Tuesday, January 13, 2015

How to Fall in Love in Four Easy Steps

Wow, you clicked on that link. It's hard to believe you're that gullible. It's hard to believe anyone is that gullible. But hey, you clicked on it, and for better or worse, now you're here. Let's see if we can't at least make it worth your while.

Truth is, I want you to fall in love. Thankfully I know how to teach you to fall in love. Even more thankfully, I'm going to share. Not some ridiculous Hollywood version of falling in love. Not the love-that's-only-love-till-the-lust-runs-out. I'm talking real, honest-to-goodness, lost your footing at the precipice of "us" and fell into a lifelong, identity-altering, love.

It's not romantic unless you want it to be. I'm not talking about the love that winds up with two people happily married, at least, not necessarily. You want that to still be a choice, right? This is about intentionally falling into love, the kind of love that makes both parties better for having taken the plunge. What you do after that is your business.

I want you to find the love you already have, hopefully abundantly. It's the kind of love you have for your family, your spouse, your close friends. But why stop there? Why just love the people you're supposed to? What if you could love everyone? What if you at least tried?

The cardinal rule of falling in love is a double sided coin - you are going to devote yourself to the task of leaving the other person better than you found them, and you are going to give them every opportunity to do the same for you. In other words, the central tenet of falling in love is to realize that more often than not it's going to be a very short drop - a very short, potentially life-altering drop.

Step 1: The Importance of Being Ernest

Each step has six fundamental questions. You should be able to answer all the questions for a step in a conversation of about 20 minutes. So, if things go well, in roughly one hour and four minutes, you'll find yourself mid free-fall. Feel free to take the time if you have it, but be intentional. Falling in love is largely about ensuring that you and the Other feel good, and feeling good has the unfortunate property of being disappointingly transient. The best way for anyone to feel good is to feel clever, witty, creative, and surprising; terribly few of us are capable of feeling that way for long.

The main goal to step 1 is to establish something, anything to answer the following six questions:

  • What is something that makes people important to the Other?
  • What is something that the Other believes is an ideal outcome or chain of events?
  • What is something the Other sees about themselves in the future?
  • What is something that makes the Other feel?
  • What is something the Other appreciates or regrets about their past?
  • What is something the Other would change about themselves or their life?
Do not, I repeat, do not ask these questions directly. If the Other mentions they don't really like their boss, ask if they've ever had a good boss and what made them a good boss. If the Other mentions the traffic was bad and made them late, ask what their favorite route home is, or the city they most like to drive around in. If they mention it was a long day, ask them how long they think their long days are going to last, and what they look forward to doing when the long days are behind them.

The key here is to just find something about how they view themselves past, present and future, a way they measure people, a way they measure ideals, and the kinds of feelings they're quick to share.

If you get good at being this kind of intentional, you'll find it's nearly second nature. I can get through the bulk of these questions while I check out at the grocery store or while I'm ordering from a waitress. Yes, I completely, 100%, wholeheartedly recommend falling in love with your grocery store clerk and waitress. And the receptionist at the hotel you're checking into in the city you will never again visit, and the nurse taking your blood for your yearly physical, and your car salesperson, and the guy who's tearing out your sheetrock after your laundry room floods, and the random person responding your latest tweet.

It's a common misconception that you have to be charming or clever or attractive to fall in love. Ridiculous. Everyone wants to feel important. Everyone wants to connect.

Make step 1 your standard way of interacting with human beings. Listen for their somethings. Share your own somethings. Make sure to repeat their somethings so they know you were listening to their somethings. Be gracious when they let you know they were listening to yours.

Are you falling yet? I know I am.

Step 2: The Real Thing

Each step has six fundamental questions designed to peal away the layers of self we build up around our real selves. The somethings in step 1 aren't the real somethings, they're just some somethings. Step 2 is about uncovering the real somethings. Yes, you can get to real somethings in 20 minutes. Just understand, you're about to reveal your own in that same span of time. It's almost scary to consider, and you haven't even seen the questions yet.
  • What does the Other most value about something?
  • What does the Other most want to do / know / be / change?
  • What is the one thing the Other could never forget?
  • Who does the Other love?
  • What does the Other think about love?
  • What does the Other think about you?
Do not, I repeat, do not answer any question from any step about yourself until you're asked. You are almost certainly the best gift they've gotten in the past 5 minutes. Let them unwrap you. A snake nut can is a prank, not a gift. 

