How Well-Intentioned People Slowly Fall Apart

A clear, thought provoking excerpt from  Matthew Fray’s book, This Is How Your Marriage Ends: A Hopeful Approach to Saving Relationships.

Dig the last two paragraphs:

“If I had known that this drinking-glass situation and similar arguments would actually end my marriage—that the existence of love, trust, respect, and safety in our marriage was dependent on these moments I was writing off as petty disagreements—I would have made different choices.

I could have communicated my love and respect for her by not leaving tiny reminders for her each day that she wasn’t considered. That she wasn’t remembered. That she wasn’t respected. I could have carefully avoided leaving evidence that I would always choose my feelings and my preferences over hers.”

In one portion of my first year writing seminar, my students and I explore the concept of romantic love and the notion of “soulmates” more specifically. Next fall, in that context, we will read this essay. Eighteen and nineteen year olds don’t even remotely think about romantic relationships in Fray’s suggested terms because no one ever asks them to. In my teaching experience, when they are challenged to, they routinely rise to the occasion and reveal genuine maturity and depth.

More broadly, if you want to invite me to a dinner party, I would enjoy using this excerpt as a case study of sorts to engage other couples about the relative health of their relationships. It would be thrilling because it could go spectacularly wrong, but even then it would be revealing to hear people’s different perspectives on Fray’s telling of his divorce story.

Or I suppose, we can just keep talking about Elon Musk, the price of gas, and the weather.

Taking Our Union To The Next Level

Because I’m busy watching golf, the Good Wife agreed to pick up a library book that’s on hold for me.

Well, she tried. They had to call me to ask if she had permission to pick up books on hold for me. Or if I wanted, I could convey all of the privileges of my card to her.

Because I’m crazy in love with her and a big risk taker, I told the nice library person to go full throttle with la ultima card privileges.

Those of you who know the GalPal are right to wonder about my decision. She could easily run up a shitload of late fees, forcing me to return to work full time. Or she could purposely check out supe-embarrassing books in my name and then blackmail me for some ungodly sum.

It’s just the most recent example of me living on the edge.

Be Adventurous, Tell Stories

Apologies for going silent during the annual dose of cycling and running in Bend, Oregon last week. Pretty damn selfish, but at least I didn’t kill the Humble Blog like The Former Guy did. Grow a spine Former Guy, if I closed shop every time a “friend” made fun of the Humble Blog, the world would be bereft of all my insights. Cue “friends” making fun again.

Yesterday, I was driving north on Hwy 26 from Bend to Gresham at the same time as a badass woman in a convertible MiniCooper. Like me, she was OLD, but that didn’t stop her from embracing the elements. The air temp was 45F/7C, but we were doing 60mph, so adjust accordingly. She paired a hooded winter jacket with ski gloves.

I would never do that (how could I hear my podcasts; plus, my hair), but I loved that she was. Each time we leap frogged one another, I became more intrigued with her story. What kind of person drives with the top down when it’s hella cold? The answer of course is an adventurous one.

I wanted to meet her because anyone that adventurous has to have a lot of great stories from a life well lived. That’s one of the best things about adventures, besides the actual experience, you end up with a treasure trove of stories that enable others to experience your adventure vicariously, and therefore, for the experience to live on.

But then I ruminated on the fact that she was alone, which of course means she doesn’t get along with other people. I mean, if she did, even just a little, wouldn’t she have someone in the car with her? Someone she’s shared some adventures with?

So, maybe having a beer with her wouldn’t be so great an experience after all.

But then I thought about the fact that apart from Blanca and Rosa, I was alone in my car too. So who am I to judge, maybe I’m not God’s gift to interpersonal relations. So maybe I shouldn’t keep her solo-ness from proposing we stop for a beer in Sandy for some story telling.

But alas, I wasn’t adventurous enough to propose that, so I don’t have any stories to tell about the woman in the convertible MiniCooper.

Don’t be me. Get jabbed, be even more adventurous, meet people, and make stories.

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Thursday Required Reading

1. Hiking Is an Ideal Structure for Friendship. Love stories like this.

“As soon as we complete one hike, we immediately establish when the next will be. We rotate the organization and planning duties, eeny-meeny-miny-moe style.

That person has complete authority and responsibility to organize the hike, select the location, provide the beer and other refreshments, and make any other side-trip plans. We’ve done breakfast, dinner. We sometimes hit various local watering holes, or we just plop down with a cooler in the woods somewhere. The organizer is responsible for setting up all the logistics, soup to nuts, and is not questioned on the decisions made.”

2. This game has surpassed League of Legends, Fortnite and Valorant as the most-watched gaming category.

3. 2021’s Best States to Retire. I know, I know, how can any state known for the blog ‘PressingPause’ be ranked 31st? Spurious methods.

