I’ve been doing some decluttering lately and while going through the folders labelled “personal growth and learning,” I found a letter that I wrote seven years ago, almost to the date. I had never put it in the mail. I had forgotten all about it, and finding this little handwritten piece today made me smile. Those words remind me of the true romantic I am and have always been. I wrote my first love letters in primary school, always head in the clouds, dreaming of what might be.
I decided to send the letter that I found. Granted, seven years have gone by, and Fred has passed by now. Yet, the letter’s content is still relevant to me. It mirrors my core beliefs, expectations, and hopes. Those last seven years have brought me much heartbreak, but also my husband and our children. If there is anything that resonates with you on a core level, then run with it and don’t let anyone deter you, even if that means that you are being labelled overtly and hopelessly romantic or childish or idealistic. Stick to your ideals. Like Steve Job’s said in his commencement speech: Don’t settle – if you haven’t found what you are looking for, don’t settle just yet. Keep looking. Stay hungry. Stay foolish.
I decided to send the letter as a part of my gratitude project. Right now, I am grateful for people like Fred who share their stories and inspire hope. I am thankful for sticking to my guns even at times when I felt like giving up. I am grateful for Green Shoe Studio – for people who see the magic in the ordinary and grasp opportunities without knowing where they will lead.
I’ve been listening to your song in an endless loop for the past few days. I love your song. It’s so full of love and hope, and each time I watch your video on YouTube, it makes me cry so hard – and I thank you for that. I thank you for helping me release and rediscover all those emotions that have been hidden inside of me for so long. On New Year’s Day 2013, I broke up with my boyfriend of five years. I knew right from the start that it wasn’t meant to last, but I needed a safe haven back then when we met. We spent a good time while it lasted and it is safe to say that we learned a lot from each other and grew a lot as people. But our relationship had to come to an end, because I believe in a love like yours, like the one you portray in the video. The one that I see shining in your eyes.
I am 30 now, and everyone told me not to break up, because I am a dreamer and that “the one” doesn’t exist, and maybe you think that too, because you belong to a different generation, and possibly your life was good because you were dedicated to one single person and didn’t question your choices as much. I am wondering and asking myself those questions, because now after eight months on my own I’ve seriously started to doubt, but your video has helped me to reconnect to my inner truth that real, heartwarming love is out there – for all of us. So I keep believing that he is out there too – the one – my one – the one that makes me say at the end of my life that spending time with him was like living the dream, but that it was actually real. And I genuinely want my husband to say that having me as his wife was so worthwhile. That’s my heart’s desire.
I don’t know you, but I love you and your wife for making me happy by sharing your story and allowing other people to take part in it – allowing us to listen to your story and song and allowing us to contemplate the true meaning of love – whatever that means to each individual.
Thank you so much for being there and showing up in my life right now – at a time when I needed a little sign of hope.
Thank you so much once more, love, Linda.
Bless your family and the people in the recording studio.
Feel free to share if you found meaning in those words
You know that dad and I are reunited. I often wonder what you would have to say about that? I can’t remember what it was like spending time with both of my parents together as a family – I have distinct memories though of what it was like to be held by you, mum, and to have you hold my hand when I had my ears pierced for the first time – you bought me gold stars, which I lost, but I loved and cherished them for many years. Once, we went out for a Chinese meal and had to sit on pillows on the floor, which was super exciting to me as a three year old. I remember you going to a toy shop with me and having you cover me with my first duvet. Then, there are those other memories too – the sadder ones – but for now, I’ll focus on the shiny memories – the ones that are shimmering like stars on the night sky.
I can remember our moments spend together mum and I can recall what it was like to go fishing with dad and grandad, but I don’t know what it is like to have both of my parents with me at the same time. Maybe there are cells in my body that have endured all those years and that store the memory of us being a family, a whole, but I’m not conscious of it. I often look at my children, and I know that their reality of growing up is and will be so much different from my experience and sometimes, I envy them and at the same time, I’m thrilled and relieved for them too.
