A friend of mine turned me on to the book 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. Have I read it? No. I’m already overwhelmed without adding another book to my reading list. But the subject intrigues me quite a bit.
I have always noticed that people have very unique ways of expressing love and also of feeling loved. I think it’s important to know what signifies love to your partner, so you can express it in a way that means the most to him or her. It’s also interesting to examine what equals love to you, so that you can see when someone is expressing love to you in a way that you’re not noticing.
If your partner’s love language is touch, for example, and he touches you a lot, that’s his way of expressing love, even if your language is different. Learn to appreciate it. And touch him a lot. And tell him what means the most to you.
Here are the 5 types of love languages that Mr. Chapman has identified, in no particular order:
Acts of Service– This is the one I relate to the most. Having someone do something for me when they can see I’m overwhelmed is practically an aphrodisiac to me. Want to show me you love me? Do my laundry! My boyfriend recently went to my house and left some chicken in the fridge for me so that I wouldn’t have to make lunch for the next day, because he knew I’d be exhausted. That moved me to tears.
Quality Time– Pay attention. Listen. Focus. If you want someone to feel special, just be there.
Words of Affirmation– Some people feel most special when they hear “I love you” or “I’m proud of you.”
Physical Touch– We’re not just talking sex, here. This means hand holding, or even just resting your hand lightly on your partner’s arm.
Receiving Gifts– This isn’t about being a gold digger. This is about being really touched by the effort it takes to obtain or make the gift, and the thought you put into determining what that person would like.
This is a fascinating avenue of inquiry. If you want to know what your love language is, take the test here. You may learn quite a bit.
I don’t know if Mr. Chapman gets into this in his book, but there are also a lot of toxic “love” languages out there. Here are a few I’ve seen:
Feeding– When food equals love, it tends to bring on health issues. I’ve seen many mother’s do this. “Eat hardy!” “Did you get enough to eat?” “Let me make you your favorite cake.” It’s a form of love, I suppose, but it’s very destructive.
Jealousy– I’ll never understand people who actually enjoy it when their partner is jealous. “He must really love me if he gets that upset.” That’s not love. That’s a warped control dynamic.
Teasing– It may start off as cute and funny, but over time it can evolve into insults and cruelty. Again, not the best path to go down.
What makes you feel most loved? Let me know in the comments below!
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Here lately, I’ve been having quite a few frustration dreams. You know the kind. I’m lost and no matter how hard I try, I can’t find my way out. Or I keep cleaning, cleaning, cleaning, but the place is still a mess. Or I’m running in slow motion. Or I’m trying to say something really important, but no one is listening.
Just the other day, I was thinking about these dreams as I fell asleep. I was trying to figure out the source of my frustration. I was feeling… well… frustrated that I couldn’t reach any conclusions. And those thoughts, as I drifted off, triggered an even stranger dream.
In this one, I had been given the gift of a tank top. I do like tank tops, but it’s the dead of winter, so I was a little befuddled by this. I decided to try on the tank top anyway. It fit well, but I felt some strange lumps in the shoulder straps. I reached up and pulled out a wrench. And then a screw driver. And then a hammer. And then a saw… and so on. It was like the hardware equivalent of a clown car.
And then a voice said, “You have all the tools you need.”
That woke me up out of a sound sleep. Because… who was that?
The current thinking in terms of dream interpretation is that every actor in your dream is a manifestation of yourself. But that wasn’t me. I know it in the very marrow of my bones. My Id is not that confident. My Superego couldn’t be bothered. It wasn’t any part of me. Who, then?
A friend of mine theorizes that it was God. Her spiritual beliefs and mine aren’t very similar. I don’t anthropomorphize my higher power. And even if I did, in the Trump era, it’s safe to assume he or she has much bigger fish to fry.
Could it have been my mother, speaking to me from beyond the grave? Or my late boyfriend? My father? My sister?
I don’t know. I just know it wasn’t me. It was a good message, though. If it had been a sinister message I’d be worried. But it was a positive message. “You have all the tools you need.” The minute it was said, I believed it. So I’ll just focus on that.
