Speaker | Entrepreneur | Author

Sam Davidson's blog

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Posts tagged love
What My House Looks Like

My kitchen table has crayon on it. The upholstered chairs have sugary milk seeped in, puddling just below the surface. There is a smear of paint on the back door, left there two weekends ago after my daughter and I came back inside once we painted the stool on a patch of mulch near the fence. Fingerprints dot the area around most doorhandles and if you look for just a minute, that's a plastic chicken leg there by the couch leg. Its partner - mashed potatoes - is probably under a cushion. And his accomplice - peas - is nowhere to be found.

The pile of stuffed animals is getting higher. We have more Lego's than bin space to store them now. Those helium balloons she got for her birthday? They'll be floating quietly in our living room until they finally droop to the floor (around the time her next birthday gets here).

My home looks nothing like a catalog with those septic white rugs and no sight of dust. Nothing here is at a right angle and you'll find a wrinkle in most everything. Our shelves are cluttered and so are our lives.

My home looks nothing like the fake living rooms you find at IKEA or in a West Elm window. Here we have milk rings on counter and chocolate chips beneath the highchair.

My home looks nothing like I pictured, but it looks every bit like a family lives here. It looks like a place where my daughter is growing up, where she plays and runs and falls and rests. It looks like a place where my wife and I are making a life together, where we crash at the end of the day, where we lay to talk about where this is all headed and how we'll get there.

This place looks like life to me.

The Challenge of Love

Love can be so hard sometimes because human nature is very bad at living in the present. It wants to remember the past as better than it was and has dreams for the future that may never become reality. Yet with love, we're doing something for, toward, or with a person who is only in the present. Loving someone for who they were or for who we hope they will become is a wasted effort. We may as well write a Hollywood script where everything works out like we want. Such an exercise is a fun escapist fantasy, but isn't how the world works.

The challenge of love is to love the other person entirely and completely right now, for who they are. We love them for what they're doing right now.

Of course, in a blink, the person can change (and so will we) and we must begin again to love that new person with our new person.

This is what makes love so dynamic, volatile, and roller coaster-y.

True love is not boring as long as it is present.

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Here's a related post about why I think I'll be married to five different women in my lifetime.

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Learning Love

Blockbuster romantic comedies with hunky actors and perky actresses try to convince us that love is easy. As long as we're in the right place at the right time, we'll find the one we're meant for. Then, if we endure a few miscommunications, a quirky friend or two, some kind or work problem or ex-girlfriend conflict, it'll all work out. There's a reason rom-coms end when the couple finally gets together or gets married. It's because making a movie about what it's like to love someone for a long time would border on tedium and would ultimately be classified as reality filmmaking.

Being in the thick of love is like feeling your way through a jungle, looking for a path others have told you about but that you can't quite seem to find. Sooner or later, it dawns on you that it's up to you to make your own way in order to embrace this wilderness that is love.

I think love is learned. We don't learn it cerebrally by picking up a book about rules or ways or steps. We learn it from the middle out, dropped right into the context of relationship. There is no other way to understand what love is other than to experience it deeply, truly, and overwhelmingly.

Any other way of understanding it would be shallow. Watching a movie about it, reading a blog about it, or never giving in to its pull is like staying in the kiddie pool when there's an ocean to enjoy just over the horizon. Yes, the waves are scary, but we can never understand the freedom that exists on the open water until we relinquish the security that comes with the shoreline.

Each day I'm on this voyage, I learn a little more about how to love my wife, how to love my daughter, how to love my family, my friends, and my community. I learn what's required of me. I learn what each needs from me. I learn what I need to tell the others so that they, too, can learn to love me.

It is in the tumultuous ocean of love that I find the most comfort. Sure - uncertainly abounds. But, I have an anchor I can drop at any time to ground me and give me time to pause and regroup before sailing again.

Deep down, none of us wants love that is found in only 90 minutes, wrapped neatly with a bow. We want love that scares the crap out of us but is worth the journey because someone else is in the boat with us.

If we want to learn what it's like to love, we have to push off from the harbor, lose sight of what's familiar, and learn to navigate new streams. And when we do - no matter where this trip takes us - we'll find that staying on dry land caused us to miss so much. Regardless of how this journey ends, there is no other ride we want to be on, no other place we want to go, and no other people we want to share this stage with.

Onward. To/in/with/for love. 

