Something to be proud of

It’s quite possible that the thoughts I’m about to share are largely due to hormones, seeing as how I’m 8 months pregnant. Nonetheless…

Several months ago I found a picture of my late grandparents, Robert (Bob) and Inga Blair. I found a rustic frame to put the picture in and created a place for it on the bookshelf in my home office. It’s a simple picture—just the two of them standing in their dining room. Grandpa was wearing his good cowboy hat and Grandma was wearing earrings, so they must have been on their way to town. Grandpa’s arm was around Grandma, and she was holding his hand. They both wore their big smiles that had created deep lines in their faces over the years. Smiles that, if you knew them, reminded you of their wonderful senses of humor that had endeared the entire rural community to them.

Grandma and Grandpa

Grandpa was a small Irish man who was as tough as he was kind-hearted. He had a funny saying for every situation, and he never met a child or animal he didn’t love. He left home after the 8th grade with no possessions, started his family during the Great Depression, and accumulated more than 10,000 acres of land over the course of his lifetime. He left a legacy behind him, rich with not only possessions, but family and people who loved him. He was the bank when his friends couldn’t get a loan. He was the voice of reason when someone was being rash. And he was a scrapper when he was defending the code he lived by. At his funeral, friends shared memories of him that filled the room with laughter. I shared something I’d written about him called The Greatest Man I Know that filled the room with tears.

My grandmother was equally unique and wonderful. Her love for her family knew no bounds. She was a Norwegian woman with a personality big enough to handle my grandpa’s and a spirit light enough to appreciate his shenanigans. She was always trying to put meat on people’s bones. When we were young, she’d disappear into the other room and reappear with a measuring cup full of skittles for each of the grandkids that came to visit. We never did find her hiding place for those skittles. Grandma was a woman of few words, but when she spoke, you listened. She was the perfect complement to my grandpa, like a team of horses. They just worked better as a pair.

Without going into a lot more detail, suffice it to say that I loved my grandparents fiercely. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that the special role my grandpa played in my life is one that not everyone has had the pleasure of experiencing. Not everyone has had a rock—a role model—like my grandpa. For some reason, my brothers and I just wanted to make my grandpa proud. Sometimes that meant getting out the lawnmower and mowing his lawn without being asked. It would have been enough to hear him say thank you, or to receive that “good job” slap on the back from him that almost hurt… but he would also reward us with a crisp $5 or $10 bill. My brothers and I worked hard and played hard with Grandpa, and loved every minute of it. Some of my favorite memories of my childhood involve having an ice cream cone with Grandpa after a job well done, or taking a ride on the bench-seated 3-wheeler that Grandpa would pull out before the sun went down on a summer night. They were simple pleasures but they meant the world to us.

To this day, the opinion of my grandpa matters to me. It’s one of the reasons my hair has been long all my life. Grandpa liked it that way. He’s also big part of the reason I’m frugal with money. He didn’t buy what he didn’t need. He taught my dad to be that way, and from watching both of them make financial decisions for the ranch over the years, I’ve learned to be careful with money too.

Now, since finding that picture of my grandparents, at least a couple times per week I’ll look up from my work and glance at it. It always causes me to pause for a minute and remember them. It always causes me to shift my focus and see my life in simpler terms—the terms Grandpa lived by. I find myself wondering what Grandpa would say about my life if he were alive today. I wonder what questions he would have for my husband and what adventures he would have taken Mylo on out at the ranch. I wonder what new stories he would tell about his life as a young cowboy that he’d recall when spending a day with us now. (No matter how many stories he told, there were always new ones we’d never heard.)

Today I sat in my office chair, feeling my unborn son moving and kicking inside me, and I glanced up at that picture. Suddenly tears were streaming down my face, partly because I miss them, but mostly because my husband and I have decided to make our son’s middle name Robert. I think my husband agreed to it because he knows it means a lot to me, but he will never know how much it means. He’ll never know how sad I am that my grandpa never got to meet my husband… never got to look in my husband’s eyes and grip his hand firmly with a handshake that both greeted him warmly and evaluated him as a man. He’ll never know how much I wish my grandfather could have seen what a hard worker he is and how well he takes care of me and his sons. As I thought about this I was reminded of the Montgomery Gentry song, Something To Be Proud Of. You see, I know my grandpa would have been proud of the family I have and the life we’ve built. I know he would have liked my husband and I know the smile my sons would have brought to his face. So my tears as I thought about all of this come from sadness at the missed opportunity to see pride in my grandpa’s face. But they also come from the joy I have about my husband, my boys, and my opportunity to let my grandpa’s name live on in my son.

