Archive for Relationships

Avoiding Spin’s Web

Posted in Homilies with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 10, 2018 by timtrue

spider-web-with-water-beads-network-dewdrop[1]

Mark 6:1-13

1.

Spin.

That’s what we do to the truth, isn’t it? We spin it.

Not so long ago I walked my dog to a park, where we sat for a while and people-watched. Two little boys were playing on a slide.

It was a parallel slide: two slides ran side by side. Here was the perfect opportunity for a race. But, no, instead, one of the boys was attempting to go down the slide correctly, to slide down from the top to the bottom feet first; whereas the other boy was standing on the slide, attempting to block the first boy’s way.

A sort of cruel game ensued: the boy attempting to go down the slide the right way would pretend to begin a descent; and the second boy would predictably jump over to that slide and block his way. The first boy would then quickly scurry to the other slide, the parallel one, trying to beat the second boy’s attempts at blocking him.

This pretend-jump-switch-jump dance carried on for a bit until, at last, probably frustrated, the first boy let go for a bona fide descent. But on the way down, as fate would have it, he collided with the second boy, who promptly fell flat on his face, connecting his lower lip squarely with the slide’s surface.

Well, my dog and I continued watching, maybe passing each other a sideways glance, certainly feeling a kind of tacit vindication, as the second boy, the one who’d been blocking the slide, rose to his feet, rubbed his lip, saw a spot of his own blood on the back of his hand, began hollering, and ran straight for his mother—who was on her phone and had witnessed nothing!

Finally, grabbing his mother’s arm and pointing, he cried out, “That boy pushed me!”

Spin.

Some people put their spin on things really well—so well that we pay them for it! We’ve even given these professionals a name: spin doctors.

So, it often works like this. Someone, or a group of someones, wishes to communicate an opinion. But this spin doctor doesn’t start there—with his obvious opinion. Rather, he starts with a premise that has a ring of truth in it; and he builds upon this premise towards his conclusion, his opinion, not through logic but through spin: the manipulation of the truth.

“That boy pushed me!” And we often end up believing him.

It’s an age-old tactic; the devil does it over in Matthew.

“If you are the Son of God,” he spins, “throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”

Do you hear the ring of truth?

2.

Anyway, thisspin—is the backdrop to what’s going on in today’s Gospel.

Jesus has set out from his home town and begun his ministry. He’s called his disciples; he’s been teaching, preaching, healing, and casting out demons. And reports have reached his home town’s ears.

Imagine the excitement some of his friends and family must have felt.

Yes! One of our own has made a success of himself! Jesus has put Nazareth on the map!

Nevertheless, the neighbors soon began to whisper.

How could Jesus, the carpenter, the son of Mary, become a success? Why, he once made a few chairs and a table for me, sure; and they’re good enough quality in their own right. But he’s a carpenter, for crying out loud!—not a synagogue leader, a teacher, or a miracle worker. What gives him the right? How could anything good come out of Nazareth?

And the whispers grew; and the disdain spread; until today, when Jesus stops by for a home town visit: whatever excitement was once felt has now dissipated.

Spin has spun its web:

“And he could do no deed of power there . . . And he was amazed at their unbelief.”

3.

It seems Aesop was right: familiarity breeds contempt.[i] Or maybe Mark Twain, who expanded Aesop’s moral, was even more right: familiarity breeds contempt—and children.

But I want to push back a bit here, on this idea that familiarity breeds contempt. In a relationship—for instance, since Mark Twain brought it up, in a marriage—is it really familiarity that breeds contempt?

I rather think it’s something else. I rather think familiarity is the goal.

At least it is early on.

Most of you have been in some kind of romantic relationship—whether marriage or dating. And if you haven’t, you probably will be someday.

So, think back to the early part of the relationship, when you were first starting to feel interested in the other person—butterflies in the stomach, sweaty palms, sudden surges in your heart rate, whatever.

And then she actually gives you the time of day; or he unexpectedly asks you on a date!

Well, what comes after that? Isn’t it that you clear every free moment of your schedule to spend time with this other person? Dates become top priority. You call in sick—for that is what you are, you tell yourself, love sick—just to get another few hours with your soul-mate. And when you can’t spend time together in person, it’s a phone call or face time. . . .

