20 July 2007

Starving for Love

If you haven’t read the book “The Five Love Languages”, I highly recommend that you read it (or one of its variations). It’s been more than a year since I last read “The Five Love Languages for Singles”, and I intend to go back and re-read it sometime in the next few months. (For those of you who don’t know, I’m an avid reader, and my goal is 65 books, this year. Last year my goal was 52, and I hit it in September, then slacked off the rest of the year. I’m actually behind where I’d like to be for this year, though. It’s almost the end of July, and I’m only around 30. Sigh.)

The basic premise of the book is that there are five primary ways in which people give and receive love. Not everyone is familiar with all five ways. Most have one way that means more to them than the other four, and if you don’t speak to them in their “love language” they won’t feel loved, even if you’re speaking to them in yours. Sometimes the love language they use to receive love is different from the one they use to give it. Knowing all five makes it easier to learn to communicate your love and appreciation effectively to everyone. The five love languages are Quality Time, Physical Touch, Gifts, Words of Affirmation, and Acts of Service.

By way of an example, I’ll use my family. My mom’s primary love language is Acts of Service followed by Physical Touch. She feels most loved when we do things for her. She expresses love by doing things for others. She’ll drive cross-country with her steam-cleaner in her car (something she’s done many times for many people) to go clean someone’s carpets. That’s a classic way (if you’re looking for it) that she says, “I love you.” If you don’t speak that language, you might not catch it, though. My dad’s primary love languages are Quality Time and Physical Touch. Something that he might do to say, “I love you” is take me on a motorcycle ride. I’m right there with him, spending time with him, and he can reach back and pat me on the knee, or feel my hands on his shoulders, so that speaks both of his love languages. My brother’s primary love languages are Words of Affirmation and Acts of Service. He needs to hear, “I love you. I’m proud of you. You’re the best big brother in the world.” If I step in to help with the dishes or something, while I’m staying with them, that’s another “I love you.” Having been raised in this environment, I am fluent in all five love languages. I can usually comprehend that when someone is speaking their own love language, it’s their way of telling me they love me, even if it’s not how I’d choose to hear it. I’ve learned that to tell my mother that I love her is nice, and to spend time with her in conversation or in person is wonderful, and to send her cards or give her gifts is fine, but if I really want her to grasp how much I love her, I will brush her hair, clean her kitchen, cook her meals, drive to Missouri in the middle of the night and be there while she’s in the hospital, pluck her eyebrows, fold her laundry, wash her car, shop for her groceries, etc.

A friend of mine and I have had some discussion about it, recently, and the conversation stimulated my thought processes. My primary love language (just barely, by 1 point, from the quiz) is Gifts. One point behind Gifts are both Quality Time and Physical Touch. I had an “aha” moment, this morning, because of the conversation about love languages.

I moved to DC from the MidWest about 2 years ago. All my life, to that point, I had been surrounded with many, many, many sources of Physical Touch. Most of my friends and family are very touchy-feely people, and I think that’s much more common in the MidWest than it is here in the Middle East. I had been used to receiving Physical Touch on a daily basis from many people. I had close friends that would hug me, pat me, fix my collar, brush off lint, play with my hair, etc. My family could SMOTHER you with the amount of personal-space-invasion that we do. While I’ve always had an independent streak a mile wide, it was just part of life, that the people who love you touch you. Hugging, kissing, tickling, wrestling, poking, prodding, bumping, holding, snuggling, cuddling, pinching, elbowing, tapping, patting, nuzzling, and all that kind of stuff just reminds those around you of your affection.

I’ve tended to think that I don’t have many friends out here. If you ask me to name my friends, it takes some thinking on my part to come up with people to populate that list. Here’s my “aha” moment: it’s not that I don’t have friends out here, it’s just that the friends I have don’t touch!

I’m serious. This was a huge thing for me to figure out, because I’ve spent the last two years of my life feeling absolutely lonely and starved for affection. There is literally no one in the DC area (or east of Kentucky, for that matter) that I can go to for a hug. Period. That’s why I’ve been so lonely! It’s not that they don’t love me in their way, it’s just that they don’t love me in MY way. I have noticed that, while most of my background in love is in the areas of Physical Touch and Quality Time, the way most people out here express love is in Acts of Service and Words of Affirmation—neither of which are ways that I would choose to receive love.

