Listen In… Kvetch Out

Melinda Walsh

Love Applied can take many forms, and one useful one is knowing when to talk and when to listen.  It’s easy to lose sight of which is which when faced with an emotionally charged situation, such as a loved one who is facing serious illness or even death.  Susan Silk and Barry Goldman share the following in their opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times:

When Susan had breast cancer, we heard a lot of lame remarks, but our favorite came from one of Susan’s colleagues. She wanted, she needed, to visit Susan after the surgery, but Susan didn’t feel like having visitors, and she said so. Her colleague’s response? “This isn’t just about you.”

As you might imagine, Susan’s response was to wonder how on earth her breast cancer was about someone else.

As someone who has lost four close friends since 2008 to illness, I’ve seen and heard first hand the inappropriate things people say and do.  I’ve come to understand that weird things can come out of someone’s mouth when they are emotionally uncomfortable so I have grown a little compassion.  But I thought this article gave a great strategy for deciding when to listen (and to whom) and when to kvetch.

 

1.  Draw a circle and put the name of the person in trauma at the center.

2.  Draw a larger circle around the first one and put the names of anyone who is the next closest person in the center.

3. Repeat as necessary with parents, siblings, close friends, acquaintances, etc.

 

Susan and Barry call this series of rings, “The Kvetching Order.”  The person in the center can say anything they want, to anyone.  Everyone else can say those things, too, but only to someone in a larger ring.

When talking to someone in a smaller ring than yours, simply offer comfort and a listening ear, not advice.  Don’t make what they are saying about you, either.  If you feel the need to talk about how the trauma is affecting you, by all means talk about it.  Just talk about it to someone in a larger ring.  As they put it in the article, “Comfort IN.  Dump OUT.”

So now you know!  And that’s Love Applied!

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You Need What??

Melinda Walsh

My Sweetheart and I have different needs. Shocker. We are probably the first couple ever to have that dynamic!

When something is important to someone else but not important to you, it can be really easy to downplay it, dismiss it, judge them for being silly or dumb, or whatever. Consistently ignoring the needs of your partner is a terrific way to create resentments that can grow large and mean over time.

I was really good at that in my prior relationships. I usually made an attempt to make my needs known but if they were ignored, or dismissed, I started devising ways to justify ignoring or dismissing the needs of my partner. Usually this was accompanied by me needing to make me right and them wrong for thinking the way they did. After all, wasn’t that what they were doing to me?

It worked perfectly. We ended our relationship, full of anger and resentment and the feeling that the other person never ‘got me’. I couldn’t see at the time that we were both doing the exact same thing: dismissing the needs of the other and justifying doing so.

As my Sweetheart and I were forming our relationship, we decided to do something different. We each choose to make the needs of the other equal to our own. For example, he has a need to be acknowledged for the things he does for me. It’s kind of easy to do that, actually, he brings flowers and cards to me without prompting, and nothing in the house ever has a chance to break because he is always on top of it. However, I know that as time goes on, it’s really easy to take these things for granted, so I tell him as often as I think about it how much I appreciate what he does for me. My need to feel cared for is fed by him. His need to be acknowledged is fed by me. “You’re amazing!” I say. “I know”, he replies.

It doesn’t take too long in a relationship to learn what your partner’s needs are. One of you will always have a need for more reassurance, more sex, more affection, more time together, and on and on. By both of you making the other’s needs as much of a priority as you do your own, a beautiful thing happens: you begin to feel loved and cared for, and the ‘fight’ to get your needs met will lose it’s hold over you.

When that happens, a beautiful space of intimacy and connection opens up and Love can flourish. And that’s Love Applied 🙂

“B”-ing My Mom

When my grandmother was pregnant with my mom, she and my grandfather were so convinced that they were going to have a boy that they didn’t choose a girls name.  And when my mother popped out as a little baby girl in 1930 (surprise!), they named her for a boy anyway:  Willie “B”.  The ‘Willie’ was after my grandfather, and “B” for no particular reason that I could ever discern.  Mostly, she goes by “B” unless it’s someone she has known since childhood, then it’s Willie “B”.

Image

I’m told there is a family resemblance.

I don’t know if a girl named for a boy was the female equivalent experience of a boy named Sue, but my mom has shown some pretty fierce determination through the years.  My grandfather contracted tuberculosis, which he did not want to treat, and my mother firmly told him that she would not risk exposing me and my sister to him unless he went to a doctor.  I have one memory of visiting him at the sanatorium, and it was only much later as an adult that I realized how difficult, yet clear it must have been for my mom to stand up to him.