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I Will Build You A Thousand Sand Castles

We sat in the cool sand under an overcast sky and started to dig. We moved sand around looking for shells and then started to fill buckets in an attempt to build something. When the bucket could hold no more sand, I turned it over and lifted it again to reveal a small column standing there amidst the shovels and seashells. My daughter saw the beginning of the sand castle, grew excited, and then stepped on it, turning my work to rubble. She looked up, pleased, and asked, "Daddy build another sand castle so I can knock it over?"

Sure, my love. For you I would build a thousand sand castles.

This is what we do for people we love. We're willing to build and rebuild and then build again and again and then a few more times. We're not working with stone or marble when we're working with love. Our materials are fragile human hearts and delicate emotions. Often, each crumbles under the weight of everyday life, busy schedules, and the pressure to be perfect.

And when something falls apart or doesn't go as planned, if we're with the people we love, we stoop low again and start to build. We're not interested in doing work that will last for millennia; we do the work that's needed to make it through today because when we love somebody, all we want to do is spend tomorrow with them.

Love is not the thing that motivates us to create something that strangers will know us by. Love is the thing that compels us to do everything so that those who mean the most will know how much we care.

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The Power of Place

Sometimes, all it takes to take you back is a building. Stacks of steel and concrete or the way the fairway looks in that sunlight can transport you back a decade or more. Looking out a bedroom window or down a hallway that doesn't seem so big anymore brings back memories and milestones you'd forgotten still lived inside of you. I was in south Florida, keynoting a business conference. After the speech and a round of golf with my dad, we decided to go for dinner. As we turned off the main drag and into the complex full of restaurants and shops, I got that scary happy feeling like I'd been there before. And then I knew why it was familiar and foreign to me. I had been there once, almost ten years earlier when I spoke nearby. I was a different person then, on a different errand, but the power of place overcame me and there I was, younger and unwed with more answers than questions.

It's the feeling of a Friday night football game when you're 30 but suddenly feel 16. Or when you look at the counters in your parents' house and recall a time when you could barely see the cookies that you could smell cooling above. It's the way your grandfather looked in his recliner or the way Christmas sounded when everyone was together under the same roof of that very old house.

Our homes are more than where we live. Our offices and schools are more than bricks and drywall. Parks are more than trees and open fields and roads do more than get us from A to B. Everywhere we go and move is a memory waiting to happen, eager to sneak up on us when we're busy doing everything else.

Places can be sacred. Churches and bars can equally have special meaning for those of us who darken either doorway to meet with friends and commiserate with strangers.

The only way to recognize the power of place is to succumb to its alluring pull. Let it wash over you. Let your mind wander back to a time when you were and where you were. And understand that the next memory could happen anywhere. The conditions never have to be right or perfect. The creation of the moment will make everything right by it.

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These Are the Rules

We were outside at our house after coming home from school. It had rained a bit the previous few days, so her small wading pool had some standing water in it. Knowing the plants would be thirsty as the humidity would be picking back up soon, I began to use one of her buckets to scoop water and pour it on the hydrangeas. Those guys get very thirsty. My daughter saw what I was doing and wanted to help. She reached for her pink plastic frying pan (what it was doing outside is anyone's guess). She filled it with water and gingerly stepped to the tree. At first she held it up to one of the branches, thinking a leaf would literally drink the water. When that didn't work, she dumped it at the base of the trunk and declared, "This tree is so hungry."

Bored with that she then filled her pan again and dumped the water on the ground nearby. Seeing a small puddle form, she determined it was ripe for jumping. She reveled in what happened when her small feet found the pooling water. She giggled at the sound of water being tamped and splashed and repeated the entire process. After a few more rounds, she looked and me and asked, "Daddy jump?"

My first instinct was to tell her, "No, that's too messy. Daddy doesn't want to get his shoes and pants muddy."

Luckily I caught myself and said nothing of the sort. I was mature enough to understand that the point of life isn't to stay clean. It's to get dirty with the people you love. 

For most of our lives, we're given a set of rules. We learn regulations about what's proper, expected, common, or normal. We're told to stay clean, speak softly, eat all our vegetables, and be careful. But I've determined that these are not the rules we should be following.

These are the rules:

Love fully; not halfway.

When you are somewhere, be all the way there. Don't worry about taking pictures of everything with your phone.

Don't worry about what you look like. Worry about who you're with.

Notice people. Don't just look at them. Really notice them.

If you're lost in conversation, it's okay to be late.

Life and its spontaneous moments are a gift. As such, they should be treasured, protected, and shared.

Haters aren't worth your time.

Listen and watch. Then say something.

Don't judge. It's a waste of time.

