Wednesday, February 14, 2007

How Far Are You Willing To Go In The Name of Love?

Happy Valentine's Day!

That Johnson Boy here - typing feverishly on this keyboard in the hopes that warmth will return to these frozen fingertips. It is freezing cold here in NYC, but I think the following question will raise the heat in very short order. So, tell me folks... on this a Nationally Recognized Day of Love, I just wanna know...

How Far Are You Willing To Go In The Name of Love?

The question arose during my morning commute. I headed out to work on Valentine's Day and came face to face with a rather wicked ice storm. Luckily, I had already peeked out and realized that the Snow Emergency Rules were in effect. Translation: residents of Gotham City are granted permission to park their trendy attire on the opposite side of the closet in favor of unfashionable cold weather gear. Yet, even in my parka, timbaland boots, gloves and thermal underwear, I was still painfully cold.

Halfway into my commute, a delivery guy boarded the bus and created quite a commotion. In his hands was a huge tent of plastic, which he held in front of him as if carrying the Holy Grail. As he inched towards the rear, the mass of commuters parted like the Red Sea. I noticed that the female commuters were eyeing his package as if they were staring down a Victoria Secret's Buy One Get One Free sale. All the while I'm wondering what could create such a reaction in the normally staid Upper Eastsiders?

Mr. Delivery Guy exited at my stop. I caught up with him on the subway platform. Dude was shivering uncontrollably, his moustache and beard sealed in ice, but his package was intact. I could make out the bow... a splash of green... a mass of red... aha! Dude was delivering a bouquet of roses to some lucky recipient. The arrangement wasn't big at all. But the tent of plastic created to protect the roses was enormous. It's as if the florist created a temporary greenhouse to protect the roses from the elements.

And that, my friends, got me to thinking...

If the florist was willing to go to such great lengths to protect a token of love, then what about us? What are we willing to do to protect the real thing? What are you willing to do in the name of love?

We all know that relationships can be as brutal as today's icy Nor'easter. And like today's storm, they'll make you ponder how anything so beautiful can be so painful. The twist and turns of the average relationship is more than enough to invoke Marvin Gaye's "Make Me Wanna Holla, Throw Up BOTH My Hands." Simply put, overexposure to the unpleasant elements of love and relationships can leave us numb and send us scurrying into hibernation.

Don't get me wrong - I do understand. If you read my last posting, you know that I understand the painful aspects of love gone wrong.


Much like the florist, we must do everything we can to protect our ability and willingness to love. Most of us excel at protecting our hearts from others. But, on this cold-as-heck Valentine's Day 2007, I need you to know this: most of us need to protect our heart - not from others - but, from ourselves.

Hmmm, maybe I need to say that one more time. In the spirit of James Brown, can I hit it two times?

Most of us should concentrate on protecting our heart from ourselves.

Most of us (self included) are Master Bricklayers. We are the one's who encase the most delicate of organs within brick walls. We are the one's who continually administer the numbing I.V. long after the healing could've/would've/should've taken place. We are the one's who unintentionally allow the destructive seeds of cynicism to take root and fester in our spirit. But we don't call it that, do we? We call it survival. We call it doing what we gotta do... playin' the game (even as er'body declares they don't want to play games). We call it everything but what it is - a tragedy.

So, my friends, last year I gave you a Valentine's Day gift from my heart. This year, I'm asking you to grant me a Valentine's Gift from your heart.

Grant me a Valentine's Gift that you'll do whatever you have to do to keep your heart and spirit pliable, open and receptive to the enormous possibility of something beautiful happening in your love life. That means warding off the cynicism, as well as those who live to recruit members to join the Miserable 'til Death Club (a/k/a Men/Women ain't $#!# Club).

Grant me a Valentine's Gift that you'll do whatever you have to do to remove the walls. Learn from the florist. His plastic tent was ample protection against a fierce ice storm, maintained the perfect temperature for the delicate roses all the while allowing admirers a seductive glimpse at the beauty that lie just inside the tent. Each of us would do well to replace the brick and mortar with something more pliable that allows our beauty to shine through.

And, just in case you suspect I might be living on Fantasy Island, consider this...

Last year, in response to my posting entitled, "Something New For Valentine's Day, " I received an email from a very successful, single mom. She thanked me for the message, but also shared "if a man were to sing the lyrics from 'For Your Precious Love' - at this point in my life - he'd have to yell them as I don't think I'd be able to hear him." She's beautiful, funny, quite accomplished and yet, there was no one to whisper those beautiful lyrics in her ear. What she didn't write, but definitely implied was that she was open to hearing the lyrics and in fact, would love to hear the lyrics sung to her.