It's okay to push the question a bit. They may not necessarily be asking about love directly, but you can hint that you have a good relationship with your brother. Let them discover you; show them how to discover you by discovering them.

Step 2 isn't about getting to know everything about the Other. It's about getting to know a few very select, very important facts as deeply as they can be known in a relatively short time. And if you think about it, we all want to share these things. Any time we get to share any one of these things we almost instantly feel connected to the Other. Isn't that funny, we all assume it works the other way, but it turns out we're wrong.

Most of us wait months or years before sharing any one of these questions with someone else. What if you only waited about a half hour? Wouldn't you feel surprisingly good about that half hour? Wouldn't you feel surprisingly good if you let someone else feel that surprisingly good over the same half hour?

Isn't it a little ridiculous how easy it is to fall? Isn't it a little ridiculous how little we do it given how easy it is? Let's fall more.

Step 3: A Crazy Little Thing Called "Us"

Yeah, I know, not a famous play by a famous playwright - what of it? Maybe it's not a famous play yet; maybe you're about to become a famous playwright.

Each step has six fundamental questions that are specifically about identity and perception. The ultimate goal is to be a functional catalyst for transformative change in the life of the Other, and to simultaneously empower them to be the same for you. Falling in love changes you, changes them, by creating, for at least a little while an "us" that is more important, more valuable, more just-plain-stinkin'-awesome than either of you could ever hope to be. And it's that "us" that sticks with you and them, it's the "us" that ultimately can transform you into something better than "you". If that doesn't scare the pants off you, I don't know what could.
  • What does the Other think about us?
  • What does the Other most want to share with the people close to them?
  • What does the Other need me to know about them? What do they need to know about me?
  • How is the Other broken?
  • What can't the Other let go of? Who can't the Other let go of?
  • How does the Other feel about you? How does the Other think you feel?
Do not, I repeat, do not balk at these questions. Thoughts and desires and needs and feelings are the fundamental building blocks of identity. If you want to fall in love, and I really desperately hope that you do, then you have to be intentional about digging these blocks out of the shell of the human across the table from you. And you have to let them dig around in the wretched mass of flesh you've become as well. You have to take all those squishy flesh blocks and dump them on the table and mash them around. Mash them together until you can't remember which bits belonged to whom.

And when you've mashed them around until they've blended together, paint the fucking walls with it. Spread your mashed up feelings and thoughts and wants all over the walls and ceiling and floor. Smear it on each other. Make everything you can see for as far as you can see all about "us".

Terrifying, I know. But that wasn't the scary part. That was just the warm up for the scary part. The sloppy, squishy dry run for the really scary part. It's so scary I'm even stalling about writing it...

Step 4: Shut the Door, Open the Window

Fine, yes, I've totally given up on famous plays. I hate the whole "When God closes a door, he opens a window" thing. It's a trite thing, it's a horrible thing, but it's not the scary thing. I'm saying all this to keep stalling. You might think I'm just being silly, but I can't begin to explain to you my fear of writing. I've been writing on this blog for around 10 years, and if you'd seen the things I've seen, you'd be terrified of writing terrifying things too.

I lied. There are no questions in step 4. There aren't six of them, not even one. You just have to do one thing. But you have to do that one thing for 4 minutes. Set a timer on your phone if you have to. Four long, terrifying, excruciating minutes. Don't stop and start over. No excuses. If you're going to fall, if you really intend to fall in love, do this one thing for 4 uninterrupted minutes.
  • Look into the Other's eyes.
Do not, I repeat, do not look away. Don't even think about it. Don't talk, don't say a word. Don't hum, don't whistle. If you've done the other steps in the last hour, I'm going to go out on a limb here and tell you that you'll be doing good if you remember to breathe. You're here to fall in love right?

