The Search Bar

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Relationships Are Life

I've been thinking a lot over the last four nights. Sleep hasn't come easy or well. I got five hours one night over the last four days and that's been the max so far this week. My mind's stuck in multiple debates, none with any easy answers (or perhaps any answers at all) and I'm struggling to identify where the answers might be.

I know what set me off: Arlington. I visited that hallowed ground Sunday and witnessed some profound grief from those who were there to visit their friends and loved ones. So often in life we're reminded of what we take for granted in comparison of what someone else has lost.

In my case, I was reminded how easily I accept the relationships I have in my life and how easily they could come to an end. It doesn't take much to snuff out a human life. For all our technological and medical advances, we still don't understand death. We still don't understand why it occurs or what purpose it serves in the cosmic scheme of things. Sure, we understand how people died: finding the cause isn't the issue.

The issue is why did they die. What's the point?

I've been wrestling with this for days and I have come no closer to any definite conclusion. I've reached out to my favorite priest (though, admittedly, he's only one of three I know so it's not like it's a honorable title or anything) but he's been wicked busy this week and I don't foresee us meeting up so I can ask him questions.

I've turned to Catholic teaching, which there is plenty of on the Internet, but that has left me equally unfulfilled. The answer I'm looking for doesn't exist in this life.

But what does exist is our relationships with other people. Friends. Family. Boyfriends, Girlfriends, Husbands, Wives. I think, out of anything else on this planet (including ham and cheese, as well as cheesecake) I will miss that in the afterlife (whether heaven or hell or purgatory). I don't think the rules we know will all apply in the afterlife.

Certainly I don't think I'll be able to look down from heaven, drink wine, and snark with my best friend as we watch college-aged kids do college-aged kids stuff. Pretty sure that's not there.

So, with my mind obsessing over relationships and the many different ones that exist, the question came up (quite early on) about which one is the best. What's the best relationship you can have? For as many people as you ask this question, you'll probably get just as many answers.

But for me the answer is quite simple: a relationship between yourself and someone you're in love with (and who loves you in return). That is the founding principle on the greatest and toughest of things in this life, that of marriage (again, all of this is my opinion, but bear with me).

I'm not discounting other relationships as being less, but human beings want companionship and they want it in the form of a significant other/spouse. Being best friends with a person is one thing, but there are some barriers that cannot be crossed in that role. There are things I can't do (despite being confident I could do them) and aren't my place to do in my role as a friend.

But in one's role as a significant other/spouse, the barriers are practically nonexistent. I'm not nor have I ever been either of those things, so I don't know for sure what the key is or where the permission is given to exceed those barriers. I just know, from observation and the experiences relayed to me by others, that such barriers don't really exist.

Out of all the relationships that can exist, that kind has the fewest limits. You can go the distance and dive into another person at a level that can't be matched anywhere else. That's what makes it so appealing and so demanding. Becoming involved with a person in that manner is a commitment of significant resources on multiple fronts.

Which is why, I think, Arlington so messed me up. Those people there who looked upon the graves of their loved ones, a lot of them lost a significant other/spouse and I absolutely can't imagine how devastating that is. To give yourself so fully to another person and to have them do the same, only to lose them to never see them again ... it's inhuman in a lot of ways. To ask someone to carry on like that when such a large part of themselves is missing is hard.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm probably the most inexperienced person you could ask about this. But what I lack in experience I make up for, a little, in observation. I've seen relationships between significant others/spouses break down and end. Sometimes quickly, others time slowly and almost always badly.

Just two days ago a friend of mine, who had just gotten into another relationship after having her last one end badly after many years, posted this article on Facebook. I read it and came away surprised that these things had to even be said ... but then again, with the way people treat these types of relationships nowadays, maybe these things really needed to be restated again.

I'll list the qualities here and my thoughts on them (and how the qualities apply to myself) as we go along, but a lot of this seems fairly "no duh" to me.

1. Honesty -- but not too much of it.

Basically, be honest about everything in your life to your girl, except appearances (which the article recommends you just let lie about cause we all look horrible sometimes and I completely agree with this).

I don't know why lying to your girlfriend/wife ever seems like a good idea but it's more commonplace than I'd like to admit with my male peers. Somewhere along the line, fiction supplanted the truth as the thing to tell the person you're involved with. Not sure why, honestly, but lying to someone you're in a relationship with is the quickest way to wreck things, IMO.

2. Understanding -- that way she doesn't feel the need to explain herself.

Strive to understand her. I feel like this one is probably one that needs to be repeated more often and loudly. I know a lot of guys who are involved with their girls and don't have nearly the understanding of said girls that I do. Whether that speaks more to me and how observant I am, or to the guys and how clueless they are, I don't know. Some guys just don't want to put forth the effort to understand women because women are amazingly complicated.

