I Hate February

I hate February. February in Michigan is an entire month of dirty black snow piled in the parking lot of Walmart- jamming shopping cart movements and soaking unsuspecting tennis shoes. February, in Old English, use to be known as “Mud Month” and I swear I read somewhere that Native Americans used to call it “Month of Hunger.” February’s only redeeming quality is that it is 28 days long and it doesn’t drag on like January. Sure February has Black History Month and Valentine’s Day but we should honestly move both those events to March which holds more hope and positivity with the advent of spring. My Mom always chirps in when I get sulky over Michigan winters…You know the winter makes you appreciate summer more!” This Michigander philosophy should be the state’s official motto.

Pure Michigan – You Need Brown Snow to have a Summer Glow

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When my Mom says things like this I smile a little because deep down I know it’s 100% true. Once you get used to the seasons there is no going back. I think the change of weather is vital to human health. Have you ever lived in a place where it was the same weather all year round? I have and it destroyed my sense of time and space. Of course, people that live in those areas say it is fine but they don’t know what they are missing. The first legitimate day of spring after a terrible winter feels like a 24-hour orgasm; stepping outside into the sunlight and not having to wear ten layers of clothes is like walking out of a prison sentence. We are designed for contrast and a little masochism.

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The worst thing for our mental and spiritual health is monotony. We need regular changes in stimulus and to look away from the proverbial “white wall” of our daily life. Try to inject various changes into your routine so that dullness and depression don’t creep into your existence. Take a vacation. Go on a day trip. Read a new book. See a play. Go workout. Try some new food. Call up an old friend. Take a walk in the cold.  Spend a day without electronics. Say hi to a stranger. Write a blog post about February. Just try to remember that contrast is the key ingredient to life and without Winter we would never have Summer. I am at the tail end and my own “white wall” in respects to researching Plato for my next installment of Tackle the Library. So in honor of change and contrast, below is a list of all the new books I will be reading starting March 12th. This is a jumbled list of classics and some non-fiction – it doesn’t include six audiobooks which I am still picking out.

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom
The Anatomy of Story 
by John Truby
African Game Trails 
by Theodore Roosevelt
Maigret and the Ghost 
by Georges Simenon
The Pickwick Papers 
by Charles Dickens
All Quiet on
 the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
Confessions of an English Opium Eater 
by De Quincy
The 39 Steps 
by John Buchan
The Subterraneans 
by Jack Kerouac
Hell’s Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga 
by Hunter Thompson
Monsieur Monde Vanishes 
by Georges Simenon
The Moonstone 
by Wilkie Collins
Junky: The Definitive Text of “Junk” 
by William Burroughs
Another Country 
by James Baldwin

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The end of February also marks the completion of my Novella titled “We’re all Chihuahuas” which will be available in early March. I do hate February but at least the brown snow is good for getting work done. Think of some projects for yourself and start some new goals for spring. Don’t be stagnant and don’t waste your precious gift of life. February is almost over and I can see the sunlight peeking out of the clouds as I write this last sentence.

To Love, you must Hate?

Being Valentine’s Day this Tuesday, I’ve been thinking a lot about love. What would best represent love on Valentine’s Day? Flowers? Chocolates? Cards? Sex? Butterfly kisses? Snuggles? Deep conversations? Hate? That last one seems out of place but hear me out. Can hate and love exist together at the same time? Do hate and love secretly have a twisted marriage together? Can love exist without hate? I find it interesting that our culture is so fond of using the word love but strays away from the word hate. A conversation may go something like this.

-“I love Katy Perry, she is the best singer in the world!”

-“I hate Katy Perry, she wants to kiss a girl and I don’t like it!”

-“You don’t even know her how can you ‘hate’ her?”

-“Alright…I extremely dislike Katy Perry and her stupid eyelash commercials.”

“Hate” is such a strong word but “love” isn’t? It makes sense that we shy away from hate because from a young age we are taught examples of nasty people that embody the word like Hitler, John Wayne Gacy, and Mark Cuban. With age came a deeper understanding of the word and its usage expanded. Saying, “I hate the fur industry,” or “I hate McDonald’s” became a normal conversation piece. But there still existed that taboo of associating hatred with a specific person. I think there is a major problem with this. Does our vernacular keep us from truly understanding love? Let me put it another way. Does avoiding the “hate” word keep us from the “love” word?

