Love is.

thinlove

“Love is or it ain’t. Thin love ain’t no love at all.” –Toni Morrison

Thin love says, “I love you if…” There are as many ways to fill in that blank as there are relationships. Thin love is conditional love, love that shows up only when its own needs are met first. Thin love is love that doesn’t show up at all when things get tough. Thin love puts itself first and is never sacrificial.

Love is bigger than that. It shows up whether you’re in prison or the boardroom, whether you’re top of the class or getting expelled, whether you are sick or well. Love gives wholly of itself and never runs dry.

Love is.

Celebrate love.

hidingplace

Love rejoices in the idiosyncrasies of another. Love says, “Look at this! Isn’t it amazing?” Love is curious and exhilarated, bold and exuberant. Love delights and comforts and feels safe. Love makes you better– more whole– and fills you with warmth.

In celebration of love–all kinds of love–here is a beautiful poem:

Bird Understander
by Craig Arnold
Of many reasons I love you here is one
the way you write me from the gate at the airport
so I can tell you everything will be alright
so you can tell me there is a bird
trapped in the terminal      all the people
ignoring it       because they do not know
what to do with it       except to leave it alone
until it scares itself to death
it makes you terribly terribly sad
You wish you could take the bird outside
and set it free or       (failing that)
call a bird-understander
to come help the bird
All you can do is notice the bird
and feel for the bird       and write
to tell me how language feels
impossibly useless
but you are wrong
You are a bird-understander
better than I could ever be
who make so many noises
and call them song
These are your own words
your way of noticing
and saying plainly
of not turning away
from hurt
you have offered them
to me       I am only
giving them back
if only I could show you
how very useless
they are not

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And always one more time.

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It takes courage to love, doesn’t it? Particularly after we’ve been hurt and know how vulnerable we can be. How much safer it would be to protect ourselves from being completely known, from loving wholeheartedly, from reaching out to others. But living behind a facade is a recipe for loneliness. Walling others out also walls us in. Going it alone directly contradicts the foundational truth that we are all interconnected whether we choose to be or not.

Love is the great adventure. It is the answer to the what, how, and why we are here. So have the courage to trust love one more time…and always one more time.

Consider the hummingbird

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In his essay, Joyas Volardores, Brian Doyle begins with a very close look at a hummingbird, a creature whose heart makes up a good bit of its tiny body. They are remarkable creatures. We, too, are creatures whose hearts makes up a good bit of us, and Doyle ends his essay with a look at how our hearts, no matter how we protect ourselves and wall them off, are imminently fragile, with facades that can be shattered in an instant.

So much held in a heart in a lifetime. So much held in a heart in a day, an hour, a moment. We are utterly open with no one in the end—not mother and father, not wife or husband, not lover, not child, not friend. We open windows to each but we live alone in the house of the heart. Perhaps we must. Perhaps we could not bear to be so naked, for fear of a constantly harrowed heart. When young we think there will come one person who will savor and sustain us always; when we are older we know this is the dream of a child, that all hearts finally are bruised and scarred, scored and torn, repaired by time and will, patched by force of character, yet fragile and rickety forevermore, no matter how ferocious the defense and how many bricks you bring to the wall. You can brick up your heart as stout and tight and hard and cold and impregnable as you possibly can and down it comes in an instant, felled by a woman’s second glance, a child’s apple breath, the shatter of glass in the road, the words I have something to tell you, a cat with a broken spine dragging itself into the forest to die, the brush of your mother’s papery ancient hand in the thicket of your hair, the memory of your father’s voice early in the morning echoing from the kitchen where he is making pancakes for his children.

Today, consider the hummingbird. Let it fill us with wonder and appreciation for all of creation, but especially our own hearts, and let it remind us of how tender and fragile each of is really, truth be told.

 

Yes, even me.

gies

Miep Gies was a young office worker when she hid and supported Anne Frank and her family, protecting them from Nazis and the danger of being sent to a concentration camp. After Anne and her family were betrayed and captured, Miep collected Anne’s diaries and eventually returned them to Anne’s father, Otto, who survived the war. That diary has been read by millions of people now, inspiring acts of heroism and showing, in a very intimate way, the horror of WWII as viewed through the eyes of an innocent, complex, lovely, vibrant girl, Anne.

