Archive for the ‘love’ Category

She is mom. Wife. Business woman. Delicate flower. Steel tower. She struggles to raise grounded amazing little people in a world of chaos, to contribute to a highly competitive career world, to tame the mom guilt that is a bi-product of her career, to maintain a hot, steamy relationship with her spouse of umpteen years, to convince her pig-headed toddler to eat the damn peas…and then she, one day, finds herself pining away for that sassy young anti-pea eating activist after he becomes a surly teenager with an endless array of new challenges to present to her. So many balls to keep in the air. So. Many. But she does. She may falter along the way. She may doubt herself. A ball may slip here or there. But she’ll catch it, and she will toss that ball back into the ring with grit and gusto. Because she is a circus juggling phenomenon. It IS her circus. It IS her monkeys. She is juggler and ringmaster.

She is every woman.

These are just the given day-in and day-out struggles. She may also find herself going head to head with some of life’s more generous and bountiful gifts…like the gut-wrenching death of a close family member, a debilitating depression following childbirth, a life-altering cancer diagnosis, a messy minefield of a divorce, a 2-headed monster called co-parenting, that famed mid-life crisis she keeps hearing about, a moment of pause when she looks in the mirror and wonders “Who the hell are you…and why didn’t you bring a younger, hotter, bouncier body with you?” The list of hits just keeps coming for her, as she incessantly treads water…both familiar, and not.

But she is every woman.

At times, she will feel inadequate. Alone. Unsuccessful. Terrified. Unqualified. Misunderstood. Taken for granted. Lost. She will join the sisterhood of bathroom hiders, wine soothers, and private sobbers. She will cry it out. Confirm to herself that life is over…that she is all alone. Once she feels she has successfully won this argument with herself (and the wine is gone), she will pull it together. She will regroup, refocus, and reassess the situation. She will understand that balls drop because of the gravity of life. She will wipe her tears and put in check her fears. And then she will realize that she was never, in fact, alone.

Because she is every woman.

She is stronger than she knows. Braver than she feels. Smarter than she thinks. More badass than she believes. And more resilient than she ever thought possible. It is her strength, her bravery, and her brains that will pick up the dropped balls and get them back into her juggling act. But it is her resilience that will restore her confidence after the fall. It is her resilience that will bring her back to her center, back to herself, ringmaster. The American Psychological Association defines resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress. It is the act of “bouncing back” post traumatic event. And bounce back, she will. Each and every time. Back into the ring.

For she is every woman.

Speaking as a mom who has had more than a few balls to juggle, I can attest to the excessive and rotund plumpness of some. For example, the depression after the birth of my extremely premature one-pound son who wasn’t supposed to make it, the doctor’s emotionless newsflash that this very stressful pregnancy would be my last, the impossibly devastating decision to help my baby sister pass in peace after months of suffering on life support, the mid-life crisis complete with a career hop into the medical field (fueled by my sister’s passing) and the struggle of knowing that I had absolutely zero medical knowledge at the time, the ever dreaded breast cancer diagnosis that derailed everything familiar to me for a short time, and even the narrowly escaped divorce. Throw in there raising a beautiful adopted daughter who has challenged everything I thought I knew about life, and you have the new me.

She is me.

The new…older and more tired, yes…but more self-aware, more attuned to my own mental strength, more experienced, more confident, more determined than ever…me. She has learned what she never knew about herself. When faced with adversity, it is our instinct to look externally for strength, for peace, for advice. But true resilience comes from within. She has only to look in the mirror to find what she’s looking for. That woman looking back at her…she has always been there…just past the insecurity and fear. Just past the veil of uncertainty. She is brave. She is strong. She is smart. She is resilient. And the sooner she knows this, the sooner she can get back to her juggling act. Her monkeys are waiting. They are in place…most likely the wrong place. But the show must go on.

And it needs its ringmaster.

She is you. She is me. She is we. And we are resilient.

Juggle on.

Chick Hughes

The damp, dreary black of night, heavy with humidity, mirrors the state her heart. She buries herself under the bundle of bed sheets and blankets as if they shield her from the outside world. The sounds of raindrops dancing on the rooftop aren’t enough to help Madeline sleep tonight. But they never are anymore. She remembers when they were enough to make her forget where she was, even who she was, as she lost herself in the tantalizing tango from above. When they were soft and soothing…her eyelids their puppets as they willed her to sleep. But the rain no longer has that effect on her.

Since he left…every sound, every sensation was a reminder that he was gone. She could no longer disappear dreamily into the rain dance over her head. No longer sway gently in her dreams to the romantic raindrop rendezvous. Now it was different. Now she was a prisoner trapped inside the tango, unable to dance along…being tossed around in the chaos that is her heart. The raindrops and the metal rooftop colliding with heated intention and frustration, building her up only to let her down over and over again in cyclical misery.

There was pain in the rain. Pain in everything, now.

