Feb
08

Intentional Loving Series Day 8: The Words We Speak

by Christine

"Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill." ~Buddha

"You have a pretty voice", he said. The boy was nine years old and sat next to me in Mrs. Dodson's fourth grade class. My memories of 4th grade are all in black and white because the class photo was shot in black and white but I remember that morning clearly and in color. Each morning our class started the day by standing and reciting the Lord's Prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance followed by singing the Star Spangled Banner. As we sat down my classmate said to me, "You have a pretty voice." I loved to sing and that unsolicited compliment made my heart soar. 50 years later, I remember him, what he said and how it made me feel; I can see him clearly in my mind's eye. His kind words encouraged me to try out for the school chorus and eventually lead to me major in voice at college.  

The words we speak impact the people around us. My mother and father were big proponents of the "Please and Thank You" school of parenting. Today that vocabulary is commonplace to me but recently I failed to use the word 'please' when making a request of Marty. He stopped and said, "Please?" Now I am letting you in on one of those occasions when couples just get on one another's nerves and I said, "Pleaseeeee but I would like to point out that you NEVER say please or thank you to me." We did the grown up version of uh huh and nuh uh until I said, "Do me a favor, pay attention to how you make request of me?" And to Marty's credit he agreed. It wasn't ten minutes later before he asked me to do something without saying please. He stopped, had a moment of enlightenment and rephrased his request to include a please. 

My point in sharing this story is not to call out Marty for his lack of please and thank yous but to highlight that we get lazy in our speech when communicating with those closest to us. A key element in intentionally loving another person is in how you speak to them: what is your vocabulary? Are your words encouraging, uplifting and kind? Or are you critical, picky and unforgiving? Do you tell your children that you love them everyday? Do you find something positive to say to your friends regularly? Do you thank your spouse frequently for their acts of kindness? The danger in long-term relationships is believing they "know" you care and that you don't have to "work" at the relationship anymore. 

Silence can be another barrier in a close relationship. I don't mean the kind of silence where two people sit side-by-side and enjoy one another's company in that silence. I am talking about never acknowledging the good in your children, spouse or friends. Silence can be a tool to withhold affection because kind words are affection. I'm grateful my classmate didn't remain silent. I have cherished his words since I was 9 years old. 

Today and for the rest of the week, listen to the words you use when speaking to those closest to you. Take the time to caress them with your words and remind them of the good you see in them. As I said yesterday, aging has its upside. We have a lifetime of experience and the ability cull through the clutter to do what is important. Use your life lessons to make those around you feel valuable and loved.

Hugs,

NEXT: THE ACTIONS WE TAKE

Feb
07

Intentional Loving Series Day 7: Love Is Love

by Christine

"A mother's arms are made of tenderness and children sleep soundly in them." ~Victor Hugo

For the last 4 days I have been posting about the four different types of love...Storge-affection, Phila-friendship, Eros-romantic and Agape-charity. From type to type, there are elements that are shared by each. Physical and mental components are reflected in each type love. Loving a family includes spending time with that them....physically being with them. I have friends who were adopted at a very young age who said upon meeting their birth family in later life, felt disconnected from them, no matter how kind and welcoming they were to them. To love our family we must spend time with them as we spend time with our friends and lovers. Kindness, caring and respect are part of loving no matter what type. When these elements are missing or absent, love is absent from the relationship whether that relationship is with family, friends, lovers or humanity. 

The old Smother's Brothers joke that "Mom always liked you best" doesn't hold at my house. My son will say, "Mom loves me best". My daughter will say, "Mom loves me best." At which point I will say, "I love you both equally." Later Matthew and Kathryn will come to me, put their arm around me and whisper in my ear that "I know you love me best but you have to say that you have to say that because you don't want to hurt Matthew/Kathryn's feelings." 

I am pleased that both my children feel loved but I believe that love is love. There are no degrees to love. Either you love someone or you don't. You don't kind of love someone today; it is like a traditional light switch. It is either on or off. I tell my children that I love them. I can't love one more than the other because love is real, tangible and unlimited. Love is like Doritos...you don't run out, you just make more. 

I will say that some days the "feeling" of love is illusive. When I'm tired, grumpy and don't particularly want to be around myself much less someone else, feeling the love isn't right on the surface. But unlike a light switch, if you truly love someone, you can't just turn it off. At those times showing love may be difficult but you still love them. Starting tomorrow, I will post about how to show love and why it is important. The good part about aging and yes, there are some good parts, is that with age comes the ability to clear away the clutter and make time for what is important. As we think about how to intentionally love the people we care about, we put effort behind our beliefs and leave footsteps in the sand for others to follow. 

