The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the category “commitment”

Great Expectations

NEW!

 

Kor

My parents  did not have much formal education but they possessed a natural intellect and curiosity.  They read voraciously – books, several daily newspapers, news and educational magazines.  Our shelves were filled with literature and second hand books on politics, history, art, science.  I was encouraged to explore them all.

I was an only child by choice.  They both held civil service jobs which, while it provided steady income, their salaries were not high. They decided when they married that it was better to devote all their available resources to one child rather than spread the money thin over a larger brood.   I was the sole beneficiary of their time, their attention, and their assets.  My mother wore the same out-of-date cloth coat for a decade so there was enough money for me to take violin lessons.   When I was born, my father gave up cigarettes and drink to save for my higher education.  They did without restaurant dinners so I could go on class trips.  They took me to museums and free concerts and lectures by powerful speakers and to political rallies. Every week,  my mother took me to the library where we both chose a pile of books.

From the time I was a small child, I understood that I was expected to go to university.  It was my obligation to excel in life; to grab opportunities which had not been available to my parents in their youth. I was grateful to have such supportive parents.  Every part of my extra-curricular education was provided with the expectation that I would rise to the top both at school and in any endeavor I attempted.

Mostly, I fulfilled that expectation.  I was at the head of all my classes, and was accepted into a handful of well-respected universities, each of them offering a scholarship.

Nearly two decades of investment into my future was finally paying off.  I was gratified that I could make them proud.

One summer evening,  the month before I was set to go off to college,  I went out to meet some friends.    Down on the corner, there was a fight among some tough kids.  I knew them to be trouble and always gave them a wide berth.  I crossed the street to steer clear and set off in the other direction.  Behind me, the fight escalated and one of them pulled out a gun. Shots were fired and though I was some distance away, I was fatally hit.  I was gone before the ambulance even arrived.

My parents were inconsolable.

I am still trying to understand the point of my end.   Even to me, here, it seems like a tragic waste.  But I accept that this is how it was meant to be. I chose this going in, so there must be reason.  I’m beginning to consider that the lesson was not about achieving success, itself, but my giving myself over to the preparation for it. Or perhaps it was to teach me that no matter how well we prepare, no matter how much we devote ourselves to a goal, ultimately life is never within our control.

 

—————–

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!

Going Under

first posted Sept 13, 2015

drowning hand

On

There are people who take genuine pleasure from making other people happy.   They will work to coax a smile from a stranger.  They will try to solve the problems of others as if they were their own. They will cry for the sorrows of loved ones; take on their suffering, if they could. Their joy comes from knowing they reside deep in the hearts of those whose lives they touch.

I was not that kind of person. But I knew many of them.

People like me seek out people like that for our survival. We crave and cling to any mode of escape from the torment that has barricaded itself within us.

Drowning in the inability to navigate our own emotions, we gratefully grab a hand offered in salvation.    Now we are filled with hope! We splash around, happy to have found a savior!   We wait to be pulled in.   We do not swim. If we could swim, we wouldn’t have been drowning in the first place.

At first, the ostensible rescuer works hard to reel us closer, but we are of little help. We have no natural buoyancy; we are dead weight. We take on water. Our flailing threatens to drown our savior, too.

I saw that look in the eye many times: the one of pity, of sorrow, of relief as they cut me loose. And I went back to the business of drowning.

Each time it happened, I believed I would be saved; my sins washed away; my wounds healed. I wanted that with all my heart. And yet, ultimately, I could be only what I was: someone who didn’t know how to be saved.

In the end, we all have to save ourselves.

 

—————–

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of

Love at 67

originally posted May 18, 2014

 

In February 2004, San Francisco began to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Del Martin, 83, and Phyllis Lyon, 79, a couple that had been together for 51-years were the first to be married.

In February 2004, San Francisco began to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Del Martin, 83, and Phyllis Lyon, 79, a couple that had been together for 51-years were the first to be married.

Ce

I married because it was what was done. I had children and I loved them but I can’t say there was a lot of love in my marriage. I did my wifely duties, and my husband did what was expected of him, but still, I suffered from the most profound loneliness.

In the beginning at least, there was a kind of friendship and a domestic comradery which made things tolerable. The thing is, I never cared much for sex. I never felt any passion for him, or for anyone. I just assumed this was how it was.   For a long time, when I saw ostensibly happy, loving couples, I thought they were just putting on a show for the sake of appearances. Or that they were lying to themselves and after a while, they would no longer be able to sustain the charade.

I had a good job as a supervisor in a large hospital so I was financially independent. This was important to me in case I ever decided to leave.   I’m not really sure why I didn’t. I guess I was secretly afraid of what I’d discover about myself out there.