He was her best friend, her soul mate. Though she had never believed in soul mates, her connection with Trey challenged everything she thought she knew to be true. It was one of those things that a girl doesn’t believe in until it stares her square in the eye, stands its ground, and double dares her to doubt. Double dare or not, she did doubt. It wasn’t in her nature not to question. She could no sooner ignore her skepticism than she could stop breathing. So doubt, she did. Her heart and her gut, all the while, whispering to her that he was her soul mate, that the magnitude of this connection could be nothing less. But her brain, more trustworthy, continued to cast doubt with a louder, more authoritative inner voice. Surely she was just clouded by love and infatuation. Surely. How could she have fallen so hard, so quickly? She tried to convince herself that he had fallen just as hard. That he had to be feeling the same thing she felt. And she did for a while. But somehow she knew that her heart would pay the price for the charges her brain kept tallying. And just as she knew it would, the bill had finally come. And it was heftier than she thought. She wasn’t sure she would ever pay it off.

They had met 4 years ago. It was an accidental meeting. Right place, right time. Neither of them was looking. Yet it seemed they were drawn together, as if they were the last two creatures alive. The spark was instant. The flame, inevitable. From the moment they met, she craved more. Each hour spent with him only fed her addiction. She was starving and he was her nutrition. And she was sure she was his. Each time Trey touched her, she felt electricity that she had never known before. Each time he spoke her name, she felt she had never heard it spoken with such command and desire. With every meeting of their eyes, there was his soul…greedily drinking hers in as if his life depended on it. The sound of his voice was intoxicating to her…making her drunk with anticipation. They spent the next 4 years learning everything they could about each other. They needed to know every detail, big or small. Every flaw, or strength. Every humiliating story, or triumph. Every ambition, or disappointment. Every fear. Every laugh. Every turn on. Every turn off. He was the only person on Earth who knew her deepest, most private thoughts…with whom she trusted her innermost self completely. They shared the darkest of secrets they both knew could never be uttered to another living soul. And then there was the sex… When they made love, it felt as if she was more naked than she had ever been. Both physically and emotionally. They connected on a level so transcending, it seemed to defy possibility and mock all of their previous human interactions.

Trey and Maddy had quickly become a dance. When one moved, the other moved. When one reached, the other grabbed hold. They trusted one another with anything. With everything. They seemed to have no choice. Feeling bigger than the two of them, the universe had connected their cores. It had connected their hearts. There was some gravitational pull that kept their souls dancing along to a song only they could hear.

For Maddy, everything made sense with him around. Her purpose. Her existence. Life not only made more sense with Trey. It made her happier than she ever knew she could be. She never imagined something so perfect would ever end. Not really end.

But on a regular Monday, with no forewarning, it did just that.

Suddenly, Trey just disappeared from her life. She didn’t realize this immediately, of course. She called him, sent him flirty texts. But nothing. After days turned into weeks with no response, she became increasingly worried. Increasingly empty.

She did finally get one text from him, but only one. Three words, to be exact.

“I just can’t.”

She tried to talk to him…ask questions, beg for answers. But nothing. She had no idea what had changed. Nothing had happened, nothing she knew of… One day they were dancing along perfectly in sync. And the next, he had left the dance floor.

Time passed.

Trey didn’t call. He didn’t text. No apologies, no reasons, no regrets, no maybe laters, no anything. He just walked away. Why? Had she done something? Had he done something? Why didn’t he say goodbye? To Maddy, this was what hurt the most…the nothingness. Just. Nothing. Everything they had shared, the intense connection that rocked her existence, the love that followed…seemed to mean nothing. She had put her heart, raw and dependent, in his hands, with complete trust and confidence that he would keep it beating. He hadn’t. Everything they had, everything, had vanished.

It took, with it, all of her.

She couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t think. She could only feel. But feeling was too painful…too debilitating.

Her brain had convinced her heart of only one possibility. One possible explanation that flipped her insides upside down, stole her breath, and suffocated her heart with callous malice.

He had never loved her…

The raindrops are getting more intense. Maddy is trapped inside the, now, one person tango that is her heart. Unable to sleep, she tries to make sense of her heartbreak. It never comes. Frustration and loneliness. These are her dance partners now, as she steps on her own toes and falls time and time again. She lies in bed, predicting and dreading each and every treacherous raindrop.

Maddy pulls the cover over her head to escape the rain…to escape the dance…to escape Trey.

The drops are slamming into the rooftop as if begging to be let in. As if the world outside is too intense. And they, like her, need to escape.

The rain continues. The pounding on the rooftop. The pounding on her heart. No peace. No rhythm. No purpose.

She surrenders to the tears that are now refusing to be restrained. To her heart that is refusing to be silenced. Her tears become the rain. Her rain drags on, exhausting her.

And just like that, the rain stops.

The dance is done.

She lies there in the heavy darkness…listening to the silence.

Longing for sleep.

Longing for the dance that once was.
For the music she may never hear again.

Sleep found her…

Maddy woke to the chirps of her resident blue jay. He was at his usual post…a branch nestled inside the towering red maple tree outside her window. His chirps were an insult to the sadness she had committed herself to indefinitely. Damn bird. Damn happiness.

She rolled over to check her phone. Her phone illuminated one single text. From Trey.

“Hi.”

