Saturday, June 09, 2012

The Joys of Love

Sunrise over Bay Bridge, San Francisco, CA
I am learning happiness. Better late than never. It's not that I have never been happy before, far from it. But being happy when everything in ones life is perfect is no accomplishment. Those who can't be happy when all the signs are right are deeply flawed, I think. What I am teaching myself is that happiness does not depend on external circumstances; it grows from within. It is the result of seeing and appreciating all the beauty that surrounds us no matter where we are both in a geographical sense and in our minds and hearts, and cherishing it. Strange as it seems, I am falling in love with my life - because it is mine.

As most of you know, Flip is the love of my life and he suffers from a dreadful disease which has stolen him from himself, and from me. I visit him every day to honor who he was and the beautiful relationship we shared, and to offer him such comfort as I can. But I am still fully alive and able to enjoy all the things that gave me pleasure before I knew Flip and when we lived together. He would not want me to lose my own capacity for joy, to spend all my energy mourning his fate. Of course I do mourn it. Terribly. But I am also grateful for every smile that comes my way, for people who make me laugh, for the kindness of both strangers and loved ones. (Sometimes they are the same people.)

When I was a child I read a book called "The Story of 100 Operas." Aida was my favorite. I thought it terribly romantic that as the heroine's lover, Radam├Ęs, is sealed in his tomb, she leaps in at the last possible moment to die with him. I was eleven. My ideas of romance have evolved since then, and if I were to relinquish the things that bring me happiness, it would be like leaping into a tomb alive.

I am not a religious person but I am spiritual enough to believe there are still things for me to do for others and myself. Otherwise, I would not still be healthy and capable. As a child I didn't think I had any value, so perhaps that is why I was so willing to throw myself into another's grave in the name of love. Life has taught me that love involves helping others and that my life, like everyone's, is special and deserves to be honored by living it as fully as I can. This will not involve dancing on tables in bars (for those who wondered) but simply being fully present in every moment and trusting that even though I can't control most things, life works out as it should. For each of us. So as long as the possibility of surprise exists, I'm in.

"The joys of love are but a moment long,
The pain of love endures a whole life long."

Plaisir d'Amour


Molly said...

It made me so happy to read this, both for you and for myself, as it affirms thoughts that have been slowly evolving in my head for several years now. Play the cards you're dealt, appreciate the beauty that is all around us and free if we only have eyes......I think I love you Susan!

English Rider said...

It's always good to see you around the blog. I can't add anything to this perfectly expressed post. I hope that the world will spread many wonders before you and that you will know that you deserve them and should embrace them wholeheartedly.

Anonymous said...

I want to remember this post. I want to remember your words, your wisdom and even your conclusion, how you got there.

You hit upon something: love and happiness are truly reached when those "external circumstances" go against it, move in opposite directions than love and happiness, and yet you find a way to feel peace, to hold on to those feelings, truly and deeply. I think you have something there.

Sending smiles your way.

Paula said...

Such wise words; thank you. I think most who come to your blog, including myself, are to that bittersweet stage of life where you value life more because you know you've used up more than half of it. Just as well to be happy, because the clock is ticking, either way.

Cro Magnon said...

Your husband is a very lucky man (despite his problems). To be loved so unconditionally by somebody is a rare honour.

I also agree with every single word!

Lynnea said...

Thanks. I needed this at exactly this moment.

the walking man said...

I am happy to know that at least some humans are evolving yet. For a while there I was certain it was total devolution. Yes there is great beauty left in the people of the planet especially when it becomes self evident.

Elaine Steward said...

Such a profound discovery.... My brother recently shared that he has "learned how to be happy without getting what [he wants]."

nick said...

How true that happiness comes from within and not from without. Which is easy to understand but not so easy to bring about. It's all too tempting to expect others to provide our happiness for us.

As you say, I'm sure Flip wouldn't want you to give up joy in order to mourn his own personal tragedy.

PeterAtLarge said...

It takes a great deal of courage to acknowledge adversity and still lay claim to happiness. Good for you--and for us, for having shared this wonderful post. Thank you!

mischief said...

Amen to that, Susan. For much of my adult life I have struggled with the fear of something happening to my husband... and being with you as you've coped with my greatest fear has been making me less afraid. It takes tremendous courage to dare to be happy again, and I'm so glad you have that courage. You deserve happiness, every last bit of it, and you are showing me how to survive no matter what. Love.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Finally, my love for you is requited!


I can't imagine anything lovelier than what you wish for me.


Smiles are always appreciated.
Please don't stop.


Yes, being unhappy takes so much energy which could be better spent in finding happiness.

Cro Magnon,

Maybe we don't fully realize how much we love someone until he or she needs us in a very real sense.


Glad I could help. :)


I also fear that we are devolving as a society, but there are still many who belie that.


Your brother has made a real breakthrough in that we are conditioned to measure the degree of happiness we feel by how much we get our way.


Flip is the most generous person I have ever known. I think I can honor that best by staying open to joy.


In adversity lies opportunity, and besides, I have always enjoyed a challenge.


I hope that nothing terrible ever happens to your husband or to you, but I believe that choosing life is always the answer.

