Why is it that when people come to Memphis for a visit, they are utterly charmed? They love our music, our food, our history, our big river, our inordinately friendly people — and they leave singing the city's praises. I've lived here for more than 20 years, and I've seen it happen countless times. Why? It's because they've seen the Best of Memphis. The city will forever be a good memory for them. They've had a Memphis honeymoon.
But what about those of us who live here, those of us who are married to the place? We're working to pay for the utilities, the public transportation, the schools, the debt, and the salaries of those who work in public service. The honeymoon is over for us. How do we keep our marriage to Memphis alive? How do we stay in love with our hometown when forces are conspiring to pull us apart?
I've thought about this a lot, and I've decided we need counseling. And who better to advise us than Dr. Phil? Nobody, that's who. I've consulted his "Marriage Guide for Tough Times," and I think we'd all benefit from taking these little tips to heart. (It might help if you read them in a Dr. Phil accent.)
1) Acknowledge and Work the Problem: "You get in trouble, you get pressure on you, and what you do is called reflexive biting. You start snapping at the person around you, and you begin to feel isolated and alone," Dr. Phil says. "You've got to turn to your partner and say, 'Look, we're in a bad spot here, and we're going to deal with this together.'" Got it.
2) Identify the Stressors in Your Relationship: "Remember the problem is not your partner, but high interest rates, accumulating debt, and looming unemployment. Aim your guns in the right place," Dr. Phil advises. "Once you have identified the issues, work together to find viable solutions." That makes sense.
3) Be Willing to Ask for Help: "Think about yourself as being at the bottom of a steep hill, and you're trying to pull a wagon up to the top. If you're both pulling it up the hill, you're going to get there. If one of you is pulling left and one of you is pulling right, you're expending a lot of energy, and the wagon's not moving at all." So true, Doc.
4) Shake Off the Haterz: Okay, this one isn't from Dr. Phil. It's from me, but listen anyway. No matter how happy the marriage, there will be those who want it to fail, who don't like you, who are jealous, who are miserable and angry and already divorced. They want to spread that poison around. Screw those people. Ignore them. Celebrate the good things that are happening, and work to fix what's not so good.
Marriage takes work and commitment. This isn't a Carnival Cruise. It's not a reality show. It's our life. It's our city. We have a hill in front of us and a wagon to pull. Let's get to it.
(such a sky and such a sun
i never knew and neither did you
and everybody never breathed
quite so many kinds of yes) — e. e. cummings
Exactly seven years ago this week, I wrote a column decrying a proposal by city engineers to turn the Overton Park Greensward into an 18-foot-deep "detention basin" designed to stop flooding in Midtown. The engineers claimed we'd hardly notice the football-field-sized bowl. "Except," I wrote then, "when it rains hard, at which time, users of Overton Park would probably notice a large, 18-foot-deep lake in the Greensward. Or afterward, a large, muddy, trash-filled depression."