appreciation formulation

If any man on this earth has a daughter, and that daughter grows up to think of him with the appreciation, love, and respect I feel for my dad, he would be blessed beyond measure.  I know of no  formulaic equation for appreciation, love, or respect.  We grow to love some people, or find ourselves growing to dislike others, and while that seems simple enough, the “either we love that person/ or we don’t” of relationships, it isn’t simple at all.  Today is Father’s Day but I am grateful every day for the man who fell in love with my mother, wished to make her his wife, and shared with her every dream for a future together, and then did everything to make that future come true.

I have known many women in my life who have had dads who were, let’s just say,  ‘not great,’ and whose frequent bad decisions and perpetual poor choices provided these girls with a childhood that often seemed uncertain, and I imagine that is not an easy way to grow up.  I’ve read enough memoirs and have had enough friends to know too that many girls grow up with a list of questions that go through their minds when their dad is expected home… “will dad be mad, will dad be late, will dad be drunk, will dad be mean, will dad make enough money for mom to pay the bills…”  My life was never this way, not even a little bit…My dad was never mad, late, drunk, or mean, and he never missed work.  I know to some this example might make my dad seem kind of boring, but I assure you, he is one of the most interesting men you would ever have the good fortune to know, and what he was in my life was stability, consistency, and reliability, and I know this, it is in great part what has made me crave these simple pleasures in adulthood.  There is nothing wrong with a stable, consistent, reliable way of life.  The fact that my  fatherless daughter got to have my dad step up and fill those same needs in her life is something for which I am forever thankful.  The fact that my father has never stopped loving my mother is another thing about him that I appreciate, love, and respect.  There is no way to measure that level of gratitude, for the stable, consistent, and reliable life his presence allowed me to give my daughter too…If there are really 50 Inuit words for snow, then if I could, I would imagine a language where there are 51 words for thanks.

I wonder sometimes, when my brain goes off on these delightful journeys, if there could be some brilliant, measurable formula, that we simply have not figured out, for what makes us love and why?   What happened for my mother and my father never happened for me and that is simply a truth in my life.  I  have never loved a man who was enough like my father to compare them, and if my father was the standard to which I compared all men, I wonder why I never was able to find one who fell in love with me, wished to make me his wife, shared with me every dream for a future together, and then did everything to make that future come true…

My father never taught me to bait a hook, surf, swing a golf club, cast a line, play poker, or catch a crab, but the man I am currently dating has taught my granddaughters and his own daughter to do all of these things.  My father has never, not once ever, sat inside on the sofa or in his chair during the day and watched a game of any sport on television, but the man I am currently dating would, if given the chance, sit on the sofa for hours, watching any sport in which the moving of a ball is involved, on any day of any week, regardless of the weather any time of year.  It’s true that when I ask my dad to do something for me I only have to ask once, and let’s just say that when I ask the man I am currently dating to do something, I often have to ask much more than once.  This at times makes me curious, how I can love two men so much who are so different in so many ways.

I suppose the appreciation formulation comes to me from the ways in which these two men are more similar.  I always loved about my father that he would vacuum if the house needed vacuuming, or cook when dinner needed to be cooked, or do laundry when clothes needed to be washed, the same kinds of so-called “women’s work” that the man I am currently dating does whenever it needs to be done.  I appreciate, very much that it’s what I have always known in my father, and presently have in the man with whom I am sharing my life.  I know some women who never had that kind of man in their lives, ones who just expected the women to do the ‘women things’ and if she did not have the time or the energy, then those things did not get done.

My gratitude was sparked this past autumn by a memory of my mother when she twisted out her back when I was a young child, and the care that my father showed her, as she cried out in agony, as he tenderly got her into the bedroom and how he did all the chores and all the parenting, for days that I recall.  I thought about this time in my past after I had surgery in November that did not go as smoothly as anticipated, and how the man I am currently dating tended to my health and my comfort, my needs and my wellness, and cared for me as if he were the doctor, the nurse, the housekeeper, and the chef.  It turns out, those things really matter when you are sharing your life with somebody.  His tenderness towards me reminded me so much of that memory I have of my father.

I have many memories of getting hurt or banged up as a little kid, and my dad never losing his cool, and just always calmly doing whatever needed to be done, and I have watched, many times, as the man I am currently dating has scooped up his own daughter, as well as each of my granddaughters, from the driveway after a fall, or pulled them from waves and currents that grew too strong too fast, or wiped their tears, and cleaned & bandaged their knees and elbows, and stroked their heads and held them and put ice packs on their wounds, never losing his cool and always calmly doing whatever needed to be done…Tenderness is something that goes unnoticed sometimes in this busy life we all live, but showing tenderness is another way to show love without saying one word.

