HAPPY BIRTHDAY, LITTLE SISTER

little sister birthday
Happy birthday to my first friend. Happy birthday to my first soulmate. Happy birthday to my first love. Happy birthday to you, my little sister. You have a beauty that is immediately recognized by all… and the few who are lucky enough to have personal contact with you immediately recognize your internal beauty. Your heart is pure magic. You are one of the funniest people I know. You have a never ending sense of hope and optimism that is utterly contagious. You are the strongest gentle soul imaginable… it isn’t an oxymoron; there is tremendous strength in your gentle spirit and it continually renders me awestruck. Even though you are younger (and shorter 😉), I look up to you in so many ways… as you enter the next chapter of your life (you’re getting married, Bright Eyes!!!), I know that you’ll do so with a casual grace that only you possess. I can’t wait to stand by your side on that gorgeous day. Thank you, Earth Angel, for blessing us with so much. I love you. I love you. I love you. I hope that 29 is the best year yet. And I hope that each following year is full of more color, laughter, love, and celebration than you can imagine. I’ve loved you for each second of every moment that you’ve walked this earth and I will continue to love you more with each passing day 

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

image via gemfound.com

image via gemfound.com

On this day of thanks, I am wishing you and yours an abundance of love and overwhelming sentiments of gratitude.

Some of the things I am thankful for, large and small:

  • The health and current state of joy that each member of my family is experiencing.
  • My home.  I get to celebrate Thanksgiving in my childhood home… my parents are still currently living there and they have maintained the place… and our traditions… with a kind of care that has not gone unnoticed.  I am so grateful for my parents’ creation and preservation of all of our holiday traditions.  Thank you for teaching me what a “home” can feel like, Dad & Mom.  You two are the best parents around.
  • My friendships with a few women that I hold close. They are my sisters.  They are my tribe.  They inspire me.  They challenge me.  I respect and admire them.  They are beautiful.
  • Leopard print.  I am very thankful for its existence.
  • Billie Holiday.  Without her, I wouldn’t have scratchy jazz filling my soul.
  • My mother. The older I am, the more I understand her.  Each year, I am filled with ever increasing awe for her feminine, soft, gentle strength.  What a role model.
  • Each of you reading this.  If I had a way to send a thank you note to each and every one of you who support this site with your time, your comments, your messages, and your existence, I would.
  • My man.  He has taught me that there are men beyond my father and brother who hold the kind of goodness that I knew could exist, but had yet to find.  And… he can cook.  Gratitude bonus.
  • Food. Glorious food. Food. Food. Food. And…. food.  Did I mention that I’m thankful for food?
  • Freedom.  In light of current events, this concept has become something sacred to me.  I never want to take all of the freedom I have for granted.  Thank you, America, for allowing me access to art, education, a voice, work, opportunity, and exploration.  I love this country for that.

ADVICE FROM DAD {& MOM} – WHEN DID “LOVE” BECOME A FOUR-LETTER WORD?

*Of any article I’ve written thus far, this is the one I would like you to read.  It’s lengthy, but I truly believe this subject is worth taking the time to reflect upon.  I feel that this article is equally pertinent to men and women.  All comments and opinions are welcomed and appreciated.

It was getting dark earlier everyday.  I hate the time change.  It’s as if that extra hour or two of darkness each evening resulted in too much thinking; I began a forced evaluation of the year that had almost passed.  I was sitting outside as twilight approached and I could feel the heaviness of the evening and chill in the air settling around my shoulders, swiftly isolating me from my surround and transforming my thoughts into something sharper and a bit more painful.  I raised my glass of wine deliberately to my mouth as I heard my father say, “Want company?”  I made out the figure of my mother holding two more wine glasses behind my dad’s large, comforting shadow.

How do they always know when I’m over-thinking?

I welcomed the interruption and attempted to quickly shake my mood to no avail.   My dad asked what was on my mind, while my mom patiently awaited my answer with a slight smile on her face.  Twenty-eight years old and I still welcome any kind of parenting they have to offer… especially when accompanied with the buttery comfort of the wine and the thin, dark veil of the sky to mask my embarrassment.

