Category Archives: poetry

Love is the Goal, Discover Your Own Path

Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 6.45.22 AM“In love lies the seed of our growth. The more we love, the closer we are to the spiritual experience.”–Paulo Coehlo


A simple quote and image on Facebook today triggered a thought I’ve been nurturing for quite some time. Love is the goal, yes, but LOVE as a state of being can happen at anytime and over some fairly trivial things. The point is to notice when LOVE enters your life and do more of what makes you feel those warm fuzzy feelings.

Crave them when they are not with you. Enjoy and savor them when they are with you. And feel the complete fullness of life when you have been satiated by them.

I wrote a post yesterday about my perfect breakfast. What was interesting, was how much I love my breakfast. I crave it in the mornings. That’s a good indication that my body is getting some benefit from the combination of yogurt and low-sugar granola. But the experience of longing and fulfillment that happens each morning, is a teacher. I enjoy the craving. I enjoy the act of eating and savoring the meal. And I enjoy the warmth I get from being satisfied with my meal. It’s a perfect relationship.

That’s sort of how we want our relationships with people as well. Crave them when they are not with you. Enjoy and savor them when they are with you. And feel the complete fullness of life when you have been satiated by them. And I’m not just talking about sex here. Satiation comes from the ritual of the morning as you wake up together. Make sure you appreciate your partner just for being there. Celebrate what you have, getting ready, making coffee, eating breakfast. Celebrate the time you are together.

It’s the longing that can get us in trouble. We long for our connection and we turn to other things. I really like ice cream. But my craving for ice cream is different from my craving for my fiancé. They are also similar. I can sublimate my desire for love in many ways. By eating ice cream I get that fuzzy feeling during and after, but I don’t get any of the other warm fuzzies that true caring and nurturing can bring. Ice cream is a hollow craving. And ice cream bears no love for me.

Make sure you celebrate each other. Find the things you love to do together and do them. Make time for those things. Discover new things you might both like to do.

My mate, on the other hand, lights up with my attention and affection. What I give in love I receive back in laughter and kisses. This is the space we’d love to live in. And then… there’s all that other living we have to do. Parenting, if you have kids. Earning a living, to make the ship go. Exercise, so you have a long and healthy life. And chores, the struggle to stay one step ahead of entropy.

As we can remember our beloved during the day, we can remind ourselves of our deep love and craving of that other person. And this is not obsession, this is healthy desire. I don’t want to control or manipulate her, I just want to be beside her, touching the small of her back, whispering my joys into her ear. And you can do this with little connective texts throughout the day, “You crossed my mind and stayed there.” Little competitions between you, “How far have you walked today?” And little messages of caring, “I’m stopping by the store, is there anything you need or desire?”

Just letting the other person know you are thinking about them is a great first step in connecting for the long haul. Make sure you celebrate each other. Find the things you love to do together and do them. Make time for those things. Discover new things you might both like to do. And get out there and do them. An active love is much better than a sedentary love. If you love doing activities together, you get a double boost, love and endorphins. Go for it. Stay connected and celebratory as much as you can. There is plenty of time for the mundane, but it’s tapping into the extraordinary that’s the key to a long-lasting love affair.

Always Love,

John McElhenney

Back to Positive Divorce & Co-Parenting

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Artists In Love, Parenting, and Divorce



Since an early age I have been able to express my love for others in a very open and direct way. And in my second marriage I learned, as things were falling apart, just how much of “that loving feeling” I was generating on my own. I thought I understood what it meant to be loved by someone, but I hadn’t really experienced it since the death of my older sister. I was manufacturing most of the warmth and connectivity in my family. Sure, I could tell my then-wife loved our kids and loved me, but it was a strained expression of love, not an open and on-going expression.

We loved our kids, that was obvious. Everything we did hinged around their wellbeing. But in that process of giving ourselves over to parenting, we pulled back from each other.

Of course, I hadn’t gotten the frame of the Love Languages yet. As I went down the dark rabbit hole of depression after the divorce I was lucky enough to join a recovery group. Over the course of ten weeks I met on Thursday nights with 15 other men and women going through the same process of letting go, rediscovering, and rebuilding. And in that class I learned a new language of communication as well. I learned about how to be in a relationship in the present moment, and let go of the expectations of what was to come. As I excavated the relationship in this group to examine what had gone wrong, a distinct picture emerged of our different creative responses and reactions to the stress of becoming parents.

