On Friday, I participated in a fun little blogging activity – Five-Minute-Friday – where a topic is thrown out and you write for 5 minutes. It is pure free-association and is not meant to be some polished piece of work. It is designed to get you to let your creative juices flowing and just connect to a word and write. I love the idea behind that and found myself thinking about stuff that would not ordinarily come into my mind. That’s the point! Yesterday, I shared a little bit about this with my coaching group and asked them to do a similar exercise with the word “love” and agreed to participate as well. So, for today, I am doing my own “Five-Minute-Sunday” and free associating with the word love. But, since this is not such a formal activity, I might expand beyond just the five-minute limit. But, I promise to not edit myself. I’m committed to some free thinking here.
I love love. I used to be very uncomfortable with the word. I used to never say the words “I love you” to anyone. I was not raised in a home where those words were ever spoken. We never acknowledged love for one another and, quite frankly, I think that contributed to our lack of love for one another. As a parent, I tell my children each and every day – sometimes more than once a day – that I love them. It comes easily and naturally and I love doing it. I truly LOVE it. The words rolling off my tongue feel healing and it warms me up.
As a child, I think the idea of love, in my mind, was reserved for romance. What I knew about love I saw on TV or in the movies. Or what I read. I never understood the concept of loving your family. I really did not understand what that meant. Well, I’ll retract that a bit. My mother used to often say “I love you but I don’t like you.” I didn’t have the language to understand what a mixed message that was. She used the idea of love as a way to ridicule me. Essentially, she was admitting that she loved me (as if that was some great sacrifice) but she didn’t like me. In fact, in many ways, she was emphasizing the like over the love. Of course I have to love you because you are my child but I do not have to like you. Hmmm, I never thought much about that. I like my kids. I cannot even imagine suggesting that I did not like them. I don’t approve of their behavior sometimes but it does not change how I feel about them as people. It makes me sad for my mother that she could not experience the joys of both loving and truly liking her children. It gives me the most satisfaction in my life.
I am so uncomfortable with people who throw around the words “I love you” so easily. If I tell you I love you, I mean it. And when I mean, I really, really mean it. It is deep, it is penetrating, it is life-altering. If I am so connected to you that I can tell you, without provocation, that I love you, then you have so much power in my life. And, I’m so good with that. I LOVE being able to be open enough to have people in my life that I can be that raw, that vulnerable, that open, that honest, that connected to. It is what makes my life that much more meaningful. On the other hand, I like a lot of people. I like them a lot. However, I do not love them. And that is for all the reasons I explained. Love is a powerful thing. Love connects people in ways that expands so much beyond what might be part of a relationship where people are in “like.” Love commands expectations. Love gives you license to set expectations. Love offers some latitude. It means we have something more meaningful going on here. I am going to trust you, accept you, forgive you, respect you, acknowledge you and stick with you. Love means you’re in it for the long haul. Casual friendships are not loving but they can still be meaningful. For me, when love enters the equation, I’ve let you into my deepest core.
The love that I struggle the most with is self-love. I recently had some photographs taken of me and I looked at them with such a critical eye. I called myself names in my head as I looked at some of the less attractive images. I would never, ever, ever do that to someone I love. I would see the photos through my loving eyes. I would see all the beauty and be enamored by the love I had for the person. I was not able to do that for myself. I know I am not alone with this struggle. I often challenge myself to treat myself as if I were one of my own children. Find a loving way to tell me something that is hard to hear. Tell myself that I love you every day – sometimes more than once a day. Make myself feel blanketed by the protection that comes from my love. I wish I could do a better job of that. Because, at the end of the day, if I don’t love myself, I am going to have an awfully hard time authentically showing love to anyone else.
I have a lot of love in my life and it makes me warm. I am going to try to pass that warmth on to myself, when I need it, rather than looking for others to always give it to me. Feels like that is definitely part of the story for me.