It’s said we leave our hearts in San Francisco, and Peter and I will certainly leave ours here. We’ve fallen in love with our new home city — not so new anymore, given we’ve lived here for more than seven years after moving from New York City.
But for this month’s Valentine column, I’d like to write about how we’ve learned to live and love here, in a very different way. Different from the rush and crush of the lives we led back East. Over the time we’ve lived here, many life events have tested our definition of what love can be.
We have dear friends who are going through a redefinition of what love means for them; we have a POTUS who tests our spirit of forgiveness and love every day of the year he has been in office; we’ve had mental and physical challenges that have tested our patience and optimism; we have family members reuniting after decades of silence and rancor. And the bottom line learned?
Forgiveness is all.
Forgiveness for being human, for being frail, for being vulnerable, for being needy. Looking to find ways to understand why a person, a loved one, (or a POTUS) behaves the way they behave is more important than judging them with the harshness of which we are capable. Forgiveness of oneself and others.
I propose this Valentine’s Day 2018 be one in which we forgive, as much as we desire; that we send healing vibes to all who suffer, while we send chocolates and flowers to the special romance in our lives. This month, let’s romance the world with forgiveness, if we can, and perhaps send chocolates and flowers on another day when they are most needed, some rainy day in the future. Let’s celebrate this month as a time when we condition our hearts for compassion, not just condition our bodies in fulfillment of new year’s resolutions.
My in-laws, the marvelous Pat and Chuck, sent a unique gift for our 14th anniversary: a photo of the classic Haight-Ashbury sign, but where the streets cross, it reads Yonka-Baron, and the photo is priceless. It sums up the love Peter and I feel for each other, while paying homage to this city.
It’s the perfect gift for Peter and me right now, as we intersect our lives, not only with each other, but with events surrounding us. The sign symbolizes our being joined, but also being our individual selves going in directions we need to go. My darling husband is a deal younger than I, and so his professional path is devoted to places and accomplishments I have been to and achieved. We are joined, and lovingly cognizant of the ways our lives must go, and as we share each day, I am grateful I can be here for Peter in a supportive way I may not have been able to be when I was younger.
In another corner of our world, some dear friends are totally reorganizing what their love looks like for each other, and as harrowing as that has been to witness, I am thrilled by the lessons I am learning about love and forgiveness. I am recognizing, because of one of those closest friends, the capacity to love someone for who they are and not by what they do. This is a huge lesson learned, because I have always been quick to judge rather than seek to understand and forgive. Forgiveness has always been a hard-won battle for me.
Let February 2018 be a time when we enjoy our capacity to forgive, as much as we enjoy each chocolate or rose.
But while we are on the subjects of hearts and forgiveness:
Did you know Haight Street was named for a woman who founded an orphanage for destitute children? Popular wisdom says it was named after a politician or banker, but I’ve recently learned it was actually named for the wife of one of them: Weltha Ann Buell Haight, spouse of Henry W. Haight, a prominent financial wizard. Starting in 1851, Weltha spent 53 years of her life helping grow the San Francisco Protestant Orphan Asylum, and in recognition of her generosity, the now-famous street was named for her. Ashbury Street, on the other hand, was named for your run-of-the mill member of the Board of Supervisors, Munroe Ashbury, who only served in that capacity for several years. One can only wonder what he did in that short time to have a street named for him, but we know for sure that Weltha Haight lived a life of service, love, and no doubt a lot of forgiveness, considering the wild days of San Francisco in the mid-19th century.
So here’s to February 2018, to Weltha, and to a forgiving kind of love.