I have many friends who live with a physical disability.
I’ve always had great empathy for others, but since my late husband’ illness and passing, I have added knowledge to my empathy. That may explain a great new number of people that have come into my life suffering some form of loss.
Every day I learn from one of my friends what it is to live with a disability. The struggle doesn’t end with the acceptance of the loss. There is self-esteem, reinventing a life, and there is the constant health struggle.
We often cheat ourselves of what life is really about; love. All the time, I hear from others how lucky I am to have experienced love in the way I did with my late husband. I’m told many go through life without ever having experienced such love.
Am I special? Was Chris special? Do I have super-powers? The answer is no to all. But why do I hear time and again that the relationship I had was unique?
I think the answer lies on the fact that Chris – my late husband – and I were not distracted by our own frustration, ambition, and desires.
I just watched “Batman Begins” again. I think Christopher Nolan (writer/director) is brilliant. He wrote and directed the last two Batman films in the series. But this post is not about him. It’s about the scene where Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is looking at his destroyed castle – which had belonged to his parents – and says to Alfred (Michael Caine): “I lost my parents’ legacy”. To which Alfred responds: “Your parents’ legacy is more than bricks and cement”. It’s a simple exchange that really drives the point home because we are not talking about a simple house. We are talking about Bruce Wayne’s mansion.
We often belief that our lives and/or legacy are made off things. The homes cars and money we do or don’t have. But the truth is our legacy is how we impact other people. How lives are changed because of us. A hand, word, gesture, hug we gave to someone who was in need.
When my husband was alive, because of his work, we dined at the best restaurants in the world and we were regular guests at five star hotels. While I remember those times they are no more than distant memories. On the other hand I feel his love and respect for me. I remember how fair he was and how he made me value myself. He impacted my life for the better and I think of him every minute because of his love.
So don’t judge yourself by the material things you have or haven’t accumulated but instead ask yourself how available are you to being there for others and how much of your life is about growing and evolving as a human being, because that is your true legacy.
The reason I say this, is because Chris and I truly loved each other and were each, were each other’ best friend and most importantly made a commitment to invest in our relationship and to trust each other.
We both had been married before and knew how lucky we were to have found each other for a second chance. We were aware that in the course of our lives we would meet other people and that sometimes we would get tired or upset at each other. We knew that before committing to a relationship, so when we did, we knew we were going to deal with things as they came up and would always remember the love and friendship that had brought us together in the first place.
So although Chris is no longer here, in the five years we had together we got to experience an entire lifetime. We also stuck together through it all.
There is nothing like truly sharing your heart and trust with someone else. It changes you in many ways. And if, like in my case, the relationship comes to an abrupt end, the love doesn’t; it lives on.
April 4th, 2010. Easter Sunday. The last time Easter was on April 4th was 1999. A moment of time filled with precious memories…
When I was a toddler I was baptised Catholic along with my sister. Our father was Catholic, our mother Methodist. We were raised in the Methodist Church yet in my mid-20′s I made the decision to convert to Catholicism. When I first met my husband we talked about our faith. As a young boy his family didn’t go to church. In spite of this, his faith grew and he attended the Baptist Church with his friends. Before we married I knew I would be setting aside my dream, of being a family that shared one faith. Yet I loved him deeply. We would become a family that shared our spirituality.
Years passed. Every September, classes would be offered for those interested in joining the Church. I would bring information home for my husband. Nothing ever came of it. Then one year he shocked me. He had already signed up to attend. There were no promises about converting. I completely understood. This was a decision that only he could make. For six months there were weekly classes, then a retreat. It was there, the Saturday before Palm Sunday, he would make his decision. I still remember that evening when he came home. Sit down, we need to talk he says. That next week he not only wanted to become Catholic, he wanted for us to get married in the Church. I was beyond shocked. Asking him exactly when did he think we should get married, I wasn’t prepared for his answer. ”Well I become Catholic next weekend and I think we should get married right after that on Easter Sunday.”
So we did. I stood beside him at the Easter Vigil as he completed his journey to become Catholic. Easter Sunday, April 4, 1999 surrounded by family and friends, we were married, and blessed by the priest who had walked with him as he searched his faith. My dream had come true. Now I would have my husband join my daughter, walking in front of me to receive Communion. We would be a family, now sharing one faith.
