What would your answer be if someone said to you, in all earnestness:
“I really wanted only to know how you are faring? Whether you are happy? Whether you are loved. The rest is immaterial.”
What would your answer be?
At various times, I can claim to feel loved. More often, though, I feel unloved. I know that I am in control of who I love, but I can’t control who loves me. And usually, I feel that I have not done anything to deserve love.
Isn’t that always how it is?
We have no control over how others view us; we do have control, to some extent, over how we perceive others.
And, when I read the above lines in our book this month, it brought back a flood of pain to me, as I reflected how I have pushed away love over the years. At the moment that I was reading these lines, I was feeling particularly unlovable, as I knew I had been neglectful of the relationships that mean so much to me. I’m not good at tending my personal connections. I grew up in a family that valued letter-writing, but I am a terrible letter-writer. This past holiday season, like many before, I had the best intentions. I bought some packs of lovely cards, from a favorite online vendor –
The cards are:
And, these cards are still sitting in their packing envelope, seal unbroken, as I have, more than one month into the new year, not gotten around to sending out my holiday greetings. Maybe you’ll see one of these in your mailbox a year from now!
So, I was beating myself up about my terrible lack of skill at maintaining relationships. I don’t send cards. I don’t make phone calls.
And I read the question above – “Am I loved?”.
And, a page and a half later, the answer came to me from the book – the narrator, Julia, reflects:
“I was thinking about my father, and for the first time in a long time I wished he were sitting next to me, holding my hand, talking to me in his soothing voice. I had left someone out of my tally. The love of a dead person counted, too. No one can take that away from us.”
How true this is.
We often think how sad it is when someone dies. Especially when the person was young (my father was only 44 years old when he died an accidental death by drowning). And yet, for the survivors, the blessing of such an early death is that there can be no more disappointment. There is only love. And no one can take that away.
I have to admit, there have been quite a few folks who have tried to take my father’s love away from me. But, the sweetest redemption came from my maternal grandmother, who never liked her exotic Sri Lankan son-in-law one bit! On one of the last occasions I saw her before her death, she was kind and generous enough to recognize that whatever failings she may have seen in him, he was a wonderful father to me and my sister, and for that, he was worthy of gratitude and praise.
This post was inspired by the novel A Well-Tempered Heart by Jan-Philipp Sendker. Feeling lost and burned out, Julia drops her well paying job at a NYC law firm. After hearing a stranger’s voice in her head, she travels to Burma to find the voice’s story and hopefully herself as well. Join From Left to Write on February 4 we discuss A Well-Tempered Heart.
As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.