Life is so, so sweet

For the second day in a row, at 6:30 pm, give or take 10 minutes, I opened the door to our house and was hit by the smell of a hot, home cooked meal. And I was greeted by smiles from the most handsome man I know and his precious little boy. Tension melted off my shoulders and I became acutely aware of how happy I was to be home.

How happy I was that this was my home.

How lucky I was that I found him.

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If you had asked me a year ago where I would be this July, I never would have guessed that I would have moved to Colorado Springs, be engaged to a Navy fighter pilot, and be learning to be a mom. My life has shifted 180 degrees, in the direction I’ve always wanted it to go but couldn’t take it there alone. And I can now confirm that what I always believed turned out to be true… that it would be easy when I met the right man. That everything would fall into place and I would “just know”. That my priorities would shift and I wouldn’t be so career-focused. That everything would make sense.

What I didn’t know, however, was that it is possible to be in a relationship and to be in love every day. It is possible to be in a relationship and to be perfectly content with life… to be free of anxiety and doubt. I didn’t know what it was like to trust someone fully. I had always felt the need to hold something back… love or time or (sadly) money… to protect myself. I had never met the man I could invest in fully and throw caution to the wind. Until now.

But now, here I am, coming home to a home cooked meal on the days that I work and he doesn’t. And I sometimes come home to find flowers on the table for me, just because… or a refrigerator stocked with foods that he doesn’t eat, like Greek yogurt and hummus. And I always come home to a man who greets me with a smile and is as excited to spend the evening together as I am.

And have I mentioned how handsome he is??

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I have found such joy in simplicity. Such fulfillment in being a part of a family. Just this morning, Little Man followed me around the kitchen, still in his pajamas, giving me hugs every few minutes. I stopped what I was doing and knelt down for a full-on hug, where he rested his head on my shoulder, and overflowed my heart. Just a hug. Who knew that was all it would take.

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Life is so, so sweet. I am so blessed.

 

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The Search for a Cowboy

If you’ve read any of what I’ve written, you know that I appreciate and attempt to live by an old-school value system that came from my old-school upbringing. I don’t run across a lot of other people my age who grew up on a ranch, attended a one-room schoolhouse with one teacher for kindergarten through eighth grade….  and ate lunches comprised of vegetables from the garden washed in water from a livestock tank to avoid going to the house and being put down for a nap. So now that I’m an adult (and a contemplative one at that), I’ve thought a lot about how my upbringing has translated into my search for a husband.

Or really… my search for a cowboy.

I’m speaking metaphorically when I say that, because I’m not actually looking for a man with a big belt buckle who saddles up a horse to start the day’s work. Rather, I’m looking for a certain mentality. I’m looking for the way in which a man conducts himself, and the standard he holds himself to. You see, there are certain traits that I associate with cowboys, and those are the traits that capture my attention and command my respect. Those are the traits that cause me to put a man on a pedestal and look at him with admiration in my eyes. This list is not comprehensive, by any means, but it’s a good start.

A cowboy lives by a code of honor. Somewhere along the way, people pick up a set of rules or principles to live by. Sometimes their parents give it to them. Sometimes it comes from an influential figure, or maybe even the military or an amazing coach. But this code of honor guides a man to do what is honorable, whether or not it’s easy. For example, a student’s code of honor requires that the work he turns in be his own. A soldier’s code of honor requires him to stand and fight rather than deserting his fellow soldiers. A father’s code of honor requires him to protect and teach his children to the best of his ability. A cowboy looks for the appropriate honor code and upholds it without needing to talk about it or be praised for it. He does it because it makes him a man.

The code of honor really encompasses everything that follows, but I think it’s worth detailing them anyway.

