head, heart, hands: the answers to love

For the past two weeks I’ve been forcing down your throat a steady diet of everything I’ve ever thought about relationships, and so far no one’s complained (or maybe you have complained a lot, but I haven’t heard it yet).

But I realized there’s no resolution.  There’s nothing that leaves you something worth writing anyone home to.  In fact, when I read back to my last two editorials, the summaries could be “our relationships are lousy” and “I dated some bullet-points last semester”.

Let me try to assuage your concerns.  I do have some resolution this week.

At the same time I debuted my Love List, I also tried to figure out what made a good relationship work.  To that end, I came down with three characteristics.

First, I think personalities play a lot into things.  Two people need to have personalities that are similar enough to agree on foundations, and different enough to be interesting.  I couldn’t deal with dating another Adam Anderson.  I’m enough for myself.  I don’t think I could deal with the “Anti-Adam Anderson”, either.  A 25-75% Adam Anderson would be nice.

Secondly, chemistry is important, too.  I’d like to enjoy the person I’m with for some reason that’s beyond explanation.  People have a sense we’re together regardless of the personal displays of affection.  You all know what I’m talking about.  It’s the mysterious “X-Factor”.

Finally, I think timing matters.  Dating someone while they’re dating someone else?  Cheating.  Dating right after they broke up with someone?  Rebound.  Try dating someone you’ve known for while?  Oh, dear friend, chances are you will be banished into the Friend Zone, never to return.  There is a window that makes relationships blossom.

So that’s it right?  Personality, Chemistry, Timing.

Ready, Set, Go.

Well, no.  Otherwise we’d all be married by now.

Over the last two weeks, as I’ve been writing this, I’ve been reminded of my lack of ability to control life.  I don’t have any control over the cars speeding down Peach Street, the cranes working on Beyer, the Police next door and a wild shootout that could happen, global warming, or Iran’s nuclear stockpile.  I could die the second I walk out of the door.

How did I ever think I could control relationships, then?  As much as I’d like to from time to time, I can’t make you into someone I want you to be.  I’m stuck with you as you are.  As evidenced by the whole death trap outside my apartment, I can’t control timing, and I can’t even explain chemistry well, let alone control it.

You and I, dear people of Gannon University, will never be able to control a relationship.  The best we can do is put ourselves in places that will allow the right thing to happen at the right time.  I can only be myself and figure everything will get worked out, because I really don’t have the time to stress over things I can’t do anything about.

I feel like you don’t have the time either.  So stop worrying.  You’re great right now.  We all have to walk out of our rooms and face potential doom.  In two years, I’ve made it wherever I’ve needed to go. 

You will, too.

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head, heart, hands: the unfulfilled love list

In June of 2006, I debuted “The List”. What’s “The List”?

I don’t mean to be stereotypical, but I’ve noticed girls will have about 15-20 things (I think my girlfriend in college had 20 or so) that they need in a guy, and guys will basically say “human and female”.

That being said, I really tried to come up with a decent list. I had five things that had to do with faith, a little something about NPR, and probably something about at least liking how they looked a little bit.

Then about six months later I met Jean. She was a sweetheart, and laughed when I told a joke, even when I knew it was bad. We went to church together, and I can remember at least one good debate about Darfur, and another about the long term implications of the war in Iraq on the economy. Hot, I know. She owned an exercise bike and used it periodically. She also owned her own duplex in Cleveland, and had a good paying job as a Hospice Nurse. She was five-for-five on “The List” for those of you keeping score at home.

The past tense of the previous paragraphs is a clear foreshadow, however. Six months after meeting Jean, we broke up. The girl who batted a perfect 1.000 eventually struck out. She blamed it on stress, on not being ready for a relationship.

The worse part was it was a good relationship. We didn’t fight, we didn’t have sex, and I made her parents laugh.

I even made mixtapes for her brother. Yeah. Mixtapes.

You have a Jean too. You also have your list. Maybe he has to be at least 6’1”. Maybe she needs to run a mile under 7:30. Maybe you’ve got to be able to read Russian Orthodox theology in its native tongue. And then someone comes and its as if he or she already had your list memorized.