Until tomorrow,
C

NEXT: THE WORDS WE SPEAK

Feb
06

Intentional Loving Series Day 6: Agape-Charity

by Christine

"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other." ~Mother Teresa

I will admit right off the bat that Agape deserves more than one blog post. Books, classes, videos and songs have been presented about the power of Agape. Billy Graham, Rabbi Daniel Lapin and Aamir Hussain are all of different religious backgrounds but have preached on or written about Agape. The concept is inextricably tied to spiritual and religious thought, which could take years to examine. But I will hit the salient points so that we will have a common vocabulary as we discuss love over the next couple of weeks. 

To the Ancient Greeks, Agape refers to the paternal love of God for man and of man for God but is extended to include a brotherly love for all humanity. Such thinkers as Plato, St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas have shaped what it means to love thy neighbor. Questions have arisen to whether Agape love applies to people outside your faith community. Does it apply to those that would do you harm? Can you really turn the other cheek when the wolf is at the door? The Ancient Greeks debated this concept in great detail and depending on your own views, you could definitely find a philosopher that agrees with you. 

C.S. Lewis called Agape, charity. He believed that God's love for man was a gift and as such we should share that gift by loving our fellow man. He wrote in The Four Loves, that such a "Gift-love comes by Grace and should be called Charity, everyone will agree." I don't believe in this day and age that most people think of charity when they think of loving all of humanity. In our modern society charity is tied to food drives and end of the year donations to our favorite "charity". Lewis' concept was broader and was framed by the biblical concept of the Golden Rule. 

In the 21st Century many people talk of the spirituality of nature and being at one with their fellow man while distancing themselves from organized religion. I do recognize that 40% of American attends church regularly but that number is down from 70% in 1950. Agape is the unconditional love between God, man and humanity and according to this definition doesn't fit into the humanistic concept that rejects the divine. Do you believe that you or we can love humanity? Do you believe that love can or is unconditional? What do you think love thy neighbor means? 

Hugs,
C

Next: Love Is Love

 

 

Feb
05

Intentional Loving Day 5: Eros-Romance

by Christine

"The word 'romance,' according to the dictionary, means excitement, adventure, and something extremely real. Romance should last a lifetime." ~Billy Graham

When we talk about "The Greeks", we are mainly referring to Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. While there are other Greeks who contributed to the formation of the philosophies that came out of ancient Greece, these three were founding figures in Western Philosophy. Romantic love as described by the Greeks meant that there was an intense desire for something, often meaning a sexual desire. Plato took it one step further and held that the desire seeks transcendental beauty; the true beauty of an individual that reminds us that true beauty that exists in the world of Forms and Ideas. The Platonic theory in a nutshell says that love can transcend the physical and tend towards the purely spiritual or ideal. This idea is very different than the modern view of romantic love.

C.S. Lewis wrote in The Four Loves that "sexual desire, without Eros, wants it, the thing in itself; Eros wants the Beloved." Lewis differentiated between the "thing" of sensory pleasure and the desire for the Beloved herself. An outed cheating husband makes the same distinction when he pleads with his wife not to leave him because honey, it was only sex. Before I leave you with the belief that Lewis was advocating sex without Eros, I need to state that wasn't the case. He took very seriously the place of sex within Eros and that it should be honored. To take sex lightly or pornographically was to flirt with disaster. 

In modern America, scientist continue the sex as a "separate thing" narrative by describing in detail the biological aspects of sex thereby neutralizing Eros. Sadly, too many people have learned the hard way that sex is not Eros or love. The freedom to marry whom ever one wishes to marry has not always been open to women. (That is still true in some cultures today.) The concept of romantic love coupled with sensory pleasure is a relatively new concept and candidly, new territory for both men and women. 21st Century philosophers are now debating questions of sexual faithfulness, honor and loyalty. 

Both Plato and Lewis wrote of love that transcends yet incorporates physical love. Above is a photograph of my Aunt and Uncle. They have been married for over 60 years building a life together that included raising 5 wonderful daughters, working at successful careers and supporting one another through good times and bad. I view a relationship like theirs as a poster-child for Eros, a love that transcends and incorporates all the elements of Eros. 