Yeah, you're not going to be able to do this at the counter while you're ordering a double burger with bacon and provolone. Let's be honest, you're going to get to do this a tiny, tiny handful of times in your life, and that's if you live a really long and really lucky life.

Do not, I repeat, do not ever pass up the opportunity to look into someone else's eyes for 4 straight minutes. Entire lifetimes can pass in those 4 minutes. Seasons will pass. Things passing will pass. Those things you knew you could never let go of... you'll have a hard time remembering what they were. All that brokenness - those are just new windows to look out of after you've climbed into the first two. 

And you won't believe what you're going to find when you stare long enough to get past all the awkwardness and discomfort and goofy smilies and eyebrow adjustments. When your palms have gone past clammy, past some sort of strange water production, to suddenly not even existing. When time stops and reverses a tiny bit, just long enough that you start to wonder if you're collapsing or gravity just turned off or turned up or flipped over, but somehow just the gravity around your stomach, or is that your appendix, you really should have payed attention in Biology, I bet she payed attention in Biology. I bet she pays attention to everything. I bet she... oh God, she's paying attention to me.

It will click, you'll almost hear the sound. It will break somewhere in the back of your head. The tape. The tape with all the voices. Maybe it snaps. Maybe they finally have mercy and just press the stop button. But it will stop. Everything will stop. You won't be falling any more. You'll have fallen; you'll have stopped. You'll have landed squarely in what can only be described as "in love." And you'll do what everyone does when they've finished falling and finally find they've stopped. You'll turn around...

And find yourself.

Friday, September 26, 2014

if

if there were no God, if i had not met Him and talked with Him and walked with Him, if He had never bothered to reveal Himself to me and through me, if on the day i met You i had no idea that there was even a place for such a thing, i would have invented one. if there were no God, i would have created one the moment You entered my life. i would have needed something to thank, something to worship, simply for bringing You about.


You are no accident. me? sure, i can buy that a few amoebas got together a few billion years ago and 1, 2, skip a few, here i am. but You? You have fingerprints all over You. You are designed. and not just the sort of designed that implies You were thrown together last minute for the fashion show. that God i would have but didn't have to invent clearly took time in designing You. You are so simple and at the same time so complex, so fundamentally elegant. not just mechanically, not just physically and emotionally and mentally, but in everything that makes You "You". in Your very core, from the depths of You to every facet, You are beautiful. 

even if He were not so, i would have to call this God "Perfect". given thousands of millions of billions of years, i could not, with every resource and force and particle and interaction, come anywhere close to designing You. me? sure, i can buy a decent set of lincoln logs and a bottle of wood glue and get pretty damn close to me. but You are deeply mysterious, thoroughly fantastic, bordering on the miraculous. 

that's what i would have to call You - "Miraculous". You are simply unexpected. and not just once, not just the first time i encountered You. every time You're near You are surprising. i would have to call it "Love", Him "Love", that a God capable of creating You would deign to let me cross paths with this, with You, with His fantastic creation.  i would call it "Love" that He would drop You into my life. i would call "Heaven" wherever He dropped You from. i would desperately want to go there. i would desperately want to go there with You, with Him, with Us.

if there were no God, there would have been one the day i met You. i would fashion Him with my own hands; i would demand the existence of something, anything that could explain You. 

yet, this is the truth You so clearly outline. i could never have made You. i could never have made the God that designed You, that created You. i could never have made this. i could never have made this Us.

if i did not believe there was a God, You would have convinced me i was wrong. there is no world, no plane of existence, no parallel universe where i could be in Your presence and deny that i was in God's as well.

i wish that You could meet You. i wish that You could see in Yourself what is so clear to me. i wish that You could see how loudly You scream, how clearly You cry out, the glory of the Creator.

i wish that You would meet Him. i wish that You would see in Him what is so clear to me. i wish that You would see how loudly He screamed, how clearly He cried out...

I Love You

Monday, September 22, 2014

Real Good Thing

A year can be a silly thing. I'm not sure why I feel the need to celebrate its passing. I don't often. I'm not particularly crazy about my birthday. New Year's Eve is my least favorite holiday. I almost never notice the odometer flipping over in my car. I'm not sure why it makes such a big difference to mark a particular spot on the earth's orbit as any better than any other.

