“To become a happy person, have a clean soul, eyes that see romance in the commonplace, a child’s heart, and spiritual simplicity.” - Norman Vincent Peale
Similar to most almost-thirty-year-old’s, I’ve been over, under, and through the dating gauntlet in life. You name it, it’s been experienced: commitment-phobics, men questioning their sexual orientation, addictions, compulsive liars, men going MIA (literally) and a cheater or two through the path. By the time I hit my twenty-fourth year, I had racked up a dating history like it was my professional job.
Then, I stopped caring about love, men, dating, and all the headaches that went along with that package of goodies. Before I knew it, when I least wanted and expected it, love found me. Since the reality of love walked into my life, I continually revisit the eternal question about relationships:
What’s all the fuss about?!
Case in point: This afternoon I drove down to a nearby state park to enjoy my lunch break and a bit of reading. About halfway through my chapter, angry, booming voices interrupted my serenity and made me temporarily think I was dealing with the dragon. A quick glance in my rear view mirror alerted me to the presence of two adults, roughly in their mid-30′s, walking back from a hiking trail in a full-out battle.
“Medication and trash at a picnic?! I want to talk about us,” he screamed through the parking lot.
“Please calm down,” she quietly begged.
“No, I won’t calm down! Just go on your other date, Mrs. I Can’t Commit. I hope he’s fucking worth it!”
While my book was tempting, this relationship shitshow was so much more visually stimulating. As I watched hands thrash about, curse words tossed carelessly, and the dust behind her car peeling out of the parking lot, once again I was faced with the question: What’s all the fuss about?
The whole point of dating is to meet new people and have fun. Why can’t we accept this and treat dating as just that? Why must we all push and pull in every direction that doesn’t work? Why must we try to form love where it won’t exist, and shy away from those who offer it willingly?
I can honestly say, since day one, I’ve had to put minimal effort and mental energy into my relationship. And not too surprisingly, it’s the relationship that has lasted.
On one hand I can count the arguments we’ve had, the rarity of raised voices, the non-existence of needing “time apart”, or a discussion of all the things we need to fix in our relationship. You know, those lovely dating situations we’ve all found ourselves in far too many times. The arguments that pass 3:00am where your eyes are falling out of your head, and the conversation has no shred of rationality left.
In other words, when it comes to dating, relationships, and love: let go of the complexity, embrace the simplicity, and keep most of your energy for you. If you catch yourself putting ten-fold energy and effort into another person, take a step back and start to ask why it requires so much work.
Real love is like a car; it may need a tune-up or a little maintenance here and there, but if every free minute you’re pouring money, time, sweat, and tears into it? It’s junk.
One of the most wonderful aspects of metaphors is the ability to discuss a topic that otherwise is “off-limits”. Some of you are reading and thinking, “What the hell could be off-limits for writing?! Freedom of speech, read it and weep!”
But, these topics exist because we live in a politically correct world that gives a “mom look” when we step too far out-of-bounds. Some examples of these undiscussable events, just to name a few, are certain family members/situations, private issues in your life, and crazy neighbors who shall remain nameless. You know, the norm.
And with that, this tale is brought to you by the beautiful anonymity of metaphors…
Once upon a time, a princess was looking for a new castle. She was tired of living with the King and the Queen; she was thirsty for freedom and autonomy. After viewing a hand full of castles, the princess came across the right one. Soon afterwards, the princess moved her belongings and fur-friends into the new home and began decorating her castle.
Little did the princess know that just one floor above lived an angry, nostril-flaring, fire-breathing dragon. The dragon was a miserable lady, blowing her hot breath and smoke everywhere she saw fit. On particularly bad days, the dragon would flap her over-sized wings, creating a stir throughout the entire castle and surrounding community. The princess knew to keep her happiness about her, she must stay as far away from the dragon as possible.
But that all changed one day…
The princess began focusing on a healthier lifestyle, looking for ways to eat cleaner and become more connected with her earth. A light bulb snapped above her head when the idea swept through to plant a herb garden. The princess knew it could be nothing fancy or the dragon would stomp the chives and parsley into the dirt. Just a small flower box and a trellis would do!
The princess placed the trellis below her window and lined the herb and flower boxes in front. A happy-faced garden decoration shined warmly above the flowers and herbs, giving a smile of approval. The princess looked over her handy work and retreated back into the castle, proud of her new commitment to nature and health.
Boom! Boom! Boom!
The fiery dragon was at the princess’ front door, banging loudly and blowing her angry words through the crack. The princess knew it was time for battle; there was no turning back and the herb garden was to blame.
The princess ducked and weaved through the dragon’s hateful fire spewing, as the dragon blew smoke and spittle about dog poop, being surrounded by slobs, and the rudeness of having a herb garden on the princess’ own land. The dragon roared about the princess’ duty to mow the lawn and take care of the entire yard, despite only using one square foot of dirt.
