In David Lean and Noël Coward’s movie, Brief Encounter, Laura Jesson accidentally bumps into Dr. Alec Harvey, who gently removes a piece of grit from her eye. Chances are you’ve seen the movie. Both Laura and Alec are in their late thirties or early forties, married and with children, and after a couple of fortuitous meetings, their innocent and casual relationship develops into something deeper which dismays them. Not wishing to hurt their families, they agree to break up and go their separate ways. At the end of the movie, they meet in a railway station refreshment room to say goodbye. And wouldn’t you know it? At that very second Laura bumps into a talkative friend who invites herself to join them and begins chattering away, robbing the couple of their last chance to say goodbye. It’s a scene that makes you shake your head and cry.
Christian Wiman writes of a similar departure in his book, My Bright Abyss. He writes of leaving Texas and someone he will probably never see again.
I haven’t been in contact with Adele since the morning I left Texas, when she called just as I was heading out the door. There was a moment of silence before we stumbled all over each other trying to convey how much our tentative and half-candid time together had meant to each of us, the spark of spirit that (though we didn’t say so) burned there. We didn’t exchange e-mails. We didn’t promise to stay in touch. It was a moment, and we acknowledged it before letting it sink back into our fluid and restless inner lives to do its work there.
Leaving is never easy when love is in the mix, especially when your heart hints it’s the only way. And it’s even more difficult when two persons like Alec and Laura or Christian and Adele seem to fit together so well. I just finished a Michael Connelly book called The Last Coyote. One character in the book lost his bride-to-be the night they were to elope. Speaking of that horrid night he says, “I think you only run into a person who is a perfect fit once in your life. When you find the one you think fits, then grab on for dear life. And it’s no matter what she or he’s done in the past. None of that matters. Only the holding on matters.” But we do not live in a perfect world and holding on is not always possible. Like Laura and Alec, it makes you shake your head and cry.
Real love prods us to give our all. Robert Ferguson tells a story about a woman research technician on the staff of a certain hospital. A resident surgeon asked the woman to call on a young man recovering from an operation which had left him with no bodily function below his chest. He was depressed and wished to die. And, he had developed severe gangrenous peritonitis. The accompanying odor was horrendous. When the technician entered the room, the smell was so staggering, she gagged, backed out of the room, and ran into the doctor.
“Have you seen my patient?” the surgeon asked.
“I tried, but I couldn’t breathe,” she replied.
The doctor reached for her arm and gently guided her back to the room. “I know it smells bad, but there’s a heartbroken and dying young man in there who needs to know we care. Go in and find the man inside the smell.”
Loves moves us to go the second mile, to disregard the foulest of odors for whoever needs us, for whoever catches our heart. Life matters. People matter. Individuals matter. Love the person inside the smell and see isn’t love gladdened by goodness.
We often allow other people’s ideas to imprison us. The beliefs and opinions of the crowd usurp our own convictions. We assume we can protect ourselves by hiding in the crowd or worse, running along with it. Thomas Merton believed we are afraid of the aloneness, “the moral nakedness we might feel apart from the crowd.”
Looking back, I see times I’ve failed to speak out above the crowd, occasions I’ve missed to correct misunderstandings, shortsightedness, or straight-out meanness. This year I’m going to give myself an enormous hug and speak from my heart regardless of where I am or who I’m with. I won’t allow a crowd mentality to persuade me otherwise.
Vita Sidorkina enjoys balancing her life as a supermodel with home and family.
Married life is amazing! Everything is so much better when you have your soulmate by your side. I definitely think any relationship requires work but it should never feel forced. The key is to be honest and open about your feelings, and accept your other half exactly the way they are.
Maxim September 2019 Article by Zeynep Yenisey
Vita welcomed her daughter, Allegra, to the world in November 2018. She is someone who enjoys simple things, like going to the movies and spending time with her family. “Ever since I had a baby, I realized that life is not about me anymore! Being a parent means making sacrifices, but it’s also the most rewarding thing ever.”