She ensured that we practiced our piano lessons, made it on time to cheerleading practice, and insisted that we attend church each and every Sunday, despite my best teenage pouts and delaying tactics.  I never did win that one. When a mammogram discovered a pinpoint speck of cancer when she was in her 60’s, she drove herself to radiation and listened patiently to other patients’ troubles while declining the need to talk to a counselor herself.  “The Lord listens to me just fine,” she explained.  “No need to complain.”

At 82, she takes care of my increasingly frail father, who will be 91 in May.  He doesn’t always know where he is; would rather eat brownies for lunch instead of chicken and vegetables, and gets anxious when she is out of his sight for too long.  I can’t say she is always patient with him, but she is always loving.  And this is what I learned about Love from her.

1.  “B” Accepting and Not Judgmental.  Mom always seemed to grasp that the situation where her friend’s teenaged daughter turned up pregnant would not be helped by criticism or judgment.    She accepted people as they are and doesn’t indulge in tempting displays of gossip and sarcasm.  “Everyone has their point of view, Melinda”, she would remind me.

2.  “B” demonstrative to those you love.  Everyone in Mom’s world knows that she loves them.  She has always taken the attitude that the more love you give away, the more you will have.  “B” is free with “I love you”’s and hugs and kisses.  On each holiday there is a little trinket that she picked up at the Dollar Store that “just reminded me of you.”  For my Mom, Love is clearly an action.

3.  “B” there if someone needs you. “B” was the one to initiate family gatherings; to visit a sick cousin in the hospital; and volunteer at the church to help serve dinner on the grounds.  If a neighbor called to invite her over for coffee, then the vacuuming could wait til later.  “People are more important than a little dirt”, “B” explained.

I’m quite sure that I was as much of a handful growing up as any teenager can be.  I never doubted that my mother loved me, even when I was dreadfully embarrassed at some of her quirky sayings or rebelling against going to church for the second time that week.  But I too buy silly trinkets for those I love; take friends with cancer to their doctors’ appointments; and look for the best in people.  I am happy to “B” my mother, my original teacher of Love Applied.

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Your Choice. Focus on Fixing What’s Wrong? Or Appreciate What’s Right?

A friend sent me the link to this video, which offers a clear example of the difference between how we see ourselves, and how others see us.

 

So if you’ve watched the video, would you say this applies to you? Are you in the habit of describing yourself to yourself in a way that’s harsh and unflattering? Have you ever stopped to think that maybe, just maybe, you might be wrong about that? Do you think you would be willing to change?

Isn’t it time to get into the habit of treating ourselves more lovingly? Being kind to ourselves is Love Applied, and it’s okay to do that.

Kindness goes a long way

Melinda Walsh

What do you want to feed your cells?

What do you want to feed your cells?

That’s a whole lot of sugar. Do we really need that? Love your bodies, people!

Relationships and All That Jazz

I love it when my Sweetheart plans a date for us. “I’ve been missing just spending time with you and I’d like a date”, he said. He had been working a lot and so had I, and it made me feel really loved to know that he is equally dedicated to the care and feeding of our relationship as I am. So off we went to a wine tasting and hors d’oeuvres, followed by a Chilean jazz singer that neither one of us had ever heard of.

Love Jazz

I must confess here that I wasn’t initially taken with the idea of going to a jazz show. Although I am many, many years out of practice, I trained as a classical pianist from childhood through my first year in college. Classical music appeals both to my inner artist and my inner engineer: beautiful and logical all at the same time. But jazz? I could appreciate a beautiful voice or adept musicianship, but the spontaneous, unpredictable structure of it quarreled with, let’s face it, my occasional desire for control. And who knows how long the obligatory drum solo could last? It could theoretically go on all night and I sometimes get impatient. Even though we had attended a wonderful jazz performance in the early phase of our dating and had a great time, I was still a little hesitant, wanting to keep things fresh and at the same time, not wanting to spend the energy to break our routine.

On the other hand, I recalled that an effective strategy for keeping the bonds of connection over time strong is to do new activities together that neither one of you had done before. At the start of a relationship, everything is new and surprising, and it follows that over time, your partner becomes predictable (and so do you!)

From New Love: A Short Shelf Life, by psychologist Sonya Lyubomirsky writes,

“Surprise is a potent force. When something novel occurs, we tend to pay attention, to appreciate the experience or circumstance, and to remember it. We are less likely to take our marriage for granted when it continues to deliver strong emotional reactions in us. Also, uncertainty sometimes enhances the pleasure of positive events.”