Becoming Parents

See, when you have kids everything changes. Our young relationship was transformed by the mysterious and sacred event. And there was an urgent and searing love that burned away all of our doubt and differences as we came together as parents. But somehow it still wasn’t a loving relationship between us. We loved each other, but only one of us really knew how to express it.

Over the course of the next 9 years or so we drifted into more of a partnership than a loving relationship. It was not a dramatic shift, it was a gradual wearing down of our mutual adoration. I kept punching through with outpourings of love and affection, but over time the glow that was created was overwhelmed by the stress and weight of the routine of being parents. Parents who were both working hard to keep their own emotional lives together while still maintaining a warm and supportive home for our two growing children.

We loved our kids, that was obvious. Everything we did hinged around their wellbeing. But in that process of giving ourselves over to parenting, we pulled back from each other. And I’d be deluded if I tried to put the blame squarely on her shoulders. We had both wanted children. We both wanted to continue on our paths as creative adults. But we were also struggling with unmet expectations about how things would be once we achieved the goal: Two kids, a nice house, a few pets, and …

We dealt with the reality of life not quite working out the way we envisioned in different ways. She went jogging around the neighborhood. I went into my music studio. And together we negotiated our chores and kid duties. All the while we were good at celebrating our children. The milestones flew by as they moved from pre-k to “big kid school.” But while they were thriving, somehow our relationship to one another was not.

Parenting Demands a New Approach

The kids had become our relationship. And our own journeys turned inward rather than towards one another.

Little by little I began working in my studio more at night after the kids went to bed. Somewhere deep inside I believed that my craft would eventually provide for some relief from the hard times. But I was also moving away from her in ways that would only become clear much later. Our creative lives either find new outlets once we have children or we become frustrated artists. I dove into my music as a way to connect to my own inner passion and creative drive. And even as I became more energetic and hopeful, my then-wife became less so. I’m not sure if it was the lack of creative joy in her life, but I do know that’s how we met each other, full of joy and art. Our weekend routine before kids had become a series of check-ins around our studio time.

In the transformation of becoming parents we both changed. While the joy and fascination around the kids was the center of our lives all was well. The kids fulfilled some part of our creative souls in a deep way. And for a while, the children became our joint art project. But over time, they became a bit more autonomous, and the reality of the mundane set in again. Chores and bills and shuttling little friends everywhere causes additional strain that can wear on the most solid of relationships. In our transition from uber-connected-new-parents to parents-who-are-once-again-looking-for-their-own-path-in-life we lost the fascination and adoration between us. The kids had become our relationship. And our own journeys turned inward rather than towards one another.

Perhaps, I could’ve fought more for the marriage and demanded, in a masculine way, for her love and passion to return. I could’ve stood in more with the chores and tried to meet more of her demands for help. I’m sure there are things I could’ve done differently and better, but I’m not clear that my efforts to become a better husband would’ve healed the imbalance that seemed more fundamental. I’m not sure I could’ve woken up her inner artist again.

While the creative kernel continued to burn inside of me, I spent more and more time in the music studio after the kids went to sleep. There was even a good bit of my output that I fashioned into love songs and poems meant to rekindle, or at least affirm my love for this wonderful woman. Something between us had broken. She would point at my “lack of responsibility” for the reason she was angry a lot of the time. She would say the house was too dirty, or the money in the bank account was insufficient for her to relax. But somewhere in there, she had dropped her own creative song, and had begun to resent mine.

The Artist’s Journey is a Solo Path

My music became a symbol of the disconnect between us. What drew her in during our courtship, became something she fought against. My songs fell on deaf ears. My music seemed to represent for her why we didn’t have the money that would’ve allowed us to be more comfortable. But I think the real struggle was more internal for her. Her own art had transformed and thrived for a while around the birth of the kids, for a while her own internal song had not been silent. Somewhere along the path towards becoming a mom she reoriented her life exclusively around parenting.

When this played out in my marriage, my survival as an artist appeared to come (at least to my then-wife) at the expense of being a responsible father.

When the kids began to gain more momentum out and away from the two of us our closeness began to separate as well. As they grew and developed passions and interests of their own, perhaps she failed to rekindle the creative love inside herself. That was also the part of her that I fell in love with. As I was sputtering and struggling as a parent AND and as an artist, she was alone without her craft, and in some ways without me. She was focused on all the practical things. She began to see my creative endeavors as threatening rather than supportive. She wasn’t interested in the love poems I was writing. My childish creative spirit that had enraptured her early on became a symbol of my immaturity.

