According to Gary Chapman’s popular book The Five Love Languages, mine are, in order: quality time, words of affirmation, receiving gifts, physical touch, and acts of service. Since learning the framework, I have observed for Husband’s and Kids’ languages, and become more fluent in a few of their respective dialects. Some are easier to pick up than others! It’s humbling to think how friends and family may feel rejected by me when I respond sideways to their bids for love, because I don’t understand their intent. “Rats!” as friend Eileen would say. I can do better!
On the other hand, how wonderful when I can converse in love speech with someone in appreciation and joy? Words are definitely my currency–quality time for me means being together talking, and not just about pop culture and current events. I consider any thoughtful or personal verbal expression a gift, and especially anything via snail mail. I get positively giddy when I open the mailbox and see colored envelopes, interesting stamps, and omg stickers–it all just makes my heart sing.
Friend and fellow writer Nicole recently recommended the bookWrite For Your Life by Anna Quindlen. It’s a fast, easy, and heartwarming read by the veteran journalist and novelist. It validates my insatiable need to write–for myself and for sharing–and inspires me to do it with ever more abandon and joy. Quindlen reflects on the timeless relevance of Anne Frank’s diary, and our collective delight in finding old letters between lovers from the past. She wishes her parents left more words on paper, in their own hand, now that she can no longer connect with them in a tangible, tactile way. Even if you’ve never thought writing could stimulate, soothe, inspire, or connect you, this short work may convince you otherwise. Spending quality time with yourself and your thoughts, processing through pen on paper, may yield ideas, insights, and epiphanies that come no other way; and those who read them subsequently may benefit and connect to you in ways you cannot yet not imagine. So inspired was I after reading, that I bought multiple copies of WFYL and gifted them to friends. With each volume I selected a specific journal to go along. Pleather- and cloth-bound, blank, lined books invite original composition with artfully embossed covers: windblown trees; “Be the Change”; “ZEN AS F*CK”.
For my friend who took on a big new hairy leadership role, I included 6 additional works: The Art of Possibility, Benjamin and Rozamund Stone Zander; Switch, Chip and Dan Heath; Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert; Rising Strong, Brene Brown; Drive, Daniel Pink; and The Infinite Game, Simon Sinek. To the one who stands together with his wife at their respective professional crossroads, I accompanied Quindlen with John O’Donohue’s wisdom in To Bless the Space Between Us. His poems soothe, uplift, warm, and reassure, promoting reflection and also whispering, coaxing our own wisdom to emerge from within. Sharing others’ words, wiser and more eloquent than my own, is another way I love my friends.
When I can get the timing right, of course I also include some sourdough in the gift bag. Sven continues to thrive, leavening my loaves reliably for a over a year now. His heirloom flour descendant, whose products my gluten-intolerant friends can eat without consequence, has finally also developed that fruity aroma that I recognize as my starter. There is something special about giving and receiving gifts we make (or write) by hand, with our time, talent, and treasure. It’s just another level of love, expressed concretely and tangibly.
Nobody questions the value of sharing and expressing love between friends and family.
But what about between colleagues? Leaders and those they lead? Systems and their contingent members? What does it take to learn and attempt to speak anybody’s ‘love’ language? When we do personality tests at the office and find out who’s an introvert or extravert, who thinks versus feels their way to a decision, can we as leaders and coworkers make the effort to communicate–to relate–on another’s terms in addition to our own? I fail at this day after day; rats! I can do better!
In the end it’s about how we each feel seen, heard, understood, accepted and loved–why limit this essential and life-sustaining human reciprocity to ‘loved ones’? Better yet, why not include all with whom we are in any relationship among those we consider ‘loved‘? It may require quite a brave and committed redefinition of and reorientation to ‘love’, no? But how might this inspired shift in perspective, even by only a fraction of one degree, profoundly alter the course of business, healthcare, education, government–everything?
Where were you on February 25, 2020? What was happening around you? What were you doing, planning, looking forward to, worried about?
What day did COVID change your life?
On New Year’s Eve, 2019, my niece declared that everybody was overreacting to the infection sweeping across Wuhan, China. It won’t be a big deal, she said. I specialize neither in infectious disease nor public health, but I knew then that what was coming would be a big. fucking. deal.