There is a lot of nodding in Jazz. The musicians nod when they are riffing, the audience nods along as if to say, “I’m with ya, brother.” The venue was small, intimate, the performers only a few feet away. I found myself being drawn in by the singer’s apparent bliss at sharing her talents with us. I nodded, too.

There is a lot of nodding in good relationships. We ‘nod’ whenever we thank the people we love for what they bring to our lives. We ‘nod’ whenever we listen to our Sweethearts even if we are tired and want to watch Downton Abbey. And perhaps most importantly, we ‘nod’ to the improvisational nature of our romantic relationships when we get out of our thinking ruts and risk keeping our love fresh and sustainable. I’m with ya, brother.

And that’s Love Applied.

One Year, Two Years…

Two years ago today, my Sweetheart and I met.  It was really just coincidence that it happened on Valentine’s Day although now I choose to see it as the Universe’s way of saying, “Hey, here’s someone special for you.”  Plus, it does make it easy to remember our anniversary date of meeting:-)

Over that time, we’ve experienced the sudden illness and passing of a close friend of mine; a six-week breakup to wrap up some old, unfinished business (which turned out to be a very good thing); and lots and lots and lots of conversation about both mundane and serious topics.

Melinda WalshI think a lot about what it takes to make a relationship work over the long haul, and that’s how Love Applied got started.  I’ve posted lists and practices, and today I’m thinking that mostly what it comes down to is just choosing every day to find something you love about the people in your life.  If I could put on a pair of Love Glasses, I would, so that I would always see everyone in a loving, compassionate light.

Don’t we wish someone would do that for us… to forgive our less than perfect moments and just love us anyway?  I believe the best way to get that is to give it.  And that’s Love Applied.

Take Some Love to Work Day

For the month of February, I’ve chosen to look at Love Applied in as many forms as I can think of, and today, I’m wondering how Love Applied would show up in the workplace. And no, I’m not thinking of a workplace affair, or a quick grope in the supply closet. I’m thinking more of what it would be like if Cupid knocked you on the head with his bow and commanded that you had to behave as lovingly as you can to those people you work with.

  • Melinda WalshInstead of complaining… would you fix a problem?
  • Instead of gossiping… would you let a coworker know how much you appreciate their talents and contributions?
  • Instead of feeling sorry for yourself about how overworked you are… would you dedicate some time to lending a hand to someone who needs it?

As you read the list above, which actions would you want to be on the receiving end of?

As Cupid’s emissary, what other things can you think of and share here to ramp up the Love atmosphere where you work?

Today’s invitation for you is to make today, “Take Some Love to Work” day, and make Cupid proud of all the Love you’re spreading around.

And that’s Love Applied: at Work.

Love Applied….Man-Style, Take 2!

My Sweetheart and I are coming up on two years together on Valentine’s Day, and I thought it would be a good idea to check in with him to get his perspective on our relationship and Love in general. Our breakfast interview continues (you can read Take 1 here)…

Melinda Walsh

Me: What does Love mean to you?

Sweetheart: “Sex.” (Said with a grin! Gotta love him!) “To me, Love means intimacy, which doesn’t necessarily equate to sex. Although that’s a great thing! Love means sharing your deepest thoughts and most vulnerable feelings. It’s somebody that you can talk to about anything.

“Love is also a smile…when you think of them the corners of your mouth curl up and it makes you feel good. (Me: Hearing that made me smile in return.)”

Me: Does that apply to just a romantic relationship?

Sweetheart: “No, I would say not. There are people of all ages and genders that I have feelings of love for.”

Me: How do you show that you love them?

Sweetheart: “I do things for people I love.”

Me: Like what?

Sweetheart: “Fix their roofs.” (Me: he went up on my roof in a rainstorm at night because there was a leak in my attic. His love language is definitely acts of service!) He continues: “The desire to please someone you love, comes with that sense of intimacy. Love is also spending time with someone you enjoy being with, coming up with things to do together.”

Me: Like what?

Sweetheart: “It can be anything. Silly things. Just sitting on the back porch talking. Or going on a big European vacation. Going grocery shopping—even when you don’t feel like it but when they would like for you to go with them. It’s a give and take…the things you want to do and the things they would like for you to do. “

I started Love Applied because I view Love as not just a feeling, but actions. There is a practical side to loving someone, to putting actions that the other can see and take that as the gift that it is. My Sweetheart is right, loving someone isn’t all about you and what you want. The other person is NOT there to serve you. It’s about simultaneously giving and receiving, which keep Love flowing.

And that’s Love Applied, Man-Style, Take 2.