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I got married! A post about unconditional love!

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Marriage: the legally or formally recognized union of two people as partners in a personal relationship (historically and in some jurisdictions specifically a union between a man and a woman).

I can now relate… It’s been a whirlwind of the six weeks, for very good reason. I am now married and I have embarked on marriage with my best friend, Catherine “Catie” Logan (previously) now Hargrave.  Marriage has in fact been all that is talked up to be, even better than I expected to tell you the truth, it has exceeded expectations by mile. As many of you that are accustomed to pure love can relate, “it just feels right”. Having said that, while there is much wisdom around us in the form of grandparents, parents, family, and friends who have years of marriage experience, they will be the first to tell you, which I taken note of “it takes effort.” But, don’t all good things in life take effort? Nothing good in life is easy. That makes it the best part. There is something to be said about the feeling that we get when we work hard for something. When we are on a relentless pursuit to obtain something, that we can finally call ours, soon becomes a feeling of pure euphoria. But what’s more is the feeling that we get when we can then hold on to that thing that means the most to us forever. When we can day after day work so hard to be a better version of ourselves, that the one that is by our side will continue to fall in love with us, because they notice that we are willing to do whatever it takes to be a person that they cannot live without. I’m willing to do whatever it takes…

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As I look back on my 29 years of life to reflect on how I have gotten to where I am today and how I became the person that I am today, I’ve realized that there is always people involved in those reflections. People are quite literally at the forefront of every important thing that matters in life. Humans are built around relationships. I believe that the term relationship gets taken out of context in many instances. I feel as if any people believe that relationships only exist with you and your significant other. I have a contrarian thinking to this matter. I believe that relationships can exist between all people, they don’t always have to be in the form of an intimate relationship, but then you would also have to define what intimacy is to you? Many people believe that intimacy comes in the form of sexuality and intimate contact and love between two people. But like relationships, can intimacy have its own different connotation as well? Where intimacy could also be held between people who are non-sexual together? I believe that intimacy could also be described as two beings being close and familiar with one another. Simply because they have broken down those tough to break down walls to get past surface level conversations and to reach the true depths of what it means to have an intimate relationship with somebody. Where you can connect on a level that it is so deep, that you cannot deny the familiarity that you share with somebody else. Mind you, this can be between two heterosexual or homosexual beings as well.

Where am I going with all this? I believe that up until this point in my life, I have shared many intimate relationships with many people, even other males in my life. These people have provided context to my life, have given my life meaning, have helped shape who I am and have helped me construct great learnings from my life experiences. They are to thank for where I am today and for who I am with, Catie. Hopefully I’m not speaking for her, but per her remarks to me Catie fell in love with a man who she felt would give up everything and anything for our relationship. She fell in love with a particular man for a particular reason. That man, being me, who is a culmination of my learnings and the people in my life today who have shaped me. In essence, it was those intimate relationships that have shaped who I am for Catie to fall in love with me. So, for that I’m beyond thankful for those life experiences, those people, and those teachings, who have brought me to today.

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Before I tell you the story of mine and Catie’s love affair, I must tell you of my previous perception of what I thought I needed and wanted in life in terms of somebody I wanted to be with. Much of it was built around physical standards. Checking off boxes that really did not matter in the grand scheme of life. Which brings me to a very important question that we all need to ask ourselves. Are we looking for the right things in the person that we want to be with? Are we focusing on the things that truly matter? Does it really need to be all about looks? Or are there other important things that we’re overlooking that really matter most. For me, what drew me towards Catie was her authenticity. Her ability to be wholeheartedly herself regardless of who was around and whomever she was interacting with. Some people might find that to be misunderstood about her, in terms of her stoic nature and her ability to always be so candid. I see this as the true beauty in somebody who you always know where she stands and what she is thinking all while being her fully authentic self. I grew to love and find the true non-surface level beauty in her, I just so happen to end up with and marry physically the most beautiful girl in the world as well.