As artists we experience life as part of our creative path. Our outputs enhance and celebrate our ups and downs. Our creative voices can begin to get trapped under the rough business of bills, health insurance, and mortgage payments. The process of becoming parents turns up the intensity. Part of the artist’s struggle is how to continue finding time, and more importantly energy, to stay with it. Many parents drop their artistic ambitions in favor of their children’s wants and needs. When this played out in my marriage, my survival as an artist appeared to come (at least to my then-wife) at the expense of being a responsible father. The struggle became both internal (my energy and vision) and external (a threat to my marriage).

The fracture and collapse of my marriage ultimately became the emotional firestorm that uncorked my artistic voice. In my own individual struggle to survive, I found my release through writing. After the divorce, as I thrashed and fell apart during the months following my separation, I wrote to make sense of what was happening. And now, over six years later, even as the writing matures, the music and songs are beginning to come back as well.

An artist struggles through all of life’s conditions and requirements just like everyone else, but they tend to leave behind a story, or song, or image. This is my magnum opus.

My hope is that my song is not about divorce and trouble, but love and creative passion. As both of us struggled under the amazingly complex and overwhelming changes in our lives, I turned towards my craft as a way to cope, to organize my feelings and thoughts, and explore both the happy and sad parts of the journey. As the journey continues, my voice grows stronger here on the blog and in other areas of my life. As an artist, the crushing blow of the divorce stripped the band-aid off the pain I had been trying to express.

Today, my creative discipline and output has become an integrated expression of who I am. This song I sing becomes more of how I present myself in the world. My music and writing sets a creative example for my children as they pursue their dreams. I’ve shown them how it looks to recover from setbacks and disappointments.

This artistic me is the foundation of my new relationship as well. This time I am more confident and self-assured. I believe it was this confidence that allowed me to attract a mutually compassionate person to express and receive love and adoration with a similar playful and creative flair. In finding my deeper creative voice, I’ve also called in a partner who glows, and pings, and hums with her own distinct yet familiar buzz. Together we resonate and reflect back even more energy.

Always Love,

John McElhenney

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image: on stage, kristy duff wallace, used by permission

i sing the body connected (poem)


i sing the body connected
with the same red blood that awakes in the morning with a start
with the same red blood that cuddles and curls at night
and still longs for you
is there distance between us
further than magnetic North
is there anger and language
and communication break downs
if there is current
and currency
we are never apart
but connected
and super-conducted
and hyper-fluid
with bonds beyond atoms and skin
beyond spoken messages
there is no disturbance
in this force of one
that we have become
this is the contact
we’ve been searching for
like earth-connected
to discharge the negative
or hot bolt
if we
we are
in our bonded
tangle of messy emotions
and pulse beats
with a rush and tumble
yes, of hello, of want me too
isn’t this the frictionless
the heat of glance and desire
and motion together
and even apart
shooting sparks
that only we feel


image: milf hero, darkday, creative commons usage

Building the Perfect Lover: 13 Touch Points On the Path to Relationship


If I had the lover I imagine, I’m sure my head would explode in a shower of sparks. I dream, I write, I pray, and I search for the right woman. But mostly I imagine her in crazy-amazing projections and poems and flights of fancy. I know that they are my fantasies, and somehow that keeps me safe. But in building the perfect lover for the next relationship, I do have touch points that are essential for me. I wanted to capture a few of them, for myself, and for gaining a deeper understanding of the core wants and desires of my heart. (Your needs and dreams may vary.)

13 Touch Points On the Path to Relationship

1. The Spark of Desire

Something in the way she moves… The spark is an initial reaction to the other person’s entire presence. We call it chemistry, lust, passion, sexual desire. But I know what it is when I feel it, and I can tell very quickly when I don’t. For all the work ahead to actually build a friendship and relationship, the spark has got to be genuine. The chemistry does not grow over time, in my experience. Either you know it or you don’t. She will have that magical element for me, something I can’t name, something that’s not about hair, or clothes, or fitness. She will have moves that draw me in even as she’s merely crossing the coffee shop to say hello for the first time.

2. A Temple of Worship

Yes, the physical body is a temple. And for the long haul, I believe that my worship of the feminine body is part of my energy, gift, power, drive. I love women. I have loved very few women. I know that my next full-on love is out there. And I will be patient and honest in my quest to identify and seek her out. But there is not one perfect body. In fact, I’m learning more recently how younger and uber-fit women are no longer turn-ons for me. They remind me of my daughter more than a potential partner. I love watching them run by, all abs and legs and glowing skin. But that’s not what I’m looking for. And I think my architectural requirements for that woman are fairly flexible. I know that the combined ingredients outweigh any flash of beauty and brilliance of hip or smile. Still, there is something I want, and all the many ways that I can pay respects to their beauty, the more deeply I will bond. I do have to admit, I am somewhat selective in what I consider beautiful, but it’s not the typical hottie. And while this aspect is 100% critical, once I’ve imprinted on her, she will know I am done, settled, satisfied, as I will tell her all the time, and show her in my actions and support.