Let me posit a philosophical question. Can two perfect people love each other in a perfect world? Let’s first define what love truly represents. Love is not a feeling but is an action. One can feel emotion as a result of love but love does not propagate out of thin air. For example, if I give flowers to Christina it is an “act” of love; she subsequently feels happy emotions but those emotions are not love – solely the result of love. So let’s go back to my question about the perfect people in the perfect world. One perfect dude gives perfect flowers to his perfect wife. Is this an “act” of love? If the woman feels happy as a result of the flowers how does she differentiate that feeling from any other feeling – since she is perfect in a perfect world?  Would she feel anything different than her normal perfect state? It is an interesting scenario that is obviously impossible. My point is to make you think about contrast. Without actions that are opposite in nature there is no discernible difference in various stimuli. Imagine staring at a blue sky with blue clouds – there is no recognition of either.

This brings me to my point. Without hate there is no love. Without the opposite of love, we cannot understand what love truly represents. The exchange of flowers only means something because we subconsciously understand that hate exists; think instead that I handed Christina a bouquet of snakes that immediately bite her. Can I truly love Christina without hating her? I think the answer is no. We must hate to love. What better example of this then a couple who has been married for 20 years. They know each other’s quirks, pet peeves, and trigger points. They have fought, disagreed, and bickered thousands of times. They both have things that they can’t stand about each other. Those things or events are times of hatred; it may be a mini hatred but it is hatred nonetheless. Without those fun-size hates there would never be the meaningful acts of love: a soft hug after a tearful fight, a difficult compliment that kills pride, a somber admittance of wrong doing. We hate the ones we love. I appreciate Christina because of all her imperfections that drive me crazy. So why is this important to recognize? Because so many times in life we want everything perfect. We always want our relationship to be perfect. We want to live in a romantic comedy. We are afraid of the bad. But do not fret. Those times of despair, hate, and discontent are the times that make our love the strongest. Appreciate the hate because it is the fuel for the fire of love on this Valentine’s Day.

A Valentine’s Day to Remember

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It was seven years ago, on Valentine’s Day, that I asked a very sexy lady to go on a date with me. I had been pursuing this fox for some time and finally got the gumption up to ask her out for dinner. In years prior, I spent my Valentine’s Day with my parents, which usually entailed eating a fancy dinner of chicken fingers at Big Boy. That sad tradition was soon to be history the day I planned my first ever “real” Valentine meal. The night was crisp, being February in Michigan, and I had asked my roommate if I could borrow his dress clothes for the occasion. Informing the guys at the dorm was half the fun and I may have lingered to long discussing my optimistic plans for romance. Suddenly, it was time to go pick up the lady and I rushed off through the empty quad to reach my date’s quarters. Reaching the door, I slowly raised my hand to knock but was overcome with sudden nervousness. “What if she doesn’t have fun?” “She can’t like a guy with braces.” “Should I give her a hug or a soft handshake?” “I want to get Ice Cream with her but can I hold in the subsequent gas!” Scoffing of the insecurities, I knocked. The door opened and my eyes lit up when I saw the most beautiful woman in the world. She wore a purple blouse that matched her radiance and surprisingly my own purple shirt. We stood at the door for quite some time staring until it got a little weird. Breaking the silence, I complemented her beauty and we set off for our special dinner.

We arrived at the restaurant only to find a long wait before we could be seated (I forgot to make a reservation). We were about to change our plans and go somewhere else when she said-“No, it’s okay we can stay and talk.” Those words seemed to melt my body into a pool of logophile-philosophical nirvana. I thought, “Not only is she drop dead sexy but she also wants to sit down and have a long conversation!” Time seemed to stand still during that chat and we soon were jettisoned to our table where we continued to converse, laugh, and digest our thoughts and food. The more the date went on the more enamored I became with this perfect specimen of a woman. Following our meal we decided to take a walk. This was when the nerves really kicked in. I had never seriously held hands with another girl. Sure, I held a girl’s hands during the obligatory Thanksgiving prayer and youth group sing-a-long but never in a romantic fashion. The only problem was I didn’t know how to initiate the intermingling of fingers. Should I just reach down and grab her hand? What if she snatches it away? I came up with a solution. I told her about a thing called “Keno” that my roommate Chris taught me about. Keno is the gradual increase in intimacy as a relationship matures. For example, the Keno at the beginning of a relationship is playful shoulder bumps or prolonged starring. It progresses to things like hand holding, hugs, and make-out sessions. After telling her about Keno, I said that “we should go to the next level.” I reached for her hand and intertwined my fingers with hers. I felt my whole body light up and I swear that first hand hold was the hedonic equivalent of eating donuts with John Candy. We finished our hand-holding walk and I took her back to her dorm room. We hugged for quite some time-not wanting to let go which would signal the end of our spectacular night. I said goodbye and seven years later that same amazing lady I took on a date is my wife, my best friend, and my biggest blessing. This Valentine’s Day, take a second to sincerely say “I Love You” to the those most dear to you and take your own trip on the  memory lane of love.