Commemorating the 27th death anniversary of Natasha Singh: I didn’t know the forever in BFF would be a solo ride
I’ll never forget the call.
My parents had only just arrived in Virginia. We, along with my then-boyfriend Greg, were in my studio apartment in Falls Church, jubilant after sharing our engagement news. It was April 16, 1993.
The phone rang, the kind connected to the wall. It was Todd, Natasha’s once-boyfriend. He worked at the radio station as a DJ and saw the announcement as it ticked over the AP Wire. Natasha, along with sixteen others, had been killed in Afghanistan in a helicopter crash. She was a full-fledged journalist by then, abroad for a couple of years or so, pursuing a career she was passionate about, and actually using that bachelor's degree.
The air left my lungs at the news.
And then, grief engulfed me. Like a tsunami. Waves of intense sadness, helplessness and regret, obliterating everything in its path and drowning me in its undertow.
My head would rise above water and I’d experience the calm after the storm, where even occasional laughter at a memory or inside joke surfaced, briefly, before the crash of the waves dragged me below again.
It was at least a year before I strung together more than a couple of days without this avalanche of grief following me everywhere I went, maybe more.
She died at twenty-eight.
No one should die so young.
I realized, years later, after death claimed so many, many people I knew, that unexpected death causes a chasm of pain different from the kind you experience after you lose your dear grandmother, for instance, who lived a long, full life. It may be sad, but you take solace in all they had, did, experienced. Death is part of the natural order of things. But snatching the life of someone “before their time” feels cruel and undeserved. The younger they are, the worse.
Natasha was a light. She glowed with a brilliance that blinded. Heart-on-her-sleeve, authentic, and often, selfless.
She loved two men who shattered her heart and didn’t even come close to deserving her. She had one terrible habit: perpetual lateness. In our earlier years, she tried different techniques to force herself from bed in the morning. She placed her alarm clock across the bedroom with it set on high. In high school, I called and talked her from the warm cocoon of sleep to standing. Only then, would I hang up. She drank too much, so much that she would eventually give me a suffocating hug and slur how much she loved me. She had regrets and her own barrage of terrible experiences, but those aren’t mine to share. She once hoped to become a model and went through Barbizon’s modeling school—the one advertised in the backs of magazines—coming home with professionally posed pictures and understanding how to apply makeup. In college, she did mine and it’s the only time I’ve liked how it looked.
She loved photography. Back in those days, it was all manual, with fun filters and lenses and just you and your subjects. She shot so much film, she couldn’t afford to pay the developing charges. Thousands of images were lost. We were still in college then.
As kids, we used to love walking in the rain. If I find myself caught in the elements now, I can sometimes lighten the mood by remembering I once enjoyed such moments with her.
She rescued me from myself during one of my darkest hours. It helped me get on the road to recovery, a forever pivotal moment in my life. She would later rescue fellow reporters, part of her boots-on-the-ground, no-man-left-behind way of thinking.
I think and dream of her often. She is one of the biggest constants in my life despite being gone now for twenty-seven years, almost as long as she lived. What I also realize, in hindsight, is her impact on my life.
I have been raped, beaten, hurt, disappointed, drowned, afraid and suicidal. I have also known great joy, elation, success, victory and purpose. I have seen shattering world events, and terrible transgressions on, and in, our own country. But her death transcends it all. I can forget about these other moments, events and pain and joy, but I never forget her. She is never far from my thoughts.
I realize how lucky I am to have met her that summer day before fourth grade when my family moved to the Oakland hills. To go all the way through school as best friends, and experience college together as roommates. To get on an airplane and visit her after she left California to start her first job as a radio news anchor in a tiny place called Charles Town, West Virginia. To meet, through her, the man who would become my husband and cause me to uproot myself to the Mid-Atlantic, likely forever. To have whatever sacred time the universe gave us.
It’s a blessing.
One I no longer take for granted, wiser now about such things.
On the anniversary of her death or on her birthday in July, I like to celebrate her with some of the things we enjoyed: I take a drive and listen to the music we used to belt at the top of our lungs. I might watch Top Gun, one of our fav movies. I eat some Haagen-Dazs Chocolate Chocolate Chip ice cream, which she introduced me to during our college years (I probably shouldn’t forgive her that) and sometimes a cheeseburger (she finally got me to eat these, too, because I never felt cheese and meat went together). And I cry as much as I want.
