I know that some of you don’t really care about what I have read or why or how it affected me. But some of you do. It is to you that I write to let you know I just finished, Tiny Beautiful Things, by Cheryl (Dear Sugar) Strayed. My previous article on this blog was primarily about the author’s book, Wild: From Lost To Found On the Pacific Crest Trail. Dear Sugar was an advice column written by the author, who had remained anonymous until recently. I read about her book, Wild, in our local paper and it was in that review that she “outed” herself as the person who had been writing the advice on love and life column for The Rumpus.net.
Now why in the world would I, a retired person living alone, care at all about advice on love and life? Actually, when I started reading the book, it was not because it consisted of many of the advice letters she had received and answered. It was because of how impressed I was with her writing in general. Since I consider myself a writer as well, I am interested in how other authors develop their ideas. I knew from reading Wild that I would probably like her latest work.
In a way I was not surprised by the fact that her “advice” on love and life hit a resonant chord for me in so many ways. I have had my share of love and life experiences and feel I learned something about myself in each of them. However, I discovered new ways of looking at love and life, especially as I thought of the people I have loved and do love. I never really felt I deserved to be loved. Expectations about what could be or should be the way love works were never quite that way for me because of that lack of deserving. I spent much of my time with a therapist trying to better understand the ways in which I really did deserve to be loved and to how love others. I wish I could say I have finished that part of my learning experience. I have not.
I still am unable to articulate what love is all about. I know though that in the pages of this book I constantly gained insights that I strongly felt were representative of my needs and ways in which I could have done better in relationships and hopefully can apply from here on out to my friends and loved ones. There is always something to learn. Life is never finished and we should not delude ourselves into thinking that we have arrived at some exact point of conclusion (on any subject).
One very personal event in my life was touched upon in this book. Some years ago I shared with my son something that I had felt about our relationship. I told him that I felt he was my teacher. How I stated that at the time is probably not how I actually felt it, but it was the clearest way I could say it at the time. Here in this book I gained a further insight to what I tried to convey to my son then. Dear Sugar, in her response to “Living Dead Dad” said:
More will be revealed. Your son hasn’t yet taught you everything he has to teach you. He taught you how to love like you’ve never loved before. He taught you how to suffer like you’ve never suffered before. Perhaps the next thing he has to teach you is acceptance. And the thing after that, forgiveness.
Love is such a powerful thing. It will teach you whether you like it or not and whether you are ready or not. What it will teach you is personal in every case. Whether we will accept the potential lesson and move with it is up to each of us. I will tell you this, you do not have to have all the answers about love and life in order to love and live! Just do it for god’s sake! Do it as best you can. Love everyone and every experience that comes your way. You will never regret having loved. If you feel regret for having loved someone who did not love you back as you hoped, maybe there is another way to love that person without your expectation of the way it should be. I don’t know how it will be for you, but I know each of us must keep loving and finding new ways to express love. Otherwise, we are not truly living.
Cheryl Strayed pulled absolutely no punches in her advice. She hit so hard it must have felt like literally being hit in the stomach for some of those who wrote to her. It certainly knotted my stomach more than once. But, and this is a big but, she never attempted to belittle the writers no matter how apparently stupid, unforgiving or judgmental their attitude may have been. And she always caressed softly with her words the tender spots they exposed so that each person could be receptive enough to fully consider the possibilities within their particular challenge.
I wish I could be as clear and caring and direct with love in my writing as Sugar is. Maybe it is because I am a retired person living alone that this writer has come into my life. I certainly feel uplifted and blessed by having her work in my library and in my consciousness. Maybe you would like her too.
A Postscript Regarding Our Opportunity To Love Once Again
After writing this piece we all experienced the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado where 70 persons were shot and 12 died while attending the midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises. There is no way to deal with this horrible experience except to reach deep within our souls and find the strength of love that reaches out to enfold the families, friends and rescuers who need all the support we can give. It is not a time to rant, rave or judge the aspects of this event. Ultimately, there will be much discussion about many things that right now do not deserve our attention. What is needed now is LOVE. Love in your own way. Surround Aurora with the light of your loving care and concern. The members of this community will need our support for months to come, some even longer. Love those who gave their lives to protect others whom they loved. Love those who remain knowing the cost of that love. LOVE!