Pouring heart and energy into work, home and family is a wonderful expression of love and gratitude. Having a soulmate at your side gives life meaning and purpose. Bessie Head wrote in A Question of Power, “Love is so powerful, it’s like unseen flowers under your feet as you walk.” Vita surely must feel the soft flower petals strewn on the path before her.
Love tarries in the hearts of those who are meant to be together. James Lee Burke speaks of this residual nature of love when, in his book, Private Cathedral, he describes a chance encounter between two former lovers who came close to making a life together. The woman, Penelope, has chosen to live with another.
Dave is thinking aloud:
I saw her on occasion at the racetrack in New Orleans or in a restaurant in the Quarter, and she was always polite and demure, but for just a second her eyes would linger on mine and her face would become warm and contemplative, and whether imaginary or not, I would smell her perfume, even feel it wrapping around me, like the heavy odor of magnolia on a cool spring night, and I would hear a warning bell at a train crossing and make an excuse and get out of New Orleans as quickly as I could.
No force on earth can ever extinguish the passion that exists between people who truly love each other.
I saw the movie Arthur several years ago, a movie about a rich young man who grew up never caring for anyone; then suddenly he fell in love, and he couldn’t describe the way he felt. He wanted to know if what he felt was real, so he asked a total stranger, “How can you tell if you’re in love? Does it make you feel funny? Does it make you whistle all the time?” The stranger was unphased by all of Arthur’s questions. He thought a moment and said, “You could be in love; then again, you could be getting a cold.”
Arthur’s problem is not rare. Few of us know what love truly feels like and even fewer know what love is. The word love covers a broad range of emotions, from loving pepperoni pizza, to loving children, to making love in a bungalow on a beach during summer vacation. Defining love helps no one understand what it is. We have to experience love ourselves, personally and fully, before we understand this thing that changes us inside out. And we can never fully experience it without risking everything we are and have to see where we take it and how we allow it to change us for the better.
We often associate October with the word bewitching, which means captivating, enchanting, entrancing, and fascinating. Surely love is all these and more. So what better time than now to chance everything on falling for another. And if you’re already there, I say fall a little deeper, fly a little higher, move a little closer to one you can give your all for without reserve.
Commenting on the laws of perspective, Scottish author Ian Maclaren explained how a small thing right in front of you can block out the image of a much larger thing in the distance. A low hillside close to you can often hide the view of the Cascades miles away, so instead of focusing on the big picture, the majestic mountains, our line of sight gets lost in something less significant and deceptively larger. Maclaren said: “That which is least has the diabolical power to seem greater to us than—and to obscure the sight of—that which is most.”
Maybe sometimes we let our disagreements and upsets obscure the vision of the larger love we have between us. The love I feel for you is huge, and I’m sure you feel the same. I think it would be wise for us to keep the law of perspective in mind as we struggle to make sense of living on opposite sides of the country. Until we can live together in a cabin beside the lake, maybe we can focus on the most, putting the least out of our field of view.
Albert Einstein once wrote: “People like us who believe in physics know that the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” Somewhere, somehow, in this infinite universe, we are living in the time of us. There, we’re opening the back door, running down the grassy yard and racing to the lake. Plummeting into the water, we splash and dunk one another, hugging and kissing all the while. Our wet lips and bodies feel what is most important, as do our beating hearts. If we focus our direction here, time will surely meet us there.
Love ripens in the strangest gardens. Ann and Adoniram Judson lived in Burma (Myanmar). When there was war between England and Burma, the Burmese imprisoned Adoniram because they assumed he was British (which he wasn’t).
Unlike her husband, Ann had learned the language of their adopted country. Her repeated appeals to the government to spare Adoniram’s life eventually led to his release. In the meantime, she brought food and clothing daily and wisely hid her husband’s papers in the pillow in his cell so his work would not be destroyed.
Cicero believed we should measure affection by its strength and constancy. On a scale of 1 to 10, Ann and Adoniram scored A+.