~Chick Hughes

Birthdays are celebrations of life. But even in death, one’s life and memory can be celebrated.  My baby sister would have turned 40 today.  Five years ago, she celebrated her final birthday in a hospital, hanging on to life support.  She left behind her precious kiddos and family who miss her more than she probably ever thought possible.  As my sister and I were learning to juggle kids and family in our 30s, we were also slowly learning to appreciate this complicated dynamic called sisterhood…which had been strained for so many years.  We were only beginning to understand that the little things are just that…little things.  That the big things are what matter…the memories we create, the unwavering support through life’s trials, the understanding that sisters are the ties that bind…no matter the little things.  One summer, just as we were figuring this out, not long before we lost her, Mandy and I took a getaway trip to a casino.  No kids.  Just the two of us.  The first time we had ever done a sister trip, we had more fun than I ever imagined we could together.  It was as if we suddenly remembered what it was like to laugh together, like we were the only two in on a joke.  We hysterically giggled our way through getting lost, losing money on the slot machines, finding that the valet had left our sunroof open for the 2 rain-filled days we were there,  and a very wet ride home on squishy, puddled seats.  We even giggled at our girlish giggling.  I regret that this was the one and only time we ever got away as sisters and left all of life’s noise behind.  Now, there are only memories…memories that make me smile or laugh and, of course, memories in the end that hurt beyond words.  But the real pain lies in the fact that there could have been so many more good ones, given the time.  There were so many things she never got to do, to experience, to see.  I find that with every new experience I have, with every new place I travel, with every new life development…regret finds me…regret that she isn’t here to do it with me.  That she was cheated of so much that life has to offer.  It’s in these moments that the familiar grief washes over me once again.  The loss.  Her loss of watching her children grow, of having grandchildren, of seeing the world, of everything we take for granted.  Her children’s unimaginable loss of having a mother to turn to, to rely on, to love.  My loss of a sister, of a friend, of opportunity to build on a foundation we were just learning we had.  So much loss.

Five years out, the loss is still so tangible.  Today that loss lies in the inability to wish my baby sister a happy birthday on a day we celebrated for so many years.  Her day.  This grief is a roller coaster of memories, tears, and regret.  Regret that instead of birthdays, all I have of her are yesterdays.  But after some thought, I have realized that throughout our life, I never shied away from giving her my two cents, often times two cents more than she wanted.  It may sound silly…it may be silly… but one thing that can live on is my two cents.  The one thing I have left of our sisterhood is that behind closed doors, whenever the mood strikes, I can still talk to her.  She may not answer me with words, but her memory lingers.  Memories of her answer me when she cannot.  So, with that, I’d like to wish her a happy birthday. What I would give to celebrate it with her today.  What I would give to have, with her, birthdays…instead of just yesterdays.

Given the choice of what to watch, I will almost always opt for a documentary.  While watching this particular one, I became captivated…by the family, by the story, by the blemished humanity, by the unconditional love, by the heart.  This story consists of countless layers of love, of dissection, of self analysis, of emotional maturity, of an understanding that one will never fully understand the boundless complexities that love unleashes on humanity.  And yet at the very core of the documentary lies an intelligent attempt to understand what we know we never will.  Watching or reading such stories leaves me hopelessly and passionately in love with the human heart (and all of its infinite capabilities) in a world that so often does the opposite.

Stories We Tell is such an inspiration to the heart.  To love without end.  To overcome without bitterness.  To ceaselessly grow, to endure, and to transcend death.  And to constantly self analyze in an attempt to better understand the heart’s untapped potential.  This film was just that…an attempt that left me in tears, in thought…in love.

The entire documentary is available here:

Stories We Tell

 

~ Chick Hughes

Nothing sparks one’s imagination, evokes one’s emotions, or speaks to one’s soul like a good book.  For both the reader and the writer, the words inspire thought, create passion, and expose vulnerability.

As a reader, I find Eleanor Herman’s Sex With the Queen (a collection of sordid extramarital affairs carried on by some of history’s most highly respected and, as it turns out, sexually starved queens) to be a refreshing reminder of our perfectly imperfect humanity.  With each forbidden frolic recounted by Herman,  I was able to brush up on hundreds of years of risque royal romping outside the marital bedroom.  Not only was I captivated by the author’s nefarious tales of wedded betrayal proving the lengths we, as sexual beings, will go to in order to sate our insatiable appetite for physical intimacy (even when met with certain death as standard archaic punishment)…but I was, once again,  blown away by the sheer power of love itself…an engulfing emotion, a trance-inducing spell, a heart hijacking…prompting us to break rules, breach trust, and bring down marital houses.

As a writer, I was captured by her candidly prefaced description of what it’s like, as an author, to put herself out there (heart and soul) with written words and await the merciless criticism that will likely be hurled in her soul-baring direction…most of which she is willing to withstand if only to reach one reader who – like herself – finds liberating understanding  and literary growth from her writing.  Herman’s sentiments ring true with any writer who has ever written from the heart, unbridled and uncensored.

“Putting a first book out there for the world to read is like standing on a podium naked and asking people to judge you, body and soul.  This is because each book is a clear reflection of its author, her personality, her thoughts and experience, her way of looking at the world. Judgement, therefore, will not only be about her writing, but about…her soul! It is extremely frightening to take that step up to the podium, utterly exposed; the least bit of jiggle, cellulite, or sagging clearly visible to potentially cruel judges.  It is also an exhilarating experience when the judges agree the results are pretty good, and any minor jiggle can be forgiven.” ~ Eleanor Herman

 

To reveal oneself through words is to brave, dwelling within us, the inner inhibiting troll.

To break down walls and relinquish control.

To write from the heart, to bare one’s soul.

To break free from the repressed literary whole.

 

Feel, write, feel, repeat.