But sometimes logic needs to take a back seat to sentimentality, and when it does, we make something special of the way the sun looks and the wind blows and the temperature shifts. Some days are special because of the thing that happened once and didn't happen again. Some days are worth celebrating because they aren't the day they were a year ago.

Last year about this time I was fighting for my life. Actually, not true - last year about this time several other people were fighting for my life, some with medicine, some with prayer. I was breathing shallowly on a respirator while a Christmas tree of antibiotics and other sundry drugs were pumped into the nearly lifeless shell that a few days later I was able to reclaim as my body.

And this past Saturday, to commemorate the fight that others so selflessly took up as their own when I could not, I strolled into the hospital to see if anyone I recognized was around.

I didn't take flowers. No chocolates or cupcakes or thoughtfully composed notes. I didn't wear a celebratory hat. No kazoos or trumpets or noise makers of any kind. Believe me, I would have gladly taken any of those things (except the trumpets); I wished for all of that and more. But that wasn't the purpose of the visit; those would have been things to hide behind.

As great fortune would have it, Bethany, Danielle, and Kaitlin were in the ICU and Venus was in the wing where I recovered after I could stand. Just to refresh, so there's no need to read the documentary of last year's event in all its ten thousand word glory, Bethany spent two days caring for me on the ventilator, Danielle assembled the team of teams of doctors that ultimately saved my life, and Kaitlin held my hand through the worst pain I've ever endured. Venus, was my nurse a few times during my recovery. We talked then about puzzles her son might enjoy, and he has apparently become quite proficient with the Rubik's cube since then.

It was not fun, I'm embarrassed to admit. I didn't enjoy it as much as I hoped I would. In fact, I didn't enjoy it at all. I smiled and hugged and joked, but that was definitely not a place I wanted to be.

So why go back at all? I've already said my thank-yous. There's only so thankful anyone cares for you to be. Thank you the first time is sweet, the second time is a bit annoying. So why go back?

I've been asking myself that question for a while. I didn't want to go back. Why did it seem so important to celebrate an anniversary when I don't care for celebrating or anniversaries? Why in the world would I throw a part of my life back into focus when I would rather move on?

I don't remember Danielle from when I first got to the ICU, but she's one of my first memories waking up. "Do you remember me?" That's an interesting question, isn't it? It implies something - she remembered me. Now, clearly she didn't have to struggle much to remember the last patient she had had just a few days before. But still, that's an interesting question. It carries with it the soft sweet smell of hope, of connection.

I remembered Blaire in wisps of memories from before, but she came by after I woke up as well. She didn't have to, but she did, just to check up on me. I remember she tied her shoe while she talked to me. She didn't stay long; I didn't even have her whole focus. Staying long isn't the point. She came by.

You see, what made these people special, what made me feel special, wasn't how well they did their jobs. I know what should be most important is that they played their part in saving my life, but it's just not. What still to this day makes me smile every time I remember that week is that people I barely know and will never know, people who aren't friends or coworkers or people who need or want anything from me, those people held on to me.

Not tightly, and not for very long. But for that tiny insignificant moment, those gentle tugs were anchors pulling me back to life and love and light and the joy of living and loving and lighting. Ok, so lighting doesn't work that well here, but still, you get the picture. They held on.

So now, I hold on to them. Not tightly, and not for very long. It's been almost a year since I've seen any of them. I didn't take them candy or coffee or chocolate or flowers-that-start-with-c. Chrysanthemums? Seriously, is that how you spell it? Are those even gift flowers? Whatever, look, the point is, it's not about being thankful or polite or trying to turn it into something it's not. It's about holding on, just a little bit, just enough.

Kaitlin held my hand when I needed it most. I've never forgotten that; I hope that I never will. She's an incredible woman. She has a passion for what she does and the people she does it for. She lights up a room. When she smiles, it's somehow even brighter. But the thing about her that I pray I will never forget is her hand holding mine.

When someone holds on to you, even lightly, even for a moment, it's impossible to deny, at least for that second, that you're a Real Good Thing. So yeah, I'll go back to that hospital. I'll go even if I don't want to, even if I don't see anyone I recognize. I'll go because I might see someone I know, and they deserve to be held on to, just a tiny bit, for just a little while.