Sometimes you just need to take the gifts that are given to you, and say thank you.
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I used to know a guy who had a photo of a cat. “Cute cat,” I said, “What’s his name?”
“I dunno. A pen pal sent that picture to me 30 years ago.”
“Are you still friends?”
“Then why are you keeping the photo of a long-dead cat that belonged to someone you no longer know?”
“Because she sent it to me.”
He also keeps every gift he was ever given, including clothes that he never liked that never fit, and toys that he never played with that he’ll never sell. It’s a thing with him. He’d rather be a dumping ground than hurt someone’s feelings.
Personally, I can’t remember the vast majority of the things that I’ve given to people. So unless something is outrageously expensive or a family heirloom, if I’ve given you something that you don’t like, use, or need, feel free to get rid of it. You were not put on this earth to preserve my psyche. If it’s that fragile, then your hoarding my tchotchke isn’t going to keep my morale intact anyway.
We place entirely too much emotional value on “stuff”. I guarantee you that there are very few possessions that are worth your life. If your house is engulfed in flames, I doubt you are going to run back inside to rescue that cute pair of shoes.
Now that I live in a tiny little house, I’m trying really hard to pare down. It’s teaching me to be selfish and cold-hearted. In a good way.
If I’m reluctant to part with something, I examine that instinct closely. Why am I keeping it? Am I doing it for me or for someone else? Because here’s the thing (yes, there’s always a thing): No one else has to live in my space. I’m the one who has to dust, maintain, trip over, and be irritated by the stuff I choose to keep. George Carlin made a very good point when he talked about our houses being very big boxes with lids.
The older I get, the less I’m willing to deal with the detritus of life. My time is even more limited than my energy. It’s a safe bet that when I die, 95% of what I own will wind up either in a landfill or in the hands of complete strangers. How’s that for perspective?
Incidentally, this theory works for emotional baggage, too. Food for thought.
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Now that I’m a homeowner, I decided to have a housewarming party, for many reasons. First of all, it would give me the incentive to actually unpack. Second, this is a very close-knit community, and I really want to become a part of that. This would give my neighbors a chance to get to know me. And it would be a delightful mix of old friends and new, coming together to make my house a home. I really like that concept.
No, it wasn’t a cheap plea for gifts, although some people did bring some thoughtful and lovely ones. But it was a potluck, and I’ll be eating leftovers for at least a week. That’s nothing to sneeze at.
I am a classic introvert, and I haven’t thrown a party in at least a decade for good reason. The planning and preparation stressed me out. Who to invite? Who won’t show up? I need to clean x, y, and z. How will my dog Quagmire behave? I need plates, cups, chairs, condiments…
The party was to start at 6:30. No one showed up for the first 25 minutes. This gave me plenty of time to try not to freak out. “Nobody loooooves me!” It also gave me time to think about all the people that I invited who told me they weren’t coming. They love me enough to not stand me up, but not so much that they’d actually come. “Ouch! Stop that!”
In the end, 15 people came, and it was a wonderful time. Well… except for the Quagmire incident.
I needn’t have worried about how he would behave. He showed his ass from the very start. The first person who had the nerve to enter the house without his permission got attacked.
I was mortified. There was blood and peroxide and band aids and apologies. But the attack-ee was a lot more gracious than I would have been in similar circumstances.
Quagmire’s piss-poor behavior gave the party an awkward start. And he spent the rest of the evening in time out in the bedroom, barking his fool head off. (Had I known no one would see that room, I wouldn’t have bothered to clean it.)
But if you overlook the initial crisis in confidence and the canine violence, a lot of friends from various parts of my life came together and made new connections. The time flew by. The food was good. And apparently I’m not going to get sued. I’d consider that a success.
But introvert that I am, people suck the life out of me. So even though I had a great time, I was really glad when it was over. I slept for 10 hours straight that night.
So, that’s me done with the party obligations for at least another decade. Whew. There’s a load off.