~ Chick Hughes

 

It’s been just over a month since the day my sister passed away…August 28th.  “Time of death… 6:37.”  The doctor’s face as she announced this single solitary moment in time will be burned into my memory for each and every future moment hereafter.  Before losing her, I was rarely at a loss for words, ever ready with sarcastic commentary and not easily shaken.  Since that day, however, I’ve tried to write.  Many times.  But each attempt left me overwhelmed with emotion and fumbling for literary dignity … seemingly bound by some invisible force that mocked every word, every thought as undeserving and insignificant.  I could barely think, let alone write.  Perhaps avoiding a mental confrontation with her death.  Perhaps existing in an emotional tailspin void of inspiration.  Perhaps paralyzed by this all-encompassing monster called grief, with which I’m becoming far too familiar.  Whatever the binding excuses were, they now take their rightful and inferior place behind my infinitely stubborn need for analytical dissection.

And dissect, I have.  Having tirelessly studied and analyzed the cutting edge medical treatments she endured and why they couldn’t save her, the agonizing days leading up to her death, how she may or may not have felt, what she may or may not have been thinking, what she may or may not have been aware of, and the excruciatingly final moment in which she slipped away…I am completely lost trying to comprehend an incomprehensible world without her in it.  A world without her won’t-back-down bulldog in-your-face protection of those she loved, a world without her impossibly stubborn know-it-all attitude, a world without the sister I’ve known, loved, hated, fought with, cried with, and turned to my entire life.  A world with no stubborn baby sister with whom to butt heads.

A stubborn streak was one of the few things I had in common with her.  Aside from that, we were different in every way, shape, and form.  And regarding areas we may not have been so different, we were both too damn stubborn to fess up to.

As children, we learned, we played, we experienced, we dealt with life together.  Side by side. Good times and bad.  Triumphs and failures.  Birthdays and fall-outs.  Love and hate.  Protection and rivalry.  Stories and secrets.  These are the things that define sisterhood.  I knew her inside and out, as she did me.  As adults, we just never got along. And if, in some rare weak moment, we found ourselves succumbing to the evils of sisterly amiability, we were quick to rectify it.  But, family is family.  And as two sisters in an incredibly small family circle, she was my constant…and I hers.

So, whether we saw eye to eye or not, whether we laughed together or declared war on the other, whether we stuck together or stuck it to each other, whether we liked it or not…we were a team in this world.

I only wish I’d known that.  Death has this backhanded way of teaching its spectators life lessons while simultaneously revoking any opportunity to act on their newfound knowledge.

After fighting a losing health battle for most of a year, she was, at last, able to receive a surgery that we hoped would change her life.  The adage “be careful what you wish for” comes to mind.   Her surgery proved unsuccessful and resulted in two subsequent surgeries.  Each brought with it more and more challenges for her to overcome as she slowly deteriorated before our eyes.  After the 3rd surgery, she could no longer go on without life support.  Two weeks on the ventilator were met with little success as her lungs progressively worsened and she was diagnosed with ARDS (Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome).  The deterioration of her lungs got the best of the ventilator, and that too began to fail.  So, in addition to the ventilator, she was placed on a machine called ECMO.  A machine we had never before heard of and one that only 6 adult patients had been placed on in the history of the hospital where she was receiving treatment, it was essentially an artificial lung.  A beast of a machine, it removed her blood from her body, filtered out carbon dioxide, oxygenated it, and sent it back into her body.  The doctors referred to it as a medical “last ditch”effort.

This marked a turning point for my sister.  One that rendered her void of responsiveness…one in which she slowly slipped further and further away.

By her side as much as possible, I talked to her, sang to her, yelled at her, made promises to her, begged for her forgiveness, nursed her, cleaned her, treated her to mani-pedis, and learned everything I possibly could about the machines her life depended on.  Machines that never seemed to yield definite answers and only fueled my 101 questions to which doctors responded with evasive non-answers.

After 3 weeks of depending on not one, but two, forms of life support, brain scans revealed scattered bleeds and damage in her brain caused by the continuous pressure of the very thing keeping her with us.  Respiratory medical advances had kept her alive…defeated death…but the side effects of said advances would produce the same outcome.  Through the weeks of poking, prodding, tests, and unknown pain that we subjected her to, we thought we were saving her.  That we were prolonging her life.  As it turns out, what we were actually doing was prolonging her death…I suspect subconsciously we needed time to come to terms with what was happening.  Time to process the inevitable.  We each needed our own journey of acceptance before we could come together as a family and set her free.  Without meaning to, we were stripping her of her last wishes, her dignity, her right to pass on in peace.  She was facing hurdles impossible to climb.  Her body was worn down.  Her lungs had given up.  Her brain had paid the price.  The time to fight had come and gone.  It was time to give her what she needed most…peace.

Time to turn off the machines, to let her go.

Coming to this conclusion mentally is a vicious internal battle fought by each family member…one that precedes the actual war.  Giving up on hope.  Ending a life.

Heart-wrenching in theory.  Unimaginable in execution.

Being present for the death of someone you love is something one is never prepared for…and something that forever changes a person, I believe.  As a family, being forced into a decision to remove life support from one of its own grossly extends the limits of any manageable emotion, any possibility of soothing, or any realm of rationale.

