Tag Archives: relationships

Cupid’s Broken Bow

bow10_3C474CCA-DD84-22E1-F8B879731EDC7353Another Valentine’s Day arrives to reflect on the intentional decision to avoid that most primal human urge to seek comfort and connection in the arms of a mate. As this calendar holiday disappears, I find myself as happily content in my choreographed singledom as ever. My life is of my own orchestration and the fewer cooks in the kitchen, the better the stew.

Understandably, there are those who are more than satisfied sharing this 80-something-year journey with a fellow traveler. They like to discuss the details of their respective workdays, synchronize their meals, think about what particular shade of green would look best in the den, vacillate about vacation rental properties, and fall asleep in a tangle beneath the muffled sounds of The Tonight Show’s opening monologue.

That may very well be the blueprint to build a rewarding and fulfilling life. But I’m not calling the contractor just yet.

My wiring screams at me to follow that heavy bass rumble of a distant drummer. I’m not going against my instincts or intentionally banishing myself to a fortress of solitude. Removing even the notion of chasing after some unattainable eligible single, trying to prove my merit, and ultimately spending any effort or time rebounding from the imaginary rejection, miscommunication, or misaligned timing seems like a much more rational and logical approach to living.

I haven’t been on a date in 18 months, and I’ll be just as satisfied and untroubled if that number hits 118. I have always found strength, motivation, and productivity from within. If anything, my numerous relationships and dalliances have hindered my growth, stunted my evolution, and routinely stood as roadblocks or speed bumps on the freeway to awakening and self-actualization.

But there’s always a chance I’ll strike up a random conversation with someone who is intelligent, insightful, opinionated, and rips the socks out of my Reefs. Then this diatribe will simply stand as a bullshit rant on a blog about independence, empowerment, and autonomy. Anything’s possible.

Advertisements

Brotherhood

Monkey HuddleI’m one of the lucky ones.

I may not have found the perfect partner or landed the dream job. I don’t have a personal relationship with my tailor and there are no smiling toddlers belted into the back of a BMW. I don’t take exotic vacations to places where people see their feet underwater, and the odds of anything even remotely resembling a storybook ending to this narrative dwindle further with every passing year.

But, I wouldn’t trade what I have for three rubs on a genie’s lamp. The bonds that have been built within my core collective are stronger and more resilient than Hollywood’s latest, feeble attempt at “friend fiction.”

There is a carbyne foundation supporting the weight and lifting the shoulders of men I’ve known for almost half my life. We made our introductions in the east, and then settled with the sun. A universal breeze could have easily blown us all just slightly off the mark. But fate dictated that our subconscious lassos landed on complementary cattle.

Regardless of the days spent apart or the interference of squabbling schedules, we never fail to come together in time with the beat, toe-tapping our way to the next wild theory, social observation, or wordplay marathon. The rare balance of unconditional support, unwavering loyalty, and relentless vulnerability makes for an exclusive club. We don’t expect you to understand, and we’re not asking you to join.

But, I am beyond grateful every day that I landed in Ithaca and found a counterpart who, in turn, led me to the missing pieces of my complicated puzzle. I would be a fractured shell, searching for connection and purpose without the lacquer and love of my “brothers.”

Thank you, gentlemen, for every moment passed and each minute waiting to surface.

Saying Goodbye

balloon1At this point, it’s probably pretty obvious that I’m not a big fan of saying goodbye to the constants in my world. Chasing an elusive dream of stasis has proved disappointing and disheartening, and this latest realization has added another slap to an already-bruised face.

I have built a core group of friends that I can say without hesitation is the most supportive, open, caring, and genuine collection of males you will ever find in our modern, self-obsessed, and apathetic society. These men have been in my life for the last 12-17 years, and we are a circle that has defied all male stereotypes, rejecting the notion of “bros,” eschewing emotional safeguarding, and almost always choosing hugs over handshakes.

