Archive | Love

The Love that Keeps on Growing

Last night I went to sleep overwhelmed by exhaustion. We had a full and busy day. After breakfast, we left for a hike at Angel Island. The kids watched a movie in the car on our way to Tiburon. On the ferry ride, Uri wanted to be on the top deck and Eden at the bottom. Thank the fairies for Dar, who stayed below while Uri and I braved the wind up above.

Uri on the ferry

We wandered about the island for a couple hours. The sun shone brightly on this perfect San Francisco day. We saw a solitary hummingbird perched on a brightly colored bush. Eden climbed by herself to peek through a window in an old Fort building and jumped down with my help. On the way back in the ferry we sat quietly together on the top deck, shivering slightly in the wind. We stopped in San Francisco to visit my cousin and his wife who had just had a baby and ate cake and gefilte fish and drank tea while the kids played on our iphones. On the drive home I struggled to stay awake in the car.

The moment we got in the door, Uri asked: “Will you play ping-pong with me?”

Kids exploring old site in the fort

Oh dear fairies. Now? I’m so tired. We just spent the entire day together! Can’t you entertain yourself for a while? The reply: a long and disappointed face. Back turned. Walking with heavy feet away. And me? Struck by guilt, I realized I just said no to an opportunity for closeness, for love with my preteen son. How many more opportunities like this will come my way as he grows up?

I put some rice on the stove and called out, “I can play ping pong now.” His little face appeared no more than a split-second later. “I’m ready!” He announced. And we played ping pong and baseball and basketball. Uri kept complimenting me on my improvement in these three branches of sport. But how could I not improve? I’ve been practicing them on a daily basis whenever he is around!

Eden in the window

In the last month, I have been scheduling special time with the kids — a time in which they each have me entirely to themselves and we do whatever he or she wants to do. The kids were enthralled. They are voting for longer and longer special times, even when I am busy with other stuff. My morning read-while-I-eat routine has been shifting to play-Go-Fish-with-Eden while I eat. My afternoons have been spent playing ball sports and jumping on the trampoline.

I give the children more of my attention, and I am amazed by how how much time, attention and love the children invest in me back. After all, they could be playing on the computer or watching TV. But it seems that at 11 and 9 they still long for mommy-and-me time, just like me.

Lying, Protecting, Loving

I’ve been thinking about overprotection a lot while reading Julie Garwood’s The Bride. Jamie and Alec, the main characters, lie to each other all the time. They lie for reasons which could arguably be deemed good: to avoid hurting each other’s feelings or to surprise each other, but mostly they lie to protect each other from bad news. Alec hides from Jamie that her life is in danger. Jamie rushes to prevent war without letting him know. Rather than use their marriage for the support and help it can give, they each treat the other as inadequate and weak. I see their overprotection of each other as a sort of power struggle, an attempt to discover whether there can be trust between them, whether each can safely cede some control.

Surprisingly, though Alec and Jamie lie and their lies are discovered, the only consequence for the lie is greater love and intimacy between them. I don’t particularly like their way of building a life together, and yet somehow, despite the lies and power struggles, Garwood manages to convince me of the truth of Jamie’s and Alec’s love.

I like this quote from Elena Gorokhova: “The rules are simple: they lie to us, we know they’re lying, they know we know they’re lying, but they keep lying to us, and we keep pretending to believe them.” After a while, Alec knows Jamie is up to something and she knows he knows, and they both, in the end, come to depend on the lies as a form of upside-down truth. I guess it makes for an exciting marriage, at least within this book.

In many families I know, it is customary to protect each other from bad news. My parents have hid from my siblings and me a variety of misfortunes, from job loss or illness to smaller matters like the scandal behind the Bible teacher’s marriage or my second grade’s teacher’s disappearance a few months after the beginning of school. I know the secrecy originates from a desire to shield us, to keep us happy or innocent for a little longer, but invariably the news has to be revealed, and, as is the nature of bad news, time rarely lessens its impact.

When I find myself overprotected like that, whether by my parents, my children, friends or Dar, I begin to doubt my own resilience, my ability to recover from difficulties. Did they think I’d be incapable of dealing with this news? “Suffering is,” the Buddha said, and suffering exists everywhere in our world, even for someone like me who attempts to live in a bubble. Perhaps rather than sticking to the impossible task of guarding each other (children, parents, or any other member of our family, really) from pain, the better solution is to nurture resilience. And while I have no idea how to go about doing that, still the first step, I think, would be to stop overprotecting each other from all this imagined harm.

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.

Hellos and Goodbyes

I used to resent the many hellos and goodbyes in my life. I felt the hole, the emptiness in the house when the kids were at their dad’s. Then, when they returned, I worried over every moment I spent away from them. I suffered under the transience of people in my life: Dar when he still had his apartment, my family and friends who live in other corners of the world.

