A BAG FULL OF MEMORIES

oznorTomorrow would have been the 82nd birthday of the father of my children. In his memory, I have decided to dedicate the day to reading all the “stuff” he kept over the years, even after we had been divorced and he was remarried: a bag full of letters and mementos collected during our relationship, both before and during our marriage[1]. In this way, we were very different. I have done away with almost everything from the past and moved on, lighter, freer… yet perhaps less anchored also, adrift rather than safely docked in the harbor of approaching old age. He seems to have kept everything he could, I will see tomorrow. Already, I shiver with excitement, the memories, love and tears rising even now before I have begun.

My children showed it to me last Xmas asking what I wanted them to do with it. I glanced over a few items and realized I did not want to throw any of it out at that moment, so I took it, tucked it into my suitcase, brought it back to France and placed it on the bookshelf in the hallway. I have not opened it since but, suddenly I decided it would be tomorrow that I would. Memories…

The year was 1961. I had recently dropped out of Barnard College in New York after my first year there and returned home, begun studies in Social Work in a school run by Catholic nuns and taken up volunteer work in the National Hospital for the Handicapped. After not having received any religious education at home, I had just found out that my best friend at the new school was a nun and had begun taking Catechism with her in order to become a Catholic. Needless to say, it was a very confused period of my life and religion had somehow seemed like the best life-boat around.

After my return to Mexico, I had reconnected with some of my old schoolmates from the past and one of them had invited me to her sister’s 15th birthday party on Friday the 10th of November. At that time, a girl’s 15th birthday was the moment for her presentation in society and her parents usually threw an enormous party something like the then fashionable cotillion in New England. I was 19 and not very keen on going to a party for 15-year-olds, so I said that I didn’t have anyone to go with, but my friend immediately countered with the promise of arranging a blind date: the older brother of one of her sister’s escorts who was studying to be a doctor and was supposedly not bad looking. I accepted.

The day of the dance I participated in a fashion show at the Hospital where I volunteered and was on my feet all day. I arrived home around 6pm exhausted and announced to my mother that I was not going to the dance. She immediately told me that, having accepted, it would be very impolite to stand my blind date up; then she dangled in front of me the offer to wear one of her most beautiful red dresses and I was hooked. Truth be told, once I was dressed and made up I felt so beautiful I just hoped my date wasn’t a dead-beat. My parents drove me to the dance hall called ‘Salon Illusion’, a popular place for events at the time, and dropped me off saying that I should have my date drive me home.

As it turned out, he had not arrived yet so I sat at a table with my friend, her date and some other people I didn’t know. I was nervous. It was actually the first time I had been on a blind date and their reputation was not promising. I had visions of some pimply undesirable dancing through my head when my friend announced: “Here he comes,” gesturing towards the door. I looked up and immediately blushed: never had I had a date with someone so tall and good looking; he was like out of the movies. He came over and introduced himself. His name was Fernando and he was every bit a man at 25. Seeing I was flustered, he smiled; it was a magnificent smile: kind and soft, it lit up his whole face. From then on the night should have been a fairy tale but, as it turned out, it was somewhat of a disaster that we would laugh about for many years afterwards.

Once the birthday girl had come down the flowered staircase in the middle of the dance floor, accompanied by her tuxedoed escorts and billows of dry ice, and danced her first waltz with her father and then with each escort, the dancing was opened for all of us and Fernando held out his hand. I had grown up watching my parents dance in the living room forming a beautiful couple and now I had the chance to dance with a man as tall as my father and even more handsome, so it was with great expectations that I took his hand and was led to the dance floor.

We danced… or perhaps I should say: He danced… all over my feet! My future husband was not a bad dancer; he was –in fact- an excellent dancer; I was the one who had not learned ballroom dancing so, in the beginning, I had some trouble following him. But the problem that night was actually my mother’s dress which was tapered down to an unusual narrowness right about 4 inches below the knee. There was no way I could take the adequate step to get my feet out of the way of his rather large ones. He was embarrassed and I was more so, although it was clear what the problem was. Perhaps we should have given up, but we didn’t. He tried to measure his steps to the constraint of my skirt and I tried to keep my toes out of reach of his feet. My shoes took a beating and we spent most of the time apologizing to each other, but we managed to dance till 3 in the morning.

