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Posts Tagged ‘acceptance’

love wins…

my friend forwarded me an email this morning titled “The Happiest Gay Marriage Photo You will Ever See”.   here is the picture they are referring to:

and i would have to agree…that is the happiest gay marriage photo i have ever seen.  looking at these beautiful women expressing their joy made me tear up.  and i thought, that is the happiest marriage photo i have ever seen…period.  gay or not gay, i’ve never seen such joy in a marriage picture.

i could go on and on about how marriage is a right we all should have, how being gay is not immoral…in fact it’s a natural occurring human characteristic.  some of us are born blond, some of us are born brunette…some of us are born gay, some of us are born straight.  about how people should stop using jesus’ name…or anyone else’s…to spread such hatred and small minded ridiculousness.  about how none of us are better than the other of us.  about how we should all aspire to feel such love…the love we see in this picture above.  this is what some people are trying to stop…this joy…this love.  about how love will always eventually win….but instead, i’m just going to post this slideshow below and hope each and every one of you one day experiences what they are feeling.

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my daughter maggie loves birds, among many things.  we have a few bird feeders near our window in the living room and even though she sees birds all day, everyday, she still gets so excited when she sees one.  she looks at me and does that surprised gasp…like a child seeing the gifts under the christmas tree for the first time…wide eyes, face filled with joy, hands over her mouth.  then she’ll whisper “mommy look!” and point at the window.  i find it so endearing and sweet.  she’s my muffin.

another thing she loves is taking our dog gracie for a walk…so last night we did just that.  maggies always wants to hold the leash and walk her, and she’s getting very good at it.  at one point, while walking gracie, maggie saw a bird.  she got very excited and gasped, yelling, “mommy!  a robin!” and she took off running with gracie.  after about two steps, she tripped over her little four year old feet and feel down, skinning her shin pretty badly.  as i ran to her i could see the pain in her face…the look of terror…as she started to sob.  i’ve seen this look on my kids faces before.  it looks like they are shocked…shocked something could hurt so much…like they are realizing something about life they didn’t know before.  she was crying so hard that she wasn’t making much noise.  i scooped her up and held her, making my “shhhh, shhhhh, shhhh” sound and holding her close.  there was nothing else i could do.  all i could do was be there with her and love her.  i couldn’t make the pain go away for her.

this has been my least favorite part of being a parent…realizing my kids will feel pain that i can do nothing about…pain that i can’t prevent.  at times that idea fills me with desperation…desperate to protect them, to keep them safe, to keep them from ever being hurt.  my son quincy is 10 now and i have watched as he has learned the things about life i would rather he doesn’t…pain, death, war, cruelty.   i have not enjoyed this one bit.

i remember the first time it dawned on me that he would soon learn things i didn’t want him to know.  we had just exited the highway and were at the end of the exit ramp…the place some people mindlessly throw garbage…garbage we all get to look at.  he was so little…and as we stopped he said “look mommy.  a man must have lost his cup.”  he was noticing the cups on the side of the road.  he had no idea what liter was.  it never dawned on him that someone might throw their garbage there…so it must have been a mistake.  my heart ached in that moment for all the things he would learn…things i didn’t want him to know.  things i didn’t want to exist.  i wanted the world to always look to him as it did that day.  the man must have lost his cup.  my eyes filled with tears as i said to him “maybe he did sweetheart.”

i have learned a lot since that day.  i have accepted a lot.  i can’t keep things from them forever.  i can’t take their pain away.  they have their own lives to life…things to learn.  i can be a protective parent, let them have their childhood.  i keep the news off in our house.  we speak kindly to each other.  but over the years i have slowly shifted the way i think about all this, the way i handle it with my kids.  i think this shift has come from me being able to deal with the pain in my life better.  i have learned for myself to try not to put big judgements on these things…the pain of life.  it is just part of life.  and i have found in doing so, the pain is much more tolerable and temporary.

in his book “breathe, you are alive”, thich nhat hanh writes:

