When you know you’ve got a best friend. That look.
I have, for many years, had a great admiration for the Nobel Prize-winning physicist, Richard Feynman. A hero of mine, if you like (and even if you don’t). Thinking I couldn’t care for him more, reading this text of a letter he wrote to his dead, first, wife in October 1946, 488 days after she died of tuberculosis, disproved me.
I adore you, sweetheart.
I know how much you like to hear that — but I don’t only write it because you like it — I write it because it makes me warm all over inside to write it to you.
It is such a terribly long time since I last wrote to you — almost two years but I know you’ll excuse me because you understand how I am, stubborn and realistic; and I thought there was no sense to writing.
But now I know my darling wife that it is right to do what I have delayed in doing, and that I have done so much in the past. I want to tell you I love you. I want to love you. I always will love you.
I find it hard to understand in my mind what it means to love you after you are dead — but I still want to comfort and take care of you — and I want you to love me and care for me. I want to have problems to discuss with you — I want to do little projects with you. I never thought until just now that we can do that. What should we do. We started to learn to make clothes together — or learn Chinese — or getting a movie projector. Can’t I do something now? No. I am alone without you and you were the “idea-woman” and general instigator of all our wild adventures.
When you were sick you worried because you could not give me something that you wanted to and thought I needed. You needn’t have worried. Just as I told you then there was no real need because I loved you in so many ways so much. And now it is clearly even more true — you can give me nothing now yet I love you so that you stand in my way of loving anyone else — but I want you to stand there. You, dead, are so much better than anyone else alive.
I know you will assure me that I am foolish and that you want me to have full happiness and don’t want to be in my way. I’ll bet you are surprised that I don’t even have a girlfriend (except you, sweetheart) after two years. But you can’t help it, darling, nor can I — I don’t understand it, for I have met many girls and very nice ones and I don’t want to remain alone — but in two or three meetings they all seem ashes. You only are left to me. You are real.
My darling wife, I do adore you.
I love my wife. My wife is dead.
PS Please excuse my not mailing this — but I don’t know your new address.’
Today would have been his 100th birthday, this letter shows the man. His awards and academic recognition show the scientist. I’ve always been a little in love with the person. A true magician.
(Taken from the book ‘Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman’, James Gleick (1993).)
Silently and quickly,
he stood up,
removed my sunglasses and smiled at my eyes.
‘That’s better’, he said.
And he sat down.
The companionable silence resumed.
We stared out to sea once more,
from time to time glancing at each other
– almost coyly.
Because we knew.
There will never be a last time.
Late last year, I had cause to stop and take stock of friendships. I jotted down these notes in a moment of clarity to help me focus on when to hold on and when to let go. It was a useful reminder in funky times. Now, I’m sharing…
Friendship: Notes to Self.
Good ones are there for you and you them. Suspend disbelief, it’s often not those you expect who step up.
Friendship can only be based on what people are, not on what you want them to be.
Do not use friends to plug a gap in your life.
Online friendships can be supportive without needing to move off-screen.
Do not base friendship on one you made earlier. Jack is not just like John used to be. No, he isn’t. You aren’t who you used to be either, and if you knew where the hell John was now, you’d find he’d changed, too.
Manage your expectations and let others manage theirs.
You cannot live solely for the approval of others.
Never say never when starting a friendship, but do say never again when calling it.
It’s ok to forgive, it’s not ok to forget.
True love changes with you, it doesn’t end, don’t confuse the two.
Fear of rejection can only drive you deeper into relationships you don’t need.
Let go before a friendship’s bled right out. Walk away, don’t look back.
Clinging helps no-one. Ever. Even Cinderella almost overstayed her welcome.
Accept that you’re only human and afford others that courtesy, too.
Laughing is good. Laughing with someone else until you get cramps and can’t see through the tears is even better.
Hold onto your self-esteem.
‘Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes; for those who love with heart and soul there is no separation.’ Rumi (1207 – 1273)
Late 1958, John Steinbeck’s son, Thom, wrote to his parents from boarding school telling them he had fallen in love. These extracts are taken from his father’s reply, sent from New York on 10 November 1958.
First — if you are in love — that’s a good thing — that’s about the best thing that can happen to anyone. Don’t let anyone make it small or light to you.
Second — There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you — of kindness and consideration and respect — not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn’t know you had…
Glory in it for one thing and be very glad and grateful for it.
The object of love is the best and most beautiful. Try to live up to it…
It sometimes happens that what you feel is not returned for one reason or another — but that does not make your feeling less valuable and good…
If it is right, it happens — The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.
Steinbeck: A Life in Letters, edited by Elaine Steinbeck and Robert Wallsten
‘Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer.’ ‘Howard’s End’ ch. 22. E.M. Forster (Yes, another quote from my favourite of Forster’s novels).