Nature and Love

February 8, 2019

There is something starkly beautiful about a New England winter. For some reason I find myself here almost every year at this time or at least in some wintery place. But the gray landscape lends itself to introspection. At least here on this mountaintop, I am isolated with just two of my immediate family, my mother and brother. And so, often, I am alone with my thoughts. Since I don’t ski, or snowshoe, it is just me and the fire and watching the snow melt on this strange day.

I will hardly be the first person to say that your family is who they are and sometimes you love them in spite of yourself and in spite of themselves. I was told recently to remember that there is family you choose and family you don’t choose. And you love them differently. And sometimes, there is the family that chooses you.

Over time, people have come into my life that I love very much. I did not know that I could love as much as I do. I did not know how much I would value the love and friendship of the women in my life. And I did not know how much I would value and be touched by the people I have known the longest and who I see the least .

When I was young, all I understood of love was sex and marriage. As an aside, marriage has not worked out well for me. But marriage gave me my son, from whom I have learned a very different kind of love; The kind for which you would throw yourself in front of a moving train.

It is always interesting to me the extent to which nature, the weather, the scenery affects my mood and feelings. Sometimes it affects my optimism. Sometimes it is all about memory. When I come to this place it is full of memories of people, events and love past. And it is full of the present – thoughtful, joyful, difficult.

It has taken these years of living to begin to understand the nature of love for me. And it is all of the above, thoughtful, joyful, difficult, memorable. How happy I am that I have begun to understand the difference between need, want and love.

The Nature of Love

 

So, my friends.  We always think, when we hear the word love, of romantic love.  And don’t get me wrong, romantic love is a wonderful thing if it is part of your life.  But it is wrong thinking to think that romantic love is what should always be top of mind when you think of “love”.

My cats love me, in their own peculiar way.  They need to be close a lot of the time when I am home because I often am not.  They groom me and bring me various live and half-eaten prey to show how much they love me.  Dogs, fortunately, do not bring prey but theirs is a most unconditional form of love.  They do not care what you do or when, they just love you.  Cats are a little pickier but always come around.

And religion, ritual, spiritual practices tell me that G-d loves me.  The best version of any of these tells me that my concept of a G-d should be loving and caring and not punitive despite some of the biblical allegories that might drive you to believe otherwise.  I choose to believe that if there is a power greater than myself, it is caring; that the universe means me no harm.  Bad things happen, they are part of life not the vengeful creations of a punishing G-d.

Despite my own insecurities and self-doubt, I know today that my friends love me.  Now there are the women.  They are the friends whose love is wrapped in sympathy, empathy and hard truth.  They are the friends that fill my house with laughter when we play cards and whose paths, in many cases, parallel my own.  They are the friends that understand what my life is like at the present time and that is  a priceless gift.  Then there are the men.  I have learned that it is indeed possible to have really stalwart and steady male friends without the need for tension, chemistry or romance.  They have brought me meals, listened to me rant about the shortcomings of certain other men in my life.  They show up to fix things or reach things I can’t.  They refer me to services I need as a single homeowner.  They have my back all the time and don’t laugh at me as much as the women do.  They are the friends that just show up and care whether they understand or not. And men and women alike, I love them back.

And there is my son, with whom I am friends.  He is the friend that showed up every day to clean the pool and take out my trash when I couldn’t.  He is the friend that knows me inside out and doesn’t take any bullshit answers. He is the friend that thinks I should have romantic love in my life. He is the friend that shares his fears and understands mine.  We have come to this wonderful adult place.  And of course, he is my baby and I love him more than I will ever love anyone!

So, romantic love – it would be nice. But I have, as you can see, lots of love in my life; and it is good.

HELP~?

So being laid up as I have been is a different kind of experience.  This is when being single gets interesting.  I am a generally independent sort and for the last ten days I have been mostly helpless as a result of surgery on my feet.  Now we don’t think about our feet all that much, until the can’t be used!  And if I am up too much they definitely let me know.

As a result of this, I have been forced to ask for more help than I am really comfortable with.  And it has forced me to think about why we are so resistant to asking for help.  Do we think we aren’t worth it?  Or that people secretly don’t like you and just won’t show up?  It is odd.  Giving help comes completely naturally, it is just what we are supposed to do.  Getting help, what an emotional struggle.