By that time, I was ready to go home and I hinted at it several times with no success. My date didn’t seem at all interested in doing what to me was obviously called for, which was to deliver me to my parents’ house. Finally, my friend  –probably tired of hearing my fruitless hints– offered me her chauffer and Fernando immediately asked if he could accompany me. As we both climbed into the back of my friend’s chauffered car, I was at a loss to understand why in the world he hadn’t offered to take me himself. No explanation was offered as we drove to my house. When he walked me to the door that night, he asked for my phone number so –in spite of the fact that he didn’t even try to kiss me on the cheek- I presumed he was interested. I certainly was. I had never been out on a date with a real man before: just boys, usually my own age or slightly older and wanting nothing more than to get into my panties as fast as possible. This was different and I wondered how it would turn out.

IMG-20130319-WA0000But it did… turn out, I mean. Months later we both shared our experience of that first night. I confessed that I had not wanted to go to the dance and that my mother had bribed me into it with the fateful dress, and that I had thought very poorly of him for not offering to take me home. As it turned out, he hadn’t wanted to go to a 15-year-old’s dance party either (after all he was finishing medical school and soon would be a practicing doctor), but that morning his horoscope had said he would meet the love of his life and he had gone to the party to prove it was wrong (destiny is a tricky thing!). As for taking me home, he had heard me from the first hint, but didn’t own a car at the time and had not thought to take any money with him, so he had no idea how to solve his dilemma until my friend had offered her chauffer.

So tomorrow I am going to dedicate the day to him and memories: tomorrow –Friday again, only 56 years, 5 months and three days after that first encounter in a Dance Hall called Illusion.

[1] His second wife was kind enough to keep this and pass it on to my children after his death in 2012.

I THINK I MISSED MY CALLING

Restos_du_coeur_Logo_svgToday I did 3 hours of volunteering for the French Association called “Les Restaurants du Coeur” or the Restaurants of the Heart. It was the local collect in the supermarket and my neighbour and I were on duty from 4 to 7. I have never enjoyed anything so much! I really thought I would hate having to ask people to give something… and in French! I believed I would be embarrassed and feel badly when they said “no”. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

From the very start I found myself speaking from my heart, approaching each shopper as he or she entered and smiling because I really felt happy; there was nothing fictitious about what I was doing. I seemed to find the words; most people stopped and listened, took the suggested donation list that I offered and smiled back saying they would cooperate. When someone waved me away saying they had already given, I spontaneously thanked them from my heart for their donation which I had no proof of, but why would I have doubted such beautiful people. For suddenly everyone who entered had become beautiful and gracious. I don’t where the magic came from; I felt as if I had just fallen in love and nothing, absolutely nothing could go wrong even if they spat in my face. When they said “no” and refused to take my little sheet of paper, I said “thank you for your honesty” and sincerely felt it; strangely, I did not feel bad for myself, but rather for them not having the pleasure of giving, for I began to notice that all the people who came out with a donation, no matter how small, looked different, were happy, were glad they had given, felt generous, perhaps even a bit proud of themselves. I really wished that for everyone, not that they should give to the “Restos”, but that they should give that to themselves. I loved everyone! And then… the people I met!!!

Friends came and I realized how many people I knew and how many knew me and were happy to see me. Some asked about Salomé, others stopped to talk and bring me up to date on their lives while I continued giving out flyers and inviting people to participate. My friends didn’t seem to mind that I interrupted them off and on; they would just pick up their conversation where they had left off when I broke away. collecte

There was my old French teacher, Annie, who I was delighted to see. She did not look well so I gave her an especially tight hug and asked about her new apartment; she said it was too small for two people to each have her or his own space. Then there was Maité one half of the first lesbian couple I met upon arriving here (I had never met a lesbian couple before, so it was a first for me); she is fond of me, I can tell by the way she always hugs me a bit too tightly and a bit too long for just a normal salutation. She talked for almost 15 minutes telling me the latest about the problems they have had with their builder whom they are suing.

