, “Because that’s how I feel.”
     “But you don’t even know him.” She sounded appalled.
     “I don’t have to know somebody to feel loving towards them.”
     “Nobody ever really feels loving towards someone, unless they know them.”
     “I don’t know what to tell you.”
     “I mean I know when I like somebody, or, sometimes, you know, sometimes you know straight away you don’t like someone.”
     “Hold up.”
     Her head tilts. The movement asks, “What?”
     “How is it knowing you like or don’t like someone without knowing them works, and feeling loving towards someone you don’t know makes no sense to you?”

“It’s two different things.”

He knew the healthiest word and said it. “Okay.”

Two hours later they were out for a walk. A neighbor down the street had a box of puppies out front so they could get some sun. He watched her face light up with joy when she saw the puppies, hurrying over to get a closer look.

“Honey, look! We can adopt one, she said so. Look at them. Don’t you just love them?!”

He knew the healthiest word and said it. “Okay.”

Say I Love You

federn-abstrakt-bunt-hintergrund

I am 66 now. I’ve had four parents. (I was adopted when I was a baby.) None of my parents made it out of their sixties. Two of the four committed suicide. My concern that I don’t have a lot of time left may stand on shaky ground, but it still stands. Strangely enough, I seem to be okay with that.

If willpower plays a role in all this, then I feel good about my chances of reaching 70 and beyond. But right now we have this Novel Covid 19 virus in our midst, and, it seems, I’m in the at-risk group.

(Point of order, if you please. If, like me, you’ve been walking around with a bullet lodged in the prefrontal cortex of your brain for 35 years, you must own-up to having a bit of practice on the feeling at-risk front.)

So, in brief, what to do? Or, were I wearing a tie at the moment, what is one to do?

First, you accept the reality of the experience you’re in, whatever it is, and, for the love of God, do not judge yourself.

And then, for me, my response is to honor my instinct, and my instinct is to pour as much love and kindness and compassion and, in so many ways, most of all, honesty and loyalty, into how I live my life. Anything less would be a betrayal all that I am as a man, and, of equal importance, it would be a betrayal of everyone I’ve loved in my life, and,a betrayal of those who have been good enough to love me.

Tell those you love that you love them. Say it out loud. I know this is not always easy for some. The reality is, saying it out loud is an act of strength.

No doubt some will already know you love them, and for others, what a beautiful thing to learn. Never ever underestimate how much those words can mean to people.

And then, there is this. Those who love you deserve to hear your voice say it.

(Last but not least, I hope those who love you, tell you. You deserve to hear those words too. Promise. They never get old.)

***

For CJL

Too many friends & in-loves?

“Holy crap! I’ve got way too many people who love me and care about me in my life!” is something I’ve never heard another living soul say.

Truth is, I don’t know, and have never known anyone who complained, at least within earshot, about having too many people who love them and care about them. Close friends, in-love folks.  I’ve never known a soul to fret over being overstocked on either front.

The bonds of friendship and in-love are the very veins through which love and friendship flow; they are also the veins through which loyalty flows.  

The absence of loyalty always poisons bonds between friends and in-love ones. 

I love my friends. How can I not? They’re my friends!

Someone once told me, “You know, you tell a lot of people you love them,” in a tone that led me to think the speaker believed my character trait might be something I should reconsider keeping, or, at least, tone it down a bit. 

Not a chance.

First of all, I can’t help it. And, if I could, I wouldn’t. I instinctively feel love and compassion for my fellow beings, until they give me reason not to. Even then, I mightstill care, I simply don’t act on it. T

There are rare instances when someone’s choices and behavior are so repellent and dangerous, I am unable to feel anything other than anger. Years ago I played in role in helping to put a man behind bars who had raped and sodomized a number of boys, grammar school ages. The brutality that man inflicted on those lives, and the lives of their loved ones, cannot be put into words. At least, I can’t do it.

But these folks, thankfully, are in the minority. 

There’s a man, in his fifties I would guess, who works as a checkout bagger at nearby supermarket. His name is Vincent. Vincent has neatly cut and combed gray hair and a full, well-shaped gray beard. He is small in frame and wears glasses with dark frames over a pair of the kindest eyes you can imagine. 

Always, Vincent is attentive to you, the customer, hopes your day is going well. Means it. Vincent glows with kindness. Now, when we chat, as I leave I’ll sometimes say, “Love you, brother,” and I mean it.

How can you not feel love for someone who brings kindness into the world?

Last year, or maybe it was the year before, I decided, on a whim, to go for a 18- to 20-mile walk on a really hot day, without enough water. I ran into trouble (duh, Peter) and had to call for help. 

The first responders in the ambulance were all about making sure I would be okay with every fiber of their being. These, men, in this case, who did not know me from Adam, were heart and soul committed to making sure I kept my life.

Of course I felt love for them, then and now.

One of the most heartbreaking, and, in a very real way, tragic realities, are the number of friendships and in-loves that implode because one or both could not, did not, or would not, or were incapable of recognizing and accepting the presence of some unhealthy behavior patterns they might be stuck in. Patterns they deserved to be free of!  

When a child gets raised, one way or another, getting the message that he or she is poor example of how he or she should be, and are supposed to me, that child’s self-image gets damaged. Moreover, what “supposed to be” might mean can be a whole other world of hurt for the child.

You don’t come out of these experiences without some unhealthy patterns in your repertoire. Chances are, these no unhealthy patterns were the very ones you had to use in order to survive your childhood. Absolutely. Fair enough. 

Nevertheless, you are responsible for getting free of them, now that they are toxic. Is this fair? Hell no. It’s not fair. It’s reality.

Here’s another reality. You deserve your freedom. And tell some folks you love them while you’re at it.

Protecting from a loved one

They are not easy times when you must, I believe, protect yourself from someone you love. It can require disengaging them from your life.

There are any number of real reasons for this being the healthiest choice on the table, but none are, the person I need to protect myself from is a bad person, a bad human being. Unhealthy? Yes. Bad? No. Absolutely not. The range of problematic conditions has its fair share of members, alcohol, drugs, addiction, personality disorders, and so on. These elements know no bigotry.

That someone we may need to distance themselves from someone doesn’t make them a bad person and it doesn’t free them of their responsibility for wounding others, as well as themselves.

When someone fires off a few sentences of verbal cruelty, say, I believe the self-inflicted wound runs deeper and does more damage to the perpetrator. Someone tangled up in behavior patterns that wound the lives of others – lacking any empathy whatsoever in some cases – already has a low self-esteem, whether they realize it, admit it, or don’t.

A person in this kind of struggle has basically two choices.  They can recognize the unhealthy patterns they’re  in, and get the help and support they deserve, and get free of them. Or, they can surrender their lives to a method of life-management that guarantees conflict, pain, suffering, heartbreak, and guilt. Everyone of us deserves the chance to get well. Not everyone realizes it when getting well is necessary.

The reason the perpetrator takes the deeper wound is this. On some level, he or she knows what they are doing is wounding and abusive and looks to degrade the target. So each time the perpetrator strikes, he or she is reaffirming the message they got taught about themselves, when some where along the line, they may have been degraded, even on a daily basis, often by some adult who could not be escaped.

In fact, I know of some wonderful acronyms for the word, FEAR. It can mean, Face Everything And Recover, or, Fuck Everything And Run.

My instinct is wedded to the former.