Love actually is…

petit fours

Valentine’s Day is a “holiday” that I don’t have strong feelings for either way – it’s nice if acknowledged when I have a significant other, and if I’m single, I don’t really spend time thinking about it.

But love…that’s another story. Although I will happily accept (and send) cards, flowers, chocolates and other gifts as an expression of affection, I’m much more about those displays, and more, being spread throughout the year.

For me, expressions of love come in many forms, and most often, they are not grand gestures or public declarations waiting to be “liked” and shared, they are not meant to evoke envy or shame, and they are not meant to be one-upped or outdone.

So, where does that leave us? Love is romantic, friendly, passionate, tender, devoted, nurturing, familiar, familial, respectful, and cherished. It’s seen and unseen, subtle and straightforward.

Love actually is…

…a letter from a friend you haven’t seen in years.

…a freshly roasted cup of coffee from Dad, and an extra $20 from Mom.

…an adorable pair of corgis waiting to greet me at my bedroom door each morning.

…a friend sending you a surprise gift that is “so you” just because.

…a long-time mentor encouraging you to reach your full potential.

… anytime anyone has shown me they love me for who I am. My parents always let me march to my own drum beat. That’s love.  – Leslie F

….a handwritten note — whether it’s a Post-It on the mirror, a note in my lunchbox, a thank you card, a love letter. I’ve received them all over the years, and the more thoughtful and heartfelt the sentiment, the more loved I feel.  – Julia R

… my husband, performing his nighttime duty as human blanket as he spoons me to sleep.  – Patti N

…when I found out I was pregnant with #1 on my birthday and #2 on Christmas. – Jessica K

… the first time Madeline said “I love you mommy.” We were on her bedroom floor lying on our belly reading “Olivia.” We finished the book and she said it. I’m in tears remembering the moment.  – Sarah D

…the first Valentine’s Day after a bad breakup, a friend who knew how much I was dreading the day sent me a very early morning text to wish my a happy Valentine’s day and that my friends all loved me.  – Sally-Anne K

What does love mean to you?

Here’s to love, fulfilled

Photo credit: yokohama.progressionstudios.com
Photo credit: yokohama.progressionstudios.com

At the beginning of the year, I gave a toast to love in 2013. Love of family, of friends, of my career, of me, and, not to be left out, romantic love. Halfway through the year, I’m drowning in love, overwhelmed in all directions by it. Some of it has been tough love, some of it deliriously happy, some of it sweet, and a lot of it confusing. My parents, my friends, and my colleagues have all played a big role in supporting me and loving me, and for that, I thank you.

When I began the year, I knew some changes would be coming in my life, but I wasn’t quite sure how it would play out. I knew I would be leaving DC, but I didn’t know when. I knew I would be changing career paths, but I wasn’t sure how. I knew I would be leaving friends and making new ones, and that was both sad and exciting. What I definitely wasn’t sure of though, was where the romance would come in. I felt I had hit a roadblock in that department, and my impending move made it even more of a challenge. It didn’t seem to make sense to try to date in DC at that point, but it would be perhaps months before I was settled into a new area and meeting new people. I was pretty sure that my romantic life would just be dormant for awhile, and that the love in my life would be filled in other ways.

But life has a funny way of throwing curveballs when you don’t expect it. Spring was wedding season for me, and right in the middle of celebrating the nuptials of a close friend, a chance connection with someone I didn’t even see coming bloomed, and suddenly, I was like, now what?!

All the reasons not to start a relationship with someone when I was moving across the country in two months stared me in the face: it would be hard, time was short, I didn’t want to do long distance again, we just met, I have no idea what I’m doing in a few months, etc. But there was no denying that we enjoyed spending time together and felt an intense connection that we wanted to keep going, even if it may end just a few months later. We weren’t the same people we had been a few years ago in our previous relationships, and as adults, we decided to just go with it and see where life and love took us for the ride.

Two months go by quickly, especially when you’re in love. It had been more than three years since I had felt loved in that way, or loved back. It was happy, it was simple, it was tender, it was comfortable, it was without drama or egos, and it was exactly what we wanted and needed. It caught me off guard at first, to be treated the way he treated me, with such affection and consideration. It wasn’t flowers and fancy dinners and adventures, but it was words and touch, and all heart. Not everyone gets to experience that – no matter how old you are.

The days inched closer to me leaving and I stressed about what to do. Should we give it a shot and see what happens? Should we end it and say we had a great time? In the end, we said “see you later” instead of goodbye and decided to try it out, even if for a few months, until we could check in and figure out next steps together. We talked, we texted, we wrote, we missed each other.

And again, life does what it will.

After a month apart, the magic had begun to fade, as had our feelings, and the distance had started to do its damage. No amount of communications or respect for each other can beat out what our hearts tell us, no matter how much we try. It’s not about rights or wrongs, or one person or the other. Sometimes, it’s simply time, distance, circumstances, and where we are in life that shapes our decisions and our feelings. And as adults who cared (and still do) very deeply for each other, we knew that it wasn’t working, as much as we didn’t want to admit it.