Anonymous said...

I rejoice with you in your celebration of life. Thank you for your life affirming post. You are beautiful inside and out.

I am reminded of Philippians 4:4-9; "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you."

s.m. said...

What beautiful story and photos, , thank you so much for generously sharing them with us!

Miss Healthypants said...

Okay, I just found your blog via Maria's blog and am sitting here in tears, having read many of your current and past blog posts involving your husband's disease.

You are SUCH an inspiration. To have such a positive attitude in the midst of your sufferings with your husband is truly inspirational.

Yesterday, I found a lump in one of my breasts and have a doctor appointment for tomorrow.

I have been scared all day and tonight, was looking for something to help either distract me, make me laugh, or somehow inspire me.

Your words have definitely touched me, inspired me, and somehow made me feel less worried. I feel like if you can handle all that life has handed you and still stay positive and happy, then I can deal with whatever life sends my way, too.

Really, I just can't emphasize enough how inspirational you are. Having myself taken care of my 36-year-old husband after his heart attack and quadruple bypass surgery, I know how hard it can be to be the caretaker, and to see the one you love the most in the world in so much pain. But I feel like I only caught a glimpse of that pain - whereas it's something that you deal with on a daily basis.

I'm not particularly religious, either - but I can see that God/The Universe is certainly working through you. I'm sure that you touch many around the world with your story.

You've certainly touched me, and I thank you for that. (I also think that your story would make a brilliant, compelling book - I'm just saying. :) )

Thank you again. This is just what I needed to read tonight.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Thank you for the inspiring quotes, and the great and lovely compliment.


Thank YOU for reading it!

Miss Hp,

I've seen your comments at Maria's wonderful blog many times, and am very happy to welcome you to mine.

First of all, I send you my warmest wishes for a happy outcome tomorrow. Hopefully, it's just a cyst and nothing serious, but it's good you're getting it checked out.

Your husband's health issues sound devastating, especially at such a young age. I hope he's completely healed and well now.

It's hard to think of myself as an inspiration to anyone when I am inspired by so many others, some of whom I know only through blogging. But I do believe that the universe works through all of us, and am finally realizing that it works best when I get out of its way and let it.

Please let me know how it goes tomorrow. My email address is on my profile page, and I would really like to hear good news from you. Good luck!!!

Secret Agent Woman said...

Brava! That is such an incredibly graceful way of dealing with a torturous situation and I know Flip would want you to find joy in your life. Thanks for the reminder of importance of fully living and loving.

Miss Healthypants said...

Dear Miss Heart in San Francisco,

Thank you so much for caring about little ole’ me, whom you’ve never even met before! *smiles*

Well, I haven’t found out anything yet today, but I am scheduled for a mammogram tomorrow. The good news is that today, I found out that both my Mom and Grandma have had benign cysts in their breast tissue MANY times…and breast cancer does not run in my family at all. These are positive things…now all I can do is wait and hope.

As for my husband’s health issues, he has had an AMAZING recovery since his surgery in December 2010. He has lost over 80 pounds (I myself have lost 40!), and he looks and feels like a whole new man. :) Yes, it was a crazy time (no one expected someone so young to need a quadruple bypass, but his family history of heart disease and unhealthy eating were certainly factors in it), but I thank God that both he and I made it through it all with flying colors. :) (Not to say that it wasn’t a struggle at times, but we made it!!)

And yes, you are an inspiration, believe me!! – and yes, I also believe that the universe works through all of us…and realizing that it works best when we get out of its way and let it, is sometimes a tough – but important - realization.

I’m delighted to have found your blog and will definitely be back to visit. :) And I will email or “blog comment” you :) when I find out the results of my mammogram.

Until then, please just know that you have certainly inspired me. :)

Take care,


P.S. Isn't Maria's blog wonderful? I love her writing, her sensitivity, and her sense of humor so much. :)

heartinsanfrancisco said...


It took me a long time to give myself permission to find enjoyment in my life, and to realize that it is not disloyal to Flip. We all need to stay aware that we can't put life on hold and resume it later; it's ticking away no matter how we spend it.

Miss Hp,

I do care because you are my new friend and I expect you to report that it was a benign cyst. I've had many of them and it's always terrifying because my mother and grandmother both had breast cancer. I do not expect to get it, though.

Congratulations on adopting a healthier lifestyle after your husband's bypass. That will help in countless ways. Hopefully your mammogram will be the worst part of all this and things can soon return to normal for you.

I agree with everything you've said about Maria's blog. She is a wonderful writer and I always look forward to her posts.

comfortandjoy said...

Always you amaze me.

love, CJ

Miss Healthypants said...

Hi Miss Heart in San Francisco,

Today, I received the best news ever - I’m cancer-free! Hooray! (It's just a harmless cyst.)

Thank God! I’m going to party this weekend! :)

And THANK YOU for your words of encouragement and inspiration!! :)

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Where have you been? I miss you, girl. Hope all is well.

Miss Hp,

Yayyyy! I'm so happy to hear this. (I told you so. Sorry, couldn't resist.) Party on, dude!

comfortandjoy said...


Been kind of silent. I'm back.

