Matt W Cook

writer.former fundamentalist.christianly fellow

Tag: relationships

Love on the TTC

I sat under the brightly-lit overhang at Kipling Station, waiting for the 45 to take me to work.  The night was bright and living, a perfect urban evening.  A girl sat on the bench next to me, hugging her knees and hiding her face.  A boy sat on the bench next to her, trying very hard to look the other way.  When the 45 came, he mumbled something to her and walked off.  She dried her eyes and followed him.  I followed them both onto the bus.  They sat together and I sat across from them and pretended to read.

They were angry at each other.  Or sad at each other.  Or just tired.  They were probably going to spend the whole trip sad at each other.


But then one of them spoke to the other.  And the other said something back.  And they were talking.  I couldn’t understand what they were saying, but I could feel it.  I could feel the sadness in the girl’s voice and its mirror in the boy’s.  The girl fidgeted with the boy’s backpack while she talked.  The boy started to look at her face instead of the floor.  They sounded defensive.  They sounded accusatory.  But they kept talking anyway, even though it looked like the words were making them feel worse.

Then there was a sudden and startling change.

The girl threw her arms around him with a sudden sob.  The boy squeezed her tight and said something loud and affectionate.  Something that spoke of promise.  The girl laughed.  The boy kissed her on the mouth and she melted into it.  Others on the bus grew embarrassed.  I grinned at them.

Thank you, you delicious people who refuse to settle for sadness and broken relationships.  Thank you for sharing peace with each other in a public place so I could watch and remember that peace is out there for anyone who wants it.

And thanks for wanting it.

Honesty for Neutral People

I get my energy from people.  I have a yearning need to have people look at me and talk with me and listen to me talk.  That’s the way I am and I love it.

But it gets people like me in trouble sometimes because we get all giddy and warm when people approve of us.  And all mopey and weepy when people criticize.  It’s usually not because the people around us are mean or anything–we just have a hard time figuring out how to handle disappointment.

And that puts us in the dangerous position of being influenced by The Neutrals.

Neutrals are a class of relationship that has been empowered by social media.  You can tell you are in a Neutral relationship when the best interaction you have with a person is silence.  Silence is the Neutral’s stamp of approval on your life.  So long as they don’t talk to you, you’re doing something right.

But when you step out of line, when your words or lifestyle fall short of their standards, then they let you know.  Gently, of course.  Mindfully, even.  Hell, they might even be dead-on-right in whatever they are saying.  And they form everywhere–at work, at church, online, at school.  Everywhere.

If many of your relationships are Neutral, you will find it hard to be yourself in those venues because your self-expression risks waking the Neutrals.  And if you are not careful you will find your conduct dictated by people who ignore you at the best of times and oppose you when you step out of line.

The Internet makes many relationships potentially in The Neutral.  And I guess I could whine about that.  Maybe get some cathartic victim-talk going on.  But I’m thirty-one now and, like Nick, too old to lie to myself and call it honor.  The problem isn’t with Neutral relationships at all.  They are a partially a product of our tech and partially a product of well-meaning lovely people who just don’t have time to invest in every single one of their eight hundred Facebook friends.

No, the solution isn’t some victim rant.  It’s not the melodramatic pulling of hair and wonderment as to why the world can’t understand us.  The world never understood us–any of us.  It never will.  It’s too big, and so are we.  The best way to deal with a Neutral relationship is to not deal with it at all.

What do you get when you behave the way they want you to?  Silence from The Neutrals.

What do you get when you behave the way your heart leads you?  Opposition (maybe) from The Neutrals.  Stirring approval from your heart.  Constructive empowerment from your invested friends.

It’s not hard to see which path gives you more.

The Neutrals are useful–sometimes they have great points to make.  But they are only useful for information.  They should never be the reason you do (or don’t do) anything.

Eighth Year

     The problem with expressing sentiment, especially romantic sentiment, is that it can so easily seem trite. Most folks wander on to Facebook on their anniversary, armed with dozens of exclamation points, and throw down one of many packaged statements about how happy they are that they married whoever they married. Everyone does it. And that’s what makes me approach this subject with trepidation.
     You see, my marriage is better than everyone else’s.
     I know, I know, that sounds arrogant and maybe even a bit offensive. But I really believe it. You know all those things that married people fight about? Money, sex, kids, events, family. We don’t. Like, ever.
     And you know how married people can’t wait to get away from each other and do the guy’s night out and the girl’s night out? We don’t really understand that.
     And you know how they say that your first year is the honeymoon and it all goes downhill from there? Well, to be completely frank and honest, that’s just bullshit. I have no other word for that destructive idea and if you ever find yourself uttering it, please jam your foot deep inside your mouth.
     Sure, I have problems in my life, just like everyone else. But my wife isn’t one of them. But how can I express that without blending into the crowds of people who can hardly stand their spouses most of the time but give them lip service on special days of the year?
     Maybe I can’t. Maybe there’s no way to sound unique and special. And, in the end, that’s fine.
     Because the second month of marriage to Ruth was better than the first. And the third was better than the second. And the ninety-fifth was better than the ninety-fourth. So every month seems to be the best month of my life. And that’s pretty cool. I may die of happy soon, and I can’t think of a better way to go.
     So here’s to you, Ruth. Here’s to the love we feast upon and the luminescent beings we are evolving into together. The ride’s been great so far and I feel like we have hardly even started yet. May our love continue to cast out all fear. May our hope always endure. May our faith in each other and in this radiant Universe in which the mystery of love happens grow and flourish.