As her last moments approached, I was by her side, as were my parents and brother.  We were circled around her as she left our family for whatever awaited her.  As a family who rarely (or, in fact, had never) gathered in one place at one time, there we were…sewn together at the hip by family ties, to see her through.  Through her battles with the life support that would eventually take her from us, through her last physical struggles, through her last moments of consciousness, through her last gasps of breath…we held her hand.  Or maybe she was the one holding our hands, easing us into acceptance of what she knew to be her fate.  Inches from her face, I sang to her, pledged my love to her, apologized for regrets I will never be able to undo, cried into her hand, and rubbed her face as the machines were turned off, as she took her last breath, as our tears drenched her lifeless body.  We were allowed more time with her after her passing…to hold her, to clean her, to look at her face one last time…before she was taken out of our lives forever.  Her struggle was over.  But ours was just beginning.

I still wonder what her thoughts were, if any.  What she could feel, if anything.  What she was aware of, if anything.  Did she know we were gathered around her?  Could she feel our love, our regret, our tears?  Hoping, hoping, hoping that she did.  Yet, hoping she felt nothing as she peacefully drifted off to sleep for the last time.  And wrestling with the knowledge that we couldn’t have it both ways.

Watching my baby sister leave this world was…

Truthfully, I don’t know how to end that sentence.  There just aren’t words that do the experience justice.  The love, the pain, the fear, the regret, the loss, the guilt, the realization that a piece of me which was never appreciated enough, never spoken to enough, never loved on enough,  is gone forever ~ no do-overs, no make-ups, no second chances.  Just gone.

Game over.  Nobody wins.

All that’s left is grief.

A monster whose reputation I have only heard horror stories about until recently.  A monster who comes with unthinkable force, obliterates its victims, and leaves quietly, only to plot its next debilitating bodily invasion.  A monster one can only straddle like a bucking horse gone mad, ride out its fury, climb down from, and wait…with one eye open, dreading its return.

A monster I have now gone toe to toe with…

As I mourn the loss of my sister, as I try to cherish her life, as I gather every precious, and previously unappreciated, memory of her I can scrape from the depths of my mind for my emotional consumption…as I struggle to make sense of her very short and difficult life…as I continue to straddle the monster that is grief ~ wild, terrifying, and unpredictable…

I hold on tight and hope the monster tires soon.

And to my sister, I say…You are forever a piece of my heart.

I love you.

I love you.

I love you.

 

~ Chick Hughes

photo by: puFFin2006

~ Refined and reposted from 2011 archive

Ok, admittedly, I’m not a huge fan of Valentine’s Day.  Ever ornery, I resent being guilted into expressing my love by corporate greeting card money whores.  Forced to say “I love you” their way…on their day.  Everywhere I look…cheesy cards, heart-shaped candy, and the foolproof red rose…guaranteed to make her shed her clothes.  Apparently.  “V” day could possibly be the most pressure inducing holiday of the year.  He’s feeling the squeeze to romance her, lest she be the only “unloved” girl alive who will secretly plan her vengeance on some random day when he feels all is right with his all too romantically challenged little world .  And, in appreciation for his romantic efforts, she feels pressured to give it up, lest he be the only “unlucky” guy alive, who will surely wither under the duress of an under-utilized appendage.  He’s sprung for dinner and a gift…and he’s sprung yet again.

Forced to stalk the aisles ablaze with red and pink lovin’ necessities, we buy (literally) into the holiday hype for fear our sweetie will feel unlucky in love. Scrambling frantically, and at the last minute, through hundreds of replicated pledges of love, we’re mere puppets at the greedy hand of the greeting card industry.  Five bucks to express someone else’s feelings and look the other way when the moment has passed and those feelings are tossed into the trash?  Creativity is dead, it seems.  A homemade card created from the heart is not only more romantic…it’s a thoughtful one-of-a-kind gesture, and you can be sure that thousands of other people aren’t pretending to love the same exact “gesture” while wondering if their heartthrob searched for hours on end or just grabbed the card nearest the exit route from the store. But hey, if retail giants say these token mass produced impersonal gifts will get you laid, who am I to argue?

But I do.

If cards, candy, and flowers were sure to set his sheets on fire with hot lovemaking (which is the true motive behind his romantic whim), you can bet the calendar would be inundated with more dreamt up “romantic” holidays.  One competing with the next on its panty dropping ability.  Men everywhere would make a daily pit stop at the local corner store to stock up on the “sure thing” card, candy, flower trifecta.  The male consumer population would redefine the term “convenience store.”   A quickie mart for the quickie smart.  😉

Obviously love is more complicated than that.  While it’s nice to be romanced on Valentine’s Day, we want to feel loved, supported, and appreciated every day of the year.  After all, there are 364 more opportunities to show affection…and to get some.  Attentive appreciation provides all the ammo our sweeties need to combat those 364 days chock-full of life’s not-so-welcome little surprises.  Fickle and unforgiving, life is unpredictable on a good day, hostile on a so-so day, and a downright bitch on a bad day.  Presented with twists and turns, ins and outs, ups and downs, we come face to face with everything life throws our way.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.  And through it all, we want to know that our one and only will stand by our side.  That we can depend on that love, rain or shine.  Dependability plays a vital role in relationship success and is rated one of love’s most valuable commodities.  We want assurance that the one we love is there to catch us when life tosses us aside.  We want more than a lover.  We want a best friend.

