Seeing Her For The First Time Again

On March 12, 2017 I got married. However, that is NOT what this story is about. I am sharing this story on my 4 month anniversary and that seems significant. What this story IS about are feelings, my deep secret feelings about love, self esteem and how my friends photography reconnected me to a deeper part of myself. Great wedding photos are invaluable and 1,000 words cannot convey the feeling in my chest as I type this.

I’ve been moved and inspired by movies with their immersive quality, but rarely gave photography proper credit for its ability to transport the observer into that moment of catharsis. In a world of snaps, stories and live streams, moving pictures have become synonymous with our lives. I don’t think I really understood the impact a single image can have until I saw my wedding photos for the first time. What happened in my heart and mind when I saw myself in Matt’s pictures, illuminated a pattern of negative self reflection that shook me to my core and I cried like a baby. For the first time since Minnie and I exchanged vows, I had the realization I had stumbled upon something I had somehow been avoiding my entire life. I will never be the same, and if I may drop a Huey Lewis reference, “that’s the power of love!”

In college I used to wear a shirt that my friend Jake made, it was a plain black tee shirt with two 4 letter words printed on the chest, “fuck love”. Words to live by for this broken hearted 20 something looking to take out his unrealized mommy issues on every woman he encountered. I even thought I was one of the good guys. I had been called charming and handsome on occasion, but as I look back, I don’t think I really and truly believed it. I rather just took the opinions of others and tried to make them my own because deep down I wanted to believe them to be true. I wanted to believe something greater about myself but somehow felt hollow and inferior. It divided me, on one hand it fed my ego and gave me the air of confidence but on the other it did not provide strong feelings about my own self worth. Something I’ve struggled with my whole life. Hidden from my awareness seemed to be a sense of worthlessness that eroded my ability to truly and deeply connect with people in my life. Deep down I felt I deserved nothing, rejected help, kindness and love in any form. Thanks mom!

I could go on and on about how my relationship with my mother so thoroughly sabotaged my subconscious that I have damaged almost all female relationships in my life out of fear of being abandoned, unwanted or unloved. Perhaps how I decided at a young age that feelings were for the weak, and women were obstacles to be overcome, which turned me into a promiscuous, womanizing…blah, blah blah, but why bore you with that? We all have issues, right?

In my 20’s I made a conscious decision that I was NOT going to EVER get married. NEVER. EVER. It was my opinion that marriage was a broken institution based in rituals that I have no connection to. My mom was never married. At age 14 when I met my dad, I learned he was married, but hated him too much at the time to care. I could really only count a couple successful marriages in my immediate circle that I admired. Every other marriage I’ve witnessed or relationship I thought was worth modeling, always seemed to fall apart. I never wanted to deal with that. Instead I made women my muse. The high I got from their affections drove me to feel confident and inspired. I used those feelings to make up for my one true weakness, the utter lack of genuine positive self-belief.

I realize now that I have harbored a fear of being found out. Somewhat of an imposter syndrome, afraid one day someone will recognize I am not any of the things they thought me to be. Afraid people might recognize the true piece of shit I felt I was deep down inside. This dissonance drove the connection to my heart further from my reach. The bridge between my heart and my mind was burned and I started to resent everyone and everything. That pretty much sums up my 20’s & 30's.

Sorry if that is at all depressing. I am writing this as much for myself and the authenticity I hope to inspire as for the sake of context. I feel it is important to give you some insight into my state of being at the time I encountered the relationship that has given me permission to scrap all of those previously held assumptions about love and learn one of my life’s greatest lessons at age 40.

Enter Minnie, the girl I negged at a bar by calling her “a poser”. Having recently read “The Game” I pointed at her Misfits t-shirt, and tried to make her feel uncomfortable enough to find me attractive? I think, that’s how it works… Turns out she knew more than I did about the band than I did and thus started my 8 year long journey of realizing what a dick I was. This wasn’t romance or love at first sight. To use a Pink Floyd lyric, we were “two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl”. (Shout out to The Wall album sleeve tattooed on Minnie's arm and shoulder!) To be honest, we were not super into each other at first. I was at a low point in my comedy career, crashing on my moms floor while waiting tables at the sushi restaurant I worked at in college. I was trying to get some cash together in order to hit the road and start living the dream once again. She had just ended an engagement with her high school sweetheart and was living with friends. After our first date, I quickly made myself available for sleep overs at her place every night, since her bed was not my moms floor. After about a week of hanging out, It was time for me to go back to living in my car on the open road.

