My mother was a specialist in finding coins on the street. She’d tell me, my older sister and younger brother to look down when walking, because you never know.
My parents were immigrants from Europe, survivors of the holocaust. They were children separated from their families going through the most horrific circumstances that one can imagine. My mother, from a small village in France, was hidden in a Christian orphanage. My father, from Czechoslovakia, was in the concentration camps.
For them, life was precious. Each day cherished, never to be wasted and definitely not to be taken for granted.
For my thirteenth birthday I asked for a ten speed bike. What I got first though, was a book on how to care for a ten speed bike. The boys book on bicycle maintenance. For my father, knowing how to take responsibility for the care of something was way more important than the thing itself. I didn’t know it at the time, but what he was really teaching me about was love.
And, I did get my ten speed bike.
In my house there wasn’t anything that couldn’t get fixed, patched, stitched or sewn. I can honestly say that I never heard the phrase “oh just throw it out, we’ll get a new one”. And if for some reason an item of value couldn’t be saved, it was resurrected. To live again with a new function (now known as repurposing), whether it was a towel that my mother transformed into wash cloths or a toaster that my father converted into a planter.
Nothing taken for granted.
I think my parents knew they weren’t going to be in my life for long and wanted to make sure I knew not only how handle life as it changes and throws up the unimaginable, but also to know how to care for life. To not take anything for granted.
Now, when you’re raised to be self sufficient, living on your own is piece of cake. But the same can’t be said about making a life with another person.
Put me in a isolated cabin with no electricity or plumbing, not a problem. But put me in a relationship with another person that requires letting them in so they could love and care about me, that is a very big problem.
Letting someone in requires a much different set of tools than the ones I had come to master. As a pastry chef I studied, worked hard, practiced, stayed committed and found my mastery. So why when it came to intimate relationships could I not?
The strengths my parents had given me, that I always thought of as a badge of honor, were now failing me in a very big way. And I couldn’t understand why.
Right at the end of my first marriage in a moment of rare quiet honest conversation, my soon to be ex-wife turned to me and said, "When you don’t let me in, it feels like you’re taking my love for granted…"
Ouch! The phrase feeling like you’ve gotten hit by a ton of bricks, is an understatement to how I was feeling at that moment. Mostly because I knew she was right.
They say the truth will set you free. It does. Right after it hits you in the head to make sure it’s got your full attention.
Well I was listening now. And what I heard was, Sam, you know nothing about relationships, you know nothing about love, nothing about intimacy, nothing about women, nothing about yourself and you know nothing about what it really means to care for another person.
But I wanted to learn because I knew I never wanted to experience that level of pain again.
About 6 months later, in my first relationship course I told the teacher I wanted to learn about love. She cracked a half smile and said - How much time do you have? Because whatever it is, it’s not enough.
She was right. That was 14 years ago and I’m still learning.
I’ve learned that for me to learn about love means allowing love in. To not need to be so good at everything so that I don’t need anyone.
But rather to feel the vulnerability that I was so terrified to feel when my first wife wanted to love me and my current partner just wants to.
That I can’t fully love another person if I’m not willing to fully receive love.
Because love is precious, always to be cherished, not to be wasted and definitely not to be taken for granted.