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30 and Learning…

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Relationships

On Singularity and Love

Is possible to be in love with two people at the same time?

I like observing people. It is what feeds my thoughts, and consequently, a lot of my writing. Seeing people handle situations in their respective lives gives me a chance to analyze human behavior. By no means do I think that I’m an expert, I’m not even playing in that ballpark. I am not trying to decipher the complexity of being human. But in a way, this constant analysis of vicariously experienced situations gives me a chance to reflect upon my own character and understand myself and my belief-system better.

Not too long ago I made a mention of a friend who is in love with two people, at least that’s what he claims. His situation has always made me wonder if that’s really possible. He’s been in love with two people for a while. Then a time came when he had to choose, and so he did. So now he’s in a committed relationship with one of the two people. But he still thinks about the other person. So the obvious question that comes to mind – who does he really miss when neither of these people are around? As I had written in my earlier post, I don’t think that really matters. He simply misses company and having either one of these people would make him equally content, equally secure.

I have often wondered if he actually loves either one of these people. To me it seems like he loves neither, because none of his feelings are all consuming, like love should be. If he loves his current committed partner, he shouldn’t think about the other person. Having this person to hold and cherish should be enough. It is a choice he made willingly and freely. By contrast, if he loves the other person, he should not be able to have a meaningful relationship with the former. That is not the case either. From what I can tell, he has a wholesome, healthy relationship with his partner. For lack of a better word, I think he might be a coward. He does not want to be the one to end his current relationship, but he also wants to have a safety net in case it ends of its own accord.

I read something as a child, in the book Notes to Myself, “we are not responsible for our feelings but for what we do with them”. Powerful words. Back then I simply highlighted them not knowing that one day they would mean a whole lot more to me than what they did at that young age. In the recent years these words have been like gospel to me. I don’t believe in judging people for their thoughts and emotions. It’s the most natural thing, and something that sets us apart from other living creatures. Animals have emotions too, but they are stimulus based, and go away with the stimulus. My puppy sees me and becomes happy; he is sad when he sees me leave. Then he gets busy playing. I don’t think he can suddenly become dejected in the middle of his playtime thinking about me. But people can. Thoughts can spring up without any triggers or stimuli.

So when I say that my friend shouldn’t have thoughts about the other person, I’m not blaming him for these thoughts. In fact, I partly commend him for how he handles these thoughts – he pushes them aside and focuses on the life in front of him. The other part I reserve because I don’t think ignoring something is the best way to deal with it. But let’s shelve that for later. More importantly, I see thoughts like these as a sign of some underlying, deep-seated issue that’s begging to be addressed. Do these thoughts mean that there’s something missing in his current relationship? Perhaps.

The thing with this friend is that he is extremely afraid of being alone. It’s not something he has said to me but it’s something I have come to observe in him. He becomes a different person when he is alone. I think that like most people, he also believed that if he did not have a steady relationship by the time he was 30, he would end up alone for the rest of his life. It reminds me of the post I wrote when I turned 30, and the burdens of 20’s that one shouldn’t carry into their 30’s. This friend is turning 30 this year and I strongly believe that he is entering his 30’s with a wrong relationship simply because he is too terrified of being alone. He settled for the first person he met who he thought could be the one. Then he convinced himself that it was the right thing although I could sense a lot of doubt in him. Not too long after that he met someone else who started seeming better. And now he thinks he loves this other person too. He doesn’t want to hurt anyone, probably also out of fear of being left alone by those he hurts. So he continues telling himself that he loves both these people.

To confirm my earlier doubt, he is, in fact, not in love with either of these people. That is not to say that he doesn’t love them. He may very well love them both platonically, but I’m only exploring the romantic love here. He is physically present with his partner but emotionally, he is frequently absent. One day he might find the courage to admit that he made a wrong decision choosing his current relationship out of fear instead of love. He might do himself and his partner the favor of being honest, and might walk out (knowing him, he’d hope that his partner walks out on him instead). He might find some more courage to explore life on his own until he truly meets “the one and ONLY”. Or after being honest, he and his partner may decide to give things a try, starting anew with open communication this time.

