The 21st Century Marriage (A Tragedy)

twisting string in his thin fingers

he sutured the slender wound,

yeah he fixed her up like new.

a work of art,

like a school of fish, posing as a shark.

when she came to,

her hands went to her face,

hoping for lavender, but getting plastic flowers.

her husband never got her what she liked.

he didn’t know what she was like.

she liked passion, he liked sex.

that’s where she picked up cigarettes.

a small prize for after getting done her chore.

he thought her vice a small price to pay,

though he didn’t like it in the house,

but when the deed was done he’d quickly fall asleep.

and then one fateful night,

whether it was the full moon or the wine,

she fell asleep before she’d taken her last drag.

and those silk dull grey sulk sheets,

went up in a blazing-red tragedy

and now the house burned down, quite literally.

and as they woke up in the flames,

and looked a stranger in the face,

they didn’t even try to make it out.

yes this was their way out.

and all that he could say,

for 30 years of company,

was, “dear, you know you shouldn’t smoke in bed.”

It’s about a Relationship, Not a Religion, or a Result

My oldest sister Hannah is in town visiting in Pullman… It’s been great. Since graduating high school my life has gradually shifted to being more rooted in Washington, although my Wyoming roots will always be at the base of my story and identity, which I’m very proud of.

But the effects of time and place seem to inevitably shape people. Overall I’ve been happy with how WSU has shaped me, and as I go back home, time continues to separate my casual acquaintances from my lasting relationships there. And it can’t help but seem less familiar, while Pullman has become a village of some really great friendships.  College friendships are unique in that, while schools in session, you’re a sort of social family.

Yet my visits from my family have been priceless.  I’ve probably been truly homesick as much as I’ve been physically sick: a couple times a year, from as long as 2-days to 2-weeks.  Life on the Palouse has been overall a blessing, but throw in one of my genuine Wyoming relationships and I’m in hog heaven. Me and Hannah have been having amazing conversations about our family relationships, futures, beliefs, who we’ve become in our time apart, and dating — which interestingly isn’t as different for a 21 year old and a 29 year old as you’d think (at least for us anyway).

I told her about when I was a more self-centered teenager, Mom and I would be driving back in the car from Cheyenne and would discuss our faiths. Although it was mostly her discussing and me half-listening and half-thinking about sports, or girls, or bacon, and saying “yeah,” or “huh,” to let her now I was somewhat tuning in. I wasn’t always such a chump, but often I was… if someone can ever figure out how to communicate to teenagers they’re emotional basket-cases with the wisdom of wildy-coyote, it will be almost more amazing than a cure for cancer.

Then I told Hannah that as I’ve been at college, and have been ironing out my core-beliefs, I’ve had a lot of moments where I remembered my moms little sayings on faith and been so thankful she’d shared what I have found myself to be absolute truths.  Things like, “It takes two complete people to make a good marriage, because if you’re each only 50% and one of you is having a bad week and can only give 30%, you’re in trouble.” or “Find a career that is pleasing to God, but is also passionate for you. He’s not going to send you to Africa if you’re going to be miserable and ineffective there, he wants you to be passionate about him, and what he has you doing for his glory.”

The one I heard most though was probably, “You’re faith is about a relationship not a religion.” I think she put so much emphasis on this because this is the biggest misconception in Christianity; it’s not a checklist of things you can’t do, there is Jesus’s love behind these laws.  He wants us to obey them because they will ultimately hurt us, and our relationship with him.

Yes, mom, you’ve done well, although if you don’t mind I’d like to add an amendment to this saying so it reads, “It’s about a relationship, not a religion, or a result.” Because what I’ve found to be as jaded as pure legalistic Christianity is the “prosperity gospel.”  When the bible says “ask and you shall receive” it’s ludicrous to think he was talking about that Mercedes Benz you want, because Jesus is always talking about things beyond this world: ask him, earnestly, constantly, genuinely that he will teach you patience, then work as hard as your little-soul can at it, and damn right you’ll be more patient.

The problem with thinking God’s goodness is based on the results of this world, is that when our comfortable American lives go to pot, we blame the only being that can truly help us out of it: God himself.  Maybe he can’t un-burn your house down, but if you let him, he can teach you that this world is about people and not material.  We think in terms of the next six months, God thinks in terms of eternity.