That's what makes them so amazing to be around, IMO. Simple isn't sexy. More men need to put forth the effort to understand the ladies they're involved with. I think a lack of understanding, a lack of a deeper connection on an emotional level, is what ultimately brings down relationships involving significant others/spouses.

3. Caring -- she needs to know she matters to you.

Pretty straightforward, right? Not as straightforward as many would like to think. People communicate caring differently and in a relationship, I feel like both parties are going to have to figure out how the other communicates caring. For girls, caring usually means listening to her and giving her a shoulder to cry on ... showing her support unwavering at all times.

For guys, they perceive caring as taking some form of action -- usually something physical, kissing or touching or sex. Men aren't usually wired to sit and listen for hours on end, but there are a few out there (I'm one of them I think ... either that or I have a much better attention span than I've given myself credit for).

4. Strength -- both physical and mental.

Women want to be in the presence of guys they find attractive. Based on what I've seen (and the sentiments are echoed in the article), women find men who are intelligent AND in good physical shape attractive. They want to be able to hold a conversation with you where you'll actually talk instead of just sitting there and nodding along.

The physical stuff is pretty self-explanatory. I doubt a woman wants to be with a dude who couldn't defend her if it became necessary.

5. Compassion -- show her you're capable of loving.

I think this falls in the same category as caring and understanding. No one likes a hardass, even if you're a complete stud of one. Being a mean cuss isn't going to enthuse anyone. I agree that guys are taught that compassion is a weakness and that being tough is preferable, but acting like an ass gets you nothing.

High school and most of college proved that to me. I was an ass. I got nothing.

6. Security -- financial and literal.

This is probably the one I take the most issue with. Having the guy be the breadwinner and bring home all the money is an outdated idea: in this world, you're both likely working and you're both making money. Financial security is a team sport nowadays.

Admittedly, I take the most issue with this because this is a weakness of mine. I don't make a lot of money so being able to provide financial security ... that's not a qualification I meet. I don't know if it'll ever be a qualification I meet.

Literal security I can absolutely readily provide. I'm in the best shape of my life and my capacity to protect is high.

7. Blind loyalty -- she wants to be the only woman he has eyes for. 

As guys, we suffer from wandering eyes. We're visually stimulated and wired that way and we suck at ignoring that part of ourselves often. For as far as men have come in terms of being civilized, we always have eyes and those eyes can get us into trouble.

Self-control, however, is something that guys lack. It's encouraged by society and the media to not practice self-control: why deny yourself something you can have easily? Most people don't bother denying themselves and what ends up happening is that people get hurt.

Guys cheat. Girls get cheated on.

I believe firmly that if you have an understanding of the woman in your life, if you truly get her, then you're going to have blind loyalty. Because, though I can't claim to know for sure what being in love is (I believe I have been in one situation but how do you know for sure if it was never meant to be?) but based on my feelings and findings, you should only see the person you're in love with as the one for you.

Other people may be prettier. Other people may be skinnier. Other people may be younger.

But there can't be another like the one you're in love with. Being in love is more about loving the soul, the character, of the person in question more than anything else, IMO.

Which brings me back to relationships. They are life. Without them existence doesn't matter and they are the foundation of everything you do. Marriage can't survive without a relationship between husband and wife. Family can't survive without a relationship between parent and child.

The best things in life are based off relationships.

Remember those people who have lost their relationships. They had what you have and they will never have it again. Take care of your relationships and the people in your life. If you do that, you should be all right in the end.

Thanks for reading folks. God Bless.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

On Memorial Day

I had the honor to visit Arlington National Cemetery today. I was with my closest friend, who was visiting one of her closest friends, Landon Jones, who had tragically lost his life in an accident this past fall. His co-pilot, Jon Gibson, also died in that same accident. These two served our country in the Navy. Both left behind wives and children who go on without them.

Normally, I wouldn't mention people by name. But in this case, I will, because they need to have names. They need to be more than just numbers or references.

Arlington National Cemetery has over 400,000 graves. Some with bodies. Some without. All of these graves represent a person who gave their life in defense of this nation. I realize that in this modern day and age there isn't a whole lot that Americans can agree on. We're at each other's throats over gay rights, abortion, religious freedoms, healthcare, and a multitude of other things.

But if there is one thing we should all be able to agree on, it's that the people who died defending our country should be held in high regard. That those they left behind, whether it be wives, husbands, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, sisters, or brothers ... those people should also be held in high regard. Those who died and those who continue on without them, those people should be honored and thanked every day of our life.

We, as a country, fail to do this. Especially on Memorial Day, a day that is designed for this. It's become a holiday, much like Christmas, where any greater meaning has been lost in the sales. In the tourism.