We have been an intricate and intimate puzzle with interchangeable pieces, falling in and out of the picture when love, work, and commitments dictated our level of contact. We welcomed new members and did our best to embrace rookies into the fold. But, the foundation was constructed from memories and moments, and regardless of connections made later in life, there is a finite number of people who have genuine shared history.

I have been guilty of taking these relationships for granted, assuming they would always be waiting for me when needed. I wanted to believe the band would look and sound the same, regardless of time. The comfort of knowing my most valued friendships all resided in the same city was like a giant security blanket. Even when I wasn’t around it, I was still protected from the cold.

Now, a vital member of the collective is leaving. The news was a mild surprise, having known the prospect was on the table. But, the sadness and nostalgia accompanying the announcement are more than I expected. Some of my earliest and most cherished LA memories and experiences are directly credited to the bond we built and the easy alliance born from the most unexpected common ground.

Those tennis days and music nights were some of my happiest. Even when I was barely working, struggling to navigate the financial hills and (mostly) valleys of this city, he was the one person who visited me each weekend. Breaking the loneliness and monotony of those stress-heavy weeks by hitting some forehands and sharing a quick lunch meant the world to me. I don’t know if he ever knew that. I hope he does now.

People grow and change and move. Life is lived out of a box, and there are adventures waiting for this wide-eyed explorer. But, in the interest of full disclosure, I have to honor the transparency of this blog and admit that dry eyes have not accompanied this post.

Losing some comfortable life consistency is nothing compared to losing a friend.

The Defuser

photo (3)How many fires could be extinguished with the careful incorporation of a few reassuring words? How often do we choose to escalate an argument or disagreement, as opposed to neutralizing the issue with empathetic understanding? Why does it feel so good to win, and why does arriving at a mutually-beneficial compromise seem like defeat?

Those who have been engaged in a heated debate with me will surely disagree, but I have found that a keen understanding of what makes people tick will allow cooler heads to prevail.

I can credit my communication courses at Ithaca for building a foundation that has helped me navigate a world of blundering inefficiency and repetitive false expectations with relative ease.

Granted, there is generally more success found with strangers than loved ones, but the tools required for the job are the same. The implementation varies wildly, and that mostly has to do with the level of secession I’m willing to grant.

It’s not about sucking wind from sails or puncturing balloons. The beauty of disarming a bomb lies in the subtlety of the technique. People simply want to be heard. They like to feel that their words have weight.

It may be important to identify with another viewpoint or particular stance to establish common ground, and this is often the most difficult and most uncomfortable part. But, when two staunch debaters are face to face with opposing beliefs, there can be little accomplished in the way of progress or resolution. No one responds to shouting or antagonism.

Remaining even-keeled and not allowing yourself to get rattled will prevent the altercation from escalating, but playing into the other person’s hands will also pull some steam from the ship. No middle ground is found when two people are sprinting in opposite directions.

It’s also important to know your audience. Screaming at a customer service representative over some piece of miscommunication does very little to accomplish anything other than release tension through personal venting. These people don’t own the company and they have no great interest in the value of the stock. They’re simply doing a job and trying to pay the bills. Let’s not make their days miserable for no reason.

Open ears and an open mind can do wonders when it comes to a squabble. We need to give a little to get a lot. It’s not always pleasant, but it feels a lot better than the alternative.

Winning isn’t winning when someone’s left in tears.

Puppet Shows for All the People

photo (2)Is life an illusion?

Now, I’m not asking this in a Matrix-y, alien-controlled consciousness kind of way. But, the more I step back to observe modern society and the dance we all do for each other, the more I see the green screen.

There’s an inherent irony in the fact that we crave reality and authenticity, but seem to do everything in our power to present ourselves in a wholly contrived and artificial light. This goes beyond stiffly posed selfies and the artifice of our various social networks. There are examples everywhere.