Then there was a lady who goes to the same café I do in the morning and –although we do not even know each other’s names- she asked about Salomé who everyone knows. And a gentleman who I know from just passing him in town frequently and always saying hello, and the lady that used to own one of the restaurants I go to sometimes, and my hairdresser…

But, more than the people I knew, it was the people I didn’t know that gave me the most. A man came over from the checkout counter and asked to borrow one of the large cartons we were filling with produce. Then he returned with the box completely filled to the top with canned goods. A darling little man was about to walk by and leave the store when he saw me, covered his mouth and muttered: “I forgot”. Then, instead of leaving the store, he handed me his goods to watch, re-entered, went through all the trouble of standing in line again at the checkout and brought me a bag of noodles. I couldn’t believe it. I told him he was ‘adorable’ and he seemed to like that. We were just two people completely in love.

A rather scruffy looking tall man sidled over. He didn’t look as if he could buy anything for himself, much less for us, but I invited him to anyway. He said no, he was a store thief and had come to steal some food. I asked why he didn’t register for the Restos de Coeur for food and he got angry, saying that he had tried but they had demanded certain legal papers that he didn’t have and he had decided they were no good (or something like that). He talked on a bit, but as I was busy inviting other people I couldn’t pay much attention to him. I know that the Association is strict and people must have their papers in order for them to receive aid. A while later, the ‘thief’ came back; he seemed in a better mood.

“Are you giving away any of that stuff today?” he asked. I said “no”, we were collecting and did not have permission to share any. I asked him how his ‘thievery’ had gone. He shrugged and with a sly smile, said that it hadn’t gone at all well. “There were people watching; I couldn’t take anything. I’ll have to give it another try.”

“Better luck next time” I said and I really meant it. He stuck around for a while; he seemed pleased that someone had taken his ‘occupation’ seriously. He explained how he hid things in his clothes, or ate them in the store. As a justification for his trade, he explained how the managers and owners of big businesses were stealing left and right and people like him were arrested for lifting a loaf of bread. “And don’t forget the politicians,” I added. That seemed to encourage him and he went back in. I didn’t see him again so I have no idea if he got to eat his meal or take home a few bars of chocolate for dessert.

People kept coming with stuff, filling up all the boxes I had. They seemed so happy and it pleased me tremendously to have given them the chance to feel so good with themselves.

A sort of dark-skinned good-looking young man came in and I presented my spiel. He shook his head and in broken English said he did not speak French. “What do you speak” I asked in English. “English and Spanish” he said, immediately clueing me in with his accent to the fact that Spanish must be his first language. What a relief! I immediately broke into Spanish asking him where he was from. It turned out he was Peruvian and he had come to give a conference for some business (I didn’t really catch the name) in town and he urgently needed a current adapter for his computer or he wouldn’t be able to give his course tomorrow. I was not sure he could find one in the store so I told him that if he didn’t, I had plenty at home and if he waited or returned at 7pm I would take him home and loan him one. He returned a few minutes later with an adapter in his hand: problem solved. I asked him if he would kindly help me take the full box of cans and goods off the top of the empty boxes so that I could get one out and he did. He was a lovely young man and I was so glad to speak in Spanish for a few minutes. We thanked each other and he parted.

A couple of tall, lanky teenagers strode into the store and –in spite the fact that someone had mentioned that youth seldom gave- I stopped them and offered the list, saying that any small thing would do. About twenty minutes later they came out and approached, handing me two small boxes of cookies: “It was all we could afford” they said, looking slightly embarrassed. “Oh no!” I cooed, “It is wonderful, just perfect. We are so grateful and the kids at the Restos des Coeur will love them.” If I hadn’t been so sure that they would feel very uncomfortable, I would have hugged them on the spot!

One lady, when I tried to explain about the Restos, stopped me. “I know” she said, “they helped me out for a while there when I was in trouble.”

“Are things better for you, now?” I queried.

“Fortunately, yes” she said; “What is it you most need and I’ll get some.” I told her some cooking oil would be good and she came back shortly later with three bottles. Another lady stopped and told me she had heard the advertisements about the collect on television and that she did not agree to giving the recipients cans of cooked food. “They don’t learn how to cook their own food that way; it is not right; I don’t agree with that.” I nodded my head and said I found her opinion interesting and that she just might be right about it. Then I suggested that she could always give a bag of lentils or rice and she smiled, and nodded. A while later she returned with two cans of cooked vegetables, so I guess her opinion wasn’t so solid after all.