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According to Alice in Wonderland, if I’m not mistaken, any day that is not your birthday is your “unbirthday”, and is worthy of celebration. But that kind of sounds like work to me. So I pick the day that is 6 months away from my birthday, and celebrate that as my “official” unbirthday. On that day, I give myself gifts and/or I pamper myself. I celebrate the very “me-ness” of me.
But this unbirthday is going to be very special, indeed, because it will be the first night that my dog Quagmire and I will get to sleep in my brand new (to me) house! Granted, I’ll still have a few more days of moving, and, let’s face it, probably years of unpacking, and the place will probably be a shambles, with boxes everywhere, but still… I’ll be in my home.
Do you get the significance of that? After years of being at the mercy of landlords with their arbitrary rules, and sometimes their outright cruelty at worst and personality disorders at best, I will be free. Free to make a home of my own. That night I will lie in my bed and look up at the ceiling. My ceiling. And I’ll reflect on how stressful it has been to get to this point.
And I’ll be proud of myself. Because I did it. I made it. And with any luck, I’ll never have to freakin’ move again.
And I’ll probably order pizza delivery, eat it while taking a bath in my nice big tub, and give Quagmire a few extra treats. Because I can. And because God knows we’ll have earned them.
Happy unbirthday to me!
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I heard that somewhere recently and it really struck a chord in me. I know so many people who dwell in the past. They’re bitter about unresolved issues with people, or they’re longing for better times, or they are using the past as a convenient excuse not to move forward, or they are just exercising a lifelong habit of facing backwards. It makes me sad.
All that time we spend gazing at bygone experiences is really wasted energy for the most part, because that stuff does not require any care or feeding. It will always be there. It doesn’t need your nurturing or attention. On the other hand, what is happening right here and now, with the people who are standing right in front of you, most certainly does need your focus.
I’m not talking about reminiscing. It’s nice to recall happy memories every now and again. I’m talking about obsessing. I’m talking about being so stuck in your ancient history that you cannot progress. People who make that mistake rarely look up to see those around them. They don’t stop and smell the roses because they don’t even realize that any are in their midst. They are missing the everyday gifts that are given to all of us: the feeling of wind in your hair and sun on your face. Potential friends. Opportunities. Growth.
Am I some sort of expert at facing forward? Hardly. I have my issues. But at least I’m making an effort. I hope you are, too.
Take a moment to breathe in the now, and be grateful for it.
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Have you ever had one of those days when everything seems to be wonderful? I had one about a week ago. (Thank you. More please.) So I decided to sort of dissect the day to see what I could do to increase its frequency.
I got up at 5 am, and was well rested for a change. I went to work and it was a pleasant day with no surprises or unexpected catastrophes. I even crossed paths with a coworker that I haven’t seen in about a year (different schedules, different bridges), and had a really pleasant conversation with him.
I got off work at 3 pm, and, having finally discovered a farmer’s market that’s actually open during my off hours, I went there. I reveled in the fresh fruit and vegetables, walking through the market several times before deciding which of the embarrassment of nutritional riches I would settle upon. I got a few huge heirloom tomatoes, still warm from the vine, and some red leaf lettuce. I looked at the artisan pizza with longing, but decided to save that for another day. Instead I treated myself to a locally made chunky peach popsicle.
I drove through a beautiful neighborhood I’d never explored, and fantasized about living there. Then I came home, fed the dogs, and made a salad with my newfound treasures, adding some carrots, mozzarella cheese, walnuts, nutritional yeast and ranch dressing that I already had on hand. It was the best salad I’d ever eaten, probably because of its freshness, local origins, and the fact that I was sitting in the sun in my back yard, watching my dogs play and hearing the birds sing. I also knew I was being kind to my body by eating something healthy that was also delicious.
After that I read a book while taking a long bath in lavender Epsom salts. My dogs kept stopping in and saying hello. I asked if they’d care to join me, but they politely declined.
Then I settled in to bed at a frightfully early hour: 5:30pm. Normally I wouldn’t think of turning in that early, but I had plans. As I drifted off, I was enjoying the concept that I can go to bed pretty much whenever I want to. I answer to no one. What unbelievable freedom!
