A Promise to Love is a Promise to Work

2014-08-16-14-29-29Ain’t love great?

It swells and swoons and sweeps you off your feet. When it comes it lifts you up over your problems, it sweeps away your issues and leaves your worries in the pile of life that now sits like a heap of laundry on the floor where you were standing, knee deep until this miracle made all of it fade so far into memory that it was like a dream.

Love is like that. It’s amazing. It is energizing and effortless at once.

Love isn’t static, however. It doesn’t stand still amidst storms. It doesn’t resist change and fly above all challenges. It bends and flexes. It is forced to learn and adapt. It’s formed in fire and the heat is increased until it learns to morph. Until it changes it’s molecular make up so it can be poured into the mold of your choosing. This fire can show your flaws in a way that will leave you carrying that first early version of love like an old and dirty T-Shirt you once thought you’d never take off, never have to mend or clean, back to the pile of discarded worries and concerns and issues you had thought you left behind. Other times it reveals strength and pliability that show you that it will never fail you so long as you never fail it.

You can fail at love by merely not trying. By not making an effort. It seems like an aspersion to say you didn’t try but it isn’t. Perhaps you didn’t understand. I didn’t. Not always. I thought it was a transformative thing. I thought once love found me I’d be swept up and out of my problems. That drinking myself to sleep would be a thing of the past. That bouts of self doubt and self-loathing would be replaced with a natural buzz that made me unconquerable and endlessly optimistic. I thought that because it did that. Well, it did most of that most of the time. And for a good long time. Why wouldn’t it stay like that?

2015-06-22 12.02.30You see my wife is fairly hard not to love. I remember early on the ‘falling fast’ aspect of our relationship. I made promises in those early days that I had no idea were so important. I did it because I had to. Love was making me. It was making me tell her I loved her. It was making me commit to things I’d soon waiver on, but ultimately follow through on. It made me a better person through no real effort on my part. Because that love was passive. I merely received it. I heard it loud, acted on it’s suggestions and never questioned its wisdom.

Until I did. Until love became hard. Until love started to get drowned out by the baggage I brought. Baggage is a loaded term but some of it was actually just the essentials. The stuff I needed to carry with me to retain the essential me. I need to be occasionally high and often low. It makes my world have color. I need to feel like I stick out, like I’m different. I carried my sense of uniqueness through years of outwardly trying to fit in because no matter how hard I wanted to leave behind being unique it turns out it was really important to me and all the testing of that I could withstand would never scrub me of it. I needed to feel bedraggled and bewildered at life from time to time in order to know what was right and what was wrong. And I had to carry some of this luggage and my wife needed to help with the load. As I need to help with hers.

These were the promises we made to each other. Promises we had no idea were so important until they were tested. By time at first. Then by kids. Then by life and all it’s joys and pains. Promises we had no idea were so prescient and wise considering the impulses that led us to make them. Promises that challenged us, melted us and made us anew, stronger and more able for all they exposed. Promises we needed to fulfill to make and keep the promises we are now making to our kids that have tentacles and reach in directions we never would have predicted when we made them so confidently. Promises that would have crushed the people we were before we promised our love to each other. Before we had to live up to our promises not only to one another but to ourselves. Promises to love actively, to work at showing our love, to build a home where it could flourish and be tested and where it could fail and be recovered.

Thank goodness I allowed myself to be swept away so I could make the promises that would make me what I needed to become. So I could soar above it all without losing sight of why I am aloft and how I can sustain what has become the life I know I was meant to live. Before I could promise and know that it was unbreakable.


This post was written in response to this prompt

Becoming The One

There’s a good many reasons I write. Most of them have evolved since I started Developing Dad. Initially it was motivated by my desire to make this thing for my kids. A record of who their parents were along the way. A place where they could go back and hopefully see how much they were loved. So they could learn from me while some of what I had to teach was still fresh in my mind. This is one of those posts.

2013-09-08 16.33.09My father is not always prone to giving advice. He’s actively involved in helping us chew over a problem, but I think he takes a designers approach to most things having been a designer since far before he even had the degree to prove it. Or the career full of successes. He’s a designer by nature before he was one by training. As such, and as a man that will often speak of how fascinated he is with his children and their perceptions and approaches, he revels in seeing us solve problems. Designers know that there are potentially innumerable ways in which to approach and resolve a problem and he loves seeing how others do it.

‘I’m really very happy that you’ve chosen this life.’ He said to me on the back porch of my brothers house the afternoon before our big day. ‘It’s a good life.’

It’s a thought that’s resonated with me. It got my attention in the moment and has held that attention now for going on 8 years. ‘I’m really happy that you’ve chosen this life.’