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Mine and Catie’s love affair began several years ago. 7 ½ to be exact. We met in college at the University of La Verne. To tell you the true story, Catie was not interested in me, in that way, initially. There was a convincing process whether it was indirect or subliminal or not, which took place for some four years of our friendship. In many cases, internally I didn’t even realize that I was falling for her until it hit me right in the face. Our first interaction came on the floor of her safe haven, the volleyball court. I remember wheeling up to her as she was sitting cross-legged at center court on the campus of the University of La Verne. It was after an intramural volleyball game that she was playing in with one of my best friends, Jeremy. I reluctantly wheeled up to her, not because I didn’t want to speak to her, but because I did not know how to speak to her. I was lovestruck. Literally. (If any of you were wondering, I was single at this juncture in time) The feeling in my stomach was something I never felt before. She didn’t know that, but I felt as if it was portrayed all over my face. The first interaction on her court, where she would typically dominate the opposing players for four years of college, allowed me to see another side of her. She was one person in the heat of the battle on the volleyball court, but in that moment sitting in the middle of the court after the game, she was exactly what I always dreamed of in a woman. Attentive, direct, no hidden agenda. Authentic.

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We have been in an intimate relationship for many years, exploring the depth of each other to a very deep degree. Having very deep conversations, some very tough conversations, some life-changing moments. Mind you, throughout many of these 7 1/2 years, we were both in other relationships, we respected the boundaries of what that meant, all while maintaining an intimate relationship with each other that was built on the foundation of an understanding between the both of us that we both held a unique place in each other’s heart. That was something that neither of us ever discounted. It was important for us to both acknowledge that. To recognize and realize that. Falling back on that understanding and belief, was what got each of us through tough times, when we needed each other to run to, to cry to, or just for the other person to listen. That approach has got us to where we are today.

It was October 6, 2017 when I got down on one knee. Less literally and much more figuratively. They say relationships are about doing it in your own unique way. Our love story is definitely unique. Not to be confused with different, but simply one-of-a-kind. I will be honest with you, I feared that I would not a find woman that simply had her dream wedding and dream proposal built around a man who was standing in front of her looking her in the eyes. Because I physically cannot amount to that, I feared that I would not find anybody. I was wrong.

The best part of our relationship is whether it is conventional or not, traditional or not, Catie loves every bit of it. It doesn’t have to be perfect, love is all that matters to her. That’s truthfully why I have fallen in love with her. She sees me for me, regardless of the chair. Oh, by the way she said yes. It was a magical moment in our own backyard. I was given direction, a bit of direction, on certain criteria that I needed to meet for my proposal. 1. Make sure the moment is intimate and that we can share it by ourselves. 2. Make sure a photographer is there to capture every moment.

Those things seemed simple enough for me. So, I figured why not do it in our own backyard. It’s where I intend to start a family with her, where we have made incredible memories up until that point for a year and a half together of living in our home. And, there was so much symbolic nature about our backyard and our home that had shaped us. It seemed perfect. And the moment that I popped the question, was when I was reiterated that everything that I thought was true. This was exactly how everything was supposed to be. Everything, all good, bad, or indifferent all contributed to getting me to where I was at that exact moment. She was the girl for me. My proposal was exactly as I hoped it would be since the day I was born. It was perfect. Simply because it was shared with her. If that is not a great moment to start the rest of our life together, then I don’t know what would be?

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I will tell you that the moment I proposed something came over me and my love grew for her exponentially. I definitely grew as a person. I recognized that I needed to be more patient, more kind, more understanding, a better listener, simply a better version of myself each and every day. I will tell you, that even though I can write thousands and thousands of words onto a paper and speak to you, or you could put a microphone in my hand and I could talk for an hour, that sometimes I can struggle with communication. I tend not to sweat the little things, so in that regard I would brush aside what I felt were “dumb” conversations. In the grand scheme of life, I’ve recognized that even those “dumb” conversations are worth acknowledging and worth growing from. I like to think, that I have become a better communicator and a better listener.