Until tomorrow,

Hugs,
C

Next: Agape-Unconditional Love

Feb
04

Intentional Loving Series Day 4: Philia-Friendship

by Christine


 

"There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship." ~Thomas Aquinas

In thinking about how to start a discussion about love between friends, I became uncomfortably aware of how sexual innuendo has suffused the term love when referring to friends. The idea that a friendship may be motivated by the Aristotelian desire to enjoy the company of one who shares our dispositions, who bears not grudges, who seek what we do, who are temperate and just, who admire us appropriately as we admire them, and so on is now secondary to the concept that true friendships don't exist but is a cover for latent homosexual tendencies. I believed this was a trend alone in our time but in reading C. S. Lewis' The Four Loves, I learned he felt compelled to address this concept as he started to expound on love as it relates to friendship. 

Oprah Winfry's sexuality has been the subject of great speculation because of her friendship with Gayle King. The word bromance comes into play any time you see George Clooney and Brad Pitt together. What about Matt Damon and Ben Affleck another friendship labeled bromance.  The problem I see with words like bromance is that it negates the value of true friendship. The urban definition of bromance includes the concept that the men involved have an "unusually close" relationship. Who decides what is unusually close? This kind of vocabulary necessitates that we monitor time spent with a friend or run the risk of having it characterized as something it is not.

The Greeks, C. S. Lewis and I believe that PF exist outside the realm of sex and that is it not a lesser quality of love. For Aristotle, love between equals and this did mean men, resulted in both parties belonging to a circle of friendship that could grow larger as more men of like qualities joined the circle. Lewis states that PF love is the least biological love and while he includes women when discussing PF love, he states directly in The Four Loves that, "What were the women doing meanwhile? How should I know? I am a man and never spied on the mysteries of the Bona Dea." Lewis talks of PF love as companionship forged by the "Braves", men who are "bound together by shared skill, shared dangers and hardship" and even "esoteric jokes-away from the women and children." That last part brings to mind how men today declare a common bond over The Three Stooges; I don't get the Stooges. Lewis sees companionship as the structure that supports friendship and that friendship is as good for society as it is for the individual. 

As you think about the friends in your life, do you love them? I'm not talking about acquaintances but true friends. Are they your friends because of a shared bond or because of the longevity of your relationship? Do they bring out the best in you? Do you consider them part of your clan or tribe? Let me know what you think.

Hugs,
C

Next: Eros-Romance

 

 

Feb
03

Intentional Loving Series Day 3: Storge-Affection

by Christine

"The family: We were a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another's desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together." ~Erma Bombeck

Our exploration of love will begin with the Storage-Affection type. The Greeks described SA as a natural affection like that  felt by parents for their offspring. The Greek concept applied to family relationships or was used to express the putting up with or loving a tyrant. I find the Greek idea of loving a tyrant amusing because many a young person, myself included, believed their parents to be tyrants at some point in their life. The Greeks, of course, were referring to a political tyrant.

C.S. Lewis further clarifies SA type love by saying that the object of affection must be familiar. He simply states that "we can sometimes point to the very day or hour that we fell in love or began a new friendship" but with affection type love you can't. SA love is a modest love that comes to us gradually. If someone were to ask you to name the moment you fell in love with your brother, I would venture to say you couldn't. You just love your brother because he has always been around. 

The family is our first experience with love. This includes the love of a parent for their children but also includes children loving their parents, siblings and extended family such as Uncles, Aunts and Cousins. The gradual building of SA love may begin even before we are born. There is a great scene in Quentin Tarantino's movie Kill Bill: Vol. 2 when Beatrix Kiddo explains when her love for her child superseded her love for Bill, the child's father. "Before that strip turned blue, I would have jumped a motorcycle on to a speeding train...for you. But once that strip turned blue, I could no longer do any of those things. Not anymore. Because now I was a mother." The love for a child or the love for family has framed the behavior of the individual for centuries.

The concept of responsibility and obligation is interwoven with the SA type of love. How many times have you or a friend said, "I have nothing in common with my brother/sister/mother/father" only to finding yourself coming to their rescue after receiving a late night phone asking for help? We love our family and it is only when a family member is toxic to the point of destruction or upon death that contact is cut. Whether it's only an annual phone call during the holidays or a weekly lunch at your favorite diner, remaining in contact with family is part of SA love.  How would you describe the love you feel for your family, for your child? Do you love your family because they are familiar and have always "been there"? 

Until tomorrow...