Less than ten years later, again we were surrounded by family and friends. The same priest who blessed my husband as he became Catholic and blessed our marriage, would now preside over his funeral Mass and bless his ashes. Emotions swirled. Time stopped. Life became surreal.
Attending Mass is so different now without my husband sitting next to me. I pray to him for strength. I pray for him Eternal Life.
Peace be with you.
I have just read an essay, in the “Modern Love” section of the New York Times
In a few words; a couple who has been married for over twenty years and according to the wife, who is also the writer of the piece, have pretty much achieved everything they as a couple set themselves out to achieve, are having troubles. Better, the husband is having troubles and out of nowhere says: “I don’t love you anymore” to the wife.
The wife, at the same time, had come to a decision that she would no longer have her feelings and life affected by how others felt or by any external situation. She had come to the understanding that happiness and tranquility lives within oneself.
Anyway, this woman without getting into her husband’s turmoil maintained her peace and gave him space to work out whatever was going on within him. She did no cry or begged him to stay. She went about her life and her children’s lives reminding her that what he was doing had all to do with him and nobody else.
This process took four months and at the end of it he had worked out his demons and was back as the loving father, husband and lover he had been before.
What caught my attention was that what this woman was describing was exactly what a therapist friend of mine had just gone through.
My friend was dating a man who had recently separated from his wife of fifteen years. My friend and this man had known each other for a very long time but did not start dating until the man’s separation.
In the beginning it was a great relationship but soon his guilt for leaving his family started to really interfere. He was no longer as loving and supportive of my friend and she seemed, at least to me, to be doing all the heavy lifting to keep them together.
A few times I asked her why she would put up with such behavior. I even said to her that she should consider walking away. But every time she answered: “I know it is not about me. It is about him. When I know he’s looking for a fight so our relationship can become like the one he left, I don’t respond and give him a break. “It was amazing to me that my friend had the wisdom not to take his behavior personally. And she was right, nothing that he did was about her and by not engaging in his behavior she actually helped him deal with his own issues.
I think sometimes our ego gets things wrong and we end up making a situation worse by not understanding that not everything is about us.
I travelled to Brazil to see my dad a few weeks ago. He had some heart complications and so I decided to fly in to help my mom and be by his side.
In the plane, behind and to the right of me a beautiful young blonde sat with her 3-4 year old son.
Before we took off, I heard her on the phone say her husband would be flying down in a couple of days in his private jet. I started to wonder who this woman was. A private jet? Not too many people ever have that experience in their life. I could tell she was Brazilian because of her accent and that just added to my curiosity. What was her life like? Was her husband Brazilian or American? How did they meet? Was he young like her or was he her sugar daddy? My imagination kept creating new scenarios but what I was most struck by was the lovely manner in which she related to her son. They played together and it seemed to me that they were both having fun, real fun.
In the middle of the night when I woke, I saw her son lying on top of her. He was having trouble sleeping so she had him on her trying to comfort him. I know she was really tired but she kept stroking him and speaking to him in a quiet soothing tone.
Eventually the boy fell asleep. I kept looking at them as to me they made a beautiful picture of love.
In this world where we are always trying to put ourselves ahead of others to bear witness to the opposite is touching.
I know she was a mother taking care of her son but still for that moment at least to me her gesture was meaningful. Her son was more important than her.
I wanted to thank the young beautiful blonde for giving me that moment to treasure. So if you are out there young mom, my deepest thank you.
Reading Rumi has made me feel somewhat nostalgic for god. I miss him. Maybe he misses me too.
Maybe god is at his wits end. After all he has tried in vain to find a language that would get through to us. Surely, he thought, with all the imagination and heart he’d poured into the flora and fauna he couldn’t fail to get his message across. Somewhere he would find a listening audience. Even a few solitary listeners would do. He knew that words and magic tricks were of no use in dealing with a cunning species that had its own words and tricks. He’d labored to find a subtler method of communicating, a more refined language, a medium that would seep in under the radar screens of human consciousness.
It just didn’t work out. Instead of unfurling our contemplative antennae, we reverse engineered the whole starburst of natural creation down to its genetic skeleton. We managed to decipher the blueprints of the assembly line; zoomed in on the infinitesimal building blocks out of which everything under (and including) the sun is made – tiny particles that don’t even exist, not really, except maybe as a dark blip through the looking glass of an electron microscope.
