Archive | Gratitude

It Must Be Love, Love, Love

I’ve been thinking about the relationship between distance and love in these past few weeks that Dar spent mostly away from home. I realized that after more than a year together, I was still very much in love. I had butterflies at the expectation of seeing him and still felt a surge of gratitude for every look of his eye. Being apart, I was surprised to discover, made me love Dar more.

The internet is overflowing with beautiful quotes about distance and love. Roger de Bussy-Rabutin, a French memoirist (and by his very French-ness an expert on love) said, “Absence is to love as wind is to fire; it extinguishes the small and kindles the great.” The romantic poet Khalil Gibran stated, “And ever has it been known that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.” More recently, inspirational author Richard Bach wrote, “Can miles truly separate you from friends? If you want to be with someone you love, aren’t you already there?”

I grew up believing that proximity is important for love. Mothers’ and children’s hearts, my mother explained when I was young, are connected by a string which tugs at them painfully if the distance between them grows too great. When I left home at eighteen and enlisted in the Israeli army, the five thousand miles from my parents stretched that string nearly beyond bearing The experience affected me so greatly that I now have little tolerance for separation. I dislike being far from anyone I love. I miss the kids when they are at their father’s and my family and friends in Israel. I see my parents at least three or four times a week and call them on the phone every day, sometimes twice. I like the stability of presence, being together, companionship. I like the security that comes from knowing a person I love is near.

And yet here I am, claiming that being apart from Dar has made me love him more.

Two years ago, my cousin and I visited Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, and we stopped to look at the site of the mysterious petroglyphs which the old Hawaiians carved into the lava as it cooled. As I walked through the lava desert, the voice of Pele, goddess of the volcano ,sounded deep in my love-longing heart. “You will have great love,” she promised me, and a year later I met Dar.

These past few weeks made me realize that opening my heart to love and to the pain of separation increased my inner awareness of love. Absence touched my heart, spanned the distance between me and Dar, creating both suffering and joy, promising happy reunions and teary farewells. Maybe the Buddha’s first noble truth should not be “Suffering is,” but “Love is.” I like that better, though I could argue that suffering and love are at once opposite sides and the same side of the symbolic coin of life.

On Wings of Exhaustion

My title this morning is literally true. I am sitting on an airplane heading to Phoenix, with a clear view of the plane’s wings out my window. And I am exhausted. I’m tired because I woke up at 5am San Antonio time, which is 3am California time and 6am New York time, and I don’t have a clue which time zone my body is in anymore. My weariness stems from physical causes and from the emotional toll of last weekend’s funeral and being separated from Dar on and off for four weeks. Cumulative tiredness.

Yesterday I walked around the Riverwalk. I started in downtown San Antonio, walking by the many restaurants, clubs, and cafes, and turned south toward the missions. The sun shone brightly, and after a while I removed my jacket. I was happy I had the forethought to bring a light shirt and less thrilled about having forgotten my sun screen. The park surrounding the Riverwalk is lovely. Trees, shrubs, and lawns glowed green to perfection against a clear blue sky. Butterflies fluttered like colorful flying flowers and birds chirped in the trees. Heaven.

Near King William neighborhood the houses turned to old Southern homes with huge balconies and porches and front yards beautifully-groomed. I discovered Mad Hatter’s Cafe and ordered myself some tea, sitting down to write my blog. When the waiter arrived with my teapot he explained that I must pick my own cup from the many cups and saucers, each unique, piled on the shelves.

For lunch I sat above the river in a partly shaded patio. I watched water taxis gliding below, filled with tourists, and couples meandering hand in hand in the romantic pathways. I walked north for over a mile, enjoying the waterfalls that many hotels built flowing into the river and which I later learned add oxygen to the water. I watched the ducks and cormorants diving into the murky river to catch whatever food there is in there for them to eat. For a while, all yesterday, I felt renewed, rejuvenated, fresh.

And then I had to wake up this morning to get on the plane, and blah, I’m tired again.

But maybe not. Maybe the light blue and white skies outside of my oval airplane window fill me with energy, and the brown and green  squares of agricultural, the lines of rivers, ridges, roads and the rounded lakes that create the landscape below inspire me with wonder, a longing to explore, the pull of adventure. And suddenly I’m not tired at all.

The world is spreading its pink rounded edges before me, full of possibility and promise of a new day. I am grateful for being here, for experiencing the miracle of sunrise, for taking deep breaths and being able to write to you. I don’t know what the rest of my day holds, but this is how I’d like live it: with gratitude, love and attention to the moment. I’m excited to be going home.