At times like those, my heart flies out to my little me, to the me that never really got to ask you questions, mum, and to spend quality time with you. I have always been one to ask plenty of questions, and I would have loved to discuss my ideas with you. Maybe it’s just a nice thought, thinking that we would have gotten on really well with each other. I would have loved to have at least one grown up feeling close to when coming off age, but I didn’t. Lots of teenagers and young people don’t, I know, and that fact makes me sad for so many of us. It doesn’t matter if you grow up without any parents or if you grow up with emotionally absent parents – the result is still the same: a silent suffering and loneliness that keeps you looking for fulfilment and close, honest bonds with loyal and reliable people for the rest of your life. At least that’s what it felt like for me.
the desire for mothering is natural; it was there when you were a child, even if you learned to turn it off as a strategy for survival. (…), the yearning itself is healthy. it is part of being human to want to be nurtured and cared for.
There was a time, mum, when I felt embarrassed that I had to ask so many people so many questions about you, but I’m glad I did. I’m glad I mustered the courage to approach those people, your friends, that once were dear to you and to ask them what kind of person you were. I learned that you loved Janis Joplin, especially “Me and Bobby McGee”, and the Dire Straights. That you were a loyal and fun person to be around and most importantly, that you weren’t shallow. You asked the right questions and looked at life from another perspective than most people your age did. “Ahead of her time” – that’s one description that stuck to my mind. Ahead of your time – you were striving to understand those that no one else understood. Even to the point where you had to lose yourself. But that is a whole other story.
You loved eating horse steak and snails and more than anything you loved going out. While I can’t grasp the concept of eating horse steak, I do grasp the idea of going out – I would have loved to tell you mum that I love going out too, or at least I used to before I had kids. Nights are different from days. At night, people seem so much closer to each other. At night, in bars and pubs, people tell each other stories they would not during the day. I guess it’s due to a certain amount of alcohol, but the sheer fact that at some point people are willing to open up to sharing their truths also tells me that there is a need to do so. The darkness of the night lulls people in and gives them the comfort and courage to share their heart’s content, shielded from the scrutiny of the glaring sun. But not any longer mum, not any longer will I hide my story away – our story – and feel like I can only disclose it in a hushed voice in the darkness of the night.
Mum, I’m not so sure why you had to leave and why dad and I had to spend so much time apart, but mum, I will share our story one bit at a time, to encourage others to keep asking questions if they are missing a loved one. To find out about them, or to find out where the rest of their family has gone. Because roots matter. I loved finding out that on Sundays, we went on walks through the woods, you, dad, and me. That we went to visit my grandparents in Germany and my aunts and that I went on fairy rides at the weekends when there was a funfair. I was intrigued to find out that you didn’t like travelling, but that you’d rather spend your time relaxing at home with us. That you had studied Latin and Dutch – that you are an incredible artist, very talented. That you adored your grandmother – my great-grandmother. I can see why 🙂 She was an absolute star. The embodiment of patience I gather. Now that I know how close you were to her too, I’m delighted that we gave our second daughter her name as a middle name: Elisabeth. I found out that you had one finger that was shorter than all the others and that most importantly, you loved me. That’s right – I never knew before, but now I know for sure: You loved me. It took me a few of your closest friends to tell me, but it only sank in once dad told me – You loved me. Despite me not being planned, I was more than welcome, says dad and I believe him. I believe him, because I can remember your and his presence in my earliest childhood and I know it’s all true. It has always been true. And my memories had been real all those years. I was not crazy. I had just been told to take a detour into the unknown, but not any longer, mum. Not any longer. It’s now time to share our truth.
Feel free to share if you found meaning in those words
I can distinctly remember a time when I was walking on the beach with my cousin. I must have been about seven or eight at the time, and he was at university back then. While all the other adults were busy talking, he was simply holding my hand, while strolling down the beach. I can vividly recall this memory as if it happened just yesterday. This simple act of my hand being held made me feel seen. It was an act of caring, and to me, it mattered. I mattered. I mattered to another person so much so that he held my hand and silently walked a part of the way with me while everybody else was busy with their own thoughts and chatter. I have never shared this memory with him, and he must have long forgotten, but at that moment I felt protected, and it meant the world to me, and obviously, after all those years, it still does. Now he has a family of his own, and when we visit, I often recall how I felt in his presence as a young child. In those moments, I smile to myself in the knowing that he is a great dad to his girls, because real deep caring, the kind of caring that can be felt by simply holding someone’s hand, is genuine. At least that’s what I believe: I believe that when you feel someone’s greatness by their mere presence, then they are the real thing, and I feel fortunate and privileged to have made that experience at a young age.