I spend a lot of time on sets, so I get to see the wizard behind the curtain on a regular basis. Still, each time I watch an actor or product in extreme closeup, only to see an army of disinterested crew members sleepily checking their phones or watching the clock, it’s hard to invest in the emotional stock of an actress with tears streaming down her face.

It’s all about framing, but I suppose we crave this type of art forgery because we keep buying. Audiences at live tapings coaxed to holler and scream at the most mundane jokes, the epilepsy-inducing graphics at sporting events, or “reality” shows cut and edited to the point of absurdity have all become so commonplace that any version of something substantial is merely a filtered illusion.

We are hyper engaged and video crazed, and real life moves way too slowly. Instant gratification at breakneck broadband speeds and temporary comprehension are the trends of the day.

Now, I admit I’m the first to jump on a technological bandwagon, but this is only the roller coaster climb. We’re not slowing down and we’re not asking for a return to accuracy or purity. We hunger for the fireworks and we like to believe people can be superheroes. But if the gimmicks get us through the day, who am I to argue? Life is tough enough.

I guess it’s time to go live vicariously through more of the French Open.

Stealing Minutes

burglarSometimes I have to remind myself to live in the moment. Because my chosen lifestyle and profession make me think I’m stuck on a treadmill without any definable destination, there’s an inclination to believe that life will always be full of possibilities. The road will always be open and the friendships and established relationships will always exist in the same form and manner to which I’m accustomed.

This notion is utterly false.

Although I have been lucky enough to physically feel the same for the last 10 years, the clock has not remained static. The people in my life have floated in and out, teaching me lessons or satisfying some temporary void. The few, concrete alliances have grown at much the same rate and in similar fashions, further blurring the hands of time. So, a general sense of limitless deadlines has remained intact.

I’m reminded of the Billy Joel lyrics, “This is the time to remember, cause it will not last forever. These are the days to hold on to, ‘cause we won’t, although we’ll want to. This is the time. But, time is gonna change. I know we’ve got to move somehow. But I don’t want to lose you now.”

Taking a second to fully embrace the events around me—knowing that everything can change in an instant—is going to be my mission. I see most of my memories with crimson-colored spectacles, but I have the bad habit of observing the present, as opposed to living in it.

Although I’d like to think of life as a boundless stretch of open road, the reality is that the opportunities to accomplish my dreams or savor shared experiences do not live in a vacuum. People will ultimately settle into whatever existence they’ve created for themselves, and that plan may or may not include me.

Everything happens for a reason…whether to teach us lessons or push us into particular directions. I don’t worry about a dismal future, but I know that an uncharted tomorrow will take a very different shape than the familiarity of today. That’s all part of the puzzle. The challenge is finding a better way to solve it.

Midnight Flashes

midnightThe power of music to transport me back in time, across distances, or just out of my quicksand brain is something that has always been fascinating. But, with those carefully-crafted melodies come the inescapable memories.

With certain songs, the faint plucking of a chord progression in the first few seconds of a track is enough to rocket me out of my present pondering and into the skin of a younger—and often more wide-eyed—version of myself. I can take a break from being an almost-adult and find some peace of mind in the fascination of youth. It’s a welcome respite from the modern grind and it feels like a familiar visitor from a less complicated life.

Music and lyrics course through these veins with such potency, it’s impossible to listen superficially. When memories accompany striking harmonies, I’m defenseless. It’s like an elevator with a snapped cable dropping through a bottomless shaft. It’s futile to fight, so I acquiesce and enjoy the ride.

Maybe there’s an extra serving of nostalgia on my plate this week because I learned my high school girlfriend—and first love—is pregnant.

There are few musical memories more vividly distinct than the soundtrack to that all-encompassing, heart-exploding period of adolescence. I can still picture myself programming repetitive playlists of specific songs we listened to so incessantly, it’s a wonder the stereo didn’t reject our choices in a moment of sentient defiance.

We spent more nights than I could count, pulling the blankets over our heads, blocking out the burden of time, and living in a world of our own creation. To be a teenager in love is to feel the Earth spin on your finger like some colossal Harlem Globetrotter. Everything is waiting for you, and anything is possible.

