Nothing Good Gets Away

I have worked with college age adults since, I was, well, just barely no longer a college age adult myself.  And while not chronologically that many  years ahead of them; I’d had life experiences that set me apart in ways that felt like light years. Some days, I would hear little pangs within myself; little pangs of envy at what seemed so simple, so fresh, so ready for possibility. I was putting things back together for me, so to speak, and at the same time helping them find their way.  I realized years later how we truly helped each other.

Along with programs and events, my work entailed just spending time, talking, listening. Hearing their worries. It ranged from homesickness, to college majors, which fork in the spiritual path to follow; quiet conversations about where families went wrong and the years of wondering how to cope.  Some made progress; for some the struggle continued. With each student, I would listen; we’d laugh. I knew a lot of stories.

The most consistent lament that stood at the threshold of my office was that of love; it hadn’t arrived, it had gone wrong already, it had shown up and then went away.  It was unrequited; I knew one young man who so painstakingly tried to pursue each of three beautiful young women, sisters,  who one by one all came to attend this same university. As each one arrived in her freshman year, I saw his heart expand with a little bit more hope each time, only to be dashed. I also often witnessed the exquisite joy when two sets of eyes met and never looked away and the great weddings in subsequent years.

I remember a few young women in particular who were just heartsick that the completion of their ‘Mrs. Degree’ was not going according to their much anticipated plans. Having been bounced around a bit, in the love department; I wanted them to realize that there is no rush. That they had so much good in their lives and to not come at this with fears of never and what-ifs.  I ended up coming up with a phrase I ultimately used over and over; if you gotta hurry, you gotta worry. What’s the rush I would ask them. Why the need to fast track this?

I think all of us want to know what’s coming next.

The other day, a friend of mine updated her Facebook status to say:  “Why is waiting so hard?”  I don’t have any idea if she was waiting for medical results, a pizza delivery or the departure day for a special trip.  But her question caught my attention.

I think we all push the envelope in terms of wanting some kind of security in our lives; and for many of us, the security is in the knowing.

We are rewarded these days, by being in a hurry all of the time, and rushing on to the next big thing, rarely allowing ourselves to even fully realize, much less enjoy or savor that which we finished.   TV and media of all kinds reinforce this quick pace and so when things move slowly, or perhaps seemingly not at all; I think it’s safe to say that we all struggle somewhat with not knowing what’s around the next corner; or what things mean, exactly.

We often want it all spelled out for us.

Another way of saying, perhaps, how difficult it is sometimes to just wait. No matter the reason for waiting – news, good or bad, a special day, a blossoming romance to blossom, wondering if we got the job – I love both the knowing and the wisdom found in the words that John Steinbeck wrote to his son more than 50 years ago, with sage advice in the form of an eloquent and intimate letter between father and son, about the importance of not being in a hurry…

New York November 10, 1958

Dear Thom:

We had your letter this morning. I will answer it from my point of view and of course Elaine will from hers.

First—if you are in love—that’s a good thing—that’s about the best thing that can happen to anyone. Don’t let anyone make it small or light to you.

Second—There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you—of kindness and consideration and respect—not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn’t know you had.

You say this is not puppy love. If you feel so deeply—of course it isn’t puppy love.

But I don’t think you were asking me what you feel. You know better than anyone. What you wanted me to help you with is what to do about it—and that I can tell you.

Glory in it for one thing and be very glad and grateful for it.

The object of love is the best and most beautiful. Try to live up to it.

If you love someone—there is no possible harm in saying so—only you must remember that some people are very shy and sometimes the saying must take that shyness into consideration.

Girls have a way of knowing or feeling what you feel, but they usually like to hear it also.

It sometimes happens that what you feel is not returned for one reason or another—but that does not make your feeling less valuable and good.

Lastly, I know your feeling because I have it and I’m glad you have it.

We will be glad to meet Susan. She will be very welcome. But Elaine will make all such arrangements because that is her province and she will be very glad to. She knows about love too and maybe she can give you more help than I can.

And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens—The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.

Love,

Fa

Source:  Letters of Note & Brain Pickings

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Comfort Creatures

“There is no happiness like that of being loved by your fellow creatures, and feeling that your presence is an addition to their comfort.” 

― Charlotte Brontë

Change and transition are not easy for the strongest among us, and perhaps take their greatest toll on the smallest of us.  In times of upheaval and transition, we are comforted by the familiar, the known, the safe. We want to be surrounded by what  we know and those whom we trust.  The familiar.

My son is truly a trooper and has given me glimpses of what he’s made of.  He’s smart, sensitive, intuitive and well, all the same, a nine year old boy.  The kind who loves to throw a football, giggle at bad words, deliver a curve-ball over the plate, get lost in video games.

And hang with his dudes.

To help ease some of the bigness of life, I got a few of his guys over for a sleep-over this last weekend. It’s called a sleep-over, but really, the boys were just over. Of course, there was some sleep involved, just not a whole lot. My Sunday morning began around 0-six-hundred as I heard something much louder than pitter-patter on the wood floor above me.

sleepover2These are boys that my kiddo has known since baby days and kinder days.

One thing I know, he knows how to pick good friends.

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The time together included dinner in the dark on the sidewalk out in front of the house; al fresco style complete with a flashlight.

Crazy made up games.