Ultimately, what this journey the past 29 years has taught me, more than anything, is to love unconditionally. To quite literally love without conditions and no matter what. Most recently, I was with Catie somewhere and I came up with a saying, “Whether you are up, or you are down, do not deviate, stay the course, see it through to the end and do not give up.” This is now my mantra with her. I said it up on the altar, “through thick and thin.” I will tell you that we rarely, if ever, have arguments. That’s not to say that we do not know how to get under each other’s skin. I think that goes for each and every relationship without saying. However, I understand that my love for her, much like it is for other people that I share relationships with, is unconditional. It is never wavering and just because tough times happen, does not push me away, it brings me in tighter. I’ve recognized, that the only people in life that can hurt you, are the people that you truly care about. Those are the people that are worth investing into and worth going the extra mile for. Without conditions.

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Through all this I have grown to understand that I’m not easy to deal with. For those of you that know me, I think you know that that goes without saying. I have a lot that I need to do to grow, as an individual, as a person, as a husband, as a son, and hopefully as a future father. I know a lot about a little in life. And, the best thing that I can do is keep my eyes peeled for those easy to read point-blank obvious signs and learning experiences that are right in front of me. Each and every day, we all have them. We tend to overlook them. Not acknowledge them. Not communicate about them. But everything that we go through is a contributing factor to who we are today, tomorrow, and years from now. I made several vows to Catie, which I will share with you at the end of this, but the basic gist of all of it, is that I promised to be a better version of myself each and every day and I promised to not be complacent with the fact that I think that I will always have somebody that I will get to come home to. For me that is not a luxury. That is not an expectation. That is a blessing. When we have blessings in life, we should count them. We should hold onto them forever and we should acknowledge their importance to us in our lives. Thus, I vow to her to give her 1 million reasons each and every day to continue to want to come home to me. Much like I would put my heart on the line for anybody else, I would put my heart on the line for her. I have no doubt in my mind that there are better men out there for her, for other people, and just in general. But one thing that I can promise her, you, and the next person that I enter a relationship with, is that you will not find anybody else in this world that will be as willing to give as much of their heart as I will to each and every one of you and her.

As for our wedding day. My gosh, did it come and go like a whirlwind. We were blessed with many of our greatest supporters there. 344 people to be exact. To put it simply, we felt an overwhelming amount of love from each and every person. The only unfortunate part of it is I know that there was people who were not there, that I do wish could’ve be there. Hopefully many of you can relate and understand. I know that marriage and weddings are one of those things, where everybody does them differently. Everybody has their version of their perfect wedding day. Some, side on having smaller weddings to make them more intimate. This I can understand and relate to. I have been to many weddings with a smaller amount of people and I truly felt the intimacy in the air. However, maybe against Catie’s better judgment, she let me get my way and honored the fact that I had many important people in my life that I wanted to be there to witness the beginning of our courtship. I felt as if, there wasn’t one person that I could leave out. It was my version of a perfect day, with many people. Simply because so many people have impacted my life, it was my way of saying thank you to them.  

As I mentioned earlier, the day happen fast. Very fast. Too fast. It literally felt as if I woke up that morning down in the Escondido area and in the blink of an eye we left the venue that night, running through an arch of sparklers of what felt like still 344 people who did not leave until the party shut down. We pulled away in the getaway vehicle and I took a deep breath and soaked in the afternoon for a few moments. So many things to reflect on. So many people that I was able to acknowledge and others that I wasn’t. So much love that we felt. And those seven hours came and went in the blink of an eye. I couldn’t help but think about my last 11 years of my recovery and my journey. Literally in the blink of an eye it all culminated to that moment. 29 years, all boiled down to two words, “I do.” It came and went that fast and made me realize that truthfully, we never fully exercise the opportunity to live in the moment. To rid ourselves of distractions and to wholeheartedly be present and mindful of what is going on. I can promise you, I did everything in my power to be mindful of everything that was happening on that perfect wedding day on September 15, 2018. The greatest learning experience I had from that, is that is how I intend to live my life each and every day from now on. To be present. Life is more about than just showing up. You have to quite literally “show up” and be the best version of yourself in that moment. If you’re not, you’re selling yourself short.