This morning, stepping out into the bright sun and crisp air at the end of another unusually mild Chicago winter, Daughter and I recalled 3 years ago. We had just spent a long weekend in Seattle, just for fun. Son had said then that he could see himself living there ‘after school,’ and lo, he ended up there for school. Little did we know then that COVID had already landed, right there, where we were.
Within weeks, whole organizations and governments mobilized and immobilized; life mutated irrevocably around us everywhere. COVID hit me in the face by cracking one of my friendships early on. The week of March 9, I begged off of a gathering, and my friend was angry. I respected and admired her, and loved her family–still do. She subsequently railed at the prospect of lockdown and social distancing, citing economic fallout, apparently dismissing my alarm at the risk to our healthcare system, and my own colleagues, if we deferred such drastic measures. It took me by surprise, floored me, and I was hurt. I wanted to talk more about it, talk through it. But these three years, every time we approach our differences here, she respectfully declines to continue. I respectfully agree. We hit a boundary in our friendship then, which I accept. I can engage with difference elsewhere; there is no shortage of opportunities. Over this time I believe I have both sharpened and softened my communication skills around disagreement and dissent, and I’m still grateful for every chance to practice, learn, and improve.
Facebook showed me what I posted three years ago today. I don’t know which leader moved me to profess my appreciation on social media, but I bet it was one of two, so I emailed them both today with the screen snip of the post. “…recalling 3 years ago, watching and waiting for the pandemic wave to hit us, standing in a state of novel awe and uncertainty. I also remember feeling confident, though; I understood the medical and public implications and trusted my immediate professional and personal circles to think and act rationally and thoughtfully… Our organization has its challenges, both intrinsic and extrinsic. Each day, though, I’m still convinced and proud that everybody’s doing their best for the greater good. So Happy Saturday, and thank you for you leadership. 🙂” Having led a small practice through the first 14 months of the COVID morass, I suspect any sincere expression of acknowledgement and appreciation, at anytime, even now, boosts any leader’s spirits. We are all still going through it, and we still need to hold one another up.
This is the 42nd post that appears on a “COVID” search of this blog. I process by writing. Reading back, I apparently felt more fear and anxiety at the outset than I may remember. Memory is complex! Today I recall vividly the acutely discordant and uncomfortable conversations with my friend, while minimizing the overall stress of the time and circumstances? How fascinating. We would all do well to ‘remember’ this paradox of recollection as we continue to navigate, negotiate, and collaborate hereafter.
“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” Anna Quindlen includes this quote by Anais Nin in her book, Write For Your Life. Have you anything to review from three years ago–emails, letters, photos with captions, blog posts? What does any of it show you about your feelings, thoughts, actions, and relationships back then? How has your life evolved and transformed in the short and profound time since? How have your relationships moved? I’m gratified to take some time today to recall and reflect, and to have concrete evidence of myself to do it with.
So many excellent essays and posts everywhere for the New Year, are you soaking them in? Do they lift you up? What stands out for you from 2022?
I have to say, I’m ready for things to be easier and lighter. These last two years were pretty damn shitty for a slew of reasons… and I don’t necessarily wish for anything different. What doesn’t kill us often does make us stronger, and not always. Some of it just maims and scars, and we could be just as strong and well without it. Whatever, it all just is.
Love and gratitude stand out for me… Also commitment, resilience, and of course connection. Connection, actually, is both the beginning and end of getting through hard times, no? The trust, love, strength, respect, and attention we share hold us all up, bond us closer through crucibles of crisis, and magnify themselves, don’t you think?
Three posts resonate in particular with me this week, which I share below. May they lift or ground you, whichever you need. May you notice and receive whatever else you need as well, to start 2023 in peace and confidence, and to sustain that sense of “I’ Got This,” no matter what comes. Oh and as usual, I’ve included my list of books and notable media at the end. Books in [brackets] are yet to be finished; entries in bold are my favorites. My home Word file denotes romance novels in blue, but I think you can figure it out based just on the titles. There is a theme emerging among the romances I love; maybe more on that later. 😉 I created ‘Inspo’ on Spotify soon after writing the Playlist post last month, along with separate ones for writing and workouts. That subscription is well worth the cost!
ONWARD, my friends. All we have is this one life, with one another. Let us make the most of it all, ya?
