Brenda Cannon HenleyBy Brenda Cannon Henley
“After a while you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning, that kisses aren’t contracts, and presents aren’t promises…and you begin to accept defeats with the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child. So you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul, instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers. And you learn that you can endure…that you really are strong and you really do have worth, and that with every new tomorrow comes the dawn.”

One of Dr. John R. Rice’s daughters, Jessie Sandberg, gave me a beautiful little plaque years ago with the above writing inscribed on it. The thoughtful gift came to me in one of the darkest patches of my life when I was not confident that I would ever be whole again.

I memorized the words and quoted them often in dark and lonely hours. But, I never questioned the origin of the writing or the author. Over the years I had been told that the author was unknown and at another time that the words were taken from a Hallmark printing. Not long ago I happened upon an article that gave clarity to the thoughts. It was said that three different women had claimed original authorship and declared that they penned the words in 1908, 1971, and 2015. The poem was also written under different titles, Comes the Dawn, You Learn, and After A While.

It has been documented that the writing is a portion of a longer poem, Aprendiendo, which was written in Spanish and attributed to Jorge Luis Borges (24 August 1899 – 14 June 1986). Borges was an Argentinian poet, writer, and essayist.

It is believed to have been written and published in the 1940s and possibly translated by an American translator collaborating with Borges from 1967 to 1972.

Several other notables have attributed the writing to other people, but there is no conclusive proof as to the original composer.

I am simply glad that the words remain and have helped many through the most challenging times of their lives, helped people see their own self worth, and provide that little cheer that helps to get us over the finish line.

This is the longer version:

You Learn

“After a while you learn the subtle difference,
Between holding a hand and chaining a soul.

And you learn that love doesn’t mean sex,
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.

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 each day you learn.

Over time you learn that being with someone because they offer you a good future, means that sooner or later you’ll want to return to your past.

Over time you understand that the only one who is capable of loving you with your flaws, with no intention of changing you can bring you all happiness.

Over time you learn that if you are with a person only to ease your own loneliness, irremediably you’ll end up not wanting to see them again.

Over time you learn that real friends are few and whoever doesn’t fight for them, sooner or later, will find himself surrounded only with false friendships.

Over time you learn that words spoken in moments of anger continue hurting the other person throughout a lifetime.

Over time you learn that anyone can apologize, but forgiveness emanates only from a great soul.

Over time you learn that if you have hurt a friend harshly it is very likely that your friendship will never be the same.

Over time you realize that despite being happy with your friends, you will cry for those you abandoned.

Over time you realize that every experience lived, with each person, can never be repeated.

Over time you realize that whoever humiliates or scorns another human being, sooner or later will suffer the same humiliations or scorn tenfold.

Over time you learn to build your roads on today, because the path of tomorrow doesn’t exist.

Over time you learn that rushing things or forcing them to happen causes the finale to be different from that you expected.

Over time you realize that in fact the best was not the future, but the moment you were living right in that instant.

Over time you will see that even when you are happy with those around you, you’ll yearn for those who walked away.

Over time you will learn to forgive or ask for forgiveness, to say you love, say you miss, say you need, say you want to be friends, because at the grave, it has no meaning and it’s already late, never let something be too late.

But unfortunately, only over time…”


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