There were a lot of tourists at Arlington today. I understand they have to keep the funding going somehow and I get that this is the least of the bad solutions, but it's disconcerting to see people happily snapping pictures next to signs with the cemetery's name on it or grave markers with military personnel on it.

I saw a lot of people jogging/running through the cemetery like it was a track.

It's wrong. We've forgotten what this day means. Millions of men and women have given their lives to the cause of this nation and we've given them a day. Only a day. Think, for a moment, what we've given other people. Presidents Washington and Lincoln get a day. Martin Luther King gets a day.

Millions of Americans who died defending our freedoms get only a day.

The math doesn't really work, does it? Washington, Lincoln, and King all were pivotal figures, no doubt. Not a single one of them would have mattered without the Americans who have lost their lives in the trenches. In the fields. In the jungles. In the air. In the sea.

Washington, Lincoln, and King would doubtless agree with me. Not a single one of them ever had an inflated self-worth. They never elevated themselves above anyone else. The people after them did.

We, as a country, have made a critical error. We've elevated the wrong people. We've idolized the wrong people and in the process we have criminally under-appreciated those Americans who have served (living and dead) and who are serving.

We've turned a blind eye to them and rendered those that have passed from this planet an afterthought.

I was able to meet a few of the survivors today, specifically the wife and mother of Jon Gibson. They, like my closest friend, were hurting. They were grieving. They were shedding tears. They had a hole in them that I, and everyone else, was incapable of healing.

And any other day of the year, they are invisible. Forgotten about. But on Memorial Day Weekend, they are recognized for what they've lost: A human being, a husband, father, and son, who brought joy into their lives. Who gave them love and received love in return.

But we blissfully ignore them when it's not this weekend. When they don't walk around with bright red shirts or bows or ribbons or badges declaring for all those with eyes that they have lost. They have sacrificed.

And they are hurting so greatly. I could only offer them a few words, a hug, and a kind touch. That's it.

Nothing, really. We owe them so much more as country, as a people, and we refuse to give it to them. We sit here and debate whether people who work at McDonald's deserve to make 15 dollars an hour, but can't be concerned about how our veterans are being treated. About how their families are being treated.

We forget and we do it, more or less, on purpose. We'd rather not think about it, perhaps out of guilt or shame. This is not a victimless crime and yet we do it. Every day.

We, as a people and nation, need to do more for those who are left behind. For those that have made the ultimate sacrifice. For those that serve in the military today and in the future.

Millions of Americans who have died get one day out of the year. Millions who have served get another day out of the year. Two days for millions of people who have undertaken one of the greatest causes you can ... who defend our freedoms and our rights and they don't know most of us.

They sacrifice time. They sacrifice relationships. They sacrifice their health. They sacrifice their lives.

And we ignore them most days of the year.

It's time to make those left behind and those who continue to serve visible, not invisible. It's time to give them credit for all they do. We owe them that.

It's not about the BBQs or the weekend. It's not about getting time to catch up on movies or do yardwork. It's not about getting a holiday.

This Memorial Day, don't forget to remember those who sacrificed and who are left behind. Don't forget to remember that they are people and not just numbers.

Landon Jones and Jon Gibson were husbands, fathers, and sons. They died for our country. They have left behind wives, sons, and daughters. They have left behind fathers, mothers, sisters, and brothers. They have left behind friends and family.

We can't fill the hole they've left. But we can remember them and strive to take care of those they can no longer care for themselves. If we are truly as great a country and people as we claim to be, this is the least of what we can do.

Thank you to those who have sacrificed so much for myself and my loved ones. Thank you to the families who have lost so much. I can never repay you. I can't heal your wounds. I can't stop the pain.

But I can remember.

God Bless.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Talking to Jesus

*Warning, deep thoughts follow. Profanity likely, brutal honesty all but assured.*

"Tonight the simplest meditation there is. Take some time for yourself. Imagine sitting next to Jesus and share your day with him. Be honest. And know that he's listening." This is from Father James Martin, a prominent Catholic who posts stuff like this on Facebook.

Tonight's meditation has struck a cord with me because I was wondering about lost causes. I was researching St. Jude earlier this night and in reading about him (and killing my laptop battery in the process) I found that this guy and I, we might be made for one another.

When I become Catholic (hopefully next Easter, God willing), I get to choose a confirmation saint. And St. Jude is the first one I've come across that's really spoken to me. He's about lost causes and desperate cases. I feel like both and more most days.

The last few days my head's been lost in multiple dark rabbit holes. It happens sometimes where I get trapped in a cycle of thoughts that I just can't seem to break out of. So, taking Father Martin's meditation, here's my attempt at laying out my day to Jesus.


