I’ve been in counseling for 6 months now. I entered because I was anxious and depressed with losing my home and my job. It’s amazing how things we put on a shelf for “later,” gob-smack you in the face, with a message of do it NOW. One of the issues I’m dealing with is identifying what “love” is. Truth be told. I was never told those words for the first twenty years of my life. My parents grew up in the depression and they didn’t have that validation. It’s amazing how you long to hear the words “I love you,” and the actions that demonstrate that type of action. It’s also amazing that if those words/actions of love and respect were never shown to parents/grandparents; how they’d be able to demonstrate it to their kids.
When I began counseling, my therapist asked me about my goals. I need to understand what love is. I have no idea what those words mean.” Those words came seamlessly. Yeah, I was struggling (in secret) with this for a long time. I never thought I’d blurt it out so BOLDLY. I gotta think that my guardian angels had something to do with it.
So, my homework was to ask people how love was modeled in their home. Were the words, “I love you” ever spoken as they grew up? I picked 3 people who I trusted, give me their time and their perspective on love.
The first person I asked was a new friend. We were friends back in the day, but life took over and we lost touch with each other. He shed light on how he never heard it, or spoke it to his parents or siblings. I was moderately shocked with his story. I was MAJORLY shocked that his truth was so honest. It caught me off guard because I thought that due to his family dynamic (+5 in his family), that those words were a part of his everyday experience. His “truth” showed me that I wasn’t alone. There were others that didn’t model love.
The second person was from my Zumba class. She’s a very energetic gal. Her parents modeled love but weren’t as open with the words. When she married and had children, she recognized that her “I love you” needed to be consistent. Her and her husband agreed that their actions and words, would establish a strong foundation for her family. As we talked, she was adamant with speaking those words from her heart. They needed to be said in the moment – face to face. She revealed that her sister would consistently say “Love ya” every time they spoke on the phone. She knew her sister meant it. It didn’t have the same depth as if it were said, face to face. She brought this to her attention. Her sister couldn’t convey it that way. This girl recognized that although her sister meant it, it didn’t convey the seriousness and depth, as if it were said every day, face to face, heart to heart. This was the way she wanted to convey her feelings of love.
The third person was older. She’s been my friend for over 10 years. Her truth gob-smacked me. It was a “come to Jesus moment.” Like me, her parents grew up in the Depression. They didn’t have much; unless you consider that her parents’ actions were the guideposts to having her recognize that the sacrifices they made were their way of saying “I love you, you’re important. I’m glad I created you. I want you to know that you’re my legacy.” At one point, she revealed a final moment with her dad (who was dying in the hospital). She went to visit him. As she bid him goodbye, he said the words, “I love you.” As she said that, she wept. I did too. Her truth spoke volumes on how we reveal how we care for one another. Some of us are unable to say the words, ever. It doesn’t mean the caring isn’t present. In other instances, the words are a constant reminder that you’re important and valued. For some of us, that is what we need. In the final situation, the words were the “legacy” needed to reinforce that they were valued.
My friend went on to tell me that she hoped that although I was going through a rough patch (including turning 60), that I’d never lose my kind heart. It was the first thing she fell in love with. At that point, the flood gates opened. I excused myself from the table to compose myself and to process what she (and the others) revealed. When I returned, I told her that I loved her and that I was fortunate she came my way. It was the best present she could’ve given me. Why? Because I asked for her truth, her story. She (like the other two), told me the TRUTH. What I had to do was ask. Was it scary? No. It felt right. I had to risk asking all 3 of them to give me a perspective. They did.
I walked away from that exercise with a new found trust, that we can learn a lot from the people, and “the stories we tell!”
Focus: Intimacy, Friendship, Love, Spirit, Risk
Question for you: 1) What story(s) can you tell willingly? Why some, and not others? 2) Have you ever been gob-smacked with a story someone told you? What did you learn from it?