A cowboy has good work ethic. He does what is necessary to get a job done. He takes pride in his work. Simply good enough is simply not good enough.

A cowboy is compassionate to children and animals. He recognizes that he has a duty to those who cannot help themselves, and he gladly shoulders that responsibility. I’ve never met a true cowboy who didn’t play with children or love a good dog. I’ve never met a true cowboy who was cruel to his horses. In fact, a cowboy will take any measures necessary to correct a man who is abusing his power and strength with those weaker than himself. He defends the weak, and he’s not afraid to teach a lesson that needs to be taught to those who don’t.

A cowboy respects women. Men and women are different by God’s design. It’s unfortunate, in my opinion, that society has worked so hard to mask those differences. But a cowboy sees and appreciates them, and cherishes a woman for the ways in which she differs from himself. Now don’t get me wrong… not all women conduct themselves in a way that warrants respect, in which case, a cowboy simply moves on. But when he does find a good woman, he knows how to treat her.

A cowboy respects his elders. At some point in his life, he will slowly take over the responsibility of caring for his parents in the ways that they used to care for him. He will value their wisdom, listen to their stories, and cherish the time he has to bridge the gap between generations before that opportunity is gone.

A cowboy makes no apologies for being a man. Even in the midst of a society that has devalued masculinity, a cowboy remains masculine. He recognizes that it’s in a woman’s nature to test him and make sure he won’t break… make sure he has the strength to be her man. (Forgive us. We don’t even know we do it sometimes.) Men are naturally more inclined to be competitive, to enjoy sports or the great outdoors or whatever their particular “thing” might be. A cowboy embraces what’s in his nature, pursues his interests and desires, and is a better husband, father, friend because of it.

A cowboy is prepared physically, mentally, and spiritually to fight for what is right. That means he protects his family, stands up for what he believes in, and fights for his country if necessary. And he takes the steps necessary to make sure that he can.

A cowboy is humble. He recognizes that even if he has spent a lifetime working tirelessly toward his goals, he is still thankful for his health and good fortune. He doesn’t look down on others and doesn’t forget to count his blessings.

A cowboy has quiet strength. I’ve found that the strongest of men are sometimes the ones you’d least expect. That’s because they’re humble (see above). And you only learn how strong they are when they are tested. You learn just how much of a rock a man is when you push on him, attempting to move him. A cowboy will allow you to push, but when you reach his limits, you’ll be stopped in your tracks and no amount of pushing will budge him. The loud one in a room… the boastful one… is not a cowboy.

Lastly, a cowboy has courage. Winston Churchill said “courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities… because it is the quality which guarantees all others.” Without courage, a person cannot hold themselves to any of the standards listed above, because inevitably his convictions will be tested. Courage will be required to stay the path, to uphold his code, to fight for his beliefs, and to withstand pain because sometimes life delivers pain. To recognize your own faults and correct them requires courage. Even to love requires a great deal of courage. A cowboy has enough of it.

So there you have it. The man I seek is a cowboy, not by occupation or dress, but by the qualities I’ve listed. I’ve been disappointed by the lack of cowboys in my generation, but once in a great while, one will appear. He might be a business owner, a salesman, a construction worker, an accountant, or a pilot. But regardless of how he looks on the outside, he’s saddling up and riding for the brand… a true cowboy at heart.

Bravo to all of you who are.

My grandfather and his brothers, the Blair boys. Their parents are on the left.

Riding for the brand

In some states, a brand is still a legally enforceable sign of ownership of livestock and a good deterrent to theft. South Dakota is one of those states. Around this time of year, ranchers are “calving”, and pastures become filled with playful babies and fiercely protective mommas. (If you don’t believe me, stand between a cow and her calf when the calf starts bawling. You’ll learn exactly how fast you can run when a 1500 pound animal charges you.) A few months from now, all the ranchers in the community will start planning their brandings. From sunup to midafternoon, an entire community shows up to help, and then they’re fed and boozed and sincerely thanked. All the ranchers take turns, until every calf in the county is branded.

