Barbara: It feels like a natural segue for me to leapfrog from Happy Anniversary! to another favourite topic of mine: different expressions of love.
Many years ago, a friend lent me a non-fiction book she thought was really fascinating. I can’t for the life of me remember what the book was called, but I still very much remember the subject matter. It explored the relationship between how we express love to others and how we want love expressed to us. The authors pinpointed some classic expressions of love. If I remember correctly, they were: offering a helping hand or acts of kindness, giving gifts or love-tokens, uttering words of love and encouragement, and (apparently favourite expression for the average male) sex.
My friend, Charlotte––as well as being very loving with words and encouragement––is queen of the gifts or tokens. Something I’ve never been very good at myself. It doesn’t matter how small the event, Charlotte will find some sweet gift to acknowledge it. You had a good meeting with a producer? She’ll leave a card in the mailbox, patting you on the back. You feel a bit under-the-weather? A bouquet of flowers will land on the doorstep. In all our years of friendship, I don’t think I’ve ever even thought of making these kinds of gestures (beyond the obvious birthdays and hospital stays), although I am repeatedly touched and amazed that she does. Deb, while great with gifts too, is the fiercest encourager of anything you do, might do, think about doing, or have done (as you can see by her many welcome pats on the back here). My husband … well, you can just guess which gift he keeps on giving.
We know them all, right? The person who cooks a freezer-full of food when someone is in need; the strong silent type who putters around the house doing chores; the cheerleader who supports everything people do; the kisser and nuzzler; the leaver of little treasures on the bedside table and little notes of endearment in lunch boxes. What complicates the premise––according to the book––is that most of us offer our love in the exact way we most want to receive it, but often our love-gestures––surprise, surprise––don’t necessarily match up with our beloved’s ideals of love.
In all the years since I read this book, I still find myself thinking about this core idea. Is it true? Do we express outwardly what we most desire ourselves? Do we know the essence of love so well (the feeling of it, the missing it when it’s not there), but then not understand what actually makes it tick? Because it ticks on a slightly different metronome for each of us? And, maybe most importantly, do we sometimes not know it’s love because it’s offered up in a way we don’t “recognize”? I mean, let’s say someone’s ideal expression of love is sex, and this person and his beloved are in a tough situation, and this someone reaches out for sex to express love and be comforted by love, but his partner wants words, needs to talk it through, is repelled and offended by the thought of sex at this of all times, wonders how he can be so selfish right now, and he is left reeling, wondering how words can possibly ever soothe this pain or bring the two of them closer together. And they both find themselves hurt and disoriented because they each want to express love and, sadly, feel rejected by their lover’s gesture because … they don’t recognize it for what it is. I mean, does this sound familiar? Truth be told, it does to me … uh, I mean, to my friend * whistles nonchalantly *.
Anyway, I’ve thought about my own love expressions-slash-needs and, while I can see myself in the wordsmith and the cheerleader, these gestures don’t necessarily capture my personal idyll. I’ve actually come to realize that the love-gift that I offer most wholeheartedly, most lovingly and however imperfectly, is my gift of listening. When I realized this, I had to consider the idea for a while and ponder how it reflected back to me as a need. And then it hit me: it’s because it’s so important to me to be heard.
That, my friends, was a moment of truth. What’s yours?
Deb: And today I will call upon my dear Barb to give me the gift of not expecting me to respond in a coherent way to this. I love this post and I have so much to say in the face of it. But I have been suffering a migraine since noon and it is not giving way to words, I am afraid. So I will take a win on the fact that I could read this and comprehend this and be motivated to express myself around it. But given the givens, I will ask for Barb’s gift. Let me leave it at this. Inspired but unable to express. I am a bee-stung head looking for relief.
Barbara: I hear you, Deb!! Poor thing. (Maybe you can weigh in on the comments-section when you feel better.) In light of Deb’s migraine, I’d still love to hear your thoughts.