Studies show that the happiest and most successful couples are also best friends.  A best friend is there when life is good…dancing and playing alongside us in life’s blindingly sunny rays of happiness.  A best friend is there when life is hostile…showing us a single ray of sunshine amid life’s ominous rain clouds.  And, most importantly, a best friend is there when life is a bitch…standing right there beside us providing shelter in the eye of the storm.  And when that storm passes, a best friend dances with us in the puddles, dries us off, and helps us move on.

On life’s sunniest and stormiest of days…we want a shoulder to cry on, a friend to rely on, and a lover to get it on.

No more holiday hype.

On Valentine’s Day, on a good day, on a bad day, on THIS day…be the best friend your sweetie needs.

Say “I love you” your way…every day.

 

Chick Hughes

Love when love doesn’t come easy.  🙂

Love is a merciless cycle with more white knights and horses’ asses than a mall carousel.  And there’s no getting off.  We woo, become two, screw…and someone says “we’re through.”  A heart is broken.  Tweet and Repeat.  When soaring high amid the heart-shaped clouds of Cupid’s fleeting bliss, the heart pays no mind to Newton’s Law of Physics.  But once the “gravity” of a breakup hits us, we have no choice but to free fall and come crashing down on Newton’s grim prediction… “What goes up must come down.”  If only we didn’t have to “come down” on a bed of meticulously filed, dagger sharp nails piercing not only the heart, but our entire body…one gut-wrenching teardrop at a time.  Turning us into a human shish kabob all too eager to throw ourselves onto a flaming grill and end our bleeding heart misery.  Supposedly, the pain we feel is only heartache.  But in actuality, the pain of a broken heart hurts everywhere.  Does it not?  When the object of our affection personally digs a great divide into the heart we’ve given them, we feel physical pain.  Inexplicable pain that no amount of “There’s lots of fish in the sea” or “That jerk didn’t deserve you” band-aids can cover up.  We’re “stuck on” the ex.

Screw the band-aid!  Anyone up for a tirade?

A broken heart leaves us coiled up in the fetal position crying hopelessly, cursing Stupid Cupid, and threatening to shove that magically sharpened arrow up his virginal baby smooth bare tuckus.  Rejection has a tendency to breed cynicism, no?  But baring the fangs of our inner cynic is a human knee-jerk reaction to the security breach of our too-vulnerable heart.  And usually the only retaliation we get.  The heart is our lifeline.  It pumps life into our body.  Broken heart, broken body.  And our body feels that break mentally, emotionally, AND physically.

So yes, love hurts!

But why?

Scientists studied party-pooping participants who were recently dumped, so the pain was fresh and frenzied.  The lucky lotto winners had their brains picked apart and studied by modern technology.  Brain activity was monitored while enduring physical pain from being burned with a hot probe.  And then again while enduring emotional pain from gazing upon a picture of the ex and regaling the experimenter with the low-down on how they were dumped.

FUN and FUN!

Though beneficial for the furthering of science, the details of the study beg the question:

WTF did these poor souls get paid for their participation?  Enough to pay for fallout therapy or just enough to drown the pain in Jose Cuervo, pass out, and send Jose packing down the porcelain throne?  First class ac’commode’ations.

Poor souls aside…what they found was that our brains don’t discriminate based on race, sex, religion, hypocrisy, emotional dismemberment, or a slashing from Jack the Ripper.  When it comes to pain, the human brain is all-encompassing.  These studies show that intense emotional pain activates the same neural pathways in our brains as physical pain.  So whether we suffer emotional or physical misery, our brains can’t differentiate.  We simply feel pain.  No wonder a broken heart is so crushing and debilitating.  We don’t know if we’ve been dumped off or bumped off.

Nor do we care.

So why doesn’t the brain distinguish between emotional and physical pain?  Because evolutionarily speaking, being alone is bad for business.  Experts suggest that we evolved to feel actual pain at separation to prevent our demise.  Many, many years ago, we were roaming the predatory wild and needed to avoid becoming an all-u-can-eat buffet for beastly, dragon-breath patrons.  In order to survive, we needed a buddy…a partner…a more appetizing distraction to enable our getaway, just in case a patron is doubly ravenous.  Being alone was dangerous.  So our brains evolved to send physical warnings to our bodies when we found ourselves all alone in the world.  Warnings in the form of pain.  Ouch!

Pair…or Beware!  😉

This is why we suffer so much when rejected…not only by a lover, but by our peers as well.  We know that as long as we fit in and blend in, we’re a shoo-in for survival.  We have an innate animal instinct to survive.  At all costs.  So when we find ourselves staring down the barrel of rejection with our one and only’s finger on the trigger, we hurt as if we’ve taken the literal bullet.  The realized risk of solitude and slaughter triggers a primitive fear that manifests itself as physical pain.  Our minds have convinced our bodies that rejection is more like dissection.  When cast aside, our protective layers are peeled away and our vulnerable insides picked away.  So, like every good romance story perpetuates, Together…GOOD…Alone…BAD!  There’s an old adage:  “The best way to get over an old love is to find a new one.” Out with old…in with the new.  Once we find a new love, we have a partner to brave the wilds with.  We’re no longer alone…no longer at risk.  We are two!  Over you.

All is good.

But in true cyclic form, and as Newton predicted, we’ll inevitably come crashing down and feel the physical pain of rejection once again.

