In the early 1990s, I had a pen pal from Mantua, Italy, named Beatrice Lomaglio. During our correspondence, she entered into a relationship. Not yet having been in a relationship, I asked her how it had changed her life. I expected an answer of many details since I had an idea of the complexities of romantic relationship. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised by her elegant answer of how she now had to think about we, rather than about me, more often since many decisions involved her and her partner now, not just her as was before. I was also surprised because English was not Bea’s first language. Yet, here was this incredibly simple, well put, and accurate response staring back at me. I still have it since I had archived all her letters.
Bea’s beautiful response stayed on my mind for a few weeks until one day, I realized how it could also be applied to a more general sense of the greater good, not just the greater good of a couple, and for a life philosophy, not just a relationships philosophy. That’s where this mantra came from, and how I apply it in my life. I remind myself of this when contemplating big decisions, to check they are either not selfish or too selfish. I also recite it occasionally to reaffirm the state of mind I would like to be in as a human who cares a lot for others, despite having been single for the majority of my life. Finally, in today’s world, I find myself also wanting to tell people to think we, rather than me, more often, more and more each year.
Despite being friends with Bea to this day, I have never told her this story, but I will send this to her now. Thanks for the mantra, Bea! What a beautiful piece of thought and English you shared back then!