Love-er-ly

This isn’t my first attempt to write this blog piece.  Twice already, I’ve started the process only to end up chucking the whole thing.  I guess I am still not ready to admit defeat, so I’m taking another shot at it. I’ve decided that, if I can’t produce something this time, I’m giving up.  Three strikes and I’m out. 

My intended premise of this blog post, as Valentine’s Day looms before us, was to talk about how not everyone is lovely, but everyone can be love-er-ly. The trouble is, I always seem to fall down a woeful rabbit hole where I just keep bemoaning the sad truth that I have never been lovely.  Truth be told, I have absolutely nothing to recommend me in the looks department.  I have never been beautiful.  I have never been sexy.  I have never been graceful.  I have never been lovely.  All of these are very un-Valentiney confessions. 

As I cogitated over this sad state of affairs and the impact it was having on my ability to craft a blog post about love-er-li-ness, I remembered a conversation I recently had with a friend at church.  My friend is kind and faithful and devoted to doing good in her life.  However, she often runs herself down, dismisses her worth, and undermines her own contributions.  Her words about herself seem harsh and punishing.  One day, I asked her to do me a favor.  I asked her to be kinder to herself.  She is working on it.

It strikes me that I have been doing the same thing each time I try to write this blog.  I don’t want to be so hard on myself.  Instead of sinking into the ooze of my unloveliness, I really want to embrace my love-er-li-ness.  You see, I may not be lovely, but I think I am love-er-ly. 

Long ago, I decided that I probably was not destined to do great things, but I did want to do anything I did with great love.  Although I do not always succeed, the nurturing of love is my main life goal. I sometimes consider building love-er-li-ness to be like becoming an elite athlete. I started at a young age.  I am intentional in my approach.  I hone my love-building skills by subjecting myself to different conditions. I train by practicing and experimenting with different techniques.  I seek out coaches and role models who will show me ways I can be more loving.  I try to be single-minded in the pursuit of excellence.  I sometimes have “off days.”  Let’s face it, even Tom Brady isn’t TOM BRADY every day.  For the most part, though, I think I see growth and enrichment in my love-er-li-ness performance.  I may not be at the “elite” level yet, but I’m trying to at least be an “up and comer.”

I am no saint.  I am aware that all this talk of love and self-denial can come across as a little too Goody-Two-Shoes.  Honestly, though, my motivation for building my love-er-li-ness skills is more selfish.  It just feels good to love. 

I think everyone can hone their love-er-li-ness skills.  It doesn’t have to be difficult. I think, sometimes, we want to build love but get stuck on what to do.  It can also be intimidating to stick one’s neck out too far, especially if we feel shy about getting into someone else’s emotional personal space.   Here are a few suggestions that might help get you started.

It can be something as simple as sending a “thinking of you” card or picking up the phone to check in with someone you haven’t seen in a while.

You don’t have to offer any profound words or even acknowledge anything you think the other person could be feeling. Because people so rarely get anything in their snail mail other than bills and advertising, sometimes a card or note feels more significant to recipients.  However, you don’t have to get caught up in how you touch base- phone, card, email, text, whatever.  Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. 

It can be something like offering a specific service, like going to the grocery store or providing airport transportation, to someone who is hurting.

The person who is hurting may not take you up on your offer, but they will appreciate the effort.  They will also appreciate that you have not put the burden of having to think of something you can do on top of whatever load they are already carrying.  People often say, “please let me know if there is anything I can do for you.”  It might be more comforting to add, “like go to the grocery store or pick up your daughter at the airport or anything else you might need.” 

Spread a little bit of serendipity.

Let someone else ahead of you online in a department store or post office.

People often do this in grocery stores when the person behind them only has a few items.  It is more striking when it happens other places.  Occasionally, leave all the change in the tip jar when your ice cream cone costs $4.01 and you give the cashier a $5.  If you can afford it, generously over tip a server, especially if you can hear that another diner is giving him or her a hard time.  Let workers and managers know what it meant to you when a service worker does a wonderful job.

Apologize.

In most hurtful situations, there is fault on both sides.  It may not be equal.  It rarely is.  The other person could truly bear 95% of the blame, but there is almost always something you could have done differently to make the situation less painful.  Don’t worry so much about the other person’s blame.  You can’t control that.  You can own your share of the issue and apologize for it.  That doesn’t mean you should put up with poor behavior from other people.  You can choose to love people from a distance without subjecting yourself to their brokenness if that brokenness continues to cause them to abuse you. 

Let someone else take the wheel, even if they are tearing up your highway.

Do you want to win, or do you want to love? I often go into projects or situations with something of an agenda.  I know what I want to have happen and I know how I want them to happen.  I’m sure I sometimes seem committed to “my way or the highway.”  Honestly, in most situations, it really doesn’t make that much difference how a denouement plays out.  In the love building department, very little is about the outcome and much more is about the benefits involved in the getting there.  For instance, when I have a conversation with someone, I may have a goal about what I want the outcome of that conversation to be, but I also have some goals about how I want both of us to feel at the end of that conversation.  Those goals about how I want us to feel are usually more important than the content of the conversation. 

Smile from your heart.