Branding day

A branding is, in my opinion, a lost form of community that was once a necessity. Now there are very few reasons for people to rely on each other the way a rural community does when a huge task needs to be accomplished. And believe me when I say that rounding up an entire herd of cattle, separating the calves from the cows, vaccinating all the cows, and branding all the calves is a huge task. It would take a family a week to get it done. But it takes a community half a day. People are always glad to help because they’re appreciative of the help they receive when it’s their turn. And while it’s hard work that sometimes leaves you bruised and sore, it’s also a lot of fun. Good conversations are had on horseback, kids learn to rope and have a rare chance to play with the neighbor kids outside of school, and the men take every opportunity to make each other the butt of a joke. Someone inevitably falls in fresh manure or gets tripped by a rope that the horse is pulling a calf with. And if you’ve never been in a rocky mountain oyster fight, you haven’t lived! (Gross!)

Dad's and Grandpa's brands

Livestock branding dates back to several thousand years B.C. In the 1500’s, branding made its way to the Americas by way of the Spaniards. In the time of the Old West, the phrase “ride for the brand” was coined. Brands are legally registered and available for purchase. Both the symbol itself and its location on the animal are part of the brand. The best ones are simple, easy to read, and easy to apply. Good brands are often handed down through generations and can be sold with a ranch. My grandfather’s brand was “lazy B U on the left hip”. Dad uses it now, but his used to be 7NL, which looks the same upside down, so it was easy to apply. My brothers and I all had a brand for the handful of cattle our dad and grandpa gave us. Mostly it was to make us feel special. Mine was “rafter SS”, which looks like two S’s with a roof over them.

A brand is a ranch’s (or rancher’s) trademark and it represents pride and duty. Ranch hands (or cattle hands) in days of old were expected to “ride for the brand”. That meant that they were expected to hold themselves to the standards of the ranch. It meant they could be trusted to treat the ranch as their own; to care for every bull, cow, and calf and make sure they were all accounted for; and to put the welfare of the group above their own personal gain. In return, the rancher treated them like family. There was a fierce sense of loyalty, but at the same time, no contracts were ever signed. The ranch hand was there by choice… he chose to ride for the brand… and could count on being rewarded fairly. In the words of Louis L’Amour, riding for the brand was “an expression of loyalty to a man’s employer or the particular outfit he rode for. It was considered a compliment of the highest order in an almost feudal society. If a man did not like a ranch or the way they conducted their affairs he was free to quit, and many did, but if he stayed on, he gave loyalty and expected it.”

But those days are over, and sadly, some of the virtues of the times have gone with them. The Code of the West was a good one though, and even though its origin is foreign to most of us now, I see no reason why young generations shouldn’t strive to uphold it. Shouldn’t we still “ride for the brand” for the company we work for? Like the ranch hands of that time, we are free to leave a company whose mission we don’t believe in or culture we don’t like. If we choose to stay, though, don’t we owe our loyalty to a company that treats us fairly and respectfully?

In relationships as well, shouldn’t we “ride for the brand”? How many times have you heard someone complaining about their significant other? Why? We’re free to go aren’t we? But if we’ve chosen to be involved with someone… especially if we’ve chosen to marry the person and start a family… don’t we owe our loyalty to them? And that includes the times when they aren’t watching or within earshot. The only person you’re hurting is yourself if you choose to live a double life—to be involved in something that you don’t believe in.

No one is perfect, and every day is a new struggle to live a life of integrity… to like the person we see in the mirror every morning. But today I challenge everyone to “ride for the brand”… whatever your brand might be.

Perfect By Design

I’ve noticed a trend among my fitness-enthusiast friends lately, which culminated in seeing a giant tractor tire propped against the wall in a small 24 Hour Fitness near my office recently. The way people work out is changing, with the new school workouts actually being very old school ways of staying fit. Now it’s not uncommon to see a group of people in a gym parking lot pushing cars, carrying buckets full of weight either in their hands or hanging from a bar across their shoulders, moving big tires from point A to point B, and so on. And the kettle bell phenomenon is the same idea. They are a bunch of weights of varying sizes with handles so people can do explosive movements designed to imitate throwing stuff, usually over their heads. (Anyone else reminded of square hay bales?) New research has also taught us that the optimum cardiovascular exercise is moderate enough to raise your heart rate, but not so much that your body switches to anabolic mode and begins burning muscle for fuel. In other words, walking at varying inclines (like you might find outdoors) is pretty ideal. Who’da thought?? So it seems that the science of  exercise has come full circle, and we are now doing what people have done since the beginning—moving our bodies in the way they were designed to move before innovation made it possible for us to be lazy all day long.