Haydn’s “Lord Nelson Mass” is a brilliant, thrilling work. But recently I learned it has nothing to do with Lord Nelson! There are several coincidences connecting the Mass to Lord Nelson: the crushing of Napoleon’s navy in the Battle of the Nile on August 1, 1798, or the Admiral’s presence at a performance of the Mass in Haydn’s hometown in 1800, or the destruction of the Danish fleet in 1801, or Trafalgar and the securing of hegemony over the seas by the British fleet in 1805. Church choirs sing this brilliant Mass with a warrior’s name attached to it, but it’s not a celebration of the violence Lord Nelson left in his wake. In fact, Haydn originally called it “Missa in angustiis” (Mass in time of tribulation).
If Haydn were here today, I believe he would agree with something Tevya says in Fiddler on the Roof: “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, makes for a blind and toothless world.” Resistance and vengeance, violence and retaliation are unnecessary if we work together to weave justice into the fabric of everyday life. In James Crawford’s words: “If we will ground our relationships in mutuality and solidarity, friendship and hope,” society will make a U-turn and thrive with peace.
Theologian Robert McAfee Brown has said, “I believe we are placed here to be companions—a wonderful word that comes from cum panis (“with bread”). We are here to share bread with one another so that everyone has enough. The sharing begins in our homes and ripples out to all of society.
Another writer, a woman named Abbie Graham, explained it like this:
(Love) lives not, I think, in bread and wine, but in the breaking of bread and in the sharing of wine. Bread unbroken does not fortify the heart, but bread divided among all who hunger will sustain the spirit.
Companionship is excellent bread for the world. May we all find fresh ways of living and loving together, while growing in freedom and love for others.
Norman Vincent Peale was once asked to give a message to America and he gave it in six words: “Expect a miracle. Make it happen.” These six words strike a balance between expecting and doing.
Lowell M. Atkinson then asked, “And what gets in the way?” Atkinson believed our negative thoughts, our worries and anxieties and depressions, and our fears often keep many thousands of miracles from happening. This negative thinking blankets our eyes and makes it so we can’t see anything good.
Someone asked a positive thinker, “Don’t you ever entertain negative thoughts?” and she said, “I have negative thoughts; they come to me — but I don’t entertain them. I don’t welcome them. I don’t hold on to them; I don’t nurture them.” If instead of nurturing our negative thoughts we reversed them, we would surely begin making good things happen.
The truth is negative thinking is toxic. It can blind us to wonderful possibilities we might enjoy if we worked to help them along.
In Nevada Barr’s novel, A Superior Death, Ms. Barr describes a tender encounter between the principal character, Anna Pigeon, and a diver named Hawk.
“I’m sleeping on the Belle tonight,” she said. “Can I offer you a nightcap?”
“Only if the night comes with it.”
They walked together, not touching, to the boat. Anna latched the cabin door behind them… Hawk sat on the blue-vinyl-covered bench and watched without speaking as Anna cranked open the hatch, letting in the soft night air, the light of the stars. He watched while she put two cassettes in her well-used player and punched play on one side and pause/play on the other. As Cher’s voice sang, “It’s in his kiss,” he smiled.
“Be gentle with me,” he said and Anna laughed.
“Your first time?”
“Might as well be.”
“Orphans in the storm.” She sat beside him and he took her face in his hands, smoothed her hair back with callused fingers.
“If anything was new to Anna, it was the sadness. As they made love, sweetly, gently, she felt Hawk’s tears falling on her neck and breast. She found herself crying too, without knowing why. In sympathy, she realized, but whether for Hawk or herself she couldn’t tell.”
Excerpt from A Superior Death by Nevada Barr
A tender encounter, for sure. And the tears, the tears falling on Anna’s neck and breast. A mix of Hawk’s from not being able to be with someone he loved more than Anna and of Anna’s from missing a husband who died much too soon.
We make lots of concessions on our way through life, especially in honor of love. The more painful ones come to tears. But love is not a feeling. It is being for the other person. “To love is to be for another and to act for another, even at a cost to oneself” (Charlene Payne Kammerer). In the freedom we give ourselves for loving, the loving may require a payment in a currency of tears.