Archive for February, 2011

The World Turned Upside Down

One day, you have a certain conception of how life is going to go.  Then the next, that conception is completely wiped out by events beyond your control.

For a long while, this blog has been a kind of catch-all repository of whatever I happen to be thinking about.  Now, though, with events having overtaken both in business and in personal life, I’m going to be moving the mortgage part of this blog elsewhere and concentrating mostly on personal and political things here on these pages.

There happens to be a significant personal and political issue that we’re being confronted with, so that seems like appropriate timing.

You might have subscribed to this page for its mortgage-ness, and if that’s true, then you should move on over to the 1st Response blog at City 1st Mortgage Services, where I’ll be posting those things for the most part.  I have been hired as the director of PR and Strategic Partnerships at City 1st Corporate, so that becomes one of my responsibilities.  Occasionally, I’ll write something incendiary that (being corporately inappropriate) will end up here, but in those cases, the posts will be mortgage/political rather than mortgage/origination.  So if you want actual mortgage information, that over there is the place to be.  Increasingly, you can find my writing for mortgage and real-estate professionals at the Scotsman Guide and the Niche Report.

Starting with my next post, I’ll be talking a lot about a personal issue with our son that happens to have given me some thoughts about the US medical system and what is wrong – and right – with it.  That leads to a discussion of what is probably the salient issue of our time, and that is government’s role in providing to us the services we take for granted, whether it be through unions, as in school, fire and police, or simply by constriction, as in the medical industry.  I don’t know if I have solutions.  I do know that I have ideas.

And there will be a lot of stuff about family, specifically about parenting and how to raise kids these days, from the perspective of a father.  There are surely enough mommy blogs out there; not so much are there daddy blogs, so I’ll join the few, the happy few.

My thanks to all of you for your patience with me and your comments and participation here.  I hope you stick around.

Will You NOT Be My Valentine?

Today, according to Hallmark, is Valentine’s Day.  I don’t celebrate it, so it’s not really anything to me, but there’s a huge amount of pink and red about so I take it I’m in the distinct minority.

My antipathy has nothing to do with St. Valentine, whoever he actually was; he’s never done me any harm.  I’m sure he was a truly decent fellow.  It’s nothing to do with chocolatiers, whom I admire and occasionally support, though chocolate is not my personal food-based vice (my wife is another story), or florists, although I’m not a fan of cut flowers, beautiful as they are.  I don’t even really blame Hallmark and other card manufacturers, who are just trying to make a living, and good for them in getting a holiday that is essentially an excuse to hawk their extensive wares.

It’s about Cupid.  Rhymes with stupid.

Cupid qua Cupid is one of the only visual modern holdovers from Greco-Roman mythology.  He’s been pudgified and cuted-up to make him more marketable, and that’s not particularly offensive to me; after all, the same thing happened to St. Nicholas, and we survived it.  It’s more the arrows Cupid is alleged to be firing off.  Think about this metaphor for a second.  There’s this winged sprite flitting about and firing love-shafts into the hearts of unsuspecting men and women, who then fall deeply and hopelessly in love with whomever’s name is on the arrow (or whomever the victim sees next, depending on your brand of mythology).  And therein lies my particular problem.

It is absolutely not required that you fall in love with anyone.  Not.  Required.  It is possible to resist ANY person.  There is no Cupid firing off arrows.  Pop culture says that love strikes you…well, like an arrow, and you’re helpless before it. You’re walking down the street, and blam, there’s the love of your life, and before you can say “this is really, really unwise”, you’re gazing deeply into each other’s eyes and cooing softly.  Nothing you can do about it.  The only way to resist this is to have already been struck by the love arrow and miraculously still be in love with that person, and then you might have a defense, if you’re lucky.

Gigantic festering enormous steaming pile of fresh horse dung.