I’m grateful for every second I was able to learn about hope and heartbreak, and I’ll never forget the artists and albums that held my hand through all the hills and valleys. I take comfort knowing I can travel back there whenever I choose—and whenever I need to be reminded of where I’ve been and where I’m going.

It only takes the push of a button. So…I guess I’ll hear you soon.

Searching for Sugar Mama

money-origami-dress-greenOn the eve of Hollywood’s most spectacularly star-studded night, I thought I would take a moment to reflect on a trend that is now so routine, it’s becoming boring. I’m referring to the sea of doe-eyed twenty-somethings securely fixed to the arms of men who are old enough to be their fathers.

With pretty hair and perfect teeth, they amble along red carpets and media lines, pandering to the city’s power players, and desperately trying to stay afloat in an ocean of ennui. They nod affably while listening to recycled stories about pranks on set, the triumph of the cast and crew, the challenges of the role, and how this particular film is going to alter the way people experience cinema. The mechanical Barbies are never acknowledged or introduced. They straighten their too-small dresses and take the hand of Mr. Hollywood as they’re ushered to the next press pit.

Beauty has been a valuable commodity for as long as humans have had eyes. That beauty is often rewarded with gifts and opportunities. This is nowhere more prevalent than Los Angeles. We are a city of young, meritless actresses tagging along with rich, old men. It’s modern prostitution with a Hollywood sheen, and my feminist sensibilities find it nauseating.

There is nothing more impressive or attractive than a strong, intelligent, and capable female. There are plenty of women who understand references without having them explained, who are in on the joke while it’s being constructed, and who can fight to support their stance on any topic. They appreciate music and art. They read books and remember specific lines. They laugh at themselves and knock you down to size when you deserve it. They think and they question and they seek information. They are interesting and thoughtful and open and honest. They can carry the weight of the world and never let you see the strain. They are intuitive and emotionally connected. There are levels of virtue and resilience in a woman that can easily trump those of a man.

Why anyone would choose a plastic robot in heels is beyond me. It shows how little that person is valued. She is simply a trophy, a prize to be flaunted in front of those who crave a similar emptiness. She has a very limited shelf life and will soon be exchanged for a later model. But, she blindly swallows the promises of auditions, meetings, and connections guaranteed to propel her career. The result is compounded rejection. She finds herself more alone than when she started, with an extra layer of judgment to shed at the therapist’s office.

But, maybe this is how the game is played. Perhaps I need to find a sugar mama who falsely encourages my talents and abilities, filling my head with assurances of book deals, media tours, New York Times Best Seller lists, and a life of security, lavish luxury, and endless happiness.

If you feel you fit the bill, please don’t hesitate to offer your pitch. I will be accepting applications immediately.

Beneath the Heft of Hourglass Sand

mother_and_child_by_wakeupfantasy-d5au6fy

“The sweet is never as sweet without the sour.”

A few days ago, I woke up with the unfortunate impulse to reach for my phone for some helpful advice. Still half-asleep, I found myself dropping into a familiar Google search sinkhole of facts and opinions, unsubstantiated claims, and broad generalizations. But, between the lines, I found pieces of heart-wrenching truth.

See, I live with an incessant worry about the future. Now, I’m not speaking about the glorious, hyper-technological, world-revolutionizing future. All notions of our impending singularity do nothing but paint a Jack Nicholson-sized joker smile across my mug.

What I’m referring to is a future of dwindling time, limited resources, and the daunting prospect of uncontrollable aging. I don’t sit, wrapped in a panic poncho, because of concerns about my own mortality. I never much feared or questioned death. I see it as a necessary component of the cycle of life and I will face it with as much bravery as my age and mental capacity can muster.

My fear and—more specifically—my sadness live under the weight of losing my partner.