I might not be able to remember phone numbers or impress by recalling historical facts, but I accurately remember what people’s hands look like and what their handshake felt or feels like for both speak volumes. It’s the first thing I notice about a person when I meet them – that and their eyes. The state of your hands shows the state of your life. Are you hardworking? Are you taking care of yourself? Smoking? Being artistic? It might sound very superficial to assess a person’s self or self-worth based on what their hands look like, but to me, it makes all the difference. Hands matter. Holding hands matters. To me, holding hands is one of the most intimate things you can do – it states: we belong together; you belong to me, and I am proud to tell the world; you matter and I care about you. How lucky are you if there are people in your life who are willing to make that statement. How blessed will I feel if at the end of my life I can sit with my loved ones, hold their hands and share mutual understanding without any of us having to say a single word? How great would or will that be?
Makes me think of a book I once got from a dear friend of mine: The hand that first held mine by Maggie O’Farrell. I haven’t read the book yet, but I have always liked the title: The hand that first held mine… I can think of many moments in my life when I found myself in unfamiliar situations and when I needed someone to hold my hand to calm my nerves and to get me through to the next day or to the next stage. Makes me smile to recall those people who have supported me; who have steadied my nerves by placing their palms on my hands “and heart”. Linked to that truth, I also remember holding my friend’s hand in primary school when we were away on a field trip. We were away for the night, and we were sleeping in bunk beds. From the top of the bunk bed, I was reaching down to her, and we were holding hands until we fell asleep. I adore thinking back to that day. It sounds so innocent and naive, but I find that the most mundane and most naive experiences in life are those that really stick around. In our most unguarded moments, we don’t have any hidden agendas, we don’t try to impress, or comfort, or become, we just simply “are” and back then, in my memory, we simply “were” – we were two small girls holding hands, steadying each other’s nerves, when being away from home for the first time in our lives was a quite scary thing. As adults, our handshakes leave a first impression, but often enough we try to influence the impression we give or “inform” that handshake with a particular “message”: we want to convey to the other person “I am your boss,” “I am the one in charge,” “I got this,” or “I am stronger than you,” or even “please be kind.” What if we all came from a place of innocent, childlike, or heartfelt intention when shaking hands. What if?! What would it reveal?!
So listening to the line “Mi mano en tu mano” – my hand in your hand, in Perdo Capo’s song, makes me think of all the hands I have been lucky enough to have held throughout my time here on earth – the hands of small babies, – some of them my babies-, the hands of dying people, -some of them people I loved and still love fondly and would have preferred to never let go of-, hands of loved ones and sadly enough also hands of people that have later betrayed me. At the time, I was furious, when I found myself in a situation of betrayal or when someone I loved was dying or leaving, because I had shared with them part of my time and showed them affection and all of a sudden they were gone, often without any real explanation or without any means to stop them or prevent them from leaving or moving on. I wish I could say that I have outgrown those distressing emotions and that separation of any kind now doesn’t affect me anymore at all or to that extent, but the truth is it still does. “Having to let go of someone’s hand” still makes me feel very emotional, and it probably will continue to do so for the rest of my life. However, I have come to the realisation that some hands you are holding today might be gone tomorrow without an explanation, either through death or betrayal or for another reason. That realisation in itself is no profound revelation, but as a consequence to that truth, I have chosen to consciously reach out to my loved ones and other people even more, instead of allowing potential heartbreak to make me more fearful, weary, or cautious. The fact that people I appreciate might be gone in the blink of an eye, or that strangers I don’t know yet might turn out to become really dear friends, just makes me want to “hold hands” with those I love and enjoy having around more than ever. And by “holding hands” I don’t necessarily mean physically holding their hands, but I mean a text message, a quick hello, a postcard, a bunch of flowers, or even a careful thought throughout the day, for I believe that even the most humble acts of kindness matter. Even in busy times, small, mundane acts of “holding hands” can mean the world to someone and they might remember your simple act of caring even twenty years later, like in my case, without you being aware of it.
“Tu mano en mi mano” – I know I am not the only one whose memories and emotions are triggered by a line in a song, but it still always amazes me that people can profoundly affect each other without them even being aware of it: Pedro Capo will probably never know (or even care 🙂 ) that his “your hand in my hand – tu mano en mi mano” made me reflect about my first love, my babies, my dead relatives, my loves, my friends, and teachers in life and wonder about the people in his life who inspired that song or whom he must have met when recording or making the video, but it did.
Feel free to share if you found meaning in those words