Book Jeff

Kevin on the Bridge

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Lyndsey and I will be celebrating the day at Walt Disney World. We are here in Florida for another speaking engagement. When we first met, she had never been to Orlando. Now, this is her eighth trip in just eighteen months.

No, we don’t have dining reservations at Tony’s in the Town Square of Magic Kingdom. Yes, we know that Lady and the Tramp is the favorite love story for most Disney fans.

Not us. We disagree.

There’s nothing wrong with the classic tale of two dogs from different worlds. After all, who can resist the refined Lady, a cocker spaniel, and the street-smart mutt, Tramp? Plus, there’s spaghetti. And who doesn’t like spaghetti?

But we’re Up people. In fact, we’re an Up couple. So much so that our wedding party walked down the aisle to “Married Life,” the theme song from Up. Which leaves me to wonder, did they walk down the aisle, or Up?

Us being an Up couple starts with the main character, Carl. Carl Fredricksen is old. He’s grumpy. Carl is a solitary soul and so square that he even has a square-shaped head. Throw in a couple of brain surgery scares and you have the perfect portrait of…me!

In contrast to Carl, Ellie is a spirited and adventurous girl. She’s optimistic. Determined. Full of life. Ellie has a profound impact on Carl, just as Lyndsey has had a profound impact on me.

I didn’t realize how much Lyndsey truly loves Up, and how convinced she was that the characters were us, until our first trip together to Walt Disney World and her first walk into Animal Kingdom. Sure, she was looking forward to the Safari with its lions, tigers, zebras, and giraffes. What she didn’t expect to see was Kevin, the female tritagonist you meet halfway through Up. She Was So Excited! Kevin is a giant bird, exotic and vibrant, and easy to spot from a distance. I struggled to keep “up” as Lyndsey raced ahead toward Kevin.

When we returned to Animal Kingdom the next day, Lyndsey was completely lost. To be fair, it is a difficult part to navigate. It’s full of foliage that hides where you are and where you are going. Plus, there are bridges. Lots and lots of bridges. In fact, there are so many bridges that when asked about the number, former Animal Kingdom Castmember, Cassie Tucker, missed the count by at least half.

As we walked over the bridge that takes you from the Tree of Life on Discovery Island, over Discovery River, and into the Asian area of Animal Kingdom, Lyndsey declared, “I have no idea where we are.”

Attempting to assist, and demonstrate my expertise, I reminded her that we were “on the bridge.” “The bridge where you met Kevin.” “You know, Kevin on the bridge.” “This is the bridge where you met Kevin.” After hearing that a half-dozen times, or more, Lyndsey was on the ledge. “I get it Jeff. We are on the bridge where we met Kevin yesterday. Can you please stop already?”

Since that moment, we never go to Animal Kingdom and walk into Asia from Discovery Island and not remember “Kevin on the bridge.” “Kevin on the bridge” has come to symbolize the importance of communication in our relationship.

Today is a good day to remember a compliment Ellie paid to Carl when they were both very young, “You don’t talk much…. I like you!” Talking isn’t listening. And in case you haven’t heard, men and women communicate differently. Lyndsey felt lost. A feeling that vanished the first time I said, “Kevin on the bridge.” I, on the other hand, trying to fix the situation, instead trampled all over Lady Lyndsey’s feelings by repeatedly reporting literal, non-emotional facts.

Yeah. Good luck with that.

One of the surprises in Up is the discovery that Kevin is a female bird. In his rush to name the bird, Russell, Carl’s friend, mistakes her for a boy. In our rush to respond, I can’t help but wonder how many false assumptions we make with our significant other? For me, it’s too many to count.

Whatever plans you have for your partner today, don’t assume you already know who they are, what they are thinking, or what they are about to say. Instead, focus on listening, communicating, and connecting. That is how you can bridge the many gaps between you.

After all, besides spaghetti…who doesn’t also love being seen and heard on Valentine’s Day?

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