It’s not passive, I chose it. I chose to give love. I chose to accept it. I chose to look past fear and doubt and aimed at something beyond the immediate. I chose to commit to it. A thing I’m not sure I understood at the time, but a thing he knew far better than I, was something I’d grow into.

I’d come close before this. A couple of times. In each of those earlier instances I walked away from the afair swimming in remorse over my shortcomings and failures. I wallowed in pity over the weight I didn’t afford the relationships until it was too late. Until I’d messed up. In resolving these emotions, past years of recriminations and loud and repeated listenings to Rick Danko bleating out the lyrics to ‘It Makes No Difference’ or Dave Matthews singing sincerely about something I was trying to feel though I wasn’t, I resolved and learned that I was going to have to accept that she wasn’t the one. It was an important realization for me. To know that in the end while the pain was real when it was real and it was honestly desired when it was feined the reality was that it was the fates and I had to learn everything I could from these painful experiences. In the end it wasn’t meant to be.

Which is a total and utter cop out.

In the end of relationships you divvy up. The reality was, to a greater or lesser degree, or just in different ways for each situation, I was at fault. And the fault that was mine to own was that I wasn’t the one. Not because I wasn’t ‘the one’ per se, but because I didn’t choose to become so. Not until the day after the day before my wedding when my father imparted wisdom he didn’t even know he posessed.

He had made the choice, the committment in his mid twenties. He was on the accelerated plan of becoming a good man and becoming the one for the girl he’d marry. I drifted a bit longer. At least when it came to relationships and my ability to be who I thought I was.

Wedding Day‘The one’ barely existed on my wedding day. It also existed absolutely as much as it could. We were getting married after all. She was absolutely the one for me and I look back on that day often with the greatest of memories as it was the day when we set in motion the series of events that would bring about our unending happiness at becoming ‘the one’ for someone who was taking the same leap for us. The truth is that the love that brought us to that place, through a remarkable set of ups and downs was a precursor to a life we are now well on the way to completing the foundations of now that you are both here with us. But I was no more a pre-determined perfect fit for your mother than she was for me. What I was and am is madly in love with her. Which, yes, means I’m enamored of her. But more importantly it means I’m committed to her and she to me. Through the past seven-plus years of our marriage, through several challenging and seriously imperfect times where we have both failed each other and failed ourselves, we always rebound to that committment and each time we do there is more trust, more love and more reason why we alone, specifically are the only partner that could ever be the one for the other. The ways multiply with each passing milestone of a life spent together figuring out what is meaningful to us and to each other. I’m infinitely more capable of being the one for your mother today as she is for me because of how imperfect life is and because we keep showing up for each other each day no matter how hard a day it might be. We’ll continue to do so through fights and disagreements, through joys and celebrations, through the workaday drudgery that life can sometimes be, through laughs that become the special language we’ll only be able to speak with each other that will give us endless capacity to carry one another when life strikes it’s most painful blows. I could never have been the one for her in the way I am now when we were just starting out.

11133746_10206086038933979_5520499095169659982_nThe concept of ‘the one’ is much maligned by the cynical and those lacking imagination. We all have times when we question it’s rightness and that’s a part of figuring it out, but don’t be fooled, ‘the one’ definitely exists. But like the rest of life it requres two things. First you have to be responsible for being the one and don’t expect life to present to you ‘the one.’ That’s not how it works. All you can control is you and if you want to find the one, go about being the one. That’s the only way to know if you can in fact become the one for another. Second, go about being the one by showing up, every day, for that person you love. Apologize for your wrongs, celebrate the one you love and show up especially when it’s hard to do so. If you don’t you have absolutely no right to expect them to do so for you.

My father is a designer by nature and as such he has gone about accounting for a structure’s integrity from inception. When he told me that he was happy that I chose this life, whether he knew it or not, that’s what he was happiest for. He saw that I loved my bride fully and was happy that I chose this structure which hewed to the design he favored, built and tested in the life that he’d lead and was still leading, both beautiful in conception and structurally sound.

I was never so fool hardy as to think that there was one and only one meant for me. But I did seem to think that there were many ones and I just had to find one of them. I imagined that having that someone who loved me for me would make life easier somehow. And that I would do the same for her. I imagined that this would happen smoothly and easily as I simply had to find a person where this was true and I’d know they were one of ‘the one’s’ for me. I wouldn’t commit until then.

It was a fundamental misunderstanding of what love is, what ‘the one’ means. The one is not the solution. They don’t arrive fit to your life. They don’t come through the door and morph to some ridiculous, uninformed and frankly selfish version of what you think would be perfect. Instead they come through and you fall for them. That’s it. The rest is up to you, up to you both, to make that moment mean something by committing and recommitting everyday. Do that and you’ll find you found the one. The one and only one for you, fitting ever more perfectly together as you grow.

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