And when we do…we can drown our pain at the end of lonely street at Heartbreak Hotel, where the hearts bleed and the tears flow.  Or…we can claim that vacancy at the Bates Motel, where the showers beckon…and the psychos bludgeon.  We won’t know the difference…apparently.  Pain is pain…to the brain.

Hotel? Motel?

Love is Hell!

Chick Hughes

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.” ~ Winston Churchill

viavector

French kissing.  Tongue wrestling.  Face sucking.  Lip Locking.  Spit swapping.  Whatever your term selection for tonguing affection,  kissing is the shiznit, no?  An upper persuasion for a lower invasion, as they say.  If romance movies have taught us anything, it’s that a knee weakening, head dizzying, passionate tongue tango is all the erotic prodding a sexy pair of undies needs to head south for a breather.  But on the flip side, experience has taught us that a knee locking, spark-free spit exchange void of palpable passion…

Well, the undies will never know, will they?  😉

We’re all looking for a home run when it comes to sex…but all the bases must be touched to get there.  And, who’s on first? Why, the kiss, of course.  Without the success of a hot sultry kiss, the batter is as likely to get to second base as an inebriated Homer Simpson sporting not-so-tighty whities and shoelaces tied together.  Three strikes be damned!  He’s out!

Kissing is the universal language of love.  A must – or bust!  But why?  In a society obsessed with Germ-X and antibacterial redi wipes, why do we kiss in the first place?  Going to such great lengths to protect our delicate hands from icky germs, but tongue probing the unknown bacterial depths of the infamous dirty mouth?

We have our reasons…however manipulative they may be.

As with everything else relationship, men and women speak a different language when it comes to kissing.  Both have subconscious biologically driven motives for the kiss.  Both use it to get what they want.  And both just down right love it.  It’s the sex before the sex, right?  But that’s where the similarities end.  As usual, men are straight forward.  As his tongue does the persuading, he’s already “pointing” to what he wants.  She, on the other hand, is persuading with her tongue, but keeping what she wants a mystery to him.  Nothing new there, huh?

Our ulterior motives are devilishly different.  And we’ve perfected the kiss as a tool to meet those motives.  One way or another, we’re in it to win it…whether “it” is sex, connection, or long-term bond.  We kiss for a reason.  When first getting to know someone, we have no idea if he/she would make a good sex partner.  We need to test the waters before leaping in.  Evaluate his/her mating potential.  So we let our tongues do the stalking.  😉

We kiss to:

Assess a mate ~  Both sexes kiss to evaluate a mate.  According to experts, the moment our lusty mouths meet, a very complex exchange of information begins to unfold…a sort of titillating tongue talk.  Our saliva and and breath are packed with pheromones and other biochemical signals telling us whether we’re genetically compatible…and give us clues on the health of our possible bed buddy.  We’re literally taste testing the merchandise.  Are they worthy of breeding?  Should we pursue the screw?  Do we rev our engines and step on the gas…or get out of the car altogether.  Without the “spark,” there’s no heat.  And a kiss tells us instantly whether there’s a spark.  We’re biologically driven to perpetuate the species.  So if we’re not genetically compatible, the body knows.  Result:  Kiss OFF!

Monitor the bond ~ This one belongs solely to the ladies.  Once we’ve decided the taste test is a success, we continue to lay it on him in hopes of raising his oxytocin level, which will -in turn – make him bond with us.  We want the bond because we know once we procreate, we need him to stick around and help with child rearing.  Then once we’ve sealed the bond, we further use the kiss to gauge the status of the relationship.  We’re in constant assessment mode, and use the tongue as a love thermometer.  Is he still committed?  Still hot for me?  Losing interest?  Not feeling it anymore?  Does he love me, or love me not?  As Cher put it, It’s in his kiss!

Score some booty ~ Men pucker up for the obvious reasons…sex, sex, and more sex.  Perfectly evolved mating machines, they use the kiss to get her hot and bothered.  To lure her to down ‘n’ dirty town.  The kiss is bait.  Sex…the prize.  Scientists say trace amounts of testosterone are found in his saliva and are passed on via the kiss to get her in the mating mood.  Instinctively he knows that stimulating her very sensitive lips and tongue will also stimulate her lower regions.  He also uses the kiss to help him determine how good the sex will be.  To let him know how receptive she is to mating.  He subconsciously perceives her level of wetness and salivary exchange during the kiss as a representation of her sexual receptivity during actual intercourse.  Is she hot, or not?  Ready, or not?  Research shows that men feel kissing should lead to sex.  Thank god for modern research!  😉  We may never have figured that one out on our own.  A hot lingering wet kiss means one thing to him.  Go ahead.  Lay it on him…he’ll rise to the occasion every time.

It seems the subconscious mind has us kissing for reasons we may or may not be aware of.  We’re cunning little kissers, no?  But aside from the drive to mate and bond, we kiss because we like it.  Because it’s fun.  Because it’s teasingly erotic and Oh so romantic.  And because…

Oh, who are kidding?  We want sex.

But when it comes to the kiss, ponder this.  Are there good kissers and bad kissers?  Or are the ones we perceive as bad simply not genetically compatible with us…therefore a sexual union not beneficial to the propagation of the species?  Are we nothing more than pawns in the game of banging biology?  Or do we make our own lip smacking rules?

Kiss or miss…

Get your tongues in a twist and find out.

Happy tonguing!