Let It Be So
Donna Ashworth wrote the poem “When I Go,” which inspired my post of the same title. In her message for 2023, she reminds us to treat ourselves with a little more acceptance, compassion, and generosity. I wholeheartedly concur–if we can do this better for ourselves, then we are much more likely and able to do it for one another:
“Why do we start a new year, with promises to improve?
“Who began this tradition of never-ending pressure?
“I say, the end of a year, should be filled with congratulation, for all we survived.
“And I say a new year should start with promises to be kinder to ourselves, to understand better just how much we bear, as humans on this exhausting treadmill of life…”
Holding ourselves in acceptance and compassion can manifest in specific practices; we can frame them as resolutions, intentions, hopes, or whatever. For me right now, it all still comes back to self-awareness, self-regulation, and community building… Mindful, peaceful intention in action and interaction, or something like that.
I only recently found Rachel Marie Martin, and her work resonates so far, especially her 23 ‘rules.’ I choose to hold them loosely, some more than others, and I look forward to seeing which ones recur in my psyche over the months to come. If the excerpt here speaks to you, check out the entire list on her Facebook page.
1. Stare fear in the face. So often fear stops us. Instead live fearless – knowing when to stop and when to move and when to be brave.
2. Invest in your friends. Good friends listen and show up. Do the same. Friendship is give and take and give and take. Friends are the ultimate gift.
3. No excuses. You must take care of yourself: heart, body and soul. There is no excuse for forgetting you. Your family needs you to love you with the same tenacity that you love them.
4. Guilt doesn’t need to dictate choices. Don’t let guilt stop you from taking care of yourself. Guilt keeps one stuck.
5. Read real books again. Watch a mini-series. Start jogging. Do something that is not work, not chores, but simply that makes you happy.
6. Love your body. Your aging body. Yes, that. And stop lamenting the wrinkles, but embrace them as another year lived.
How many times do ‘relationship’ and ‘connection’ occur on this blog, I wonder? More times than most other nouns/ideas, I bet. They are my Why. And yet, they are inadequate words to truly express the depth to which I mean them. So I was especially grateful years ago to find John O’Donohue’s explanation of anam cara, ‘soul friend’ in Celtic. That direct translation hardly captures the meaning, either, and his book of this title is a bit dense and esoteric. So I thank Maria Popova for her long form delve, “Anam Cara and the Essence of True Friendship”. Her essays read slowly in the best way–leisurely yet intense intellectual consideration, like sipping the smoothest bittersweet Belgian hot chocolate. I picture the cafe where my best friend from college (an anam cara, for sure) and I always sat, with all the time in the world, enjoying each other’s company and whatever random wonders occurred to us. Read her post in a warm, comfy chair, including the most eloquent quotes from O’Donohue’s writing:
“With the anam cara you could share your inner-most self, your mind and your heart. This friendship was an act of recognition and belonging. When you had an anam cara, your friendship cut across all convention, morality, and category. You were joined in an ancient and eternal way with the ‘friend of your soul.’ The Celtic understanding did not set limitations of space or time on the soul. There is no cage for the soul. The soul is a divine light that flows into you and into your Other. This art of belonging awakened and fostered a deep and special companionship.
“A friend is a loved one who awakens your life in order to free the wild possibilities within you… The one you love, your anam cara, your soul friend, is the truest mirror to reflect your soul. The honesty and clarity of true friendship also brings out the real contour of your spirit.”
And she puts his words in 21st Century context with crystal clarity of their profound, countercultural importance:
“…being an anam cara requires of a purposeful presence — it asks that we show up with absolute integrity of intention. That interior intentionality, O’Donohue suggests, is what sets the true anam cara apart from the acquaintance or the casual friend — a distinction all the more important today, in a culture where we throw the word “friend” around all too hastily, designating little more than perfunctory affiliation. But this faculty of showing up must be an active presence rather than a mere abstraction — the person who declares herself a friend but shirks when the other’s soul most needs seeing is not an anam cara.”