What about the other person? In a way the other person is a casualty of his battle with his fears, if the fears win that is. In another way, this person may be the one who finally helps my friend face the reality and defeat his fears. His thoughts about this other person, that he mistakes for love, are no more than an escape and a sign that something needs to be fixed in his current relationship, and life in general. He would never actually be with this other person because his thoughts lack the power to move him. As much as he thinks about this other person, he would never find it convenient to openly, and unabashedly, admit that that is the person he loves, which is the exact opposite of what love is. And thereby any claims that these thoughts may have of being love stand self-destructed.

I maintain what I’ve always said about love and being in love. Love is a powerful emotion that can overpower everything. Being in love is about togetherness. Staying within the bounds of what’s normal, no one can want to be with more than one person at a time. You only want to hold one person’s hand, only want one person to kiss, only want to fall sleep and wake up next to one person. In my friend’s case, this ONE unique person is as yet nameless and faceless; all he has are options, one better than the other depending on the circumstances on any given day, and he can do the above things with either one of them, or anyone else for that matter should a suitable option present itself.

Distance

45394162-AF85-4765-8A42-4BFA05D3B101Out of sight, out of mind… or distance makes fonder… which is it?

It’s not a simple question. It’s also not as black and white as that. These are, in fact, two ends of a spectrum. We meet many people during our lifetime and everyone falls somewhere in between, with very few, if at all, hitting the “fonder” end of the spectrum.

Considering the large number of people we encounter, I’d say most people remain close to the “out of sight” end. These are the people we don’t make any soul connections with. We either interact with them briefly, or even if it is for an extended time, the interaction only remains superficial and purely transactional. We never get to see who they really are. They don’t get to see who we really are. There are no emotional bonds, and we never find ourselves simply thinking about them for no reason.

Then there are those who touch our souls to varying extent. There are friends with whom we share a part of our lives. They may or may not understand us fully, but they know us better than most. These people may be out of our sight but they are never entirely out of the mind. We think about them on special occasions, or sometimes just like that while reminiscing. Sometimes certain things remind us of them. Once we’ve exposed our soul to someone, even in part, that person can never be out of the mind regardless of how seldom we see them.

There’s a handful of people who carry a part of us, like family. No matter where we go, we don’t stop thinking about them. It’s not an active process of thinking but something that happens on a subconscious level. I may not speak to my family for days, but not a day goes by when I don’t think about them. It’s not missing, it’s not reminiscing. It’s more like them crossing my mind multiple times in a day for no reason and without any specific emotion involved. Soulmates fall in this category too. Soulmates don’t always have to be romantic partners. These are people we feel instant connection with. These are people we can open up to without any hesitation. It’s almost as if they already know us. It doesn’t matter how much or how little time we spend with them, these bonds develop almost instantly. Our soul never forgets these people even if we were to never see them again.

So “out of sight, out of mind” doesn’t apply to everyone we meet. But just because these people are on our mind, occasionally or constantly, does the distance between us make us any fonder? Perhaps not.

Distances can be of different types. There are physical distances, and of these physical distances there are those that can be overcome and those that cannot be overcome. Some of my closest friends are oceans apart. My family lives in a different state. These are distances I can overcome if I really want to, and maybe that’s why these distances don’t make me any fonder of these people than I already am. My love for them remains unchanged. They are my soul connections. 

But there are distances that cannot be overcome, like those that come with passing away. I have lost two people in the last year who were very dear to me – my grandma, and a nameless lover; and I can never bring these people back. I do, however, think about them everyday. I think about my grandma every morning when I’m making my smoothie, because I use the blender that once belonged to her. I have other things in my household that were hers and are a constant reminder to me. I think about her every time I’m making roti because she’s the one who taught me how to make one, and I have such precious memories of that time. I think about my lost love everyday too. The insurmountable distance has made me fonder of the memories I have of these people, but not necessarily of the people themselves. I have accepted that they are gone and I don’t wish for them to come back. In parting, all I remember about them are good things and the good times we shared.

There’s another kind of distance that is not as tangible. It is the emotional distance, and it has no correlation with the physical distance between two people. Sometimes people grow apart living under the same roof. Sometimes people feel close when they are away but when they come together, they realize that they can only love each other from a distance. Other times, people move so far away that they can no longer relate to each other.