This man I am currently dating, well the fact is that we met too late to create together, even a little bit, the life we could have imagined.  The choices we both made before we knew each other puts our chances of shared dreams ever coming to fruition at slim to none.  So my dreams remain mine and his remain his, and if we find one or more that we can possibly pull off and make happen as a couple, I will consider it a success.  If I could dream of one thing coming true for him,  it is for when his own daughter is a woman, nearing her 50th year on earth, that she might think of him with even half of the appreciation, love, and respect that I think of for my dad…if that happens for him, this man I am currently dating, it would be a dream come true.  There might not be any formula to measure appreciation, but I do know that no matter how you organize the equation, it always equals thanks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Loving v The World

This weekend is the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Supreme Court civil rights case which invalidated all laws that prohibited interracial marriage, Loving v Virginia.   The groom was white and the bride was black and they were in love but could not get married in the state in which they lived, as interracial marriage was illegal…It was against the law, a crime, for Mildred and Richard to marry the person they loved because the person they loved had skin that was a different color than their own.  Let that sink in…This case was a big deal, a very big deal.  This weekend also marks the 51st anniversary of the marriage of my parents.  The groom wore black and the bride wore white and Mary and J got married at a small church in a small town called Surf City, and had their small reception party at the small home of the bride’s parents in a small town called Ship Bottom, and nobody told them that they could not get married,  there were no laws preventing them from starting a life together as lawfully wedded adults, it was not at all a big deal and just another random wedding in June at the Jersey shore.  It seems rather unfair that J and Mary could just get married because they wanted to and Richard and Mildred had to contact the ACLU and fight all the way to the Supreme Court.  It’s hard enough to find somebody to love in this world, harder still to find somebody who loves you back, and then to find somebody who loves you back enough to want to make and share a life with you, and become your lawfully wedded mate is really, when you think about it, almost impossible…what a cruel joke it must have felt like, to be a man, with the last name “Loving,” in love with a woman who loved him back, and wanted to make and share a life with him, and to be told that their marriage was unlawful.

What if it was illegal to marry somebody who was left-handed if you were right-handed?  What if you were ambidextrous and had straight hair but could not marry the woman you loved because she was born with only one hand and had curly hair?  What if there were laws against marrying outside of your own height, weight, or what about the length of your toes???  My father grew up “well to do” and my mother, well she didn’t, and his parents had a summer beach house on the small island where my mother grew up…what if there had been rules or laws like an Indian caste system here in south Jersey, my mother and father would not have been able to marry, despite how in love they were, both with each other, and with the idea and dream of creating a life together.  In this modern American life, I can’t imagine such gross levels of intolerance, but I studied law, I know how real it was, and for too many, still is.   Too many do not understand, even now, that we are one human race, despite our visible differences.  Those who see the differences, more than the sameness, are in my opinion, more often than not, a far bigger problem for a civil society than those of us who just want us all to love each other and live in peace and harmony.  Can you just imagine what it must have been like for a man whose last name was LOVING to be prohibited, BY LAW, from marrying the woman he loved??!!    I am very old-fashioned about a number of things and thinking that marriage matters is one of them.  I feel as strongly about the right for blacks to marry whites as I feel about women to marry women or men to marry men.

The world and the people in it can be very ugly.  When we love each other, everything can be more beautiful just because of how we feel inside.  This idea might be a little bit too much Mr. Rogers’  Neighborhood for you, but I think it’s true.  Love and kindness and inclusion and acceptance and all those feelings that some attribute to being sappy or weak, are really what makes all of us stronger.  Being loved, truly and deeply, like how my dad loves my mom for example, makes us humans far more capable to handle life and all that it throws at us.  Why some adult consensual love is legal, allowed, and celebrated,  and some is considered wrong or criminal, is just nuts to me.  I think love should be encouraged and applauded because we live in a world where there is just too little of it anyway…