When I long for “home”, I think of the physical proximity of people. I think of my church, where people greet you by shaking your hand and patting you on the shoulder, or with a big, tight hug, or with a kiss on the cheek—where it’s not uncommon for friends to sit closely together with arms around each other, and where hand-holding isn’t reserved for significant others. I think of my friend, Kelsy, who gives the best hugs ever. I think of Nellie, who helps me get dressed and puts on my make-up and plays with my hair. I think of Karrisa, who came over one time just so we could take a nap, and who would invent some excuse to drop by the bank where I used to work to see me. I think of my friends who stand too closely, until we burst into fits of giggles, or who hug me and kiss me and groom me, or who drive across town just to be there and hold me when my heart is broken, or who make excuses to stop by where I work to just say hello and get a hug. I think of my beautician, who hugs me when I leave. I think of my “surrogate moms” who treat me alternately as a peer and as a daughter. I think of my Aunt Polly, and lounging on the couch with her, nestled into her side. I think of my family—none of whom have any concept of “personal space”—who think nothing of coming and climbing in bed with you, who sneak up on you to hug you or “get” you, who tumble over each other, even in large, open spaces, who are equally likely to pinch your earlobe or pat you on the bottom as they walk by, who issue your wake-up call in the mornings by climbing over you or snuggling up to you, who touch, touch, touch, touch, touch, because that’s what you do to the people you love.

When I’m asked how I like living in the DC area, my response is inevitably, “It’s a really beautiful city.” It’s not that I dislike it here, it’s just that it’s much less friendly. It’s not that I don’t have friends, but the friends I have here are different, less warm, on the whole, to my way of thinking. No, it’s not because they like me any less (or I like them any less), but it’s just because they don’t speak my language. After awhile, you begin to grow tired of speaking OTHER people’s languages, and you wish you could just have a conversation in your native tongue. For two years, I’ve felt lonely, starved, deprived. My only salvation was a trip to Kansas or Missouri, or a houseguest’s arrival. For two years, I haven’t been able to grasp the depth of the friendships I have here. Now I know why.

Much Love.

Coming soon: How Starvation Helps You Grow.

19 July 2007

When furniture placement is black magic...

I was talking to my friend, the other day, and we were discussing, with amazement, the fact that someone we respect is, inexplicably, extremely fond of someone who is somewhat incompetent, very subversive, and basically unlikeable. (Both of us tried to like her, but that didn't work out, so much. I've decided that she simply doesn't want to be liked.)

She said, "I don't know. She must've done some feng shui crap to him."

I said, "You mean she rearranged his furniture??"

And the word you were looking for there is Voodoo. haha. :D

So now, threatening to rearrange someone's furniture is code for performing black magic.... Shhhhhhhh-- don't tell anyone!!

Much Love.

Tired of my job.

I'm tired, and it's my job's fault. If you gotta have a job, you gotta at least think the one you've got's bearable. Fortunately for me, I like my job. I enjoy what it is that I do. (Not the politics that go with what I do, but that's a whole other issue.) The problem is, I'm tired of doing it, day in and day out, 40+ hours a week, on the pay/benefits that I get. I accrue approximately 7 hours of vacation/paid-time-off per month, which means that if I get sick for one day each month (which I don't, but I'm just saying...), I use up all of my leave, plus an hour of unpaid leave. If I have business with vendors that are only open during normal office hours, I have to be extremely creative to conduct it. Doctor's appointments, DMV business, Post Office runs, etc. all must be carefully scripted in advance, unless I want to take a pay cut for that week.

I'm very glad that, in this age of e-commerce, I'm able to do most of my business online, because I'd seriously be pooched without DSL. I'm able to do all of my banking (funds transfers, bill payments, deposits, check orders, insurance, etc.), some of my DMV stuff (tag renewals), and the vast majority of my shopping without leaving my home. However, I'm convinced that all of this convenience-- by way of the internet-- has contributed to the mindset, among employers, that the employees' needs don't even make the priority list. Having unhealthy, unhappy, unproductive employees is fine. Whatever. (Now if they could only invent a way for employees to send their teeth to the dentist, their eyes to the optometrist, their bodies to the doctor, unaccompanied, and lose the reproductive organs altogether so that no one would ever have families or a need to see an OB/GYN, the employers would be THRILLED!!)