I have a long way to go. But truthfully, since this love affair started with Catie, I have come a long way. I’ve overcome so many of my biggest fears in life and I’ve come to realize, that I should have never feared them. What doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger. After my accident, I truthfully felt that I would not find somebody in this world that would unconditionally see me for who I am. I thought that I would not be able to find somebody who would wholeheartedly love me and would see my greatest weaknesses as some of my biggest strengths and the things that she would actually love most about me. I thought that I would struggle to be the father that I want to be. I feared for my first dance at my wedding, because I knew it wouldn’t be conventional. I feared walking down the aisle with her, because it would not be conventional. What I’ve come to find out, is when you find the right person none of those things matter. I finally found somebody who does unconditionally love me and sees my confinement to a wheelchair as something that she has grown to love about me and takes joy in protecting me. I have realized that I will no doubt be the father that I want to be, not because of who I am, but because of who she is and who she makes me. I’m already set up for success because of her. Ultimately, my two biggest fears of our first dance and walking down the aisle became moments that I will never forget and that I grew to love. Simply, because she did not care if it was unconventional. In fact, she thought it was unique and amazing. This is the type of woman that she is.

So, for those of you that are reading this, that can relate, or that are still looking for that unconditional love that I’m speaking of, just know that this is just one story that I’m speaking of. This is just one way to do love. It’s not necessarily the right way, but it is the right way for me and Catie. I’ve grown to understand that every relationship, sexual or not, is very different with the people that we share it with. We don’t treat any two individuals the same in our life.  We can treat friends with the same level of fairness, but we will never treat them the same. That’s what makes the human bond so unique and so special. Each and every one of the relationships that we share is different and a perfect masterpiece. But, are you looking for the right things in those relationships? Are you acknowledging the important parts? Or are you dwelling on the things that don’t really matter? Are you growing from the things that you should be? Are you speaking up rather than holding things in? I’m sure many of you are laughing, thinking that I’m still in the honeymoon phase. There’s no denying that, but I guess I would really have to raise my eyebrows if I was feeling any differently than I do right now at this stage in the game. So, I’m asking from each and every one of you to please give me that important advice that I need to grow from. There is so much out there that I don’t know and that each and every one of you can shed light on to me with. I’m willing to listen and I’m willing to go out of my way to make sure that you are feeling valued during the process.

As I close, I ask you this, “What are you living for? What are you looking for? Are you doing what you love? Are you surrounding yourself with the things in life that truly matter, people? Are you investing into those people? Are you being your authentic self? Are you making time for those people? Are you ridding yourself of distractions so you can absorb every bit of reality, in terms of what’s right in front of you and not in terms of what’s on your phone?” To take this a step further, as I reflect on something that I read recently, I ask each of you, “Are we interruptible?” Are the tasks that need to be done really more urgent and important than those people that need just a minute of our time? If ultimately our mission on this earth is to wholeheartedly and unconditionally love people and love others, then we must take a second to stop and look around at what’s so blatantly right in front of us. It is easy to not recognize these opportunities In the midst of distractions. However, we need to be present for others. Just because things seem to be “urgent” in our life doesn’t mean that they are more important than our loved ones or others. This is not to say we should not go and get our work done or to not go grind. I’m not saying that. I’m saying to have balance. At the end of your life, you will be more likely to sit there and reflect on the fact that you did not have enough time with those you care about most.

My acknowledgment to all of you is to thank you for the unconditional love that you have shown me. Your love has transcended who I am, to be somebody who can show unconditional love to Catie and each and every one of you. Cheers to many years of marriage, till death do us apart. And, cheers to many years of intimate relationships with each and every one of you. I won’t leave your side.