Not all of us have the good luck my parents did, to find ‘their person’ and make a life together that is loving from day one.  I have a number of friends who have been married to their person for more than twenty years, something I always dreamed for, to have something even remotely similar to the relationship and life and family my parents built,  but it’s an area where I failed miserably, time after time.  That I know people who are doing it right like my parents did, makes me very happy, to know that it CAN be done, even though my happiness was always shrouded by a twinge of envy because it was ‘my something’ I never managed to do for myself…When I write that I am the daughter of a great romance, a line I once stole from a Dar Williams song, I mean it on many levels.  When you grow up in a loving family, you have to really try to NOT be a loving person in adulthood, I mean you have to really make an effort to not be a person who loves deeply…I think that whole nature vs. nurture idea is very real; if you are raised by parents who are deeply in love with each other, and really love you, it sure takes a lot of effort to NOT be full of love for others and for your life.  Wanting to find ‘your person’ to love becomes as important as being on the receiving end of  love…it’s like you are filled up with so much that is good and wonderful, that you just want to have somebody who you can share it all with…like Freddie Mercury sang, Find Me Somebody To Love…it has always mattered…and it always will.

You want to know what love is?  I took my granddaughter to church this morning.  My sister took her last week.  My granddaughter is nine and expressed an interest in learning about religion and so, despite the fact that I am not a christian, nor do I believe anything I was taught in CCD class, I spent my morning today at catholic church with a little blonde girl who means the world to me.  I love her with almost all of my heart.  Her sister gets almost the rest of it.  One would think my love was spent between those two girls, but here I go again, loving more and more every day…There was a guest speaker, a nun from France who works with a missionary group in west Africa and you know what she said today, she said “love matters, the more we love each other, the better the world is, when we include our brothers and our sisters in our love, the world is better” and I thought to myself, see, that little French nun gets it.  I grew up in a house full of love and I bet Mr. Loving just wanted that too, to live in a house full of love.  I know that was the plan my parents had.

This world is filled with a whole lot of hate, and I think if you have love in your life you should celebrate that today, and in your thoughts, wish my parents a happy 51st and thank Mr. Loving for thinking that it mattered, that he should have been able to marry his person, in any state he darn well wanted to.  If you are unsure if there is enough love in the world, I encourage you to do something today that you don’t really want to do, but will do it for the person you love.  If you are looking for love, well, I hope in this Loving weekend, you find it.  The world is a better place with more love in it, which are words I wrote the other day when I started this blog,  and this morning a little French nun, from a west African mission, at a church I don’t belong to, in a religion I don’t believe in, said almost the exact same words…so there you have it…Loving versus The World should be a total knock out…Love will always win…

Paths

I sometimes have such angry thoughts that I’m sure if they were words imprinted on my face or my body they would make me one of the least attractive people you might ever meet.  These thoughts are strange and upset me, mostly because I am really generally such a pleasant, happy, upbeat, joyful person, and when these thoughts begin to sprout and grow and take root, they occupy so much of my brain so quickly and I think, as I am thinking them, “who is THIS person with such vitriolic thoughts?!”  I do not like her very much, this angry woman, but she shows up now and then and it takes so much out of me; I mean it literally exhausts me when she’s around, as if I’ve exerted all sorts of energy and I feel sapped and used up and like it’s hard to get out of my own way…Like this morning for instance, I woke up tired and with aches all over, and yet I started a great new book and fell asleep quickly last night, but it matters not, because those horribly unattractive thoughts I was thinking weigh me down and make me feel unwell, both in body and spirit.

When I feel at peace and confident that all my parts are working as they should, and content that my brain is braining as it should, I have a calmness that I can’t describe but I sure do feel it.  BUT, when I feel uneasy or “off,” I’m many things and calm is not on that list of adjectives.  What makes me feel unsettled is my cross to bear, and what makes you feel unsettled is yours, and guess what??  We both have every right to feel what we feel about whatever the heck we want as  our paths are our own!  The way you get to your destination, and what you hope to achieve in your life, or dreams you wish to fulfill on your life path are yours, and mine are mine.  That is the beauty of it, and let me tell you, it is very much NOT beautiful when I feel myself stumbling or veering way too far from my destination, dreams, and path.  When I feel myself slipping into that abyss I know it is time to get some clarity and situate myself back on the path that feels best for me.

Before I was born, Justice Stewart famously stated, “I know it when I see it,” when he was explaining his position on whether or not something was obscene, and while you might think this is a silly way to reference what I am feeling, it’s my truth; when things are feeling wonky, I know it when I feel it, is how I best understand that I need to find some better balance in how I am managing myself;  my physical and mental selves, how I mingle among others, how I manage my home, my work, my relationships…when something feels amiss or seems amiss, it probably is.  There is a best seller right there if ever there was one!  A one page book in the Self Help section at B&N, If Something feels amiss or seems amiss, it probably is.  Best to get back on your path.  The End.

