September 26, 2009 in It is what it is - opinion column | Comments (0)


The other day I was walking in Alta Plaza Park and ran into a friend – a dog park friend with whom I’ve actually socialized in the real world … even without dogs.
She and I were talking about something I’m experiencing with regards to relationships – the personal kind, the life partner kind.
Quite recently Josie had very serious surgery. After recovery – actually she wasn’t even really fully back to speed yet – she found herself on a journey to Bhutan. On that trip she learned many things of their culture, including about love and relationships. So after listening to my story, Josie took a moment and smiled.
This is not, by the way, verbatim or intended to be her words. It’s my approximation of the tale. So, while spoken in “her voice”, I do not mean to represent these as what she said. With that disclaimer…
She said: In Bhutan, they do not have a word for I. It doesn’t exist. Everything is viewed and experienced as an “us” or “we”. Life is about the collective experience. As for love, that doesn’t translate either. Of course they have the experience of it, but if it were translated into English, the word would be acceptance.
It makes perfect sense, really. After all, who are those we love except the people who know us for who we are (and vise versa) and yet they love us (and vise versa) anyway. When my parents were celebrating their 40th anniversary, I remember quite clearly having conversations with each of my parents asking them that logical question: “So … what’s the secret to a happy, long-lasting marriage?”
Perhaps not so strangely they replied with pretty much the same thing, just said from different views.
My father’s take was to think about the other person and list the top 10 things about them that bother you, then forget about all but the very top one – and realize that’s not going away either, it just may be the source for arguing on occasion.
My mother’s take was a bit more philosophical. She said so long as two people’s moral compass pointed to the same True North, you can figure the rest out.
Point is – people don’t change. Behaviors can, of course, but who a person is, that’s hard wired pretty early on.
I’ll avoid any self-indulgent pontificating about the in’s and out’s of my personal journey in the last several weeks, but suffice to say that in reconnecting with someone very important from my past, I seem to have taken an accelerated crash course in personal growth.
As so often happens in these types of times, it also seems that the lessons and messages are being repeated over and over – and from almost every angle. So I suppose it should not surprise me that this morning, upon turning the page in a lovely book I have called Offerings I was greeted by this quote:

“The act of acceptance, of acknowledging that change is a natural part of our interaction with others, can play a vital role in our relationships. These transitional periods can become pivotal points when true love can begin to mature and flower. We are now in a position to truly begin to know the other. To see the other as a separate individual, with faults and weaknesses perhaps, but a human being like ourselves. It is only at this point that we can make a genuine commitment, a commitment to the growth of another human being – an act of true love.

— The 14th Dalai Lama
As the weekend wends its way forward, pointing my eyes towards tomorrow night’s sunset and Kol Nidre*, the start of the most important day on the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur, I find myself feeling a bit daunted by the challenges ahead, but exhilarated and inspired by the amazing people with whom I’m so blessed to be surrounded.
So to those with whom I’ve already crossed paths and those who may come to this note long after today’s date, I hope in reading this that whatever personal challenges or choices are currently at your fore you find inspiration or perhaps even comfort in the reminder that you’re not alone.
*Sadly the YouTube video for this link is disabled for embedding. It’s a beautiful recording of Johnny Mathis singing the haunting Kol Nidre prayer. If you’ve never heard this service, and you haven’t clicked on that link already, here it is again (to save you the scrolling ). It’s not the typical cantorial chant with choir, but it is lovely.


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