a letter, from father to son


In New York on November 10, 1958, John Steinbeck wrote this letter to his son, Thom, who had fallen in love with a girl named Susan while at boarding school. Steinbeck’s words of wisdom — tender, optimistic, timeless, infinitely sagacious — should be etched onto the heart and mind of every living, breathing human being.

The letter below is precious in many ways but this is what stands out for me: Nothing good gets away. Read it again. Nothing good gets away. Therefore, what is truly yours, can never be lost. Hold on to that when you struggle to hold on. Instead just believe and let go.

Here is the letter from father to son:

Dear Thom:

We had your letter this morning. I will answer it from my point of view and of course Elaine will from hers.

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.

You say this is not puppy love. If you feel so deeply — of course it isn’t puppy love.

But I don’t think you were asking me what you feel. You know better than anyone. What you wanted me to help you with is what to do about it — and that I can tell you.

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.

If you love someone — there is no possible harm in saying so — only you must remember that some people are very shy and sometimes the saying must take that shyness into consideration.

Girls have a way of knowing or feeling what you feel, but they usually like to hear it also.

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.

Lastly, I know your feeling because I have it and I’m glad you have it.

We will be glad to meet Susan. She will be very welcome. But Elaine will make all such arrangements because that is her province and she will be very glad to. She knows about love too and maybe she can give you more help than I can.

And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens — The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.



a life once lived

Once upon a time, a long, long, while ago, there lived a woman, who appeared (to herself at least), to know what she wanted to do and be.

She was sure to an extent and secure in the knowledge of the road she was on; the course she was pursuing and the many clinical placements she found herself juggling along-side a full time job. It was all worth it, she thought.  It was all going to be so good, so worth the sacrifices. And besides, it was good to be kept busy, to BE busy.  To be occupied all the time.

It made her feel like she was living a ‘useful’ life and that perhaps life did have some meaning after all.

And so this pursuit of clinical work, clients, psychotherapy in hospitals and prisons went on for five years.  FIVE years.  Even on Saturdays.  What was this woman thinking?? What she doing to herself?  Oh yes, finding meaning. Doing her bit for others.  ‘Helping’ others help themselves.  So this woman listened to stories, to so many stories.

Stories that were never simple nor straight-forward. Stories that others chose to share with her; the funny and the sad; the simple and the intricate; stories that have been filled with light and stories that have been blacker than the darkest night. And in the listening she had her beliefs, prejudices and clichés stretched and challenged. She struggled to let them go; to dissolve, to melt, to reshape. It is easier to stay with what one knows after all.

This woman is me.  She is still me.  And she lives on, today.

But the person I am today is some one who does not know where the road is leading.  The person I am today is very different from the woman who thought she knew.

And I think I have come to accept (through much fighting and struggling) that it is OK not to know.

That life is very rarely level-headed or clear.

And plans never seem to work anyway.

So it’s OK not to have one, I think?

Sometimes nothing is clear.

I have had to let go of this need that things ‘should’ make sense for they don’t, not always at least.

Sometimes never.

Sometimes there is no meaning to why things happen the way they do.

So here I am today, at this precise point in my life in place of unknown, of uncertainty.  I know this place very well now.  The fog has become familiar.

Yet, I long for the day when the fog lifts, if only a little, to show me what’s on the other side, so that I see clearly again and am able to do what it is I need to do with my life.

I wish you all much Light, amidst the fog and darkness.

candle light

Be kind to yourselves.