I set the alarm for 11:45 pm, and got up and made myself a bowl of popcorn. I then repaired to the back yard once again, to enjoy nature’s light show in the form of the Perseids meteor shower. I ate my popcorn and thought about our vast universe, and how it makes me realize that any problems I may have seem to pale to insignificance in that context.
The night was pleasant and I love the fact that there seems to be not a single bug in Seattle that disturbs me in the slightest. I went back to bed around 1:30 am, and spooned with my dogs until it was time to get up for work.
So what made this day so great? So many things. I indulged myself. I pampered myself. There was no stress. I got exercise for my body as well as my mind. I felt the sunshine on my face, and I ate and rested well. I had pleasant encounters. I hugged my dogs. I appreciated nature. I relaxed. I broke my routine. And most of all, I maintained an attitude of gratitude every step of the way.
I think staying in the moment and acknowledging life’s gifts as they present themselves to you, as well as treating yourself with kindness, is the recipe for a happy life.
When I was young, I used to have such high expectations for friends. I thought that each one should fulfill all my emotional needs or they were somehow falling short. But that’s asking quite a lot of someone. By setting the bar that high, you will miss out on a lot of amazing people in your life.
With maturity came the knowledge that no one can be your everything. I certainly could never pass that litmus test for someone else. I’m inherently flawed, but I still think I’m a great friend. I therefore no longer insist on friendship perfection.
For example, I have one friend who has a really negative attitude. She views life through an extremely cynical lens. But she’s also intelligent and compassionate and is totally cool with my dark moods. She is not someone I would ever approach to brighten my day, but she’s genuine and sincere and can be counted on to say what she really thinks. She’s also a really good listener. I can say things to her that I’d probably never admit to anyone else. That can be refreshing.
I have another friend who is amazing and fun and kind, but she has demonstrated that she is not capable of being there for me in times of catastrophe. She just can’t handle it. That’s good information to have. She’s definitely not the first (or the tenth) person I’ll call when the stuff hits the fan. And while that might have been a deal-breaker in the past, it no longer is. Because, hey, I like fun as much as the next person. And fortunately I’m not always in the midst of a crisis. So, would I give her my emotional nuclear codes? Never. But can we hang out and laugh? Of course we can.
Fair-weather friends get a bum rap. If you keep things in perspective, what’s wrong with enjoying the fair weather with them? As long as you know who will stick around for the impending squall and aren’t neglecting those people, why not cultivate a few extra people for those sunny days?
I’ve found that it’s important to let people be who they are, and adjust my expectations accordingly. Everyone in your life comes bearing different gifts. Each gift has its own value.
I just finished doing the least glamorous, most disgusting part of my job. I spent an hour getting cigarette butts off the sidewalks and bike lanes of my bridge. So many thoughts go through my head while I do this.
Smoking is a disgusting habit, compounded by the fact that these butt-throwers clearly have no civic pride or sense of personal responsibility. And if you’re health conscious enough to jog or bike, what the heck are you doing smoking in the first place? When it crosses my mind that I’m interacting with things that have been in the mouths of about a hundred total strangers, and surely some portion of them have a communicable disease, I start to dry heave.
When that happens, I have to force myself to put a positive spin on things, so as not to retch all over the sidewalk and then have to clean that up. So what am I learning by doing my least favorite part of the job? What is this bringing into my life?
- It’s good exercise.
- It shows me the type of person/pig that I don’t ever want to be.
- It allows me to be out in the sunshine.
- Inevitably one person walking by every time I do this takes the time to thank me.
- It reminds me that the rest of my job is actually pretty freakin’ fantastic.
- It gives me a stronger sense of who I am, who I want to be, what I’m capable of, what I like and don’t like and why.
- It provides me with an idea for a blog entry.
- It feels sooooo good when I’m done.
I suggest to you that your least favorite things shouldn’t be avoided. Rather, examine them closely. Deal with them with perspective and an open mind for the lessons that they provide. Gifts can come from the most unexpected places. I’m grateful for every gift that comes my way.