I have a very close friend who moved away few months ago. This friend and I are very different and yet very similar. While this friend was around, our similarities overpowered our differences, and we always had great conversations. Since he has moved away though, our differences are slowly overpowering our similarities. He is finally living the life he always dreamed of, which is nothing like the life I dream of. He likes everything fancy and I like everything simple. The last time I spoke to him, I couldn’t relate to anything he said, and suddenly I realized that we are no longer “close” the way we used to be. In fact, I almost did not want to talk to him. 

The emotional distance, then, actually has the exact opposite effect. It can make people less fond of each other, over time killing the fondness entirely.

To conclude, our fondness or love for someone is a complex phenomenon, with distance only playing a small role in it. Out of sight doesn’t always mean out of mind, and distance rarely makes the heart fonder of people… of memories, yes.

 

Compromise

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The process of writing works in two ways for me. Either I have a restless mind, and I need to write to sort through my thoughts and make sense of them. Or I get engaged in conversations, or have experiences or encounters, that make me think and then I feel the need to document these thoughts, in case they might resonate with someone else. Few of my recent posts have been of the former kind – attempts to ease a restless mind. This post today has been a work-in-progress in my mind since last Sunday.

Last Sunday I was talking to a friend who has been dealing with marital issues for number of years now. During the conversation, this friend said something that stuck with me. My friend said, “two years ago I felt like I had wasted so many years of my life trying to make things work. Today, I feel like I have wasted so many plus two years of my life. If I don’t gather the strength to walk away now, 5/10/15 years later I would simply look back and say, I wasted so many plus 5/10/15 years of my life. And for what? For other people”.

It was a very profound speech. It made me think about how hypocritical, perhaps even sadistic, we are as a society. When it comes to material things we are vying for self-fulfillment. I want a high-paying job, I want a big house, I want the most expensive car my money can buy. We amass wealth but don’t care to help someone in genuine need. We put ourselves and our desires first. But when it comes to things that truly matter, like something as simple as happiness, we preach self-sacrifice. “Compromise” is one word I despise more than anything else, and the statement “every relationship involves compromise” is the biggest lie that has been handed down generation after generation.

The way I see it, a healthy relationship does not make you feel like you’re making a compromise. To the outside world it may appear so but you don’t see it that way. If you do something that you wouldn’t otherwise, simply to make the other person happy, and their happiness makes you happy, you don’t think of it as a compromise. It is how good relationships function. There is a healthy amount of give-and-take because no two people are the same. And people derive happiness from each other’s happiness. On the contrary, it is a compromise when the other person’s happiness does not make you happy. You do things out of a sense of duty or obligation, and that is when you console yourself with the banality of “every relationship involves compromise”. My opinion on this has always been very clear – the day you start feeling like you’re making a compromise, the end is not too far.

And yet people choose to keep making compromises, and keep sacrificing themselves, like my friend, simply for the sake of other people. “How will the other person feel”, “what will my family say”, “how will I face the world” – are some of the common questions people ask themselves but never once do they ask, “do I deserve to be unhappy for the rest of my life?”. We are programmed to feel like wanting happiness for ourselves, real happiness and not the material kind, is somehow wrong, somehow selfish. It saddens me to see just how many people go through life without ever realizing that they have a right to be happy.

Some people think I’m not a romantic because of my views when it comes to relationships. In my opinion, I am a hardcore romantic and that is the reason why I have these views. I will not settle for anything less than love, and I will not sacrifice myself for other people. I have been in love several times. There was a boyfriend of 5 years, a playboy, and recently, a lost love. But I was a different person each time because people are always changing and growing. I could’ve been happy with any one of them, back then. I am not the same person today. So I will wait for the right person to show up. And when it is a love that’s meant to last, we will change and grow together, without making compromises.

So there are those who compromise, and those who don’t. But there’s also a third category of people, and the truly blessed ones I suppose if you believe ignorance is bliss. These are the people who are just too scared to be alone. They have never spent time with themselves and/or have no desire to do so. Although alone and lonely are two very different things, to this group of people they are more or less the same. Not having someone to hold and love makes them sad, hence being alone makes them lonely. They can lose themselves just to keep the other person from going away and leaving them behind. So compromise becomes a moot point because everything they do is to ensure that they don’t end up lonely. I was talking to someone else during the week who more or less falls in this group. He is going to be taking a trip soon but he did not sound excited about having to do it alone. So I suggested signing up for a guided tour where he could be part of a group. He responded saying that if the group is full of couples it will simply make him feel worse. The funny thing is that even right now, he is in love with two people as far as I can tell. But I can’t say if he’ll miss one or the other, or both, in such a situation. He’s the kind of person who loves holding hands while walking. On a date, he would sit next to the girl instead of across from her. But in all of this, it doesn’t matter who the girl is, as long as he has someone to love. He would still hold hands, still snuggle up beside her, and still love her the same way. Compromise, then, is non-existent in his world because happiness simply means being with someone, anyone.

