Stories change lives, that's what I always said and still say. I say that because I grew up unhappy and stories were my escape. They were also my hope for a better future. Stories gave me choice. They gave me option because they made me see life could be different. And so I set about changing my life around.
I came across two stories that made me ponder this morning. One was about a penguin who was saved by a human in Brazil after oil leakages there. The penguin now swims 5,000 miles every year to see its human before heading home to mate for a couple of months.
The other story was about a woman whose father died by suicide and she found out by means of a phone call from her brother, just as she was leaving Whole Foods. As a result she broke down in the shop and people gathered around her to help her. She wrote the article to thank them and, possibly, to show the rest of the world that beautiful people exist.
I read the story about the woman who lost her father first. It made me think about the kindness of strangers, compared to the kindness of loved ones. It's one thing to help a stranger. It's another to help your nagging grandmother, or your irritating neighbor. We don't love a stranger the way we love a close friend, nor do we have any wounds they caused us by past misunderstandings, disagreements and all those other things that usually come into play in close relationships.
The second story, the one about the penguin, made me contemplate just how far we go for loved ones. We all travel those 5,000 miles for the people close to us. We take care of them when they are sick. We are there when they are sad. We throw ourselves on a plane to come pick up the pieces after they've been through a trauma. We drive them places in our car. We make food for them. We buy gifts for them. True love, as I once said after my senile grandma died, is to take someone to the bathroom when they can no longer go by themselves. Love isn't pretty -- it's beautiful.
I'm currently reading the Isabel Allende memoir The Sum of Our Days. I think that's possibly why I thought along those lines when reading the post. Allende wrote the book to tell her dead daughter Paula what had happened since she died. Paula was in a coma a long time before she died, cared for by family and medical staff. Love is that. To care. Love is also loss. Unless we die together we will lose the ones we love.
Since mom died when I was six I came to have a huge problem with loss. As part of changing my life, inspired by the stories I read, I learnt a lot about spirituality, self-help, all that jazz. As a result, when I stand completely grounded in myself I see life as a temporary thing, in which we know people temporarily. I accept the tides of life as they come and go. I love freely and I let go freely. I accept life for what it is and enjoy what I can in it and feel grateful for that. That said, falling in love scares the bejesus out of me. I've gotten used to being the rock; the one friends and the children I help raise rely on. To rely on someone else whom I could one day lose? That frightens me.
I met someone recently who made me realize I want to fall in love, mainly because he made me open my eyes to the fact there are men out there whom I actually like. And I don't want to miss out on that. I want to meet the crazy gorgeous men who make me see stars. I want to dare do that, because truth be told every time I see a story like the one with the penguin I think about loss intertwined with love. One day the penguin will come and the man will be gone. People are cruel to animals. Maybe one day the defenseless penguin will be attacked? You have no idea how many hours I cried after watching the remake of King Kong -- they were so cruel to the monkey. It made me remember being bullied and how cruel life can be. People always want to kill things they don't understand, or feel powerless to, or for some other reason feel scared of. Instead of trying to befriend the monkey they set about killing it. And in the same manner I guess I've killed love -- too scared to befriend it. At least the passionate kind. I only accepted as much as I could handle losing (men I wasn't that into), or I picked men whom I actually liked, but that were so emotionally closed off I would never fear getting too close to them.
Of course, this fear ties into things like terrorism, bullying, racism and a whole load of other issues too, something I blogged about a little while ago here on HuffPost.
I recently watched The Fault in Our Stars. It was a journey of healing for me. It helped me, a little bit more to stand grounded in my spiritual beliefs. To accept life for what it is. To love the good things for what they are: temporary. And if I open my heart a little bit more maybe I can accept passionate love too. To rely on it. In all its unreliability.
As you finish reading this blog you can probably tell that stories still shape and change my life, not least because today I also make a living writing them and whenever I hear someone inspired by my stories I feel like I've done something good that day.
If you -- or someone you know -- need help, please call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.