It's why I bothered to write this down. I want to hold on to you, just a tiny bit, for just a little while.

Because you, my friend-in-passing, my momentary acquaintance, are a Real Good Thing.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Mom's Request

Last week my mom asked for a few new children's stories that she could illustrate. She gave me very clear yet still very broad directions. I didn't follow them at all. Here's the first one.

Timothy Counts to Five

"There’s a fly in my soup! What do I do?"
Asked Timmy of his mom as he stared at his stew.
“Oh Timmy, calm down. Why it’s easy to see,
That fly is no fly, Tim; it’s simply a pea.”
“A pea?! Mom, a pea? Are you telling a joke?
Does a pea swim around? Can it do the backstroke?”


“There’s a fly in my soup! Now there are two!”
Said Tim to his dad as he lifted his spoon.
“Look again, Tim, it’s a carrot that’s all”
With a flick of his wrist, Tim launched the fly at the wall.
“Really Dad, a carrot? When have you seen
A carrot that flies? They don’t even have wings!”


“There’s a fly in my soup! One, two, and three!
This is simply too much, anyone would agree.”
Tim’s brother glanced over, “Quiet. I’m trying to eat.”
Tim slammed on the table, mashing a beet.
“Fine, don’t believe me, but I’ve had quite enough.”
Painting beet on his face, “Now it’s time to get tough.”


“There’s a fly in my soup! There’s never been four!”
Tim shouted quite loudly, “I declare fly war!”
His spoon as his broadsword he lashed out at the soup.
His sister, a victim, of the flying hot goop.
“Stop, Timmy, stop! Now you’re making a mess!”
Throwing his spoon in defense, “There’s a fly on your dress!”


“There’s a fly in my soup! I surrender to five.”
Timmy started to pout. “Now they’re starting to dive.
My soup is a playground for all of these bugs."
Timmy’s mommy bent down; she gave him a hug.
“Time for a bath Tim. Let's hose you down maybe.”
Tim cried just a little. It’s not easy being a baby.

The Silent Dilemma

I asked of my mom, “Mom, what would you do?
What would you do with a bug in your shoe?”
“What would I do? Why I’d scream and I’d fuss,
Till your father came in to check on the mess
And took the shoe out with the bug trapped within
And disposed of the bug and then brought the shoe in.
But why do you ask what I’d do with a bug?”
I did not say a word, I turned with a shrug.

I inquired of my dad, “Dad, what would you do?
What would you do with a bug in your shoe?”
“What would I do? Why I’d smash it down flat,
With maybe a book or a chair or a bat.
I’d crush it quite dead, which might ruin my boot
But one thing’s for certain, I’d be done with the brute.
But why do you ask what I’d do with a bug?”
I only looked down and smoothed out the rug.

I queried my uncle, “Uncle, what would you do?
What would you do with a bug in your shoe?”
“What would I do? Why I’d bottle it up,
In a glass or a vase or a clear see-through cup.
I’d study it closely till I knew what it was.
I’d search in my books for its wings and its claws.
But why do you ask what I’d do with a bug?”
I straightened my shirt; gave my collar a tug.

I questioned my grandpa, “Grandpa, what would you do?
What would you do with a bug in your shoe?”
“Chugging some glue? Why would I do that?
Oh plugging my flue? It might be the cat
Drugging the crew? Goodness me boy
What odd little questions you seem to enjoy.
But why do you ask what I’d do in a zoo?
I left the room in a rush, grandpa hadn’t a clue.

I next quizzed my granny, “Granny, what would you do?
What would you do with a bug in your shoe?”
“What would I do? Why it depends on the pest
A beetle I’d flush, that would be best.
A moth out the window, a bee out the door.
A spider I’d chase with a broom round the floor.
But why do you ask what I’d do with a bug?”
I just shook my head as she sipped from her mug.

I sat down on the porch. “Well, what should I do?
What should I do with a bug in my shoe?
Mom would just panic, Dad would destroy it
Uncle would research, Granddad would ignore it
Grandma would clean, that much is true
They would all get rid of a bug in their shoe.
But what should I do? Something less grim.
Why get rid of the bug? It took a long time to catch him."

