Fine Print

fine print

“There’s a darkness upon me that’s flooded in light
In the fine print they tell me what’s wrong and what’s right
And it comes in black and it comes in white
And I’m frightened by those that don’t see it.”

Avett Brothers – Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promises

Life’s fine print. All the rules that govern our daily doings, whether social, emotional or practical.

Always say thank you.

Don’t be clingy.

Use your turn signals.

Stop being the asshole with 22 items in the express lane at the grocery.

I think the fine print is exhausting. I don’t subscribe to it.

This past week, I returned to Texas after a year and a half to visit family and catch a quick visit with a friend or two. After not having seen my parents for a bit, I was blindsided.

My parents are going to die.

Both in their early 60s (and divorced since I was in 6th grade), they’re both moving slower and my father looks 70. Mom’s hit menopause (or “minnow paws” as a middle school biology teacher jokingly said), her body’s changed shape, she still smokes and the lines in her face remind me that my growing pains are responsible for half of them. Knees that don’t work right, medications, wrinkles, weight gained and filed away in new places, but the same laughter, same smiles, same quirks.

But facing my parents’ mortality wasn’t what I was expecting as I landed at Hobby Airport last Wednesday.

And it’s another reason I think life’s fine print is bullshit.

When you tear down everything you’ve built around you through however many years you’ve been on this earth, there are two thing that remain:

You.

And love.

The things we accumulate have nothing to do with love, but love for our work is what makes it possible to do the accumulating. The things we love have nothing to do with what we have, yet our ongoing ability to build better Yous is what makes it possible for us to love.

After you’ve stripped all of the rules and fine print away – the shoulds, the coulds and woulds – what you’re seeing is what remains. What persists. The reason people are remembered, whether they’ve left the room or left life.

You and love.

There are times I feel that I tell the man in my life I love him/miss him too much. But to hell with it. When something bubbles up within you, there’s nothing wrong with letting it out. Sharing it. Love is life’s scrap cookies: you bake them from ingredients, few of which you bought on your own and most of which were given to you. What’s left is a sweet medley of gooey goodness that’s always better if shared. So if he tires of hearing that I love him, he can go find someone who loves him less, tells him less, shows him less. Because that’s ME. The Me that realizes what I can’t do is walk a tightrope and fear the fall. The Me that’s embraced that not being afraid of the fall means I have the exceptional opportunity to land on my feet or fall flat on my ass. Both are special and neither would I trade for the world.

But my Me becomes better through love. Love’s painful and the ever-present teacher that tells us when we should apologize, try harder, let go and move on. It’s the hand that touches our waist when we least expect it and guides us when we’re at a loss for where to go. A specter of salvation. If you separate the You and the Love, you’re left without a vessel to fill on both sides. Love comes from you and we’re made of love.

A hypnotic symbiosis. And a realization brought about because I realize that my parents are going to die someday.

I live without regret. Without shame. I’m getting better at humility and failure. Some days are better than others. What I’m most proud of after 37 years is my ability to love.

I love me.

I know what it feels like to love someone else.

I know what it feels like to be loved.

To find it, to sleep beside it, hold its hand. Lose it. Rediscover it. To have it pick you up from school after everyone else has already gone home. It puts everything on hold because you’re in town. It arrives before you get home and does you a favor. To see it, appreciate it and wonder how you ever got so lucky to be on the receiving end of such love.

So the next time you think you’re speaking or acting in a way someone else would consider “in excess,” just laugh. Give your love. Everything we have over the years passes us by in one way or another. It stops by, stays for a moment or a lifetime (someone’s) and when it moves on, we’re left with the memories. It’s the You and your Love – and how you choose to express them when you have the chance – that’s memorable.

You can keep the new TV or the iPad. I’ll take a child’s hysterical laughter, a thank you from a stranger and the unexpected kiss. Don’t even wrap them and skip the card. As somewhere between childhood and adulthood, we’re told to stop telling people what we feel.

