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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

This Thing Called "Love"*

*Johnstown Tribune-Democrat, February 11, 2010
as "Feb. 14 - A Time to Celebrate This Crazy Little Thing Called Love"

Copyright © 2010 by Ralph Couey

It’s an oft-spoken truism that while men marry women for what they are, women marry men for what they can make out of us. When I look at my wife, I still see the breath-taking girl I fell for 32 years ago. When she looks at me, she sees (and she’s actually said this) a “work in progress.”

I don't consider that a bad thing; I'm excited to be married to someone who remains convinced that every day I can be more than I was the day before.  Her faith in me has never wavered, even during those times when I had lost all faith in myself.

Marriage is a relational laboratory; the virtual Petri dish where two independent people learn how to be co-dependent. The first seven years can be explosive as both partners engage in a sort of emotional “push-me pull-you,” trying to pull the other in their direction. Through this process, both learn the value of compromise; that the best solutions often exist in the middle.

Through it all is this thing we call “love.”

There’s nothing in the human experience harder to explain. We know what love does to us; how it makes us feel. But despite the best efforts of poets, troubadours, and writers over thousands of years, love has never been adequately defined or described. No one knows why sparks fly between two particular people. There’s no explanation as to why one person can so completely dominate our thoughts and dreams; who seems to fill so perfectly that hole in our lives we somehow never knew existed.

Or why their loss can take from us the very will to live.

David Hyde-Pierce, in the movie “Sleepless in Seattle,” coined what is probably the most cynical definition – “two sets of neuroses who are a perfect match for each other.” While that may be reasonably accurate, psychologically speaking, its hardly worthy of Keats, Shelly, or Byron:

“Tis in that moment when we are closest,
That I celebrate our wonderful shared neuroses.”

Even as we cannot define love, we struggle with dividing that emotion from it’s darker cousin, lust. Lust is like burning magnesium, generating a ferocious fire impossible to extinguish. Unfortunately, while it burns hot and bright, it’s also short-lived, leaving behind toxic debris. The high divorce rate today may be related to couples who mistake the heat of lust for the warmth of love.

Love arrives slowly, rising in our consciousness like a summer sunrise. It is tested by obscuring clouds and occasional storms. But it survives. Even the stormiest clouds can’t obscure it’s powerful light.

Love sustains us, as much as food, air, and water. It is fundamental to our survival, for within its embrace, we feel cherished. It is also a measure of security. Whatever adversities and tragedies we face, we face them together.

Love accepts us as we are, good points and bad, perfections and flaws. But love also recognizes the potential for, and encourages growth. Love is the fertile soil in which we grow beyond the false limits of our own expectations. Love also gives us the room to trust, to accept criticism because it flows from the mutual desire of wanting the best for each other. For these reasons and many other that defy articulation, love endures. Yet, it is dynamic; never static. Love, carefully nurtured, grows and deepens across an entire lifetime. It sends us to the heights of elation when new; and to the depths of depression when taken from us. .

Valentines Day is special. There are other days that celebrate specific events, but that 14th day of February celebrates the glory and miracle of love. That day, we honor the importance of that special love in our lives, and that special person who makes the days brighter, the nights sweeter; the one we turn to for solace when it all goes sideways.

The one person who truly believes in us.

A few years ago, during a heart catheterization, something went wrong and my heart stopped. For a few minutes, I…”went away.” When I came back, the first thing I clearly remember, the one memory that has stayed with me was seeing my wife’s face, and that smile she saves for me alone. I had heard all the upbeat words from the doctor. But seeing her smile and that special light in her eyes was different.

I knew for sure that I was safely home.
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