Chick Hughes

“A kiss that speaks volumes is seldom a first edition.” ~Clare Whiting

 

Saying “I do” … $20,000.  First twirl of the “virginal” lily white gown around the dance floor as husband and wife … $3000.  That dreamy oblivious newlywed stare as guests gorge on cake and romance… $1000.  One hell of a honeymoon night romp… $2000.

That sex-starved post-dreamy glazed over look of defeat after several years of marital reality…priceless.

A wedding day is pure bliss… So enjoy.

Quickly! …going, going…gone.

Weren’t those 24 hours worth every penny?  They say words are cheap…clearly, whoever said that never priced the words “I do.”

Now that the wedding is yesterday’s event, welcome to the marriage.  The two are not only opposites…but archenemies.  One promising eternal bliss.  The other proving to be a total diss.  One starring the happy couple.  The other starring the tantrum-prone offspring.  One boasting the price tag of a stellar college education.   The other roasting the price tag of 2 kids + college education.  WTF??   One teasingly offering frequent sex, shameless flirting, and permanent googly eyes.  The other delivering rare nookie, shameless averting, and loveless rolling of the eyes.  At some point every marriage departs from the land of the “dreamy” and enters the land of the “dreary.”  Such is the path life cruelly steers marriage down.  The sex dwindles and takes a back seat to…well, everything.  Who has time, right?

The once “sho” thing is now a “no” thing.  But sex is vital to the health of marriage.  It’s a deal maker and a deal breaker.

So, why IS sex so important…aside from the obvious?

~ Sex is a basic physical need ~

We physically need sexual release…our biology demands it.  And who are we to argue with biology?  It’s the one thing that draws us to the opposite sex…the only thing men and women have in common…aside from the ability to “release” multiple times.  Oh, wait…nope,  my mistake.  🙂  Sex is what brings us together to begin with, right?  We certainly don’t go looking for a mate to celebrate our celibacy needs…have a “burning of the condoms” rally.  First and foremost, we’re drawn to a partner to satisfy the howling horndog that dwells within.  And yes, consequently, we fall hopelessly in love.  But love is simply a result of satisfying those needs.  Sex releases a chemical into our brain giving us “That Lovin’ Feeling.” So, no sex…no love!  We marry because we ARE in love.  But let’s face it…without our pushy libido running the show, we never would have paired up and gotten married in the first place.  It IS the driving force behind our union.  The dirty ulterior motive behind the elegance and romance of the exchanging of the wedding vows.

We spend more money on the “big” day than is conscionable.  Why?  Because on this day, we’re forking over mega moola to say, “Hey!  I like banging her.  She’s mine, and no one else can have her.”  Or him.  We’re horny stingy overgrown kids at heart…MINE, MINE, MINE!  And sharing…out of the question!  So, part of this union deal is monogamy.  No extracurricular banging allowed!  Once married, we rely solely on our hottie of choice to fulfill our biological sexual needs “until orgasmic death do us part.”  Routine sex is the unspoken insinuation of “I do.”  And frankly, it’s the reason men put up with the rest of marriage’s shenanigans.  Sure, they love us…but without the dirty to keep them invested, they will meander off the marital path.  And honestly, so will we.  Women want it as much as men do…ok, so maybe not AS much.  🙂  But if it slacks off, trouble brews.  And if it, dare I say, ceases altogether…all bets are off.  All wedded promises null and void.  The irony?  After one day’s overpriced hoopla to celebrate the union and say “I love you,” a simple piece of paper suffices to say, “My bad…hit the road Jack.”

~ Sex is an intimate emotional need ~

We communicate through sex, through touch, through sensation.  We express love, desire, and affection…all through sex.  We reaffirm that love with every tender caress, every sweet kiss, every screaming orgasm.  Sex leaves us feeling exhilarated, desired, and alive.  Who doesn’t want to be an object of desire?  So, if our spouse doesn’t want us, we take a major hit to our self esteem.  We feel rejected, unloved, unattractive.  And we begin to doubt our sex appeal, doubt our sweetie’s sex appeal, and doubt “us.”  Human beings need affection.  We crave it…thrive on it.  It’s the language of love.  With it we can say, “I love you.  Can’t get enough of you.  Do me now!”  Or we can say… “Nah… I’ll pass.”

Ouch!

We don’t want to be with someone who makes us doubt ourselves.  Our ego won’t stand for that at all…and will convince us we don’t have to either.  You can bet we listen up when our ego speaks.  It’s our inner Gandhi!  Respected and revered.

~ Sex keeps us CONNECTED ~

Marriage is a river of problems.  From romance to finance.  From kiddos to low blows.  From families to failures.  Our only hope of crossing that river and surviving its treacherous waters is to join together and form a bridge.  An interlocking connection that will lead us safely to the other side.  If we don’t come together, interlock our pieces, and stay connected…we’re left with no means of crossing that river of problems.  And the only recourse will be divorce.

Our bridge is sex.

Sex is connection…a marital lifeline that bonds us.  So, if the sex fades, intimacy fades.  No more touching, hand holding, kissing, snuggling, talking, confiding, …No more anything.  Connection broken.  Bridge blown to pieces.  No way across.

Successful marriage is an endangered institution.  Sustaining it requires connection.  Connection requires sex.

So be proactive.  Change your world.

Bang!  🙂

Chick Hughes

“Sex is an emotion in motion” ~ Mae West