Have you ever been in an elevator with a child who says, “I love you, Daddy!” eleven times during a 30-second trip between floors?

When we’re born our parents whisper, “I love you” over our heads at night.

As we grow into our words, we develop the ability to say “I love you” in return.

Then we’re fully aware we can speak and start initiating the “I love yous.”

But as we grow older, it becomes uncool to say those three words in front of friends. We don’t even want our parents to say them in front of the general public.

Then we begin to crave saying them to another audience: our crushes.

We feel adolescence’s surly, static-filled charge and we mistake it for love.  We’ll say it to a boy or girl we’ve gone steady with for three weeks.

Then comes adulthood – leaving the nest, and walking into a world where we have endless potential to fall. We’ve learned the perfunctory and ritualistic “I love you,” giving that to our parents, siblings and relatives as we’re now “old enough” to have had our hearts unevenly broken by the other I love yous.

We date, we find The One (or in my case, The FIRST One…and Second One…if I’m lucky, the Last One) and now we’ve laid our cards on the table with three words. It’s tragically uncool to be in love. Guys start going to Bed, Bath & Beyond and girls…well, we begin to become our mothers though we do our damndest not to.

It’s here that we can fade. I love you becomes something we say instead of something we do and feel. We begin to wonder where the love went and why it seems to have walked away. But if we take a moment, we’ll see that we are the ones who played our cards wrong and left the front gate open as we thought telling and showing the one we love that we actually love them was tragically uncool and annoying.

If we play our cards right, we find the joy in sitting on top of our loved one on a random Sunday morning, smothering them with kisses and ticklings as we say, “Iloveyou Iloveyou Iloveyou Iloveyou Iloveyou Iloveyou Iloveyou” between each attack of the lips and fingertips.

Eleven times in 30 seconds is good. And it’s fun. And if you find it annoying, you need to lighten the fuck up. Because when will you again have the chance to assault or be assaulted by three words that mean so much at the hands of a YOU that makes you feel smarter/more handsome/prettier/better/more special/thinner/taller/tidier/like a better cook?

Maybe never. I’ll run the risk of being annoying any day over the regret of not doing or saying something. Screw the fine print. Colorado says I can’t drive without glasses, but the one thing I don’t need to put on my glasses to see is love.

“When nothing is owed or deserved or expected
And your life doesn’t change by the man that’s elected
If you’re loved by someone, you’re never rejected
Decide what to be and go be it.”

65 comments
Brian Watkins
Brian Watkins

Wow - this is awesome, Erika! I've been trying to fill my life with this very notion, as I've had a long spell of being tightly wound and, as you said, needing to "lighten the fuck up." I actually had a long time of not being able to say those words to my mom when we were hanging up the phone - she'd say it and I'd awkwardly just end the call and feel like an ass. I had to grab hold of myself at a certain point and say "dude, WTF," and just start making it happen. Life is easier to be more carefree with your emotions and just put it out there, like you mentioned, and not feel guilty or ashamed of it.

Ashley Williams
Ashley Williams

This post blindsided me today. I wasn't expecting it, but I feel like it was just what I needed to see. I haven't been laughing enough, living enough, loving enough for far too long. I've been working on that for the past year, but seeing this today was just a perfect reminder of what life is really about.

Brenna Smith
Brenna Smith

Erika - you are awesome! I'm an "in excess" person. I always have been, always will be and those that don't like it can take the heave-ho. It's only in the recent past I've discovered that it's ok to stop apologizing for who you are, to love with abandon and understand that sometimes it's not going to be returned to you. Heartbreaks happen but I will never miss out on the opportunity to share my heart just for fear of having it returned broken. I've run the risk of loving with abandon and will do it again in a heartbeat. Life is to short to live in fear of offending someone for loving them "too much." That will go down in my history as the most asinine thing I've ever heard. Bravo, sister. And, on a side note, I'm sorry for your grieving heart right now. "I’ll run the risk of being annoying any day over the regret of not doing or saying something. Screw the fine print."

