Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Expressing appreciation

"Everyone wants to be appreciated, so if you appreciate
someone, don’t keep it a secret." ~M. K. Ash

A few days ago my mom told me that she has always thought of me as a happy person. This statement really stood out to me for two reasons. First of all, I haven’t seen myself as the most positive person lately and was beginning to wonder if I’ve always been this way. Hearing her words helped me remember that I am happy by nature and gave me hope that I can be that way again. The second reason her comment meant so much was because she doesn’t typically offer encouraging words like that. Don’t get me wrong, I love my mom and have no doubt that she loves me. I remember the flood of emotions I felt when I read a paragraph she wrote about me in my application to Ricks College. She talked about attending one of my volleyball games and being impressed when I was the only one on my team who didn’t participate in a somewhat crude cheer. I didn’t even realize she had been watching me and felt so happy to learn I was acceptable in her eyes. Moments like that weren’t common in my family though. Most of us have a difficult time verbalizing our feelings toward each other.

Over the years, I’ve become increasingly aware of my inability to express myself to those I love. Sometimes I feel like I’m emotionally stunted. I was especially aware of this in my last relationship. No matter how much I wanted to, I found it impossible to adequately express myself to the guy I was dating. I sometimes practiced conversations in my head so I could tell him what I appreciated about him and let him know how much I cared. When the opportunity came for us to talk, I blushed and stuttered and really struggled to get the words out. It made me feel like an idiotic school girl, so I just kept my thoughts to myself most of the time. I’m sad to think of all the opportunities I missed to point out his good qualities and thank him for the little things he said or did to make me smile.

This is something I want to change about myself. I’ve been making it a point lately to tell my friends exactly what I appreciate about them. I’ll be honest; it’s been a real struggle for me. Sometimes I’m only able to do it via text messages or e-mail, but I guess that’s a start. Over time, I hope to turn this weakness into one of my greatest strengths. People need to know that they are loved and valued. They need to be reminded of their redeeming qualities. They need to know they are accepted, regardless of the mistakes they’ve made (or will make). They need to feel safe in sharing their hopes and dreams, without fear of rejection or misunderstanding. I hope to feel that sense of safety in my next relationship. In order to feel that, though, I realize I need to first share more of myself. I’m a work in progress.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Simple things

I've been struck lately by the little things people do for us that leave a lasting impression. I'm not talking about huge gestures, like buying a laptop for a poor college student so she can succeed in school or helping to fund someone's mission (both of which happened to me). Those things will no doubt have an impact on their lives; I've been touched in many ways by grand gestures of love like these. I've also been touched by the little things people have done for me, such as calling me out of the blue (not realizing I was feeling lonely in that moment) or sharing a snack with me in class when my stomach was growling. These may seem like simple things, but they can really impact someone's life.

The other day at Institute, our instructor was talking about the 4 Ts of love: time, touch, talk, and teach. Touch is the one that stood out to me, as my primary love language is physical affection. During the lesson, he quoted Dr. Harold Voth who said that "hugging can lift depression." I completely agree with that statement - I've always thought there was something magical about hugs.

A few days after this lesson someone asked me to think about a time when I felt the most loved. I was surprised when the memory that came to mind wasn't something grandiose or spectacular. It was a sweet moment shared with a guy I was dating at the time. He and I had just gotten out of an Institute class and were standing by his car talking about our day. He asked me how I was doing and gave me a knowing look after I said I was fine. I then opened up about the struggles I was facing and how I felt so hopeless in being able to change my situation. He offered a few words of comfort and then pulled me close to him. I'm not sure how he knew, but that was exactly what I needed in that moment. Just a hug. A hug that told me he was there for me. A hug that reminded me I wasn't alone. A hug to release some of the pain and frustration I was feeling. A hug that would last as long as I needed it to. I got the impression he would have held me there all night if necessary; he wasn't going to let go until I was ready. As we stood there in silence, my racing heart began to calm down and my tense muscles loosened up. I relaxed my face on his chest and soaked in his familiar scent. I felt safe and secure with his strong arms wrapped around me, and for the first time in weeks I felt at peace. My burdens began to feel lighter as I sensed the love and concern he had for me. At that moment, I knew everything was going to be OK.

I sometimes wonder if he will ever understand the impact that simple hug had on me (or if he even remembers that moment). I wonder if any of us will ever know the impact we have on others with the seemingly trivial things we do for them. Even so, I hope we'll all continue doing those simple things.

During that Institute lesson, our instructor shared a story about a mission president's wife who was struggling with their new living situation. She finally hit her breaking point and exploded into tears while confessing to her husband how much she hated it there. Before finishing the story, our instructor looked at my friend and asked what he would have said in that situation. He thought for a moment and finally admitted he wouldn't know what to do for her. My mind immediately flashed to that night from many months ago. I looked over at him and smiled to myself thinking, "You would know."

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Backfired love

Remember that post from yesterday? Can I please just take it all back?

OK, I don't really mean that - I'm just feeling frustrated right now. I hate when things I say come back to bite me in the butt. When I said I was going to love people more openly, I didn't realize just how vulnerable that would make me. Tonight I realized that if you're too kind and loving, it's that much easier for people to take advantage of you. Can't people just appreciate being loved instead of using it to their advantage? If it's so important to care about people, why does it sometimes leave me feeling so empty? Blah!

On a positive note, this experience reminds me just how lucky I am for the friends who don't take advantage of me but actually love me back. Fortunately, those kind of friends far outweigh the ones who take me for granted. So... thank you, my friends. I'm grateful to have you in my life. :)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Loving others, loving ourselves

I have an immense capacity for love; loving others comes quickly and naturally to me. I appreciate this about myself and consider it a special gift. However, I've learned to be very careful with this gift, as it often leads to disappointment and heartbreak. The other day I read a blog that helped me realize I shouldn't be so apprehensive when it comes to loving others. Rather, I should openly share that love with those around me, regardless of whether or not they are able to return it. I've started applying this in my friendships and already feel much better about life.

I've decided that my loving nature is my favorite quality. What do you like most about yourself? I asked this question on Facebook last night, and below are some of the responses I received. What can you add to this list? Post your response in the comments.
  • I have amazing eyelashes and a kind heart (K.G.)
  • That my body can grow great babies, and that I am creative (S.G.)
  • That I have a kind and loving heart and a beautiful daughter of God (D.L.)
  • My ability to laugh in the face of great trial and adversity and ... well... pretty much everything to be honest (D.G.)
  • My curiosity... I always want to learn more and know more about just about anything (C.W.)
  • I'm learning to love my new scar, which reminds me everyday that I beat cancer (M.P.)
  • What I like the most is that I am a hard worker, and that my self-esteem is robust and healthy (C.T.)
  • i'm quick to forgive. i also really like that i have such a great appetite....mostly for chocolate chip cookies and ice cream :) (A.M.)