Friday, March 07, 2014

The Hunt

Over the years, I’ve written several times about dating. For whatever reason as little as I enjoy the activity, I do enjoy discussing it. I’ve come to a realization lately about dating; it’s possibly the very root of what makes me abhor it with such vehemence. Curiously, this revelation stems not from dating, but from a trade show I recently attended as a vendor for my company.

When I say my company, I really do mean my company. I’m one of the co-founders, so when I discuss what we offer and how we’ve come to offer it, I’m divulging very personal details. This has been my life and my world for the past year or so, and selling my life and my world has become a part of my everyday experience.

Unfortunately as a small company with little to no brand recognition, “selling” has much less to do with offering a competitive service at a reasonable price than it does with hunting your target audience. exposing their weakness, and demonstrating how you are the perfect fit, capable of turning their weakness into a strength.

This is fundamentally what I despise about selling or dating - this notion of the hunt. I do not want to capture, I have no desire to catch. It’s not because I’m bad at it, it’s because I don’t value those relationships. They feel like the easy way out.

In any of my relationships, I most treasure freedom and independence - not in myself. In fact, I regularly impose excessive constraints on myself. This site is full of references to my “rules for dating.” But I most treasure freedom and independence in others. I don’t want to trick people into spending time with me.

In high school, I wore a leather coat. It was a fantastic coat. Not only did I love to wear it, but my friends would regularly ask to wear it. In fact, most of the winter, as soon as I got to school, I’d hand it to the first girl who asked and I wouldn’t see it again until it was time to go home. That coat would make my closet smell like women’s perfume well into the spring. I wouldn’t have traded that for the world.

It got to the point where I wouldn’t even worry about who had it or where it was. The girl who asked for it in the morning might hand it off to a friend and that friend might give it to someone else before it made it back to me in the afternoon. I didn’t know the girl in the locker next to mine very well, but she wound up with it one day and when she gave it back, asked me if she could borrow it again some time. Of course she could.

The next day she borrowed it first thing in the morning, but it was a warm day and she put in her locker fairly early in the day. I knew her locker partner, and she gave it back to me before lunch. It hung in my locker for the rest of the day, which almost never happened. But that afternoon the girl who borrowed it that morning came to me and told me she had no idea what happened to my coat. 

Now, it would have been nothing to tell her I got it back, but I delight in being slightly mischievous. Why, just this morning I told an old friend who graciously let me stay at his place for the night that I panicked and threw the garage door clicker in the garage when I left. It’s right where we agreed I should leave it, but what fun is that?

So instead of just telling her I had the coat, I kept questioning her until we had both become convinced that someone had broken into her locker and stolen the coat. I told her I wasn’t upset, but I clearly looked upset. I told her it was no big deal as I shivered a bit from imagined cold. I told her that I didn’t need her to replace the coat; buying me dinner would easily cover the loss.

I left my coat in my locker that night, but I had her phone number in my pocket.

We went out once, if I recall correctly. We broke up and made up every other day for a month. Relationships built on manipulation and lies don’t have a fantastic foundation. She’s a wonderful woman, but we never had a chance. There’s a line between playfulness and trickery; I was nowhere near that line.

I don’t want to trick people into liking me or my company. I don’t want to manipulate or chase or hunt. I want to dance.

I love the metaphor of life as a dance. I don’t want my goal to be to catch you. I’m not trying to end the hunt; I’m trying to keep the dance alive. I not trying to come at you or attack you or win you; I’m trying to be near you, to move with you, to act and react for our mutual benefit and enjoyment.

I want you to be free to do whatever you like, choose whatever you want, do whatever you please with whomever pleases you. I want you to see yourself as lovely and beautiful and capable and qualified. And as the delightful, bright, simply wonderful person that you are, if you choose to dance with me, if you choose to be near me, then all of that delight and brightness and wonder is mine. Not because I tricked you, not because I caught you. It’s not a trophy, it’s a gift. And I love gifts. I love free.