Then before you know it, somehow you’re talking about lack of trust, some stupid thing you said that you know you didn’t mean and it still somehow came out of your mouth, and probably forgetting some semi-important date like her mom’s birthday, and it’s over.

But it was “The List”. The perfect-10 list.

In the couple months after the breakup, if there’s something I’ve learned is that the worst thing I could have done is have that list. What good person has ever been reduced to five qualities? What good relationship has ever been built around five paltry characteristics?

In my more honest moments, I wonder whether I wanted my 5-for-5 Jean so badly that I might not have even met the real Jean. Maybe the real Jean did compliment me well. Maybe she was the worst thing that could have happened to me. I’ll never know.

I think I’ve got one more week of relationship talk in me, but in the meantime, you know that notebook that you have? Yeah. That one. Tear out that page – the one in the front. I can’t help but think the person you’ve wanted is going to be much bigger than that page.

head, heart, hands: making out (pt i)

               I’m a big fan of dating, relationships, and everything in between.  I have been ever since I was a kid.  I wasn’t the kid who made fun of girls, pushing them in the sandbox and accusing them of a cootie infestation.  Oh, no.  I was the one writing sweet, sweet poetry to them:

Roses are red
Violets are blue
It’s be cool
To sit on the swing with you.

                The older I got, the more profound in my professions of love I became: I gave girls roses instead of commenting on their color.  Instead of sitting on a swing, it was the cafeteria eating lunch together. 

                For a long time, I think I was significantly more interested in the concept of relationships that really having one.  I love love.  I love the attention it brings.  I wanted to be the kid with the steady Homecoming and Prom date, never having to scramble to get a girl two years younger than me to begrudgingly accompany me to the dance (Autumn Lotze and Jenny Horst, yes, both sophomores).

                Clearly, let’s not forget about making out.  I’m not even talking about the first kiss, as beautiful as it is. 

It’s the hooking up! 

The chance to kiss someone for an extended period of time! 

                All of this came to my mind as I heard the song “Call Me When You Get This” by Corinne Bailey Rae.  Over an ample string arrangement and great R&B groove, Rae sings about what about the man she loves (she’s married, so unfortunately it’s not about me).  Each time I hear this song, I get emotional.  As in fuzzy and sweet inside emotional.  Swinging on a first grade swingset fuzzy.  Read this:

I just wanted to know what it was like, what’s it really like to be loved?
These little volcanoes came as a surprise to me.
I never thought I could be this way…
Now I just want you to know, how I’m touched deep in my soul.
Just being with you.

It grieves me, friends, when I hear your stories about your relationships, because they don’t seem anything like this.  My relationships aren’t even like this.  The best I have are clichéd quatrains.  Hearing this song grieves me, because it seems like Rae understands something about her object of affection beyond what I’ve experienced.  I hear it in her voice.

It seems we’ve become far to willing to settle for small yet guaranteed pleasure of right now, instead of hoping for the grand pleasure of later.  Sure, making out’s great, but the walk back to your place the morning after isn’t.  Something tells me what Corinne Bailey Rae has (with what I assume is her husband) won’t lead to that walk of shame.  It’s something more, something that, unfortunately, won’t fit in this week’s column.  That might be part of the problem in the end. 

We want the answer for love in 500 words or less.

head, heart, hands ii: entitlement

Friday I had to do some laundry. I hate doing laundry. It’s one of those things I recognize has to be done in order to be an effective member of society, and that’s it. Laundry happens for purely functional reasons.

I figured I’d check on my clothes in the dryer fifteen minutes before they were due, because sometimes if I’m lucky it finishes early. Friday, though, it wasn’t done. In fact, it was even in the dryer anymore. It was strewn on top, wet and wrinkled. Inside the dryer were about two washcloths, a couple pair of underwear and a sock or two. Now, I’m not typically a guy who gets angry. I actually yelled at the dryer. Unfortunately, the dryer didn’t fight back, and I was left to carry my now musty clothing upstairs.

