Tag Archives: togetherness

Tuesdays with Morrie

I pick up a little book called Tuesdays with Morrie while on holidays in Spain. I saw it years ago but avoided it because the blurb on the back made me worry that it’d be a depressing read. It is about a dying professor (Morrie Schwartz) and his younger student (Mitch Albom). This time, I am ready. I devour it in two sittings. And I cry and cry and cry.

It isn’t that it’s unbearably sad. It’s just so touching, it moves me like nothing else has for a long time. I can feel Morrie’s energy with me as I finish the memoir. I love him. I can honestly say that he (and the endearingly honest Mitch) has changed my life. The gradual shift in Mitch’s attitude inspires me almost as much as Morrie’s wisdom.

Morrie allowed himself to let go, to be vulnerable, and to ask for help. He observed that, when you’re an infant, you need help from others and, when you grow old, you require their assistance also. However, what we fail to acknowledge is that we need other people in between times too.

Morrie told the tale of the little wave that witnessed other waves crashing against the shore. The wave wailed, fearfully: “Oh no, look! This is the fate that awaits us. How horrible!” Another wave reassured him: “Don’t fret, little one, for you are not a wave, you are part of the ocean.” As Rumi wrote: “You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean, in a drop.”

Morrie’s message has made me realise how closed off I’d become. I’d tell myself that “I like my own space”. I’d go home while co-workers would sit and have tea, a chat and a laugh. I’d stay alone in the flat watching episode after episode of The Good Wife. I’d spend weekends preparing classes instead of exploring the countryside with loved ones. I’d retire early rather than spend time with friends.

I still believe that there should be a balance between rest, work and play and between stillness, silence and moments of noise and interaction. But Morrie’s story has shown me that the most important thing in life is to love. To share what you have with others. To give another human being the gift of your time. Morrie said that he was always 100 per cent present with whomever he was speaking. When he was talking with Mitch, he thought only of Mitch. This resonates with me as I am often in the company of others when I’m not really there. I’m thinking of what needs to be done, or how I shouldn’t have eaten that or I might even be putting a photo through Instagram while somebody attempts to converse with me.

Morrie’s big, brave, generous heart has made me resolve to really live life, to connect with people, to appreciate nature, to question the values we’ve been brainwashed into adopting, to understand that love and peace are what’s true and priceless compared with ever-changing, unreliable material and physical possessions. One of my new goals is to do something that makes me feel alive every single day. I also promise to be present with people, as if each encounter were our last, and to ask, in the words of Robert Holden in his book Loveability: “How can I love you more?”

I have a couple of hours before I have to head for the airport. I could go for a last swim at what the locals call the “healing beach”. But it’s a bit of a walk, I mentally argue. And it’d mean packing a wet bikini. Then, I remember that I’m living life. So I set off in my flip-flops, carrying a pink towel. A line of ants and a yellow butterfly cross my path. A lone purple wildflower on this dry dirt track reduces me to tears. I offer an Hola and a smile to an old man sitting alone. He returns my smile, its corners clipped with surprise. An elderly couple stroll ahead, hand-in-hand. Yet again, my eyes mist. I beam as I spot a set of keys a stranger has carefully balanced atop a bollard.

My breasts bob and sway as my feet flap upon the sand. I feel like an ancient elephant striding across the desert. I inhale the scent of my sweat that has collected in cracks and creases. A homeless man sits on a wall behind the beach. I abandon my beach bag and strip. I don’t suck in my stomach. Not today. I duck my head into the ocean even though my hair was freshly washed this morning. I am alive.

Mitch and Morrie used to say, “We’re Tuesday people” because they usually met on Tuesdays. And I am writing this piece on a Tuesday, watching the waves surge and retreat, with tears in my eyes and a heart that’s breaking… wide open.

Image: Author's own

Image: Author’s own

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A Special Message

A girl walks by the window of the café I am sitting in. She has a limp, a large head, glasses, and her mouth is set in a sort of grimace. I look away as I don’t want her to think I’m staring just because she doesn’t look like the average human being.

Then, it strikes me – how many other people refuse to look this little girl’s way for the very same reason? If she doesn’t already feel different from the rest of the world, surely a lifetime of averted gazes will add to her sense of separateness and disconnection. Doesn’t she too deserve to be showered with looks of love, admiration and interest? Should she too not experience a world of inclusion and togetherness? I watch her sit in to a car. And I watch her father sit in beside her. Tears come to my eyes at the pure, unconditional love that I have been looking away from all these years.

In my lifetime, so far, I have not had much contact with people with special needs and so I feared that I wouldn’t know how to relate to these people or how to treat them. I worried that I wouldn’t do the “right” thing. I now realise that I was too much in my head and so very far removed from my heart. I also know that it is fear and ignorance that is at the root of  discrimination, bullying, violence and even war.

Just this morning, on Hay House Radio, a woman phoned in to speak about her newly born child, who has special needs. She worried that she wouldn’t be able for the challenges that this new life would bring. Interestingly, the presenter pointed out that this situation would teach her compassion. Not for her daughter so much as for the people she might encounter, who would ridicule and ostracise her child.

Life is life in all its forms and shapes and containers. A soul is a soul no matter the physical appearance of the instrument. And beauty is the light that burns bright within and around each and every being in the Universe. The lesson is to learn from every person we come into contact with and, even more importantly, from how we react to these people. Today, this is the lesson that I have learned. And so I thank that beautiful girl on the street with all of my heart.

True beauty is witnessed with love

Photo credit: Jessica Watson