Relationships, especially in the early days, are all about becoming familiar with one another—increasingly familiar.

Familiarity may indeed breed children, but it does not breed contempt! It’s rather the other way around. Familiarity breeds intimacy. Familiarity breeds love.

4.

What is it, then, that breeds contempt?

Psychotherapist and author Mel Schwartz answers:

When we honor one another we’re not likely to experience contempt. The disdain comes from not getting our needs met. It originates from a turning away from your partner and a relationship philosophy that more likely resembles a “me first” attitude . . . When we devalue our partners, contempt becomes very prevalent.[ii]

We devalue the other person, Schwartz says. Ultimately, we are the ones to blame.

Now, I’ll come back to this idea—of devaluing the other person. But, first, even though we are the ones to blame, I think spin can take a good deal of blame here too.

For what is it that tells us our partner no longer meets our needs? Why do we consistently put ourselves first, ahead our loved ones? Why do we devalue the very human beings with whom we once desired to be so familiar? Isn’t it the spin we hear?

Culture tells me I’m more important than anyone else. I tell myself I’m more important than anyone else—than my spouse, than my kids, than God!

Spin has spun its web.

And when we listen to it—when we are caught in its web—we no longer believe in the relationship; it becomes powerless.

“[Jesus] could do no deed of power there . . . And he was amazed at their unbelief.”

Whether with your spouse, your partner, your children, or your church, don’t allow spin to render your relationships powerless.

5.

So, let’s return now to the picture provided in today’s Gospel—and to this idea of devaluing the other.

Just like with the neighbors in his home town, Jesus once entered each of our lives.

Do you remember when you first met him? All was new. You maybe even cleared your schedule to get to know him better, to increase your familiarity with him, to love him.

But, again like with the home town neighbors, many of us have now lived with Jesus for a while. We’ve become familiar with him. The newness of our relationship has worn off.

Reports about his miracles and teachings have reached our ears.

Whispers have reached our ears too.

He’s not so great, we’ve heard; a wise man, maybe, but no more.

He supports family values, we’ve heard; he’s pro-life.

He supports liberal politics, we’ve heard; or conservative politics (take your pick).

He’s a feminist, we’ve heard; or he’s patriarchal.

His mission was a good idea, we’ve heard, but that ship has sailed; think of all the violence and other evils the church has practiced over the last two thousand years!

Can anything good come out of Nazareth, we’ve heard?

Spin has spun its web.

How do we respond?

There’s really no easy answer, is there? For the mind and heart work against each other: in your head, you know you should reject the spin and just believe in Jesus already; yet your heart tells you otherwise.

To make matters worse, today’s Gospel suggests that the more we struggle with unbelief—the more we listen to the spin—the less effective we render Jesus. In other words, the more we struggle with our unbelief, the more reason we find not to believe!

None of us wants that—in our heads! Yet that’s the heartfelt reality seen throughout the church today.

So, one suggestion: practice value.

Jesus has a lot to offer you—in the Eucharist, in preaching and teaching, in your own formation as a human being.

You once valued all this highly; you once spent a lot of time increasing your own familiarity with Jesus.

But now you’ve lost the sense of value in your relationship with Jesus.

So, like any other relationship, to retain or even increase its value you’ve got to work at it.

Pray, then, even when you don’t feel like praying. Attend church, fellowship with the community, study the Bible, volunteer in one of the many areas of need, and, yes, give money—even when you don’t feel like it.

Value your relationship with Jesus once again!

For, when you value your relationship with Jesus, familiarity leaves no room for contempt but increases intimacy and love; when you value your relationship with Jesus, you avoid getting caught in spin’s web.

 

[i] This moral comes from The Fox and the Lion. Mark Twain expanded on this moral in his notebook. Cf. www.twainquotes.com/Familiarity.html

[ii] Cf. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/shift-mind/201010/does-familiarity-breed-contempt

 

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2015 Lent 12

Posted in Lent 2015 with tags , , , , on March 3, 2015 by timtrue

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Jeremiah 2:1-13

Facebook is an interesting modern-day phenomenon.  Through it I’ve been able to rekindle many friendships from an earlier time in my life.  Just recently, for instance, a girl I’ve known since before kindergarten shared a scanned photo of the two of us in spiffy 70s garb sitting on a curb, waiting for the school bus to pick us up and transport us to first grade.

