Today is Valentine's Day and I'm thinking of my mother whose birthday was on February 2nd. This year she would have been 94, but she left the planet when she was only 70. I think by that time, she had just begun to really love and have compassion for herself.
My mother was a gorgeous woman when she was young. She always said that for her, beauty was a curse. "I got too much attention," was all she would say to elaborate. But I got the idea that beauty set her on the wrong track--the track of thinking that it's all about the outside. Mom always cared about how things looked to others, which is why it was such a sad irony that she became an undiagnosed bi-polar, alcoholic woman whom few could understand or admire.
Mom took up oil painting briefly mid-life, and did one painting, which I have on the wall of my consultation room. It's hard for me to look at it, because it feels lonely. That must be the feeling it gave Mom too, because she never finished another one, saying just that: "Painting is too lonely." I think she must have felt like this tree, surrounded by waters she couldn't navigate--silhouetted so as to be graceful but enigmatic, unreadable.
I keep it there even though it's hard to look at, because it reminds me to have compassion for everyone's story and admiration for everyone's inner being, no matter how the outside looks.
My mother was on a spiritual path, which is probably why I sometimes feel her guiding me from the other side. She took me to Theosophical lectures, and I have spiritual books with her poignant markings and mysterious words in the margin, in the handwriting I recognize as a mid-night, drunken manic hieroglyphic. She was ready to leave the planet at 70 mostly, I fear, to have the ravages of her physical and emotional struggle end. Fortunately she was not afraid; she had faith.
I think of her now because I know that others on Valentine's Day feel alone too, and so I have a wish for them. It is to feel connected to the big thread of Love that is woven through everything. It is for them to know that they are all right exactly as they are. I wish that they might find a way to get up out of bed with gratitude for the way the sun hits the glass on the bedside table, or for the strange snoring of the dog who sleeps in the corner. I wish they might forgive life for its hardness, and forgive themselves for their softness, and laugh at some silly joke at least once a day.
My wish is for you to take on life as a lover would, with attention, with tenderness, with the thrill of meeting each other every day, and with a benign ability to forgive almost anything. That way, whether or not you have a lover in the flesh, you will have yourself. You came in with your self one day, and you will leave with her on another. May you love the odd, painful, gorgeous, mysterious journey in between those two days, and know and love her well by the end.