A Quiet Spirit

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Like all writers, I’ve written about love.

When my sister married her wife, I wrote them a poem, and in it, I tried to break love down to all of its individual ingredients, its varying shades of legacy, fear, pain, hope, security, romance, fulfillment, vulnerability, friendship, and sex, plus all the rest.

I’ve written about the dangers of fairy tale endings, how we grow up hoping that we will meet the one that will make us happy and fulfilled for happily ever after, and how any alternative to that scenario becomes threatening.

I’ve written about the phrase “I Love You”, and all of it’s varying shades or misuse and overuse. It hurts when it isn’t said, or when it is but isn’t meant, or when it is used too much, or when it’s only meant for now.

I’ve written about my birth, and the birth of my sons. I’ve written about the beginning of my marriage, and the end. I’ve written about getting my heart broken by people I have loved, and about breaking the hearts of those who have loved me.

I’ve written about loving places and things. I’ve written about loving God and, in time, instead, learning how to love myself. I’ve written entire blog posts dedicated to the concept of Valentines day and what it means or doesn’t mean to people. I’ve written about loss, grief, and devastation. I’ve written about loneliness.

I’ve written about embracing each day as it comes, about being patient for the future, about putting in the effort to get the desired results, and about experiencing joy. I’ve written when single, when lonely, when devastated, when heartbroken, when happy, and when inspired.

I’ve written anecdotes about my children, about plans for the future, and about little nugget from my own story, so many of them revolving around my origins in growing up gay and Mormon in a broken family that was full of love, and those are likely always the roots I will go back to as they are the eyes through which I see the world.

I keep a little list of things I want to blog about, handwritten in ink in my business folder. And if a few days go by, I find time to sit down and write one of those stories down, unless something else has hijacked my thoughts. I feel better when I write. I dare say I love it. And whether it is read by 2 or 2000, it feels wonderful to share, and amazing to love what I’m doing.

Sometimes, on days like today, I don’t have anything to say, so I let my fingers start clacking and I find myself writing out about what I’ve already written, and realizing that, perhaps, I don’t always have something to say. But that too feels okay.

Today is Valentine’s Day, and I have a somewhat quiet spirit. There are several things out there, on the horizon, fishhooks that I’ve tossed forward and that I hope something will bite and that I will be able to reel it in. I may be on the cusp of something wonderful, regarding the book or the documentary. Or I may just have more ahead of me of the wonderful that already is, with my clients, my children, my boyfriend, my goals. Either way it is a beautiful world.

And there will always be more to say, but for now, for today that is enough.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

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Dark Valentine

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I hate Valentines Day. Everyone hates Valentines Day.

Valentines Day is the darkest day of the year.

In fact, Valentines Day is the worst.

IF you are in a loving supportive relationship, Valentines Day sucks. You find yourself in a weird sort of competition with other couples to prove who has the most love as expressed through exchanged overly priced gifts.

“My husband got me roses and chocolates and had rose petals laid out on the bed after we got home from our steak dinner, and we have plans to rent a chalet on the ski mountain this weekend with a Jacuzzi. I’m so lucky!” she says, while her coworkers think of ways to top her story. But really they are all feeling either jealous, annoyed, or both as they think of their lack of Valentine or measure up how that Valentine stacks against the one exchanged in their relationship.

OR you find yourself in competition WITHIN your own relationship, wondering who loves who as demonstrated through exchanged overly priced gifts.

Sheri bought her wife Heather a dozen roses and wrote her a love poem while Heather made Sheri a romantic dinner and cleaned the entire apartment, and both of them are thinking, “My gift was better than/worse than hers” and plot ways to use that against each other later.

OR maybe you’ll even be pissed off about why your own relationship is going so poorly and everyone around you thinks you are happy, but you have to stomach another Valentine’s Day with the person you don’t really love anymore. But at least your Facebook status update will make things sound lovely between the two of you.

And IF you are single on Valentines Day, you will either spend it moping about the fact that you aren’t in a relationship, OR moping about your failed relationship (you know, the one you aren’t quite over yet), OR you will spend it with other single friends complaining (either out loud or silently) about not being in a relationship or your last failed relationship. Maybe you’ll get cute and call it Single Awareness Day, but really that’s just another way of lamenting that you think people who are in relationships are happier than you are.

Some advice for those of you who are in relationships: celebrate the day after Valentines Day. All of the over priced flowers and stuffed animals and food drop in price by fifty per cent. And then celebrate a few weeks later with some kind of normally priced (not overly priced) weekend or evening away. Exchange genuine, meaningful gifts, not kitschy expensive things that will never be used again. Show your love in your own way and on your own time, and make it special. And don’t, please, make others drown in your relationship status by flaunting how in love you are. “He bought me a necklace! He really does love me!”

And some advice for those of you who are single: celebrate yourself on Valentines Day. With friends or without, don’t lament on your relationship or lack thereof. Treat yourself to a nice meal, a fancy dinner, an evening away, a glass of wine and an old movie, whatever it is you enjoy. Don’t let a calendar date dictate the success of your live, just live your life and live it well.

This Valentines Day, I’ll be celebrating my children. I wrote them cards and bought them toys they like, and we will engage in family activities and talk about things we are grateful for. Last year, I was on my own on Valentines Day, and I spent the day off of social media before driving to a mountain town and treating myself to a nice dinner with a beautiful view of the mountains.