I started to laugh and cry at the very same time.  I had been thinking about the relationship I had ended earlier in the year and the string of hilarious {and unsettling} dates {if you can even call them all “dates”} I had been on since.  I knew that ending the relationship had been the right decision, so that wasn’t the cause of my strife.  I knew that the Brit who possessed a devilish wit {sadly, it was only when he drank excessively} and the tall, dark, and handsome foreigner {who ended up being more vampire than man} were just two men in the sea of many.  I searched frantically for the words to explain my complex emotional reaction and came up with this over-simplified {and over-dramatic} sentence: “Does love even exist anymore?”

I don’t know what I had expected of my parents.  I guess I thought they might laugh.  Maybe just jovially state, “Of course it does!”  They did neither of those things.  Instead, we sat and had an important discussion.  Moments of the interaction were confusing and frustrating… especially as I shared my viewpoint with them and found, each time I hoped they would disagree with me and reaffirm my faith in the kind of serendipitous love that I had been certain would come stumbling my way, that they were just as worried as I was… not just for me, but for each and every one of you reading this.

Before I get down to the nitty-gritty, how about some Fitzgerald? I blame {and thank} my father for my F. Scott obsession.  Now, here you are:
I fell in love with her courage. Her sincerity. And her flaming self respect. And it’s these things I’d believe in… I love her and it is the beginning of everything.” -F. Scott Fitzgerald {when writing about his love for his wife, Zelda}

Damn. Courage? Sincerity? Flaming self respect? When is the last time that you heard a twenty-something {or even a thirty-something} speak about his or her affection for another in this way? Although I’m in the tail-end of my own twenty-somethings, I have never heard such ardent admiration pouring from the lips of a peer {or written in ink from their pen… or typed across the cold, harsh screen of their computer}.  I don’t believe this is because love is no longer alive and well.  I don’t think this is because chivalry is dead.  I don’t think this is the result of some obscure band of militant feminists who demanded their right to a higher wage and, in the process, murdered the masculine presence in this country.  I’ve heard a variety of arguments and viewpoints on why love is impossible to find and I don’t agree with any of them.  Neither do my parents.

Before I place the blame on who exactly I believe is killing love, I think it’s important to discuss where our idea of love comes from.  The initial conversation with my parents focused on generational differences that shape our understanding of love.  A myriad of influences from our childhood to present day create our idea of love {and ultimately commitment, family, and other important social constructs that stem from our base understanding of love}.  Love and our understanding of love is found most readily in the arts {film, music, art, etc.}.  We [meaning me… and you, the reader] come from a generation of harshly worded music, as opposed to the lyrical musings of Frank and Billie… or even the heat and bass of Barry White.  The television influence of Keeping Up With the Kardashians is a far cry from the message of family and morale that was transmitted weekly on Leave It to Beaver.  Films like Casablanca and Gone With the Wind are now referred to as  “classics” {and with good reason}.  Love {of the healthy, committed, and steadfast varietal} is something that we have to find in “rom-coms” or “chick lit” or some other unattractively abbreviated and sexist genre.  However, this only contributes to a misunderstanding about love… it doesn’t cause it to disappear altogether.

This horrendous pop-culture/lack-of-culture phenomenon that we are currently subjected to {along with a lot of other things like education, the economy, and a million little variables} has resulted in something that my dad calls the “too cool” generation {and, though I hate to admit how right he is, he is spot on}.  I am, admittedly, disgusted with being a member of the “too cool” generation.  Too cool to try.  Too cool to care. Too cool to put together some kind of a workable sentence. Too cool to have an opinion.  Too cool to read.  Too cool to work.  Too cool to love.

I’ve been guilty of being “too cool” to discuss love countless times in the past.  I’ve most definitely been guilty of being “too cool” to admit that I want to be loved, that I have felt love, or that love is important to me.  It’s as if “love” is the only four-letter word that isn’t “cool” to use in a conversation.  Though I can’t control the actions of our generation, I can reject the “too cool” mentality {and I was able to do so with the priceless advice and support of my parents}… and so can you.  The first step is being able to discuss love without cringing, laughing, blushing, stuttering, or acting as if you are unaffected by its existence.  So, I’ll go first…

My understanding of love at twenty-eight goes a little like this: Love is the single most terrifyingly wonderful emotion that a human being can experience.  It results in some kind of vertigo, mental and emotional rhythms that cause the heart to race, the mind to blur, and the skin to flush.  It requires a vulnerability that can only be experienced by the most courageous of beings.