I am a very shy person. It is even hard for me to catch someone’s eye without dissolving into a pile of goo.  It feels like I am imposing on their privacy by my mere existence. I made a discovery, though, that has helped me “let my love shine” and reduce my shyness.  I make it a point to purposely look at people around me and to smile. I let that smile generate from the part of my soul that is busily building all that love. I let it rise to my heart, mouth, and eyes.  I let it be personal, because it is.  It must be genuine for it to work.  You must feel the smile, not just do it.  There is a scene from a movie about the life of St. Therese of Lisieux where she is trying to befriend one of her rather fractious sisters in the convent.  The other nun says to her, “why are you always smiling at me like that?” St. Therese responds, “If I am smiling at you, Sister, it is because I am happy to see you.”  For this heart smile to do its best work, you must be happy to see the person.  Sometimes, you must search a little for the part of you that is happy to see that person, but it is worth it.

Pray.

If there is anything that is the quickest, most sure-fire tool to build love for me, it is prayer.  God is Love, so why not go to the source of it all to multiply and replenish when you are hard at work building love-er-li-ness?

This Valentine’s Day try to embrace your pursuit of love-er-li-ness.  You can do it in whatever way works for you.  You can try some of my suggestions or go your own way.  All I am really advocating is that we all try to increase our love of God, people in general, people who we might find challenging, and the people who matter to us the most.  I’d also encourage one other technique.  Be kind to yourself.  Being love-er-ly to yourself is important, too!

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! If you could leave a love-er-ly valentine message for someone, what would it be? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a love-er-ly day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

Heart-y

As Valentine’s Day approaches, this old woman’s fancy is lightly turning to thoughts of love.  To me, a life must have love to be healthy and hardy.  Without love, I think our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being suffers.  Our spirits become pale, weak, puny little things that fail to thrive.  With love, our lives are robust, multi-faceted, and always growing. 

This will be the sixtieth Heart Day I have spent on the planet.  They haven’t all been happy.  I haven’t always had a special valentine of my own.  I haven’t experienced any of those “rom com” Valentine’s Days filled with flowers, surprises, and perfect proposals.

Over all, though, I’ve been pretty lucky in the love department.

To begin with, I have God.  As St. John says, “God IS love.”  How can any Valentine’s Day exist… or any day at all exist, that doesn’t include a celebration of the abundant love of my Lord?  I am wondrously and robustly blessed.  My life can be nothing less than a love letter from and to God. 

I have always had the most supportive and loving family and friends.  They’ve always laughed with me, held me up when I’ve been drowning in sorrow, made me feel special, and pointed me true north when my internal compass wobbled in wild wonkiness.  Even in times when I was without a romantic relationship and felt desperately unloved and unwanted, I have always been loved and wanted.  I was just too much of a goose to realize it.  Max and I have been binge watching Downton Abbey again recently.  In one episode, the cook, Mrs. Patmore sends an anonymous Valentine’s Day card to her assistant, Daisy.  Mrs. Patmore is sure that one of the footmen is going to send a card to the other kitchen maid and she wants Daisy to have something to open as well.  After much ado, Mrs. Patmore finally confesses to Daisy that she sent the valentine and apologizes for instigating an unintended drama.  Daisy thanks Mrs. Patmore, responding that she might not have a young man, but she has a friend and “that is something.”  It certainly is, Daisy.  In fact, it is a great deal more than “something.”

Actually, Valentine’s Day has not been a very big deal in my holiday hierarchy.  I send cards, but that’s about it.  Even when I was in romantic relationships, my beaux have always approached the most romantic day of the year as little more than a Hallmark holiday.  The first guy I dated after my divorce asked me why I didn’t get him anything for Valentine’s Day, although I had, in fact, sent a card.  The irony, apparently quite lost on him, was that he had done nothing at all for me for Valentine’s Day.  Another fellow, who I dated for several years, did get me a valentine gift one year.  It was a rain gage.  Yes, a rain gage.  I think I can claim the distinction of having received the least romantic gift of all time.  I know everyone has a different language of love, but I think it is safe to assume that lovers don’t speak “rain gage” anywhere. 

Max and I have always acknowledged Valentine’s Day, but in a pretty low-key way. We exchange cards. I always get him the extremely sentimental gift of a renewal of his AAA club membership.  I know it isn’t a rain gage, but we can’t all be crazy romantic fools. Honestly, he would be very disappointed if I did not renew his membership.  His gift to me is usually rolled into whatever “big” gift has been burning a hole in his present budget.  For instance, last Christmas, he got me a tanzanite ring that represented Christmas, birthday, anniversary, and Valentine’s birthday for three years.

We don’t drag out the trumpets and play a fanfare.  It always feels like we “should” do something special, but we usually don’t.  Neither one of us really like to go out for dinner or anywhere traditionally romantic because everything is so crowded and expensive. It is a bit galling to realize you are paying more for an experience that you could have much more pleasantly on any other day of the year just to be able to say you are doing it on Valentine’s Day.  It is kind of the New Year’s Eve of love.  Hardened partiers call New Year’s Eve the amateur night for drinkers.  Maybe Valentine’s Day is the amateur night for people who are trying desperately to be good at being in love. 