3. Hopes, Dreams, and Desires

What does she want? How is she expressing her vibrance in the world? Can she articulate her wants and desires? Does she know what she’s looking for in a relationship and can she express those ideas to me? Clarity of purpose is one of life’s true missions. If she is on her own mission I am much more likely to want to nuzzle up beside her and explore her wants and dreams and how they might or might not dovetail into mine.

4. Holistic Intelligence

There is no such thing as just-in-time intelligence. If she is smart it will show. If she is fascinated by learning and growing, it is easy to see. There are some key indicators that I listen for early in the first coffee date. Is TV a thing for her? If so, we’re probably not a match. Doe she have other things to talk about besides work and working out? Can she listen and engage in subjects as we jump quickly from topic to topic. You can even tell, when you begin the opening communications via texts or emails. Is there poetry in her words, in how she expresses herself?

5. Brilliant Wit

While I love to make a woman laugh, and it maybe one of my gifts, I am more interested in how she might make me laugh. Can she engage in rapid fire banter? If she jokes about something deep, does she get hurt when you joke back? What are the little things that tickle her? Does she laugh easily and often? Laughter might bring me closer to a woman faster than anything else.

6. Eyes That Shine Like Diamonds

Intensity and desire is radiated out of the eyes. You can see excitement, lust, sadness, joy. The women I meet who are alive and radiant are broadcasting on all channels with their eyes. And often makeup can be a distraction, camouflage. On dating profiles it’s the eyes and the smile that draw me in past the initial “curb appeal” profile photo. You can see it even in photos. She’s either on fire inside or she’s not.

7. Affection

How easily does she show affection? Can she tell you early on what she wants, what she likes, how she likes it? Can she tell you, “Wow, you’re cute.” Or “Man, you are sexy right now.” Not in the first few minutes. But if there is an arm brush, or a light pat on the shoulder during the first date, then we might have a match with our love language. This woman is going to be my next long-term cheerleader, she needs to be able to share her enthusiasms and ecstasies.

8. Joy that Radiates

You can see it, can’t you? When someone shines with joy, their beauty is amplified ten-fold. A joyous partner is critical if that’s your normal state as well. I’ve been in two marriages that had an imbalance in the joy d’ vivre, in the simple love of waking up in the morning to see what comes next. I am listening for her joy. I am tuning into the way she expresses herself in all types of situations. We can’t always be love and light, but it’s easy to notice when someone deals with adversity from a place of security and inner joy and when they are less centered.

9. High Intensity/Low Drama

I’m a type-a personality. And while I’m not only attracted to other “driven” people, that might be an unconscious requirement. Certainly drama is the biggest turn off there is. We had enough drama in our previous relationships. We might’ve stayed in that stressful situation for longer than we should’ve. But as newly released adults we should have very low tolerance for drama. It’s simply not a necessary tool to communicate wants and needs. In my experience, most drama comes from unmet expectations. And in our busy, two-family lives, expectations are going to be shifted and disappointments are going to happen. If there’s a fiery response to a missed date opportunity due to family obligations, well… perhaps our priorities aren’t in sync. Let’s put our kid’s priorities ahead of our “dating” priorities and our expectations can come back to reality. I expect an honest and intense woman who doesn’t need to freak out to get her way. I am most-likely doing my best to accommodate and appreciate all of the opportunities with her, but things come up. How she responds says a lot about how she will respond in the future.

10. Silent Affection

The in-between times. Silences together, and silences apart. Are you both okay with a bit of silence? The quiet moments are often the closest. Breathe together and quit trying so hard to figure it out. If she can do that, we’re a long way towards compatibility. And her silences just make her that much more mysterious and alluring to me.