Love, when it goes awry, can result in tremendous pain if left unrequited and even more tremendous pain if it appears to be requited but such reciprocation is later found to be undermined by a drifting fog of lies.

And what of love’s most desirable form? What of love fully requited and honored? In that vein, love produces the most beautiful sense of fulfillment, completion, and sense of worth.  Now, those are all things I’m not supposed to say… and definitely not supposed to write.  Love provides fulfillment? Haven’t I been a member of the chorus touting independence, self-reliance and a sense of completeness achieved solely by personal achievement, high self-esteem, and a sense of self-worth? Of course.  However, as my parents explained, there is a whole lot of “self” in those words and, without the balance of love {which can be oscillate between selfish and selfless… and should oscillate in this way}, you will be a raging {and very lonely} egomaniac {I hate to picture the retirement homes of our generation filled with angry, single, narcissistic old folks}.

My parents and I agreed that at the root of love there is something inexplicable… love exists without the ability to rationalize it.  It just exists.  You can either accept its existence or deny its existence.  Basically,  for love to disappear {back to the question that I asked my parents: “Does love even exist anymore?”}, humans would have to deny something innate: a silent pull toward meaningful connection and the desire to feel accepted in one’s entirety.

And, after much thought and conversation with two very wise individuals {thank you, mom & dad}, that is exactly what I believe has happened.  Humans, namely those in their twenties and thirties, are consciously denying something that they are feeling.  They are refusing to accept the emotional reaction that occurs when you plow headfirst into love.

To put it bluntly: we are the generation that is killing love.  To sum up the wisdom my parents imparted, there seem to be two fatal flaws present in our generation that present a direct blow to one’s ability to love and be loved: entitlement and fear.  It could be stated just as easily and synonymously that sloth and a general lack of anything resembling courage are at fault.  Put either way, I believe that love has been lying dormant because she is waiting to be coaxed from her patient, dark resting place by someone worth a damn.

Not a knight in shining armor.  Not a damsel in distress.

You. And me.

So, let’s get rid of any sense of sloth we may have and courageously throw our trepidatious nature to the side.  Here’s a two-step plan to get back to love {thank you, parents, for helping point these things out}:

1. Do Away With Entitlement/Laziness

Entitlement and laziness {or sloth} frequently manifest themselves in similar ways.  Look for a lack of ambition, work-ethic, responsibility, and accountability {in yourself or others}.    If you possess these qualities, you are directly affecting your ability to love and be loved.  Love takes work.  It takes a certain level of commitment and effort.  If someone is unable to pull up their bootstraps and make something of themselves and the life they have been given, then they sure as hell don’t have what it takes to manage the unrestrained fire of love.

Laziness and a sense of entitlement have led to the following common problems that immediately deter or destroy the presence of love:

          a. The Generation of Calculated Disconnection.  Lazy people all over the world are now able to simply use their fingers to type a half-witted text message to say, “Hey.”  A man can avoid asking you out in person by “friending” you on Facebook.  A woman can learn about a man through his Instagram account instead of through face-to-face conversation.  A million singles can propagate the cycle by engaging in a current dating trend like Tinder.  The meaningless text chatter and plethora of social media photos now available can lead to a period of limbo full of stale conversation and a feeling of complete disconnection.  It looks something like this: weeks of text messaging may occur at sporadic intervals.  Perhaps they “like” a photo or status update.  Maybe, if they are up to it, they send you a photo or two along the way with a moderately amusing caption.  Maybe {oh, they must be really into you} they send you a link to a YouTube video of a band you mentioned that you liked.  This may go on endlessly without even hearing the voice of the individual on the other end of the communication.  Often, you will never meet up with this individual as neither of you will initiate any actual plans {see Death of the Date below} and your texting will slow in its frequency as you each realize that you are engaged in the same faux-conversation you have had a hundred times before with a hundred other people.  Love demands that the mind, as well as the heart, be engaged.  Without conversation, an expression of genuine interest in another, or some form of face-to-face interaction, the mind of Love remains idle and she remains unengaged.

