With all due respect to the NPPC (National Pork Producers Council) and our porcine friends, farmers know their very survival depends on calling things for what they are. “No point in putting lipstick on a pig.” Makes sense, right? Let me do the same. My week found despair; failure; old bad behaviors; crushing omens of what life alone might be like; illness and a party. How’s that for painting the pig ugly?
Having been under the same roof, in the same life, with the same person for this many years has not been accidental. And for everything we’ve come to mean to each other, this week reminded me how much work comes with keeping the partnership fresh and relevant. It is not the “Brady Bunch”. It is not all “hubba hubba” and it is certainly not a sale on Hallmark cards, one for every day of the week. I seriously doubt whoever proposed the idea of a 50/50 formula as ‘relationship reality’ has ever been in love for more than a week. Whoever proclaimed ‘unconditional’ as a relational characteristic deserves to be brought up on charges.
Don’t get me wrong. My sincere wish is you are lucky enough to be in love with someone who can pick up the slack when the other fades into fury. If you haven’t found that person yet? It’s worth the quest. But make no mistake, nothing about true love can be taken for granted. Yes, it can be a tough as tungsten, but it can also be fragile as old glass. In this case, the “other fades into fury” was me (aka, ‘old dan’, the label I’ve given my alter-ego).
It all started when I was called out for having swept something ‘under the rug’. If you’ve read me before, you know that this is NOT what I’m working towards. But there it was. I had completely taken a back-seat on an issue that has recently begun calling for my active involvement. What can I say? I blew it. What makes it tougher is I hadn’t even detected the old behavior sneak in. In that moment of involuntary indictment, I felt like I was showing a lot of ‘pig’ with not much to pretty it up. Striking deep, the reality check damaged my pride, which in turn, ignited my anger. My walk and my talk weren’t matching. And what was worse, down deep I knew it. I believe it was an ancient prophet who put it best when he said, “Arrrrrrrggggggghhh!”. But it gets even better(?)…let’s travel back just a day or so earlier.
I never get sick…ever. But by Friday afternoon, I knew my body was intent on betraying me. Sorry Dr. Schuller, but try as I might, no amount of positive mental attitude was pushing back the aches or pains hitting places I didn’t even know I had. Within hours, I was sneezing, congestion was gathering and my eyeballs were drying out faster than hot sponges in a brush fire. As the symptoms grew, my super-hero stance on top of the tallest skyscraper took on an inverse proportion. My whole macho-man mystique was systematically being reduced to rubble at the feet of a Thera-Flu packet. And the sicker I became? The more pigs gathered as if in some kind of self-feeder trough conspiracy, flooding me and my precious little ego in slop.
As any farmer can tell you, illness, like a frightened pig, rarely concerns itself with being convenient. It didn’t care that for weeks, we had been looking forward to C&C’s work party on Saturday. As an aside, let me say I’ve rarely been associated with a group of such crazed (and talented) nut-jobs who love what we do, but that’s us at Work. We are very good at what we do and I am proud to be in their number. When I calculate my 40-hour work week and then subtract out time for sleep, I think I spend more time with my co-workers than I do at home. You can’t help but get exposed to their ups and downs. Or, in my case, their germs.
The day of the party had finally arrived and there I was, slipping fast. Already knowing I shouldn’t go, I dissolved a packet of magic lemon-flavored powder and downed it like a champ. “No, we’re going! Let’s do this. We’re going.” Little did I realize I had only begun to fill my ‘pig’ quota.
Making our way out of the city, the directions the first C of the C&C duo had e-mailed me were wrong. How can that possibly be? He lives there! But there it was in his email, “Go right when you get to….”. So we followed the directions and went right. What we didn’t know was we were now headed in the wrong direction. Something wasn’t right. Town and burb giving way to farm…not a good sign when you’re already dodging ‘pigs’. Two counties later…“Call them”. No phone # on the EM. Are you kidding me? This was an especially precious realization because just an hour earlier, it was I who had decided we didn’t need both e-mails…the other one of course, being the EM with their phone # on it. “You don’t have their number?!?” Nice. Maybe pigs could fly and spot their house for us from the air.
