The Prayer of the Tortoise
by Carmen Bernos de Gasztold
translated from French to English by Rumer Godden
Un peu de patience,
A little patience,
I am coming.
One must take nature as she is!
It was not I who made her!
I do not mean to criticize
this house on my back —
it has its points—
but You must admit, Lord,
it is heavy to carry!
let us hope that this double enclosure,
my shell and my heart,
will never be quite shut to You.
“You can make anything by writing.” – C.S. Lewis
The quieter you become, the more you can hear and the more you can heal…
” In ‘The Gifts of Imperfection’ I share the definition of love that I developed based on my data. Here it is:
‘We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness, and affection. Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves. Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed, and rare.’
Developing this definition was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Professionally, it just seemed arrogant to try to define something as big and important as love. It felt like an endeavor best left to the poets and artists. My motivation was not to “nail it”, but to start a conversation about what we need and want from love. I don’t care if I’m wrong, but let’s talk about love. Let’s have some conversations about the experience that gives meaning to our lives.
Personally, I fought the data with everything I have. Over and over, I heard the idea of self-love as a prerequisite to loving others, and I hated it. Sometimes it’s so much easier to love Steve and the kids than it is to love myself. It’s so much easier to accept their quirks and eccentricities than it is to practice self-love around what I see as my deep flaws. But in practicing self-love over the past couple of years, I can say that it has immeasurably deepened my relationships with the people I love. It’s given me the courage to show up and be vulnerable in new ways, and that’s what love is all about.
As we think about shame and love, the most pressing question is this: Are we practicing love? Yes, most of us are really good at professing it – sometimes ten times a day. But are we walking the talk? Are we being our most vulnerable selves? Are we showing trust, kindness, affection, and respect to our partners, to our “small groups”? It’s not the lack of professing that gets us in trouble in our relationships; it’s failing to practice love that leads to hurt.”- Brenne Brown, in her book “Daring Greatly”
and when I spotted the photo on my external portable hard drive just now, it reminded me of one of our situations with the children’s outreach. In the program are two siblings, G. and F., aged 9 and 6, with a baby brother, 17 months old, named A. Our outreach is only able to take kids ages 3 through 18, and not even all those within that age category who want to come!
Well, an exception was made, and for a few weeks, we had the 17 month old, only on Mondays, as well, and had even gone out and bought a crib for him and for some of our other, younger children who fall on the floor or tables in the early afternoons, overcome by sleepiness, because their moms don’t make them go to bed at night.
Baby A. had come to us, for Mondays, because a neighbor had called our outreach in the middle of a Monday morning, saying there was a 17 month old baby boy crawling around in the middle of the busy public street and could our outreach please do something to help! My friend rushed right over there, a distance of only 3 blocks or so, and recognized the baby and brought him to the outreach.