          b. Death of the Date. A date involves some kind of preparation.  The first step is setting a date for the date; this involves asking another human being about their schedule and then analyzing your schedule and then finding a date and time on the calendar that works for both of you.  A date used to involve the gentleman calling the woman to ask her out {or asking her out in person} and, after she answered in the affirmative, said gentleman would pick the woman up at her home.  This situation doesn’t seem to happen much anymore.  Now, a man may ask you to “hang out” via text message {or something equally casual and non-committal}.  This can lead to weeks of texting about the idea of the two of you getting together without any solid plans in mind.  If you actually succeed in agreeing on setting a date, you then meet at a location that is relatively equidistant for both of you.  This guarantees that neither individual is putting in more effort than the other and, perhaps, they will even split the check.  There is very little about this process that is romantic or instills a feeling of positive anticipation.  After going on a series of “dates” that have occurred in this manner, I found that I had begun to refer to them as “meetings” {without the slightest… okay, maybe the slightest… sense of irony}.  The butterflies, giddiness, nervousness, and anticipation that I know are supposed to accompany a date have fled the scene using swift, tiny steps, hoping to go unnoticed… but I noticed.  And, I would go so far as to say that you notice it, too.  Dates are supposed to involve some kind of romance and forethought. Dates should involve opening of the car door and any other doors that may present themselves.  Dates demand a little extra time to pick out your outfit or smooth your hair.  A proper date is peppered with witty conversation, flirtation, and some quality interaction {and, perhaps, a glass or two of wine}.  All of these things require effort.  Someone who is lazy cannot {or will not} put in this kind of effort {and they certainly won’t possess the skills necessary for the dizzying conversation that the heart demands}.  Without this kind of effort, love fails to spring from her hibernation.  Instead, she sighs, lazily rolls over to her other side, and curls up to sleep awhile longer.

          c. How Laziness Kills Love. Love demands action, not a period of delayed interaction or intentional inaction.  Action is the only thing that will rouse Love from her slumber. Love demands forethought and attention.  Without these things, Love will remain in hiding.  Individuals are settling for this form of unfulfilling interaction because they think that’s all there is today.  Or they think someone else should be putting in the work for them {i.e. entitlement}.  Or they think that love will just wander their way {i.e. laziness}.  Or they are just too afraid to make any kind of affirmative move… which brings me to point #2.

2. Boldly Overcome Fear/Lack of Courage

Love, as stated earlier, is an absolutely terrifying emotion and the journey towards experiencing love is full of unpredictable and potentially painful experiences.  Love is not for the meek.  For love to come to fruition, one needs to possess a kind of courageous vulnerability.  To be this brave, you must be completely comfortable with you.  Essentially, this means that you have some form of self-worth that stems from living a life in which you have put a good deal of effort and amassed a sense of value and purpose.  In other words, it means that you have completed Step One {outlined above} and are not lazy or entitled.  Action calls Love to rise, but you still have to bravely open the door and let her come inside… and that is not easy.

Fear and a lack of courage have led to the following problems that vanquish Love quickly:

          a. Lack of Initiation or Lack of Follow-Through {Attention: Men}.  It has become unclear who is supposed to do the “asking out.”  Before, it was cut and dry: the man did the asking and the woman did the accepting or rejecting.  I’m a forward-thinker, but I still struggle with asking a guy out.  I think that’s because the man should still be the one doing the asking {yes, I said it.  Guys, step up and do it}.  The problem is that men now require so much coaxing, coddling, and finagling to get them to actually initiate a date.  They’ll hint at it.  They’ll seem to flirt with the idea.  But they’re looking for some kind of affirmation {like saying “Yes! I would love to go out with you!”} before they have actually asked.  The need for constant affirmation is the holding cell of Fear; Love views Fear as unstable, unsafe, and unsettling.  When Love senses insecurity {like a glaring fear of rejection} she hides because she knows that only the bold can truly handle what she has to offer.  Even worse than a lack of initiation is a lack of follow-through.  Let’s say you make it through The First Date.  It seems to have gone well.  The man mentioned repeatedly how much he wants to see you again.  He texts you consistently for the next week and doesn’t set a date.  He’s waiting for you to initiate the follow-through.  In the face of this instability, Love runs back to her hiding place.  {Clarification: after a few dates, I’m all for the woman initiating a date here or there… however, the beginning stages are controlled by the man.  Read The Thrill of the Chase for information supporting this}.