It’s all so much, isn’t it? So much stimulation, emotion, tragedy, possibility, uncertainty, profundity, incredulity, and so much more. *deep breath*
Maybe one of the more important life lessons, that can only come with living it longer, is to hold it all with stronger yet looser conviction. To realize my own mission and have it validated gives me confidence. It also frees me to let go those who can’t see, don’t come along, or even reject it. We all walk our own paths; you don’t have to come on my journey. If our paths cross in a ditch or other obstruction, or your trail looks more interesting or efficient than the one I’m on, I can change directions and choose a new route for a while. There are infinite ways to get to where I’m going. I can just really enjoy and revel in the view as I walk.
To the New Year. Another cycle begins. Bring it.
Pathways to Possibility by Rozamund Stone Zander
Liminal Thinking by Dave Gray
52 Pep Talks for Writers by Grant Faulkner
Useful Delusions by Shankar Vedantham and Bill Mesler
A Little Hope by Ethan Joella
The Wisdom of Your Body by Hillary McBride
Be Water, My Friend by Shannon Lee
Summary of Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, by Readtrepreneur Publishing on Hoopla Digital
Curious by Ian Leslie
The Icepick Surgeon by Sam Kean
The Other Dr. Gilmer by Benjamin Gilmer
The Upside of Irrationality by Dan Ariely
[The Mindful Therapist by Daniel Seigel]
Plays Well With Others by Eric Barker
[Atlas of the Heartby Brené Brown]
High Conflict by Amanda Ripley
The Lightmakers’ Manifesto by Karen Walrond
Power Moves by Adam Grant
Mentors by Russell Brand
I Am Spock by Leonard Nimoy
I Must Say by Martin Short
Sparks Like Stars by Nadia Hashimi
Be Quiet, Be Heard by Susan Glaser and Peter Glaser
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
Buried Deep by Margot Hunt
Dirtbag Anthropology by Kate Willett
The All or Nothing Marriage by Eli Finkel
[The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion]
Welcome to Your Teenager’s Brain by Abigail Baird
The Way Out by Peter Coleman
Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt
A Republic, If You Can Keep It by Neil Gorsuch
The Egg and Other Stories by Andy Weir
The Fix Up by Kendall Ryan
Playing For Keeps by Kendall Ryan
Part-time Lover by Lauren Blakely
The Ruthless Gentleman by Louise Bay
Delayed Gratification by Lauren Blakely
Instant Gratification by Lauren Blakely
Kismet by Lauren Blakely
The Dream Guy Next Door by Lauren Blakely
Never Have I Ever by Lauren Blakely
Private Player by Louise Bay
Not Until You by Corinne Michaels
If I Only Knew by Corrine Michaels
Satisfaction Guaranteed by Lauren Blakely
Consumed By You by Lauren Blakely
One of Those Flings by Lauren Blakely
Your French Kisses by Lauren Blakely
P.S. It’s Always Been You, Parts 1, 2, & 3 by Lauren Blakely
Special Delivery by Lauren Blakely
Lucky Suit by Lauren Blakely
Cocktail by Lauren Smith
Bossy Brit by Kendall Ryan
One Hot Scandal by Anna Durand
Melt For Him by Lauren Blakely
Portrait of a Thief by Grace D Li
Lethal in a Kilt by Anna Durand
The British Bastard by Anna Durand
Irresistible In a Kilt by Anna Durand
The Pretending Plot by Lauren Blakely
One Hot Christmas by Anna Durand
One Hot Crush by Anna Durand
One Hot Chance by Anna Durand
One Hot Roomie by Anna Durand
Heired Lines by Magan Vernon
The Bromantic Comedies by Erin Mallon
Royally Endowed by Emma Chase
Brit vs. Scot by Anna Durand
One Hot Escape by Anna Durand
The Duke’s Twin by Lauren Smith
Forever Be Mine by Lauren Smith
Royally Screwed by Emma Chase
Royally Matched by Emma Chase
Rory In a Kilt by Anna Durand
One Hot Rumor by Anna Durand
Sweet Liar by Laurelin Paige
Sweet Fate by Laurelin Paige
Incendiary in a Kilt by Anna Durand
He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not by Iris Morland
My Rebound by Carrie Ann Ryan
Devastating in a Kilt by Anna Durand
Two Pretty Lies by Kelleigh Clare
Rivalry by Laurelin Paige
Ruin by Laurelin Paige
Revenge by Laurelin Paige
[Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabriel Zevin]