Hello! I missed you! How are you? And the kids? And then it’s time to say goodbye. And then hello again! How are you? How’s the family? Did you end up getting that job? And goodbye again. How can I live a life when people pop in and out, when I pop in and out, the lives of everyone else? If only the kids were here full time, I thought. Or, if only Dar and I lived together. I wished for continuity, one stable person in my life to whom I wouldn’t continually have to say goodbye.

For a while, my wish seemed to come true. Dar moved in with us and, being between jobs, we spent a lot of time together. Reading my blog to Dar before posting it encouraged me. Seeing him seated opposite me at his desk anchored me to my own pursuits. Watching him planting garlic, potatoes and daffodils in our garden, experimenting with different kinds of soil and locations, created a joyful blanket of safety in my heart. Every daily exchange painted the world in hues of pink and love. My writing blossomed. Stability brought out the best in me. I could feel my creativity pouring out, secure in the happiness of having this one person who is really here for me.

But stability, you know, is fleeting. The Buddhists say the only enduring state is that of change. These last two weeks I got to say a lot of hellos and goodbyes: to family who came for a visit, to Dar who is starting a new job, to the kids as they move back and forth between houses. Yet I don’t feel either the resentment or the lack of continuum anymore. I found other anchors to depend on: my writing, this blog, cooking, my love for the children and Dar, my love for my family and friends. Love and following my dreams ended up improving my tolerance for impermanence, filling up the emptiness and holes from before.

I like to think that my life is a river. When the current is fast, it leaves little time for more than a call “Hello!” and “Goodbye!” to anyone I meet on my way. When the current is slow, I savor the wonders of this world. And more often, frightened out of my wits, I hang on to a bush (which usually turns out to be a blackberry with many thorns) by the riverside, resisting where the current wants me to go. But the river always flows on, and the scenery always changes. As I do, too. And I think, altogether, it’s good.

All You Need Is Love

I am feeling happy today. I have many reasons to be happy, but I think that might be true almost every day, but today I am happy for no particular reason. Not giddy happy. Not high happy. Just pleasantly happy, enjoying the patterns of clouds in the skies, the warm sun, my daughter’s little body in the giant jacket we borrowed from her brother, and my son’s lovely face as he proudly explained to yet another group about broken bones (Human Body Symposium this morning).

I am happy because I love and feel loved. I feel healthy and strong and grateful for the health of my loved ones. I feel happy because I am writing to you about love and how to express love, and I realize that just thinking about this subject fills me with a joy of life.

Giving love, I know, increases happiness. Feeling grateful increases happiness. I want my son, my daughter, my boyfriend, my parents and siblings, my entire huge family to feel secure in the knowledge that I love them. And I want to show them love with more than just words. Sometimes it’s nice to show love when the object of it doesn’t expect it. A hug, a kiss, a squeeze can mean so much.

From Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project I learned to wake up my daughter with a song. Eden is often grumpy in the mornings, but I noticed that when I sing for her, her little face, her cheeks puffy with sleep, lights up, and she opens her eyes to the morning with happiness and joy, secure with the knowledge of my love.

At eleven, my son is a little more reluctant to hug and kiss, but every once in a while he cuddles up to me. He leans his head on my shoulder and just sighs. I find little ways to show my love: making his favorite cheddar cheese bread sticks. Buying him those jello containers he likes. Telling him I love him. Coming to events in his class. Listening when he plays his two instruments. Accepting his little gestures of love.

Gretchen Rubin chose as one of her keys to feeling happier to “hug more, kiss more, touch more.” With the kids, with Dar, my parents and even with the dogs this is great advice! This morning I sat with Chaim, my alpha dog, and I petted him for ten, maybe fifteen minutes, just him and I. The result: I felt quieter, calmer and happier. And if a dog can make me feel so much love, how much better with every hug or kiss from the children and Dar!

So today I feel happy, and I wanted to share the love with you. I hope you can find someone (appropriate) to hug today. Share a kiss with your loved ones. Get that amazing feeling of completeness with someone, human, cat a dog. I wish you a love day, love week and love year. And please remember to spread the love to everyone you hold dear. (Hey! That rhymed!)

All Eyes to the Target: Boy Ahead!

I read somewhere that young adult plots tend to concentrate on finding love, while middle grade novels depend on character development. I understand why 9-12 audiences are not interested in romantic endings. I also completely get why young adults would find the process of finding love more fascinating than almost any other subject. Love in YA novels, however, often comes hand in hand with the search for an inner truth and independence, an attempt to understand and find a place in a confusing world.

A friend of mine told me that she decided at eighteen to discover who she is alone before finding out who she was in a relationship. I appreciated what she said. I think it is a good lesson to learn, and I tried to follow it after my divorce. I met my ex husband at nineteen, when I did not have the presence of mine or inner strength yet to insist on what I want in the midst of my desire to please him, my craving for his love, and my fear of being alone. I hope, through my writing, to impart to girls the knowledge that facing these fears and needs and finding the “I” behind is possibly the most important and transforming experience in growing up.