Extra Gratitude Bonus: Freedom from Regrets

Imagination is a wonderful asset, but at times it can be a burden, especially if it is out of control and predicting disasters. And my imagination is well-exercised in discovering horrors where none exist. This morning, when I heard the airline agent say that there is no more room in the overhead bins, and can passengers please volunteer to check their luggage, I decided, as we say in Hebrew, to heal the bruise before the injury happened, and checked my little sports bag.

Perhaps I should be honest and start a little earlier, with the challah and banana bread I had baked for Dar. I didn’t want them to get squished under all my stuff, so I put them in a plastic bag and carried it — a third carry-on — through security and all the way up to the gate. Being a law-abiding citizen, however, and having an imagination that can’t help but predict catastrophes (and make them seem illogically huge), I stressed about being told that I cannot bring this third plastic bag onto the airplane.

Once those officially-clad gals behind the counter announced the no-room-please-check-your-luggage message over the air, my fears would not let me stay seated, bundled up as I was with three parcels while the rest of the world was forced to carry only one. The agent was quite surprised, to tell the truth. She feebly tried to refuse my little sports bag, but I explained about having my backpack with me, and she gave up, shrugging at the crazy lady who checks in such a small bag when other people attempt to squeeze enormous, industrial-sized suitcases into the narrow bins.

Instantly regrets assailed me. Had I let my fears overcome my common sense by giving up my bag? What if it gets lost?What if there is room in the overhead bins after all? What if we have to wait for a very long time for the bag to come out at the carousel?

I texted the confession of my frailty to Dar, but for some reason he did not get upset. He texted me back that Rochester is a small airport, no problem, and the transfer in Chicago is sure to go well. And suddenly, it dawned on me — here is an opportunity for a moment of gratitude. In the midst of regret, over-imagination, anxiety and perceived disaster, I can be grateful for having one less bag to carry in Chicago while I switch planes!

The sun rose in my internal sky. My heart lightened. I had found a remedy for my regrets! Opening myself up to gratitude shifted my entire mood. Here was a way to turn bad (or at least perceived bad) into good. Next on my list for today, turning straw into gold. And, just to conclude, my bag came out of the carousel first.

Moments of Gratitude

A few days ago I waited at a stop sign for a bicycle to pass by, a dad with his daughter riding behind him on a trailer bike. As I watched them whiz past, the girl, no more than six years old, released her hold on the handlebars and spread her arms wide against the wind, her little legs pumping the pedals, hair flying behind from under her helmet.

A moment of gratitude for childhood and freedom, for these priceless memories, father and daughter having fun together. A moment of gratitude for the beautiful day, health, love and family.

Later, driving up the hill, a lone egret caught my eye, her graceful body standing erect, white against the green of the grass. Somehow, just watching that one egret, I felt ready to fly, filled with hope and joy.

Often these moments of gratitude are just that, a twinkling of a moment, so small it is easy to miss them if I don’t pay attention, so everyday that I feel it’s a miracle I notice them at all. My daughter’s face as she sits reading a book on her carpet before she realizes I am watching her. My son’s serious face as he plays the violin. The puppies huddled together as a pack on one doggie bed. Holding hands with Dar when we walk into the Farmers’ market. A piece of chocolate melting under my tongue.

My daughter’s Jewish Studies teacher calls these “I am grateful moments,” or in Hebrew, “Modeh Ani.” At school, she allows children to stand up in the morning and tell the entire group of first to third graders what their moment of gratitude is. My mother is going to have a baby today. I won a gymnastic competition. Wonderful, wonderful things happen to these wonderful kids.

According to Gretchen Rubin, the author of The Happiness Project, “Gratitude is a key to happiness,” and “consistently grateful people are happier and more satisfied with their lives.” I’ve noticed that whenever I let these moments of gratitude enter my life, my heart expands, I feel more connected to the world, and yes, happier, more full of joy.

Ms. Rubin recommends keeping a gratitude journal, writing a few words each day that express thankfulness for something that happened that day, or dedicating a few minutes every day to express gratitude verbally. I’ve decided to have a “moment of gratitude” tweet each day on twitter.

I love this quote by JFK: “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” As a writer, I am far too prone to utter words and then completely forget to live by them. But I hope that by writing my joy and being attentive to these moments of joy in order to express them, I will have assimilated the feeling of gratitude into every moment of life, whether it is good, bad, or in between.

Sigal Tzoore (650) 815-5109