Tell The Ones You Love You Love Them

Monday, April 27, 2020

"I love you!" I shout at my grandfather as he tries to usher me off the phone - The Big Bang Theory is returning from commercial break and he doesn't want to miss this part (even if I have CLEAR and DISTINCT memories of watching this particular episode 45 times with him). He knows I love him.  I tell him every time we talk, I told him every morning and every night and every time I walked out of the house when I lived with him.  But still, I want to say it.  I need to say it.

Grandpa pauses.  "I love you too, babe."  He chuckles, because we both know the routine to the next part. "Be good okay?" "Never! Bye!" He's belly laughing as we hang up the phone.  It's become our running joke, that I'm the misbehaving one.  We both know I'm too boring to get into any real trouble while all he does is lie and sneak lotto tickets and cinnamon buns into the house when no one's looking.

My grandfather didn't always hang up the phone with a proclamation of love. I tirelessly wore down the Lower East Side tough guy over the years.  My success with him lead me to bully other friends into the same type of relationship.  I need to know that they know how I feel.

I tell the ones I love that I love them because I want to rest easy in the knowledge that if this is the last time I speak with them, I told them how I felt.

It's kind of dark, I see that, but anything can happen at any moment.  When I was eighteen, a dear friend from high school passed away in an accident.  I replay the last time I saw him often.  I was being a jerk.  I was dating a jerk who influenced me to be a jerk and live a pretty jerky lifestyle.  And that jerk was standing right next to me as I rejected a hug from my friend.  When he passed away, I could physically feel the loss of his arms around me.  He had such a specific way of wrapping his arms around you, it was unique to him and my body craved for what was gone. All I was left with to comfort myself was the too-cool attitude I gave him.  It haunts me still.

I recently discussed with a friend how the idea of love varies in culture and upbringings.  Love is something held on a pedestal and it's only meant to be given to those who deserve it or hit some items on a checklist.  But if you aren't giving love, how can you receive it? I'm not perfect and I don't expect those I love to be perfect either.  In fact, I want them to love me because I'm not perfect.

It might be meaningless to the person I'm pressing my feelings onto, but breaking down how I feel about those I love and simply reminding them also reminds me that if I love them, I have to fully love them, flaws and all.  That friend who  keeps flaking on me? Yeah, I love her and if I love her, it isn't worth ranting about how she can't keep her schedule together.  I'll only rant at her once in a while instead.  Or that friend who keeps dating the same type of idiot and lives in a continuous Groundhog Day-like complain cycle?  I love her too, and she doesn't need me to attack her for those issues but to sit and love her in silence.  And when the door opens to gently nudge her in the right direction.

Right now, saying "I love you" is the simplest way to remind those in my life that they aren't alone. It's a safety net for me too, because it's something I can cling to when there isn't much other certainty out there. All I can do is hang on to love and give as freely as I can.

So, if you wasted ten minutes reading this, I love you too.

Quarantine Reads To Take You Outside When You're Stuck Inside

Thursday, April 23, 2020

There ain't much to do in terms of escaping the harsh reality of the indoors during this crazy period of history we're living through. I spend a lot of time daydreaming in my head but even my imagination has limits and I can only test my boyfriend's patience so far.

I feel a lot like Ariel - I wanna be where the people are - but since I can't, I dove into some reads that could safely take me out of doors.  Like, mentally.

Below are a list of 10 reads guaranteed to take you figuratively out of your house and, for just a little, while simply escape.

1. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

2. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues by Tom Robbins

3. Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

4. A Room With A View by E.M. Forster

5. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

6. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

7. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

8. Looking for Alaska by John Green

9. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

10. Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Why Now Is The Time To Start A Gratitude Journal

Monday, April 20, 2020

One of my favorite TV quotes of all times was spoken by the ever lovely Eric Matthews on Boy Meets World: "Life's tough - get a helmet."  I loved it when I was younger.  A quirky, funny line spoken by an older brother to a younger one with just a touch of wisdom to create a genuine moment.

I used to think Eric's advice meant to fortify myself with defenses, to always be prepared for what life threw at you. While that's certainly not a bad interpretation, I think I misunderstood him the first time.  You have to make your own lift helmet.  I wasted a lot of time doing that with building walls and doing my best to keep people out.  As time goes on, I realize that the stuff I make my helmet out of isn't just meant to protect me - it needs to actively help me get back up and keep going too.

In June of last year, I decided to start a Gratitude Journal.  Historically, I'm a pen to paper journal keeper.  With my Gratitude Journal, though, I wanted it to be with me everywhere I went. I also wanted to somehow keep it locked down so I could be free to write the super dorky things I wanted to express without the fear a prying eye would find it.  Carrying around a physical copy left me feeling exposed. I did a little of the google and discovered Penzu.  It had a lock feature and I downloaded.  We've been together ever since.

My daily goal is to write five things I'm grateful for and sometimes that can be as simple as a text message from a friend or that I did all the dishes.  It's small.  It doesn't always alter my mood around in the moment, but to be honest, my daily gratitude isn't so much for Present Jen as they are for Future Jen. Penzu sends me e-mails every few days and says "Hey - remember what you wrote on this day in August?" and up pops five things I was grateful for in the past.  Rereading small victories that lead me to where I am right now is major.  Especially, right now.

My Gratitude Journal these days tends to read pretty similar no matter what days it is:
1. I am grateful I have a place to live.
2. I am grateful I still have my job.
3. I am grateful I'm not alone.
4. I am grateful I can communicate with my friends.
5. I am grateful I took a shower today.

And yet. I know it's for future me to remember I made it through.  Present Jen is pretty happy to read about the girl who was taking chances with some guy she met on a dating app. I like being reminded about that workout I scheduled with one of my best friends and we didn't end up doing because we sat on the floor in our workout gear and talked for three hours instead. I like remembering that sometimes the smaller moments are the ones I cherish most.

We're going through a collective trauma together.  Right now, it's more crucial to find ways to be thankful and appreciative or we risk sinking to the lowest versions of ourselves. We all need to be reminded that everything, the good and the bad, is temporary.  But no matter what moment you're in, we have to find ways to be grateful for where we are.

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