Anyway, let me get to my true gripe. (Yuck. Starbucks rice crispy treats are not good.) In the process of preparing to move, I am busy from the moment I drag my tired, sorry rear end out of bed in the morning until the moment I drop it wearily back into bed at night. The tasks I normally do, and the unforeseen, and the seasonal, have all got to be jammed in there somewhere, too. I got up an hour earlier, this morning, so that I could clean my kitchen. (Being my mother's daughter requires me to NEED to have a clean kitchen. Yes, things all over my apartment are a disaster as I sort, toss, and prepare to pack all of my worldly belongings, but the kitchen is what matters. If the kitchen and bathroom are clean, I can deal with the rest-- controlled chaos though it is.) I love sleep. I need sleep. When I'm well-rested, everything is well, or at least I can deal with everything if it's not.

I'm not going into the politics at work, right now, but I have determined that, had I not HAD to come into work today, I could have both gotten that extra hour of rest that I wanted to get, and gotten my kitchen cleaned. I could have also taken care of a whole PILE of things on my list, because eight-and-a-half-plus hours is a long enough time to make a SERIOUS dent in my to-do list.

All that to say: I'm tired of my job.

Much love and blessed rest,

09 July 2007

What a difference a year makes!

I recently decided to re-read a book I read about a year ago, titled “Every Woman’s Battle” by Shannon Ethridge. It’s one of several similarly-named books. (“Every Man’s Battle” was the first, and this one, “Every Young Man’s Battle”, “Every Young Woman’s Battle”, etc. came out subsequently.) I have recommended it to quite a few people, and I’ve even purchased the applicable book for a couple of friends to give them as gifts. I decided to read it again, because I wanted to remember some of the specific things she had said in the book, and I was glad that I did. The thing that struck me, though, was the fact that my perspective this time was completely different than the perspective I had a year ago. There were several portions of the book that I had underlined last year that didn’t mean much to me this time, and there were others that I underlined this time that hadn’t hit me as significant, previously. I was amazed at the difference in my spiritual life, in retrospect. I was excited by the growth I’ve experienced. I was saddened by my past thought- and spiritual- life, and I am extremely grateful for the grace God gives us in our brokenness.

Something I found myself pondering was this: Our brokenness, sinfulness, filth, unfaithfulness, and all of the worst parts of us are not revealed to us in their entirety, all at once. I am VERY glad about this, because I think that, had all of my misery hit me at once, I would have been crushed by the weight of it all.

Instead, God chooses to enlighten us in pieces. He allows us to work through/past all our painful experiences and choices in shards, and when we’re ready for the next piece, it’s revealed—in HIS time. This is a blessing of immeasurable worth~ that God knows our weaknesses and our humanity and He makes concessions for the limits we carry. He could choose to just strike us down in our sin, our pride, our pain, but instead He lovingly holds us until the sobs and the lashing out and the bitterness subside. All He asks is that we step ever closer to the image of Christ in ourselves, and never does He chide us for not being where we think we should be on that path. Instead, He offers us all the love in existence, in each moment of each day, no matter where it finds us, and He allows us to be romanced by our Creator at the speed our frail forms can handle.

Wherever you are on your journey, know that the Eternal God longs to romance you as His precious love. Know that He desires a relationship with you that would make your heart skip a beat and your spirit blush with pleasure. Know that His touch is more fulfilling than any human touch can be, and know that He longs to draw you close to Him, as His beloved. From someone who is only beginning to understand: there is a child-like wonder in knowing even a portion of how dear you are to the heart of God. Please be open to Him, to His touch, His voice, His love. Know that with every heartbeat, He longs for you to share your pain, your past, your pride, and He longs to provide for you in ways that you may never imagine. He is all the healer, provider, protector, lover, father, friend, counselor, and comfort you will ever need, and the very heart of Him longs, with aching desire, to be the fulfillment of you, in this and every moment.

With love,