The thing about being born into a human body is that we are surrounded by two different kinds of people: the people we choose to have in our lives, and the people we were born to have in our lives—our family.
And some of these people are easy to love and the kindness and generosity flows forth easily and freely.
Well, let’s just say we all have relationships in which the love is there but the expression of the love, not so much.
Our relationships with the people we love often is filled with, ‘if onlys.” If only they were more generous, open, easy to get along with… I’m sure you can fill in the blank, then they would be easier to love.
And probably the people we love are often thinking a bunch of “if onlys” about us, too.
Now I have no intention of excusing nasty human behavior here in this article. If there are people in your life that you love not treating you in a way that makes you feel safe or okay, then it’s absolutely worth looking that issue straight in the eye and confronting it in whatever way is appropriate for you.
But what I want to discuss here is something different.
Something more subtle, more nuanced.
I want to talk about seeing that the people that surround us in our day-to-day lives, the ones who can be cold, cranky or even crass (what I am trying to say is normal and human) have love for us.
Even though sometimes it doesn’t seem like this is the truth, the reality is if we died tomorrow these same people would be at our funerals listing off the ways we touched them, how much they are going to miss us, and most importantly, how much they loved us—even though while we are living their sarcasm or argumentativeness often feels like the opposite of love.
So, how do we pick-up on this love when so often there seems to be signs of the opposite of being loved in our relationships?
Being intimate in words can be hard. It can feel vulnerable and scary and most of us are really bad at it. But the eyes say something else more than our words do. It can hurt a little to look closely at the eyes of someone who loves you because a lot of the time we have thought all these mean thoughts about this person or we have wished we didn’t have to deal with them, and we’ve probably been mean to them too, to boot.
And then to have the courage to look in their eyes and see that at the bottom of it all they love us? Well, it can hurt. But it’s important. So, take a look at the eyes of the people who love you and acknowledge the extreme amount of love that is there.
Listen to the Words Not the Tone
I don’t know about you but I have many people in my life who mumble, yell, whine, demand or complain when they talk to me. And just hearing the people in my life who I love start talking in one of these tones triggers me to no end.
Sometimes it is all I can do not to stick my fingers in my ears and sing,”la la la’” and wish it would all go away. But many times if I actually listen to what is being said, I mean really listen to the words and the intent, what I find is that there is truth or kindness or even love behind the annoying tone.
Sometimes help is even being offered but because I’m so triggered and annoyed by the tone of their voice I can’t even recognize or acknowledge the words. So, try this sometime, ignore the whininess or assertive tone of the speaker and really listen to the words being spoken. You might just like what you hear.
Ask Yourself If this is About the Present or the Past
Someone we love is talking to us in what seems to be a normal conversation and then suddenly, in what seems to be out of the blue, we find ourselves flying off the handle, yelling and crying and telling them how angry we are. Has this happened to you? It has definitely happened to me, just this morning, actually. And why does this happen? Especially with people we love and care about? Because we’re not reacting to what’s going on in the present moment, we’re reacting to things that happened in the past and our fears about what’s going to happen in the future.
My parents were staying at my house recently and as per usual they constantly fought loudly in my presence about little, petty things as they are known to do and I found myself overcome with anxiety and wanting to do anything to make them stop, to make it go away. Luckily, I have my mindfulness training and it helped me to see that it wasn’t that I was involved in these arguments that was upsetting me, it was just that I was being brought back to my experience as a child. It wasn’t their present behavior that was the problem (although, it certainly was annoying), it was that at the sound of their fighting I was no longer in the present, I was in the past.
How can we be more aware that people love us? By experiencing each interaction for what it is, that interaction in the moment. Not a reflection of past interactions or a prediction for future interactions. Want to have more love in your life? Experience the love happening with the people around you now. Even if it isn’t packaged in the way your mind wishes it was.
Calm Down and Check in Again
We’ve been over this before. The best way to calm down is to notice the breath. Slowing of the breath regulates the heartbeat and sends a message to the body that we are safe. When we are in flight or fight mode we are unable to notice the love in the present. When I was triggered by my parent’s loud fighting I first noticed my increased heart rate, then I took a few long, slow deep breaths and saw that my adult self was safe and it was my child self who was scared. Feeling like someone you care about doesn’t love you? First calm down and then check the facts again.
Does noticing that people love you make your heart ache a little? Make you squirmy and a little uncomfortable? Me, too. Does noticing that you’ve had mean thoughts about the people you love and even often want to get away from them make you feel guilty? Me too. Same, same. But that’s okay. Lots of things make us feel lots of things and we just keep going on, right? So, look around. You are loved. All you need to do is notice.
For once you know it’s a thing:
And if it doesn’t work out:
Author: Ruth Lera
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Wiki Commons