“And did you get what you wanted from this life, even so?”

“I did.”

“And what did you want?”

“To call myself beloved, to feel myself beloved on the Earth.”
— Raymond Carver, Late Fragments

Shelf of family photos

Shelf of family photos

“The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.”
— Victor Hugo

I chose this shelf of family photos as my 10th “life object” because after all, they represent the true objects of my affection, my family and friends.  When it is all said and done, I think it is my relationships that will prove the worth of my life.  I am lucky indeed because I do feel beloved.

I am no longer a daughter or granddaughter.  But I am still a wife, mother, sister, aunt, cousin, and friend.  And although these ties and connections are the most rewarding parts of my life, they are also my biggest challenges and, from time to time, the biggest sources of pain.  Sometimes I suck at relationships.  I make mistakes and disappoint myself and others.  I unintentionally hurt the ones I love best.  I’m stubborn and critical and stuck in my ways.  Oh my, I could go on and on about my faults.  But so far, thankfully, I’ve been able to start again.  And again. And try better.

Here are a couple of lessons I try to remember when things start falling apart:

“One of the basic problems in close relationships is the tendency to expect the other person to be and act the person you want them to be.  It takes considerable maturity to allow the other to live his or her own life.  You may have certain needs that you hope your friend or lover or family member will fulfill.  You may live by certain rules and habits that you hope everyone will adopt.  You may have a worldview that works for you, and you can’t understand why someone closer to you doesn’t share it.  This clinging to self-interests has to change.  You may have to learn to appreciate and ultimately enjoy the other person’s ways and especially the mysteries that lead them on.

Allowing the other his or her own life and destiny is a spiritual achievement, a religious act, if you will, that raises the relationship above the level of mere human connection.”
— Thomas Moore, A Religion of One’s Own

“Love is an act of endless forgiveness.”
— Jan Karon, Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good

“If we look at another person only as a self, we see differences.  If we look at others as possessors of a soul, we see ourselves reflected in them.”
— Rudolfo Anaya, Jalamanta: A Message from the Desert

“Take the love . . . leave the judgement.”
— Mary Muncil  (This lesson was simply and beautifully illustrated in a blog post that a friend forwarded to me.)


“And this is what we mean by friends.  Even when they are absent, they are with us . . . even when they are weak, they are strong; and even when they are dead, they are alive.”
— Cicero

A light in the darkness -- the Macy star and Westlake tree, Seattle

A light in the darkness — the Macy’s star and Westlake tree, Seattle

“Listen to me: everything you think you know, every relationship you’ve ever taken for granted, every plan or possibility you’ve ever hatched, every conceit or endeavor you’ve ever concocted, can be stripped from you in an instant.  Sooner or later, it will happen.  So prepare yourself.  Be ready not to be ready.  Be ready to be brought to your knees and beaten to dust.  Because no stable foundation, no act of will, no force of cautious habit will save you from this fact:  nothing is indestructible.”
— Jonathan Evison, from The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving

Today’s post is in memory of Alden, my daughter’s best friend, who died one year ago.  Sometimes it is difficult to find the strength to stay open to the joys of the season.  I am privileged to witness my daughter’s courage in this regard.  My heartfelt best wishes to everyone who is suffering the absence of beloved friends and family this holiday season.

” . . . simply living demands all the courage that we have.”
— Adam Gopnik, from Winter: Five Windows on the Season