Jaime Collins
Jaime Collins

I see the Like button. Where's the Love one?

Kath
Kath

To infinity +1. xoxo

sjs
sjs

Coming off a break-up, this is good shit. Thank you. It's a good reminder to let yourself be open and raw and vulnerable, to not close off, to let the good times and the punches roll. High five to you, friend.

Kris M O'Connor
Kris M O'Connor

Lovely, touching, honest....Thank you. I was on the receiving end of some unexpected kindness which was an expression of love last week when my boyfriend of MANY years (aka my bike coach) moved a rock on a path for me. It was a big rock, and he just smiled at me which was like him saying, "I want you to succeed. I want you to be safe." It sounds like a small thing, but it was one of the most loving things he's ever done. Love is a verb...

Andrew J. Gay
Andrew J. Gay

Holy crap Erika! You know a post like this one is what got my attention here in the first place. You are so good at unveiling and tapping deep into your emotions and feelings in your writing. You are making it so hard for me to stick to my guns and remain the cold hearted son of a bitch that I vowed to be after my divorce! lol But, you are so right. There is nothing that feels better than loving someone so much that you can't help but smile all the time when you're around them. There's nothing that feels better than feeling loved but those you are closest to. There is nothing more powerful than those 3 words, not just when said because it's what you say, but when uttered as if it were a magical spell from a fairy tail. Conjured from somewhere so deep within a person that pieces of their heart and remnants of their soul are delivered with it. "Eleven times in 30 seconds" - no Erika, that's not good. That's more like a dream from another life. It's awesome beyond words. And yes, if you find it annoying, you do really need to lighten the fuck up and figure out that those 3 words really, is what live is all about. The rest is just stuff. Thanks for the therapy today E! Awesome post for a warm and cozy rainy day like today. :-) I had to stop part way through to tell my kids how much I loved them.

Charlie
Charlie

Jesus this made me sad. I miss my dad. (He's still alive and well.) But he's older too. He laughs less than he used to and he tells me he wishes he had more time. He knows he's knocking on the Next Door, and watching him think about that is agony. And it's selfish of me. Only it's not. I know one day my best friend in the whole universe will not be around anymore. All I can do when I see him is hug him constantly and hold his hand in the grocery store and everywhere else we go. I honestly don't know what I will do when he's gone, 'cept hope I see him coming back around again. I tell him I love him every 12.7 seconds, and someday I will wish I told him more. Thanks, Red. Hugs.

Christine
Christine

super insightful! I'm glad you linked this.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Skip the dairy and chunky foods. You can't say I didn't warn you :) While I don't think people would buy into the Redhead Vitamins, maybe they'll find the same oomph in my archives. Happy lunchtimes and welcome to the Dark Side.

Toni
Toni

Just introduced to you this a.m. by a friend, Joe Ray (one of the contestants of your writing/photo contest - wanted me to c'mon over and vote!). You have now become the 1,683rd reason why Joe is one of my buds -- my tab with him is astronomical that way. Meanwhile, I'll be reading back through your archives over lunch hours for as long as it takes. [Alert to self: eat FIRST or be at risk of harking caesar salad or french fry chunks onto my monitor (or choking to death) with these outbursts of braying donkey laughter experienced, so far, from much of material read.] The blow job article? oh honey, did I have reactions to THAT. Wish you came in vitamin form, Ma'am, true story (yes, I DID sign up for the Bitch Slap, thank you!). But before I forget my point (response to the article 'Fine Print'): recently watched a spectacular DVD by a woman named Brenee Brown [can't think of DVD title or would recommend]. One line in there snagged me by the throat and hasn't let go yet: "I would rather be in a relationship where love is practiced and not just spoken." Your words, here, amplified that quote for me. Good stuff, your words.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Jeannie - welcome and thanks for stopping by. And no, thank YOU. Because without readers like you, I'm a nut job vomiting emotion onto a keyboard. Glad you found something worth taking away with you.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Yes, it truly IS "something that we do." I like that song, too (hey - I'm from Texas!).