Don’t waste a minute being miserable today. Valentines Day is dumb.

St. Valentine himself is an old Saint who no one knows much about except that he was imprisoned and later killed for doing nice things and believing in his religion.

cupid

Cupid is a mythical old man baby who shoots iron tipped arrows that force people to fall in love against their will. He’s definitely rapey.

Candy hearts are disgusting. Flowers die. Chocolates make you fat.

And hearts can be full and pink and full of love, or they can be cracked down the middle and broken.

Whatever yours is, celebrate that heart, that it beats miraculously within you and gives you glorious life. Make today about YOU. And don’t worry about the THEM you are so jealous of. Don’t waste one moment of today moping about what you don’t have or what you did have, instead celebrate what you DO have: a beautiful day ahead that you can spend however you desire.

If you’re with someone, be with that person you love. But whether you are with someone or not, make sure you love yourself first.

My Own Valentine

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For most of my life, I have had a tendency for being a little bit too tough on myself, in all the wrong ways. I learned a few years ago the human habit of mistaking GUILT for SHAME, and frankly, it changed my life.

GUILT is the experience of regret about something I want to rightfully change (in other words, I experienced something I didn’t like, so I want to make amends and not do it again). SHAME is the measure of worth in accordance to the guilt. Most humans have the tendency to take experience of GUILT, and turn it into the experience of SHAME. (Americans are amazing at this, and women are even more impressive, as are those who grew up in conservative religious households).

Examples: If my son makes a mess and I get angry and scream at him, I will later feel guilty. I don’t like screaming at my son and I should have handled it differently. I make amends and we clean up the mess together and I learn a lesson about myself. That is GUILT.

If my son makes a mess and I get angry and scream at him, and then suddenly I start beating myself up for being a terrible parent who makes huge mistakes, and I think I’m messing my children up, and I wonder why I ever decided to become a father… well, that is SHAME.

If I feel sad one evening and I eat an entire pizza to feed my feelings, and later I will feel bloated and gross. I decide that I don’t like how that feels and recommit to myself to eat better and exercise. That is GUILT.

If I feel sad one evening and I eat an entire pizza to pizza to feed my feelings, and later I will feel bloated and gross. I decide that I am a fat, lazy slob that no one will ever love and why do I even work out or try to look good because I’ll be single forever. This is SHAME.

And while we all have individual examples applicable to our lives, families, and internal doubts and struggles, these principles are universal. Simply put, GUILT is healthy, and SHAME is not.

I work with my clients in therapy on these principles constantly. When I first point out SHAME to them, many of them feel SHAME about having SHAME. Ironic, isn’t it?

One of my very favorite quotes is from a Jewel song. “No longer lend your strength to that which you wish to be free from.”

And so, over the years, I have learned to be forgiving and kind toward myself after I experienced GUILT, and I learned to begin separating out the SHAME. Any negative patterns within myself, I began sorting out because I realized they were bringing me pain. They were things I wished to be free from.

I’ve been single, almost exclusively, for nearly five years now. I have balanced out a single life with one where I have learned to be more and more true to myself as a professional, as a father, and as a friend. I am getting better and better at being a strong, compassionate, and authentic person who puts himself first in healthy ways, learning more from the GUILT experiences and reducing the amount that come from SHAME.

And that brings us to Valentine’s Day, a day when it is easy to sit and lament being alone, to dredge up sadness and bitterness about the times when I fell in love or tried too hard or had my heart broken. It’s easy to jump to a SHAME space about being single, as if the status of being in a relationship somehow automatically assigns me more worth as a human being.

I’ve given love a good shot a few times over the years, hoping there will be times when it pays off. And I’ve learned that while it hasn’t yet, I can offer myself the same love I hope to receive from other people. My life is slowly and surely transforming, turning ever more amazing as I proceed down positive paths, learning as I go.

And in my mind, firmly in the GUILT space, are the memories of painful times in dating in the past:

The time that man, after making out with me on a date, sent me a message the next morning that said ‘That was a mistake, I don’t find you that cute. We won’t be going out again.’

The time another man had sex with me after a date and told me, while still cuddling with me, that I had soft skin and a nice dick, but I needed to work harder on the rest of me.

That time another man kissed me and then immediately said, “I shouldn’t have done that. I respect you too much.”

That time I pined after a man for far too long who I loved, and who loved me, but the man lived far away and refused to be with me even when he could have been.

That time when I was told that I had all the qualities a man was looking for, but that my children were holding me back.

The times I have been told I’m too confident, or too smart, or not handsome enough, or that I don’t drink enough, or that I don’t have enough money.

All of those comments on dates that have reinforced SHAME, measuring my worth as a date-able commodity, I learned to instead push them into the GUILT category, and to begin learning about myself through the types of men I date, and how they treat me, and who I choose to give of my time and attention to, and how I treat myself after these experiences, and who I surround myself with, and how I pursue relationships.

And while I remain open to love and relationships with the right person, the greatest lesson I’ve learned is to turn that love and attention toward myself and my children.

And thus it is that today, at age 37, I am thrilled to be my very own Valentine.