Tag Archives: happiness

Can I Love You Less?

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“It’s a love like no other.”

baby-lovedAt least that’s what I’ve been told. I’ve also heard, “It’s the purest unconditional love” and “Like nothing else on Earth.” Maybe for you it is. But that’s not me.

You see, I recently became a grandparent, and all my grandparent friends congratulated me with sentiments like these. But I don’t get it. And it makes me feel like maybe I’m missing something.

Did I not love my children? Wasn’t that unconditional love? I cried when my babies were handed to me. I was overjoyed as I counted their fingers and toes. I saw my own hands in my son’s long fingers. Can anything compare to that?

Did I not love my husband? There were times it felt that our hearts melted together and we knew that in that moment we were both the same.

Do I not love my siblings? For certain, I love them and my friends unconditionally. They are who they are, and I accept that. We’ve shared joys and sorrows, fun and laughter. And even though I don’t speak to some of them very often, I still feel the same. Our history is still shared. Our memories are interwoven.

I loved my parents my whole life, and even though they’re both gone, I love them still.

I love my sons, both of them, equally. They are totally different and each has talents and characteristics that make him unique. I love that about them. And it doesn’t matter whether they become rich or successful or live as a struggling artist. I will always love them with all my heart.

And don’t all parents feel that way? So how is it that people freely say they love their grandchildren like never before? Do some people actually dole out less love to their children than they did to their parents? Or worse, do some people share less love with their aging – perhaps dying – parents than they do with this little person only months old?

Evidently, they do. They hold back their hearts. I don’t understand it because we are the ones who lose out. When we hold love back because of hurt. Or when we hold it back out of fear that it won’t be returned. Or when we hold it back out of anger or because we think others aren’t worthy. Or worse, when we believe we aren’t worthy.

The way I see it, love is not something that is dependent on who the recipient is…whether your parent, spouse, child or neighbor. Love is a result of the giver. You either give love or you don’t.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if you felt the same love for your father, despite his dementia and constant need for attention, that you do for the infant with her inability to communicate and total dependence?

And of course you can. Because it’s your decision how much you love.

It doesn’t matter that you have a history with someone or not. It’s the same with this little baby girl who hasn’t yet spoken my name – or should I say the name she will eventually call me. Does it matter that I don’t have to put her to bed every night? Does it matter that she looks equally like her other side of the family as she does mine? Not at all. But then, it never mattered with my sons either. It didn’t matter how they did in school. Or whether they excelled at sports. I love them fully. I don’t think I could love anyone more. Or less.

Because love doesn’t vary with the way others behave. It’s not love that changes. Love only varies when we decide not to give it.

It’s just a choice we make to feel or not feel it. And like every other decision, we can change it. We can give our hearts the freedom to love everyone. Equally. Because it’s our heart to give, it’s our choice how “in love” we feel. And once we open up our hearts and treat everyone with the love they probably don’t “deserve” but need just the same, the whole world changes. People know when they’re being treated with love. And they return it the same way it was given.

So do yourself a favor. If you want to be loved unconditionally, you must love others the same way. And without fail, they will love you back. All of them. Every time. They won’t be able to help themselves.

And believe me when I say it’s possible. Because I couldn’t love you less.

Long Distance

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It was just a little whisper, taken by surprise

A sleepy, easy morning, with dreams still in your eyes.

What I heard was a peaceful, breathless kind of “Hi”

Stretching under blankets, as you let the day go by.

Then our conversation – cut short by company,

Turned to a lovely moment, where neither of us could be.

But in my imagination, it all became quite clear

Despite the miles between us, each phone call brings us near.

And in that one small word, without giving any warning,

My soul was called back home on that easy Sunday morning.

And, as each tomorrow slowly whittles away today

I’m comforted by that word that now sounds so far away.

Like a lyric in my mind that lingers on all day

I stop and have to wonder

What else is there to say?

The Dying of the Light

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Spring was pleasant

Ephemeral

Naïve

Blossoming hopefully in the dewy morn

Until steamy, hot red skin

Wiped summer from my brow

When loyal Sun prolonged the noon

Then August washed it away

Amidst thunder and lightning

And torrents of hurricanes

Falling into the arms of autumn

To cool my head and warm my heart

Finally harvesting what I’ve been tending

All this wonderful life

Now facing and bracing against it

Planning for winter’s cold

Hibernation

But not yet.

Chill nights are relieved by tender light

Gray-blue clouds blanket golden trees

Cattails gently sway, counting down the days

I could take September forever.

