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  • Intimacy and Balance Both Needed

    • Posted on Feb 21, 2016

    Here is my Valentine's Day column, published last Sunday in the Courier.  Pondering what makes a relationship last and work--balance and intimacy, both.   

    Now in the middle of winter weariness and political nastiness, we could all use a pause.

    Time to reflect on hearts and flowers, romance and soul-mated-ness  That’s Valentine’s Day.   Who needs politics when you have love?       

    Actually, love and politics overlap.  They both require candidates, they both involve necessary support from family and friends, they both sometimes end in heartbreak.

    There the similarity ends.  Nothing in politics goes as deep or lasts as long or requires as much energy and attention as romantic love.  Presidents are remembered for love partners almost as much as their politics.  Think Mary Todd and Abe, Eleanor and Franklin, Bess and Harry, Mamie and Ike, Jackie and Jack, Rosalyn and Jimmie. Oh yes, Hillary and Bill.  

    Those powerful partnerships were formed well before their political successes and lasted well after.  

    Politics amount to the little leagues of human activity compared to love.  Romantic love, being the source of our deepest happiness and most long-lasting pleasures, deserves the constant attention it gets.

    What to say about love in this era of fear and loathing? 

    Two words:  intimacy and balance.  Lasting love brings both intimacy and balance, which contribute mightily to successful bonding.

    My last marriage—in both senses—is now going on two decades.  We’ve been up and down, out and around, endured losses of parents, siblings, close friends and colleagues. We’ve grieved long and hard together.  

    Through upheavals we’ve depended on our intimacy to regain perspective and return to life as we know it.

    The hardest part? Accepting each other’s obsessions, neuroses, scars, carbuncles, warts—clusters of imperfections that make us who we are. 

    We’ve learned to accept, not fix.

    At first I was annoyed by imperfections, then realized I wasn’t going to change hers, nor she mine.  Now I accept them as inevitable and endearing.  

    Along with intimacy goes balance, of necessity.    

    Without an intimate partner, people start taking their beliefs and themselves far too seriously.  Partners provide a sounding board for foolish notions that throw you off kilter. 

    As Gandhi said, “Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny.”  And your destiny, if it’s true to who you are, requires balance all the way.   

    One example out of dozens:  Every time I fly, I convince myself that this time I’m going down.  I visualize the boom, the drop, the terrible fear ending in darkness.  I’m potentially a mess.  I’ve learned to blurt this fear out loud, and she just smiles, rubs my shoulder and says, “It’s real but not true.”  

    That reminder, which doesn’t work when I say it to myself, sets me straight.    

    Multiply that dozens of times for other fears and obsessions, and you have a more balanced, less fearful man. I do the same for her.  

    Without each other to offer trusted advice and support when we slip out of balance, we’d fall all over ourselves.  Close friends do the same, by the way, but they’re rare.  

    So Happy Valentine’s Day to long-term couples who’ve discovered intimacy with balance, and balance with intimacy.  

    It’s worth celebrating today—and every day.










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    • Holidays
  • Baby Jesse: A Christmas Fable

    • Posted on Dec 25, 2014
    This was first published in the Courier many Christmases ago, and repeated occasionally over the years.    Many readers reacted with positive and thoughtful comments, and a few others with sheer outrage that anyone would tamper with the original story. 

    I thought it was just a variation on a theme--and therefore legitimate and quite supportable.  

    So I offer it again for this Christmas, 2014, thinking that its lesson still holds true.  
    Every December Christians repeat the same story, and even non-Christians have to admit it’s a great plot.

     It pits the meek against the mighty, poor against the rich, the outcasts against the insiders.  It’s complete with a joyous ending, not to mention the founding of a world religion.

     It’s so powerful that no one thinks twice about recycling it every year.  The same ought to go for alternative versions, such as the following recycled Christmas fable, which I wrote years ago, freely adapted from the gospels of Matthew and Luke.

    Behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for this which is conceived in her is of the holy spirit.

    She will bear a son or daughter and you shall call his or her name Jesus or Jesse, for he or she will save his or her people from their sins.”

     While Joseph and Mary were in Bethlehem, the time came for her to be delivered.  Lo and behold, Mary gave birth to their first-born daughter and wrapped her in swaddling clothes and laid her in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.  

    Following the angels’ suggestion, she named her child Jesse.

    Now in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone all about them.  They were sore from riding camels all day but now they were also sore afraid.

    And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will come to all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Jesse the Queen.

     “And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”

      When the angels went away from them into heaven the shepherds said to one another, “A little GIRL, our savior?  Can this be true?”

     “A female savior? A lady Lord?  Women can BIRTH saviors, but they cannot BE one.  Everyone knows that!”

    And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph.  They looked with wonder on the babe lying in the manger.  And they made known that which had been told them concerning this child; all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.

    But the shepherds were no longer sore afraid.  Now they were just plain  sore. 

     “What happened to the good old days,” they grumbled, “when only BOYS could be saviors?  Has anyone ever heard of a little girl becoming anything but a wife, an old maid, or a witch?”

    The shepherds grew discouraged and went home, thinking the real savior had not yet been born.  “Probably some maverick angels,” one of them said, “Or maybe that frankincense is getting old.”

     Along the way, they met three wise men who had also heard the news.  The shepherds stopped the wise men, saying “Turn back. Save your frankincense and myrrh. Wait until the real savior comes along. This one’s only a baby girl named Jesse.”

    And Mary, mother of Jesse, kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.

     “What if little Jesse had been born a boy?” she wondered, after she and Joseph had returned home. Would he have been worshiped as a real savior?”

    Mary prayed nightly that if her daughter Jesse had any special powers she would keep them to herself.  Little boys with special powers, she knew, often became saviors, founders of great religions.  Little girls with special powers were usually burned as witches.

    Baby Jesse grew nto a wonderful woman, a friend to all in need, and wise beyond all men.  Thanks to her mother’s teaching, she never used her miraculous powers, and never married.

    Jesse lived and died in obscurity, beyond of her small circle of friends. Meanwhile, all around the world, wise men kept waiting for the real savior.

    Merry Christmas, everyone.
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    • Holidays
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    • Cedar Valley Chronicles
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