Time, Books, Bread, and Love

What is/are your love language/s?

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 book Write 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?

Stay Connected

NaBoPoMo 2021:  Do Good, Kid

My friend Liz is amazing.

We met just as I was leaving my last practice 7 years ago, and I knew right away I had to grow this relationship.  She is an elder sister in the profession—a wise, compassionate, generous, empathic, smart, thoughtful, and loving physician and teacher.  After I had the privilege of presenting to her and her amazing colleagues on physician burnout (really, they schooled me that day), Liz showed me the inner world of primary care in a correctional facility.  We toured incredibly aged buildings.  Liz explained the frustrating limitations of working in a jail environment and the difficulties arranging optimal follow up when detainees are released.  But most of all, she showed me what true, deep respect for every person’s dignity, no matter how vulnerable, looks like.  Holy cow, I will never forget that day. 

Liz is also a deeply spiritual person.  She wrote the chapter on spiritual resources for Jewish healthcare professionals in Judaism and Health.  After our day together at the jail, we kept trying to meet again.  I wanted to learn more about Judaism and how she lived it—personally, professionally, and in community.  But my kids were little and the weather was bad on the nights we planned to meet, or something would come up, or- or- or…  It just never worked out.  But as physicians of deep faith, we both always knew we would connect again someday.

We kept in touch all these years mostly through occasional emails, and then YAY Facebook, especially the Physician Moms Group!  By far the most valuable thing about social media is sharing photos and reading life updates.  It really makes you feel like you’re in your friends’ lives up close, going through all the ups and downs, sharing joys and sorrows, witnessing from afar.  When I posted recently about a freak out I had over Daughter’s anaphylactic food allergy, Liz reached out.

We met in her neighborhood, which happens to be my old college stomping grounds.  We walked all over campus and caught up, shared stories, commiserated, and bonded, just like we always knew we would.  I got a copy of the book with a bonus printout of her favorite poem, “The Seven of Pentacles” by Marge Piercy.  I will return the love with my favorite book of poems so far, To Bless the Space Between Us by John O’Donohue. 

The space between us, indeed.  So near, just across town, yet so far, 7 years, and yet so near still, always connected in spirit through the years, light and strong, like dental floss or fishing line… We stayed connected, patiently, faithfully, knowing that divinity operates on its own schedule, and that when we could finally meet again, it would be powerful and lovely. 

And so it was.

It will not be another 7 years, this we know.  And it was well worth the wait.