The Last Word on Suffering

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I had an epiphany. I finally understand the crucifixion.crucifixion

It happened like this.

Event One:

I was staying with a friend who told me that she had trouble sleeping. After several days, I asked if I could make an observation about her inability to find sleep. She said “No, I’d rather you didn’t. A lot of people have given me advice about insomnia, and they don’t understand my problem.” I answered “OK. That’s why I asked.” But she continued, and I listened in order to try to better understand her perspective. (I’m paraphrasing)

“Sometimes when there is an experience of deep trauma while you’re sleeping, and then fear of what might happen again, you just can’t let yourself be “asleep at the wheel.” I found her self-awareness and ability to communicate her exact dilemma inspired, but her inability to want to heal it perplexing.

Conclusion: We choose to hold onto our suffering and we believe no one else can understand it.

Event Two:

I watched a woman be a total bitch to a guy who liked her. She actually laughed at him. He turned to me – a person he’d met a few days before  –  and shrugged.  I shrugged back.

Conclusion: People deliberately cause other people to suffer through their unkindness.

Event Three:

I recently related a story about how I was humiliated as a kid. As I told my friend about it, I realized I could still feel the betrayal of people I had believed were my friends. It still brought my eyes to the verge of tears and my throat clenched as my breathing grew shallow. I finished my story in a cracking voice.  I was that kid again. I am that kid still.

Conclusion:  We are all children, wounded and not knowing why.

Catalyst: My 50th Birthday

As this big day approaches, and coincides with the arrival of my first grandchild, I’ve taken to reviewing the journey so far. More to the point, I’ve actually started a travel journal. So, as a good middle-aged adventurer, I’m creating my bucket list.  But, before I could start thinking of all the things I want to do, I needed to make a list of what I’ve already done (and thereby prove I am indeed ready to kick the bucket).

After logging the places I’ve been and cool stuff I’ve tried, I thought I should record other milestones of my life. What have I experienced that other people haven’t or won’t? What traumas have I survived?  I thought about that last one for a few minutes. It’s a long list. And I’m very grateful to say Everything. I’ve survived it all. Not only that, but I’m thriving, happy and at peace. I’m glad I focus on the good stuff because boy, I’d be totally sad if I just thought about all that other crap. And then I questioned the Universe – Why do people hold on to their pain? Why do they cause others to suffer? Why do we tolerate witnessing this abuse?

And the answer came:  Because they don’t get it. People feel alone in their pain yet are too afraid to share it. They even feel that no one could possibly understand their suffering.  They believe that their grief or loss or heartbreak is somehow unique. They insist on describing – sometimes in great detail – all of their symptoms. Often they repeat this list over and over until they believe that the symptoms are the cause of the pain. They hurt others and stand by as others are hurt to reassure themselves they are not the only one suffering.

So back to my original point – the crucifixion.

Bottom line: It seems to me that the only way Jesus could stop people from wallowing in their own ego-driven self-pity long enough to be kind to others and not perpetuate the inhumanity we inflict on each other was to set the bar.  It’s the all-time-great decision of one man to say:

“Look, no one’s suffering is bigger than mine. I totally can relate. Get over yourself. We all know pain. We all have witnessed cruelty. Once and for all, you haven’t suffered any more than anyone else, just differently. If you need an example, look at me. Been there. Done that. I get it. I might not know your particular brand of pain, but then again, you don’t know mine. Just know that we share it. Now stop it. Quit your fuckin’ bitchin’ and put on the big panties. Focus on all you are, have done, and have survived and go help someone else. You’ll be amazed how happy you’ll be when you just do that. Forever.”

You Say It’s Your Birthday. It’s My Birthday Too.

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“Not the Barry Bonds, Mom. Ok? Not the Barry Bonds.” Barry_Bonds_follow_through

It’s been twenty years or so since my son Dylan said that.  Something had ended up broken – probably due to “just messin’ around” – and restitution was owed. Usually, I’d cover what losses were incurred, but for whatever reason, this time I had told him that it was coming out of his money. He smugly replied that he had no money. “Easy fix.” I said “You have baseball cards. I guess we’ll have to sell one of those.”  “The Barry Bonds” referred to the acrylic-encased prized rookie card.

Bonds is now considered to be one of the greatest baseball players of all-time. He has a record-setting seven MVP awards. He is a 14-time All-Star and 8-time Gold Glove-winner. He holds numerous Major League Baseball records, including the all-time Major League Baseball home run record with 762 and the single-season Major League record for home runs with 73 (set in 2001), and is also the all-time career leader in both walks (2,558) and intentional walks (688).