It’s also good for making virtual friendships: introducing friends from one time in life to friends from another through common interests, though the one has never actually met the other in person.  I wondered today, in fact, at three of my friends–none of whom had ever met each other; all of whom I’d met during different stages in my life–conversing (nonetheless) with me and each other over our common interest in motorcycles.

But what about those old friends who aren’t a part of it, this social networking phenomenon?

I don’t know about you, but my heartstrings are tugged by these rekindlings.  A memory comes to mind from a friend’s post that somehow involves me.  This memory triggers other, almost unrelated memories; which trigger others still, until I’m asking myself something like, “Gee, I wonder how Greg’s doing?”  And so I try to find out.

Now, when old friends are not on Facebook, (at the risk of sounding like a stalker) there are other means of tracking them down.  Google, for instance.

So I typed my old friend’s name into Google–a name I’m not going to reveal, for reasons I now make known–only to see some mugshots pop up under “Images for Greg Blanketyblank.”

Yeah, mugshots!

Well, you can bet I clicked on those mugshots.  I wanted to find out what my former bestie had been up to, after all.

But I wish I hadn’t.

The first mugshot was actually a double.  That is, it was a picture of my old friend and another man, about twenty years younger.

The caption beneath this double mugshot read something like: “Greg Blanketyblank and his son Blanketyblankson were arrested after police confiscated 61 marijuana plants from their house.  Bail is set at $20,000 for Greg.  His son was released after questioning.”  It was dated some time in 2013.

And I said, “Oh, Greg, you dipstick!”

Then I decided to click on the other mugshot, a single this time, of Greg only.  Curiously, it was dated just a week prior, early 2015.

Again, though, I wish I hadn’t.

For this time the caption read, “Greg Blanketyblank was arrested for soliciting a woman supposed by him to be a prostitute.”  But–doh!–she was actually an undercover cop.  Bail was posted at $1,500 and, apparently, no one had yet bailed him out.

“Dang you, Greg!” (or something like it) I exclaimed.

We’d had a lot of good times together.  There was one summer in particular: I was freshly armed with a driver’s license and we had ample free time.  We spent a lot of time at the beach that summer, loving our simple, irresponsible lives.  Usually our adventures included several friends along for the ride.  But the driving force was our duo.

It saddened me that we would never have these adventures again.  It saddened me even more that now my old friend was sitting in jail.  He once had known the prospect of an exciting life ahead of him, a new adventure to face just beyond adolescence; a kind of glory.  Now he sat in jail enduring an unprofitable season (perhaps an understatement).

Whether he still sits in jail now or not, I don’t know.  I have yet to be in contact with my old friend.  I hope it will happen someday.  And I hope he will return to a more glorious and profitable season, to a way of life he’s already known.  But I don’t know.

What I do know is that my heart aches for my old friend, much like Jeremiah the Prophet’s must have ached for Israel, a people who had “changed their glory for something that does not profit.”

Rekindled Friendships, Connections, and a Regret

Posted in Reflection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 11, 2014 by timtrue

In recent weeks my Facebook account has seen a surge in childhood friendships rekindled.  Friends I haven’t seen or heard from in more than thirty years are now people with whom I am enjoying daily conversations, usually over an old photo like this one:

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There’s a lot of catching up to be had.  Significant amounts of water pass under the bridge over the course of three decades.  Marriages have been started and ended; families have been raised; life has been enjoyed and endured.  Through it all I’m really wishing I could track each of these old friends down and enjoy an evening of dinner and good ol’ face-to-face conversation.  And maybe it will happen in time.  But for now the virtual world will have to suffice.

My favorite thread so far is now more than a hundred comments long, picking up something like seventeen of us childhood pals along the way.  After lots of stories told and commented upon, a friend altogether out of the blue except for some comment I made forty or so posts ago writes, simply, “I’m still tripping out that Tim’s a priest.”

Ha!  Well, me too.  In many respects anyway.  But in other ways not so much.

