Category Archives: Love

the simple act of putting something down

I’ve been writing in these notebooks for five years now. When I began, I thought they would be great to look back on several years later, the same way those old pictures of my parents looking younger fascinated my brothers and me. What has surprised me is that looking back two weeks is just as good. These little notebooks have revealed just how much we forget, even when it’s so easy to capture almost everything with our cameras.

I’ve told friends that, in a fire, the Moleskins would be the first (and perhaps only) non-living thing I would make sure I had in my arms on the way out the door. I keep them on our bookshelf, in random order, and reachable to the kids so they can pull them down whenever they want. And whenever they do, I think of that little red box of family pictures, and I’m reminded of just how valuable the simple act of putting something down can turn out to be.

—David Neibart, from “Documenting the Over-Documented”


made precious

I am made precious by her love. And if one day she does forget she had a daughter named Celia and tells me what a pretty name that is, I will give her a card with many underscorings, and a song for her birthday, and a daughter for all seasons. And she will be made precious by my love.

—Celia Watson Supel, from this blog entry

the people we love will astonish us

One of the gifts that yoga gives us is the ability to see clearly. On our mats, we learn to see ourselves as we really are. To be certain, we learn about our anatomy. Are our arms longer or shorter relative to our torso? Are our hips naturally loose or tight? But we also learn about aspects of ourselves that are harder to see. We begin to be aware of our mindset as we practice. Do we feel hopeful or fearful? And how does that affect our practice? We start to notice our reactions. Do we tend to shrink away from or rise to meet challenges? Do we take success in stride? Does failure make us want to quit or to keep trying? It’s not long before we find ourselves at work or at the doctor or running errands and calling upon the self-knowledge we gained on our mats.

Quite naturally, we begin to see others more clearly as well. We may become aware of one friend’s creativity in the face of problems or start to turn to another for help with logistics. Instead of assuming a tersely worded email is a personal attack, we seek the meaning behind the note because we have observed that its sender is a man of few words. Instead of getting our knickers in a twist when a fellow committee member starts yet another argument, we can gently step back because we’ve learned she thrives on conflict. As we observe the people who fill our days, they will probably surprise us fairly regularly. After all, if we can surprise ourselves by rising to meet a challenge we would typically shy away from, doesn’t it make sense that an associate could just as easily surprise us? As this happens again and again, we begin to shed assumptions.

For many reasons, our assumptions about our family members are often the last to go. First off, I think these assumptions are the hardest for us to see no matter how aware and “evolved” we are. They are squarely in our blind spot. Secondly, we’re with our family a whole lot more than we’re with anyone else. Assumptions, in this case, are almost a practicality. They serve as a type of relationship short-hand that speeds things along. Thirdly, these assumptions can be a bit circular in nature. Because we know our children, our spouses, our siblings and our parents so intimately, our assumptions about them are often right. Our high rate of accuracy can actually validate our inclination to make more assumptions. And so it goes.

Sometimes it takes something mind-blowing like my son’s dramatic turn on stage this weekend to shake up our assumptions. These moments are gifts of clarity. But, even without a big, public production, if we keep our eyes open and continue to observe people as closely as we observe ourselves on our yoga mats, we can shed the blinders of our assumptions. When we do, quite often the people we love will astonish us.

—Amy Nobles Dolan, from this essay on Elephant Journal

like accordions

Time passes, and you resume. Later in life, like accordions, those relationships can snap back together, if you let friendships be living, breathing things.

—Harriet Lerner, Ph.D., from “When Friendships Fray”

a long story

I didn’t find a perfect moment, because I think that today was just about just having today. And I think that we are one of those couples with a long story, when people ask how they found each other. I will see her every now and then, and… Maybe one year she’ll be with somebody, and the next year, I’ll be with somebody, and it’s gonna take a long time… And then it’s perfect. I’m in no rush.

—Michael Scott, The Office

a big, deep, generous love

A few months later I was sitting on the opposite side of the continent, far out on the long rocky breakwater in Provincetown Harbor, Massachusetts, under a similarly pink-slashed sunset, talking to the sea and the sky. Some people would call this praying, and I might one day, too, so I began, as I believe all prayers should, with gratitude. Thank you for the sunset, thank you for my friends, thank you for the pain that is gone from my back. Thank you, that is, both for the wake-up call of pain, and for its subsequent relief.

I watched the tide rush out under the giant slabs of granite beneath me.

“Okay,” I said, out loud this time, which felt both ridiculous and better. “I think I am finally ready for you to send me a big, deep, generous love.” I’ll admit I didn’t know who I was praying to. Something that might be called Ocean and might be called God, and that manifested itself to me occasionally as cupped hands.

“But if you don’t think I am ready for big love,” I continued, “then maybe just a little romance to keep the conversation going.” A great blue heron landed in the reeds nearby. “And if I’m not even ready for that, maybe just a sign that I’m on the right path.”

Satisfied with my prayer, I trained my eyes on the heron. A dapper little man was approaching on the jetty, wearing short shorts in psychedelic colors and a yellow shirt, walking a Westie, who was wearing a sweater, even though the day was quite warm. He said, “Lovely place to sit and think, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” I said, “it surely is.”

He never broke stride, but grinned as he passed. “You are a good person,” he said. “It’s all going to be okay.”

I watched him recede along the horizon, the tops of the big rocks turning green and gold and purple in the encroaching twilight. “Thanks,” I told the thing that is part God and part Ocean. “That was just what I had in mind.”

—Pam Houston, from her essay “The Cupped Hands”

secret destinations

At the important junctures in our lives, when we fall in love, marry, conceive a child, pick a vocation, we are inspired by our gut if we are lucky, rather than our brain. We choose a direction, with no idea where it will take us or how we will change along the way. I can only say that my choice of direction—which is not the same as as destination—was as conscious as any I have made in my life. As the philosopher Martin Buber once put it, "All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware."

-Joan Gould, from her essay "Once More, With Feeling"