But not to worry, having several of my co-workers in my contact list, I started calling them. They answered and guided us in. “Whew. We’re here.”
Then, we had to park. Parking? It would have easier to find parking at a free money convention. The narrow little lake paths they called roads in our destination neighborhood were barely a lane wide with even less shoulder on either side. But luck intervened and the other “C”, our hostess, saw us driving by and flagged us down, waving us right into the coveted Spot One on the slope they called their driveway – right at their front door. Wow! It sorta felt like being the president. Most excellent. Having finally arrived, I even caught myself thinking I might be starting to feel better. Excellent.
The food was amazing…we started off with home-made pot stickers and meatballs with sauce dripping off them like barbecued dew. I am proud to say I was quickly skewering them two and three at a time. Maybe the pigs were in retreat. Then, after the lip-smacking appetizers and finger-food, came the main menu. Filets and crab legs, boiled and dipped in clarified butter. Bam!! Pigs be gone. Not.
Within minutes, I was confronted with my inability to get the stupid crab legs cracked open. They would not yield. I could hear the crabs calling the pigs. Now I had land AND sea creatures laughing at me…and the crabs were the amputees! So wrong on so many levels.
I have never worked so hard for a few morsels of seafood in all my life. Granted, most of that stemmed from a lack of any good leg-cracking technique, but I’m from the Midwest. The Maine coastline is usually as close as the nearest Red Lobster. And there, the crab leg situation is already ‘solved’ by helpful servers working for tips.
As the dinner plates were cleared, the homemade carrot cake dessert made its grand entrance. I remember thinking that maybe my luck was turning. But as the breeze died down, several of us had started smelling gas. Like some kind of bad 3AM infomercial, I heard myself say,“But wait…there’s more…”. Smelling gas is not a good thing when there are tiki torches blazing as far as the eye could see. Each of us took turns walking the house ISO of the source. No luck. Not good. The irony was not locating the source of the fumes until we were leaving to go home at the end of the night. It was our car, parked on that steep driveway…leaking a little of the fuel I had so proudly pumped in the day before. “Yep, I fill-filled it – we’re good!” Great…pigs with gas.
Where does all of this lead me? Where each ‘day before‘ leads any of us…to this day and this moment in time and space with you.
I will forget getting sick. I will forget the skewed directions. I will forget the pot stickers and my wrestling match with the crab legs. And since there was no explosion, I’ll even forget the night’s smell of gas.
What I will not forget is the fantastic time we all had together – spouses, friends and neighbors– all together, laughing and telling stories late into the evening. And if it truly matters (and it does), I will rewind a little further back and remember when I couldn’t seem to do anything right in heading off a world-class argument that could have easily ignited the end of my ’till death do us part’. But we worked it out – together.
Life is good, but not because it is easy or assured. There are no magic formulas. There is anger and hurt, sickness and health. But if we are paying attention, there are wonderful and infinitely goofy moments, memories of which will carry us through the dark nights of our Souls. Those moments come because we take the field…we have skin in the game…that’s why it’s worth living. We earn it.
So with newly found respect for Wilbur, Porky and Pooh’s Piglet, I’ve recovered my center as well as my health.
The next time Life’s ‘pigs’ come looking for you like they did me, just tell them plain, “We don’t need no stinking lipstick”. Call your ‘pigs’ for what they are. Work hard to solve them and then, go celebrate something. After all, Life celebrated you when you entered the Planet. Why not take your mind off your ‘pigs’ and celebrate with the people you find around you. I did. It’s good medicine and I feel oh so much better. It’s what the Cosmos wants for each of us. Pigs or no, I wish you good journey this week. “Tha tha tha that’s all folks!”