I will leave you with one thing, as it is one thing that I intend to do with Catie and each of you for the rest of my life and I hope that you intend to do it in your own way with your own flair in your life at some point. I encourage you to pursue your relationships with intimacy, authenticity, and unconditional love.

As Andy Grammer says, " I give love to all of my people, All of my people need love, I give some, 'Cause in the end, the love we take's, Got nothing on the love we make, So give love.”

My vows:

Catie 

I promise to give you my undivided attention for 313 days of the year because Saturday’s will always be for the boys 

I’m kidding let me start over

Catie, my rock, my love, my heartbeat, my wheels, my spinal cord, my everything...

I have dreaded today, not for the reason that you think, but simply because I knew it would not be conventional, I knew it would not be traditional, I knew it would not be ordinary. But at the end of today, I know that is ultimately what makes us so special, it is us. There is nothing conventional, nothing normal about us and the best part is, is that you are OK with that. You see the beauty in all of it and you were OK with today not been picture perfect. That is what I love about you. You have made sacrifices that nobody else would make, all while being your authentic self. You never deviate from who you are, for anybody. You most certainly have layers to you and each and every time I get to peel back one of those layers I get to see the true beauty beneath all of it that most people do not get to see. Each and every time, the wait is worth it to learn something new and amazing about you. 

I don’t know how the traditional ways could possibly expect me to express the love that I have for you and how I promise to love you till the day I die in such a short amount of time, but here is my best shot at it. 

Catie

I promise to continue to be patient with you regardless of the piles sitting around the house, because in the grand scheme of life they are not that big of a deal.

I promise to reciprocate holding you while you fall asleep, because you hold my ear tight every night and it’s about time I hold up my end of the bargain.

I promise to make the effort to be the best husband and father that I can be. I have feared for this moment for many years, because I never thought that I could be the father to our children that I wanted to be. I’ve got to tell you, that fear went away when I met you, because I knew that you were the partner I needed to be the father I needed to be.

I promise to date you for the rest of our lives. I fell in love with you while dating you, and I intend to fall in love with you every day and I’m excited to do so, because the best part about you is getting to date you. 

I promise to always be passionate about the things that we share, the things that we mutually love the most. 

I promise to stay true to our values, morals, and beliefs that have set the foundation that our relationship is grounded on.

Catie, You may be the only one that understands this one (and you country music lovers), but it still bars me saying

I promise to not keep score and to cherish our sweet love. I promise to be your superhero because you make me lose my mind, because I’m drunk on your love and baby you are fire, but of course it’s because Time with you is time well spent. Catie I cannot sleep without you, because I love you like that. I hope that I never have to ask you to stay a little longer, because I hope you’ll never leave my side. I want to continue to pull all nighter‘s with you and go road Trippin just so I can show you off. I know with you anything goes, because things are always good good and because you make me smile. I’ve realized you are special because you are my angel and I have a confession that you are holy to me. When I am with you there’s no such thing as a broken heart, even when there is Only dirt on the road and many wrong turns, but with you I’m trying to go nowhere fast and I am only trying to get to where we need to go as long as we get it right. You are not perfect, said nobody ever, but forever I will ask you to be with me. Catie, I just want to say thank you for being my sweet thing and my better half. I have told everybody that you are my 11 and that everything is going to be good. I can’t live without you during these long hot summers, because I need somebody like you to dance to Texas time and you’ll always be my better life and I will make sure that blue will never be your color. Catie, I think God that I am yours. So let’s get out of here because I can’t wait for you to pull out that hotel key tonight. 

Catie, I have one last promise for you, for real.

I promise that everything I hear, everything I do, everything I see, and everything I think about will remind me of you. So let’s do this, me and you. Country concerts, world traveling, family, trials and tribulations, overcoming this darn injury, I don’t want to do it with anybody but you. And I’m ready right now…