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Relationships: Tending to the Garden

A discussion of love and the present moment

photo of breakfast on outside table

Lately I've been thinking about the gifts we have in life, including relationships. The importance of relationships was first brought to my attention at a conference I attended in Providence, Rhode Island. The keynote speaker stated that we study relationships because they are the essence of life. Without them, we are lonely, sad, and die early. With them, we aren't as lonely, tend not to be as sad, and live longer.

The importance of relationships was reinforced the other night when I watched an HBO movie called "Bobby Fischer Against the World." It was about the brilliant and legendary World Chess Champion who became successful at a young age. Although Bobby demonstrated remarkable talents early on, he did not have the support of a loving family, and perhaps as a result, suffered from mental illness in his adult years. Bobby's dying words were: "Nothing is as healing as the human touch."

couple on the beach

So what about people who do not have positive and loving relationships in their life? I recently attended a university graduation and awards ceremony, where several of my students were present. I noticed how often the speakers referred to the importance of supportive relationships. They would say things like: "Students, you must express gratitude for the love and support of your parents, because without them, your success would not be possible." Indeed, many of the students had brought their parents and loved ones to the ceremony, but as I looked around the room, I saw many of my own students there alone. Each one had different reasons for coming alone: their parents lived elsewhere, were too ill to attend, had passed away, or had disowned them. Some of my students had made the decision to pursue a higher education against their parents' wishes. Yet, despite these odds, they were not only graduating, but also receiving awards.

Although some people do not have the love and support of parents, as adults we have the ability to choose our own families. We can elect to spend time with friends, romantic partners, relatives, and/or pets who love us. It is important to not only initiate these relationships, but maintain them with attention, care, and thoughtfulness. While we can't change the past wrongdoings from our families of origin, we can make things better by tending to our relationships in the present. And in doing so, we may be surprised by the flowers that blossom.

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