Olympics of Life

Olympic flame

If we live long enough, we eventually get to test our strength. I call it the Olympics of life. It’s when you work, run or struggle as hard as you can for a period of time, and collapse when it’s over. I reached that moment today, after standing by my husband through his near-death experience in surgery and a rocky recovery. The past three weeks in the hospital were some of the most personally and physically taxing of my life. Yet I learned an invaluable lesson.

I used to think that love was something you did for a desired outcome. It was either given or received with an expectation. I thought I was giving unconditional love until I didn’t get the “thank you” I was hoping for, or I didn’t see the other person’s face light up. Then I felt bad, even resentful. But the three weeks in the hospital changed all of that.  My husband had no energy to say anything for a while, never mind smile. Yet, my love remained a laser beam.

My elder son helped me recognize that unconditional love is not about the outcome, but about the joy of giving simply because you love the other person unconditionally. This is not possible however, without balancing love of another with love of self. The need for self-care is in direct proportion to the amount of output. Now that we’re home safely, I’m exhausted and am going to turn in early.

As the Olympics are starting in Sochi, Russia, I am holding up my own torch. It comes with my new slogan:

Live Love.

What experience(s) have you had that tested your strength of love?

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13 Responses to Olympics of Life

  1. Elaine Naddaff says:

    Hi Eileen, Hurrah to all of your family for having “held each other up” with love, explanation and determination. It is interesting, when your grown child gives you an explanation about unconditional love. We are taught that children are loved unconditionally–“I will, always, love you my child.” I think that love of a spouse, partner, or “whatever the relationship” may be is more complicated, obviously. You should know that your care is appreciated, even if the words “Thank you” are not said.
    I loved watching the SOCHI skating and team skating competitions, but the Russians scare me, even though I loved my 19th c Russian Literature course in college. I kept on reading the great Russian authors the summer,after I took the two semester course. God, I understood
    “Anna Karenina” ! ANYHOW, be kind to yourself, as you continue to nurse and support Paul and the family. Make certain that you have lots of help all of the time.
    Kent and I and my two sons send our get well wishes to Paul and our warm “hellos” to all of you. Maybe, we will see your sons at a Princeton function, sometime?
    I have never been pushed to the limit, or had my love tested in the way you have. However, I remember that raising children was a challenge most of the time. I tried to speak my “peace” and wished I had sung it!! Day by day, step by step is my thought for you…

    • I appreciate your advice, Elaine, “day by day, step by step.” That’s exactly where I’m at right now, as is my husband. And he’s increasing his number of steps every day! Thank you once again for sharing your thoughts.

  2. imlastof11 says:

    Unconditional Love is a blessing when you realize that you have it. My family is still in the fight (4 months ) and I can’t wait for that day to relax. My sons hand is healing but the movement is questionable. Remember Love as a Verb not a noun .:-) Glad your recovery is at peace stay strong.

  3. Judith A.meyncke says:

    Welcome home! Thank you for sharing from your heart. Your words were very touching. You both made it through, by the Grace of God.

  4. Stephanie Masten Marcus says:

    Eileen, I had just sent you an email about your talk at the Library of Congress and then read the blog. I certainly hope Paul will make a speedy recovery,and I know his personal nurse will give him all the love he needs.

  5. Thank you Stephanie. I’m so glad to have found somebody at the Library of Congress that knows why I had to cancel my talk. I was terribly disappointed the first time, when the entire government shut down the night before my talk (!) and then again this time when my husband’s recovery had to take precedence. Thank you for your understanding. I hope that those who were organizing my talk will see my blog too, as I have not known who to call personally. I hope I might have a chance to reschedule once my paperback edition is out in August or September. Thanks for writing, fellow alum of Middlebury!

  6. Hello Eileen, I am glad to hear that Paul is at home finely. now I am wishing him fast and easy recovery, I love your blogs and your book which I am almost done (so many things going on) , I cried so many times as in your words I hear myself, or in encouragements you received I wish someone encouraged me too. very inspirational and very soulful . Thank you

    • Dear Maka, in what ways do you need encouragement? There’s so much I could say about the joy of meeting you in Florida. Your commitment to your family, your bravery in leaving your country, your beautiful jewelry, your openness and honesty. If you want to write me privately, just go to “contacts” in my website and write. Sorry I didn’t see this comment until now. I’ve been very busy traveling and giving book talks, as well as watching over Paul’s recovery. But I will always make time to give encouragement.

  7. Anita L. Royer says:

    Hello Eileen, Sending prayers and hugs to you and Paul, and hoping that the act of “living love” is alive and well today and every day during this recovery period. I so appreciate your open hearted approach to life, and it is so true that you the family caregiver needs a special sustenance during this time. Knowing that open hearts surround you is a blessing of all blessings!

    • Dear Anita,
      I only just saw this comment and I’m sorry to be so long in replying. You are part of the community of hearts that are blessings to all you touch. Thank you so much for coming to my book talk at Barnes & Noble. I look forward to seeing you at your event in April. Please write me a reminder of the date. I think it’s been erroneously moved.

  8. Thank you Maka. I’m so happy to hear you have found comfort in my words. We all need encouragement. May you find it wherever you look. Just make it an intention. Warmly, Eileen

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