I just finished reading an intriguing book (which I found at a local thrift store) called The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver. It’s really quite an improbable story (but a touching one nonetheless) about a young girl from Eastern Kentucky who escapes her backwoods hometown to travel out West & in the process adopts a young Indian child from Oklahoma. Like I said it’s an improbable story but a powerful one just the same. The central theme of the novel appears to be that life is difficult, unfair, & sometimes downright heart-breaking but nonetheless it is beautiful, joyful, & very much worth living. The second apparent theme, which stems from the first, is that the best we can hope for in this world is to give & receive love & to enjoy life as much as we can for as long as we can.
The book also focuses on how parents feel the need to protect their children from the world & all the dangers & sorrows it contains, but in the end such a task is futile & in fact impossible. I found this last theme particularly powerful because it’s something I’ve thought about a lot lately. As I have mentioned in some of my previous blog posts, I have started thinking a lot more about having kids over the past six months or so. Just a year ago I was still very much unsure if I wanted to have kids at all. Ever. Now I’m suddenly very sure that I do & I’m even thinking that I might want them a lot sooner than I’d originally thought possible (I’m talking two to three years from now). I’m not sure exactly what caused this change in me & I suppose it really doesn’t matter. But one thing I think about a lot in relation to having children is that I don’t want my children to grow up over-protected and naïve because that can really be quite dangerous. But at the same time I feel like no one escapes childhood unscathed; indeed, as adults we are all somewhat scarred from our childhood & adolescence no matter how wonderful our parents were. So part of me feels like parenthood would be this incredible burden because I’d constantly feel the need to make sure I don’t “scar” my children in any way while at the same time knowing that there’s no way around it because no one is perfect. What a conundrum, especially for a perfectionist like me! I guess what I have to realize is exactly what a friend was telling me today: as parents, as in all aspects of life, we have to remember that we cannot control everything so we just have to do the best we can & know that that is enough.
Sometimes I feel a bit cynical for my age because it’s impossible for me to ignore the unfairness of life. My career in healthcare only enhances this sometimes as I’m constantly presented with situations in which bad things happen to good people, often beyond their control. As a consequence I often feel older than I am & in fact basically everyone who doesn’t already know my age seems shocked when they find out how young I really am. But I don’t really mind this because I think perhaps the greatest thing in life is to keep going even when you realize how bleak things can be. Perhaps it is the same with parenthood. What I mean is, as children we can’t imagine that our parents don’t always love us with every fiber of their being. We can’t imagine that they have moments in which they question everything they’ve ever done as a parent even to the point of wondering whether they should even be a parent at all. But as adults we realize this is very much the reality of life. And perhaps as adults we can appreciate how much greater is the love of a parent for a child when they persist in raising & loving their child in spite of these fears. The same goes for loving our spouses, romantic partners, friends, & families. Real love doesn’t exist because of a lack of fears, uncertainties, or difficulties. Real love exists in spite of all these things. Real love persists even when the road of life is rocky & challenging, indeed even when there appears to be no path at all.
I’ve often heard it said that love is blind & that lovers are often so enveloped in their own romance that they are blinded to not only each other’s faults but the faults of the world around them. But I beg to differ. I believe true love (whether romantic or otherwise, for honestly I don’t think there’s too much difference but that’s a whole other blog post right there) rather than blinding us opens our eyes to see the world more clearly. I do believe this means we will “stop to smell the roses” a bit more & learn to appreciate the everyday joys in life, but I also believe it means that we won’t be blinded to the injustices in the world or to each other’s faults. Rather I believe we will be encouraged & empowered to better ourselves & the world around us & to tackle the injustices of life with as much passion as we can muster. Indeed real love gives us the courage to face an uncertain world & to know that even if our lives aren’t perfect they can still be beautiful & meaningful.
[I included the picture of cards that spell out love because I like the implications of love being somewhat like a card game. We’re all dealt a different hand in life but we have to make the most of what cards we have, knowing that in the end our lives come down somewhat to luck but more so to skill & attitude in handling whatever comes our way.]