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    Charlie And Me

    Charlie and I have been friends since 1982, our sophomore year at Villanova. We've enjoyed more good times together than I can possibly recount. More importantly, we've shared a lot of love. We've shared a lot of life.

    In college, Charlie was part of an extend family of life shakers, trouble makers, party players, and risk takers. He was rather unique in our crowd. Most of us were business majors. Charlie was studying to be a civil engineer. That meant we had a lot more free time than he did. Somehow, he kept pace with our full throttle social agenda and managed to get outstanding grades. Charlie is one of most intelligent men I've ever met.

    When my college band, The Albino Skunks, came up with the marketing and PR ploy of having completely unnecessary "security guards" to accompany the band at a talent show (which we won) and at gigs, Charlie was a proud member of a crack four man squad known as "Skunk Security". When I invited a bunch of Jerseyites to cape cod for The Fourth of July in 1984, Charlie made the trek along with Kevin, Mike, and Harry. At one point during the long, alcohol laden ride, as the conversation turned philosophical, Charlie made the now infamous comment, "Ya know, we're just great people."

    Sophomore year, many of this extended family all lived in the same wing, on the same floor, of the same dorm. Sullivan 3rd West was more like a carnival of tumultuous mayhem than a housing establishment. Charlie was always in the thick of things. Inevitably, at some point late on a weekend night, Charlie would grab Harry's boxing gloves, and, knowing I was on the boxing team, inexplicably challenge me to spar. Within 30 seconds, I was pummeling him so bad he would hit the floor, laughing and crying "Uncle!". 

    Senior year, after upsetting Georgetown in 1985 to win the NCAA Basketball Championship, a few of the more rowdy members of The Albino Skunks completely destroyed three floors worth of wooden railings at Charlie's apartment complex. He was understandably pissed at us. For months. And he got over it. 

    Less than 10 years after graduating, Charlie started his own construction company, becoming so successful that he's now "retired" (a relative term, considering how much he still oversees his labor of love). When he was considering striking out on his own those many years ago and needed some advice, he called my father, who also owned his own constuction company. They spent hours on the phone. Charlie has never forgotten that. Neither did my dad. Neither have I. 

    As we've gotten older, Charlie and I have gotten closer. We share our struggles, our triumphs, our thoughts and feelings, in conversations that would not have been possible years ago. Our friendship has deepened, and, even though we don't see each other nearly as much now as we did in our college days, we are closer than we've ever been. Unlike real estate, intimacy is not about location. It's not about geography. 

    Intimacy is about our hearts, about ourselves, about our lives, and how much of that we are willing to share. I know Charlie, and he knows me, far better than ever. I see a beauty in him that is only made possible by experience, wisdom, and openness. I know his wife, his kids, and what's important to him. Our reciprocal love and respect fuels our relationship.

    Age, time, and lots of work have gotten me closer to the core of my being, and that is reflected by a life more in harmony with that core. That path is not a linear one. It's not a path I can plan. It's had bumps and detours and lots of pain. It's had periods of time where I regressed, not progressed. But ultimately, all of those twists and turns bring me closer to being in my life more fully; of living a more enriched, more authentic, more fulfilled life. A life full of love. I realize that now like never before. 

    Connection has proven, time and time again, to save me when I was drowning in my own sea of despair. Connection to myself. Connection to others. Although I'm physically further away from many of my oldest friends, I'm closer to them in the the ways that matter. So when we do get together, the times we share together strike my heart like a harp, and my heart sings.

    I love Charlie. He was just in Los Angeles with his whole family. When I saw him, I snuck up behind him, put him in a loving head lock, kissed his cheek, and told him I loved him. He laughed and gave love right back to me. Two grown men, acting like a couple of kids. That gives me goosebumps. 

    We all have this capacity to more fully develop ourselves and our relationships. But it requires us to open ourselves up and risk our hearts. To risk being hurt or rejected or growing apart from people we love if they aren't on the same wavelength. That's happened to me with some people I used to be very close to. That has been the cost. But the benefits of stronger and more loving connections to those willing to risk the same with us is more than worth it. Always.

    Take those risks. Open yourself up. Actively Love with wild abandon. Share. There's only one of you, and the world needs you. In the unfathomably vast history of the universe, there is only, there will only ever be, a YOU; that unique combination of heart, soul, mind, and body. 

    That gives me goosebumps too. I'm getting a lot of those these days.


    ©2017 Clint Piatelli, MuscleHeart LLC, and Red F Publishing. All rights reserved.

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