My children grew up, got married, and had children of their own. I loved my grandchildren and was happy to live so close, so we could be an important part of each other’s’ lives.

By this time in my life, I’d come to the realization that some couples really are happy. I was pleased to see that my children were among them. But this was a bittersweet feeling because it always made me wonder what was wrong with me. It made me realize what I had missed.

When I was 63, my husband was killed in a work-related accident. I should have been sad, but I felt nothing. For years, he’d merely been a presence in my life – neither positive or negative.   We both went about our business and never included the other in any interests or plans. The only time we appeared in public as a couple was at family functions and at holiday time, and even then, we didn’t relate much.

I often wondered if he kept a girlfriend on the side, but I wouldn’t have cared much if he did. His private life was of no concern to me.

After he was gone, I became more social. I joined clubs and organizations and even some political groups.   I tried dating, at the insistence of my children, but no one ever interested me and it just wasn’t worth the effort.

When I was 67, I met a woman in one of my groups, who made me feel something I’d never felt for a man. For the first time in my life, another human being gave me butterflies. She was a few years younger than I was and a recent “widow”… (I later learned, from a long term relationship with a woman.)

I didn’t understand my own fascination at first. To be honest, it disgusted me. I disgusted myself. What kind of freak was I? I’d been married for nearly forty years. I had kids and grandkids. I wasn’t like that!

I convinced myself that I just enjoyed her friendship. I’d never met anyone before her with whom I was so compatible. We laughed at the same things. We’d read the same books, had seen the same movies, and loved and hated them in the same measure and for the same reasons. We liked the same music, had the same values. It was easy being with her. I felt I could tell her anything. We quickly became almost inseparable, but if my feelings drifted into the realm of romantic love, I quickly pushed them aside.

It went like this for over a year until finally she suggested we go on vacation together. I was happy to have someone to travel with – I’d always wanted to, but I’d been afraid to go alone. To save money, we shared a room. It made perfect sense.   It didn’t occur to me that anything would happen. Looking back, I was in deep denial.

The second day, we walked for hours. That evening, she offered to rub my feet, and one thing led to another, and soon I was kissing her with complete abandon; with more passion than I’d ever felt in my life!

I am ashamed to say, I wasn’t very nice to her for the rest of our trip. I was scared and confused. But she understood and give me enough time and space to find my way back to her. And so I did.

Eventually, we moved in together. We called ourselves “roommates” and claimed it made the most efficient use of our limited budgets, but I’m not sure how many we actually fooled. Of those we didn’t, I doubt any of them even cared. I always assumed my kids had figured it out, but they never actually said anything. They simply accepted us as a unit.

We were happy like that for many years, until at 85, she passed away in her sleep. At our age, it was inevitable that one of us would leave the other. I should have been prepared, but I was inconsolable. I, myself, was also gone within the year.

I know now that we’ve been together before, and that we will be together again. I hope the next time, it doesn’t take so long for us to find each other.  I suppose we might have found each other sooner if I’d been true to myself earlier, but I could evolve only as quickly as I could understand.

The journey is the lesson. The lesson is the journey.

____

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have just started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!

 

Til Death Do Us Part

NEW!old-couple-holding-hands

Sa

I know he loved me, in his detached way. He showed me by the things he did for me. He was a wonderful father, and by almost any measure, he was a good husband, faithful and a good provider. He watched out for me; he took care of my feelings; it made him happy to make me happy. What more could a woman want?

That’s what I told myself for our first two decades as man and wife. There was a quiet voice in the back of my heart whispering, “I want more” but there was too much going on in my life, commanding too much of my attention to allow me the luxury of dissatisfaction.

When the children got older and were more independent, I had the time to indulge my sexual and emotional fantasies, of which my husband was usually the object. I longed for him to look me in the eyes and really see me. I ached for him to hold me and feel my heart beating for him. I wanted to shiver at his touch.

I became more assertive about putting more romance in our relationship, but he resisted. Emotional intimacy wasn’t in his nature.

And so, my dissatisfaction and resentment began to grow. I was angry that he couldn’t let go enough to show me his love in the way I needed to be shown. I wanted to feel it viscerally, not just believe it intellectually.

He sensed my resentment; felt me pulling away. And even knowing the reason, felt helpless and frustrated in the face of it. It was a dark time in our marriage.

I took a lover. I have no guilt about that. I needed to feel those feelings. I needed to held and seen that way by someone.

