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Surgeon General’s Warning: This has feelings in it, and it’s personal. You’re probably better off reading @cliffordbrown. In fact, it’s a little creepy to think you’d want to know a stranger this well; but I’m going to do this anyway. Damn the torpedoes, no sleep ’til Hammersmith!
Most of us don’t wait as long as I did to finally grow the hell up. I’ve mostly been a responsible sort for much of my life, but that’s hardly a marker of adulthood. You can save for retirement and still be a wretched hedonist with no understanding of the grace of God or mercy for His creatures. That was me in my 30s: too much Ayn Rand, fetish clubs, and waking up hungover on the floor.
Of course, I met a girl halfway through those terrible times and, of course, she thought I had my life together. Outwardly it must have seemed like I was a model of deliberate living. I worked for NASA, had all the appropriately edgy opinions that all the appropriately edgy smart people had, I showed up on time and did my best to take care of her. I fell in love, hard, like only a turgid teenager can or should. Maybe for a while, it was even reciprocal; I’d like to think so. But the degeneracy of my life started to take over and I began treating her like everything else in my life: as property that served a selfish or useful purpose.
It should come as no surprise that we started to drift apart, and I wanted to fix that somehow. We were engaged to be married but neither of us wanted to set a date. I knew something was up but I didn’t really want to acknowledge the reality of the situation. Why do that when a wildly romantic gesture could suffice? So, with the approach of Valentine’s Day, I put together a Plan™. It was a great Plan, a day of adventure and celebration. It would have been a blast and I get a little excited just thinking about it now, but it never happened.
We were supposed to meet up at my house at 10 AM, but she never showed. I started getting anxious and at 10:30 a text message came through. It was from her, and the gist of it was that she was in love with someone else and she was sorry.
My response was ugly and short. Suddenly I understood months of strange behavior and evasive answers, evidence staring me in the face that I had been actively, willfully ignoring. It was, in fact, the most painful moment of my life, more painful than breaking my neck and spending eight or ten hours tied to a backboard, as I had done in my teens, but it was also the moment I started to become an adult.
Looking back on it now, I’m overwhelmed by gratitude that I was given this opportunity. I wasn’t strong enough to leave her, left to my own devices. I needed something I could not rationalize away or overcome. For most of my post-adolescence, I had been acting like a sailor mocking the sea in calm waters, and the sea had finally had enough. It made quick work of me and, having survived it (a story in itself) I could start to become a man who might be of some use to his friends and his Creator.
It all worked out in the end. I met the woman who would become my wife and help me return to the Church. She’s more than a wretch like me deserves and I’m thankful for every minute I have with her. Something changed when we were married: I stopped living solely for myself and my own sensual gratification. I see now that rather than being a villain, that poor girl was overwhelmed by a bad situation and she needed out of it, and more important than my forgiving her is my hope that she has forgiven me.
Sometimes we get what we deserve and, thanks be to God, sometimes we get what we don’t. What are some of your worst Valentine’s Day stories?