Want to read more about Natasha?
I like this obit by one of her reporter colleagues:
A report of the crash in the LA Times:
Our neighbor growing up, well-known sports reporter Dave Newhouse, wrote this piece:
A brief history written by her family:
A few years ago, I wrote this column about letting go of all the diets, tricks, rules and pressure I felt to lose or maintain weight. After decades of heading down several rabbit holes and getting dogmatic about anything that made sense in the moment, I realized it was all a bunch of BS, really. I wondered why I couldn’t just go back to eating like I had in my youth, when I never gave it much thought at all. If it didn’t work out, I could just be fat and happier, or if truly compelled, always jump back on that merry-go-round I hated and that offered so little serenity, despite whatever outcome.
Honestly, it felt blissful to let it go.
When I started researching resources for The Self-Loathing Project, I found a litany surrounding the anti-diet movement. Much of it seemed to be touting the very same ideas I’d embraced the past few years. Last year, I shared my review of The F*ck It Diet, a wonderful book on the subject, which verified many of my newfound beliefs and gave me some more ideas to chew on (ha!). This past month, that led me to begin reading Intuitive Eating, which anyone will stumble across when researching anti-dieting. This book has been around since 1995(!), although the fourth edition is about to debut because the concepts have evolved with the times. The book is authored by two dieticians/ nutritionists who specialize in eating disorders (don’t let that scare you, if it does). This book is furthering some additional healing around eating for me, things that devolved over time due to all the weight-loss mania and dogma that basically replaced my ability to listen to my own body’s cues.
Because I give a you-know-what about your evolution and healing, and because so many people are screwed up in this arena, I want to recommend this book to anyone who:
• Thinks they have to/should diet or follow a program to lose or maintain weight
• Is on (or breaking) a diet, whether it’s eating paleo, doing keto, counting macros or calories, doing WW, eating low-fat, on their tenth Whole 30, drinking shakes, following a program with guidelines or rules, practicing The Secret for weight loss, getting hypnotized or whatever
• Thinks they are a food or sugar addict
• Thinks they have no willpower
• Thinks their situation is hopeless
• Thinks there is “good” eating and “bad” eating (and subsequently, that they are good or bad)
…and probably lots, lots, lots more (but you get the idea)
Doesn’t that list give you hope? It should.
Could it be none of this is your fault? That you aren’t some willpowerless loser? That there might be some logical explanations for how you arrived at this way of thinking and being and that you can overcome them without the only solution you thought possible?
Sure wish I’d found this book back in 1995, which is about when all my weight loss lunacy began…but hey, now is better than never. And so it may be for you, too.
P.S. Even though the anti-diet movement is out in full force and this book has been around since 1995, I literally have only one friend who talks publicly about this topic. Conversely, I have hundreds of other friends who have talked about weight loss, dieting, being fat or having an eating disorder (including sometimes how they’ve overcome theirs, even if they haven’t). This topic affects MANY. That’s why I’m bringing this up.
P.S.S. Want to read the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating? You can right here, as well as learn more about the book and the topic.
I had quite a year in 2019. Here’s what stands out, in no particular order:
1. I made a major move from the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia to south central Virginia. That’s definitely “deep south” y’all. From the accents I could listen to all day, to the friendliness of most of the folks to a whole different vibe (but a good one), I’ve been pleasantly surprised. Also, I freaking love living in the middle of a forest with lots of privacy. No one was more worried about this city-bred girl adapting to our environs than my husband, but he has only seen me blossom. I think humans were meant to be regularly connected to nature, and man, have I gotten ginormous doses of it everyday since coming to this wondrous place. Between the woods surrounding our house and neighborhood to the backyard lake, the place is teaming with wildlife, the stars are plentiful at night, and there is a solitude and rightness about being here that fills me up.
2. Despite a) selling our home ourselves and b) making an arduous move (which we mostly tackled on our own; don’t ask for details as I’m trying to repress it) and c) learning we have no business being on opposite ends of lifting a couch together let alone moving an entire house, garage and woodshop, our marriage remains intact.