Ultimately, it all comes down to one simple truth – we all deserve to be happy. We may have different ideas of happiness but it’s our right to seek that which makes us happy, and hold on to it should we find it!

Blank Space

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.come

No, it has nothing to do with Taylor Swift…

Some days I wake up feeling like I have been buried under a massive rock that I can’t seem to move. Even before any thoughts can start flowing through the mind, even before I am fully awake, just as I am opening my eyes for the first time in the morning, I get hit by an enormous wave of sadness that washes over me, drenches me to the bone. I don’t even get the chance to understand what made me sad and there I am, struggling to get out bed, feeling like I’m carrying the weight of the whole world upon my shoulders.

There are two kinds of sadness. There’s one that we impose upon ourselves. We miss something or someone and we keep thinking about them and everything we miss about them. We are actively engaged in the process of reminding ourselves of our loss. Or we want something badly, or we think we don’t have something that someone else has and we keep indulging in deliberate self pity over what we don’t have. That’s the kind of sadness that’s easily managed. We simply need to keep ourselves busy and involved in healthy activities. We need to shift the focus from what we don’t have to what we do and be thankful for it. And slowly but surely, all the sad thoughts are replaced with happy ones.

The other kind of sadness is more pernicious. It stays in the background, rearing its head only once in a while, but it never truly goes away. It keeps gnawing at you on the inside and you never truly know the reason for it. That’s the kind of sadness that I’m feeling right now. I’ve battled with depression before so I know how to nip it in the bud. I drag myself out of bed, no matter how burdened I feel; I spend time with the puppy; I eat healthy; I do all my chores; I go to work, stay busy… in fact, I’ve been welcoming extra work so I can stay busy for longer. I am doing everything right to stay happy and healthy. I also avoid doing anything that would bring on the first kind of sadness. And I must add here that despite the sadness I feel, I’m not sad. There is a certain emptiness, a void that just stays. I doubt this void will ever fill – it will perhaps become part of my existence. 

There are things I want to share, but only with one person. That person is in heaven now, with everything that he could ever want right there. There is no room for me in that perfect paradise. So since he’s not here, I share everything with this empty space. New people will come in my life. Some will stay, others will go, but this space will never get filled. It’s a sad but beautiful thought, and no matter how weak I wake up, this thought gives me the strength to power through the day. And then the next day, I wake up happy because everything I want is right here in my heart, including this blank space.

Relationships

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Relationships are funny business really…

Some relationships have significant labels and yet they mean nothing, and some have no name but they mean everything. I was in a no-name relationship recently, and it is the most beautiful thing I’ve experienced in a long time. We did not have time on our side or we might have given it a name. I might have told friends about it, I might have introduced him to my family – yes, it had the potential. But all of this is pointless because he is no longer in this world. I’ll never see him again, or feel his presence. I’ll never hear his voice or share a comfortable silence with him. He is gone, and yet he is always here.

One might imagine me being sad as I write this but I’m not. I’m actually at peace. I know he loved me, just as much if not more. And he still loves me wherever in this universe he is. I didn’t know that the last time I spoke to him would end up being our very last conversation or I would’ve told him how much I love him but I’m sure he knows that too. I suppose you can say that life was slightly unfair to us, but when has life been fair to anyone! I am simply thankful for what we had. And just because he’s gone doesn’t mean this relationship without a name is over for me. I never told anyone I was in a relationship before but now if someone asks, I simply say that I’m in a long distance relationship. I suppose I’m just trying to preserve his memory for as long as I can. The distance between us is something that no trains, planes or automobiles can cover but how does it matter? Distance is distance – I love him and he’s not here. No one needs to know that he’s gone forever. Sure, in time I’ll move on, find someone else to love but that wouldn’t change the fact that I loved him once upon a time, and if not for this distance, would’ve continued to love him for the rest of my life.