But such illicit affairs are usually short-lived. Passion fades and then the practicalities set in. The clandestine trysts, the hurried phone calls, the fear of getting caught. One or the other wants more while the other fears to upset their entire life. We went back and forth like that for a while, crying and fighting and making up, until eventually, we mutually agreed to part ways amicably.

To leave my marriage would have devastated my husband. He was a good man. He deserved better from me.  The problem was mine.

But that little interlude gave me new perspectives.

That was when I first began to truly love my husband, to accept him as he was; with all his limitations.   My heart had been opened to love, and I liked the feeling. I was determined to keep it open to him, even if he had difficulty keeping his wide open for me. Instead of finding fault in what I wasn’t getting, I focused instead on the ways he showed his love. His way wasn’t my way; he wasn’t expressive; he wasn’t passionate; but I came to understand that neither way was right or wrong. It was just a matter of style.

And once I loved him without expecting him to reciprocate in the same way, he began to open up, loving me more in the way I wanted to be loved. He did not become a romantic but he made more of an effort. I appreciated how difficult that was for him, and it made me love him more. I learned to read between the lines, and there was a lot written there.

As we grew older, we stopped resisting each other. Instead of growing apart, we grew together. For fifty two years we were married, and I was grateful I did not leave him. I never told him about my affair but I always believed he knew. By unspoken mutual consent, we agreed never to mention it. That was part of accepting each other as we were.

 

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  Also,  I have also started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.   When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word!  Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
 

A Selfish Cad

 

 

First published October 18, 2014

selfish

 

Na

I was not a good person in my lifetime. I cheated and took advantage of people. I always chose was what best for myself and never fully chose for anyone else. Even when I behaved in an apparently magnanimous way, it was only because it furthered my own needs.   This was true even in my marriage, even with my own children.

But these were not my worst sins. The tragedy of my life was that I was completely oblivious to what a selfish, unenlightened human being, in fact, I was.  I never had a moment’s doubt that my behavior wasn’t righteous and justified.   After all, if I didn’t choose in favor of myself, who would? Others could not be trusted to watch out for my best interests.

There is absolute truth in that. It’s an important lesson; something I’d learned before and brought with me to this last life. But that is only half the lesson. Without the corollary, the real lesson has not been learned.

There is no question that the point of life is to learn to love. All goodness and enlightenment of the spirit spring from accepting this as the absolute truth.   All routes to all lessons pass through love – not only by understanding how best to achieve it, but by confronting all the reasons we run from it; and by examining the ways we comfort ourselves when we don’t have it.

But one cannot love if one cannot trust. Those who cannot trust themselves, cannot love themselves. Of all the kinds of human love, self-love is most important. Without self-love, it is impossible to accept love from others. Without this, one cannot love.

The more we truly love and accept ourselves exactly as we are, the more we are able to love and accept others exactly as they are, and thus, the more lovable we become.

So, we must always behave in ways that foster self-respect. We take the high road not for the sake of others, but for our own benefit.  We must release anger and forgive; expect the best of others thus giving them the opportunity to live up to those expectations while recognizing that if they do not, that is their burden to carry. The misdeeds of others taint us and attach to us only when we respond in kind.

I only know this now, too late to have benefited anyone in my past life. My punishment, if you want to call it that, for being such a shallow, selfish cad, is to know how much I hurt the ones closest to me, and how much better it would have been for all of us, if I’d be able to see then what I see now.

****

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Love is the Way to the Truth

First published Sept 18, 2014

 

artwork: Jessica Perlstein

Aya (a new voice)

I believe in the redemptive power of love. It is the prism through which everything passes. It is the path along which the most important lessons are learned. Love turns you inward; directs you to where the most important answers are.

When two people make a commitment to each other in love, that commitment is as much to themselves as to each other. It is a promise to grow and change; to bend to fit with an open heart; to see clearly both the good and bad in oneself;  to continually reevaluate beliefs; to rethink behaviors and view them from different perspectives; to see the world through another’s eyes.

To love is to commit to working on everything that prevents us from becoming our best self. We commit to knowing our own true self, and when we have discovered it, all things become clear. The result is true intimacy — with ourselves, with each other, with the universe.

In loving fully, we make ourselves whole.

[more from Aya later]

artwork: Jessica Perlstein


Thank you for visiting.  If you enjoyed this post, please follow the blog and/or sign up to receive email posts. Comments are welcome here or at https://www.facebook.com/livesofthedead.   If you enjoyed what you’ve read,   please share via email,  Facebook,  Twitter and/or other social media.  Much appreciated!   Thanks!

Love at 67

originally posted May 18, 2014

 

In February 2004,  San Francisco began to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Del Martin, 83, and Phyllis Lyon, 79, a couple that had been together for 51-years were the first to be married.

