If we’re more than lucky in this life we learn a few things. Not just from life, but also from others. Parents, you are the first teachers of our children, but yes, it’s totally possible to learn a ton of good shit from them as well. No matter what age they, or we, are.
My children are now adults with their own lives. They’re smart, beautiful human beings. They don’t “need” me or my husband anymore but choose to have us in their circle. I think that’s pretty cool.
Our interactions are changing, evolving. Sometimes it’s hard. That’s okay.
In watching and listening to my children (not all the time a good listener btw) I'm learning a few things about myself. Growth is often filled with both joy and pain. It’s important to pay attention to both of these, not just the one that makes us feel good.
How do I love?
This question keeps running around in my head lately.
We learn to love from the first people in our sweet lives. For most, not all, this would be our parents. This love experience washes over and on us, soaking us in it. We’re moulded and shaped from this emotional environment before we’re even aware. My own awareness of connection and love began with my parents. They didn’t always do it well. Most parents rarely do. But on occasion they did.
Imperfectly loving is better than not at all. Let’s face it, being authentic, genuine, sincere, being human means being perfectly imperfect.
What we end up doing is loving the way we know how. Every single one of us.
We do the best we can with the skills we have. I really believe this. Your best and my best. are not the same because we have different skills. My best and my parent’s best were not the same. This is the art of being human. We’re all different. Our experiences, how we view them, what we value are unique to us. We see this world from completely different eyes than the person sitting next to us, the stranger on the street, or the child we hold.
From this place of understanding, that we’re all different ~ and yet very much the same ~ we find where love lives.
Love lives in understanding
Thich Nhat Hanh teaches that to understand another is the doorway to love. Meaning, when we see with our heart and seek to understand another, we then let compassion and curiosity lead the way. We open up to embrace the differences. Differences aren't so big once we understand and accept others as they are.
What naturally happens though, is that differences wave a red flag for us. It’s threatening and human beings don’t like danger. Our ego wants to be the top dog in a pack of sameness. So we get critical of the “other”. Defensive. Judgey. Blamey. Angry. Rather than curious.
But if we can calm ourselves to see through the red fog of emotions we can claim an opportunity to see, hear, and understand another human being.
Love lives with others
Love is not simply a positive emotion. According to Barbara Fredrickson, leading psychologist in positive psychology, love is not a single positive emotion in and of itself at all. It’s unique in that it encompasses a rainbow of emotions at any one time such as joy, awe, gratitude, serenity, interest, pride, hope, amusement, and inspiration. When we feel love, we feel a whole range of these emotions.
The best example I have is holding each of my sons for the first time. All of THAT (arrow pointing up please to rainbow of emotions) fused into what I felt as a delicate silk thread of connection and love. I can still feel it’s power when I think about it.
Love requires many things from us and I prefer to be active with that. Own my part. It’s not a thing to take for granted. In this world I think we need more love.
“I know my name now, Love Warrior. I came from Love and I am Love and I will return to Love.” ~Glennon Doyle
Damn! Let’s all be Love Warriors. A force of nature that wants more love in this world, by being more love in this world.
But how? When every one of us carries scars of hurt and shame that keeps us armored and distant and scared.
Just start. Start with these things and then…keep going.
1. Love needs us to listen
Love is intimate and desires to know more. It’s curiosity at its core. Not surface level talk like “How’s the weather?” Deep stuff, yes. Always, no. Listening to one another rather than talking at each other. No judgement. No agenda.
2. Love needs us to be clear
This is a hard one! Love is often muddied by negative emotions. But it doesn’t have to be. When we can ground ourselves enough to know who we are and what’s important to us we can let go of fear and communicate clearly with others from a place of love. That place of understanding.
3. Love needs us to empathize
Love is compassion. Stepping into someone else’s suffering or joy and holding that space for them. It’s capable of holding another person exactly where they are without filling it up with your own agenda. It’s really seeing them, warts and all, and accepting them as they are. In this place, you discover yourself.
4. Love needs effort (the good kind)
We don’t fall into love like a puddle. It’s not there waiting to jump us. Love is not something we give or get. The fairytale myth is that it happens to us. Out of the blue and unsuspecting. Maybe for some it starts this way. Usually the feelings we mistake for love: passion, desire, hotness, that tingly feeling in the pit of your stomach are physical signals that something feels good and right. But loving someone, or the act of loving is something we nourish and grow. It’s definitely not perfect and it certainly isn't easy.
Once in an argument with my son he said, “you have to love me”. His dad (my husband) responded with, “nope, we don’t. There are lots of parents who don’t love their children. We aren’t one of them. We also like you. So that argument doesn’t hold water.” Mic drop.
We don’t have to make an effort to love another human being just because. Just because they’re our children, parents, grandparents, friends, or anyone else. What we can do, if we're called to love, is make an effort, to understand them, ourselves, and find a way to grow from there if it’s at all important.
5. Love needs vulnerability + courage + trust
Love is a vulnerable place. Think about your first kiss; first date; the first time you told him/her you loved them; sharing your deepest thoughts, desires, and dreams with your partner. All this requires courage. Courage demands trust. In something or someone. Trust enables us to move. Without it we sit on the bench and never take the shot.
6. Love needs us to look in before we can look out
None of the above can happen without looking inward at ourselves.
The hard truth is: We can only love others as much as we love ourselves. It’s directly proportional.
When we're gentle, kind, and accept ourselves as we are, then we have the capacity to be gentle, kind, accepting of others. When we’re critical, hard, and judge ourselves in comparison to others, it’s hard not to be critical, hard, judgmental of others.
Be gentle with yourself when you make a mistake; talk to yourself kindly rather than critically; be patient with you, you’re a work in progress. Aren’t we all?
So whether it’s with:
your partner, your family, your friends,
colleagues at work, people in your book club,
customers or people you serve
strangers in line at the grocery store, homeless on the street
the children in our lives
Think about how you love? How you show up in this world? For others? For yourself? How do you want to show up? Does your love inspire, nurture, allow growth?
I know this, I want to show up as love. Grow into a woman who can be more love in this world.
A Love Warrior. I can handle that.
love and blessings,
p.s ~ find me on FB if you haven't already.