And so I started thinking… and I realized… pretty much everything comes full circle. We, as a species, keep getting smarter. And we’re learning that the changes we make as a result of new discoveries often need to be undone because when we finally uncover the whole picture, we realize that things were better off left alone.

Remember when everyone thought that eggs were bad for you because of the cholesterol in them? And red meat was banned from the list of acceptable foods for anyone hoping to lose weight. Innovative companies started producing sugar substitutes and fat-free everything. The goal was to allow people to eat and drink to their heart’s content without adding pounds. Fruits and vegetables were genetically engineered to be bigger (but somehow lost all taste). Preservatives were added to everything so no one needed fresh food, ever. Chemicals were sprayed on crops to kill bugs and produce the maximum output per acre. Hormones were given to animals so they would be bigger and produce more milk and meat. The wonder of innovation!

What has been the result of all that innovation? Staggering increases in the rate of mental health issues, including among children. More people than ever are dying of cancer. Dysfunctions that mimic MS are seen among diet soda drinkers. The rate of Alzheimer’s has increased dramatically. Society is depressed, can’t concentrate, is malnourished and disease-ridden, and there’s more obesity than history has ever seen. Innovations in curing disease haven’t kept up with the rate at which innovation has caused disease. So now we’re being told to revert back to the way humans ate a century ago. Eat organic food. If you need to sweeten something, use real, raw sugar. Avoid the fat-free stuff, because it actually causes more weight gain. In other words, eat and drink the way people used to eat and drink… the way God intended us to eat and drink. We haven’t improved upon his creation at all. As it turns out, eggs are one of earth’s perfect foods. We should eat whole grains, lots of fruit and vegetables, and avoid processed stuff. “Stay in the outside aisles at the grocery store” is the modern-day advice. God even gave us caffeine and alcohol! What more could we need?? Food was perfect by design.

Humans seem to have a need to understand and then alter everything. Scientists discovered the smallest particle on the planet, the atom, and then wanted to break it into even smaller pieces. What did that lead to? Nuclear fallout and atomic weapons of mass destruction. Chernobyl and Hiroshima. Oops! Granted, nuclear power is nice, but I’ll still argue that we should never have messed with it. It was perfect by design.

We have even decided that the human body wasn’t good enough as it was. I won’t get into the topic of whether or not it’s morally acceptable to grow organs from stem cells. If I ever need a new organ I’ll make up my mind about that topic. But let’s talk about this on a smaller scale. I grew up in the 80’s, and as a little girl, I remember seeing actresses and models that didn’t look like any  of the women I encountered in daily life. Don’t get me wrong… my mother and her sisters were beautiful women who took very good care of themselves. But they were real women. They didn’t have visible ribs or porcelain skin. I got a very clear message that it was important to be skinny. And just as women were shrinking, men were growing. (Thank you Arnold Schwarzenegger.) It become just as awful to call a man “skinny” as it was to call a woman “fat”. Both genders began using substances to help them achieve an unnatural appearance, some legal, some not. And I’ll admit, I fell victim to the pressure to achieve the “ideal” body. I held myself to an unrealistic standard and hated myself when I fell short. Thankfully, those days have given way to a much more content place of moderation. I personally have come full circle, and while I still work out and eat healthy, I also indulge in my favorite things. That includes the occasional burger, sweet potato fries, movie theater popcorn, Crown Royal, and of course, ice cream. You only live once!