Jeannie Walters
Jeannie Walters

This is so thoughtful and well written and exactly what I needed at this exact moment. Thanks.

Alexia Heller
Alexia Heller

This describes alot of how I try to live. My favorite song about "real" love that also encapsulates this whole idea: "Something That We Do" by Clint Black.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Beautiful, Liz...so well said. I think I made a comment earlier in this thread about no, I don't think "I love you" loses its meaning because you say it too much. You can't dilute it. Insincerity dilutes. Saying with intention, because you can't NOT say it...that's a reason to say it. It's because we feel it, live it and feed it. Love is good - and simple. Yet we do make it so damned hard and I don't understand why.Thanks for reading and sharing, Liz :)

Liz Scherer
Liz Scherer

I. Love. You. It's not in the saying; it's in the doing, being, acting. It's in the space between the spaces and when you let someone or something or yourself into your heart, you fill those spaces so that the echos that sometimes feel so lonely become less so. And sometimes, as you so aptly note, it's important to let go when that love isn't filling those spaces in the same way or when you realize that that it never filled those spaces in a way that you had hoped. The most wonderful realization is that it's okay to love and then love again and that the feeling, if true, never really goes away, it just changes a wee bit. I call it the human experience; strip it away and it's all we really have.I. Love. You. So simple really. So why are we all so afraid?Nice post Ericka. Love to you. Liz

The Redhead
The Redhead

Thanks for visiting today, Denise! Muah :)

The Redhead
The Redhead

That made me smile. Thanks for sharing that, Sam :)

The Redhead
The Redhead

Being uncomfortable is the most wonderful feeling in the world. Thank you for stopping by :)

The Redhead
The Redhead

Thanks for stopping by, Gurl :) It's beautiful to hear that anything I write has an impact on anyone. Comments like yours are why I write.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Kind words, Erroin. Thank you for them.

The Redhead
The Redhead

I'm glad I bring sunshine, Miss Shellypants :) You do the same for me! You're one of those people who makes ME better. Very lucky to have found you, connected with you and essentially attached myself like a barnacle to you ;-)

ShellyKramer
ShellyKramer

Erika,This is beyond beautiful. And I think we might have the exact same parents, btw. I believe in hugging more, appreciating more and never missing a moment, too. Even so, this was a great reminder to never, ever let a moment pass.I love you, missy, for bringing some sunshine to my life.Shelly@shellykramerhttp://v3im.com

The Redhead
The Redhead

No, I mean it when I say thank YOU, Kim.

Kim Woodbridge
Kim Woodbridge

It's wonderful that you've realized this now. There are many things about my Mom that I took for granted and then she was gone. It's been 1.5 years and I'm still often lost without her and know there are maybe 2 other people on this planet that love me as much as she did.And it made me realize how truly short life is - and that realization gave me the kick to do what I really wanted with my life. Of course, I wish she were here to see it.Thanks ...

Gurl
Gurl

I have made it a habit to never let those I love walk out the door or hang up the phone without me having said I love you to them...with one notable exception..However I believe that is going to change. Maybe he doesn't love me, but-by god- I love him to pieces and he really needs to know. He's going through so much right now, and I have been so all fired focused on what I am doing to grow my own enterprises, that I've not been attentive enough to him...That changes now.Thanks for this post...it was a bit of a wake up call for me. Focus on moving one's life forward is good, unless other important things start to languish.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Thank you, Grant. I feel privileged to be in your "subscriptions" and that you keep finding things here that bring you back. The best compliment I could receive as a writer :)

The Redhead
The Redhead

My parents will never be anything but "better." What matters is never feeling I missed an opportunity to thank them. Thanks for stopping by, Mike!