That was February 2006. In October 2006, I saw her at the Terisa Griffin CD Release Party in DC. She was in great spirits and introduced me to several of her invited guest. Didn't think anything about it... that is, until yours truly intercepted bits and pieces of the secret sista code - something about "new love" and a certain someone being "full of giggles." It seems that Ms. "He'd Better Yell" has a very special man whispering the Iceman's lyrics and by all accounts she's hearing him loud and clear and grinning like the Cheshire Cat. (And you thought you could keep a secret from That Johnson Boy???!!!)

Ladies and gentlemen, let me state emphatically -- I believe in love. I believe that each of us can enjoy healthy, loving relationships on THIS side of heaven. Let us all commit to gifting to ourselves the promise to do whatever we must do to keep our hearts supple, our spirits warm and our outlook and expectations refreshingly optimistic. That's work. I know it is. But, trust me - bricklaying is hard work (and no benefits to boot!). And when love comes calling... AND LOVE WILL COME CALLING... it won't have to bring a jackhammer to tear down the walls that you forgot were there. As for you and that special person? Y'all can embrace John Legend's "definitely worth listening to" ballad... you know the one... "Take It Slow." And, in time y'all can up the ante by calling on the Iceman. "For Your Precious Love, Means More To Me...".

That's how far I'm willing to go in the name of love. How 'bout you? Wishing you a truly wonderful Valentine's kinda love from That Johnson Boy, that's who!

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Think You Know Your Man?

My Dear Valentine,

Morning is near. I feel its presence, even as the room remains cloaked in darkness. I'm wondering why is it that matters of the heart prefer the midnight to 6am shift. Tonight is no different as once again sleep passes me by. What is different is that tonight you fell asleep in my arms and hours later I'm still holding you close. But my heart... my heart... my heart is beating out this letter, even as my mind says no... don't. Or at least, not yet. Even in the warmth of your embrace, I've never felt more naked... or more alone.

As morning draws near, the warm memories of our first mornings seem lost in a dense Pacific Northwest fog. Funny, there was a time when your smile was all that was needed to burn off the thickest haze. As I lie here... tracing your hairline with the tips of my fingers, I still can't resist the beauty of your smile. We laughed, we loved, we explored our lives with gusto and passion. You even begrudgingly accepted my honest assessment that our combined body heat made full body spoonin' through the night a serious dehydration risk. Yet, here I am, holding you tightly; hour after hour... minute after minute... while bead after bead of sweat flows from our bodies.

As morning draws nearer, I find peace in the ebb and flow of your spirit at rest. It's been a long time since we've had peace. Nothing comes simple anymore. Your questions, my answers, our responses both spoken and unspoken are complicated beyond measure. There must be a chapter in the relationship handbook that says "The pursuit of happiness must grant a right-of-way to the pursuit of peace." Perhaps I'll contribute a chapter, if only to illuminate the unspoken truth about love and peace. The pursuit of peace isn't a truce between man and woman. It is a truce between each individual's head and their heart; between logic and intuition. And if you really believed that God granted the gift of intuition exclusively to women, think again. Although... right about now... this gift of intuition feels strangely like a curse. But, what do men know... right?

Morning is almost here. I spend the waning moments trying to eliminate any gaps between our flesh. The sweat is pouring profusely from our bodies. You know that I hate the tickling sensation of sweat's trickle. But, what you don't know is how hard it is to let go. Maybe we can lie here... sweat out the hurt, our heartaches, the overbearing sense of frustration. Maybe if I hold on tight enough, the voices screaming from both head and heart will evaporate into the morning light. I lie here, holding you close, yet sensing the futility of my "maybe if's." All the logic within me won't stop me from gently kissing your cheek and offering up one last "maybe, if..." all the while partaking in that silent universal (albeit pathetic) ritual of wondering are you awake?

I want you to know that I know... Mourning is here. Has been for some time now, but here in the final moments before dawn Mourning's kicking my ass. Seems Mourning is pissed at me, and truth be told, rightfully so. I've committed the unthinkable crime of passion - yelling out another's name while in her clutches. I want Ms. Mourning to know that I didn't slip when I called her by another name. Hell, I even convinced myself that her name was "job stress."
I was just trying something - anything - to avoid the reality of her arrival. It's not the first time she's paid me a visit, but I don't think I'll ever become accustomed to her sewing my curtains shut tight or pounding my stomach with her relentless body blows. Most of all, Ms. Mourning, I know that I'll never grow comfortable calling you by name.

Unfortunately, I can't hide nor deny my reality. Mourning arrived with the fury of Patti Austin's bittersweet plea, "Love Me By Name" bellowing in her wake.

This letter excerpted from "Before You Give Up On Him"
Copyright 2007 Keith O. Johnson

PS... you might be wondering who is my, she?
You might be better served asking "who your HE might be?"
Think you know your man?

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