Miep wasn’t famous or rich or particularly accomplished, yet she managed through her actions to shine a very bright light on hate and replace it with a more powerful portrait of love. Anne, too, wasn’t famous or rich or accomplished, although we can see now how she was a gifted author, but her words have been inspiring and a powerful force against evil in the world.

No matter our position or age or wealth or gender, we each can make a contribution that makes the world more bright.

What is the light you can turn on in a dark room?

 

Let it begin with me.

peace

We wish for peace but quarrel with our neighbor. We tremble from talk of war but allow ourselves to respond to others with hate, sarcasm, anger, and animosity. We expect leaders to be the adults in the room, but mock and deride them mercilessly. Peace, it seems, is something for other people out there to do and strive for because we are angry and fed up and impatient, and peace isn’t in our everyday lexicon at the moment.

But we can fight for peace, by controlling ourselves, treating each other respectfully, and speaking out against injustice. Take a minute to watch this beautiful video.

 

Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me
Let there be peace on earth
The peace that was meant to be
With God as our father
Brothers all are we
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony
Let peace begin with me
Let this be the moment now
With every step I take
Let this be my solemn vow
To take each moment
And live each moment
To take each moment
And live each moment
To take each moment
And live each moment
In peace eternally
Let there be peace on earth
Let there be peace on earth
Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin
With me (me)
With me
Songwriters: Jill Jackson / Sy Miller

Love in the little things.

vangogh

It’s hard to miss the grand gestures of love–the dramatic proposals, flashy gifts, wining and dining. But love is also in the little invisible day-to-day things–making someone their favorite meal, putting gas in your partner’s car before their trip, folding laundry, wiping runny noses and tying little shoelaces, remembering someone’s birthday, keeping someone company in a hospital room. All those little silent, maybe unnoticed, labors of love are the glue in the fabric of our relationships.

What little thing has someone done for you today? Maybe there’s a little thing you can do in return…

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Find the calm.

chaos

 

Would it surprise you to learn there are people in this world actively trying to make you unhappy? It’s their job. For others, stirring up discontent and friction between people might be an avocation. More like sport. And we, faced with people actively working to make us unhappy, have the choice about how we respond.

Some of those attempts to unsettle us may be fairly invisible. Consider this passage by Matt Haig in Reasons to Stay Alive:

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Add to this list, all the media posts designed to separate people rather than bring them together, governmental warnings about the danger level designed to keep people in a state of fear, and the negative rhetoric coming from people living in a deeply divided world, and it’s hard to not be overwhelmed, let alone happy.

But seeing attempts to manipulate us by our emotions and fears for what they are helps us to not get played. Instead, of rushing right to a knee-jerk response, we can notice that a message is trying to get us angry, or sell us something, or to make us turn on our neighbors. That breath between stimulus and response is where we can bring our critical thinking skills to analyze what is before us rather than responding mindlessly to the attempted manipulation and just jumping right into the fray. We don’t have to play along. We don’t have to be angry or dissatisfied.

We can engage from a place of calm.

Do what you love

vonnegut

 

Do you ever feel pulled down by the people who tell you that you can’t do something? You should mouth the words when people are singing because you can’t carry a tune. You shouldn’t dance because your moves are awkward. Don’t write unless you are going to be a best-selling novelist. Don’t take up something in your middle years that you’ve always wanted to do because you might look silly. Don’t, can’t, shouldn’t–those kind of words.

Maybe it is you telling yourself those things, afraid to start something and be a beginner after you’ve spent decades learning how to do other stuff and have gotten quite good, an expert even maybe. We encourage children to try new things–to paint, to skate, to sing, to play. But something happens when we get older. We may even hear ourselves holding someone back, “Are you still doing that? If you’re not [insert adjective here–famous, discovered, wealthy, accomplished] by now, you’re never going to be. You should give up.”

Wouldn’t it be nice to lay down all that judgment and dance again? Or sing your heart out? Or write a love poem? The joy is in the doing, and how lovely it is to remember that and embrace whatever it is that makes your soul sing!

An ode to pasta necklaces.

gift

What is a gift really? When it comes right down to it? If all is well in a relationship, it is an opportunity to say:

I care about you.

You are loved.

I was thinking of you.

It doesn’t really matter if it’s a diamond ring or a pasta necklace, if it’s a gift from the heart, it’s precious.