What sticks in memory of those we have loved?

It had been fifteen years, and while recovering from surgery, Bret called out Cami’s name a few times.

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It’s strange what sticks with people in relationships. Some girls I date only briefly, but they leave a lasting impact on me, while others relationship last much longer but leave nothing to linger. I always wonder why this is, but this isn’t my story today. It’s my closest friend’s.

In college, he dated Cami for over a year, and he was head over heels for her. He talked about her all the time. I even worried that she was influencing his decisions too much. Then he took an internship out of the country and when he came back the magic, on her side, was gone.

He was still in love with her, but she was dating other people. She didn’t seem able to reject him outright, but she also wouldn’t date him exclusively.

But he held on. Something about this girl he was unable to shake.

Later she took an internship on the other side of the United States, and despite being apart, it seemed the help the relationship. They wrote to each other often, then about halfway through things started to fall apart again.

Frustrated and determined, Bret tried to figure out what was happening. He eventually traced it to the Cami’s mother, who had made up her mind to drive her daughter away from Bret.

In movies and television when parents make this kind of decision, it always backfires. Rebellious children pursue their romantic interest with greater intensity. But in my experience in my life, it usually works.

I dated a girl once, whose mother didn’t like me, and she set out to end our relationship, and she was successful. And it happened again to my friend. And one of the women in my writing group did it to her daughter. She didn’t like the boyfriend, so she drove them apart.

At one point he even was forwarded an email and in it was this exact phrase. “I don’t think he’s such a good guy. I think he voted for Obama.”

We both puzzled over this statement. The mother had equated his political choice with his quality of character as though all non-republicans were evil. Not only that, but she didn’t know who he voted for, she was just guessing.

The mother kept driving the wedge, and eventually, it took.

So, fifteen years later, Bret goes in for surgery. In the drug-induced haze after, he called out the Cami’s name several times. He has dated a lot of girls since, and most of those relationships lasted longer, those where not the names he called out.

It’s strange what sticks and what doesn’t, and I wish I understood why. Even in my own life. Why is Amy ever on my mind, but I can barely remember Karlie?

I squish people. It’s weird, but that’s what happens with all boys.

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I grew up with four brothers, and I think that altered the way affection was handled in our family. Sure, mom gave out hugs, but it never felt manly. Instead something strange began to develop. Squishing. It is in no way a hug, rather one brother would grab the other in a bear hug (again not a hug, more of a wrestling move where the other person’s arms and trapped at their sides) squeeze them until there was a grunt of troubled breathing, and on occasions lift them into the air.

Variations on this began to develop. Squishing a person into a wall (always important to be wearing shoes for this you just slid away). Or Squishing them while they sat on the couch (again you need shoes to avoid sliding).

After years of this a problem began to develop. One of my nephews who was new to this, started squishing people’s heads instead of full body grabs focusing the meaty chest muscles, and it hurt. And we told him it hurt, and he didn’t stop.

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I remember one time when he squished his cousin’s head, I had a talk with him about it. I was very serious and told him it was hurting people and he should stop doing it. His answer was, “I’m not going to listen to that.”

I spent the next few days thinking what I’d done wrong. I know he means well. I know he’s just having fun, but no matter how many times we tell him it hurt, he refuses to change. Even the serious conversation only upset him. I considered squishing his head so he could recognize that it hurt, but that also seemed like a bad idea.

It took a few months of thinking about the problem for me to realize a solution. The feedback of the squish is the grunt, the slightly labored breathing. If he got no reaction from squishing people’s heads, and maybe slightly exaggerated grunts from normal squishes he would change.

It seemed like a good plan, but the problem is I’m not the only person he squishes. So, it continues until I can find a new solution, or get others in on the change in feedback.

My Mom Bought a Dog. It was weird.

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Just as I was starting my Junior year of college, my mom bought a puppy. I remember seeing it for the time when I visited over Christmas break. It was strange to me because my youngest brother had just moved out of the house. At first, I couldn’t understand why she got the dog. There were no more children begging for pets. It was just her and my stepdad.

Several times over the course of the next few days, she used this exact phrase, “this is my dog.”

I realized at that moment that my judgment about pets being for children was driven from countless televisions shows, and movies where kids pleaded for pets, and parents had to be overcome. This wasn’t the case with my mom.

She grew up on a farm and all her life she had pets. It was only for a very brief time in my early childhood that we didn’t have pets. The whole time as a kid, I thought we had pets because we just kept asking, but it was only seeing this new puppy that I realized we had pets because she loved them.

From that day forward, any catching up with my mom that took place always included a conversation about her dog. It was the first thing I understood about my mom that had nothing to do with her being a mom. She was an animal lover, always had been, and I was in my twenties when I finally realized it.

Dating: people are too polite, and it ruins everything.

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It’s the trend of every breakup I’ve had for the last 10 years. Some version of “it’s not you; it’s me,” or “sometimes it just doesn’t workout.” These classic and cliché breakup lines are intended to be polite, to preserve the fragile emotional state of the person being rejected, but there is a problem rooted in them. They don’t provide real feedback. The person who is rejected doesn’t learn anything to help in the next relationship. In pursuit of being polite, they choose not to be helpful.