So that was the story of my relationship without a name. We never gave it a label and yet we loved as truly as two people possibly can.

Picture credit: Dearly departed

 

Realization

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This post has been in the making for a really long time now, since my grandmother’s death to be precise…

I started writing a post as I boarded the flight to head back home for her funeral. But that was lost. And ever since then I’ve been writing this in my head, and it has been evolving constantly. It’s as if my whole perception of this experience called life has changed ever since I bid her farewell. Everything I have been feeling since then somehow links back to the moment I saw her for the very last time, in the crematorium, her body being engulfed by flames that rapidly consumed every last fiber of an entire generation.

My grandma was the last surviving grandparent on both sides of my family. My mom’s parents passed away a long time ago. My dad’s dad, whom I was very close to, passed away over a decade ago. So for last several years, my grandma was the last standing pillar steadfastly supporting the weight of a generation, the “elders” as I call them. With her, that generation is gone. And as I sat in the hearse next to my dad and his brother, staring down at the body that was once my grandma, I realized that now my dad and uncle have become that generation, they are the elders. Consequently, I have become their former generation, the adult; I am no longer the kid in the family.

I was also the only grandchild present at my grandma’s funeral. My sister, and my uncle’s daughters, are all in the US. It was neither practical nor possible for them to travel all the way on such short notice. Before I delve deeper into my own thoughts and sentiments, I must make note of couple of things. Firstly, India is a predominantly patriarchal society so all rituals involve sons and grandsons. My family, however, going all the way back to my grandfather, never conformed to such traditions. Secondly, sons and grandsons set the funeral pyre alight as a symbolic adieu to the departed into the afterlife. In modern times cremation units have taken the place of a tradition pyre. Going back to my grandmom’s funeral, I did everything that a grandson would have. As I stood next to my dad and uncle, with tears in our eyes, hands gently resting on the handles of the gurney, gathering the strength to roll it into the cremation unit, I was overcome by the idea that I am more than an adult – I am the only adult who is around! In that moment I was more thankful than ever for the journey I’ve had over the last couple of years that led me back to India, and to that exact place and time where I could stand shoulder to shoulder with my dad and uncle, sharing this responsibility. There was another responsibility that dawned on me that day. Being the only grandchild there, assuming the role of a grandson, all of that also made me feel responsible for the future of my family’s name. There is a certain sense of narsissism associated with starting a family. I’ve always known that but it was never more evident than on that day when I felt the weight of this responsibility upon my shoulders – the responsibility to carry forth the legacy of my family’s name. Of course I have a sister and two cousins, but they are away. Their children will also be away. I am here, and I must keep this name going.

I was overwhelmed with all kinds of emotions over the next few days. As I spent many a evening with my parents and aunt and uncle, sticking together as a family, I started feeling a certain sense of sadness for them. They are now what my grandparents were. And yet, all they had was me. They were happy to have me around, they constantly kept saying it. But shouldn’t they have the joy of having a grandchild or two running around too? A generation had passed but where was the new one? I felt selfish, and yet helpless. I wished I had someone I could marry and have kids with. And the emptiness of my own life made me sadder still.

I was back in Goa after a week and change, and the sadness lingered. Then something strange happened. Someone I had known for only a little while asked me if I would marry him. I felt like jumping and saying yes! I didn’t. My fears were still bigger than my sadness, and this couldn’t have been love or my fears wouldn’t even exist in the first place. But the entire experience has left me thinking about what I want from life. Suddenly I want to get married, I want to have a family. Not for myself but for my parents. I want to make them happy. I want someone to take my family name. I am not ready to be a wife or a parent, but I’m ready to be an adult. It doesn’t even make sense, but that’s more or less my state of mind – it doesn’t make sense!

P

 

Love Will Find A Way

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Some days I want to be in love, other days I wonder if I’ll ever be ready for it again…

I’ve been having a lot of conversations about relationships lately. I think it’s because one of my friends is getting married and he keeps trying to convince me that I should start dating seriously too! But it’s been a while since I was in a serious relationship and honestly, I’m not sure if I miss it… or perhaps I don’t allow myself to miss it.