In February 2004, San Francisco began to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Del Martin, 83, and Phyllis Lyon, 79, a couple that had been together for 51-years were the first to be married.

Ce

I married because it was what was done. I had children and I loved them but I can’t say there was a lot of love in my marriage. I did my wifely duties, and my husband did what was expected of him, but still, I suffered from the most profound loneliness.

In the beginning at least, there was a kind of friendship and a domestic comradery which made things tolerable. The thing is, I never cared much for sex. I never felt any passion for him, or for anyone. I just assumed this was how it was.   For a long time, when I saw ostensibly happy, loving couples, I thought they were just putting on a show for the sake of appearances. Or that they were lying to themselves and after a while, they would no longer be able to sustain the charade.

I had a good job as a supervisor in a large hospital so I was always financially independent. This was important to me in case I ever decided to leave.   I’m not really sure why I didn’t. I guess I was secretly afraid of what I’d discover about myself out there.

My children grew up, got married, and had children of their own. I loved my grandchildren and was happy to live so close, so we could be an important part of each others’ lives.

By this time in my life, I’d come to the realization that some couples really are happy. I was pleased to see that my children were among them. But this was a bittersweet feeling because it always made me wonder what was wrong with me. It made me realize what I had missed.

When I was 63, my husband was killed in a work-related accident. I should have been sad, but I felt nothing. For years, he’d merely been a presence in my life – neither positive or negative.   We both went about our business and never included the other in any interests or plans. The only time we appeared in public as a couple was at family functions and at holiday time, and even then, we didn’t relate much.

I often wondered if he kept a girlfriend on the side, but I wouldn’t have cared much if he did. His private life was of no concern to me.

After he was gone, I became more social. I joined clubs and organizations and even some citizen action groups.   I tried dating, at the insistence of my children, but no one ever interested me and it just wasn’t worth the effort.

When I was 67, I met a woman in one of my groups, who made me feel something I’d never felt for a man. For the first time in my life, another human being gave me butterflies. She was a few years younger than I was and a recent “widow”… (I later learned, from a long term relationship with a woman.)

I didn’t understand my own fascination at first. To be honest, it disgusted me. I disgusted myself. What kind of freak was I? I’d been married for nearly forty years. I had kids and grandkids. I wasn’t like that!

I convinced myself that I just enjoyed her friendship. I’d never met anyone before her with whom I was so compatible. We laughed at the same things. We’d read the same books,  had seen the same movies, and loved and hated them in the same measure and for the same reasons. We liked the same music. Had the same values. It was easy being with her. I felt I could tell her anything. We quickly became almost inseparable, but if my feelings drifted into the realm of romantic love, I quickly pushed them aside.

It went like this for over a year until finally she suggested we go on vacation together. I was happy to have someone to travel with – I’d always wanted to, but was afraid to go alone. To save money, we shared a room. It made perfect sense.   It didn’t occur to me that anything would happen. Looking back, I was in deep denial.

The second day, we walked for hours. That evening, she offered to rub my feet, and one thing led to another, and soon I was kissing her with complete abandon; with more passion than I’d ever felt in my life!

I am ashamed to say, I wasn’t very nice to her for the rest of our trip. I was scared and confused. But she understood and give me enough time and space to find my way back to her. And so I did.

Eventually, we moved in together. We called ourselves “roommates” and claimed it made the most efficient use of our limited budgets, but I’m not sure how many we actually fooled. Of those we didn’t,  I doubt any of them even cared. I always assumed my kids had figured it out, but they never actually said anything. They simply accepted us as a unit.

We were happy like that for many years, until at 85, she passed away in her sleep. At our age, it was inevitable that one of us would leave the other. I should have been prepared, but I was inconsolable. I, myself, was also gone within the year.

I know now that we’ve been together before, and that we will be together again. I just hope that next time, it doesn’t take so long for us to find each other. Maybe the lesson here is, it’s best to be true to yourself from the very beginning

 

 

____

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-Adrienne

 

At the Foot of the Pedestal

The Pale Complexion of True Love

Lu

At first, she rejected me because I couldn’t give her what she wanted. Because I loved her, I generously gave her what I could. Eventually she found value in that. And the more she valued it, the more I gave it to her. The more I gave it to her, the more she loved me. It surprised her, in the end, how much she loved me.

Over the years, thinking back, she would laugh at how naïve and foolish she was to place more value on the things that other men had offered her.