Hugs,
C

Next: Philia-Friendship

 

 

 

          
         

 

Feb
02

Intentional Loving Series Day 2: Types Of Love

by Christine

"There are as many forms of love as there are moments in time."                 ~Jane Austin

I am not the first person to think about what love is and to discuss how it fits into our lives. The Ancient Greeks attempted to answer the question by dividing love into 4 types...Agape, Philia, Storge and Eros. Each type was debated and defined to express the current thinking. In 1960, novelist and lay theologian, C.S. Lewis published The Four Loves a book that explores the nature of love. Building upon the Greek structure, Lewis goes further by ranking the types of love...Agape-unconditional loveEros-romanceStorge-affection and Philia-friendship. Lewis' Christian faith and his belief that man is a rational being are philosophical threads that run through Lewis' discourse on love. 

There are those who say love should not be examined because it will take away the mystery or divine nature of love. I believe to intentionally love another person requires that we understand what love is and how to show love for others. Does love transcend love letters and meaningful eye contact? Is the nature of love only desire and yearning or does it have components of sacrifice, emotion, commitment, morality and ethics? Is there a right way to love?  Is there a wrong way to love?  

I will start out with the four types of love as crafted by the Greeks and C.S. Lewis. The challenge, when talking about love is that the modern day concept of romantic love pervades our consciousness. We meant it when at 14 years old, we declared with every fiber of our being, "But I love him/her!" We didn't understand why our mom was concerned that we were spending too much time with "that" boy/girl from school. Passion, lust and longing are love to a 14 years old. Sadly the people producing content for the media continue to reinforce a teenager's concept of love in movies, TV, print, music and on the Internet. 

During February, the month of love, we will explore what love means in the real world as opposed to what is presented in romance novels or porn films. The goal is to have some fun while learning about love and what it means to you. Do you think the Greeks had it right? What about C.S. Lewis? Did he add anything to the discussion? Do you intentionally love the people in your life or does love just happen? 

Until tomorrow....

Hugs,
C

Next: Storge-Affection

 
Feb
01

Intentional Loving Series Day 1: What Is Love?

by Christine

 

"I can live without money, but I cannot live without love."~Judy Garland

I love you. It's been said those are the most powerful words in the world. But when Katie Perry turns to the camera and says, "I love you, America!" do you feel the love? Or how about when your grandchild snuggles close and says, "I love you, Nana?" What do you feel then? Scientists have declared that love is a chemical reaction. Philosophers tell us love is a passionate commitment. Others have stated it is a force of nature but isn't that just a Fancy Nancy way of saying it's a chemical reaction. Most faith communities have a definition of love. The Bible, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 describes the virtues of love and that verse is commonly used in marriage services. 

So what is love? Depends on who you ask and how much prose you can withstand. Aristotle said, "Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies." Wow! No pressure here. Lao Tzu is quoted as saying that "Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage." Today's thinkers talk more about loving yourself first before giving love. Lucille Ball sums up the current thinking, "Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world." While Leo Buscaglia views love as the end itself, "Love is always bestowed as a gift-freely, willingly and without expectation. We don't love to be loved; we love to love." 

I think of love not only as an emotion but also as energy and how you use that energy. Have you seen the movie, War of the Worlds, the one with Tom Cruise? In this film, the hero, Ray, is a divorced father who doesn't make his child support payments and can barely bring himself to talk to his kids during the couple of days a month he sees them. Then the aliens attack; Ray spends the next 90 minutes of film time bobbing and weaving as he is on the run with his two children. I won't bore you with a scene-by-scene description but his son shows more maturity than his father and departs from the trio to join the resistance.

The punch line is that Ray managed to get his daughter back home to her mother. Yup, the whole world has fallen apart and Ray did his job, he returned his daughter to her mother. He didn't even go to the door; he just dropped her off at the curb and waved at his ex-wife as she stood on the front stoop. Ray has proved his love, not by paying his child support, preparing healthy meals when his children are staying with him or taking an interest in them when they are together but by returning his emotionally traumatized daughter to her mother. As you can see the messaging behind that movie just irritates me!

Shouldn't there be some substance behind the words, I love you? My view of love is not just about words but also about actions. As each couple can attest, there are moments or milestones that occur when love is demonstrated in a way that shows the other they are loved. I remember being surprised at Marty reaction to how I cared for him after his shoulder surgery. The operation was done as an outpatient procedure. After he fulfilled a couple of medical requirements, including drinking some watermelon juice, he was allowed to come home. About one in the morning he had a negative reaction to the pain killers and he threw-up the watermelon juice all over the place. I got up, cleaned up Marty, his bed and the walls without complaint. To me this was a no brainer, somebody had to clean up the mess but to Marty it was a sign of love. What constitutes love is not the same to everyone. 