When you meet somebody who is new to you, where you are on your path and where they are on their path can be completely irrelevant to your connection or friendship or attraction or common ground.  We meet people wherever we are, and they connect to us however they are able based on where they are, and whether we can move forward together is what makes our connections fuse or disintegrate.  I have had many interactions with people where friendships formed but then simply fizzled, some sooner than others, and yet however long or short a relationship, there is hardly ever an instance where we meet somebody whose path is the same as ours, but yet with some we find enough similarity to move ahead, and with some there is too little and so we simply move on.  Sometimes we meet a person with the desperation of a drowning man, suddenly finding solid ground beneath his feet, either in our own desperation or theirs, but the result is the same, part gratitude and part relief.  Certainly there are other times when we meet somebody and we immediately feel ourselves finding our inner antelope, who senses a hunting lioness is near, and our fight or flight responses rise up like a great big bonfire!  Not by any measure to imply that all relationships are either or, but I do think they lean nearer to one type of connection or the other.  I have, like most, experienced both kinds of meetings, and although I am of an age where I ought to “know,” I still can’t say with any level of surety that one is better or worse than the other, or that I am better prepared for one more than I am the other.  We meet and sometimes we click and sometimes we don’t.

What appeals to me in a person, either platonic or romantic in nature, is my truth and what appeals to you is yours, and there are not any rules that any of us have to follow.  Sometimes it just feels right and sometimes it feels just too wrong.  It would be nice if we all knew who we were, and what we liked and didn’t, where we were on our path, but I think in many ways we are all still learning who we are, the constant evolution of the species, and perhaps never quite sure what we want, or need, no matter how old we grow.  I find myself thinking about this when I see stories on tv or read in magazines, about famous people or couples who seem to “have it all” and yet they move on, and in and out of relationships, thus letting the rest of us know the truth of the matter is that ‘having it all’ might very well mean much less than we think.  If you think it is financial success, travel to exotic destinations in private charter planes, a house for each season of a year, Louboutin pumps for every occasion, precious jewels, or invitations to the best parties that makes relationships thrive, well, I can show you decades of examples from the covers of magazines where famous couples un-couple to demonstrate how this clearly is not the case.

Some people’s paths are filled with dishes in the sink, closet doors left open, lights left on, weeks old sheets,  un-vacuumed floors, and unmade beds.  That is fine for them, but would not be fine, at all, for me.  My path might be too rigid, not relaxed enough, not fun enough, not lighthearted enough for some, but it feels exactly right for me, like knowing the perfectly folded linens are behind the doors of cupboards, and beautiful objects are in their rightful place, and that there is nothing wrong with wanting to read on a Friday night and go to sleep when I am tired and be under no obligation to do anything other than what I want to do.  The older I get and the more life experience I get the more I suspect some couples can un-couple over a misplaced remote control, just as easily as the bad choice to stay out too late or with whom.  I suspect many relationships, both romantic and platonic, end because of too many edited thoughts, bit tongues, or half-truths.  Lies of omission and saying “it’s fine” when it is not at all fine are good ways to find yourself off your path for sure.  If your path is filled with potholes and ruts, but mine is recently plowed, weeded, and raked,  it doesn’t really matter how much I wish our paths would cross and intertwine and from two become one, because some paths just don’t cross in the way we wish for.

Paths don’t have to jive only in romantic relationships either.  Great loving friendships fizzle too.  I know, I have had that happen also, where you think your friendship is deep and fun and filled with joy, and then one day it is over, you are blindsided,  and you had no say in the matter.  So I started writing today about negative thoughts, and the saying of bad things, and how it makes me feel like crap when I find myself there, and somehow got myself into a stream of consciousness about paths.  I felt uneasy this morning when I awoke, that I said and thought things yesterday that were unkind, and when that happens with any frequency whatsoever, I know and I feel, that it is time to readjust my sails so to speak.  To realign myself to my truth.  I am not sure how best to harmonize my thoughts, in fact I never am sure how to proceed,  but I do know that I have found myself tripping up of late, and so I must make some modifications, however great or small need not matter, just that changes get made is the right start for me for progress.  I suspect for you as well.  I know that when we think ugly thoughts they show in the form of wrinkles and frowns,  hunched backs and sad eyes, snarky responses and quickly igniting arguments, and I also know, because I read it, so it therefore must be true, that  “A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”  So here’s to moving forward in the loveliest way possible, sunbeams are always a good thing, and clarity never goes out of style.