There certainly are times when I fantasize about receiving a grand romantic gesture, especially at Valentine’s Day.  For the most part, though, I am happy to take my love as I find it, on any day of the year.  Our Valentine’s Days are not exploding with passion like a fireworks show.  I would rather know that I am loved and cherished each and every day than point to one specific moment in time when the valentine fireworks ignited.  Our Valentine’s Days are sweeter and less flashy, like savoring hot chocolate. 

Max and I understand each other.  We nurture each other. We enjoy each other.  We have a lot of the same interests and preferences. We introduce each other to different fancies that become shared eccentricities.  For instance, how many 68-year-old men trail after their girlfriends visiting Tinker Bell in Pixie Hollow?  And delight in it? 

We may not always admire the other person’s less-than-pleasant personality quirks, but we admire the totality of the other person.  The quirks are just part of the package.  Max loves me enough to do just about anything for me, if I tell him it is important to me. He doesn’t try to convince me why it isn’t important, he just trusts that it is.  In exchange, I love him enough not to play the “important” card unless it really is.  I don’t ask him to do things that I know he won’t want to do unless it truly is important to me.   

Yes, I am well-loved.  And, because I am, my life is heathy and heart-y!

Do you have a special valentine wish you would like to send?  Please feel free to reach out to your loved one with a heart-y message by leaving a comment.  If you would like to email me, you can do so at terriretirement@gmail.com

Have a love-ly day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Happy Heart Day

When I was working, I learned about “skinny” words and “fat” words. Fat words have multiple meanings and are stuffed with connotations, making them subject to many different interpretations. Skinny words are direct, concrete, and specific.  A fundamental concept of leadership is that, when giving direction, it is better to use skinny words. They tend to reduce confusion and are more likely to result in the desired outcome.

Now that I am writing a blog and not managing people, I am less interested in reaching a specific desired outcome. I’m more interested in suggesting ideas and stimulating thought. I’m renewing my relationship with words of all body types. I find that, when used deliberately, fat words can be evocative and effective.

“Heart” is one of those delightfully pudgy words. It just about explodes with meaning, memory, and feeling for most of us. We can easily identify many meanings for “heart.” I’d like to explore just a few of them on this Valentine’s Day.

First, we have the most literal meaning of the word. Our hearts keep our bodies going. They pump our life’s blood to the farthest reaches of our physical beings so that all our necessary organs have the energy to do their vital jobs.  Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. We do cardio exercise to reduce our risk. We scan the grocery store shelves looking for foods high in antioxidants to strengthen our hearts. We try to embrace low fat diets to minimize those pesky plaque deposits that can creep into our hearts’ highways through the body. Does it strike anyone else that it is pretty ironic that rich, high fat chocolates come in heart-shaped boxes? Of course, heart-shaped…. isn’t. Actually, the heart is shaped more like a fist, which, when I really think about it, is a bit disconcerting.

The beleaguered baseball players in the play Damn Yankees tell us ya gotta have heart. Miles and miles of it.  I don’t know if we need miles and miles of it, but it is clearly true that a body needs a heart, in the most literal sense. Without that vital organ pumping away inside my chest, I have no life. On the other hand, without heart, I may have a life, but I may not be really living it. The heart about which our musical friends are belting is determination, persistence in the face of adversity, grace under pressure, and courage. Heart is what makes us root for the underdog. Heart is what enables us to do the things we believe we must do even when they seem impossible.

Which brings us to the “heart” metaphor most associated with Valentine’s Day- love. Heart means romance, but also love of all kinds.  At this time of year, pink, red, and white hearts scatter all over everything. Flower and jewelry sales skyrocket. There is a certain pressure to put love on a pedestal and admire it from afar. In reality, though heartfelt love is up close and personal. It is a participation, not a spectator, sport.

A loving heart often requires deliberate decision making about what actions we take in life. When we decide to live a life of heartfelt love, we are deciding to view everything that happens to us and everyone we encounter through a lens of love. Love is not rationed. Loving one person does not reduce our capacity to love others. In fact, it increases it. Exercising our love muscles strengthens our ability to love, just as cardio exercise strengthens our literal heart muscles. As we become more adept at loving, we won’t love everybody the same way but we will love everybody better. Love involves both giving and receiving. It isn’t always easy or comfortable to do either. Sometimes, it almost seems impossible. To live with a heart full of love is the most beautiful way to live.  That sort of life is as filled with meaning as that lusciously chubby “heart” word itself.”  Living a life with a heartful of love is not for the faint-hearted. It requires that other kind of heart… the Damn Yankees kind of heart.

Have a Happy Heart Day, both literally and figuratively.  At the heart of the matter, I wish you health, courage, and love. Oh, and have one or two of those rich, high fat chocolates that come in the heart-shaped box.  Maybe just stick to the dark chocolate ones, though.  All those antioxidants, you know!

I do realize that Valentine’s Day was actually yesterday…. but don’t you think today is still a great day to think about what is in our hearts?  Now it’s your turn!  What do you think of when you hear the word “heart?”  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can send me an email at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a heart-y day!

Terri 🙂