11. Love Language = Touch

I show my affection by touching you. A pat on the shoulder, a hand on your back, holding hands, are all high forms of affection for me. I have been married twice to women who had other requirements to feel loved. (See The 5 Love Languages  – a book on love styles by Gary Chapman) And while the relationship is possible with someone who requires a different language, there is sure to be a lot more negotiation and compromise. I have dated a woman once, who also spoke “touch.” Her open expression of affection for me brought me a new meaning for feeling loved. I could tell she was in love. She let me know, even early on, that she was crazy about me. It felt so different from my last 20 years in adult relationships that I was surprised by how good it made me feel. I have seen what that feels like. A woman with the same love language (touch) is essential for me. (Back when I got married, both times, this knowledge hadn’t been articulated. Today we have the book, the concept, and we’d better listen to the language of our hearts, because it’s going to drive a good portion of our relationship.

12. Spiritual Heights

Spiritual and religious are two different things in my mind. One revolves around church, dogma, and some concept of “their god” who is different from the other gods of the world. Christianity is a great example. I was raised Presbyterian. I am a member of a Methodist church. But I rarely go to church. And while I believe Christ was a man, and the Bible does it’s best to relate his mystical relationship to god and his followers, I don’t believe that Christ is the only path to my personal connection to god, or GOD.

I love the people in my church, some of them are my closest friends. And I am deeply moved by the minister nearly everytime I hear him speak. But somewhere deep inside of me, I don’t need church to feel right with god. My GOD, may be different from your GOD, but I believe we’re talking about the same deity. Spirituality to me, is a form of modern day mysticism. (See Original Blessing: A Primer in Creation Spirituality – by Matthew Fox) I believe, like many of the ancient mystics, that our relationship to god, or the beloved, or great spirit, is much more about my personal faith and my relationship to that idea of wholeness. I believe I am communing with my god when I am walking in nature. I believe that a poem is as good as any prayer. So I pray, I write poems, I worship directly through acts of service and appreciations and gratefulness. I often don’t go to church.

13. Flexible Body and Mind

Every item above are ideas of what I want in a relationship. And everyone of them are like maps that are ready to be set on fire. When SHE shows up, and we begin to explore our connections, the items on my list will magically fade away. While I believe the maps are important to help me identify my priorities, the fulfillment of those ideals will probably come in a form very different from what I imagine. Can this woman be flexible in her ideas and concepts of what she’s looking for as well? If she has a construct of: no kids, six-pack abs, and radiant smile, we’re a non-starter anyway. But in the more subtle ways can she bring up and let go of dreams, fantasies, hopes, plans? I can, to some degree, and it’s this flexibility that keeps me growing and learning even through setbacks, dashed dreams, and disappointments. Those things are going to happen. The potential for conflict is going to happen. But the flexible person can see both sides of an issue and let go of their argument when it no longer serves as a request for change.


I believe in order to find our lover we need a fairly clear picture of what they might be. Way beyond looks, the construction or destruction happens over the course of the initial weeks of “dating.” What forms beyond the initial chemistry is what will remain beyond the heat of the sexual newness. If you’re addicted to the “next lover” you may pass up the opportunity to explore and educate yourself on ways your maps and strategies are wrong.

In this end this is more of a prayer than a map. My desires are a bit more abstract, more driven by the heart, less like tactics or requirements. Every “map” I’ve created has been torn to shreds by the woman who shows up. That’s the idea. But the visualization and wish list are critical structures to understanding your own heart. If you have a map, at least you will know when you’ve gone off plan, or if you are forging new territories.

Always Love,

John McElhenney

related posts:

image: hands, korinne m jackman, creative commons usage

Wallflowers – How Good It Can Get

You won’t believe
Just how good it can get
We’ll make a lover
Out of you yet

nothing but a poem to show for it


sometimes even a love poem
can be seen as a threat

how does the poet not find the poet
if sparks and chemistry aligned
with deep feeling

if poet-to-poet romance
were the thing
wouldn’t we poets know about it
wouldn’t Rilke or Rumi have left some clues

so we don’t
we admire
run along side
and wonder


if i know myself
and i express my desire
with honest
tempered hot

oh i’ve been down the artist to artist road
and both times it didnt’ end so well

but maybe an ending is inevitable
and the wordsparks
would be worth the collapse

or maybe the hellfire
would incinerate
two romantic souls
like moths bursting together
at the lightbulb
of joy and expression

i’d be willing
i mean, i’m open
if i
well, it’s a risk

to feel too deeply is never a risk
to miss the deepness is the tragedy
longing for the connection
is good for the wordplay
but hard on the heart

this is just here
a few words
inspired by your beauty
with nothing but a poem
to show for it

that’s plenty

for now


image: found on facebook, origin unknown, creative commons usage

The Dilemma of the Feeling Man: Stoic vs. Romantic


A while back I had the problem. A woman who was “dating” me didn’t want to admit to dating or even having a relationship. Something about that commitment, even saying the words, bothered her. Scared her. And yet we continued on in a “relationship” for a while. We limped along, in fits and starts and breakups.