I go to conferences a lot.  These are gatherings of men and women, who are away from their normal circumstances and frequently lacking spouses and significant others and the natural oversight those bring.  Many of the men and almost all of the women are attractive.  Liaisons are formed.  But not by everyone.  A friend of mine called it “being out there”, and some people are, and some are not.  If you’re “out there”, then Cupid’s shaft can strike you.  If you’re not, then it can’t.  And contrary to popular culture and current social understandings, you do not have to be out there.  You do not have to even allow the possibility of “falling in love”.  There are those that are absolutely proof against all of Cupid’s arrows.

This is not to say that they have to deny the attractiveness of another person, much less that they run in fear of them.  I do some acting, and I’m on stage with some really brilliant and attractive women, some of whom I’m sure I could love if I wanted to.  “Falling in love” is terribly easy.  Falling out of love, unfortunately, is even easier, and my experience is that one leads to the other rather more often than not.

But why not just go for it?  Falling in love “feels <bleeping> great”, as Barbara Streisand said in the badly underrated The Mirror Has Two Faces.  Well, yes, it does.  To the ones falling.  Assuming that the ones falling have no attachments whatever and have made no promises to anyone, then there’s no objection.  But if they have, and so often they have, then to the assorted casualties of the fall, it feels like what it actually is, which is a betrayal of commitment and abandonment of honor.  It’s like a stab in the guts.  But if you give any credence to the stupid of Cupid, then what else is it but inevitable?  You have no choice, right?

Divorce courts are full of people who just “fell out of love with each other.”  This is about the stupidest thing I can imagine.  Love is not a little fuzzy creature that gets created when two people get together, and if it gets neglected, then it dies.  Sounds a little silly, doesn’t it?  But look at the headlines: Miami Herald: Valentine’s advice for keeping love alive; Huffington Post: 10 Tips to Make Love Last; San Francisco Chronicle: How to Keep Love Alive This Valentine’s Day for New Parents, and I could go on.  You keep a thing alive.  A fish, or a dog, a bushy hydrangea.  Cupid, and by extension Valentine’s Day, makes love a thing.  It’s a noun.  But lasting love is not a noun.

Love is a verb.  I love my wife.  What that means is not that my wife and I have created a furry heart that we keep in the closet and let out for air every February 14.  I LOVE her, meaning that I do things every day for her to care for her and tend to her needs.  Put another way, I choose her.  I choose her in every thing I do.  I am not “out there”.  No Cupid’s dart can strike me.  Love is not something that pierces you or that you fall into like giant vat of pudding.  Love is something you DO.  You don’t love people you don’t do things for.  You might care about them.  You might wish them the best.  But to LOVE them requires that you do something.

I realize that this flips the entire Valentine’s thing on its head in a way (though some of you are saying – see, I bought candy, so I did something – well, okay, but do it again next week any you’re on to something).  And I realize that it makes a lot of movies not work so well any more, and reduces to ridiculousness most pop ballads.  Fine by me.  The great love stories, like the one in Casablanca, for instance, often involve the lovers choosing to NOT be together.  But that’s just it; it’s a choice.  I am not so smitten with love for my wife that I think her the most beautiful woman in the world.  Nor, I am well aware, is my wife so smitten with love for me that she thinks me the handsomest man.  We both of us are aware of each other’s faults and quirks and allergies.  Our love is not built on some fantasy, or on sexual attraction, powerful but as fleeting as the dew on a sunny morning.

We’ve been married 20 years.  We have eight children.  We’re getting older.  Our love didn’t survive that, our love is that.  And we love each other more than we ever did, because we’re better at it than we ever were.  Our love is built on a choice.  That choice was made 20+ years ago, and it encompassed every possible eventuality, from mental illness to old age to bankruptcy to injury to scarring to you-name-whatever-you-like.  I didn’t fall in love with my wife.  I chose to love her.  And I choose her still, every day, and more every day.

So do not be my Valentine, my dearest, dearest love.  Be my Jeanette.  Be mine, as I am yours, forever and ever.