keybeets

Archive for the ‘Friendship’ Category

Love, Here and Now

In Friendship, Mindfulness, Relationships on January 28, 2013 at 7:44 am
Love hieroglyphics. When word's can't quite capture the moment...

Love hieroglyphics. When words can’t quite capture the moment…

Most mornings, the feeling of my partner’s warm, sleepy body curled next to mine is enough to fill me with an indescribable sense of peace and gratitude. There are, of course, exceptions. Sometimes, I wake up cranky and grumble my way out the door without giving him so much as a peck on the cheek. Other times, when we’ve fought the night before, I painstakingly avoid touching him (not even a toe is allowed to break rank), thinking to prove my point. Never mind that he is sleeping blissfully beside me, having already put the whole thing behind him.

In the past year, the experiences of people close to me have been a poignant reminder of the importance of treasuring these quiet, beautiful moments. Their experiences have reinforced the necessity of strengthening our relationships each and every day. It’s easy to get caught up in the motion of the days and weeks, without ever stopping to be mindful about the people who make our lives worthwhile. Career-building, work travel, bills, family, children, social obligations, digital distractions – they all take their toll.

I’m reminded of Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages. Chapman’s theory is that humans “speak” five love languages – words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, gifts, and physical touch – and that among these, we each have a “primary” language. When our partners “speak” our primary love languages, we feel content and our “love tank” is full, but when they don’t, we are more likely to feel unhappy. It’s a simple but useful lens for promoting mindfulness in relationships.

Skeptical? I would be too, especially since we know that relationships are never simple. Humor me, though, and push that skepticism aside. Take a moment to reflect: what’s your primary love language? What are the things that make you/your partner/family feel most loved? Think you’ve figured it out? Try a little experiment. If you think your partner thrives off of words of affirmation, write them a series of love notes. If you think they prefer physical touch, take Gretchen Rubin’s advice and give them “a kiss in the morning, a kiss at night.”

There’s no guarantee, of course, that this experiment will succeed. If it works, it’ll take time to fine-tune and will require concerted effort from the both of you. Even if it fails, however, you’ll have accomplished three things. First, you’ll have done something special for someone else. Consider it your good deed of the week. Secondly, and perhaps unexpectedly, you’ll have learned more about your own needs, as well those of your partner. Finally, you’ll have cultivated mindfulness in your relationships, which if sustained over time, will bring positive dividends of its own.

Friends with Skills

In Friendship on November 12, 2012 at 11:24 am

A mini-cupcake toast to friendship!

Tis’ the season to be thankful. Thankful for family, for friends, for employment, for food and shelter. Thankful for the democratic freedoms that we enjoy, for the people who have fought for those freedoms, and for all the other people working to make the world a better, healthier, happier place. I actually keep a daily gratitude journal, so for me this time of year means pulling out this journal and reminding myself of all of the wonderful things – both simple and life-changing – that have happened throughout the year. In looking over  the 2012 entries, I’ve been struck by a recurring theme: I am thankful for my friends with skills.

Skills is a loose term, which is my intention. In the more traditional sense, it can refer to the photographer friend who volunteers to help out with wedding stuff or the handyman friend who fixes your running toilet. On the less traditional side, what about the friend who is an incredible motivator for exercising? Or the group of writer friends who are kicking off their writing careers and provide incredible emotional support? Then there are the friends willing to drop everything to help you move and and the friends who are incredible cooks and love to feed you. Since it’s not my own personal strenght, I am also especially grateful for the friends who are caring and empathetic listeners.

I can attach a name and face to every one of these skills, which makes me a very fortunate and blessed person. I have been privileged to develop a truly unique and talented group of friends who have been my succor and strength over the last ten years. I hope that I have been able to give them as much as they have given me. It’s worth noting that, after I last wrote about my goal to be self-sufficient from my writing, I was approached by several friends gave me big hugs and offered to support me in any way possible. To those friends, I want to give an especially big thank you. Thank you for believing. Whenever self-doubt begins to creep up, I will remember those moments and will remember your kind words. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

***

Speaking of friends, I recently read a deeply beautiful, heart-wrenching book by Gail Caldwell titled Let’s Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship. For anyone who has experienced grief, Caldwell’s words will resonate. Her writing captures the strength of friendship, the life-changing power of loss, and the complicated process of learning to live with grief. Above all, the story is a reminder of the importance of valuing the people in our lives at every opportunity possible.