She would break up with me when she felt things were getting too close. If I wrote a love poem, she broke up with me. If I said something too close to home, she broke up with me. So, with her anyway, I learned to be more circumspect. More withdrawn with my feelings and joy at being with her. I didn’t want to scare her off, but I was also a bit compromised in my expressions. Okay, so what was going on?

A recent post, brought some of this issue to light for me. From SkinnyandSingle blog:

Why did the chick cross the road?
To get away from the wonderful man who is falling in love with her.

I think most of us are afraid of this. We say we want it, but we sure throw our boots on and run like hell when it’s happening, don’t we?

Okay, so she’s talking about married men being more attractive to her. I think the issue is, the married man, is unavailable and that makes him safe and more alluring.  So what about the stoic man makes him more attractive than the deep-feeling romantic?

Perhaps at some level we are not willing or ready to “fall in love.” It’s an intoxicating feeling, and out of control. When love is in full bloom your senses and sensibility at taking a free fall. Both of my marriages were the result of a drugged-state of lust and love. Often it is hard to separate the two feelings. Sexual heat, and long-term compatibility do not necessarily go hand in hand, and in my case I’m 0-for-2 on that count. It might actually be the love-drug that is most frightening. At risk is the heart as much as the mind. If it’s just sexual, and just stoic then we can bypass the risk. Well, at least we think we can.

For a feeling person that running away is the biggest fear. If we allow ourselves to go deep into the passionate heart and we are left holding it in our hands as the partner runs away, it’s devastating.

But at some level we are skipping the depth of feeling that comes from opening up fully to the good as well as potentially negative effects of falling in love. I think the romantic believes in love, and believes and craves this intoxicated bliss. And I’m certain it can also become an addiction, preventing long-term and solid relationships, when the drug wears off, the addict will go searching for the next “high.”

And while I crave the high, I’m okay with the buzz too. And sobering up enough to assess the core of the relationship. At least that’s my hope. But what is so attractive about a man who stays aloof? With this previous relationship, I almost felt like the more I ignored her texts, the longer I waited to respond to a request, the more alluring I became to her. If I was too available, too eager, it frightened her off.

For a feeling person that running away is the biggest fear. If we allow ourselves to go deep into the passionate heart and we are left holding it in our hands as the partner runs away, it’s devastating. So we learn to curb our enthusiasm. We learn that love poems are for “later.” Or maybe for “never.” Is there value in the love poem? Am I really writing to the woman I am with, or am I writing to the woman I imagine, the ideal woman?

In another early dating negotiation, I met a woman who seemed interested, and who was highly attractive to me. But when I reach for the second date, she mentioned this other person, “she was seeing.” What? Um, why did she reach out to me?

As we emailed over the next few weeks, me in the friendzone, she complained about this man who was unable to express his feelings. Stoic. Maybe he was playing the aloof card to manipulate her, in some attempt to keep her interested. It sure killed my “romantic” play. As this woman and I communicated over the next few months, he broke her heart. And I continued to profess, “Well, we could go out,” and to no avail. When she also showed up on the dating site I have a profile on, I was again confused. “What’s happening?” I asked.

Even though the chemistry seemed to be good for me, and she said it was for her, something about the timing, or the risk of my overtly “romantic” personality was a turn off to her. And she continued to wax poetic on Facebook about her lack of companionship. Oh well, seems like she was continuing to hunt for the stoic. Of course, she was romantic herself, and perhaps that was the risk. Two romantics together, might make for some uncomfortable projections and unrealistic fantasies.

When she continued to push and pull, I began to feel a bit scraped up by the pushes. While my romantic heart is resilient, and my “casual” commitment was in place, I wanted someone to fall in love with.

At is goes, the stoic or fearful woman, eventually wore me down. And my squelched romanticism was too much to bear. I had to go on looking, even though she was who I wanted. I learned that if the HEAT is not reflected, or if the “run-away” response is too  pronounced it begins to be a buzz kill. There’s a lot of passion, but if you have to moderate all the time, perhaps it’s not a fit.

So what is it about my silences that kept her wanting more, and my love songs that freaked her out? Do women want romantic love? Or was it just too soon for this woman, to be ready for the heady fall? After a while the jokes, I’m “just teasing,” began to feel like distancing techniques. And I got tired of always having to let the jokes roll off my back. If I rose to the occasion, and bantered back, the results were ALWAYS BAD. She loved to dish it out, but couldn’t stand to have some of her “teasing” tossed back at her.