I’ve written elsewhere about the idyllic setting in which I grew up (see “Background” tab).  Many a day I can remember just sitting out on the lawn, my back against an avocado tree, soaking in the southern California sun and contemplating.  It doesn’t really matter what: the way the sun played on the mellow green leaves rustling in the wind; a jet trail in the sky; how the hens shuffled their feet and simultaneously jerked their necks as they foraged for food; whatever–I was contemplating the world, God’s world, and my place in it, much as the ancient poet Vergil contemplated his world beneath his bucolic beech.  Only (unlike Vergil) I wrote nothing down.  These contemplations were only for my own memories, to reflect upon as I grew older, like I’m doing now.

I was always a bit more esoteric and pensive than the rest of the group.  I asked questions they didn’t care or think to ask; questions about pain and sorrow and happiness and joy and the differences between them; questions about good and evil and purpose and value; questions epistemological and ontological; questions most nine year-olds didn’t consider.

I was also a bit more in my own world.  Sure we had our alphas.  I wasn’t one of them.  But I was much more of an omega than a beta (or delta or gamma or . . .); for to their chagrin I never really followed the alphas like my brother did.  I did my own thing.

Like figuring out that grapes made perfect ammo for pvc blowguns.  It was especially fun when I showed one of the alphas what I had come up with–by shooting him in the belly from about fifty feet away–and he led us into all-out neighborhood boy warfare.  The original paint-pellet guns, only with grapes instead of pellets; and pvc pipe instead of guns.  Anyway, I felt affirmed in my creativity and innovativeness when an alpha took my idea and ran with it–effectively so!

Not that an alpha can’t make a good priest.  I believe that one can–in theory anyway; don’t know that I’ve ever seen it in actual practice.

Okay, to be fair, I have seen it.  I even know a few.  But it’s a hard balance to maintain.

A bit of a tangent here: but the church today seems to value priests who are successful and effective leaders.  Those who can develop programs and lure in the numbers, or (especially) those who can secure great big pledges, and lots of them at that, are the valuable priests to the Church.  But really!  Shouldn’t the priests, the spiritual leaders of communities, be more about things like spiritual disciplines, prayer, and formation (i. e., knowledge, wisdom, contemplation, introspection, etc.)?  It’s hard enough to be one or the other; a true rarity is the priest who is both.

As for me, I fit into the second category.  Leave the first in the hands of the vestry, I say.  Anyway, I was that way as a kid; and I’m still that way now.

One more.  As a kid, I spent a lot of time with my great grandmother.  She lived a quarter-mile down the street.  I mowed her lawn every other week or so throughout my childhood, pulled weeds in her garden, and enjoyed lots of home-baked goodies from her kitchen.  I have my mom to thank for this Granny time, by the way; though at the time I didn’t think anything of it: it was just part of the routine.

Now, though, as a priest I regularly visit shut-ins: those who are either too old or too frail to make it to church regularly.  I find this work very enjoyable.  And I’m a natural at it (thanks to Mom).

A few days ago, for instance, I visited an elderly woman suffering from the ravages of dementia.  After several minutes of barely intelligible conversation and feeling as if this was going nowhere, I moved to the piano I’d noticed in her living room.  There, on top, I grabbed a book at random from a stack and opened it and began to play.  Smiles, exclamations of happiness, applause, and even laughter followed.

I’d made a connection!  And the idea harked from childhood, when I used to do the same for my granny.

But a regret surfaced too from these rekindled-friendship conversations.  A friend’s younger sister died a year ago, I learned (very) recently, after a lifelong battle with cancer.

I remember her clearly, vividly even.  She was only a couple years younger than I.  But at nine she had no hair.  That seemed strange to me at the time, 1979 or so.  But rather than make easy conversation or simply be present, I didn’t know how to act around her and therefore avoided her most of the time.

Oh how I regret this now!  Now, when I spend hours of my week in close contact with people like her–beautiful souls–who love the presence of a smile and the joy of a story just as much as anyone else!  Oh, why wasn’t I more of a friend to her then?  And now she’s gone!

If only I could turn the clock back thirty-five years and do it again!

May her soul rest in peace.