Laughing.

Challenges and contests.

Roasting marshmallows over the grill.

Silliness. Pure silliness.

Races in the living room with carpet skates.

A picnic style breakfast while watching YouTube on the tube.

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It’s clear to me, these boys are comfort creatures to my boy. They give him a place to belong. A place where his name is known and his laugh is met with more laughter. A place to trust himself to be nothing but himself.

How young it starts, when we begin to make such a difference in the lives of others.  If only these boys knew the importance of their presence. In time. In time.

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Holding Tight the Laces

Let it Go.

There are a hundred ways to say it. A hundred things we would be better off for letting go of.  Old resentments, misguided worry, a weary worn out grudge, the past, unrealistic expectations, that which we cannot control, a broken heart,  a million what-ifs and of course all the coulda-shoulda-wouldas.

Let it go.

We have all heard it, we have all heard ourselves say it to someone else in compassion or perhaps even exasperation, and maybe we have muttered it under our breath for our own benefit when we have worn ourselves out worrying or troubling or obsessing about something, or someone, and finally, at last know there is nothing else we can do.

Let it go.

A simple little phrase. If only it were that simple.

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It seems to me that this this is one of those lessons we have to learn over and over. And then, perhaps, again.  Turns out, that along with our hearts, our brains are not programmed for change or loss. I learned this from a new perspective recently while reading a terrific article about dealing with change.  It hit home when I read that…

When we run into a roadblock, suddenly information we trusted has broken down. Where does the other road lead? How long will it take? Is it dangerous? What we don’t know tends to scare us, and change creates a lot of things we don’t know. As a result, we tend to act pretty irrationally to try and prevent change, often without realizing it, and make our lives unnecessarily problematic.  {via Lifehacker}

Letting go is saying yes to loss. Choosing to say goodbye to something.  Even the things in our lives that take up unnecessary space, cause pain, or rob us of joy somehow settle in as something familiar and letting  go creates an unexpected emptiness.  Letting go is an active invitation of the unfamiliar, and somehow, we are strange creatures who cling to what is familiar, sometimes just what takes up space, even when it doesn’t always feel good.

As an eighth grader, I had begged my my parents for new roller skates for my 14th birthday. Begged and bargained. And finally, they gave in and agreed that would be my gift that year. I got to pick them out – white leather boot, blue wheels and stopper, and even a bright blue pom-pom on the toe.  While the surprise element was zero, the anticipation factor was high; I loved knowing that by a certain date, those skates would be mine, all mine.  My birthday finally rolled around and the skates were safely in my possession; I am sure I skated around the block, imagining my first chance to loop the rink with my girlfriends and with an eye on that cute boy from across town. That night, some thirty plus years ago, as I fell asleep, proud owner of the new skates, I held the laces of those new skates tightly, my hand hanging over the edge of my bed, unable to let go. I wanted to be sure that when I woke up, those skates would still be there. I didn’t trust that what I had wanted so badly, and had finally received, would not in fact somehow slip away.

The skates were something I could easily – and legitimately grasp, hold on to, and make sure they did not roll away from me.

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But what about when it’s more complicated than roller skates? When it is something that stirs you?  What if it is something, that despite the fact that the earth is not likely to tip on a slant and cause things to roll away, is something you want to hold close?

We know that if we can let something go, and if it remains with us, or returns, that we should be able to trust that it is meant to be part of us, that there is something truly organic at play.  When we successfully stuff a square into a circle, it may seem for the moment to feel good that we conquered, that we won, that we got what we wanted. But in the long run, it seems safe to say, that time will only reveal to us that it never really fit in the first place.

What’s hard is not knowing, and yet allowing ourselves to truly step back and let the universe do it’s work.  Let the surface slant and see what rolls.  What I am still struggling with, I will be honest, is finding that balance. The balance between gently holding that which we care about, and still allowing time and space to work its magic.  Knowing when it’s time to put my hands up in acquiescence; understanding that I have done all that I should, or could. Even if  just temporarily. Understanding the balance between coincidence and intent, the fine line between patient and passive,  the delicate dance of safe and vulnerable.

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I have been pondering this notion for days, trying to work out a solution to a dilemma and a way of being during an ambiguous time.  I am wrestling with big change that requires grieving something familiar that cannot continue.  We came close to losing my 92 year old father last week and my brother and I both felt compelled to let him go, and to let him know he was free to pass from one world to the next if he is tired.  An important relationship requires that I let go for awhile to allow it’s potential to emerge on it’s own. In the time of my pondering, and beating my chest over all this, I’ve gotten a text from a friend who unknowingly suggested I give a listen to a song by Frou Frou called Let Go.   Mimi’s post, graciously extending her angel wings over me, talked about letting go and the persistence of hope, and a very wise person I know [ok, my sister!]  re-framed my question asking me if I can let it be, instead of feeling that I have to let it go.  This letting go, this saying yes to loss, at any level; is excruciating in some moments. But sometimes, to let go is not so simple, but simply, the only way.  And when we surrender ourselves to what is to be, we somehow allow for just that. What is to be.

So, where is the line? The line between grasping too tightly and letting go?  Between letting go and letting it be?  What about when letting go feels like giving up?  Because somehow, I still feel like that 14yr old who wants to hold tight to the laces of my skates as I fall asleep.

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