Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Shut Up Song

There’s a difference between smooth talkers and people who are good with words.  I’ve been drawn to both.  The smooth talker is the guy trying to sell you cars and time shares.  He’s the star basketball player who says all the pretty words that make you think he is interested in you.  He plucks a verbal flower and saunters toward you, simultaneously holding your gaze as you think, “I can’t wait to hear what comes next.”  Then he walks right past you and hands the spoken gardenia to the prettier girl behind you.  She giggles, and you roll your eyes and pretend you were never really that interested in the first place.

People who are good with words, on the other hand, have the ability to walk up to a regular tree, pluck the most ordinary piece of fruit and describe it so eloquently that you want to devour the whole thing.  You want to be the branch that helped grow such a delicious wonder just so you can claim you were a part of it.  The words flow so effortlessly that you just want to stand there and study how it’s done, hoping one day to exhibit a similar stroke of brilliance.  I grew up surrounded by people who were good at this, so perhaps that’s why it appeals to me.

At this point in my life, I’ve come to loathe the smooth talkers.  I’m no longer the permeable sponge who soaks up shallow lines.  Not only do I see through the smooth talkers but I want them to know I am on to them.  They can say the words alright, but the delivery will never arrive within the window they gave you.  They are like the plumber who promised to be there by 5:00 but ignores your calls and shows up 2 days later with a reason why it was all your fault.  People who are good with words, however, are still my virtual cocaine.  I can’t get enough.  I want more.  I want to float in their carefully chosen sentences and invite them over for hot chocolate so they will stay a little longer. 

And then there’s Cory.  When I met my husband I was attracted to his quiet confidence, his subdued drive, and his integrity.  He wasn’t boastful but he believed in himself.  He wasn’t a workaholic but he worked hard and I could tell he was going places.  When his parents offered to help him out with college tuition he essentially said, “thanks but no thanks” and got a job and a small student loan.  And now that we got that over with I should add that he was also easy on the eyes.  However, the boy is an accountant.  He is a numbers guy.  He works with graphs and spreadsheets and data that has clear input and output; logical results.  Although he has gifted me with several versions of his vulnerable written word it is safe to say, words are not his thing.  Cory uses words to describe cause and effect, what happened and why, facts and logical consequences, but not poetry.  Not feelings.  He is literal, not literary.  A good punishment after a fight would be pulling out a copy of “The 5 Love Languages” and requesting that we start on page 1 to analyze all the things.   

Several years ago I became a fan of the movie Notting Hill and decided to buy the soundtrack.  One afternoon as Cory and I drove along to the CD there was a line that rang through the car singing, “You say it best when you say nothing at all.”  I turned to him and said with a smile, “Babe, I dedicate this to you.”  As he continued to listen and pay closer attention to the lyrics he concluded, “So…what you’re saying is I should just shut up?”  We laughed, and from then on it became affectionately known as, “The Shut Up Song.”

It has taken me a while to fully appreciate it, but I have decided that one of Cory’s more beautiful gifts is what he says when he doesn’t say anything.  I have stood in closets, sat on couches and paced the hallways of our home ranting about my frustrations of the moment.  He sits quietly, lets me get it out, and typically follows it up with a supportive embrace.  The silence says, “I don’t have the answers, and you’re a little bit crazy, but man I love you.”  I have picked fights born of insignificant matters and left the door open for him to respond in kind.  He never does.  If tensions rise and I’m pushing him to the edge he stops and says, “I don’t want to say something I will regret later so I need to walk away.”  What he says by walking away is, “Our long-term relationship is more important to me than this argument right here.”  In addition, the man has seen me as a size 6 and he has seen me as…not a size 6.  My weight fluctuates like the tempers on Bravo TV and in 24 years of marriage, NOT. A. WORD.  But I hear him speaking anyway.  You’re beautiful, you’re good enough, you’re my wife, not a number on a scale.”  

Recently we have entered new territory.  His burden is increasingly heavy.  He can’t say anything, but his moistened eyes tell a number of stories.  The fact that his eyes are ever teary at all is practically worthy of a front page spread but the fact is, something is happening.  Without ever opening his mouth I have been hearing him say:
“This is hard.”
“I love you.”
“I am in over my head.”
“I care about people.”
“Seriously though, you are the best.”
“I’m worried about everyone I know.”
“Jesus is real.”

Not a smooth talker.  Not a master of words.  But what he says when he says nothing, that’s what impresses me.

Monday, August 14, 2017

My Last First Day



This morning while the rest of my neighbors flooded Facebook and Instagram with pictures of their kids on the first day of school, I got up 15 minutes before my son had to leave and didn’t even make him breakfast.  I always get butterflies in my stomach before the start of something new so I asked him, “Do you have butterflies?”  “No,” he said.  “I have depression.”  I chuckled, knowing he was only half kidding.  He fished around on the desk, grabbed two pencils, slapped them down by his backpack and declared, “School supplies.”  Before he could ask I grabbed two notebooks of paper that I spent 21 cents on earlier in the week and dangled them before him.  “Purple or red?” I asked.  He replied, “Both.”  Not because he is planning on taking that many notes but because he is probably planning on losing one of them before noon and needs a backup. 

I told him I loved him as he walked out the door.   He returned my sentiment as he shuffled out wearing just his socks, and explained that his shoes were probably in his car.  I stood in the doorway and watched him slump into the front seat, throw his backpack onto the passenger side and locate his shoes.  Seconds later the engine was fired up and he inched out of the street as I said a silent prayer for the millionth time.  “Please.  Please let this be a better year.  Watch over this one.”  Then I shut the door, grabbed a breakfast smoothie and headed to the deck to watch an episode of The West Wing on Netflix where I would postpone reality for 43 more minutes. 

Today is my last first day of school with my children.  If I sound sad about it then perhaps I should give you our school guidance counselor’s phone number; there’s a litany of concerns he desires not to help you with.  If he’s not available there’s a Vice Principal in the wings waiting to make your smallest request feel like federal legislation.  Not satisfied?  Don’t worry, our school security has your back.  They only require your driver’s license, fingernail clippings and a blood sample to walk 20 yards to drop off your money to the Athletic office which, incidentally, might make the school safer from parents waltzing in unannounced in their mom jeans but not actually safer from bad guys.  Mind you, this doesn’t actually pay for your sport.  This is more of a down payment on the fundraiser where you will be required to solicit all of your family and friends to donate a kidney if you really want to be on the team.  They try to pass this off as “school spirit”.

So no, I’m not sad or melancholy about this last, first day.  Video of me dancing naked to MKTO’s “Classic” in my family room is on its way.  (You wish.)