I missed you too.


comfortandjoy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
heartinsanfrancisco said...


Sending love to you.

Miss Healthypants said...

Thanks, Miss HISF! :)

Imaginer said...

Your last three sentences some up how I feel about life at this point in mine :) I can't even imagine what you've gone through with your husband, but I have had some experiences that have taught me to love where I'm at and the beauty around me. That happiness does come from within. That I can put myself out there ... like in writing a comment to you here. So glad I landed here. Thanks for sharing such beautiful thoughts :)

Anonymous said...

Beautiful as ever Hearts, always thinking of you guys, always sending those positive vibes through the universe.

Lex said...

"...even though I can't control most things, life works out as it should. For each of us. "

You are a sage.

Maria said...

When I was in med school, there was a janitor in our hospital. He always looked so peaceful and happy. When I would come in or leave, I would often find him wiping down the glass doors to the building. Once, when I was dead tired, I asked him how he maintained such a peaceful, happy demeanor. He said he "stayed in the moment always", that if he was wiping down glass, he noted how beautiful it looked when he was finished, if he was eating the dinner that his wife prepared, he noticed the hard work and love that went into it.

This guy had a grade school education. And he was already ten times smarter than I was.

Ian Lidster said...

Lovely ode to joy, Susan. You will be triumphant with the resolve you have. I have been on a similar quest lately, realizing it's all about choice. It's not an easy process but it is what I want, too.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Miss Hp,

I'm so very glad you're well. Let's keep it that way, okay?


I'm glad you landed here, too. It's humbling to realize how little we can control what happens around us, but we CAN decide how to respond to it. I wish I had realized that years (and millions of complaints) earlier.


It's been way too long again. I hope all is well with you and would love to catch up soon. xxx


Hardly. But thank you for your faith in me, as always. It's quite mutual, as you know.


I think your janitor was a zen master, even without credentials. We can all learn from such beautifully grounded people.


Cheering you on from here!

Jocely said...

This is perhaps my favorite post of yours, ever. It's matter-of-fact yet profound; level but casting; honest and unapologetic. What you are achieving now is what I wished for my husband's grandparents--they, of a generation who thought love meant "duty to the point of sublimating one's own rights to joy." I so wished for them a release...for Byron's grandpa to understand that we all knew he still loved his wife, but we still wanted him to go out skiing...since he COULD.

Keep skiing, love, every day, in every way.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


It hasn't been easy to get to this point because I was raised by the generation(s) that believed in sacrificing oneself at every opportunity as a part of being female. There is so little I can control despite my best efforts and intentions, so I just do the best I can and sing a lot in my car.

e said...

You are so right...I read this twice and it brought a tear to my eye.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Awwwww. Thank you!

CiCi said...

Very well said. You express yourself well, as I have mentioned to you previously. This post speaks from your heart and is also the way many of us believe and live ourselves.

jane (spindrift and dreams) said...

It has been a while since I checked in here. So sorry about Flip's illness progressing to the point he is no longer with you. But your strength shines through your words.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


We all do the best we can. I'm sure of it.


So very nice to hear from you again! I hope all is well with you and your family.

Brown said...

So beautifully stated Susan. Your eloquent phrasing always puts me in a front row seat to your open-mic night...your poetic words of heartfelt wisdom melodically piercing through the smokey haze of angst, confusion, ego, and struggle...settling softly upon my mind's center, and my heart's consciousness.

I smile at your reference to Aida dying in the arms of Ramades as the final stone is place over his tomb. I smile in the juxtaposition of your revelation, and my desire to find someone I love so dearly, that I would hide in their tomb to share the same fate.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


You are so very kind! I think piercing the haze of emotions you describe is simply the life force asserting itself. How very wonderful to realize that I still have some.

Yes, it's a great gift to love someone enough to die with him or her, but so much greater, even, to LIVE joyously together. I hope you find that person soon.

neora chana said...

This is good to read; there is something very essentially Jewish about this. Hassidism has a tradition that one should be able to find beauty and joy at the saddest of moments. I am glad you are finding this balance in your life.

Jocelyn said...

You move me so much. I'm well in love with you myself, dearheart.

We watched Byron's grandfather turn his last years over to devoted caretaking of his ailing grandmother--and while we weren't so callous as to miss the beauty of that act, of all those small acts of care--Byron and I also turned to each other and said, out loud, firmly, "Please, if and when I am unable to care for myself, and you are still hale and hearty, just find some nice people to watch over me, and you go live life as fully as you are able. Come visit sometimes, but, mostly, go skiing. Grill a steak. Join a book club."

heartinsanfrancisco said...


What a beautiful tradition that is! I know little about Hasidism, but have always heard that it cultivates joy and cannot think of a better way to worship life.

Thank you for coming back. I've missed you.


Your encouragement and affection always nourish me. Please send skis. Thank you!

Barb said...

Coming late to this post which rings so true to me. Finding joy and beauty even through turmoil and loss is certainly not easy. I believe you are a person who can seek the good when there is an abundance of bad. Good Luck to you.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Thank you so much! I believe we can choose to see life's beauty or to focus on its pain. Since what we put our attention to grows, that seems like the wiser course.