3. I left some disappointments and frustrations back in Charles Town that I didn’t drag with me. I was looking forward to a new slate, and intentionally made it so. As a result, I am lighter, happier and more aware of being in control of my wants and needs. It’s refreshing. Another takeaway: stop waiting for people to go do things and just do them yourself. I put life’s desires on hold many times waiting for friends or family to join me. We aren’t getting any younger, so go do what you want, where you want, when you want. I promise your company is enough!
4. I launched two books into the world. I published the novel, Fifty, Four Ways, in January. Fiction is challenging to write well, and this effort was funny, poignant, relatable and told by four interesting females. Reviews and comments were overwhelmingly favorable. It hit the Amazon best-seller list, and was ranked five stars by ChickLit.com and Elle’s Book Blog. In November, I published my nonfiction effort, The Self-Loathing Project. This project is near and dear to my heart. Started fifteen years ago and worked on over the years, I was ecstatic to finally pull these candid interviews and information together in book form and put it into the universe. The response has been uplifting and heartening, and it’s my hope many more women will find it, read it and realize they are worth embracing and loving just as they are. It is important to me to put positive, thought-provoking, intentional content into the world, and this meets the criteria in spades (I would argue Fifty, Four Ways does as well). Writing is a lifelong passion, and pursuing it continues to be rewarding and fulfilling, despite the discouraging moments.
5. My youngest graduated from college and did it in an unforgettable way: on the ball field, in his baseball uniform, with his graduation regalia over top. When graduation coincided with The Fairmont Falcons vying for a spot in their conference championship tournament, the president of Fairmont University administered commencement at the field for the fifteen seniors on the team. Not only did my son feel glee at skipping what he assumed would be a long, boring ceremony of pomp and circumstance, but he graduated in a baseball uniform, something he’s been wearing since age five, when he began this whole baseball journey. My son’s baseball career is likely over, and that knowledge tugs at the heartstrings. It has been my privilege to watch him play from a tiny kid, to graduating to the big field in the “Little League majors,” to finding travel ball, to donning that high school uniform, to playing all four years in college (and even getting some scholarship money to do so). I am incredibly proud of him for his perseverance and growth through the sport, dealing with adversity and earning good grades throughout. Along the way, I fell in love with baseball and his role in the game. Time will tell how the sport manifests through him from this point forward, but I’d be shocked if there isn’t more to this story.
6. I fell in love with pop country music. I still don’t love the old twangy stuff, but I sure do love the tempo, sound and lyrics of many newer artists, especially the male artists and bands, whose music sounds less produced. For those who love to hate country, I’ll say this: music is one of life’s greatest joys and embracing different genres can only bring you mo’ joy. Don’t gyp yourself out of something you might like because of your prejudices. Music continues to be an immediate mood enhancer for me, and I’m happy to be listening to more of it, in general, since moving.
7. I threw down in another CrossFit Open, and finished in the top third worldwide and in the country, able to complete every workout as prescribed instead of scaling for the first time since 2014. I admit, I felt a tad badassy. That said, when CrossFit added a second Open competition in October, I was not physically well enough to compete and not even that interested in doing so. Sometimes you’re hot—and sometimes you’re not!
8. Family dynamics continue to have its ups and downs. Through talking with a couple of close friends in one debilitating moment, I realized these dynamics persist for many (we just often aren’t aware), and it took much of the strife and burden away. I also am cognizant other relationships fill those needs, meaning I have brothers and sisters from other mothers, so to speak. Whether related or not, I value and treasure the interactions that aren’t laden with all the history, mystery, drama, intricacies, disappointments and misunderstandings the way our relational kind can be. In short: throw all the rules and expectations out the window and feel free to create your own “family” with your band of misfits if the one you’re born/married into ain’t cutting it.