But that’s not what made him special. Not to Dylan. He was special because he was born on July 24th.

That’s a big deal you see. It’s Dylan’s birthday.

Also born on July 24th? Alexander Dumas, author of The Count of Monte Cristo, Dylan’s favorite book.

I remember when he discovered the fact that people who had accomplished great things had been born on his birthday. A look came over him, a look of simultaneous amazement and pride. The look conveyed “Why not me?”

It’s been all downhill from there.

Dylan was convinced from that point on that being born on a day that special was proof of the magnitude of his own destiny.

And who am I to judge? Just a parent… trying to build the confidence of her eight-year-old. So yes, I agreed that being born on July 24th was indeed a most fortuitous event. The universe clearly had big things in mind to have him arrive on such a day. And that’s what I told him “You’re Dylan. And the Universe loves you.”

He’s a grown man now… married to his college sweetheart, expecting a baby girl next month. He works in the industry that has always fascinated him – Finance. He restored a bargain-priced foreclosed house into a very comfortable home in the mountains. And he is, by all accounts, the “nicest, most even-tempered guy” anyone has ever met… at least that’s what people tell me.

On his wedding day, one of his guests asked “Dylan, man, you have it all… a great house, a fantastic job, and now a beautiful wife. You just seem to get everything you want. How do you do it?” With his characteristic laugh and big smile, he replied, “I’m Dylan and the Universe loves me.”

All because of that one special day. And what do we know about birthdays? We all know birthdays are like… well, they’re like opinions… everybody has one. So who are the greats born on your day? Maybe it’s you.

“You say it’s your birthday

Well it’s my birthday too, yeah

You say it’s your birthday

We’re gonna have a good time

I’m glad it’s your birthday

Happy birthday to you.”
~ The Beatles

Heads, I Win

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Heads

Suffer – to feel pain or distress

“SUFFER” That’s what it said, in caps, in neat print, enclosed in a box.

I was cleaning out some old stuff and came across a letter from my grandmother written to me when I was living away at college. In it, she told me about things going on at home, how much she missed my brother (living on the opposite coast), and wished that I would come home to visit soon. It was signed Love, Nana. But on the bottom of the last page in a small box was written: SUFFER.

Suffer? Was she suffering? Her note seemed typical, cheery enough. She couldn’t mean that she wanted me to suffer? Probably not.  Nana used a regular note pad for her letters, just the usual one that she kept next to her chair so she could have been checking the spelling of the word or something. But it seemed odd to me. Whatever.  It was just a word scribbled on the back of a piece of paper she used to drop me a quick note.

Every now and then though, the concept of suffering moves forward in my mind. People often talk about “putting an end” to suffering.  As a culture we want to eliminate suffering. Pope John Paul II said that there is meaning in suffering. Of course, Catholics are a martyr-loving bunch so I wasn’t surprised; however, when I considered that at the time he said this he was profoundly affected by Parkinson’s disease, it gave me pause. What meaning had he found in his own suffering? As a respected spiritual leader what purpose or lesson did he find in humanity’s suffering?

Recently, when I think about the years spent witnessing my mom’s neurological degeneration, I get it.

The meaning for me has changed.

Suffer – to endure, to bear, to withstand

Tails

My Facebook feed has recently been loaded with inspirational posts referring to “passion”… Find your passion… Follow your passion… blah, blah, blah. In looking at my own life, I have a lot of interests, but nothing I would call a clear “passion.” Don’t get me wrong, I have a very full and satisfying and happy life, but what is my passion? Hmmm.

So what is it? Not only what is my individual passion, but what is passion exactly and how does one go about finding it?

Me being me… I looked it up.

Passion —  an intense emotion, compelling feeling, enthusiasm, or desire for something.(from the Ancient Greek verb paskho – to suffer)

Wait. What?

The word is derived from “suffering,” which brings me back to my original question. What is suffering? And now, how could it be related to passion?

How could the one thing we want to eliminate in life be the same thing as what we’re supposed to pursue?

They seem to be the opposite sides of the same coin. To be passionate about something or someone is to focus your time and attention, your energy and spirit. And there’s the problem. Once we share so much of ourselves, we expose our hearts to suffering because the object of our passion can be taken from us.

Wait a minute. Maybe I’ve been looking at this all wrong. It’s not the passion that causes the suffering. It’s the loss of the passion. Well, there you have it. Something can only feel lost if you expect to get it back. Now I see. If I just give the passion away, I can’t possibly suffer any loss.

All together now.

Suffer – to endure, to bear or withstand + Passion – to give of ourselves without expectation

So how do we eliminate suffering AND live a passionate life?