2014 Lent 3

Posted in Lent 2014, Reflection with tags , , , , , on March 7, 2014 by timtrue

Philippians 4:1-9

Continuing with Paul and the theme of humility of the past couple of days, today’s reading encourages us to see just how petty disagreements can be in the big scheme of things.

Paul is about to die and he knows it.  He therefore writes this letter to the church at Philippi, which knows about his impending death too, as a consolation.  Paul has started this church.  He has been intimately involved in its life and growth.  He is a beloved pastor to this body of believers.  And now he’s facing death!

This is big, sure.  But Paul encourages the people in Philippi that there is something bigger, upon which he has placed his hope, toward which he can still strive (even with death facing him squarely in the face!); in which and toward which they all should hope and strive too.  This something bigger is the resurrection.

Death is not the end, Paul conveys.  We know this truth from Christ himself, who died and was buried but rose again.  Like Christ, our bodies of humility will be changed into incorruptible bodies of glory.  There is indeed great hope in this, for Paul, for the people who make up the church at Philippi, and, by extension, for all Christians.  (Whether this hope extends to all peoples, regardless of faith, is not addressed here and is therefore another question for another day.)

All this beautiful and glorious theologizing, then, is abruptly interrupted with these words: “I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord” (v. 2).

But what kind of interruption is it?  Is it an actual non sequitur, like when my brother Andy used to look for any and every opportunity for turning a conversation toward surfing (someone asks, “Did you understand the trigonometry assignment?” to which Andy interrupts, “That reminds me, there was this awesome wave I caught yesterday . . .”), kind of like this question?  Or is it more of an illustration, an interruption to make a point?

Indeed, Paul has become a dear pastor to these people.  Indeed, he is facing his death and everyone knows it.  Indeed, Paul consoles them all, himself included, with the deep truth of the resurrection, a truth that applies to them all.  So why not then take the opportunity to address two women who are apparently in a  present disagreement of some sort–women whom he has worked alongside as a comrade for the advancement of the Gospel?

And we get the impression that all, or certainly most, disagreements are really petty trifles in comparison to the infinite love of God and the truths seen in and through Christ.

This impression tends toward indelibility when we continue reading.  It’s not the disagreements we should focus on–that the carpet in the narthex should be red instead of green; whether or not women should be ordained; whether or not I can get someone else to see my position on homosexuality and the church; or how to interpret end times.  Rather, Paul says, we should focus on the positive (vv. 8-9):

“Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things . . . and the God of peace will be with you.”

In other words, disagreements such as the one experienced by Euodia and Syntyche (and by extension Paul, the church at Philippi, and us) are not even worthy of our attention.

So it’s time to stop focusing on this one now. 😉

Unity a Sign of Spiritual Maturity

Posted in Doing Church, Homilies with tags , , , on January 19, 2014 by timtrue

I Corinthians 1:1-9

Mature.  It’s a curious adjective, isn’t it?

In the world of agriculture we use it to describe a plant that has the ability to bear fruit.  For example, grape vines are not considered mature until their third year; for they cannot bear grapes until then.  And even then it’s debatable.  For the grapes produced in the third year are generally few and far between.  It is not really until the fourth year that full bunches, rich and plump, appear on the vine; it is not really until the fourth year that we can call grapevines mature.  (Keep that in mind if the whim ever strikes you to go into wine-making.)

So there’s agriculture.  But we also use the word mature—and variations of it, like immature—to describe people, don’t we?  Oh, I can’t begin to tell you the number of times I’ve heard these words thrown casually around my house!  An argument breaks out at the dinner table, or someone does something unpredicatably silly, for a laugh or whatever; and I know what’s going to follow: those three overused words, that well-known adolescent mantra: “You’re so immature!”  You know what I’m talking about?

But unlike with agriculture, to describe another person as mature or immature leaves a lot of wiggle room.  It’s not so easy to say a person is mature because he or she can bear fruit.  Granted, this may be true in a strictly physical sense; we won’t get into that here.  But what about an emotional sense?  Or a spiritual?  Can we ever really say that we’ve become fully emotionally mature as a human being, always and completely able to maintain control over our feelings?  Sometimes I may display a great deal of maturity with respect to controlling my anger, for instance; but the very next day I slip back into an immature loss of temper!