I thought to myself “who thinks they are entitled to take someone else’s laundry out whenever he or she feels like it?”

Entitlement.

We live in a society that thrives on entitlement. I’m entitled to this job I have. I’m entitled to go out on Friday and spend my money, do things to and with my body, hang out with who I want, when I want, how I want. After all, I earned it, right? I’m entitled to tell whomever whatever because I’m entitled to my opinion. I’m also entitled to bail on anything I don’t want to do, because I’m entitled to happiness as often as possible.

While we’re on the subject, I’m clearly entitled to your kindness and grace when I do what I want.

Yet somehow this doesn’t connect. This is the irony of entitlement. Deep down, I want to do what I want, but I don’t necessarily like when everyone else does what they want. Ultimately, entitlement runs cross-purposes with grace. And while I don’t have the statistics, I can’t help but think some of the biggest conflicts I’ve seen in my time at Gannon have been caused by allowing a desire for entitlement get in the way of reaching out and giving someone just a bit of grace.

You and I see everyday. Turn on the news. Pick up the newspaper. Walk down the street. Fight with your roommate. I promise you somewhere along the line, you will see entitlement at its worst.

I’m not against good things, don’t get me wrong. As I’m getting older, however, I’m finding out that I’m really not that much more special than the person next to me. Or, maybe put more appropriately, the person next to me is just as special and as I am. You, Mr. or Ms. Reader-of-my-article, mean just as much to me as I do. Or at least I’m doing all I can to make sure you do.

So if you need to use a dryer with my clothes in, just fold my laundry. I would have felt really cared for, and the dryer wouldn’t have been yelled at. It didn’t deserve it, really. And for as much as I hate laundry, ten folded shirts would have been the most graceful thing anyone could do.

head, heart, hands

So I’m writing for the Gannon Knight this year a staff editorial called “Head, Heart, Hands”. I’m going to put the unedited article up here weekly so you all can peruse and give me feedback.

peace.

Head.

Heart.

Hands.

I have them all. You’ve got them, too. I promise. Take a look in a mirror. Put your finger on your wrist and press down a little bit. Feel that beating? Yes. A guarantee that you, indeed, have a pulse, which means you have a heart as well.

This also means, obviously, that what I’m writing to you now is incredibly applicable to your life, as you possess a head, a heart, and hands.

The problem is trying to connect them together. How do we, for instance, care about something so much that not only can we reason through it, but we want to do something about it?

In other words, we feel it in our hearts, think it with our heads, and work with our hands to do something with it.

Over the next year, I hope we get a chance to think about these issues together. I feel really lucky to have a chance to write in the Knight each week about this stuff. So, ahead of time, thanks for letting me use your precious reading time. Hopefully I won’t disappoint.

I want to make sure to set some ground rules for you, too. That way I’m being held accountable to something, and you have something to expect every week:

· You’re my friend, even if we’ve never met. Even if you don’t like me. It’s okay. I’m still going to treat you like my friend, because I can’t think of any other way to treat you. You’re special. You mean something to me. You have great things to talk about, and are very thoughtful.

· The honest truth is that I don’t really know that much more than you. I’m just a normal guy doing a job as an ARD and Resident Campus Minister. I go on rounds, I oversee Faith Sharing Groups, run programs, sing in mass, and I make mistakes in all of them. More often than I’d probably like to admit. The only difference between you and me is that I’ve got a couple more years of being a normal guy. The experience has been indispensable. That’s what I want to share with you.

· Finally, I have a real dedication to figuring how my emotions, my intellect, and my volition can all work for the same purpose. I think living a consistent and unified life makes sense. If I’m going to life something consistently, I want it to mean something to me. I think you feel the same way.

So stick with me this year. This world’s great, and worth talking about. If you see me in the hallway and want to talk what I say, I’ll buy you some coffee and we’ll talk. Expect me to ask you what you think, feel, and what to do about it, though. After all… that’s what happens when you have a head, heart, and hands.