Discovering WisdomNovember 23, 2012
We don’t receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us, or spare us. ~ Marcel Proust
Now this was many, many years ago, when long distance calls were horribly expensive, there were no cell phones, no email, no “personal” computers, so actually sitting down with pen and paper was the least expensive way of communicating with friends who lived miles or states away. But, I digress.
I’d fallen deeply in love with a “bad boy” with a poet’s soul, and, as it goes with bad boys, he’d been very, very bad. So, I’d written her a letter crying about the things he was into. It wasn’t that he treated me badly – he didn’t. He was indeed misunderstood by his family, all of whom I knew and was close to a few of, and he was incredibly wounded because he was indeed an incredibly sensitive soul. But as bad boys are, he was into things that were bad, and I had consequently broken up with him for them.
In the letter, she lamented for me that I was in such pain over the love of this young man, and basically, she said, (paraphrasing) “I wish I could save you from these kinds of experiences, and tell you what to do so you wouldn’t have to go through the pain of a broken heart. But I can’t. These are the experiences we all have to go through in order to learn and mature.” This coming from a 17 year old who, herself, had already seen some serious, serious consequences of life through her parents, and some of her own foibles.
But the thing is, I never forgot that letter, or the essence of what she said. The reality of it hit me hard at 16, but I “got” it. Going through heartaches, and hardships were the way to adulthood, but more importantly the way to understanding and compassion; the way to judging less, and offering more.
In the years since, I, too, have offered very similar words of wisdom to those around me whose lives were broken because of poor decisions, or fractured relationships, or even in job loss. Because what my friend said to me at the ripe old age of 16, and what Mr. Proust so eloquently says, is truth. We cannot make decisions for other “adults”. We cannot save them from themselves, or from their bad decisions. There is little we can say to anyone that will save them the pain, or alter their courses, especially when it comes to love. We can only be there to listen, to tell our own story in compassion for theirs.
So what happened to my so very precious bad boy and me in the end? Well, our relationship was an on again off again affair until I married at 28. And even then, he wasn’t finished with me, and sent me a scathing letter about how I was supposed to wait for him, and it was supposed to be “us.” From prison. Yes, he continued to make bad choices, and I pulled away from having my life inextricably tangled with his.
But I never lost my love for him, and he still holds a very precious part of my heart. Why? Because:
- He taught me what unconditional love was. In spite of the things we couldn’t move past, we still loved. And I would venture to say, if asked today, he would say there is a part of him that still loves me as well.
- He taught me how to be romantic. He would do the sweetest, simplest things because he knew it would make me smile. And he did them without expectation of gain or reciprocation.
- He taught me how to be physically close. We didn’t have sex. I was too young. But we were incredibly physically close. Trust was a factor in this lesson as well. (And he taught me to kiss!)
Through him, my journey was both bitter and sweetened. And in all honesty, I wouldn’t have wished it away with words, or with someone trying to spare me the end result. I needed to take that journey, and be enriched by it, and by its truth.
What was the earliest bit of wisdom you learned?
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