Valentine’s Day isn’t just about cheap-tasting chocolate that comes in a tacky, faux-satin heart-shaped box. Or red roses wrapped in plastic sleeves from your local grocery store. Or even the inevitable Valentine’s Day hook up in a cheap motel (oh, those poor maids!). It’s about #LOVE, in ALL its many shapes and many sizes. Because size and shape DO matter! And, as today is about the heart, I thought I’d share a large piece of mine.
At 17, I found myself pregnant and alone. Scary, to be sure, but I somehow had this incredible sense of calm about it. It was as though I knew who my son was going to be before he was even born. That, he was a good soul who would improve the world just by being in it. And I was right. Nothing bad can come from a good soul. Even though I had no idea how any of it would unfold at the time, I was confident things would always have a way of working out.
Today, my tiny miracle is 6’5” tall! But that’s not the only reason I’m a proud momma bear. He’s also this incredible human being, an exceptional friend to both man and animal alike. I love how charming he is, much more charismatic than I am. But just as passionate, and yes, *a bit* hot-headed, too. Neither of us back down from a fight. My son has an almost innate sense of justice, a born lawyer but with a poet’s soul. And man, can he write! Sensitive, kind, respectful, and good-natured, he is open to the magic of this world, even when he doesn’t see he’s the one creating it. He’s loaded with natural gifts, too, including a green thumb, an eye for art and a way with animals, even fish. He somehow managed to make a tiny 50-cent feeder into a stunning orange and white Koi, complete with a flowing, graceful tail. She lived a miraculous eight years! I’ve never been able to keep fish alive for much more than a few years. Like I said, the lad has magic in him.
Next to my son, my rock has been someone I've known for more than 26 years, #Bob, his father. And in that time, we stood as a team through not just many fun adventures, but more than a few wars, including my battles with cancer. Let’s face it…with me, there’s never a dull moment. You have to have a stomach for excitement. And, tequila shots. But I digress.
Our first meeting was auspicious indeed. It was a Thursday—June 27th. Oh, irony! I am fodder for your cannons, aren’t I? Because my first “date” with #Bob involved my very first stalker. Now, more than 25 years later, we’re still up to our elbows in stalkers! And he’s still coming to my rescue. My most recent stalker episode involved the ex-wife of a fan-turned-friend. Police investigators think this individual (with known criminal associates!!!) is responsible for shooting up my house with arrows. She still stalks me online (get a life!), has sat in front of my house in her vehicle on more than one occasion and, for the win, is currently a Defendant in a Wrongful Death case. She and my (now former) friend were married on—you guessed it—June 27th! I just can’t make this stuff up. She was 35 at the time with a 10-year old and had already been married (and divorced!) TWICE. While my poor, hapless friend had only just left high school a year earlier. You can’t blame her, really—the available grown-ups at the time likely knew better. I’m not exactly sure that’s what John Lyly meant in 1579 when he wrote, “All is fair in love and war,” but anyway….
The first time I had cancer was in 1991. I was living in Boston at the time. My son wasn’t even two yet. My bestie, on the right in the pic above, drove from New York to watch my (then) little man while I had surgery. I kept a picture of my two guys in this little brass heart-shaped frame next to my hospital bed. It was a pic we’d taken while visiting Niagara Falls the month before. My son loved the feel of the fine mist from the Falls on his face. So my friend stood my little man up on this stone fence so he could not only get a better view, but get closer to the misty Falls. I still have that picture, and in the very same frame. I keep that gilt-framed photo in my #Hotlanta office, on a nearby bookshelf. My “little” man is not so little anymore. Who knew that hormones in milk products could grow kids so big…because it certainly didn’t come from my 5’4” DNA!
Being my friends and family do have some benefits, despite the stalkers. Like traveling all over the country on what my son called our “Pop Culture Across America” tour. Travel, hanging with celebs, rubbing elbows with producers, directors, movers-and-shakers like the Chairman of KickStarter, Perry Chen…yeah, that’s not a bad deal. But it’s not for the faint of heart. Courage is a definite requirement.
My friendships span from 22 to 40 years. Because I’m loyal. To a fault. And when I give you my friendship, I give you a piece of my heart. I expect you to carefully hold that delicate slice for the rest of your life. Maybe even longer…right, Grant Wilson???
My friend of 30 years, Steve, called me the other day. Just to check on me. He’d caught up on my blog from this past fall, and like many of my childhood friends, had found my second chance at life inspiring. So Steve was particularly shocked and saddened by the recent, rather terrible turn of events in the last few months. Though there probably won’t be the happy ending everyone was pulling for, friends like Steve make living any part of life—good, bad or ugly—worthwhile. Actually, Steve is more like family. Most of my friends are. Even beloved students from the last 20 years get adopted into the Housel Lifetime Guarantee program.
The bottom line? Even though a day designated to romance is a sweet thought, Valentine’s Day is for suckers. Because real #love spans decades. It transcends the difficulties of disease. It surpasses psychotic stalkers. It goes well beyond the confines of our rather LIMITED human existence, to the very edges of infinity, and straight past the boundaries of our ever-expanding Universe. Even doubling the distance between the Earth, and say, the moon, is child’s play in comparison.
If we let enough people in, our hearts actually expand with our lives. We become immortal, spreading our souls across the world like a blanket, connecting while also protecting all the people we entrust with pieces of our hearts. Even if we’re thousands of miles apart, we breathe together, live together, laugh together, and one day, die together. But our legacy of #love lives on.
Yup. Looking at that picture of my family above brings out the real #love inside me. There’s lots of people peddling knock-off versions of real #love out there. But don’t believe the hype. Real #love never disappears. It may ebb and flow with the tides of Life itself, but it ain’t goin’ nowhere. Valentine’s Day, however, comes and goes rather quickly. Like a slippery fish in even more slippery waters.
Speaking of fish…hello, New Moon of #Pisces on February 18th!
Fish don’t feel #love, even something as beautiful as an accidental Koi. They live reactive lives. Only the proactive get the long-term fulfillment of real #love. From family. From friends. From connecting with a stranger on the street with just a smile. While fish, and their bottom-dwelling crab-friends, well, they can’t see much beyond the glass of the tanks they’re stuck in. Luckily, most of us know how to breathe on land.
*Special thanks to future Oscar-winning friend, T. N., for reminding me about "Weird Fishes" by Radiohead...enjoy the video!