Who is to say that it would have worked if I hadn’t moved? Or if we had met earlier and had more time together as a couple? It may not have, or it may have, but we can’t dwell on the what ifs. What we can cherish and remember is the time we did have together, and what life will bring us in the future, whatever that may be. I don’t regret for a single second that I was able to experience love again, even if for just a short time. I don’t regret meeting someone that made me very happy in a time of transition, in a time of anxiety, a time when I was leaving so many things and people I loved behind and trusting myself to a new adventure and a lot of unknowns.

We can’t know where our hearts will lead us – sometimes it’s across the country or the world, sometimes it’s to different people than we imagined. I’m not a strong believer in fate or destiny, but I do believe that people come across our path for a reason, and their time may be long or short, but their impact may last forever. That’s how I feel about this experience.

So, with much in store this year, here’s to more love, from wherever it may come. And thank you, for loving me, and giving me the chance to love again.

2013: Here’s to love

Love at midnight
Love at midnight

You blink and you miss it… 2012 is gone, and a new year is here. When I look at what others are saying about 2012, I notice a lot of things like “Good riddance,” and “2012 wasn’t good.” There were some moments in 2012 that weren’t particularly happy or positive, but what year has ever been only good things? The bad and the sad come with the good, this we know. For every destructive storm, there are people that show up to help out, together. For every person that left us too soon, there is a welcome addition to a family. It doesn’t mean that these moments of pain are replaced or easier to bear, but it’s a reminder that life can bring just as much joy as we let it, despite hard times.

So how do we start 2013 with an eye towards joy and fortune? How do we make sure that we’re loving as hard as we can, and living as hard as we can? In the past, my resolutions have been themed around mantras like “No Excuses” and bringing more happy into my life. This year, it’s all about love. Not just in the romantic sense, but in every sense of the word. What do I mean? Here’s a taste:

  • Love my current friends in the way that they deserve, and love making new friends.
  • Love my family for all that they are, no matter our past, no matter our differences. Love every moment I have with them.
  • Love my job and my team, and change paths if I don’t feel it.
  • Love my city and all that it has to offer.
  • Love the places I travel to, and the people I travel with.
  • Love my hobbies and passions, and if they don’t make me happy, find something new to love.
  • Love myself — my flaws, my successes, my failures, my quirks, my body, my dreams, my growth.
  • Love what the future holds, wherever it brings me, whatever I may do — and know that it will all fall into place.
  • Fall in love and be loved back.

And what are some other folks resolving to do? A sampling from those who answered my question on Facebook and Twitter below; add yours in the comments!

-spending/focusing more of my time and money on experiences than material things.

My sister adopted a policy of only making fun, achievable, non-self-pounitive resolutions, like “get more manicures.”

-Maybe I should try picking one thing, just ONE THING, throwing all my energy and brainpower behind it, and then letting the other chips fall where they may. So, to that end, my goal for 2013 (the year, not coincidentally, I turn 30) is to get published. Be it a short story in a journal, or a magazine article, or an agent signing, anything will count. The aim is to be fearless and take the next huge step toward my writing dreams.

Remembering what’s important

Our beloved Casey: Reindeer Dog

Just three days before Christmas, everything is about peace and love and family and the true meaning of this holiday that has become so commercialized and in many instances, has lost its true meaning. Over the years, my family has slowly moved from all the traditional pieces of celebrating Christmas: we stopped putting out the manger display, we don’t go to church, and we don’t go all out on the decorations anymore.

Even though there are a few traditions that I miss (seeing A Christmas Carol every year at the Playhouse, going to Louisiana to do a gift exchange with my mom’s family), being home for the two weeks at the end of the year with my family has begun to take on a significance in a new way that I cherish and value so much more than eggnog and playing Christmas music throughout the house.

It’s things like the entire family sitting squeezing together on a loveseat in front of the tv day after day, drinking our coffee, playing on our iPads, watching Law & Order, and giving some TLC to the dogs. It’s things like all of us making gelato together, going through old boxes of memories and photographs as my parents pack for California, and taking a walk around the neighborhood in the freezing cold together.

To us, Christmas has become less about the trimmings and the presents (although we still give them of course!) and the madness that comes with the holidays, and really has become more about what it was meant for — to show each other love and support, to be there for each other as family and friends. We’re excited for Mom’s new job, and the move across the country, we’re cherishing what may be our last year or so with Harrison as he grows older, and enjoying a rascal of a puppy that has brought us so much joy since Casey’s passing. We’re looking for new opportunities together, and reminding each other of what’s important – to love, be loved, and to be happy and healthy, doing what we love, and not letting others dictate our lives.

And of course, making sure we get a big ol’ Honey Baked ham for Christmas dinner!

The littlest things make it hard to move on…

When looking back at a lifetime of memories, relationships, milestones, and decisions, it’s easy to lump them into categories and think you’re done with it. That was the “first job” stuff. That was the “move to the big city” year. That was the “neglectful father” stage. That was the “4-year relationship breakup” moment. That was the “new friends” phase. That was the “former BFF” summer.

They come together in weeks, months, or maybe years. They are represented by a blog entry here, a Facebook album there. They take up our dreams or nightmares for awhile, fill our therapy sessions and coworker coffee breaks until the topic becomes stale. And over time, these moments become what we think are distant memories, like faces of our loved ones that have passed and with each day we find it harder and harder to remember every detail of their face, their voice, their personality.

And then, the littlest thing makes it all so clear.

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