         b. The Demise of Sexual Morality {Attention: Women}. When talking to my father and mother about their younger years, they stressed the point that women who failed to get attention sought to draw attention to themselves through their sexual promiscuity; it was something that was not respected.  Sadly, by today’s standards, being “easy” is not unusual in the slightest.  It is not unusual for a woman to be taking birth control or for a man to have a condom in his wallet “just in case.”  Though it may seem unfair, I still believe that it is up to the woman to lay down the standards that she will accept.  That means turning your back on the cultural onslaught of our oversexed generation and drawing your own line.  It means refusing to be someone’s “just in case.”  It takes courage to remove yourself from the fray, but love refuses to exist among the hodgepodge that propagates the fray.  As my father always says, “You attract what you project.”  Be courageous enough to hold your ground and demand self-respect.  A man worth his salt will make his way to you.  You’ll know it’s him because he’ll also refuse to stand alongside the masses and will respect {and applaud} your boundaries.  Boundaries of this kind allow Love a safe haven in which to grow; without these boundaries, Love will flee or, even worse, she will be trampled into a jaded quasi-existence.

          c. The Inability to Use the Word “Love.”  Our generation seems to have a problem exchanging a sincere “I love you.”  People feel the stirrings of something that they assume might be love and they push it to the side, attempt to ignore it, flat out deny it, or run from the individual stirring this feeling within them.  They don’t want to say “I love you” and be met with the painful silence that screams “unrequited.”  However, in refusing to acknowledge the presence of Love, the greatest pain has already occurred: the denial of one’s own stirrings of love.  If you are unable to tell another that you love them {and, sadly, this seems to be quite common in our generation… riddled with excuses our peers will say I don’t even know what love is or I’m not in love or Does love even exist anymore?… oh, yeah, guilty of that last one}.  I’ve mocked love through my writing {read Why Falling in Love is a Stupid Thing to Do} and it’s harmless, right?  On further inspection, I don’t think that it is.  Love poems, love songs, love letters… I’m talking about the really good stuff… need to be embraced and accepted.  It’s good to be able to laugh at your foibles in The Game of Love, but it’s not healthy to deny your ability to love or to disallow yourself to love.  It takes an extreme amount of courage to open yourself up to these feelings and to the sentiment “I love you” {arguably the three scariest words in the human language}, but without the words to convince Love to stay, she will retreat and leave you just as suddenly as you had found her.

          d. How Fear Kills Love. Love demands that someone brave lead the way.  Once action rouses Love, Courage must take her down the path that she demands.  It is a path not yet forged and likely entirely unexpected.  It is not for the weak.  It is not for the fearful.  Without an extreme bout of bravery, Love won’t make it past the starting gate.

3. The Solution.  Start with you.  Erase any sense of entitlement and banish laziness.  The more responsibility you take for your actions, the more self-respect you will have.  Self-respect is contagious.  It will affect your friends and those around you.  Soon, entitlement and laziness will disappear from your life and social circles.  Remember the words of my father: “You attract what you project.”  Next, be brave.  Tremendously brave.  You want to end up with someone brave, don’t you?  Don’t shy away from conversations with those you trust {like your friends and family} about your desire to love and be loved.  The more comfortable you get with the topic, the more comfortable they will get with the topic.  You don’t have to turn into some kind of love-touting lunatic.  Just be honest with who you are, at your very core, and what you desire.  The dark hiding spot where Love is resting her head is within you.  It is up to you to gently awaken her.  I don’t know the next step… perhaps it occurs when you encounter a similarly positioned individual, one whose mind and heart are open and ready to take on the challenges {and rewards} of Love.  If you remain open to Love and committed to her, I believe that others will do the same.  I would love if our generation was known for carrying on a Legacy of Love, as opposed to one of Sloth and Fear.

I don’t want to be a part of the generation that was too scared to love.  Do you?