The past couple of days have been a gentle jaunt down memory lane as I prepare a graduation photo book for Olesya. For each of the kids, as a graduation gift, I craft a "life book" of sorts for them, filled with as many photos as I can cram in that reflect their growing up years. I write a little from page to page, sharing my thoughts about them and hopefully the effort captures in the teeniest tiniest way the love I feel for each of them, and the sheer delight it has been to have the privilege of being their second mom.
Scrolling through hundreds of digital photos, our entire past 20 years before me, and one thing I am truly grateful for is that in our family there is no lack of authentic sharing of the love we have for one another. We are a naturally affectionate family, in large part by Dominick's Italian heritage and my own proclivity for hugs. But sometimes hugs aren't enough. Sometimes words need to be said, clearly and directly.
Why is it that we humans struggle so to look someone in the eye and explain WHY we love them, or WHY we appreciate them? Oh, those words are on the tip of our tongues and the crevices of our hearts, tucked safely away until, often, it is too late. The stories get pulled out for eulogies, the kind words are choked out over caskets, but face to face we tend to be uncomfortable. We are embarrassed to admit our truest feelings for another. Why is that?
Interestingly, the words that come most easily are criticisms and judgments. Why are we not embarrassed to tell those closest to us all the negatives we see in them, but we find ourselves holding back the passionate warmth we feel for another?
Our world trains us to see the worst first. And think about it, who teaches us how and when to compliment others? Where do we learn how to open our hearts to our family and closest friends? We all feel SO warm and fuzzy when others share their positive impressions of us, or exactly what it is that they love about us. It doesn't happen often enough, but it matters more than we realize. Saying "I love you" is great, and we need to say it sincerely and regularly, but meaningful relationship needs more than the casually tossed out greeting. Words of love and affection were never meant to be reserved solely for "lovers"! But unlike the saying about kindness, these words should not be tossed around like confetti, for if they are, they tend to lose their power.
So which is it? Tell others how you feel frequently, sprinkled throughout your day? Or seldom, so someone knows when you say it you really, really mean it? As with anything moderation and prudence is key.
My thoughts are wandering in this direction tonight as I found a couple of photos of love notes left to us by Olesya when she was younger. I am blessed that all our kids write from the heart, and I'd like to think I modeled that for them, but it is a true gift to receive a card or note from any of them as there is always some thoughtful statement made that touches me deeply. Olesya is the one, though, who sneaks little notes in suitcases or in car cup holders before long road trips. She leaves notes on white boards and mirrors. In fact I have a tiny little note right now in my jewelry box from her which will likely remain there until my death and she and Angie are going through it to find valueless baubles to claim.
"Words Mean Things". One of my favorite homeschooling phrases and I am sure it is imprinted on my kids' hearts along with "Hard isn't bad, hard is just hard." The power of words can make our hearts soar, or drop us to our knees in emotional pain. I look back on the firsts where someone shared their heart with me, which thankfully has been very regular in my life.
The first time Dominick told me he wanted to date me...and I was dating someone else...and he said, "I'll wait for you, you are worth it." And he did.
The first time each of the kids called me Mom or Mama, especially our three adopted at older ages. How beautifully awkward and gently sweet it was as they tested the waters of familial love!
The gut wrenching moment one New Years Eve when Josh was in the throes of Reactive Attachment Disorder and at two years old was having multiple night terrors every single night. I held him this New Years Eve as he screamed and kicked and bucked against me, until through my own tears I fiercely said, "I know your first mom left you, but I am NEVER leaving you!!!" and he jerked and his face got stone still, and he looked at me and said, "Yeah..." and then started crying again softly and for the first time for real he nuzzled into me, and we finally truly became mom and son.
The various first real adult conversations with our kids, each one at different times, as you walked away from a discussion shaking your head and smiling as you realized you are no longer speaking with a child, and a bridge has been crossed.
The painful, take-my-heart-out-and-stomp-on-it late evening talks where confidences were revealed about former lives prior to adoption, or utter disappointment and fear was shared over disabilities and futures when I prayed with all my might for just the right approach, just the right words to help re-frame things so souls could mend and find hope.
Speaking love and light into the lives of others takes guts. We awkwardly struggle to look someone in the eye, or put pen to paper to share things like, "Oh, how I truly miss you!", "Your influence on
In other words, we might be rejected if we share our heart, so we don't. We are all the losers for that.
Think about the few times in your life when someone has not casually tossed out a compliment, but took the time to really be present with you as they shared how they felt about you. Or when you opened an unexpected card and read love and care in every line. Remember the moments that mean the most, and when you do, most often you will find that it was because someone laid it on the line, poured their heart out to you and let you know precisely how they felt about you.
It changes us, doesn't it?
I have been transformed numerous times by strangers and friends alike who have eagerly shared deeper thoughts about my presence in their lives. Sometimes people aren't as good with words, and when they do so even when uncomfortable with expressing emotion, even if the words aren't perfect, the intent comes across loud and clear, and that also changes us.
So maybe after reading this, think of one person who you might have more to say to, and go say it. Write it if you must. Don't just say, "I love you!" or "You are the greatest best friend ever!" or "You're my kid, you know I love you!"
Tell them why. The "why" matters. It makes the emotion tangible and the casual expression of love far more meaningful. Tell your friends, the ones who have stuck with you through thick and thin, how they have impacted your life with their steadfast care. Tell someone you work with that you see the growth in them on the job and state what that is. Don't worry about feeling silly, cast aside the doubt about how it will be received. Just say it.
That is one way to transform every relationship in your life. Dive into the deep end, my friend. The water's warm, the floaties are there to protect you, and you will surface and the world will feel refreshed. And like you used to feel when you hopped out of a pool after a long day and your mom was standing there to wrap a beach towel around you, let yourself feel cared for and graciously accept the meaningful words others share with you about yourself. Grin, blush if you must, and take it in.
Words mean things. Make them count. Be fearless. Say it.