The princess reeled back with intelligent words discussing tenants’ rights, landlord responsibilities, and the need to keep misery on misery’s own side of the castle. With one final strike of an intellectual sword, the princess stopped the dragon in its fiery tracks, telling the dragon to contain its insanity and stop wasting the princess’ time with nonsensical and irrational fire spews about everyone in the castle and living nearby.
The dragon blew its last hot breath of smoke and fire, dragging its outsmarted tail between its legs and returning to its area of the castle. The dragon remained in hibernation for well over a week, licking its wounds and patching its slayed sense of entitlement and pride.
Moral of the story: Don’t fuck with law-savvy princesses, dragons. You’ll always lose.
The human brain is truly an awe-inspiring organism. I first had this thought as an undergraduate in a Behavioral Neuroscience class. The professor was excitedly jumping from one end of the chalkboard to the other, drawing thick white circles around brain areas and their corresponding functions.
The course took place over an oppressively hot summer; the days endlessly dwindled into the night, offering only a few degrees of cooler air in remorse. Sitting in brick-lined classrooms overlooking the Boston Harbor, I would find myself locked into the Professor’s words and unique habits for improving student memorization.
Amygdala. Amy G Dala. “Amy is a new college student learning the lay of the campus. She will need to remember the campus and keep calm. Class! The purpose of the amygdala is memorization and emotional reactions!”
While my breeze-filled college evenings are behind me, the intricacies of the human brain still stop me in my tracks regularly. It begs for consideration, thoughtfulness, and possibly even admiration. And when one’s brain wants attention, it will stop at nothing to take it.
Since the Boston bombings and horrific events which took place following, my brain has been frozen in time. Wake up, get dressed, go to work, do graduate school work, write an article, drive home, make dinner, exercise, go to sleep. My actions are in auto-drive, pushing me through the days’ tasks, bringing me closer to the moment my head can meet the pillow, where all is right in the world again.
I’ve been quiet lately. My words are escaping me. I can see words dutifully traveling from my brain to my fingertips and sailing out the tops, laughing as they remind me my brain is freeze-down mode; no artistic or creative enjoyment will happen.
But the most beautiful aspect of the human brain is the ability to regenerate. Build new synapses, create new neurons, and build better relationships between neurotransmitters. In layman’s terms, build new bridges of opportunity, create new avenues, and build better relationships for linking to life.
Find my voice.
Find my words.
Return to myself.
How does one even approach or introduce the terrible events that occurred in Boston at the marathon on April 15th? If someone knows, I’d gladly be steered in the right direction. As many times as I have started typing, I’ve stopped.
Speechless. Heartbroken. Disgusted.
Boston is my hometown. Endless adventures of my life have played out in the various neighborhoods of the city. Southie is where I attended college and walked with pride across the stage as a first-generation graduate. The back-roads and neighborhoods passed on my commute in and out of school were always active; people bustling in and out of traffic; drivers filled with road-rage, yelling between cars at red lights.
Back Bay is where I spent many hours daydreaming of a future city life, taking in the water’s breeze and beauty. The homeless population that took residence in this area was a calm, soft reminder of my dedication to social services and my future career.
Chinatown was a childhood favorite, as I spent many days going to work with my Dad. On special days, we would stop in one of the Asian markets and bring fresh, buttery pork buns home for the family. The smell of the buns in the car would have my stomach growling before we’d even reach the highway on-ramp.
Boston is a diverse compilation of everything in life: lights, noise, action. The one thing Boston is not is a place for fear, for giving up, for losing faith.
Boston’s about life through noise – clubs, bars, Fenway fans pouring out onto the street, loud personalities, 100% purebred Southie residents screaming at one another over their lawn-chair-claimed parking spots.
Boston’s about sports – baseball, basketball, football – hell, it doesn’t even matter if our city has a decent shot at the game, we play with pride and we play to win.
Boston’s about education – from one end of the city to the other, higher education institutions line the streets, with unique and eccentric college students juggling instruments, briefcases, and presentations between cross walk lights. (Just kidding, who in Boston even looks at crossing lights?!)
But mostly… Boston is about pride and strength. The Irish, the Italians, the Portuguese – all of our typical cultural divides fade breathlessly away in the wake of tragedy. No longer are North and South Shore figuratively battling out who has the toughest crew or the most alarming accents. The competing colleges drop their rat-race and take a moment of silence.
The entire city stops in the face of tragedy.
We stop. We listen. We cry. We hug. We support.
And then we react.
We take back what was stolen. We shine our faces full of pride, honor, and strength, not letting even the most horrific events slow us down. We never back down and we never lose hope.