Literally “Have the courage to love freely.”

So it’s not something I need to pursue after all. Finders-keepers.

Carnival of Love

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The other day, an online friend shared a piece of beautiful writing. It was about how nice it would be if we could have – as adults – the innocent joy of teenage love.  I’m sure that even if you didn’t personally experience the starry-eyed, giddy school kid crush, Hollywood certainly provides plenty of reference material for you to understand the “share-a-soda-at-the-roller-rink” kind of relationship. And while little whispers and dreamy romance certainly seem to be love. It’s not. That’s the cotton candy of life – light and sweet, but dissolves too quickly to provide any serious sustenance.

It’s like they say in the song… “I found that love is more… than just holding hands.”

Don’t get me wrong. It’s important to keep romance alive in a long-term partnership. Loving couples do giggle at silly stuff, and keeping fun and play is important in everyone’s life, not just in relationships. So what is it then? True love?

Like the other song says… “I looked at love from both sides now.”  So here’s what I’ve found.  Unlike cotton candy, beneath the sweet surface, there’s got to be substance.

Love IS innocent. When you ask “Do I look fat in this?” Love says “You couldn’t possibly.”

Love IS a giddy laugh. When you screw up Thanksgiving dinner, Love says “Really, I had enough to snack on earlier. Turkey just puts me to sleep anyway.”

Love IS that dreamy look. Even when you’re sitting in bed with the flu and a box of tissues, Love says “Do you want me to make tea? or soup?”

Love IS riding around with your head on his shoulder. When the worst call comes and your knees buckle at the news, Love says “You’re not driving. I’ll get the car.”

And Yes, Love DOES hold hands. Especially when you hear the word “diagnosis.” Love says “Ok, we’ll do what we have to do.”

As wonderful as puppy love is, and despite the fondness I have for those days cruising the summer streets with the music loud, and his arm around me as we strolled the fairgrounds, I’ll pass on the cotton candy. True Love is a caramel apple… sweet enough on the surface, but underneath all that yummy gooeyness is something good you can really sink your teeth into.

Silent Song

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In the peaceImage

At the edge of the deep

Silent corner of my mind

Lives the song of my life.

As the music of the clouds

And rustling breezes birth

A symphony in lush woods,

Lingering thoughts of distant places

Remind me of long-ago lyrics

And the rhythm moves me on.

It is the harmony of tides

And frequency of waves

That urge this traveler

To remember the movements

Of the distant past.

Lost in this voyage of time

Peeling back the layered years of my heart

I come to the song I’ve known.

Entering the quiet woods

Of my restless mind

I learn to sing.

All Fired Up

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porcelin

The heat is unbearable.

I always thought it was smart to bring a jacket. Now I’m stuck in three layers of clothing, sitting next to a rather large individual in a fairly small seat on the train.

Why, in God’s name, would they set the thermostat so high when it’s such a beautiful day? Looking around however, I’m the only one noticing the heat. Is it just me?

Oh, I get it.

It is just me.

Dammit.

My sister warned me about this. Out of nowhere, you become a kiln. A sensation starts small in the core of your body and ignites every cell on its move outward. Suddenly, what was comfortable is now suffocating and stifling. There’s an incredible urge to start unbuttoning everything. This is a public place though. I can’t exactly strip down. Oh dear God, will I actually immolate? Probably not. So here I am suffering the fires of transformation in golden silence.

It’s a test, I know.

Just as soft clay is fired to harden it to ceramic, the experience of my childhood, my youth, and my adulthood is being forged into the fullness of being a mature woman.

In a kiln, the higher the temperature, the finer the porcelain becomes. The imperfections are eliminated, the fine lines of paint are made permanent, and the colors become enameled. The result is a visibly delicate, but incredibly strong piece of china capable of withstanding daily use while maintaining its beauty.

And that is how it is with women. We reach a point where experience has done its job to teach us all the things we need to know… to be durable, to be practical and yet to display our gifts in a way that highlights the best qualities of our feminine assets.

We know who we are.

The doubts are burned off. The fear turns to ashes, and anxiety is just smoke rising and wafting away. With confidence and clarity we move into the new territory of being ourselves. Not a daughter anymore. Not a wife anymore. Not a mommy anymore. We become the women we knew our grandmothers to be: calm, assured, optimistic and ever faithful, tender yet strong, with the perspective to gauge the passing days over the lengthy years.

So as the intensity of this moment subsides, I’ll not wish it away. I will remember that in these brief minutes of internal combustion lies the serenity of my future.