Experdoniences of extreme generosity, of efforts made in spite of not having much for one’s self, of the painful way people hid their faces when they didn’t want to give or even take the paper, and so much love that my heart was overflowing. As I left, mentally kneeling down with gratitude, I wondered if somewhere along the line I had missed my calling. It has been a long time since I have felt so much love in my heart. How to say ‘Thank you,’ except…. Thank you.

DEMENTIA

When I came home from Madrid last Tuesday, I sent my friend Janice a Whatsapp saying IMAMA had her saffron. The answer was “Yupee”. Thirty minutes later I got a message from her also through Whatsapp saying that her 96 year old father had just fallen down the stairs and died, and that she was leaving for New York to bury him and find a home for her mother who is suffering from dementia (also 96). Today I asked how she was and the answer was that she is sad and tired, seeing where she can put her mother to live. She said: “Mom understands he is dead but she hasn’t cried yet; that is dementia for you.” I answered: “Yes, sometimes dementia might be a blessing.”

As I was walking out this evening with Salomé for our evening stroll, I looked up at the moon that in the night-time haze lay with a  bright orange fringe all around it. I thought of my mother and her dementia. I can remember the beginning.

She called me one afternoon and said: “I think I am getting gaga”. I said something noncommittal thinking she was trying to manipulate me into going over and keeping her company or something, and jotted down in my diary: Mom trying to hook me in with the idea that she is going gaga, and forgot about it.

But I couldn’t forget about it long because the onset was very fast, if I remember correctly. She stopped being able to carry a conversation, then she began doing a funny Betty, 90 añosthing sticking her tongue out all the time and repeating a senseless phrase in Spanish which literally said: “When are we going to eat nothing.”

I took her to the doctor and got the news some days later: mother had progressive dementia. I phoned my brother and told him: Mom has dementia, I said. He was immediate in his response: “Of course, you’ll take her to live with you.” “No way,” I responded; “why don’t you take her to live with you?” I can’t remember what he answered but it definitely wasn’t “ok”. As my brother lived out of the country, I knew it would fall to me to care for my mother, but I was decided to do that without bringing her into my house. I understood from the very beginning that if I brought my mother to live with me I would end up killing her long before life did.

We had never gotten along. There could be a lot of reasons and a lot of excuses but I think that is just the way we were programmed. Part of the problem was that my mother always competed with her sister and, when I became an adolescent, she just seemed to shift that competition over to me. The situation was complicated, not only because as a daughter I naturally competed with my mother, but also because my father unconsciously used my 1939-6 Trip home SS Manhattan15042014 (4)very heavy Electra complex to make my mother jealous, something that heightened my own competition with her. And then again, my mother was extremely beautiful and I… well, I wasn’t that kind of beauty and I tended to be overweight.

Whatever caused it, we had never been close and as my mother became more needy because life began to take things away from her and she just naturally expected me to make up for their loss, I drew farther and farther away.

When she realized that she was losing her mind, her fear was unbearable, I had trouble staying with her for any time, but as the disease took the last vestiges of understanding of what was happening to her, it got more bearable and I could spend a couple of hours two or three times a week at her house. In order to ease my conscience, I saw to it that she had every care in the world and was never alone. She had a cook and cleaning girl, someone to care for her who could drive her around, a handyman who did the chores and could carry her from the wheelchair to the car and back again. Her medicines were taken care of, her needs and whims were catered to, she was well cared for. That made it easier for me to not take the guilt trip down the road of bringing my mother to live with me. I understood very well that after three days I would probably throw her out of the moving car.

By the time I brought her to Spain and put her in a residence for the elderly who needed care, she had stopped talking all together and was barely walking. She had gotten feebler, but there was still someone there who was recognizable: she still was capable of getting mad. As she slowly slipped down into oblivion, she never lost the capacity to get mad, but not being able to talk made her incapable of pushing my buttons as she had done so well all our lives, so I finally could relax and begin to realize how much I loved my mother.

At the end, she was like my child. The strange thing is she would still get mad, as she had Betty 90 años en cumplegotten all her life whenever things did not go the way she wanted them to. I would visit and upon entering the room I would see her face tighten and she would glare down at the floor.

