“I greet you from the other side of sorrow and despair, with a love so vast and shattered it will reach you everywhere.”
Wow, wow, wow.
Those words speak to me in such a deep and profound way. So does the poem by Derek Walcott that appears in the poetry section of Sunday’s newsletter.
I try to write to you each week from the other side of sorrow and despair. Some weeks I don’t make it over to the other side, but more often than not, I do. I tell you this in case you are feeling sorrow and despair and wondering if you will ever make it over to the other side. I’m here to tell you that, yes, you will.
I’m writing about love, heartbreak, sorrow, despair, hope, and joy this week because I’ve been thinking about all those things these last few days. It’s certainly hard to escape the topic of love with all the marketing surrounding Valentine’s Day. It’s hard not to think about love when so many are talking about either their love for our country, or their heartbreak concerning where we are as a country. It’s hard not to think about love when you watch the Olympics. It’s stunning to witness so many extraordinary athletes give their lives to a sport they love and endure hardship, disappointment, and amazing glory along the way. It’s also hard not to be excited on this day because my kids love, love, love the Super Bowl and are so happy to be cheering on our Los Angeles Rams!
And, if you are a hopeful romantic like me, well it’s just hard not to think about love in general. I must say, all the Valentine’s Day stuff hits you in a different way when you are single. It just does. Perhaps it hits you in your own way if you are in a relationship—whether you are in one that’s blissful and easy, or one where you are trying to make things work.
Love is everywhere, but when Valentine’s Day rolls around, it feels like it’s only for those whose relationships resemble a Hallmark movie. If you are one of those people, God bless. But if you aren’t, don’t despair. Your love can be so vast that it can change someone’s life today, tomorrow, or beyond. Your love can help someone over to the other side of despair.
The truth is there are so many kinds of love—and so many expressions of it—that I wish we would talk about more. There is agape love. There is familial love. There is intimate love. There is anam cara love (“soul friend” in Celtic). There is romantic love and sexual love. There is love of a child, a parent, a friend, and of country. Just because love may be missing from one area of your life doesn’t mean you don’t have any love in your life at all. You do. Know that to be so.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to notice acts of love and to honor them—something I wish I’d done earlier in my life. Moments like when someone brings you a cup of coffee or bakes something for you because baking is their love language. (I wish I’d known about the The Five Love Languages earlier, too. If you haven't read the book or taken the quiz, it’s totally worth it.) Or when someone calls just to say they are thinking of you. Moments when someone does something unexpected for you just because—like this act of love and kindness for a stranger. Those are all acts of love.
I’ve learned a lot about love over my lifetime, and I know that it’s not something that should only be celebrated on a manufactured marketing day. I also know it’s not something that only exists between two people. Love is patient and kind, as the Bible says, but it’s also expansive and nonjudgmental. And when it’s felt in this way, it changes lives.
Many years ago, a friend asked me what made me feel loved. I ask the same to you today. What makes you feel loved? Do you know? Sit with yourself, quietly close your eyes, and feel your way into the answer. Every single one of us longs to be loved, not just on one day of the year, but each and every day.
This is also a holiday when many are dealing with heartbreak. Tomorrow marks the anniversary of the Parkland school shooting, a tragic day for the entire country, but the heartbreak those parents continue to endure is life-altering (re-read these Sunday Paper pieces by parents of two of the victims, one by Fred Guttenberg and this piece by Lori Alhadeff). That’s one of the many reasons we wanted to include a conversation this week with Florence Williams, whose new book about heartbreak is rocking hearts and minds. As she explains, you learn a lot about love when your heart gets broken. I know I did.
I learned how to stop and honor love in a whole different way. Today, my heart bursts with love for so many people and it reaches out to those whose hearts are breaking. I hope on this day my love can reach over to you and into your heart and, even if it’s just for a moment, can make you feel hopeful and help you feel seen.
My hope for you is every day you can look around for all the love that shows up in your life. As Rumi once wrote, “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” Our job is to let love in, as Gail Kauranen Jones articulates so movingly below. For so many of us, that's easier said than done. But try to be brave enough to let it in. Try to be brave enough to tell another person you love them and why. Tell them what it is about them that you love. It just might help them get to the other side of despair.
Know this on this Valentine’s Day week: your love is so vast that it will reach everywhere. Our world, and each of us individually, need love now more than ever. It is the one thing that can heal our division, the one thing that can dispel the hate, the one thing that can make us all realize that we are way more alike than different.
PRAYER OF THE WEEK
Dear God, please help me remember that love takes many forms. At its purest, it is expansive and nonjudgmental. Every one of us longs to be loved, so don’t let me be shy about showing more love to myself and those I care about. Amen.
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