9. After my husband regaled us with a story about a carving of Adam and Eve created by his great grandfather Henry Bernhardt (once profiled in Life magazine for his eccentric art), I decide to research the man. I quickly discovered one of his relief carvings on Sotheby’s was about to go up for auction for a hefty sum—and it looked very much like the item my husband told his very tale about. Said artwork had gone missing in his youth during a cross-country move (was it stolen? Lost in the move? Destroyed accidentally? Alas, anyone who would know was deceased). It was a pretty thrilling couple of weeks as I investigated the whole thing and learned about his great-grandfather. In the end, the provenance suggested there was more than one relief carving depicting the Garden of Eden. We do wonder where the other may reside, as well as any other art Henry created. I was soberly reminded that once enough family has passed on, much of this type of thing (original art, photographs, letters, etc.) are likely discarded. It seems like such a tragedy. We are fortunate to have a few pieces carved by his great-grandfather. As for the story? In his youth, my husband charged his friends to glimpse the “anatomically correct” carving—until his mother got wind of it!
10. I really enjoyed a trip to the Asheville, North Carolina area to visit my son and daughter-in-law. Appalachia for days. Waterfalls. A good-vibe city. A wonderful visit. And the pair is tackling a big project; seeing it in person was impressive. I also love traveling and don’t do nearly enough of it. This very son has a good idea for a travel blog or series the two of us can do together, and it’s a thought never far from my mind.
I’m already gearing up for 2020 and am excited for what’s in store. I wish y’all peace and blessings as we kick off a new decade. CHEERS!
These were my favorite reads of 2019. I narrowed it down to four, although I admit I voraciously read a number of excellent books (and some not-so-great ones, too) for the first time in many years. These books have been out for varying lengths of time, but they were all new to me. It was wonderful to discover new authors and instantly pursue reading some of their other works. The year will also go down as one of my best reading years in a long time, meaning, I actually got back into the pleasurable habit—I even finished the entire stack (plus oodles more) that I had lined up.
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
UNFORGETTABLE. This was the first book in the lineup to grab my attention as I read it early in the year after watching part of the series created for TV. I stopped watching and read the book before finishing the series. The book wowed me. First, it was highly original in its format—with a technique I loved that gave me an idea for a new novel. The book's characters have also stayed with me all year. I found the plot refreshing, twisted, smacking of reality and I believe very much in the idea that people believe what they want about others without knowing what's really going on in their perfect-on-appearance lives. It made me tear through Liane Moriarty's other works, and while many were enjoyable, none lived up to this piece of sheer perfection.
The Summer List by Amy Mason Doan
DEVOURED. This thoughtful novel about two best friends who become estranged affected me deeply, playing on my own profoundly emotional experience with my first best friend. It’s also set in California (can we get any more nostalgic?) and weaves an original story that left me crying and breathless all at the same time. I also loved Summer Hours, which I purchased as soon as it came out this year. Amy Mason Doan is a deft storyteller with lovely prose that almost feels like sailing. I don’t feel manipulated, pushed or any number of techniques many authors employ to keep the pages turning. Her stories unfold in an authentic way, giving you hints of where you’re going without being able to know exactly where. Her writing speaks to me, maybe because I think similarly to her characters, or have walked in their shoes, or literally on the streets and in the settings she has chosen.
All The Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood
INCREDIBLE. I purchased this when I heard about the controversy associated with it. I’m all in when people start throwing stones because I, too, think life is messy and lines are blurry sometimes. And this book has it in spades. I’m not a very black-and-white thinker and at times, that’s maybe not an asset but it challenges me to think harder and deeper. This author told a deft, challenging story using multiple points of view. It all worked brilliantly. I stayed in bed to finish this one! I will definitely read more by Greenwood.
The F*ck It Diet by Caroline Donner (nonfiction)
HELL TO THE YEAH. This book is f*cking great, validating what it took me a painstaking number of years to figure out on my own. I have experienced a lot of food freedom in the past couple of years and practiced self-love and self-acceptance a hell of a lot longer than that. I stumbled across this book doing research for The Self-Loathing Project, and was just amazed at all the anti-diet blogs, books and movements out there, including this one. Refreshing. Back when I used to try and diet (never very successful or motivated for long), and I punted on whatever thing I was trying, I’d tell people I’d gotten a case of the f*uck-its. Now, I realize, I could have written this book! I know, for some, the content of this book will seem like a bridge too far. Some probably run away shrieking. But dieting (even when under the guise of being a “lifestyle”) is a doomed-for-the-dieter-to-fail enterprise, often for-profit. Maybe you won’t fail right away, but eventually. It doesn’t matter whether you’re buying products, membership, a book, or reading a set of rules and guidelines. When the author of this book said she made intuitive eating a diet, I laughed out loud. Because we can take anything and make it a diet. Some of us are rule followers (but it’s still never enough, is it?) and some of us aren’t (f*ck it!). I highly recommend for everyone f*cked up about food, nutrition, diet, weight, what they eat or don’t eat, can’t or won’t eat, etc.
