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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Will You Be My Valentine?

As Valentines' Day comes to a close, it is time for my yearly tradition on this blog. Every year since I started blogging, I have posted a copy of the same poem to which I first penned the words in High School. The poem, capturing all the angst associated with teenage love, is not based on an actual experience. I was never really successful in matters of the heart until my wife and I met and my hesitancy and reticence in not approaching her led her to find me and send me the letter that started everything. There followed what I have referenced before many times in the past: a whirldwind dating relationship,  in which our prior association of the past year or so led to our first "I love yous" and the idea that the question of marriage would be when and how rather than if just after the first week of dating, to our engagement after the end of the third week of dating (I think 14 dates in the first 3 weeks qualifies as "whirlwind") made the best Independence Day of my life. And even though we would have preferred to be married in October sometime, things fell into place so neatly to enable our marriage to coincide with the day her parents celebrated their anniversary (December 18). Amy, who had been the primary caregiver for her MS-stricken mother (who passed away several months before Amy sought me out), willingly set aside her own life and interests to take on this man and all his health challenges. For the first two years of our marriage, until she could no longer handle doing so, she worked tirelessly at a job that was so physically taxing, she still suffers from the physical toll that job took on her.

Sad to say, in all she has done in the entirety of our seven years together, I have been her biggest stumbling block. When we originally got together, I was serving at the temple two days a week, going to school (albeit online), pushing myself to accomplish everything I could, and was obviously enough of a good man to be attractive to her. But after my attitude and approach to life had her convinced I would be a wonderful man to spend this life and eternity with, I was so relieved in so many ways that I would once again be "taken care of" that I slipped into complacency.

I wish I could go back and redo the ensuing years. I have slipped into physical (gaining weight and not exercising consistently as many of my doctors have advised repeatedly), medical (throwing asd much money as I could at the next fix, no matter how it might be affecting me), spiritual (denying myself the blessings of personal prayer and scripture study, not tending to my family duties or being a very good steward, nor attending the temple regularly with my sweetheart to remind us where and how it all began) and financial (using every excuse to not give an honest day's work and also justifying my own foolish and poor impulse buying) ruin. Over and over again, I have taken her for granted, acted like I am single and living on my own, and I have never failed to make my needs and wants more important than anything she wants or needs. In short, she has been nothing but selfless with me, while I have only been selfish towards her. Somewhere along the line, I have forgotten to ensure I maintain my status as the man she fell in love with and to work to become the man she deserves and the man who deserves her. And my cavalier and careless attitude has taken a toll on our marriage. Amy has assured me that she has no intention of ending the commitment she's made to be mine eternally, but in looking over my conduct since she came into my life, I have not given her very many reasons to stay.

I am grateful for the times when I have listened to her wonderful and often inspired advice. For about a year before it actually happened, she had voiced her opinion we should discontinue our temple service. But not until I was convinced it was the right thing to do did I agree with her assessment that it needed to happen. And I was grateful when I did listen to her. Right after, we had a major health crash, in the aftermath of which she had to quit her job, and I finally stepped up to the plate and started looking for one myself. The Lord made me pay a hefty price for my not having done so earlier, and I spent the better part of two years unsuccessfully trying to find one. When I did find the job at ROI Solutions, I started out as one of the most committed employees they had, and I was constantly trying my hardest to do the best I could for our customers. And my work ethic was rewarded by ROI, first by a pay raise, then by them extending special considerations in view of my health.

Sad to say, this lulled me into a sense of false security, and I used every excuse, every minor health complaint, as a reason to not work as assigned. When I was there, I was still the most committed employee they had. But my not pushing myself to work the assigned shift led to them not being able to keep me on when the project was closed because the agent company felt the ROI agents were "too good" at serving their customers, and that we were posing somewhat of a threat to the agents that represented the actual company.

There followed the hardest five months of my life in which we had many financial troubles. It was not until my first Team Leader from the previous ROI mentioned that he had a spot open on a project at another branch that I was able to resume employment. Thankfully, I was able to be set for the same rate of pay, and my project manager, who knows me well, has worked around my health issues. Even so, I have had issues with attendance again, and some of the things I have done with this new project have led at times to corrective actions. My wife has not ceased to support me in these opportunties, and has been my first and foremost source of encouragement and comfort when I have been worried about my job.

Just this weekend, my wife and I had a pivotal conversation in which I realized just how careless I had been in my attitude towards our relationship in general, and my duty to provide for our family. I resolved this week would be different and would mark the start of my genuine efforts to change everything that has been wrong in our relationship for so long.

Unfortunately, as a result of that conversation, I made some drastic changes in reducing the amount of some alternative remedies I had been taking, and eliminated some others and also one of the prescriptions I had been regularly taking. The result was that after a doctor's appointment early on Monday morning, I crashed big time. I realized that my body was in shock after abruptly stopping so many medications that were doing much more harm than good. Under the advice of my PCP, I have laid low for the last couple of days.

But if I can do so at all tomorrow, I am determined to be on time for work whatever else happens. And from now on, I will work with that same integrity with which my wife labored so hard to support us for as long as she was able to. And with the Lord's help, I will exert every possible effort to provide a good living for my family.

In the meantime, to my credit, I have been doing well in some regards. Well-meaning members of my family have carelessly and sometimes very cruelly suggested that Amy should be the only one to work for our maintenance, completely disregarding everything we try to tell them about her condition. I have made every effort to defend her from such awful and unjustified attacks on how much she has suffered in her life. And I have attempted to do everything in my power to help her resolve her health issues, even though those efforts have been fruitless up to now thanks to the fact that our mutual PCP has disregarded, overlooked and downplayed her symptoms while making every extra effort to resolve whatever issues I bring to his attention about what I am going through. We have been able to find her great insurance coverage with a completely different group of health care professionals, one of whom I hope will be able to figure out why she's feeling this way and actually do something about it.

Every year, we have a tradition where she drives us to the grounds of the Mount Timpanogos Temple on July 4th. There I lead her to the bench where I first proposed, and I do so again. This one tradition of renewing our engagement and commitment is something I greatly treasure.

And so, on this Valentines' Day, even though it is small thanks, I have posted this tribute to my beloved eternal companion for all to view. This woman, who has given everything to ensure that we are taken care of, and who now unfailingly has supported, loved, and stuck with me in spite of all my stupidity thoughtlessness, and selfishness, serves as a reminder that, if I live worthy of her, not only will she be mine in this life and in all the eternities to follow, but that I will never have to ask again the question posed in this poem. Enjoy it, and let me know what your thoughts are on this post in general or on the poem in particular. In the meantime, before sharing it, I want to include this statement: I love you, my beloved eternal sweetheart, now and forever, and I will work as hard as it takes to prove that from now on.

“Will You Be My Valentine?”

I cast my eyes to the sky above,
It's so long since I've dared to love.
Will I be rejected again?
I need another special friend,

One with whom to share my dreams.
I had one once, or so it seemed.
But she abandoned me for another,
And they're now wrapped up in each other.

To see them now, it makes me sick.
I wish that I were half as slick,
As the one who took my girl away.
But now, alas, she will not stay.

So as to make her feel disgrace,
I've found another pretty face.
One whom I feel I can trust,
Or will it be another bust?

I do not know, I cannot guess,
If she at last will ease my stress.
And yet, unsure, these thoughts are mine,
“Will you please be my valentine?”