on expressing love

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I had a conversation with someone, very recently, about the different ways in which people express affection and love.  We talked about how things like gifts and cards matter more or less to some people, and about how feelings can get hurt if people are unused to the idiosyncratic ways in which their partner or friends express their feelings.  Cards, for example, matter little in my family.  I think we regard them more as a necessary accompaniment to a gift (a label – so that you know who the giver is), rather than an integral expression of our feelings (a chance to tell the other person how much you value them).  A former friend of mine, however, regarded cards almost as more important than the gift itself – and since this is the kind of thing that often goes unsaid in a relationship (because it’s tacit knowledge that you gain only from being around someone, and because this kind of thing doesn’t come up often in conversation), feelings can get hurt if the expectation is unmet, even though the neglect may be entirely unintentional.

I’ve been dwelling with this thought over the last few days.  Though I can be quite outspoken about many things, and though I make every effort to make sure that my loved ones know that I care about them, I know that it is often a struggle for me to talk about my feelings – especially when it involves being vulnerable.  There have been a number of times over the past few weeks when I have wanted to say something to recognize someone special to me, and to thank them for being part of my life – but have been unable to get the words past my lips.  I’m working on it, but it’s surprisingly difficult, at times.

That having been said, I’d like to think that I’m pretty good at picking up on the things that people do or say that mean ‘I love you,’ even if the words are not explicitly muttered.  Perhaps this is the silver lining of a life spent saying ‘I love you’ in less explicit ways; you get to be good at recognizing when other people are being likewise implicit.  With that in mind, I’ve started working on a list of the ways in which my loved ones non-verbally communicate that they love me (this list is quite long, but by no means exhaustive).  If you see something on the list that you do, know that the feeling is mutual :)

When you… I know that you are saying that you love me.

  • When you were teaching me to read, and you told me to read instead of guessing the words… I know that you meant that you love me
  • When you call to ask how I am feeling, because you know that I am going through a rough patch…
  • When you tell me that CBC mentioned philosophy in a recent discussion/podcast…
  • When you stood in front of the world’s largest canoe paddle, ever so reluctantly, because I wanted to take cheesy tourist photos…
  • When you joined me on one of my crazy-ridiculous adventures (black tie beach party, running barefoot in the rain, driving through the Rockies, scaling the Samphire Hoe, etc.)…
  • When you bring me coffee from one of my favourite coffee bars, because you know that I am having a rough day…
  • When you do the dishes for me, because you know that I’m tired…
  • When you send me a note to say hi, because you know that I’m terrible at keeping in touch (even though I want to)…
  • When you offer to give me a ride (even when my destination is 18hrs away, and you’ll have to drive home alone)…
  • When you offer to go out of your way because it will make something easier for me…
  • When you take an interest in my projects, and actively help me succeed…
  • When you scold me for not prioritizing my work obligations, or for procrastinating…
  • When you scold me for thinking less of my own priorities than those of others…
  • When I’m being childish, and you tell me to grow up…
  • When you remember something that I mentioned months ago, and bring it up in the context of a present conversation…
  • When your friends and colleagues know more about me and what I’m doing than some of my friends, I know that it’s because you brag about me to them, and because you’re proud (even though you may not always tell me explicitly)
  • When you teased me for writing “I heart uh,” I know that you knew it read “I love you,” and that you meant it back.
  • When you got upset because I missed curfew, or didn’t call to tell you where I was, I know that you weren’t trying to limit my freedom; you were just worried about me, and wanted to make sure that you knew I was safe before you went to bed.
  • When you told me how proud you are of my sister, I know that you mean it to imply that you’re very proud of me too.

What are some of the ways that you express or recognize love?

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on community

I got a call from my mom, last night, just a few minutes after she left from a nice long visit:

“C, there are pumpkins all along Harboard Street.  Hundreds of pumpkins.  You have to come see this!”

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She was right!  All along the road, tables had been set up by the Harbord Village Residents’ Association, and pumpkins upon pumpkins were on display all along Harbord, from Bathurst to Spadina.  Every year, the HVRA collects jack-o-lanterns from residents, on the day after Halloween, and rounds them all up for display as part of a pop-up exhibition of local gourd-carving talent.

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Despite the damp and slightly chilly weather, I was completely warmed by the sense of community that I felt while walking around, with my roommate T.  Neighbours were out mingling and admiring each other’s work, kids were frolicking – some in costume – and enjoying a second late-night-out in a row, and volunteers were serving hot apple cider and spreading the word about opportunities to get involved in local projects like litter collecting, flower planting, and community-building events.  It was like being in a small town in the middle of Canada’s largest city.

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There were some really neat pumpkins, too!

Some philosophical ones, like this obvious reference to Nietzsche’s will to power:

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(please know that I’m kidding)

One that reminded me of awkward high school days:

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Some clever reminders that jack-o-lanterns are meant to be terrifying:

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And some veritable squash-masterpieces:

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What a terrific way to bring people together (and to give pumpkins an extra night to shine!)

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I couldn’t have asked for a more enjoyable autumn evening.