Pretty soon the hands of God will rise up and issue a universal gesture of surrender. Having no purpose he’ll wave his magic hand and fade finally away. And no measurable change will be detected, or noticed.
And if man should paradoxically follow in the footsteps a non-existent God – losing his way, losing any sense of coherence, losing his taste for existence in a like manner, he too will exit the universal stage. And no one will notice a thing.
The 3 stages of love
Helen Fisher of Rutgers University in the States has proposed 3 stages of love – lust, attraction and attachment. Each stage might be driven by different hormones and chemicals.
Stage 1: Lust
This is the first stage of love and is driven by the sex hormones testosterone and oestrogen – in both men and women.
Stage 2: Attraction
This is the amazing time when you are truly love-struck and can think of little else. Scientists think that three main neurotransmitters are involved in this stage; adrenaline, dopamine and serotonin.
The initial stages of falling for someone activates your stress response, increasing your blood levels of adrenalin and cortisol. This has the charming effect that when you unexpectedly bump into your new love, you start to sweat, your heart races and your mouth goes dry.
Helen Fisher asked newly ‘love struck’ couples to have their brains examined and discovered they have high levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. This chemical stimulates ‘desire and reward’ by triggering an intense rush of pleasure. It has the same effect on the brain as taking cocaine!
Fisher suggests “couples often show the signs of surging dopamine: increased energy, less need for sleep or food, focused attention and exquisite delight in smallest details of this novel relationship” .
And finally, serotonin. One of love’s most important chemicals that may explain why when you’re falling in love, your new lover keeps popping into your thoughts.
Does love change the way you think?
A landmark experiment in Pisa, Italy showed that early love (the attraction phase) really changes the way you think.
Dr Donatella Marazziti, a psychiatrist at the University of Pisa advertised for twenty couples who’d been madly in love for less than six months. She wanted to see if the brain mechanisms that cause you to constantly think about your lover, were related to the brain mechanisms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.
By analyzing blood samples from the lovers, Dr Marazitti discovered that serotonin levels of new lovers were equivalent to the low serotonin levels of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder patients.
Love needs to be blind
Newly smitten lovers often idealise their partner, magnifying their virtues and explaining away their flaws says Ellen Berscheid, a leading researcher on the psychology of love.
New couples also exalt the relationship itself. “It’s very common to think they have a relationship that’s closer and more special than anyone else’s”. Psychologists think we need this rose-tinted view. It makes us want to stay together to enter the next stage of love – attachment.
Stage 3: Attachment
Attachment is the bond that keeps couples together long enough for them to have and raise children. Scientists think there might be two major hormones involved in this feeling of attachment; oxytocin and vasopressin.
Oxytocin – The cuddle hormone
Oxytocin is a powerful hormone released by men and women during orgasm.
It probably deepens the feelings of attachment and makes couples feel much closer to one another after they have had sex. The theory goes that the more sex a couple has, the deeper their bond becomes.
Oxytocin also seems to help cement the strong bond between mum and baby and is released during childbirth. It is also responsible for a mum’s breast automatically releasing milk at the mere sight or sound of her young baby.
Diane Witt, assistant professor of psychology from New York has showed that if you block the natural release of oxytocin in sheep and rats, they reject their own young.
Conversely, injecting oxytocin into female rats who’ve never had sex, caused them to fawn over another female’s young, nuzzling the pups and protecting them as if they were their own.
Vasopressin is another important hormone in the long-term commitment stage and is released after sex.
Vasopressin (also called anti-diuretic hormone) works with your kidneys to control thirst. Its potential role in long-term relationships was discovered when scientists looked at the prairie vole.
Prairie voles indulge in far more sex than is strictly necessary for the purposes of reproduction. They also – like humans – form fairly stable pair-bonds.
When male prairie voles were given a drug that suppresses the effect of vasopressin, the bond with their partner deteriorated immediately as they lost their devotion and failed to protect their partner from new suitors.
Source: The Wellcome Trust is the UK’s leading biomedical charity. Their mission is to foster and promote research with the aim of improving human and animal health. This includes raising public awareness of the medical, ethical and social implications of biomedical research.
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