“Imagine my life if I’d married him!” she would say from time to time, when she had news of one of her old boyfriends. There was a very rich young man she had dated for nearly a year. He could have given her any material thing she wanted. One day, she read a story in the paper that he’d been sentenced to prison for corruption.

Another man had been extraordinarily handsome. She described how he’d made her weak with desire.   One afternoon, after we’d been together for many years, she saw him on the street. She was shocked at how unattractive he’d become. Part of that might have been objective truth – she said he’d become fat and older-looking than his years – but I like to think most of that was her own perception. She loved me, and so to her, I was more handsome than anyone. I was always grateful to know that she still felt she’d made the right choice by marrying me.

When we first came into each other’s circle, through friends, she didn’t take me seriously.   I was like an annoying fly, buzzing around her. She paid me little mind.   I asked her out all the time, but she brushed me away and laughed, as if I couldn’t possibly be serious.

I finally caught her in a moment of weakness, or perhaps during a period of sadness and self-doubt. To my complete joy, she agreed to go out with me.

She was everything I was not: confident, popular, smart, beautiful. I wanted to consume her whole, in order to possess these qualities, too. I wanted desperately for her to take me seriously, because that would mean I was worthy of being loved.   I wanted to be the one to make her happy.

I never doubted that I loved her. It was only much later that I understood what I felt in the beginning was not really love.   Love came later, after our relationship found equilibrium.   This is not to say I loved her less, only that finally she loved me as much.

When we began, she held all the emotional power. Over time, we healed each other in equal measure. She could no more live without me than I without her. The reasons we needed each other grew more complex, and those needs were always satisfied.

What would have become of us if I’d been content to just grovel at the foot of the pedestal I’d put her upon? And where would she have been if she’d just accepted my adoration without once breaching her carefully constructed façade?

It was only when we trusted enough to show each other our fragility that we really started to love. Love is achieved only with trust; trust is achieved only by risk.

Sometimes what you think you want is not really what you need.   As happens often with true love, you don’t know what you need until the right person gives it you.

 

A Selfish Cad

selfish

 

Na

I was not a good person in my lifetime. I cheated and took advantage of people. I always chose was what best for myself and never fully chose for anyone else. Even when I behaved in an apparently magnanimous way, it was only because it furthered my own needs.   This was true even in my marriage, even with my own children.

But these were not my worst sins. The tragedy of my life was that I was completely oblivious to what a selfish, unenlightened human being, in fact, I was.  I never had a moment’s doubt that my behavior wasn’t righteous and justified.   After all, if I didn’t choose in favor of myself, who would? Others could not be trusted to watch out for my best interests.

There is absolute truth in that. It’s an important lesson; something I’d learned before and brought with me to this last life. But that is only half the lesson. Without the corollary, the real lesson has not been learned.

There is no question that the point of life is to learn to love. All goodness and enlightenment of the spirit spring from accepting this as the absolute truth.   All routes to all lessons pass through love – not only by understanding how best to achieve it, but by confronting all the reasons we run from it; and by examining the ways we comfort ourselves when we don’t have it.

But one cannot love if one cannot trust. Those who cannot trust themselves, cannot love themselves. Of all the kinds of human love, self-love is most important. Without self-love, it is impossible to accept love from others. Without this, one cannot love.

The more we truly love and accept ourselves exactly as we are, the more we are able to love and accept others exactly as they are, and thus, the more loveable we become.

Always behave in ways that foster self-respect. Take the high road not for the sake of others, but for your own benefit.  Release anger and forgive. Expect the best of others thus giving them the opportunity to live up to those expectations still recognizing that if they do not, that is their burden to carry. The misdeeds of others taint us and attach to us only when we respond in kind.

I only know this now, too late to have benefitted anyone in my past life. My punishment, if you want to call it that, for being such a shallow, selfish cad, is to know how much I hurt the ones closest to me, and how much better it would have been for all of us, if I’d be able to see then what I see now.

 

 

 

Love is the Way to the Truth

 Aya (a new voice)

I believe in the redemptive power of love. It is the prism through which everything passes. It is the path along which the most important lessons are learned. Love turns you inward; directs you to where the most important answers are.

When two people make a commitment to each other in love, that commitment is as much to themselves as to each other. It is a promise to grow and change; to bend to fit with an open heart; to see clearly both the good and bad in oneself;  to continually reevaluate beliefs; to rethink behaviors and view them from different perspectives; to see the world through another’s eyes.

To love is to commit to working on everything that prevents us from becoming our best self. We commit to knowing our own true self, and when we have discovered it, all things become clear. The result is true intimacy — with ourselves, with each other, with the universe.

In loving fully, we make ourselves whole.

[more from Aya later]

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