Please do tell me what books stood out for you this year—I'd love to add to my own list for 2020!
Some people are already running for the hills knowing the holiday season is careening toward us and wondering how they will navigate All That. Be it drama, irritations, differences of opinion, or in some cases, animosity or ambivalence, family is a word that brings out the emotions.
I’m the kind of person who wishes all family members would get along.
I’m also the kind of person who is disappointed. A lot.
Because in my world, despite my wants, all sorts of fractured family dynamics exist. Some close to the heart, others further out in my tree’s concentric circles.
I’m learning to accept it…as if I have a choice in the matter. I can’t control what others believe, how they behave, or whether they want a relationship. Conversely, I am not so willing to accept someone carte blanche anymore, especially if I find them offensive, abusive or uncaring.
Lately, I’ve been thinking family is actually a broader term than the technical definition I’ve always attributed to it. Family can be someone important to you or your family unit whether they are related or not. Sometimes those non-relations become the best kind of family. The kind you wish your actual family was like.
What does that look like for me?
So here’s what I say. If your family dynamics suck, build a new one. Make your own tribe. Take a nod from the Serenity Prayer and accept the things you cannot change but also change the things you can. While you’re at it, nurture the family relationships that are thriving, so they’ll continue to grow. And if you want to try and fix the fractured relations, have at it. Just know the world isn’t going to end if things aren’t perfect. And if sucking it up to foster family peace is worth the price of admission, there ain't nothing wrong with that, either.
Just remember, Thanksgiving is coming. #pleasepassthecranberrysauce
Nice review from Chick Lit Central on their website today about FIFTY, FOUR WAYS. Makes me feel seriously legit! Thanks, Sara Steven and the Chick Lit Central crew! Click on the image above to see the full review.
1. I thought I lived in the country when I moved to Charles Town. Turns out I lived in a small town. Not to say others didn’t live in the country just a short distance away, but I was a townie.
2. You thought you’d seen about every insect already in your lifetime. Think again. This has its highs and lows. I’ve never seen more varieties of dragonflies and butterflies, but also ginormous stingy creatures and bugs you can’t even see! I can do without the centipedes climbing out of our drains, too. Spider web production begins the moment you park your car.
3. Once you’ve gotten an infected tick bite, you’ll get vigilant about checking for those suckers.
4. If it can grow, it will. Everywhere. One example: I live in an area that is heavily logged by the timber industry. Vast sections of trees are mowed down, leaving an Armageddon-like landscape in its wake. And yet, the second it’s cleared, plant life begins growing in that same space. I’ve also seen plant life in the middle of the lake on log stumps. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
5. Wildlife is abundant and a joy to watch. Also, if you give wildlife a good habitat, it will hang out. It sometimes sounds like Jurassic Park out there in the surrounding woods—day or night. And I love the toad serenades that happen every night!
6. It’s d-a-r-k at night. There is no light pollution, and a full moon is pretty epic. You can also see all the stars, just like when I went camping in the mountains as a kid.
7. Aside from the insects, birds and critters—and in our neck of the woods, the occasional military plane flying through—it’s blessedly quiet. We don’t hear traffic, or the constant droning of someone’s lawn mower, leaf blower or snow blower.
8. You can pick your own assortment of wildflowers (or pretty weeds) as they grow in abundance along the sides of the roads.
9. The best fried chicken I’ve ever purchased (not to be confused with the best fried chicken I’ve ever eaten, which my husband makes) happens to be in a tiny roadside store near my house at a place called Granny B’s.