I just finished reading Forgive My Fins by Tera Lynn Childs. Fluid and fabulous, the novel is a great example to YA love trends. The protagonist, Lily, is a mermaid living on land who must bond with a guy (for life) before her eighteenth birthday, or else she will not inherit her father’s throne. Lily has carefully selected a boy for this purpose. But it’s just so hard to tell him who she is and how she feels! Then Lily’s plans fall apart by another boy who she accidentally bonds with, and now she needs to find a way to put everything to rights again.

I had so much fun reading this novel. I loved Lily, her friends, and Quince, the boy next door. I loved the many fish expressions (like “That Blowfish!” and “curl my fins”). Lily had to find out not only who her true love is, but also what she wants from her life, and in Tera Lynn Childs’ novel the two were inexorably tied together. So maybe Lily doesn’t learn any other life lesson in the novel than that love is stronger than anything. But is that really such a bad lesson to learn? Lily learns to welcome the unconditional and rare love she is given not only from where she least expected it, but from her best friend in the sea and best friend in land and from her father — all of whom are willing to set Lily free so that she can follow her dream.

And what better lesson is there in the world? What more could I want my teenaged child to know than that love conquers all? In my opinion, there is none.

Misty Days

Misty days make me feel romantic in a nostalgic kind of way. There’s that little bit of rain suspended in the air, the clouds masking the sun and filtering the bright light away, that feeling of expectation of good things about to come.

Misty days remind me of falling in love in seventh grade. It was on one such day that I stretched myself on tiptoes and gave a first kiss on the cheek to a boy and cut my hand on his bike’s hand-breaks.

At eighteen, I fell in love yet again on a misty evening. Somewhere up in the Shomron Mountains, with the sun blinking through the clouds a last dramatic appearance on the desert hills, I got called to the office to “meet” someone. My first day in the unit, it was. And there he waited, this amazing guy — an officer! — patting the bench next to him for me to sit down!

Here is a cherished memory I have, with the same officer from the Shomron (whose name is Barak), except this time I was in the Golan Heights after a long day spent traveling up with the unit. Barak had been sick and away for about two weeks, and I knew he was expected to come back sometimes in the next couple of days. It was freezing outside, a wintery evening, the wind blowing wildly across the plateau. All of us girls huddled on top of a single space heater, trying to keep warm.

I knew Barak could not already be there, but I felt restless and alone despite the company of the giggling girls. I left the room and made my way to his office, just to make sure he really was not there. Nobody was outside. Everything appeared deserted and desolate, the low buildings built far apart. I finally found the office I was looking for and pushed the door open, and there, inside, just arrived and happy to see me, was this guy I loved.

A few days after this I left the unit to continue my own officer training, and Barak too left and went to India for a year-long trip. I have not seen him since, though I heard some rumors of a wife and twins.

When I think back on the romantic moments that stand out in my memory, most of them are important not because of another person, but because of the beautiful way those moments made me feel. As I sit here today I finally understand what people mean when they say love comes from within. Deep inside of me, love wells and fill me and overflows to include the kids, Dar, my family and friends, even my pathetic but cute dogs. I truly am in love with love — love of being alive, enjoying misty days like today, reveling in having so many people to love.

Keep warm and healthy today! Have some chocolate! Lots of love!

On Giving Respect and Affection to Those We Love

In last night’s post I wrote about my love to my son, and this morning, at the gym, a friend approached me. “Have you shown the post to your son?” she asked. In fact, I did. I read it to him this morning, after he opened his presents and ate the cheddar cheese bread sticks which I made in honor of his birthday. “People write such amazing things about their kids on Facebook,” my friend said, “and I just want to make sure they tell their kids too.”

I pondered what she said. I wondered: is it easier for me to compliment the important people in my life behind their backs than to their faces? Do I tell my son, my daughter, my boyfriend, and my parents enough how much I love them and why?

During the second month of her Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin concentrated on finding more happiness in her marriage. She writes: “Studies show that married people treat each other with less civility than they show to other people — and I do this with my husband, I know.” As part of the project, Ms. Rubin chose as a resolution to “kiss more, hug more, touch more.” She says the resolution is one of her favorites to keep.

My cousin, Iris Wilnai, has commented on a similar phenomenon. In her blog titled “Smile,” she asks: “why don’t I smile as much for my husband as I do for everyone else?”

I hope I remember this long after this post is buried beneath others. I hope I always remember to give attention, respect and affection to the wonderful people in my life, and to all my family and friends. I hope I remember to smile at them as often as I do at strangers and to kiss more, hug more, and touch more. I hope to tell the important people in my life that I love them every day, twice a day, as often as I like.

And that includes you too, my favorite wonderful Safta Miri, even if you think it’s funny that people say “I love you” all the time. Because, I LOVE YOU!

I hope your day shines today, my friends, my readers. It’s Uri’s birthday. Go do something fun!

Sigal Tzoore (650) 815-5109