There is a crack in everything.  Life is broken, and it is its brokenness that makes it livable.  But we are somehow of the mind-set that cracks have to be patched.  patching the cracks is trying to control life, rather than engage it.  To engage life we have to find the cracks and enter them, rather than deny or patch them. 

 it’s the holding on to the pain that really hurts…that really creates suffering in our lives.  if we feel the pain without judging it, it will pass.  if we accept it as just another part of life, it seems less menacing.   life isn’t supposed to be painless.  holding this belief, trying desperately to avoid the pain, robs us of our life.

i want more than anything for my children to live their lives…i want them to live their lives out loud.   is that easy for me?  no.  i cringed when i bought maggie a bike, thinking of ingrid’s death, but i bought it anyways…i actually suggested it.  it’s still so hard for me to think of them riding bikes, being out in the world with so many uncontrollable variables…but that’s where life is.  so i can worry and feel anxious about it, and i do, but i don’t show them that.  i do my best to just love them and be here for them.  i have realized that is all i can ever do.  in doing that, hopefully they will feel they have a safe “nest” to launch from.  i want them to spend their time thinking about all the things they want to do in life, not how i will feel about it.  i want them to fly.

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i lived in san diego briefly about 25 years ago.  while i was there, i started attending the local community college.  one of the classes i took was philosophy.  i loved philosophy…still do.  i love talking about ideas.  and what made that class even better was the professor…professor banks.   she was the kind of professor who really wanted to discuss…she didn’t seem too concerned with tests or grades.   she wanted us to examine our ideas and share them…she encouraged us to question everything.   i really loved her class.

i never finished that class, or any of the other ones i was taking back then.  i had not dealt with the traumas of my past and the pain started to really affect me.  i decided i should move back to chicago, where i knew more people…where i felt i had more support.  i remember being so disappointed in myself…so disappointed i couldn’t stay.   i talked to professor banks about it and said my goodbyes.  she asked me if i wanted to give her my address so she could send me the papers i had written.  she hadn’t graded them yet.  i remember being kind of surprised.  thinking back on it now, i think i was surprised that she valued them…she valued my ideas…she valued me.  i gladly gave her my address and moved back home.

a month or so later i got a package in the mail from her.  i had forgotten all about those papers and here they were.  she had read them all and written comments to me…even though i wasn’t going to finish her class.  another professor might have thought it didn’t matter anymore…why waste the time?  but she knew it mattered.  discussing my ideas with me mattered whether i was going to formally finish her class or not.  in the package she also included a copy of the book the prophet by kahlil gibran.  she bookmarked the page on self-knowledge and wrote this inside the front cover:

“For Mahra, a true “Lover of Wisdom”, Be ever faithful to yourself”

i remember how it felt to get that from her.  i felt seen.  i felt like she had seen in me what i could not see…my light.  she believed in me even though i did not believe in myself.   i never forgot that.

that book is probably the possession i treasure most.  i treasure it because she gave it to me…and i treasure it because of the truth it contains for me.  it spoke to me when i first read it all those years ago…and it speaks to me even louder now.  and whenever i read it, i think of professor banks and feel grateful that she saw me and felt it important enough to send it.

i thought of her today while i was cutting the grass.  i have no idea why.  i thought i would contact her and send her my blog address.  i got excited by this idea.  i would love to discuss ideas with her again. so i called the college to try to contact her.  they told me she died 6 years ago.   then i remembered the letter she sent me in 2001.  i had written her to thank her for the book…to tell her i have kept it all these years and how important it was to me.  i told her about my life and how i had healed so much.  she wrote me back a beautiful letter.  i have always cherished it.  you can click here to read the entire letter.  in it she said:

“Mahra, I certainly do remember you and have thought of you often over the years.  There was never any doubt in my mind that you would go on to successfully complete your formal education.  What was more important to me was that you understood that true education is about embracing yourself and the formal aspect helps to shape and enhance what life is teaching you.  Education is a life long  journey.  We go on integrating both the formal and the informal and delighting in the outcomes.  It’s never easy, and it hurts at times, as you and I well know, but it’s so worth it isn’t it.”