10. The people here are among the nicest I’ve ever met. Strangers start up conversations in the grocery store line, have hopped off their tractor to introduce themselves, and in general, say hello or smile in our comings and goings. Moreover, not only has there been an absence of racial tension in a place with an ugly history, it’s been quite the opposite.
11. We had to cut down three trees in order to get Internet service, and even then, it’s pretty lacking. It’s still a good tradeoff.
12. I may be guilty of a false sense of security, but I feel pretty dang safe out here.
13. The deer here are smart! I’ve seen more deer in a short time living here than I’ve seen in my entire life, and yet they always seem to get out of the way, or turn and run in the safe direction instead of crossing the road, when I approach in my vehicle. If they do cross, you have plenty of time to see them. I’ve seen one deer as road kill. One. I don’t know how else to explain it, other than these four-legged friends are savvy! And one of the best things going about plentiful deer is seeing all the fawns. SO cute!
14. I’ve also seen more box turtles since living here than I’ve seen in my combined years—and as a result, helped many safely cross the road (sometimes two a day!). It’s prompted me to study up a bit on these doofers.
15. One last thing. My husband was worried about how a former bona fide big city girl was going to do in such a remote location, because country woods living is fairly remote (although I can get to that fried chicken in about ten minutes, and even greater civilization in about twenty or more, so I’m sitting pretty). I wasn’t concerned—I’ve been heading this direction since leaving the big city. I can report I fully embrace it now that I’m here. I’m overjoyed to have lived in such diverse places from big cities, to historic cities, to small towns, to the wooded countryside. I believe humans were meant to be ensconced in nature. The wonder and beauty of it alone resets your cells on a daily basis and reminds us of our place in the world. I’ve told a few people my cells are recalibrating since I got here—it’s the closest I can come to describing it. My biggest takeaway is how important it is for all of us to change our venue from time to time so we can change our perspective and allow it to broaden. You can change things up through moving (preferably not just down the street or across town) and traveling (so many options!). In hindsight, I’m sorry I stayed so long in one place. But with new foresight, I hope I keep nurturing this insight.
Nice to be featured on ChickLitClub.com. Check it out if you'd like to read this short interview with some behind-the-scenes chit-chat.
I celebrated by 55th birthday in April, which is when I started this list. While I'm not sure it's full of stunning revelations, they are some of my most important and how-I-live-my-life practiced beliefs—and more than a few are hard-fought lessons. I'd love to know yours if you want to write me back.
1. Ego is not your amigo.
2. Argue your limitations and they exist.
3. Love yourself.
4. To thine own self be true.
5. Don't give other people power.
6. Something is broken if you are self-medicating with booze, drugs, food, sex, shopping, workouts, or fill-in-the-blank here. The good news? It’s in your power to fix it.
