In the charming little village located at the foot of the mountain that houses the monastery, all shops closed their doors at twelve noon on Saturdays, except restaurants, coffee-shops and pubs, meeting points for happy luncheons or friends’ get-togethers. The famous exception was the shop of Loureiro, the elegant shoemaker who loved books and wines. The shop’s hours of operation were irregular, unlikely. To find it open at any time of day or night was an authentic game of chance. On that Saturday afternoon, before heading back to the monastery, I took the chance of stopping by, for coffee and idle conversation. The shop was closed. As my ride was later on, in the evening, I went to a quiet tavern I knew he liked to patronize. I found him there, seated in a comfortable armchair, next to a coffee table on which there was a wine glass and a lamp that allowed him to read Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet with enviable tranquility. Almost at the same time I went over to greet him, another friend of his approached. This man had red, swollen eyes from much crying. He immediately started to talk, saying that the night before he was caught by surprise by the end of a romance which, even though it had not lasted long, had been intense. Loureiro, realizing the friend had not noticed me, introduced us. René, this was his name, was polite. The shoemaker asked us to grab chairs, so that we could sit close to him, as his tone of voice was always soft. He told René that, because I was there, they could talk about his predicament at another time, as my presence could embarrass him. The man said that there was no problem with me being there. He needed to vent, and listen to some words that could soothe his pain.
He then confided that over the past months arguments with the girlfriend had been stirred, and that the fights had become routine. He complained about the excessive dedication of the woman to her son, from a previous marriage, which much limited the time they had for themselves. As if this weren’t enough, every Wednesday she met with a group of friends, all women, to play cards. The shoemaker sipped his wine and pointed out: “It seems to me that her son and her friends were already part of her life when you met her.” The friend said he was right. Loureiro shrugged his shoulder and said: “Being a good mother and cultivating friendships are noble actions. I see no reason for your complaints.” He paused briefly and then asked: “Are you tormented by jealousy?” René vehemently denied that. Then, Loureiro asked: “Are you selfish in your relationships?” The friend explained that he only wanted to spend more time with his girlfriend.
The cobbler furrowed his brow, as he would do whenever his interlocutor seemed to have their own feelings mixed up, but said nothing about that. But he expanded his reasoning: “When you fell in love, for better or worse, that is the way she was. However, you wished to shape her habits so that they would suit your idea of a relationship.” The man claimed that when a person is committed to another, they have to accept changes that are inherent to a relationship. This is why they argued so much, but he had not expected that outcome for their relationship.
Loureiro shook his head in denial and said: “Wishing to change others is the most foolish mistake.” Then, he added: “Each one has power only over themselves, and has rights only over their choices.” He closed his eyes, as if seeking the best words, and continued: “Relationships are like bridges, they hardly collapse without their foundations presenting signs of wear. In general, it is us who, by denying the necessary renovation of our structures, pretend not to see the cracks. The bridge of relationships can be sturdy or feeble, depending on the pillars that we choose to support it.” René asked what would be the best pillar to support this bridge. The cobbler disclosed them: “Patience and respect.”
“Oftentimes, when an engagement, a marriage, parent-child relationship, a friendship or relations within a social group become very conflictual, one must be brutally sincere in making a self-assessment to ascertain that the eyes that have caused so much strife are not distorted by the lenses of selfishness and jealousy. In love relationships, particularly in the most intimate ones, we are wrongfully conditioned to believe we are the most important part in the life of the other. This is never true, at least in a healthy relationship. Each one is the core, more precious axis of their own life. They are the protagonists of their own film. All other people are supporting characters who will be part of indispensable scenes of affection, joy, aid or learning, whether as allies or villains. Everyone, no exceptions made, have an important part to play. But don’t ever forget, you are the most important character of your story. This is your evolutionary journey. However, for the same reasons, you must accept you will always play a supporting part in the life of others.”
René insisted that a love relationship requires changes in behavior. Loureiro made a gesture with the hand, as if his friend was not understanding: “Yes and no,” he replied. “Of course, in many aspects a married person should not lead a life as if he or she were single. However, limits must be set. To have a life together does not mean one must annul or abandon the essence that makes him or her move because of a canned, outdated type of relationship.”
“Each one is unique; in this resides the beauty of all. By forcing on someone a “how-to-live” formula, we act like thieves, as we rob the other the best there is in them. It is very annoying to live with someone who complains and nags all the time, or even worse, who wishes to control us. This is domination and will end up suffocating love that needs the winds of freedom to exist. By definition, philosophy and need.”
“Of course, you should talk and voice your point of view about a situation that you believe is wrong. However, you should speak composedly and clearly, so that your ideas are understood. One may not understand the reasons of another during an argument. This other, however, may or may not accept the motives, as reason has no owner. Bear in mind that each one reacts according to their level of awareness, and is free to make their own choices.”
“When a situation bothers us, it means something must be transformed. Always within ourselves, never in others. If the exchange of ideas, in a composed way, reveals a big difference in how life is perceived, this may be saddening, but do not try to change the behavior of others. Everyone will be miserable, and the relationship will be strained. One must accept that it may be time to continue the journey alone. Or it is time to change one’s gaze. Patience and respect for the other means patience and respect for oneself.”
“Patience is a powerful virtue without which we will never enjoy the clarity of wisdom or the sweetness of love. Patience connects us with time and helps us understand the difference between desire and need. Patience is a tool of quietness which leads us to the most important encounter of life, the encounter each one has with themselves; one, by understanding oneself, understands the world. Ultimately, love without patience will never be love. Patience teaches us that love does not need to be perfect, and it will hardly be. Love is a work in progress in the heart of each one, and must be worked on every day, tirelessly, until the infinite of time. To give love up for not accepting imperfection is not understanding love.”
“Respect, in turn, relates to other virtues, like sincerity and freedom. No relationship can be supported by the pillars of fraud, deception and lies. The most common lies are also the most painful ones: those that we tell ourselves. Respect is about being authentic, living according to one’s own truth even if everybody else disagrees. Bear in mind that disagreeing does not give one the right to torment the other for having dissenting opinions. Differences are the driving force that makes civilization advance. This means, when differences are considered, they propel growth by providing a new gaze and new possibilities. Respect also relates to the beauty and power of our choices, as this is the only tool available for the liberation of being. There is no other. In turn, absolute respect for the decisions of others is required, as everyone is on an evolutionary journey to the same destination.”
“Patience is about the reasons to stay; respect relates to the freedom to leave.”
“The decision to leave is a right, if flowers and fruits no longer sprout from the relationship; or to stay, if despite the inevitable imperfections it is still possible to share the best of us, in a constant offering of learning, joy and affection.”
“To leave, for obvious reasons, may signify renovation. To stay, depending on the situation, also. Striking a balance is a much-appreciated virtue, adaptability. Differently from complacency, it revolutionizes concepts, as it allows the gaze to go beyond oneself. This is the “give-the-other-cheek” lesson in practice. This is what makes you different and better.”
With teary eyes, René said that the separation was too painful for him. The shoemaker furrowed his brow and added: “Conflicts are inherent to relationships, not sadness. May the suffering for the end of the engagement be transformed into joy for the learning. As strong as passion may be, and as sincere the desire to have a life in common is, no relationship is sustainable without the pillars of patience and respect. Patience to understand what goes on in the heart and mind of the other, because without these virtues the differences are no longer lessons and become shadows; respect the freedom of choice you and the other have to create the beauty of being unique. Both you and the other. It is the indispensable lightness to fly far beyond the dark valleys of existence.”
Kindly translated by Carlos André Oighenstein.