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By Samantha Reid
Back in the mid 90s, the world was introduced to Veronica Shoffstall’s poem via the Chicago Tribune. By 1999, columnist Ann Landers had listed it as one of her favorite published pieces, and for good reason.
There is so much love to be had in a life, and with the gain and loss of each new kind, we’re reminded that there is nothing that can replace our own. Even the people who promise to be with you forever can only stay for so long, and even the truest love isn’t supposed to give you unwavering security or a scapegoat into which you can avoid yourself and the life you want to lead.
“Plant your own garden,” as Veronica says, because “even sunshine burns if you get too much.” The point, of course, is that even the greatest love cannot eclipse your own:
After a while you learn the subtle difference
Between holding a hand and chaining a soul,
And you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning
And company doesn’t mean security.
And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts
And presents aren’t promises,
And you begin to accept your defeats
With your head up and your eyes open
With the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child,
And you learn to build all your roads on today
Because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans
And futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight.
After a while you learn…
That even sunshine burns if you get too much.
So you plant your garden and decorate your own soul,
Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.
And you learn that you really can endure
That you really are strong
And you really do have worth…
And you learn and learn…
With every good-bye you learn.
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