It’s always been just Mom and me. I don’t have any siblings and I reside in a city 3,000 miles from any member of my family. I only get major holidays and my annual summer trip to connect through a means other than Skype, and her 30-year head start is beginning to feel like a lead I can’t catch.

So, I thought I would research the notion of caring for an aging parent as an only child. It took less than three results for me to realize I had bitten off a much bigger quandary cookie than I wanted to swallow. It was fear wrapped inside of speculative projection. This was no way to start a day and, contrary to popular belief, streaming tears don’t help lubricate a sun salutation.

The role-swapping will be one of the more difficult transitions. As I’ve mentioned before, I often feel like a young kid walking around playing pretend in a grownup world. To not only own the idea that I am an adult, but to take full responsibility for the physical and emotional well-being of the one person who wore those gloves so perfectly seems like some Copperfield-level form of deception. I’ve been awarded the job and I’m utterly unqualified.

But, I can’t say all the literature was discouraging. One story emphasized the sense of relief the author felt being able to control the care and health trajectory of his mother. He wasn’t lost in sibling bickering and he didn’t harbor the resentment that can arise from feeling like no one else is pitching in to help. He was able to direct every aspect of her treatment and could ensure her best interests were protected. Obviously, bearing the full brunt of responsibility isn’t easy, but knowing that each detail is carefully coordinated can help avoid a messy meal made from too many cooks in the kitchen.

Reading this information wasn’t a relief. I still walk toward the future like an ice skater checking the depth of a frozen lake. But to know that there are people out there grappling with the same doubts and fears made me feel less alone and momentarily quelled my trepidation.

This isn’t painless. It’s not supposed to be. When you care about someone else’s life more than your own, there is an inherent price tag on that love. If something is worth preserving, it has value. If that value is greater than the premium you place on yourself, all your cards are on the table. It is the very meaning of vulnerability, and it’s terrifying. But, attempting to control the uncontrollable is an exercise in futility.

Enjoy each and every shared moment, and savor the small stuff. The rest is just an illusion.

Now, it’s time to take my own advice.

They’re All Made Out of Ticky-Tacky, and They All Look Just the Same.

Bing Crosby And Mary Carlisle In 'Doctor Rhythm'

While reading on the beach in our customary 80-degree January weather, I couldn’t help but notice a striking disconnect among the various couples surrounding my meticulously-positioned lounge chair. At first, I assumed I was jumping to generalizations about boredom inside of stale relationships or the blatant escape tactic of focusing way too much energy on constructing the kid’s sandcastle instead of recognizing the glaring danger signs inside a faltering marriage. But, then I took a closer look.

As I stretched in the sun (with my Kindle steady in hand), I watched people sitting together, but alone. Even those without children, presumably in new relationships, had about as much enthusiasm for one another as dentists have for their halitosis patients. It was detachment at its most fundamental form. I tried to catch pieces of conversations to better paint a picture of the reasons behind the laconism, but the couples were just that. Silent. They acted as if never saying a word to each other was the most normal thing in the world. Apparently, this was their version of a union.

If these people were wrinkling in the sun, deep into their 80’s or 90’s, I would have given them a pass. But, these were not alliances built from history or struggle. These were not teammates who saw the best and worst of the world together, and were now relaxing into the last chapter of their lives with a comfortable understanding of one another’s every quirk and nuance. Some of these purveyors of the silent treatment were barely out of college. Has your partner already become that wildly boring that you feel the irresistible need to escape into your own mind to avoid interaction?

Well, good thing an iPhone is never more than 10 inches away. That’s the most efficient piece of modern distraction ever mass produced.

It’s a sad statement that we choose to align ourselves with people whose company or input we don’t value. Loneliness is a powerful thing, but it’s not that powerful. Life’s too short. Hang with people who can paint a smile on your face.

Or, at least bring a Kindle and learn something.

***This is not a paid endorsement for the Kindle or any particular e-reader. However, if Amazon is listening, I am more than willing to discuss blog sponsorship!