“Are you mad, Mommy?” I would ask giving her a kiss on the forehead. She would contract up even tighter, drawing away from me to show me that she was. I remember, I would smile and sit by her side watching the images on the tv screen, or chatting with the nurse who kept her company during all her waking hours, until, about 5 minutes later she would get up from her chair, take the step that separated us and sit on my lap lifting up her legs like a child so that I could hold her tightly. It was such a gift, there was so much love in my heart as I held my Mother-Child in my arms and told her how much I loved her. She weighed almost nothing, thin as she was, and she would stay there, sitting in my lap for a while, just letting herself be held.

That was the gift; that was the gift of her dementia for me; it let me love her as I never had before and she didn’t leave until I had really satiated myself with that love, enough to last me the rest of my life.

They say dementia is a terrible disease, that it is a tragedy. My experience was different, for me it was the greatest gift my mother could have given me. When she finally slipped away, one night in her 91st year of life, with me sitting beside her holding her hand, I was so happy for her and with her that my tears were of joy: my mother hadn’t left, she had just moved into my heart forever. I love you, Mommy.

THE FIRST MEETING

In the month of January of the year 1937, while  Civil War raged in Spain and the Second World War brewed just over the European horizon, Betty –born Elizabeth, for her paternal grandmother, Adele for her maternal grandmother, two names she never used- met Perico –born Pedro because all the first born males in his extremely extended family were named Pedro, and Francisco after Saint Francis of Assisi because he was born on that particular Saint’s day, two names he seldom used.

They met on the tiny, privately-owned island of North Cat Cay off MAP CAT-CAYthe Florida coast. At that time, they were both married and not to each other, although Perico was not living with his spouse and Betty -while still enjoying the multiple advantages that hers offered- was on the brink of separation. What went on on this first meeting is anyone’s conjecture. But 1938 Cat Cay, Island and Manor housethe fact that this event had even taken place underlines the fortuitousness of destiny and the incredible intricacy in the pattern of individual lives which blindly determines their fate.

Of this first brief meeting, there is no record, no photographs, no letters, no stories told to their children or grandchildren, because obviously, given the status of each, neither expected to meet again. There is, however, proof that Perico was there because, even in those days, international travel was recorded and today Internet allows us to access these documents from our very living room or office as the case may be.IMMIGRATION FORM

I said there were no stories. This is not entirely so. There is one but I fear not of a factual nature, nor necessarily true. It is told by Perico’s son from his first marriage, and therefore could have been exaggerated with a desire to put the morals of the lady of the second marriage in doubt. Or it might have been a story told late at night, after many drinks, by a man who wished to excuse to a certain extent his youthful follies before a son who had greatly suffered his abandonment, a story that was then exaggerated in that son’s memoires written when nearing his 82nd year. However that is, I’ll repeat it here just for the record.

GAGER.jpgAt the time of their meeting, according to this son, Perico stayed at the house of his friend, Gager Wasey (at left) at that moment still married to Betty. Also according to that narrative, Betty “would walk around the house naked,” and Perico “could not take his eyes off her.” Then, so his friend would not be fooled, he told him that “he fancied his wife a great deal.”

Considering that Betty, in all the years she was married to Perico, in all the years she lived after his death, was never again known to have “walked around the house naked”, it is almost absolutely certain that there has been –at least- an exaggeration. Perhaps some version of the story, closer to the truth, would include the BETTYphrase “half-naked”, and considering the circumstances (beach, warm weather, seashore, island), she might have sat on the deck or walked across the living room in her bathing suit which at that time wasn’t even close to being a bikini. Or she may even have laid by the pool wrapped in a towel as after a swim, something more normal for a girl brought up in America, than for the tight-laced English or the ultra-Catholic Spanish ladies that Perico had known previously. As for warning the husband of his PERICOfuture intentions, it is no more in Perico’s character than having told a son that the second wife flaunted herself shamelessly in front of him making it impossible to resist her. Perico was, above all, a gentleman and speaking poorly of one’s wife, present or past, was not in his nature; much less would he have violated a friend’s invitation by confessing he lusted after that man’s wife, even though on the following visit, lust he did.