7. Be introspective. It is your key to evolving.
8. Be better tomorrow than you are today.
9. Walk through the pain vs. running, hiding or obliterating it. It’ll just be waiting for you if you don’t.
10. The more we identify our differences, the more separate we remain.
11. Take risks. What are you gonna do…sit around and watch Brady Bunch reruns all day?
12. Understand true reality and realize your perception is not it.
13. Fix your shortcomings.
14. Love is always the answer. Even if you don’t want it to be the answer.
15. The world does not revolve around you.
16. Resentment hurts you the most. Practice forgiveness.
17. Be honest. Period.
18. We can do hard things.
19. Take the high road.
20. Thoughts become things. (Be careful what you think about!)
21. Life is not fair and you aren’t owed anything.
22. No one but you can fix you.
23. Love unconditionally, including yourself.
24. Ditch your expectations—they are just resentments under construction.
25. No matter how hard or painful life gets, you can get through it.
26. You can do anything you set your mind to.
28. Give generously.
29. Stand up for yourself and others. It’s how self-esteem and self-respect grow and blossom.
30. Don’t gossip.
31. Take responsibility for your actions. Always.
32. There are lots of walking wounded out there. Have empathy for your fellow man.
33. We are all connected.
34. You are stronger than you know.
35. Saying you’re sorry without changing your behavior is an empty apology.
36. Faith without works is dead.
37. True beauty is not skin deep.
38. If there are a bunch of assholes in the room, there is usually only one asshole.
39. We are all creative in our own ways, and we all have at least one book in us (writing it is another matter).
40. What appears to be the easier, softer way is usually the hardest, worst way. Just do it the right way.
41. No matter what life has thrown at you, you are responsible for the person you are right now.
42. Life is short. Make it sweet.
43. Live in the present moment.
44. Exiting a bad relationship is a win. Staying in a relationship and overcoming challenges is also a win.
45. Live in gratitude—if it’s your predominant attitude and action, life will be so good.
46. Stay humble.
47. Don’t judge.
48. Have dreams and goals. It’s pretty hard to achieve something you don’t imagine first.
49. Don’t bother with resolutions. Every day is a day you can choose to live the way you want.
50. Comparing yourself to others is a waste of time.
51. Don't blame your parents, siblings, teachers, government, society, (i.e., others) for your circumstances (and also re-read #2, 5, 21, 26, 34 and 41).
52. Money is not the key to happiness.
53. When someone is at their worst, that’s when they need your love the most.
54. Different is good.
55. Appreciate the big things, the little things and all the things.
They say opposites attract, and if you look at the bookshelf above, you might see this illustrated perfectly. There is a distinct difference in the left side vs. the right side. One half belongs to me, and the other to my husband of twenty-six years today, my mate for thirty. Both are actually organized to our liking—by subject matter mostly—but I prefer my titles neat and tidy, from tallest to shortest, even if that means fudging things here and there, while his are organized by subject matter even though several subjects must share one shelf.
The old me might have been bothered by the appearance of his “side” because clutter and loose ends drive me a little crazy, even though I’ve been living with them for decades. Try as I might to avoid it, life is full of both. But I don’t feel like straightening up his books now (much) because I’ve come to accept my guy’s idiosyncrasies every bit as much as his personality traits, methods of operation and general demeanor.
He’d be the first to tell you he’s a handful, and if you know him well, you might agree. But for me, sitting over here in the passenger seat, it’s my privilege (and sometimes challenge) to see the whole person he is. I’ve always contended he is the square peg to our round ones as he simply doesn’t see the world the way most of us do, nor does he interact with humans the way most of us do. It’s almost like we’re speaking a different language.
Despite this, over the years, my husband has taught me more about love than I learned the lifetime before we met. He is positively unconditional about his love for me as well as trustworthy, loyal, honest, doting and committed. He speaks to me, and about me to others, with reverence and respect. He sometimes jokes that he “seethes romance,” and in actuality, he is an old school romantic. He believes in forever love, in honest unity, in spending as much time as humanly possible together before we’re gone.
Loving someone unconditionally is my best relationship advice ever. That means loving the whole person—shortcomings, longcomings and everything in between—24/7. Aside from the obvious (like abuse), when the going gets tough, stay in there and fight through it. Resist the urge to flee and see if the grass is greener on the other side. The grass may look greener, but no matter what lawn you lay on, you are still gonna deal with pesky insects, weeds, worms under the soil, dirt patches and the regular need to mow. No one is perfect.
It’s not easy to love unconditionally. Sure it is when your person is acting amazing, funny, generous and kind. But when he/she is behaving their worst, it can be repelling. We respond defensively or with frustration and anger. I contend that’s when our mates need our love the most. It’s a clue they are off-kilter, whether rational or not. Is bailing the answer, or does a little understanding and empathy seem a better way to go?
Love wins, and I believe that. And love, in its truest sense, should be unconditional. That doesn’t mean accepting every behavior that bothers you, but to work it out, talk it out, show up for both parties so you can go on loving and growing.
As for the small stuff (like a messy bookshelf) I recommend letting it go. Let others have their space to live and thrive in their own special ways while you have your own, too. Be accepting, understanding and compassionate. Make some concessions, remember to be flexible. Feel gratitude for your partner. Choose harmony. Love with your whole heart. You just might be amazed at the levels you reach personally and with your significant other.
My husband and me the day we eloped at the Arlington Courthouse twenty-six years ago and
celebrating our twenty-fourth wedding anniversary in the Outer Banks in 2017.
A collection of columns, articles and general a-musings.