What do you think love is? How would you define it? As you contemplate the question, what is love, I will leave you with this thought from Fiddler on the Roof. Tevye asked Golde, "Do you love me?" She responds by recounting their life together but in the end she says, "I suppose I do." At which point Tevye sings, "After twenty-five years it's nice to know." So I will ask again, how would you define love?

Until tomorrow,

Hugs,
C

Next: Types of Love

Jan
31

Intentional Loving Series: The Month Of February

by Christine

 

February is called the Month of Love. Historical facts, legends and folk traditions all conspired to make February, particularly February 14, a time to celebrate love. As with many of the holidays in the U.S. today, Valentine's Day evolved from a Christian tradition.  One legend has it that around the year 270 A.D. a priest named Valentine was persecuted and eventually executed because of his effort to convert Roman Emperor Claudius II to Christianity as well as performing clandestine Christian weddings for Roman soldiers who were forbidden to marry.  It was written that he miraculously healed a blind girl, the daughter of his jailer while waiting for his death sentence to be carried out. Since multiple Christian martyrs were also named Valentine they were lumped together to be honored on February 14. The thinking was similar to the thinking behind creating President's Day in the U.S.

The tradition of gifting giving, sending cards and chocolate is said to have originated in the UK. "Jack" Valentine would knock on the backdoor and leave candies and presents for children. Children had a similar relationship with Jack Valentine that many children today have with Santa Claus; they loved the treats that Valentine left but were afraid of this stranger bearing gifts. Today Valentine's Day ranks 4th on holidays with the highest candy sales and 2nd on most popular holiday to dine out. (Though some sources I read said it was #1.) Once you add in flowers, cards and gifts, Valentine's Day is an $18.6 billion holiday in the US alone. 

During the month of February, I am going to write about love. I will be exploring what love is and how to show love. Yes, I will be looking at romantic love or Eros but I will also be looking at the other types of love too. This won't be a how-to guide on what to buy your love or loves on Valentine's Day but how you show love each day. As I mentioned before this will be a marathon, I will post everyday. I hope you find this series engaging and that you will share with me your thoughts and ideas on loving.

Until tomorrow...

Hugs,

Next: What is love?

Jan
29

Take Me Out To The Ball Game

by Christine


{The National Anthem at the Nicks Game}

I get on a "kick" every once in a while; what is a kick you might ask? A kick when you decide out of the blue you must do something that is out of the ordinary in your life. An example would be a couple of years ago, I decided Marty and I had to see all the Best Picture nominations before the broadcast of the Academy Awards. Of course I decided this about three weeks before the broadcast so we had to schedule a film every Saturday and Sunday morning at whatever movie theater was showing one of the nominated films. It became a race to get them all in before the broadcast. We had a great time and now, Marty wants us to do it every year. That's the problem with involving another person in a kick; they may want to make it a "thing". 

My 2014's kick is seeing all the New York sports teams play plus attending the US Open Tennis in New York. Each summer we go to Yankee Stadium and root for Jetter and the gang but as for the rest of the NY teams I've never seen them play. The first opportunity to see a New York team was two weeks ago when we went to the Knicks game. Marty was confused as to why I wanted to see the Knicks play because a.) They aren't a very good team and b.) Well, there is no b. Marty isn't a long-suffering fan for any team. He goes to see a good game where in the end his team wins.

We had fun watching the Knicks but the man who sat next to us was getting more depressed as the game clock ticked down. He was turning 50 and had come to Madison Square Garden to celebrate this milestone with his favorite sports team. He really wanted the Knicks to win but alas, it was not meant to be. He left a few minutes before the final buzzer because turning 50 and seeing the Knicks loose was too much for him.

When I looked up the official New York teams, I discovered there were more teams than I thought. Candidly I wasn't thinking lacrosse or any women's teams but now they are both on the list. I do feel a little guilty about failing to think about women's sports. Next on the list is the Brooklyn Nets though I am more interested in seeing the Barclays Center than in seeing the Nets. The residence of Brooklyn fought the Barclays Center and I want to see what all the fuss was about in approving this building. I am looking forward to my 2014 kick because I will get to see various sports teams in action and explore parts of New York I have seen yet. Do you ever get on a kick and if so, what are they?

Hugs,
C

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