Consequently, I correct what I had said previously: There are no believable stories about this first meeting and what took place between Betty and Perico at that moment is but dust bunnies behind the curtain of time. When the visit drew to a close (and there is no record of how long it lasted), Betty went back to New York with her husband (or perhaps without him as I remember her saying that the marriage barely lasted over a year) and Perico returned to London where a lady named Amber –with whom he was passionately in love, by his own confession many years later- awaited him.

And here is where I will leave this narrative for the moment, on the brink of wild romance and unbridled passion, in order to go back to the beginning some 335 years earlier, when in 1602, someone also called Elizabeth was born in Hadleigh, England.

LOVE

A friend asked me today if I thought that some people “love” more than others. Allow me to put the word between quotes because I am not sure whether I know what is meant by it. He, this friend, was wondering if his girlfriend is more capable of love than he is because she seems more giving, more tolerant, more patient, more Fotos Galaxy (205)capable of “loving”. This has set me to thinking all day long: Do some people love more than others? Do I love less than most people who are in a relationship because I lead a single life (at 73, finally) and seem to have no need for a partner? In my 30-year marriage, did my husband or I love more? In my second relationship, was there one of us who loved less? In either, was there love at all, or something else? What is LOVE really, what is it about and where does one find it?

Byron Katie says: “Personalities don’t love, they want something.” For Katie, ego and personality is equal. So I must ask myself if I loved my first husband, and sincerely answer that I did not, at least not at a conscious level. How can I be so sure? Because when he confessed to having had an affair (which had long been over), instead of asking him if he had been happy in that relationship, if it had given him something I was not capable of giving and if it had been terribly painful for him to

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break it off in order to fulfill his marital duties, which would have been the loving thing to do, I flew into a rage, threatened to kill myself (I was much too much of a coward to kill him, but leaving him with the guilt of my death would have been the ultimate revenge) and proceeded to drink my way to divorce ten years later. I didn’t care about his happiness or his pain or his needs in that moment and probably not in many others either; it was my injured ego, a simple matter of vanity (there was no question of his leaving me in that moment) and a terrible feeling of powerlessness before a fait accompli.

So, did I love my second partner? I remember telling the Universe that I wanted to fall madly in love, which was something that hadn’t preceded my first marriage. As if ‘falling madly in love’ assured a lasting relationship! The Universe complied (it always does, whether we are conscious of it or not), and I fell madly in love, so much so that I was convinced I would die if it didn’t end. Fortunately, I knew to wait for I had read Alberoni’s Innamoramento e amore, (titled Falling in Love in DSCN1157English) which explains the difference between falling in love and love itself, and promises lovers that the falling period will last little over 6 months if that much. As promised, the falling in love period turned to what I called “love”. But was it? There were definitely things about him that I “loved” –he made me laugh, he treated me with tenderness, he held my hand when we walked together, he made love the way I wanted to and the sex was satisfactory for me…- but everything on my list of what I loved about him has to do with me and my supposed needs. There is nothing about him. So was it love?

Understand me, I am not saying my relationships were wrong in any way, or not normal, but the question of someone loving more than the other has made me ask 1) is that possible and 2) how can we know, unless we can find some way to measure it?  If one half of the equation gives more, tolerates more, serves more and is more faithful, does this mean they love more or just that they need more? If someone says: ‘I want you to love me as much as I love you’, is that person expressing love or need?

“Personalities don’t love, they want something.” If I “want” something it is because I believe I need it, that it would make my life better, more complete, fuller, etc. In both of my relationships I wanted many things, the not least of which was DSCN1155being ‘happy’. But one thing that I wasn’t conscious of wanting became clear the day my second partner left. Even though I had asked him to go, when the time came for him to actually leave, I found myself filled with pain and crying hysterically. I could hardly believe what was happening to me. After having instigated the break was I now to discover that I had made a mistake?