When you laugh, laugh loud. When you cry, cry deep. And when you do either, do them in the presence of someone you love most.

And when your daughter asks you to jump in mud puddles on a Tuesday after school, jump high.

A Reminder About Your Heart

Yes - you are free to store up as many treasures as you like in your heart. It is your heart, after all. Cram it with memories - good or bad. Select people who belong there. Choose stuff and put it there, too. Seriously - whatever and whoever you want to store up in your heart is fair game.

But please remember that space is limited. You cannot possibly hold everything.

Choice is hard, but it is necessary. The things that stay in your heart, then, must be really important.

And that should tell you something about who and what is allowed in.

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To Zack and Shaun, on their wedding day

Tomorrow, I'll be officiating the wedding of Zack and Shaun (yes, I'm licensed to do such things). Zack and I went to high school together, and were part of a group that was inseparable. Fate allowed us to reconnect years after finishing college. He's marrying Shaun, the love of his life, outdoors tomorrow night. Here is part of what I'll be saying. Today is not the end, but neither is it a beginning. 

We like to think that weddings are the start of something, but they're not. They are merely a blip; a small resting point for a relationship that is picking up steam, about to start the long haul up mountains and through valleys. What began as an innocent set up years ago now winds its way to this altar in nature. And what happens today will be memorialized on film and in your hearts, but it is just one step in your relationship as you journey onward.

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My hope is that people will look at you and want to be you. 

My prayer is that your relationship will serve as a model for others - older or younger. I think that people in attendance today are here to support you, but are also here hoping to learn some of the magic that has gotten you to this point.

I hope that you can be honest with each other at all times. By being open, straightforward, and truthful, you'll give us all a glimpse into what a relationship should be. You won't necessarily show us one without conflict or one that is always rosy. But you'll show us one that is genuine, with love for the other at its core. You'll show us sacrifice, trust, and empathy. You'll show us hope, longevity, legacy, and meaning.

You'll show us who we can aspire to be.

Because each of you will continually aspire to be better. And your marriage will help you do that.

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When Your Heart Speaks

When we're used to mixed messages, subversive advertising, and misunderstood communication, we often don't know what to do when we receive a message that is loud and clear, unmistakable in its instructions to us. Rarely are people direct and concise with us. If we hear something that is, we're not sure how to respond.

This is why it's so hard to follow your heart.

When your heart speaks, it pulls no punches or wraps its intent in veiled imagery or opaque wording. It states what it wants and then expects you to follow.

When your heart speaks, it doesn't use metaphors or similes, illustrations or even hyperbole. It is direct, clear, convincing, and true.

When your heart speaks, you may as well listen. Doing so won't be an adventure in understanding; it will be a challenge in acting.

When your heart speaks, its voice is unmistakable. No other input in your life is so honest with you.

When your heart speaks, you have to listen. To do anything else would be betrayal of the worst kind, the betrayal of who you're destined to become.

When your heart speaks, the voices of competing interests are silenced in a breath. Truth will do that. Your heart doesn't need to scream. It simply whispers what needs doing and every distraction runs at its revelatory message.

When your heart speaks, follow where it leads, for there's no guarantee of when it will say something again.

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Love is Letting You See Right Through Me

If you go to the top of the Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower) in Chicago, you'll have a breathtaking view of the city. You'll also have a heart-stopping look at what is 100 stories right below your feet. The Willis Skydeck has a feature that allows you to step out from the main floor, fully enclosed, and stand on transparent glass, revealing the street below. Straight down.

When you see this, your brain plays a weird trick on you. Logic says the deck is secure, that it will support your weight, and that you will not fall. But - if you're like me - your feet turn to stone anyway and it takes a while before you can take that first step onto the glass, fully supported by what's almost unseen.

But once you're out there, it's exhilarating. You stare down through your feet, seeing right trough the glass to the busy street below. In a word, you're mesmerized.

This is what happens in love. In real, heart-pounding, agonizing love, you see right through the other person. Over time, whether you live together or not, love forces you to notice habits, ticks, routines, and behaviors that you only see at a deeper level. From the top of Willis, you can get a hell of a view of a sun setting behind Chicago. It's only when you're willing to step out on the ledge that you get to see the details of the nitty gritty.

Valentine's Day and movies paint a picture of love that is formulaic at best and shallow at worst. Love boils down to chance meetings, gifts, dinner, and sex and everything is wrapped up in 90 minutes or by the time the flowers and chocolates arrive.

My friends, this is not love. It is not even close.