This is what I want. I don’t want clients who see me as a necessary evil. I don’t want relationships that feel forced and trapped. I want to play out the relationship I have with my God with the people he has put in my life. I want to dance with you because he dances with me. I want you to have the freedom and independence he has given me. And if that means I get to share in the beauty he has given you… well, that’s just beautiful.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Farsighted Hindsight

It's hard to believe that I've been out of the hospital for almost a month. The meds are all finished. I've got most of my strength and energy back. I'm back at work full time. Most of those surreal feelings that are inevitable when you wake up from a week long dream have waned and it's back to business as usual.

I've had the privilege of meeting almost everyone from the ER and ICU whose name I was able to discover. There are a few folks whose names are still a mystery and a few who I haven't yet met, but at this point I think it's best to let these wonderful people go back to saving lives rather than forcing them to humor me in my quest to thank everyone who cared for me.

It's just not possible to thank everyone. Random conversations with nurses in the ICU turned up any number of people who stepped in to help out for a bit. It became more and more humbling to discover how many people made me a priority, even if just for a moment.

The same is true for friends and family who took the time to come visit, call, text, message, send a card or a plant, leave me notes online, or pray. So many prayers, so many pray-ers - it has been truly humbling to hear about the old friends and new friends and friends I may never meet who set time aside to offer up petitions for my health and healing.

Some friends have made it a point to continue to care for me after I left the hospital. Mike's mom fed me for two solid weeks. Friends carted me to grocery stores and restaurants because I had the attention span, and therefore driving acumen, of a squirrel. I am truly blessed not just to be alive, but to be so well cared for.

My friend still in ICU leaves the hospital tomorrow. I've been going up there to see her almost every day, but between seeing her progress and spending time with her nurses and techs and family and friends, it's been a time of continued healing for me as well. I couldn't be happier that she is making such incredible progress, but it's tough to finally close the book on this chapter of my life.

In the time I've spent up at the hospital I've learned a few things; the one that still hits me the hardest is just how rarely medical professionals are thanked. I would love to tell everyone that you should make it a priority to thank the people who care for you when you can't care for yourself, but I have to qualify the advice. Thanking these people has been one of the most difficult things I have ever done.

Looking in the eyes of someone who has comforted you, cared for you, treated you with concern and respect - someone who has seen you naked, broken, covered in blood and filth and instead of being disgusted, instead of throwing you back out on the street, instead of writing you off as dying, as worthless, as trash, they saw you as someone worth protecting, worth serving, worth saving - looking in those eyes and seeing tears start to well, tears of joy and thanksgiving held back simply because you took the time to show up, to stand up, to say thank you... it's painful, it's scary, it's humiliating and humbling and so deeply, intensely, physically, emotionally and mentally draining.

Every time I felt like I made an utter fool of myself. I was excited and embarrassed and I couldn't stop talking. I interrupted every 3 seconds. Even taking a breath risked the possibility of a break down. Worse was knowing that the end of the conversation meant good bye. It's hard to be in the presence of someone whose entire existence seems to revolve around compassion and care and not immediately be addicted to the experience.

But walking away... when the conversation ended, it was impossible to not feel like the entire universe came to a screeching halt to just take a moment to be completely, totally, absolutely right. I love to smile, but these were the sort of smiles that turn you inside out, that take all the pain and fear and humiliation and dump it all out on the floor and replace the ensuing void with more joy and peace than you could ever manage to fit inside yourself on your own.

It's not the almost-dying that changed my life. It's not the life-saving that changed my life. It's the eyes, it's the smiles, it's the hugs and the humility and the joy of the people who refused to let me die, of the people who did their job and prayed their prayers and encouraged me in the vain hope that it might just barely be enough to make a difference... that's what changed my life.

I've spent a long time saying that the whole point of life is to leave people better than you found them, to honor the ones who came before and serve the ones who follow. Never in my life have I so intensely been the focus of exactly that by such a tremendous host of people. To all the ones to whom I must now say goodbye, please know that you are in my prayers and in my stories and in my heart. To all those whose walk with me has not yet come to an end, please know that you are in my prayers and in my stories and in my heart and, to my immeasurable joy, in my life.