There’s more media attention given to the pressure put on women to be “ideal” than the pressure put on men. But they feel it too. A lot of men put a great deal of time and energy into being bigger and more muscular than their genetics intended. I can’t say that I speak for all women, but I think I represent the vast majority when I say that women don’t like the “steroid look”. When I see a man who looks like a real life version of Johnny Bravo… who might tip over and not be able to get back up because he’s so top-heavy… it’s not attractive. You know the look. It’s as if his shoulders and arms have been inflated with air. Sorry, but I don’t want to cuddle up to that! There’s no room for me! I can fully appreciate a man’s physique when he takes care of himself, and has that V-shaped torso, with broad shoulders and a lean waist. But his delts alone should not command attention. It’s distracting. An overall athletic appearance will win out every time. So guys, chill out! It’s ok to weigh less than 200 pounds. You’re still bigger than us and can carry the heavy stuff that we can’t, and that’s all we need.

Regarding my own gender, I read something written by a man about the things he loves about a woman. He wrote about the way she smells and the primitive manly thing in him that ignites when he sees her in his shirts. He wrote about “the look” that she  reserves just for him, when she suddenly realizes she adores him and is wildly attracted to him all over again. He wrote about the fact that it’s slightly more charming than annoying that she worries about his health and safety. He wrote about the way she fits in his arms, with her face buried in his neck when he hugs her, as if she was designed just for him. What he didn’t write about was physical perfection. In fact he said he liked that her body was soft, and he thought she was crazy when she criticized herself in front of a mirror. She was womanly, with womanly parts. And the “flaws” she saw in herself were the things that made her different from him in exactly the ways she was supposed to be. She didn’t need cosmetic procedures or Botox or even make-up to be beautiful in his eyes. In fact, lots of makeup makes women less approachable rather than more attractive.

My girlfriend took a trip to LA recently, with plans to go out every night and enjoy the LA “scene”. She packed really tall heels and really short skirts. She took every beauty product and tool in her arsenal, planning to be dressed to the 9’s. And when she came back she told me that she was so busy having fun that she spent no time getting ready for the evenings. She went out to nightclubs in jeans and a tank top, with barely any makeup on. And she got more attention from men than she’d ever had in her life. It was probably a breath of fresh air for the guys (especially in LA) to see a woman… I mean really SEE a woman undisguised by all our crap that we think makes us beautiful.

So this blog kinda started as one thing and ended as another. But I guess it all relates. And it all stems from an idea that I was mulling around in my head, which is this:

The world and all things in it are perfect by design. God designed us in a way that is functional, and we are attracted to each other because of the very things that help us get by in the world and produce more human beings. The food he gave us fuels us and keeps us healthy and lean. The improvements we’ve tried to make have actually been steps backwards. God must feel like the parent of a  two-year old… patiently waiting for us to grow up and stop make messes everywhere. But then again, he designed us to be slow learners, so I guess that’s perfect too.

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

I received a text message from a friend this morning that said “Why are most women so sporadic in their behavior? They want one thing one day and something completely different the next day.”

My response was: “I can’t answer for others, but mostly I think it’s because people want instant gratification. We live in a world where everything’s available NOW, and if it’s not, then we’re on to the next thing. People don’t have patience anymore.”

My assumption about the issue my friend was facing must have been right, because my answer satisfied him… and then he asked me if I’d like to run off and get married. A shining example of patience himself. 🙂

Lest you think I am writing from a holier-than-though perspective, I actually have been thinking about this topic lately because patience is something I struggle with myself. We all know the saying “good things come to those who wait,” but how many of us are good at sitting and waiting? I’m certainly not. I’m an action taker. I like to set my sights on a goal and make things happen. But life doesn’t always lend itself to that attitude—relationships especially, but it’s also true of career paths, getting to where you want to be financially, and for some unlucky couples, adding to a family. Sometimes we just have to wait.

Generations before us didn’t have internet. They didn’t have email and cell phones and instant messaging. Once upon a time they didn’t even have fax machines. They relied on snail mail and face-to-face conversations to communicate information. It’s hard to imagine having a relationship that way. Or getting any kind of work done. When the network at my office crashes, we all emerge into the hallway and stare at each other, lost. Handicapped.