It makes to want to shake them and yell, “I’m in my thirties. I can handle the truth. I need it, because whatever I’m doing wrong, I’ve been doing wrong for a very long time, and no one will tell me what it is.”

But I don’t. Instead, I start making a data tracking sheet. What I did and how they reacted. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I could finally learn what I was doing wrong all these years. It yielded some interesting points, but when I implemented the changes, I kept getting the same results. The girls kept dumping me. I realized my problem was that whatever wasn’t working didn’t make it on the data sheet. Once again, I found myself in need of genuine feedback, and no one would offer it.

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I suppose my question is: why did this culture develop? Why is it so important to keep secret your real reasons for ending a relationship?

So, let’s talk about feedback.

Several years ago, I started shopping around my first manuscript and got an endless stream of rejection letters. No explanation, just “no” or most of the time nothing. (They let you know up front if you don’t hear back, it’s a ‘no.’)

I joined a writing group, and they destroyed my work. From structure, to paragraph, to sentence the just tore it apart. It was devastating. I left the first meeting in tears, but I learned for the first time why my writing wasn’t working. I suddenly knew why all those agents rejected my manuscript, and I could finally start fixing it.

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Skip forward a year, and this time when I sent out my manuscript instead of rejection, I started getting requests for more. (usually, you on submit the first 50 pages.) Now they all wanted to the whole book. What changed? I got genuine feedback, and with it, I could make changes that worked.

Doesn’t that mean that I think I or anyone having a similar problem should fundamentally change their personality? No. I didn’t fundamentally change my story either. Same characters. Same plot. Told differently.

It’s about the presentation. Just after high school, a guy joined my group of friends who liked to tell everyone he loved them all the time. It was weird for me. It was weird for everyone in the group, the guys and the girls. I could see it on their faces. And I spent a lot of time thinking about it. The problem wasn’t how he felt, it was his presentation. I imagine that he felt the same way as when any other member of the group would say “you guys are awesome,” or “cool” or any other common term among friends. All he needed was a little genuine feedback, and he wouldn’t weird people out.

But once again I find myself at the impenetrable enigma of politeness. I’m getting dumped. There is no protecting my feelings. I’m going to get hurt. It’s the nature of ending a relationship. At least be honest, and maybe I can learn something in the feedback.

If Your Kids are Sick, WE WON’T WATCH THEM

To really understand how I feel about this you need to know that my mom grew up on a farm, and her experience with being sick was, “if you're healthy enough to work, you work.” This was a very common perspective among farmers since they worked with animals or plants.

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Later in life, I remember driving past a daycare once with a large sign that read, “if your kids are sick, please keep them home. We will not watch them.” It struck me at first, but after a moment of reflection, it made perfect sense. One sick kid at daycare means sixty sick kids next week, and a lot of exhausted parents.

It was only in college that I had a professor explain this to me, well to my class at the expense of a student she was told to go home. He came in sick and was sniffling throughout the entire lecture. About halfway through the teacher stopped and gave a brief history of being sick in public. She explained that antibiotic and symptom reducing medications changed the way society viewed disease. Before their introduction, if you lived on a farm and were you sick, you still had to help out on the farm, but if you lived in the city and got sick, they quarantined you.

After the Second World War, there was a huge influx of people leaving farms and moving to cities, and they brought with them the culture of working while they were sick. With new medicine, disease was no longer feared like it once was, so legal quarantines no longer existed. If people came to work sick, they just go other people sick, and more people had to buy medicine, but it wasn’t a big public health issue.

This lecture changed my life. It changed how I thought about being sick. It wasn’t about how sick I felt. It was about infecting other people and recognizing that people have different immune systems and a mild cold for me might put someone else in the hospital.

So, I found myself at the viewing of a movie in a park, and a few rows behind me I heard someone sniffling. In my mind, I ranted about the importance of self-quarantine for the sake of others. I never planned to deliver this rant but ruminated on it in my head. After another sniffle, I turned to see who the offender was and… it was a good friend of mine. Immediately my rage of this issue changed into, “I hope they feel better.”


I survived Sleep

Years ago, I started taking sleeping pills to help me sleep at night. They have been a Godsend. I have struggled my entire life to sleep at night. I can be exhausted, but the moment I lay down, I’m wide awake. I tried all the non-chemicals methods. I read, and I would doze off, but then I would wake up 15min later, and once again, I would be wide awake. It was the same with every other method I tried, but the pills have been miracles workers.

I gave one to a friend once. (They are not prescription, just over the counter.) I told to just take half and see what happened. She called late Saturday afternoon to inform me she just slept for sixteen hours straight, because of that pill. She would never take them again. She didn’t feel refreshed, she felt like she survived. As the conversation went on, she revealed that she usually only slept 5 hours a night, so it was possible she was very sleep deprived.

This past Saturday is what happened to me. I was exhausted all week, and it felt like no matter how much I slept, I couldn’t get over it. So, Friday night I took a full dose (I usually only do a half) and slept for 12 hours. When I woke, I felt like I survived.