Love is the thing that lets you see right through to the core of the other person. It's what allows you to be vulnerable enough to let them see through you, too. It's what allows you to stand before them, as you are, hoping that they'll see through your tough exterior, past the pretty facade you put on each day to the core of who you are - your dreams, ambitions, values, prejudices, shortcomings, and weaknesses. And upon peering into you this deeply they somehow look past it all, grab your hand, and ask you to watch the sunset with them.

Your heart doesn't need any roses today. Your soul truly desires no candy or presents. It cries instead for someone who will be able to know you as well as you know yourself and upon the gaining of that knowledge will not cower at the truth. Love will also give you the strength and power to realize that two imperfect individuals can somehow make one nearly perfect couple.

Love takes your breath away, but only because you can't believe you're being supported by something so translucent and strong at the same time, holding you up when the threat of crashing to the ground is so real.

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Turning 2

Two years ago today, around 5:30 in the morning, my daughter showed up. At that moment, I held 8-and-a-half pounds of awesome in my hands and knew that nothing would ever be the same again. Lots of parents say this, but life has a way of blocking out how it used to be. Because it - life - changes so much, it has a way of helping you to forget how things were. This is good and makes the present much easier to be in. By taking away the detailed memory, you're unable to truly long for it, meaning your heart can invest fully with each beat in what is now. My wife and I were married for six years before our daughter was born. In that time, we never spoke of poop. Not once. Since I became a parent, we have talked about it at least once a day. I'm sure this will change when our daughter is out of diapers, but once you start discussing your child's bowels with one another, it's hard to stop, especially since regularity is an important part of parenting.

A night in is just as good as a night out. In fact, coming home from work and changing into fleece pants and a T-shirt so you can do puzzles, color, and count things on the floor can be as invigorating and tiring as drinking all night.

There is nothing like hearing someone call you dad for the first time. Or every time she sees you.

Your mind will amaze and scare you thinking about what you'd do for your child.

Parenting gets easier and harder at the same time. I don't know of any other role that offers this. Mastering one challenge or skill gives you the confidence to face the next one, which you'll fail at miserably. So miserably, in fact, that you'll hope no one at DCS finds out because they'll come take your kid from you.

If your child is two, happy, and loved, then you're doing everything right.

Being a Dad

The biggest reason you have to embrace the now - other than that you can't really remember the past fully - is because it will be gone. Her crying for milk, her impatience at waiting for the DVD to load, her waking up in the middle of the night in need of a pacifier, her struggle to put together words so you understand what she needs, her making a mess of every meal, her need to have what she wants when she wants it - this will all be replaced one day with a daughter who acts like she doesn't need you, who wants you gone when her friends show up, and who will pretend like you're not important.

So I will take today's struggles. They are laced with moments of pride, love, happiness, and joy. And I will fight hard to remember those parts lest the present dare me to forget them so that one day - in another present - I will be able to hold the best of the past and all the hope for the future together, knowing that they, too, manifest themselves in her. My love for who she was, who she is, and who she shall become is greater than any of today's challenges and is what will always make me her dad.

Being a Dad

This Love

If you are lucky enough to fall in love - and stay there - then you will find out that love that endures is the best kind of love. The love that Taylor Swift sings about can make your heart flutter while you think of your beau or girl when the radio is on. But until you experience love that endures - love that matures, morphs, and adapts - you're only getting part of the story. You're starting a book and putting it down at page 75. You have to stick around during the boring parts of character backstory, for the chilling moments, the regular moments, and the build up to the exciting parts. Then you'll know that you're in it until the end, whatever that looks like.

The thrilling newness of an introduction isn't love - at least not the kind of love that eventually leads you to propose. Or that keeps you together once the thank-you notes have been written and your belongings have been merged and edited. Love is different once you buy a house, when someone loses a job, decides to become an entrepreneur, or wants to start a new career. Love grows as each of you change, radically different and other than the person who said "I do" years earlier.

Introduce a child into the mix and watch your love morph again, get older, help you get through sleepless nights and frustrating days. Watch your love compel you to watch her, being a mom, feeding a baby, calming a scared infant, pushing a stroller, and reading to your daughter. This love is what makes you a better parent and a better spouse.

The flexibility of love is perhaps its greatest asset. It's ability to change and improve, to grow deeper and stronger over the years, making you different than you were yet still connected to who each of you is becoming. This love is something you can never describe but can only recognize in the flash of a moment that reminds you why you will never want another. It is the very thing that binds you and bids you to continue to learn, grow, change, and become together.

Happy eighth anniversary, Lynnette.