I never suspected she would ask to come along. Our fling was supposed to be temporary, no attachments, since we both knew I was leaving town, there was no expectations. Just the way I liked it. Status quo. I spent 2 years rambling through the country on my own. I loved it but secretly wanted a partner to share in the joy and freedom, maybe someone to share gas and expenses with? That was the real reason I told myself. Two relative strangers living on the road together seemed like a scenario destined for disaster. Since I was driven mostly by ego I pulled the perviest move in history, I invited a girl 10 years younger than me to live in my car at undermined locations for an indeterminate amount of time. It didn’t hurt that she was a massage therapist and we were comfortable touching each other.

In April of 2009, we headed out in my 1994 Subaru Legacy wagon and with two weeks of life planned out, a temporary mobile marketing job and no place to call home. The rest we made up over the course of the next two years making life up as we went along all over the United States. I could fill pages with the all of the moments random adventures we shared, all of the friends that we made but I’ll save those stories and get to the point. Love found me when I thought I least wanted it or expected it to come. We grew through so much uncertainty, cried, laughed, fought as we peeled back the layers of our deepest selves in order to teach us how to love and be loved by one another. Strangers from the outset, we became companions with nowhere to hide our dark sides and it turned out to be more special than either of us could have imagined.

Marriage was a big decision for me. I mean, it is for everybody but for me it was the end of who I thought I wanted to be and the beginning of me becoming who I am meant to be.

We eloped in Havana, Cuba on March 12, 2017 after scrapping plans for a traditional spend your ass off, stress yourself out, do it for everyone else kind of wedding. We included some of our closest and best friends on the journey and made memories to last a lifetime. Memories that were captured through the lenses of our incredibly talented friend Matthew Brush. I don’t think my own brain is capable of replaying these moments in memory as vivid and candidly as Matt captured them documenting our elopement. I remember trying making a conscious effort to not look at the photos as they were being taken. I didn’t want to get caught up in caring how we looked and thinking “these images are the permanent record of your love, don’t fuck them up.”

We did not have a traditional wedding in any sense. We cruised around Havana taking pictures and soaking up the “felicidades” and “besos” from the Cuban people.

We toured in classic cars and blared the horns every chance we got.

We celebrated the shit out of our lives and what it had taken to get us to that point. We didn’t find the right location until 10 minutes prior to the ceremony. Among the Banyan trees in a random park near Santa Fe we exchanged our vows. We were married as the sun set at 5:30pm. Feeling the depth of this commitment is unlike anything I’ve known. My perception of who I am has been so skewed and screwed up from my constant holding back feelings and ever-evolving identity that I have little idea how I come across in the world. The fact that somebody has the courage and patience to love that is a rare and beautiful thing. Minnie knows the real me and that is something I covet, hence the inspiration to write and share this. It is my opinion that transparency equals freedom, and builds trust, as vulnerability equals strength and fosters growth.

After settling in back home for a couple weeks as newlyweds, left with only the memories of our wedding, we were participating in a newly established Sunday ritual involving house cleaning, dancing to Childish Gambino radio. We were actively sharing love in our space, infusing our home environment with all the good vibes we can muster. Finally we had time to sit down and watch the slide show Matt put together for us in its entirety. Now it could be the honeymoon phase but I feel these feeling deeply these days, its palpable. In Cuba we got a glimpse of a few choice images Matt took but didn’t see the final pictures like this until this moment. Over 1,000 images floating across our TV screen, Mac Demarco’s song “For The First Time” playing in the background. I must be a total fucking sap, because as we stood in our living room embracing, laughing/crying at the memories, it hit me. I looked at the images projected onto our AppleTV, and fell apart. I didn’t feel like I recognized the guy in the photos. We looked incredible. I looked effortlessly happy. Very little posing or forced smiles. Matt made us look spectacular! Phenomenal even, in my very biased opinion, these images were crafted by an artists eye who turned his subjects into the iconoclasts of their own lives. I felt transported back in time to the moments we all shared together with a fresh perspective. The heroes of our own journey and I was literally reliving this profound moment with every fiber of my being. Personally I didn’t think I was capable of looking so handsome or happy.

The truth is that I suffer from mild form of depression that seems to just keep me coasting at melancholy all day long. I’m functional but it has taken its toll on my life and relationships over the years. Part of this awakening for me has been through the acceptance and cultivation of this thing I found with another human being. Love. In its many forms it is many things, among them an emotion, an action, and to me it is a teacher and a tool. An energy and power that comes from within. Something to share and possibly even heal, which may or may not be true on a clinical scale. I don’t pretend to say love is an answer for anyone other than myself. In my 40th year of life I am finally finding a maturity of heart and spirit that I have only glimpsed in the past.

From someone that never knew he would exist on this level of intimacy and share life with another person, I hope love is present in your life. If you’re not feeling it I hope you connect with those close to you and cultivate a level of honesty, trust, communication and commitment that fills your life with joy or something that you one day will call LOVE.

Thank you for reading my bleeding heart.