I had a bout of puppy love in high school, with a guy a year older than me. He went away to college and left me pining for the day I would get to see him again. We wrote emails daily, relying on horribly unreliable dial-up internet connections. We sent each other hand-written letters, sprayed with perfume and sealed with a lipstick kiss. (I did that, not him, thankfully.) And I counted the days until Christmas break. I had an achy feeling every time I would read one of his heartfelt messages to me. I hated the waiting. But I had patience. He was worth waiting for.

That is… until I started partying during the last half of my senior year. I discovered Busch Lite and bonfires. My relationship took a backseat, and eventually I forgot that it was still in the car. Not one of my prouder moments.

I read somewhere that emails and text messages killed the love letter. It’s true, don’t you think? We don’t have to wait days or even hours to share our loving thoughts for someone. The thoughts barely have time to sink into our consciousness before they’re launched into cyberspace in the form of a text message. It’s not necessary to choose words carefully… to make sure that we’re expressing ourselves fully because we only have one chance at it. And because of that, I don’t think people give love the time it needs to solidify. Love doesn’t happen overnight. It doesn’t happen after two or three good dates. It happens over time, through shared experiences and mutual respect that takes time to earn. But our culture is so used to instant gratification that we see a light peeking through a crack… a tiny chance at love… and we throw ourselves through the door only to extinguish the flame by our own actions. No patience.

How many military men and women have deployed and come home to find out that their beloved spouse has cheated on them or left them for another. No patience. How many people have left a job after only a year or two, because they’re not seeing the leaps in salary they’d hoped for? No patience. How many people have found themselves hurt by the fact that a text message they sent wasn’t responded to within an hour. No patience.

Technology has advanced to the point that we don’t have to wait for anything. We aren’t trained to wait. We’re a society of shakers-and-movers. If you aren’t moving at my pace, I’m leaving you behind. The bad part about this is, sometimes the best opportunities in life… the best people you’ll ever meet, the best job you’ll ever have… isn’t moving at your pace. So you leave it behind. And eventually, it leaves you behind.

Good things come to those who wait.

A Woman’s Letter

My Dearest Mr. E,

Every time we talk, I’m left with an aching feeling that I can neither explain nor rid myself of. I’m not sure if it’s a stomach ache or a heart ache, but it leaves me feeling empty and a little anxious. It leaves me wishing I could take action to change things… but I don’t know what I’d change if I could. It leaves me feeling frustrated… but I’m not sure with whom or for what reason.

Mr. E, you blew me away the first night I met you, and I haven’t really found my feet since. I do fine most of the time, when you are but a thought that crosses my mind from time to time. But when you resurface and say something as simple as “you are all that is woman” to me, you send my mind on a journey once again, fantasizing about everything that could be. I have spent very little time with you, and maybe I am fooling myself to think that I understand you and the things you need in life, but I feel like I
know you as well as I know myself. You are my male counterpart, as opposite from me as a man is supposed to be from a woman. But not just any woman. A woman like me. Again, maybe I’m fooling myself, but I think you understand what I mean.

I suppose it’s human nature to seek out an ideal and compare all things to it. An ideal partner, an ideal life, an ideal image of oneself even. In my eyes, you are an ideal man. You have not pursued me except to reach out for brief, albeit intense, reunions occasionally. You have not led me to believe that you will someday either. And I respect you for that. You are someone who follows through on promises, so you don’t make promises that you don’t plan on keeping. But despite the valley between us, there seems to be an understanding. I suppose it’s mutual respect and maybe a recognition of a kindred spirit. Whatever it is, it has garnered you a special place in my life and in my heart. While sometimes I wish I had so much more from you, I love the ache you leave me with when you touch down into my life. I love it and I hate it. It reminds me that I’m capable of experiencing an emotion intensely enough to feel it physically. I won’t name the emotion. I couldn’t if I tried. But it reminds me that I’m a warm-blooded woman, who aches for a man she may never have. It’s as primal as my need to eat, drink, and breathe. You, Mr. E, are as timeless as the emotion itself. I’m glad you walked into my life all those years ago, impeccably dressed, with your broad shoulders towering over me. I’m glad you showed me what it’s like to feel vulnerable, feminine…. and content to be left aching.

Damn you. Go off and fight your war. I understand that you need to. I’ll be thinking about you.

Woman

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