The Redhead
The Redhead

I'm a huge Avett Brothers fan - so much good stuff in that band, right? I don't know if you should ever let love go...but letting it walk its own path doesn't mean you have to lose it. But hey - that's just me :)

Mike Stenger
Mike Stenger

Erika, you're absolutely right! All these materialistic things, careers, and BS can get in the way of what really matters. Unfortunately, it's sometimes rather disappointing experiences that put this really into perspective. Better to understand it now, then when it's too late. Hope the parents get better and better!

Grant Griffiths
Grant Griffiths

Erika - This is just one more reason your blog has become one of my favorite and one of my must reads. I don't subscribe to very many blogs via email. But, this is one. And I know exactly what you mean about mortality. Not only my parents, who are young compared to a lot of my friends parents. But also my own mortality. Like your parents, we change in more ways than our physical appearances. We change in our physical abilities and our own bodies let us down too. While our minds think we are still in our 20's and 30's, our bodies are quick to kick us in the ass and remind us we are not. The key is exactly what you say too. Love is key. For me, that love is for my family and my friends. Two areas of our lives which ARE more important than anything we have accumulated. It is easy and we are too quick to lose sight of what is truly important. We all get so caught up in the latest toy, i.e. iPad. We are all too quick to use excuses to not spend what valuable time we do have with love. Thanks Erika for the reminder and thanks for what you do here.

Ann Morris
Ann Morris

Erika, This is wonderful. I have let the fine print guide me (very unsuccessfully) my whole life. I am trying like hell to turn off that little voice, before my little girls start to hear it too. Love your articles, because they are full of things I often think about, BUT could never say (only because that damn little voice won't shut up) You inspire me. How is that for stepping out of the comfort zone. Enjoy the rest of your visit

Tyler Adams
Tyler Adams

I read this post. And then read it again. Love seems to be one of the purest things this world can offer us. Yet, something that should be so easy to accept, to feel, to notice, often isn't. For many, just the concept of love is a struggle--expressing it is sometimes much harder. Knowing when to embrace it, or when to let it go is maybe the hardest of all. Should you ever let it go? These are just some of the things this post got me thinking about. And things i'll likely need to think about for some time. Granted, i'm just a youngen in my mid-twenties so I suppose I have time to figure this out.p.s. You get super props for opening your post with a quote from the best album of 2009 :)

The Redhead
The Redhead

Now THAT made ME smile...thanks, Jim!

jim
jim

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Best words yet: "at least WE do." :) Thanks, Lisa!

The Redhead
The Redhead

Glad you found something for YOU in here, Ben :) And yes - it was cathartic.

EC (Lisa) Stewart
EC (Lisa) Stewart

Well spoken! I would love to show the people who need to read this post the most but they'll never get it -at least we do.@ecstewart

bencurnett
bencurnett

Holy. Fucking. Moly.I hope it felt as good to write this post as it does to read it. Me? I let some serious depression block out big parts of this particular brand of unconditional love for most of my life. Now that I'm taking care of myself, I can be a part of it all. To the extent that you're talking about? That's the goal.Reading this brings me closer to it. Thanks, Erika.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Thanks so much and glad you stopped by.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Thanks for stopping by Michelle. It's funny - I sat down to write this with the inklings of a migraine at 10pm last night. I had no idea what was going to come out, but this was it. It's strange what reminds us what's important. I guess I'm one of those people who works it out over a keyboard. And hey - I get angry, frustrated, PO'd and annoyed with the best of them. I'm delightfully impatient. Sometimes those things get the better of me. But remembering I have those quirks let me be more accepting of the quirks of others...and just adds to the love I'm lucky enough to have found over the past 37 years.

The Redhead
The Redhead

There's no dilution with frequency - only with insincerity :) Thank you, Cherry.

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  1. […] This post was inspired by my lovely wife Megan, and my friend Erika, who was apparently reading my mind this morning. […]

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