“I, too, couldn’t get enough of all there was to learn.  So, m’dear, it would appear that we are kindred spirits.  What a delight!  Pass it on!  First to Quincy and your husband and then to the next young man or woman you encounter in whom you recognize that hunger for wisdom and truth.  It did not begin with Gibran and will not end with you and I.  We are all linked in this journey and it all began a “zillion” years ago deep in the human heart that recognized that we are so much more than we seem to be at any given moment.  I know you understand this and it fills my heart with joy. The joy is based on the fact that the years go rushing by and class after class pass through my care and I look to you and students like you who “get it” to continue passing on the “light” that illuminates the dark recesses of indifference and a willingness to settle only for mediocrity that ends in hearts burdened with haunting dissatisfaction that infects everyone they encounter, especially the young.”

when the woman on the phone told me that she died, i started to feel regret.  why hadn’t i kept in contact with her?  what more could she have taught me?  i wanted to talk to her more…i wanted to feel that connection…i wanted to tell her thank you again…i wanted to let her know what she meant to me.  but as i read her letter today, i began to feel such peace.  i learned what i needed to from her.  i am lucky enough to have told her how i felt about her…she knows.  the connection with her is still there…and always will be.   and most importantly i am sharing my light with the world and others…just as she shared her light with me…and for that i’m so grateful.

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the other day while my husband and kids were eating lunch,  my husband and  my son were joking around about something…at one point my husband said to him “well, i’m not going to send you to siberia.”  my son asked what siberia is so we started to explain.  we explained where it was and the climate…and then i explained a bit about the labor camps.  i told him that my grandfather was sent there from latvia, that he died in the camps.  my 4 year old daughter had been listening to all of this and had a question.

“can you make snow angels in siberia mommy?”

i was taken aback by her question but told her that you can make snow angels anywhere that there is snow.  i imagined my grandfather making a snow angel in siberia.  did he?  did he find joy in the camps?  did he find meaning in his life?  i can only imagine what he endured.  i know many of his friends and fellow latvian officers were killed.  i know he was brought to trail by the russians and sent to a labor camp.  i know he never heard from or saw his family again.  i know he never made it out of the camp.

in the book, “man’s search for meaning”, victor frankl writes of his experience in a concentration camp during the second world war.  he explains why he wrote the book in the preface, saying, “I had wanted simply to convey to the reader by way of a concrete example that life holds a potential meaning under any conditions, even the most miserable ones.”  he explains some of the horrors they experienced in the camps…but also that the prisoners found bits of joy, humor, love, connectedness, meaning, in spite of their horrific situation.  he did not say it was easy, or that everyone could connect to that which is greater, that which connects us…the beauty of life…but some did.  he tells a story of a fellow prisoner rushing into his hut one evening to ask them to come outside and watch a beautiful sunset.  he tells of art and humor…sacrifice and hope.

“The experiences of camp life show that man does have a choice of action.  There were enough examples, often of a heroic nature, which proved that apathy could be overcome, irritability suppressed.  Man can preserve a vestige of spiritual freedom, of independence of mind, even in such terrible conditions of psychic and physical stress. We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread.  They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms-to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

what made these few different?  were they just better people?  stronger people?  i would argue no.  i think they just knew something that perhaps the others didn’t…that we are more then our situation, more then the circumstances of our lives, and they were able to remember that truth in the most difficult of circumstances…it’s during the most difficult times that most of us forget the thing that is most important…we are spiritual beings having a human experience…life is full of pain and suffering…the pain that we can experience in this life can feel at times unbearable…and it is real…but that is not who we are.  we are not our pain.  we are our light, and that light is in all of us.

so did my grandfather make snow angels in siberia?  probably not.  but i hope that for one moment he watched a sunset or listened to a bird and remembered that he was more then anything that would ever happen to him.

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