I have been so blessed with friends who did show up.  Dinner has arrived at my house every day for eight days.  Take out filled in the rest.  I have discovered Grub Hub, but that is a story for another day.  People have taken out my trash, gone to the store, called every day, driven me to the doctor and sat in the house while I took my first shower.  My son has shown up every day since he came back to town, just to see if I need anything.  He is cleaning the pool and other sundry tasks.  All the minutiae of everyday life that you need to be on your feet for.  I thought I was super prepared, hah! That’s a laugh.

And so, having to learn to accept help with grace and gratitude, that is the lesson. I believe there is a lesson in every experience, we just don’t always know what it is.  When my father had dementia and lived with us, the lesson was patience (I have had a few lessons on that…).  When my marriage ended, the lesson was that I am quite enough all by myself.  That prepared me a bit for this next lesson which is that I am not always enough with out some dependence on people who love and care about me, whether I believe I am worthy or not.  I am not sure how gracefully I have managed this but I know this – I am overwhelmed with gratitude!

Luck, and Action

Gratitude, essential and elusive.  Something I have tried very hard to instill in my son; that regardless of what we don’t have we are so much luckier than many.  I think he gets it.

There is something guilt provoking in being grateful that others’ misfortunes are not yours.  But isn’t the essence of gratitude the idea that “it” isn’t or hasn’t happened to you? Yet.

The state of the world often brings tears these days, yes crying again. The Hondurans who have lived here as productive citizens virtually all their lives, now to be sent “back” to their non-home. The violence and deaths in Gaza and Israel.  The dreamers who have never known anywhere but here. The national parks being dismantled and made less accessible.  The children who go hungry in this wealthy land. The teachers who have to strike for a living wage, knowing they are hurting the children they love. Nazis marching in our streets, openly racist and anti-Semitic; behavior that while existing, was frowned on and mostly repressed for decades.  The black men gunned down for no other reason and the women who mourn for them. And on, and on, and on.

[tweetshare tweet=”I remember the intense idealism of the sixties and seventies, I lived it. And I have always held dear the notion that love and good, coupled with action, would win the day. I dedicated my first career to that notion, and to a love of the constitution and the rights of the underdog.” username=”@trienahm”]

I remember the intense idealism of the sixties and seventies, I lived it. And I have always held dear the notion that love and good, coupled with action, would win the day.  I dedicated my first career to that notion, and to a love of the constitution and the rights of the underdog.

I fear that love is no longer enough.  But as a personal matter, I have to remain positive; about the world, about my life.  And the shortest line to positivity is gratitude.  So I practice a prayer of gratitude every day on the way to work. Radio off, spoken out loud, thanking the universe for what a good life I have and acknowledging how intensely lucky I am in so many ways.  And the antidote to negativity and especially self pity is always gratitude.  And then there’s always action, fuel for gratitude.

Memory and Mending

I sat in my humid garage opening boxes packed years ago.  A collection of mugs primarily assembled by my ex husband.  27 years of marriage, 30 years of history.  I unwrapped each cup, acquired either at an event or gifted to him from a friend’s attendance at an event, wiped it clean, tossed the aging, crinkled newspaper and wrote it’s provenance on a fresh box.

They are being donated to an organization that can auction them to good use.  As I read them off, I was flooded with memory like the scent in Proust’s famous passage, the feel of each cup and the inscription of where it came from brought me to many moments in my life.  The mug from the event in Stamford, Connecticut where my then 11 month old came down with pneumonia and we had to stay over in a hospital with no PICU, shuttling in shifts to sleep with him in the hospital room.  The mug from the event in Martha’s Vineyard where a late spring ensured that we would sleep with our coats on and meet the wonderful Dj who later played music for our wedding.  The mug from the event at which I was stalked by my not yet husband.  The event at which everyone wanted to hold our brand new adopted baby son.   The first event with some special women still, or again, in my life.

Mother’s day weekend, and I spent it on a garden stool in my steamy garage re wrapping my history in clean packing paper.  And I spent most of the weekend crying, descending back into regret.  The way in which my marriage ended broke something in me, and although I have come a long way, I am not entirely mended yet.  Being willing to let go of these material things that evoke so much memory and regret is a big step in mending the cracks; in me – the broken cups went to the trash.

And to end on a happy note, my son made Mother’s Day special and brilliant  and full of the present.