So when she continued to push and pull, I began to feel a bit scraped up by the pushes. While my romantic heart is resilient, and my “casual” commitment was in place, I was wanting someone to fall in love with. I guess I still am. And if that object of affection is freaked out by the very idea of love…

Okay, so how is a stoic man attractive? Because he is unavailable? Because he needs winning? It’s not me, but I could learn to be more reserved. If I wanted to. I don’t. Moving right along…

Always Love,

John McElhenney

related posts:

reference: All the good ones are married – Skinnyandsingle

image: romantic moment in amsterdam, monique broekhuisen, creative commons usage

time might change everything


i waited for her to change her mind
tossing random love messages and poems
rubbing her back and praising her tan lines
i could not predict her next move
or escape act

so we travelled along
side by side
bodies in transit
bodies in heat and proximity
and i tried to change my mind
interviewed other candidates
browsed the profiles
flirted furiously

changing my mind was my only option
changing her mind
wasn’t for my to-do list
and waiting for the change
always felt like a sabotage
we know what happens there

and a week
moved into the summer
and her kisses relaxed a bit
as she spread herself
and her mind
ever darting away
ever returning
in smiles

her smile is what took my breath away
even when we met
that first moment
and that first
wow, she’s cute
and that smile
lighting up my closed room
calling me to change myself

timing is everything they say
and time together is a potent agent
of mystery and joy and bumpy rides
there are always bumps
hiccups and fears
that is no wonder
and no matter that isn’t dissolved
in time

so the timing thing
is about patience and peace
it is about pause
and enjoyment of the skin
and touch of the neck
time doesn’t run away
people do
and time is our currency
and payment

i told her
i have what i want
nothing could be better
at this moment
you are here
i am here
you are smiling
i am alert and attentive
and time is, in fact, on our side

if i listen to myself, now
i can hear how crazy it all sounds
how full of it, i am
she is here and she’s not
reaches out and is gone
responds with a strange jab
and i come back to the skin
of the present moment
and not waiting
for either of us


see also:

image: wet, john morgan, creative commons usage

Does Poetry Matter? Be poetic. Love deeply. Keep going.

Screen Shot 2014-06-15 at 7.02.04 PM

I am the poet of the hashtag #desire. If you Google “#desire” you’ll see my poems, or me, on the first page or two of results. So what. I can almost hear you saying it. So the-fk what. Tell me how poetry changes anything? Tell me how disconnected words and images can do anything but confuse? And maybe you’re saying, “I hated poetry in school, I probably hate it now. Much less write it.”

Okay. I’m going to start slow and build up to my poetic manifesto. Or Manifesto of #desire.

POINT ONE: We think in words. We often don’t think in sentences. So saying to someone

“I love her.”

While plainspoken and straight-forward lacks the energy to convey what you’re hoping to say. By saying something like:

“her smile made me feel a whole wave of yes, yes, yes”

Well, something about the image, the smile, the washing of the yes, yes, yes, like waves. So in this example the words have become sounds, and abstract ideas of why we find this person so attractive, we’ve even got feelings in there. Because “love” is pretty over-used. We even say it about people we don’t care for.

POINT TWO: Sometimes when sentences fail us, we can break it down into ideas, thoughts, random bits of information. And since this scattering of ideas is more like our natural thinking, we can build up, additive language, a wash of words that represents how we are feeling, or what we want to express without the care of a comma, or the persnickety period. We can let the whole thing rush out in a flurry of abstract letters and concepts, and give no care to the meaning, and thereby get closer to the meaning than if we had tried to explain it.

she touched my chest
with a finger
lit up by the closing rays of our last day together
and whispered how she didn’t want to leave

I love the flow of punctuation-less writing. I like keeping the “I” to its diminutive friend “i.” Something feels more personal about it, more vulnerable, less proud, more exposed.

POINT THREE: By giving in to the rush of words in your head and giving them voice on the page you become more familiar with your thoughts. Your connection between the head-filled-with-words and the heart-filled-with-emotions becomes more fluid. You begin thinking in love poems. What a wonderful by-product. Flood your brain with love poems and you spend more time thinking about love, and objects of affection, and feelings of love. Ah, is there any better reason?