So with this in mind I wrote a little poem about relying on God, and running on his clock. Because I bet he’s got one in heaven that makes Big Ben look like Tiny Tim.

son, where did your faith go? / you lost it when you need it most. / you lost your job, your house, your mom. / just what was your faith standing on? / yeah you may have got knocked down, / but there is no use sitting around. / stand up with me and rise to your knees. / yes, that’s it, right there and watch this tree. / now you see the dying color of the leaves, / but hold up now, be patient, we’re far from done. / just be here awhile, till spring can come. / know do you see how the branches bud? / give it another month and the leaves will bloom. / give me a year, the tree will grow taller too. / give me a year, and you’ll grow too. / keep at it you’re branches will shelter lost souls like you.

I wish dating were more like this:

Sometimes I get frustrated with all the games of trying to find a date.  Now days for a guy in college you have to find the perfect natural moment to start a conversation with a girl. Then you have be careful about not coming on too strong. If you’re sly enough to actually get her number, you can’t just call her and ask her on a date. You have to vaguely text her, and figure out a stealth way to “hang out.”  I’m terrible at this process. I’m someone who has a very… well… odd, straightforward, sarcastic, but I like to think fun-loving way of communicating.  The problem is you can convey about as much tone in a text message as Charlie Scheen’s publicist can convey that he isn’t a total weirdsmobile.  But if I can convey tone, I can usually hit it off with the girls who are up my romantic-compatibility ally.

This is another thing I don’t understand about dating today. It’s like it’s some huge insult if the person isn’t genuinely attracted to you and your personality.  It doesn’t mean they don’t like you as a human being, it just means you’re not compatible for that kind of relationship. Sometimes our generation needs to not be sensitive for the wrong, selfish, cowardice reasons, and be more honest for the right, selfless, brave ones. Overall I think we’re just poor communicators. These have often been my experiences at least, and I’ve been the one who’s been the poor communicator at times. But I’ve been trying not to be. And I think if we didn’t have to be so coy about dating, the process would go a lot faster and be much less painful.  I think if two relationally-functional people met each other that were a good match, it would go more like this:

A guy goes to get a sandwich from his buddy at a campus coffee stand.

He tells him he thinks a girl sitting on her computer drinking coffee is cute.

Girl later walks up to get a muffin or something and the guys says, “hey by the way my friend over their thinks your pretty cute (guy points to Matt sitting a ways from the coffee stand). “AIN’T THAT RIGHT MATT?”

“WHAT’S THAT?”

“You think this girl is cute!”

“Oh… Yeah definitely. Tell her she can have my phone number if she wants it.”

(the girl is just standing at the counter hearing them shout all this stuff)

“Do you want his number?”

“Uh… yeah I guess I do.” she says.

“Great. YO MATT! SHE WANTS YOUR NUMBER!”

“Really? Well that’s awesome. I want her number too…”

(he starts walking up to the counter)

“Hi, I’m Matt nice to meet you.”

“Alexandra.” (shaking hands)

“Just… Alexandra… no Alex, or Lexie, or… uh… Dra?”

“Nope.”

“I love that. My mother always calls me Matthew. You can call me Matthew if you prefer it.”

“She’s right. Matthew is better.”

“Yeah… my mom friggin rocks.”

“Are you a momma’s boy?”

“Yep.”

“I love that. I’m a huge daddy’s girl.”

“Would your dad want to kick my ass right now trying to get you to go on a date with me?”

“Are you trying to sleep with me?”

“If we get married… yeah.”

“Then no, I think he’d be okay with that.”

“He’d be okay with Bowling, crappy bowling alley pizza, followed by stargazing? He’d be okay with it if I picked you up Friday at 7?”

“Yes… and I’d be okay with it too by the way.  Are you trying to date my dad or me?”

“Well I don’t think your dad is my type…”

“So you’re trying to date me?”

“I’m trying to go on a date with you… and see where things go from there.”

“I’m okay with that.”

“Sweet– I’ll pick you up at–”

“And just so you know… when it comes to bowling. I’m way better than you.”  She said suddenly serious.

“That’d probably be true if I wasn’t the best bowler in the world ever.”

“Yeah. Pick me up at 7. I’d love to prove you wrong.”