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Learning Lessons of Love

Tara Weaver is curious to know what the best lesson I learned about myself in the past year is, and how I will continue to apply it going forward.

This year I discovered my previously dormant talent in catching mostly-extinct-rather-rare-and-horribly-inconvenient tropical diseases. I excel in the fevers: dengue, malaria, a bit of yellow and typhoid in there. I do not, however, discriminate against parasites, stomach worms, or broken bones either.

I also learned, from ex-combatants and ex-pats worldwide alike, that people accomplish beauty when someone lights a fire under them, or when they carry a fire within them: a fire to learn, to give and to grow.

I learn about myself through others and through all they can teach me by their own example. The greatest lessons of the past year did not lie in conflict management ‘best practices’ or tips on what to do when a Middle Eastern border guard asks for your thoughts on marriage (though, if you are curious, this year schooled me in both).

This year, I learned that I am as much of an idealist as the “save-the-worlders” at whom I sometimes roll my eyes while doing field work. I learned that I am, and wish to remain, an Eternal Optimist. And most of all, I unlearned two lessons from my childhood and college years that may have been holding me back: I let go of the notion that happiness is not a useful guide for making decisions and found it to be certainly as useful a criterion as its step-cousins ‘Accomplishment’, ‘Ambition’, and ‘Obligation’. And I let go of some skepticism and guardedness about love. I no longer roll my eyes at affection; I seek it, dole it out, revel in it.

I am lighter, happier, and more loving for it. And I am most thankful to those who have been teaching me these lessons over the years, with patience and with full, open hearts.

All photographs are my own, apart from the final image,
which is courtesy of the lovely and talented Dani
at http://www.danielatrujillo.com/


  1. How utterly touching and simply beautiful. I felt a twitching in my own heartstrings when viewing these captured moments.

    I’m a sucker for old-fashioned romance and the sweet little things that mean so very much. In 2009 I was reminded that it still exists and in 2010, on how it can turn into a meaningful friendship.

    I found your post through Kirsten Alana’s tweet.

    Cheers to love in its many forms!

  2. WOW! 2009/10 for me was about loss of love [my divorce] and yet gaining back self love [no choice really if to ever move on]…

    Out of all that, I really believe I have somehow discovered the same thing as you, “I learned that I am, and wish to remain, an Eternal Optimist.”

    I hope I never lose that, and learn to love freely, even though it can bring hurt.

    Really loved these photos and your words.

  3. Dear Roxanne,
    Your photos are simply breathtaking. You are such a loving person. I can sense the love in your heart while taking them. They speak a thousand words and more. Thank you. I am so grateful for the connection.

    “I no longer roll my eyes at affection; I seek it, dole it out, revel in it.”

    Brava! Love,

  4. Every time I read one of your posts I fall more and more in love with your blog. Your words and pictures are just beautiful. Thank you for sharing!

  5. @Miss Allen: Feeling much better finally, thank you!

    @Jess: Thank you for the Yeats quote; I absolutely loved it.

    @Manifeisty: I am glad. Here’s to exploring more kinds of love, photographically and otherwise…

  6. The photographs are stunning!

    I love what you said about people accomplishing beauty when a fire is lit within them…I’m a teacher, and one of my all time favorite education quotes is by William Yeats: “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting a fire.”

    Happy writing!

  7. It’s very late here and you’re the last stop I’m going to make before going to bed. I had a sense that reading your words would be a great way to end the day, and I was right.

    The way you pay attention is a light in the world. I am glad you’re out in it, documenting it and doing your own brand of good.

  8. Hi Roxanne. I am so glad to have found your blog. Your photographs are beautiful. And you are doing much good work in the world. Finding love in the world. Not so hard to do when you really look.

  9. Ioanna mou, sending those wishes right back at you! And Svasti, looking forward to continuing the exploration of the spirited gypsy wanderer commonalities!

  10. I cannot imagine anything better than putting Love and Happiness first. I really hope the years to come will be full of both.

    And, once again, stunning, stunning pictures.

  11. Hi Roxanne, thanks for dropping by my blog! I’m glad you did, and gladder to make your acquaintance. I think we have much in common as spirited gypsy wanderers! Love your words and beautiful photos xo

  12. @Allie: I wouldn’t be half the Eternal Optimist without all these wonderful people propping me up and cheering me on.

    @Kyle: You are one to talk! I have seen your photos and they are absolutely dreamy. They transport me every time.

    @MichelleB: Have I told you that I miss you lately? You and Jay bring a smile to my face.

    @HoneyB: I know what that feels like… The past two years have been a positive shift for me in that department and they have been joy-filled.

  13. Wow – amazing photos! It’s been awhile since I believed in romantic love. These pix made me smile, as well. Thank you!


  14. Wow–these photos are amazing!

    I think we all are better off when we realize how much others can teach us. And bravo for realizing that you are an Eternal Optimist. What an excellent quality to have!

  15. This comment lifted me up. I have carried that quote in my heart since I first read the book – in Greek translation – when I was 14 years old. I purchased the Spanish original at the Usaquen flea market and read it in one breath too. Thank you for infusing the beauty of Marquez, and your own story, into my day.

  16. My sweet Roxanne! Thank you for sharing your experience with us. I have to say that for some time ago I did not enjoy to read such a beautiful testimony, and that it had so much of my own thoughts. You just remind me of something I wanted to forget because of a sad love story of mine. Love must persevere and hope of love should never die. In the name of love I would like to share a quote from my favorite book (Love in the Time of Cholera”..
    “Florentino Ariza: Please allow me to wipe the slate clean. Age has no reality except in the physical world. The essence of a human being is resistant to the passage of time. Our inner lives are eternal, which is to say that our spirits remain as youthful and vigorous as when we were in full bloom. Think of love as a state of grace, not the means to anything, but the alpha and omega. An end in itself. “

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