POINT FOUR: Poetry is rare. The poems you wrote on Valentine’s Day to your 5th grade crush are quite different from what you are capable of today. The rare part is we are taught what bad looks like, and at some point we got the idea that our poetry was bad. We lost the imagination for losing the words without thought to structure or form, just letting the letters rip, see where it leads us. And perhaps we went down some dumb paths. We tried some poems and they sucked. Well, that’s also the point. When you write sucky poems, you get to feel what that disconnection feels like. You begin to understand how far you have gotten from feeling your authentic feelings. And then, even putting them down on paper. Sharing them is even more difficult. Because in 5th grade the girl laughed rather than swooned. And the afternoon’s study at the rhyming dictionary was crushed by her smile.

“I liked it,” she might have said. Ug. Death to a poet’s heart.

POINT FIVE: The poetry has got to be for you first. Unloosen the belt, unhinge the mind a bit if you like, and let the random thoughts flow onto the page, or into your favorite writing program. Don’t give any mind to the form or function. This is more about building up a relationship between your heads stream of consciousness and your heart’s desire to be understood. At first the poetry is for you. It can be a part of your “journaling program” or your “morning pages” (see The Artist’s Way). What we are going for, initially is the slow methodical death of the internal editor that says to you, “Poetry is dumb. And your poetry is awful.” There is no time to share it in these early days and weeks of expression. Don’t rush to share your newfound gift. You may feel it coming on, you may write a poem that is sure to make your partner or mom or girlfriend smile, but I advise you to keep the early poems, the early poetic experience to yourself. As you are learning to run, and learning to be vulnerable with yourself, it might be easy to get discouraged by the missed or ill-tempered complement.

POINT SIX: Finding your poetic voice. If you stay with the writing and releasing your inner inhibitions you may find yourself starting to think more about language, and the expression of words. And there’s a lot more to write poetry about than love. Hate sometimes finds a clear expression in the unfettered verse. As you strip some of your writing of form and punctuation, you might find the process becomes easy. You might find yourself composing lines as you’re waiting in line at the grocery store. Or texting lines to yourself for later. This is a huge victory. As your world becomes more poetic, so does your life.

In Thomas Moore’s Dark Nights of the Soul, he explores the experience of people going through very difficult times. Death of a loved one, divorce, depression. And one of the ways he frames the healing process is to know that this “dark night” is transformational, you are being transformed by the pain and suffering. AND… he goes on, if you can see the “poetic” or better yet, “express the poetic” of the situation by writing some of the experience down, you may find the beauty in the pain even before you are out of the pain. By making the experience poetic, we join the thousands of great writers who have expressed their struggles. And we see that our struggles are not unlike theirs. And that there is poetry, even angry poetry, to be expressed as part of our healing process.

If you can find the poetic voice of your soul, you can begin to unweave your pain, see it in an artistic and fascinating light. Be amazed at how hateful your anger poems can be. [IMPORTANT NOTE: Don’t ever send them out. Anger poems can be really wounding to others. And if they are not received as “beautiful” you might be shamed into not releasing this most unpleasant and yet poetic voice.]

POINT SEVEN: Completing the mind-word-body-write connection will give you more tools to express yourself. Getting out what you’re feeling is a lot of the process of getting over it. Falling in love is a lot about deciphering the abstract notions of love and the actual person who might be much less poetic. But by enhancing the creative and poetic heart, you are beginning to live more passionately. Or at least more linguistically attractive. Again, this is about you and your writing. Not about what you get from it, or if you get praised for it.

In Letters to a Young Poet, Rilke suggested that the young man only write if he could not prevent himself from writing. Only to write for his own passion and enjoyment and not get caught up in the trap of “is it good enough” or can I call myself a poet.

The Poetic Mind is a strong mind. Finding the way to access your thinking at a more abstract level, I think, gives you access to more pure and direct expression. It’s hard to say “I love you” in a new way. But it’s easy to begin with little things that make you say, “Yes,” and go from there.

Be poetic. Love deeply. Keep going.

Always Love,

John McElhenney

a few other posts of interest:


and they are gone - poetry

and they are gone

the tray is empty
timers all completed
a bowl of cereal
is warming in the sun
and they are gone

arms smiles and hugs
cries and demands
all silent
and missed
i am whole
and yet incomplete

i may never understand
the full loss
for all of us
i may never quit saying i’m sorry
even to myself
and the cat and dog

a quiet day
and empty evening
are restful
but not refreshing
and we try not to miss
them so much
we, the pets and i
prop up joyful

any regrets now
burned away
and the future is the heaven
we still strive for
and this slow moment
in this blustery day
even in sunlight
is cold
anticipating the weather