You ever tire of just seeing yourself? I get that way sometimes. I know everyone does at some point. This feeling has been prevalent a lot the last few days. I feel like I'm a waste and I know that I'm not, because you surely didn't die on the cross for a waste, but it still feels like that.

I'm fat, one ... okay, not REALLY fat. Just not at the weight I want. The weight I want might be unachievable, I don't know, but I feel like I'm failing at the one thing I thought I was good at. I was good at losing weight and now all I seem to do is just ... stay. Stay the same. It hasn't been a good winter/spring for me and now as summer approaches I'm sorta-panicking.

It's not like my clothes don't fit. They fit. They don't fit as well as I'd like, but they fit and I'm fine with that for now. I just worry about how all this plays out if I don't make my goal before June 1st. That's the pretty-sure-it's-summer date. June 8th is the for-sure-it's-summer date.

Why am I worried? You can't get by these days without presenting a decent appearance. Attractiveness is judged harshly and quickly and the judging process is pretty universal. Everyone does it and they do it during the summer. When guys are in swimtrunks alone and girls are in bikinis. Most of the body is on full display and there's no room for error.

Yes, I realize I'm starting out from a severe disadvantage. I have a sad sack of loose skin stuck on my stomach, ugly beyond belief stretch marks that are all over that portion and are very visible. My skin is a disaster there. I could cover up and I might, but it seems cowardly.

I did it to myself, Jesus. Shouldn't I just accept the judgment with little complaining? I don't know.

But the point is that judgement will come and there's nothing you or I can do about. That's right, you can't prevent others from judging me, not as long as we have free will. Unless that has an expiration date or a contractual loophole, in which case do feel free to intervene on my behalf.

I will be judged and I fail. I don't look like someone who's gonna be 26 (why am I still alive again?) in October. I look like I'm a teenager or someone in their very early 20s. I should be at my physical peak based on how I look but I missed it. I will never know what my peak looks like. I can achieve, generously, 75 percent of that. Probably 66 percent is the max I can achieve.

I'm not attractive to the opposite sex, not according to any evidence I have. That seems unfair but really it seems just damned mean. If I was going to be unattractive no matter what, why allow me to lose weight in the first place? The whole "God has a plan" thing continues to bug me.

The beach is coming. Judgement is coming. Failure is coming. Soon. It'll be here soon and I don't want to deal with it but I will out of the very desperate hope that someone out there is forgiving of me and that someone is a single female of the Catholic persuasion.

Oh yes, I hear the "You must first help yourself" argument and I'm working on that. Scheduling is a bitch some days, all right? But this is about my thoughts today and I'm not worried about that.

I'm worried about my mind. You dealt with all the ways we human beings can sin, right? Right. How do you keep your mind from getting lost in the impure? Dude, I'm a male and we're visually stimulated and the world is rife with imagery EVERYWHERE. I admire the beauty from an aesthetic standpoint and I envy it to a degree.

But they hit my eyes and then I see them in some form/combination during the night. It's when I close my eyes that things get bad, when I have no control. I can't believe for an instant that this lack of control during the sleeping hours is just acceptable. My mind, unconscious or not, is my mind. No one elses.

I feel like I'm the worst 25-year-old ever for even asking the question. Most guys my age, my peers, have already engaged in some serious making out with girls, have fondled them, have had sex with them, have been in a relationship with them.

I have done none of this. Be honest with me, isn't that just a little bit on the side of wrong? Shoot straight with me: am I defective? Honestly, tell me if I am so I can just start accepting it now.

I don't want to be the 40-year-old Virgin. I realize that's a really poor example, but this is what it's boiling down to.

I want a wife. I want kids. I want the other side of the coin, my partner in the duet, the person that makes life make more sense. I get that pinning all my hopes on that is unrealistic and probably wrong, but the bottom line is I want love. Companionship.

And the way to achieve that, in this day and age, is to be attractive. Which I'm not. I'm not attractive on any level.

Really, look hard here. I take forever to warm up to people. I don't function normally. I am so socially inexperienced that toddlers roll their eyes at me. I'd rather hang out with kids in the single-digits of age than people my age at parties.

What possible purpose could a confounding creation like myself have?

I think I'm ill-equipped for this, honestly. I'm an envious person who has an overactive imagination and can't help but think how I'd do things better. How I'd be better with other people (who are already involved with others) and how I'd do things differently.

That's pride, right? Has to be. Pride is my downfall and I wish I could kill it almost as much as I wish I could kill the loose skin.

There's too much shit in me and I feel like I'm wasting your time and the time of everyone else by talking about it. The deep, dark rabbit holes are mine to get lost in. No one else needs to be part of that doomed expedition.

But I feel better getting it out there, so thanks for that.


Good night and God Bless.