No, for human beings, the term mature is relative.  At least, it’s relative until the Kingdom of God is fully realized.

This is the idea that Paul is getting at in his first letter to the Corinthians—or part of the idea anyway.  The congregation in Corinth recently had been called out of its old life of sin into a new life in Christ.  It was made up of new believers.  In a spiritual sense they were immature.  Now some time had passed since Paul had planted this church.  And, as is the natural process with any living organism, Paul expected to see a maturing process.  But this process was not happening as quickly as he had expected it to—or as quickly as it needed to in order to sustain itself.

Do you recall what was going on at the Church in Corinth?  Perhaps most famously there was social division.  The rich and the poor were not getting along.  The rich, in fact, were drinking all the wine and eating all the bread at the Eucharist, leaving nothing for the poor.

But this social division was just the tip of the iceberg!  Without going into too much detail, let me just say that Corinth was the Las Vegas of the ancient world.  What happened in Corinth stayed in Corinth—and there was a lot that happened in Corinth!  And this lot characterized the church there.

Anyway, all this divisiveness led Paul to say (3:1): “And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as a spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ.”  He had fed them with spiritual formula, as a caregiver would feed an infant.  But instead of them maturing to a point spiritually where they no longer needed formula, to a point where they could feed themselves, they still weren’t ready for the solid food of Christ.  They were big spiritual babies.  They were immature.

Now I don’t know about you, but all this talk about divisiveness being a sign of spiritual immaturity makes me uncomfortable.  After all, what’s wrong with shaking things up a little?  What if I see something going on in St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and School that I disagree with?  I pledge.  Don’t I therefore have a right to sound my voice and make my opinions known?

Good question!  The answer is yes—and no.

I’m not saying that we need to agree on everything.  In fact, quite the contrary!  We need to disagree.  For we live in a constant tension as individuals in relationship with one another.  As individuals, we form our own opinions according to how God has made uniquely each one of us; but in relationship I continuously butt up against other individuals who see things differently than I.  So disagreement should be expected, and is maybe even essential to life.  And so, yes, I—you have a right to make your opinions known.

But the issue is how you go about making your opinions known.  Do you divide and conquer, as it were?  You see something you don’t like.  Fine!  It happens to all of us.  But then what?  Do you pull people aside, hoping to win them to your side in hushed whispers?  Do you think in terms of us vs. them, or of my people and your people?  Do you put yourself in some sort of category that you imagine is somehow superior to another—whether it be social status, the color of your skin, your gender, or your sexual orientation?  Such excluding behavior is according to the old way, the way of sin, the life you knew before Christ, what Paul calls the flesh.  Such excluding behavior too, by the way, is at the root of all sorts of social evils like bigotry, racism, and bullying.

But what happened in Corinth needs to stay in Corinth!  That was your old life, your old way of dealing with disagreement.  You are now a citizen of the Kingdom of God.  So act like it!

When disagreement arises, and it will, deal with it according to the Kingdom’s rules, not Corinth’s.  Don’t pull someone aside and whisper your cause into their itching ears!  Instead, go to the one with whom you disagree in love, loving the Lord your God as you go; and loving that other person, who is your neighbor, as yourself.  And seek reconciliation!

Right?  We should not seek to create factions, but unity.  Unity is a sign of maturity in Christ.

Now, here’s the good news: even with all the divisiveness that went on in Corinth, Paul nevertheless saw the Corinthians’ potential.

That’s what we read today: a vision of spiritual maturity.  The Christians in Corinth, Paul writes, are already sanctified in Christ Jesus.  They are already saints.  Despite the present disagreements!  Despite the present arguments!  Despite the present factions!  In fact, Christ is presently among them, enriching them and strengthening them to overcome their divisions, to become more and more mature as a corporate body.

It is just the same today, here, with us.  Whatever factions there are among us, and however poorly we deal with them, we are already sanctified; we are already saints.  Christ is present among us, enriching us in all things and strengthening us to overcome our divisions; and thereby we can become more and more mature in him.

Let us therefore pray to this end: for ourselves as individuals; for the corporate body of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and School; and for the wider Church.

. . . .  Amen.