I’ve been in love several times before – with places and with people – and never has it worked out. I’m certainly not the first or the only person in this world who has gone through this pain but I’m one of those people who go on to build every barrier to never have to go through it again. While I can love easily, I’m not so sure if I’ll let myself fall in love just as easily.

I see the two things as being vastly different. The way I see love is that it is unconditional. I can love from a distance and remain detached. But being in love craves togetherness. Being in love comes with hopes and dreams that are founded on the notion of staying together. There is no detachment there. It can evolve into love but to get there requires time; and again, time spent together. I don’t know if I can want someone or something that way again.

I was in love with Buffalo. Leaving Buffalo has been one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. It tore me down, perhaps even killed a small part of me. I had built a beautiful life there that I thought would last forever. It didn’t but I’ll always love Buffalo because I got enough time there. Now I’m beginning to feel familiar emotions about Goa but I just can’t let myself fall in love. Because tomorrow if I have to leave, I don’t think I’d be able to cope with the disappointment. I’ll obviously live but I can’t imagine how long the road to recovery would be.

It is both the beauty and disenchantment of life that we move on. No matter how great the love may be, the resilience of human spirit is much greater. Loss of love cannot actually kill, the spirit endures and survives.

And yet, I refuse to fall in love, with another place… and with another human being. I have become a commitment phobe in a lot of ways. But it isn’t the commitment I fear, it is the possibility that it will not work out. Commitment, in fact, is my strength. I’m the artist-type, a romantic. When I fall, I fall hard. I give it my all. But even my all has never been enough. One might say that it’s because the other person didn’t give it his all. Possible. But what’s the guarantee that the next person I give my all to wouldn’t hold back on me like the others? That he will be just as much in love with me as I with him?

I’m not a pessimist. I like to believe that there’s love out there for me. But I’m trying to strike a delicate balance between realism and idealism. I’m not going to fall in love again until love twists my arm and forces me to. If there is indeed love out there for me, let it come and find me. Let it prove to me that it will last, that it will not leave me wounded this time. I’m going to let someone fall in love with me first before I allow myself to fall in love. I believe in destiny, so if being in love is my destiny then this isn’t a huge ask. Destiny has imposed several things on me, still does, let it impose love on me too!

P

 

 

About Last Night

So I have been challenged to write this post. Don’t see the challenge in it but here it goes…

I was hanging out with friends yesterday when we started talking about my blog. One of my friends, who actually has no recollection of it now, said, “Why aren’t we featured on your blog?! I challenge you to write about us and this evening!”. Lol.

I don’t think I need to get into the details of the evening, suffice to say that I had a great time. There were old friends and new friends. Actually, even the “old” friends are fairly new, just older in comparison to the new ones. And that makes me realize just how fortunate I am to keep finding people I can just be myself with.

I met my “old” new friends only a few months ago. But in these few months we’ve gone from being friends to best friends to brothers (yes, I’m a brother too). I don’t know how it happened so quickly but at no point did it feel unnatural. In fact, I feel like these friendships that I have found recently are the kind that stays with you for a lifetime. We are not going to be in Goa forever, but no matter where we go, we’ll always love each other.

I think the reason we got so close so quickly is that we are all romantics, idealists, some more than others, but it’s what holds us together. We all keep our guards up, again, each to a different extent. But we also let ourselves be vulnerable, intentionally or unintentionally, because we see the good in the world. And regardless of what we may say, we do wear our hearts on our sleeves; we’re transparent. We all have our share of hurt and insecurities that we carry but we don’t try to hide them. Maybe one of us made an attempt but he didn’t quite succeed – he’s not made that way! Really, we’re just open books, anyone can read us if they take the time to.

So when we had the chance to make new friends, we reached out with nothing but honesty. And we found honesty in return. It’s not easy making new friends as adults. Children are innocent, they don’t wear masks. So they make friends easily, and they take friendships seriously. That’s why the friends that we make during our childhood years are some of the closest friends we’ll ever have. The world of grown ups isn’t that simple. People pretend all the time. They hide behind masks and facades, they have hidden agendas and ulterior motives. It almost seems like a small miracle to me each time I meet someone who is not pretending to be someone they’re not or not trying to take advantage of someone.

Last night was a happy reinforcement that there’s enough good people in the world, and I am truly lucky that so many of them are part of my life!

Cheers to friendships – old and new 🙂

P

 

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