A Passion for Peace

Responsibility, respect and a loving connection with all beings and for this Earth we share.

My Definition of Love

Is giving. I think the ultimate form of love is giving, and giving in the form the other person wants. For me this means truly listening when someone speaks without composing in my head what I’ll say next; trying to see things from someone else’s perspective; asking questions; considering others when making decisions for myself; making a real effort to surround myself with positive people and to act positively towards them; and working to making a positive contribution to others in the world. Yes, it’s idealistic. I want to believe better in people than they believe of themselves sometimes. Like this guy I met in Bombay…

Who admires Rambo and the Dark Knight, left his Muslim family and moved here alone and has effectively cut himself off from relationships with anyone in a city of 15 million. I listened as he shared some deeply personal thoughts. I’m no therapist; I just find that people respond really well to being listened to. Sometimes I play a game: how many questions can I ask and how much can I listen to someone before they ask me something in return? Sometimes when the conversation is over the other person apologizes that we didn’t “get to me,” and I smile and think, ‘I win!’(Photo: monkey scratching his bum before he stole my empty tupperware, opened it, found no food inside, threw it down and hit me on my leg to scold me)

Which leads me to another part of giving: responding in a way the other person can handle; if someone can’t handle listening to me, I work to let them know I understand their side and don’t try to explain mine. And this guy reminded that some people don’t give back at all—they are in a place where they need so much, and so they take and take. It drains my core, because I want to give, and then when I need something back and don’t get it, I get mad at myself for giving to a black hole. I don’t need people like that in my life. Like this guy who said, “I’m so proud of myself, I listened,” after interrupting during the pivotal part of my story, or, “It’s good you’re upset, it’s how I’m getting to know you,” after I cried for the first time since I left the US because he just couldn’t get over his selfishness.

So, my weekend trip to the hill station of Matheran, aka some nearby nature, turned out to be an exhausting rather than relaxing mountain retreat. It’s hard to enjoy light hiking and scenic surroundings when someone is pounding you with his drama 24/7 and planning every minute of the day around what he wants to do. I said I came here to relax and hike, so let’s talk about something less serious for a while (or help me with my Hindi like you promised), and he replied, "You came with the wrong person.”

Sometimes it feels like a catch 22—easier to be a woman in India with a man, yet being with a man is acceptable only in certain situations, and a weekend trip is not one of them. “It’s just not in the culture,” my friend said, and he’s right. Slogging home early and alone, the trains down due to construction, thereby doubling my trip, I thought, why do I make it so hard on myself? I so love people. And I believe in the good in everyone. And I forget that sometimes there is real beauty in being alone, being selfish in a nurturing and positive way. Like moving to India to chase a career dream that I hope in the end will help people like this guy by reforming society, which should ultimately be more help than any one listener can, however well-meaning, can provide. And thankfully, for the most part, I am surrounded by wonderful people who give back and I like to think that we lift each other up in a cycle of mutual giving. So to all of you reading this, I’ll be an annoying American who says ‘thank you’ for that one more time…

Posted byValerie at 4:37 PM  


Malina said... November 17, 2009 at 8:12 AM  
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Valerie said... November 30, 2009 at 12:22 AM  
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