Background: How We Started Dating

Posted in Background with tags , , , , , , , on July 25, 2013 by timtrue

sewanee

So that’s how Holly and I met.  Here’s how we started dating.

Maybe a year after her announcement that she knew my secret identity–after we’d spent much time in class together, catching concerts, eating meals, participating in study groups, not always with other friends and fellow students present either, but my point here is after we’d gotten to know each other quite well in circles platonic, more or less–I realized I was thoroughly stricken, smitten, and afflicted.

I remember the February day this hit me, in fact, though this is not exactly what led to our first date.  We were catching a lunch together at a Chinese buffet.  Hey, it was raining and cold outside and dry and warm inside and the company was pleasant so don’t hack the choice of cuisine!  Anyway, Holly was at this time dating a guy she’d met in San Luis Obispo over Christmas break, a long-distance relationship that seemed off to a good enough start, though I remained somewhat skeptical.  But some trigger was pulled in me that day, eating an egg roll and drinking hot tea from a way-too-small cup across the table from her.  I was acting goofy.  And I became aware of my goofiness.  And despite my attempts at reining it in I couldn’t seem to get control.  Something inside was no doubt off-kilter, a kind of dizziness, but not, if you get what I mean.  And it hit me at once that I was a little jealous of this SLO guy.

Now, Holly is a perceptive person, this much at least I knew already.  So, perhaps abruptly, sensing my inner drama and not wanting it to become any more outward than it already had, “I gotta go study,” I said, “see ya in class tomorrow,” and left.

Incidentally, when I rehashed this scene with Holly later, maybe on our honeymoon or something like it, she said she hadn’t noticed anything.  Perhaps she’s just being kind.

Also at this time I was living with four other guys in a big house in town.  It was a four bedroom house, so somehow three of us decided we would share two of the bedrooms, making one a sleep area and the other a study area.  Might sound nice for the other two who got their own rooms, but, crazy, it worked out well, so well in fact that the three of us guys–Derek, Paul, and I–decided to spend Spring Break together that year.

My dad let us borrow an old van–this a 1976 Sportsman, an upgrade from the 1968 model–which we fitted out with a place to sleep over a place to keep snow skis, camping equipment, and luggage.  We did just about everything you can do in eight days in March in the western U. S.  We drove from southern California, where we’d retrieved the van, to Lake Tahoe where Derek had access to a family cabin for spending a night and trying our luck at nearby slots; then through Nevada to Utah where we skied at Snowbird; then to Colorado where we holed up for one night in Rifle and camped the next just outside the Garden of the Gods in freezing weather; then to southern Utah where we camped, fished, and swam in Lake Powell–and Derek ran over a few hares, we all hiked some natural arches, and Paul nearly destroyed the van; and finally back to southern California.  All three of us were in between dating relationships at the time.  None of us had brought razors; and if my memory serves one or two even forgot toothbrushes.  (Paul visited me just last week in fact and we couldn’t help reminiscing over this very trip.)

Having barely made it back to school in time for spring quarter then, as I walked across the courtyard in front of the music building, who should I see but Holly?  Mind you, I still hadn’t shaved since before leaving for Colorado, something like ten days before.  She smiled nevertheless.  And after I’d barely said hello she said, still smiling,

“Guess what?”

“Uh, what?”

“Darren and I broke up.”

“Oh,” I said, stalling for time, thrilled as a roller coaster ride inside but looking for signs outside.  She was still smiling, maybe even more broadly.  But was that enough?  “So, um,” I decided to risk it all, “let me take you out to a movie, er, to cheer you up?”

“Okay!”  No hesitation.  No reticence.  Nothing.

Well, no way was I as perceptive as she, but at least this time it seemed to be working out.

Next night we dined at Cafe Italia and took in an appropriate movie for music majors, Beethoven.  Except it wasn’t about the musician at all, just some St. Bernard pups.  But I couldn’t have cared less.

The following day I overheard Holly telling a fellow music student, Helena, that I’d taken her out last night.

“Finally!” Helena smiled.  A lot of other students agreed, and maybe even a faculty member or two, when Helena shared Holly’s news out loud.

By some strange serendipity, Derek and Paul were in dating relationships again within a week.