4. Inside a Battle Over Race, Class and Power at Smith College. Don’t know where to start on this one.

5. Mean tweets may take down Biden nominee. If only Neera Tanden had shown the same tact and diplomacy as The Former Guy. Has nothing to do with “civility” and everything to do with political power. It’s a tad bit ironic that the R’s are channeling Malcolm X. “By whatever means necessary.” (credit: DDTM)

6. The most important Western artist of the second half of the twentieth century. (credit: Tyler Cowen)

Pence’s Luck Runs Out

White House reporters say Trump is livid with Pence. The President’s public comments lend credence to that. And now we’re learning many Republicans in the White House and Congress are repulsed by the President’s treatment of the most loyal of Veeps.

But no one whose been paying even a little attention should be surprised. The surprise is that the political partnership lasted as long as it did. In Trumplandia, four years is forty.

What I find most fascinating about the President is the stories we never hear. Specifically, about close friends, whether childhood, college, or more recent. Sure, people partner with him in business and politics, and they appear chummy until they don’t. No one ever talks about him as a close, personal friend. When he said his older, overweight friend died from the ‘rona, I was left wondering how “his friend” would have described their relationship.

Friendship requires one to put other’s interests before their own on occasion. To listen, to help them move, to make them food, to celebrate their successes, to support them through difficult chapters of life. Most importantly, it requires reciprocity. Friendships mature as people learn to put other’s interests before their own.

More simply, narcissism is friendship kryptonite.

Why Do We Social Media?

One of our next-door neighbors doesn’t talk to the GalPal and me. I understand her not talking to me, but the GalPal, come on, she is as friendly as they come.

The couple who sold to us told us that would be the case, which helps not taking it personally. But man, it’s odd. Especially when Ms. NextDoor posts on-line about ordinary, face-to-face stuff. For example, this weekend she broadcasted to the whole neighborhood, plus surrounding ones I think, that her college aged sons were temporarily moving home, as well as other extended family, so she wanted everyone to know more cars will be coming and going. The kind of thing you’d say when bumping into a neighbor on a walk.

But so far, 4.5 years in, I’ve never seen her take a walk. But what do I know, maybe she has a treadmill in her crib and is running 10 miles a day. But I digress.

Alas, I prob have a log in my own eye. I just left a comment on a Facebook Group page called “Saving Guilford College”, the small Quaker liberal arts college in Greensboro, NC where I taught previously. I wrote the following in response to a post from a woman about her deceased husband, my former colleague. She wrote that when he was near death in the hospital he said, “Guilford College killed me.” That got my hackles up. So obviously a delicate sitch. You can decide for yourself how well I balanced respect for her and her family with my frustration at his lack of personal responsibility.

“I was a down-the-hall colleague of Bill’s from 93-98 (Education Studies). He was always super nice and clearly good at what he did. I’m very sorry he didn’t get to enjoy a post-work life with you and the rest of your family. However, respectfully, I don’t understand his contention that Guilford killed him. College professors have lots of autonomy over exactly how hard they work and for how long.”

Was that a wise investment of time? Did I make the world a better place by getting that off my chest? No and no, and yet, I couldn’t help myself. My excuse is I’m supposed to be reading students’ papers today which always gives rise to world class procrastinating. And yes, I’ve already vacuumed. 

Now I’m afraid to open FaceBook to see the probable backlash. What’s keeping me from quitting Facebook? 

The Antidote To Loneliness

Every day, the Good Wife loads her car with buckets of garden tools and drives 8 miles to the church garden. Where she picks weeds, waters, and harvests the veggies and fruit of her labor. Beforehand, some days, she kayaks north along the edge of the Salish Sea before dipping into Gull Harbor to watch birds, admire sand dollars and other underwater life, and occasionally swim.

Newish neighbors with deep pockets recently clear-cutted their lot to build a very large sport court where I’ve never seen them or their children play tennis, basketball, or anything else.

Compared to the private Sport Courters, the Gal Pal is living life in public. Which means she meets people. And talks to them. From a safe distance these days.

Yesterday it was a school-aged boy on a bike. Well, she’s pretty sure it was a boy. Hair halfway down his back, his opening line was, “Cool garden.” They were off and running from there. A few weeks ago it was a random neighbor who left with some healthy food. 

The other night, at dusk, she cajoled me into dipping into the Salish with her. “WHY IS THERE SO MUCH STUFF IN THE WATER?!” She yelled at her native fishing friend who, because he’s native, is permitted to use large nets. When kayaking, she’s taken her time to get to know him. “I’M NOT SURE. THERE’S NO CURRENT EITHER AND THERE SHOULD BE!” Tonight’s salmon dinner will be compliments of him.

The church garden is what Eric Klinenberg calls “social infrastructure”, public places where people talk to one another. Same with our beach. The Gal Pal’s conversations with long-haired boys on bikes and fishermen is church. If church is about social connection.

If you’re lonely, know many others are too. Instead of a radical transformation, put a mask on, and at least once a day, leave the comfort of your private world and talk to someone, no matter how briefly. They’ll be a touch less lonely and so will you.