At the time, I had learned from one of my multiple ‘teachers’ that when under the effects of a strong, overpowering emotion, if one breathes into the feeling (pain, sadness, whatever) and out again without thinking but just concentrating on the breath going to the place of pain and exiting again, one not only alleviates the feelingSALIES EN EL INVIERNO 021 but also might discover what is causing it. So I began to breathe, very slowly, recovering little by little a state of calm and then, suddenly, a thought/belief came out of the depths of my subconscious and popped into my consciousness: “Without a man my life is meaningless.” I was dumbfounded and actually burst out laughing at the absurdity! I hadn’t had a clue that a belief like that was buried in me. It wasn’t even “without this man my life is meaningless”, so it had nothing to do with my partner leaving. What was more, the belief had nothing to do with me or my life: it belonged to my grandmother, it belonged to my mother; thanks to my inner work I had finally discovered that my existence was filled with meaning by the simple fact of existing.

So I had to admit that, even if I had not wanted anything else (which is doubtful), my relationships had been motivated by an unconscious belief that without them my life would be meaningless. Well, I had had two and as far as I could see, they had not made my life any more meaningful, although I had greatly enjoyed both for many reasons that had nothing to do with meaning. So there I was, watching my second partner walk out and feeling nothing but a certain excitement at the new challenge I faced of learning to live alone.

Chrysanthemum            Did I love less than he did? No, I don’t believe so, but in that moment I began to need less, to want less from others, because I began to learn how to give myself everything my heart desires. In time, I discovered that there is nothing I cannot give myself. That does not mean I do not receive from others; quite the contrary. I receive and am eternally grateful to the other and life itself for such generosity and abundance; I just don’t need the other to give it to me. When I do want something from someone else, I simply ask for it. If that person does not have or is not willing to give me what I want, I go to the next person

I realize now that this possibility of fulfilling my own needs more and better than anyone had ever been capable of doing (including my parents) gave me something that was quite unexpected: for the first time in my life I felt genuine love for myself and it was the most incredible feeling, it filled me completely and asked for nothing in return; I can feel it now as I write this (realize this) and tears come to my eyes, my cup runneth over. I remember something I learned when first in AA: ‘You can’t give anyone else that which you cannot give yourself’. This is the modern version of ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself’ which is not ‘sacrifice yourself for your neighbor so that he/she loves you’, but love yourself and then offer that same love to your neighbor.

Ok, so that means…. I think it means: give your neighbor the same things you give yourself 1) if he/she asks for them and you can and are willing to, and 2) if doing so harms no one including yourself. So what do I give myself? Everything I give my beloved dog:

Attention

Respect

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Kindness

Tenderness

Help when needed and I can

Understanding

and each one of those things encompasses many more. But perhaps it is time to go back to the original question: In a relationship, does one partner love more than the other? How would we know? I don’t think it matters: today I believe that relationships are about learning, not necessarily loving (and they can be loving too), and if in a relationship I learn to love myself, then I will probably love the other enough to let the other go with love if that is his/her desire… or mine.

When Byron Katie was asked why she married Stephen Mitchell, she answered: “ Because he asked. After considering his proposal for over a year and asking all my friends to help me find a reason why I shouldn’t marry him, I couldn’t come up with one, so I said ‘yes’.”  Does she love him? She loves everyone, and he apparently has no problem with that.

So what is love? Has anyone said it better than Kahlil Gibran in The ProphetGibran

Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself, Love possesses not nor would it be possessed; For love is sufficient unto love…   Love has no other desire but to fulfil itself.   But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:            -To melt and be like a running brook that sings it melody to the night,

                        -To know the pain of too much tenderness.

                        -To be wounded by your own understanding of love;

                        -And to bleed willingly and joyfully,

                        -To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;

                        -To rest at the noon hour and meditate love’s ecstasy;

                        -To return home at eventide with gratitude;

                        -And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise on your lips.

So be it.

THE GOODNESS OF PEOPLE

The spontaneous goodness of people makes me fall in love over and over again. The wonder of it, as one receives an unexpected gesture or gift that makes the chest expand and the heart open wide and one falls in love forever and ever. At that moment, life is
so beautiful that one would actually be willing to die on the spot, no regrets.
And it can be as simple as a cup of coffee. Continue reading

DESTINY

Do we forge it, or are we carried forth like a leaf over rushing waters? Does it actually matter? Perhaps it is the same. We are shaping our destiny by the decisions we take, but we take them really without the least idea where they will eventually lead us. And then there are the things that we apparently don’t choose.  Excluding suicide, the way we are finally to die, for instance. Continue reading