This weekend I went on a much-needed night away with my husband. We saw a great live show, had a wonderful dinner with equally wonderful conversation (and nary a crying kid in sight), and we ended the date with a delicious piece of cake the size of my head. It was a truly lovely evening!
After all that, though, the night peaked for me in the 5 minute cab ride back to the hotel. Riding in a cab is not something I do very frequently, and I was amazed to hear the dispatch projecting out over the radio in the front seat. We could hear everything playing out in rapid-fire succession, on that busy Saturday night: the people calling in nonstop with “I’m in front of the dorms at 123 Sycamore” and “Can someone please come get my mom from the nursing home at 567 Main Street” and “I need a lift from 444 Court”, and in between them all the one amazing voice from dispatch receiving all the calls, kindly but efficiently arranging to send someone to the rescue of each caller like Superman through the phone line, and ending each response with “Now you be ready out front, ok?…”
The whole ride back, I sat transfixed in that back seat, mute and with a huge involuntary grin on my face, just taking in all the wonderfully random lives unfolding all around me. (My hubby Jason noticed this behavior from me and commented that I was weird, but that’s why he loves me. (And him understanding me and what my grin was, without a word spoken, is why I love HIM.)) There I sat, for 5 glorious minutes, with heart-bursting thankfulness for each total stranger I was hearing just a second of… and being further reminded, in them, of the constant love I hold for all the dear loved ones I’m lucky to actually have and know in my life.
I’d been writing the “letter” below for a while now- revisiting it when I felt inspired, and abandoning it on those days when everything drives me crazy, or I’m feeling beyond mad at the unfairness of things, or I like (much less love) exactly no one (myself included). After that cab ride home, though, with its dainty intersection of so many lives in such a fleeting, beautiful web, I was moved to finally complete this.
I’m about to hit the “publish” button to post it as Labor Day fireworks light up the sky a few miles away over the Cincinnati skyline, and I can’t think of a more fitting send off for a love letter to all of humanity. I am so inspired by the strange, wonderful connectedness of this life and all of us in it!
So, I hope this isn’t too awkward (since we might not really know each other that well), but I can’t keep my feelings to myself any more. This is my virtual Say Anything boombox-over-my-head-to-tell-you-how-I-feel scene.
I wanted you to know, today, this: I love you.
Whoah, whew, there, I said it! And yes, I mean YOU – you reading this blog post now, you that plays a role in my daily routines, you I have known forever, you that I don’t know know at all but cross paths with randomly as I go about my days.
Even when you feel generic and boring, I find you special and valuable. In person, I look right in your eyes, noticing they are big and brown, clear and blue, sparkling and green, of a color hard to tell or that is changing in the light. When I come across you online, your pictures and posts and links, I try to discern the stories behind the faces and the quotes and the things you choose to share, to see what you value, what you want to be, the relationship you have with your parents, your spouse, your friends, your kids, even yourself. I think your story is worth telling and worth hearing. When you present something that’s the same or different from what I believe, I wonder about what got you to your opinions and it makes me think about how I got to mine. I recognize that you are deeper, bigger, wider than anything I am able to see on the outside, and I find you deserving of figuring out further. Piecing together the bits and pieces of you that get shared with me in our interaction(s), I want to take the helicopter tour and see your forest for your trees. YOU ARE UNIQUE.
Even when you feel unseen, I see you. (Um, so not in some creepy, stalker way, but in a perfectly legal, caring way!) I see you letting a stranger ahead of you in line, walking fast in a hurry to get somewhere, slowing down to wave at a child, quickening your step every so slightly as you pass people who scare you a bit on the sidewalk. I note that you greet me every morning with a hearty hello even though you could just as easily be silent. I notice how you glance at your watch worriedly as you wait in line to order a sandwich, or seem tired this morning with a less cheerful hello in the lobby, or try so hard to be brave but struggle with feeling inadequate in certain situations. I note when you respond a little snappily and later rub your temples with eyes closed. I see you start to dress a little nicer and hold your chin a little higher following a successful loss of weight. I detect sadness in your eyes that your smile can’t cover up. I can tell when you think you’re a little bit better than everyone else, a little bit less than everyone else, a little invisible in the midst of everyone else. I see the hope you desperately want to believe in. I catch my breath when I glimpse a glimmer of hopelessness in your being, or defeat in your actions, or doubt in your soul. YOU ARE SEEN.
Even when you feel forgotten, I care about you. For all the things I notice, I further wonder. About your back story and your next story, the why and the what and the when and the how. I wonder if what I guess at or think I see is even right, or if you have a history that your outside presentation to the world is betraying or hiding or desperately trying to rise above. I wonder if you have someone to tell your whole story to, who makes you feel heard. I want to tell you how you are stronger than you know, that the fear you feel doesn’t have to be faced alone, that we’re all maybe a little more connected and similar than you think. I hope you are ok, wish I could find a way to help, want you to figure it out. I feel for you and with you, feeling happy when you walk with a smile and glow with confidence, and feeling sad when you sit alone or afraid or unsure. I want for you to be happy, to be healthy, to be content, to be grateful, to be proud, to be passionate and to feel free. Even if our lives have only intersected for one second, in that one second I sincerely wished you the best for yourself. YOU ARE CARED ABOUT.
Even when you feel unimportant, I am inspired by you. I admire how you find the person who looks the most scared in a room, and gently use your extroversion to include them into the group. I realize how difficult it is for you to show up day after day with a smile on your face, all while you are facing the hardest personal battle of your life, and am in awe that still you do it. I am so amazed at sacrifices you have made for the benefit of those you most care about. I am inspired by your public sharing of your struggles and hardships. I am moved by your quiet determination that often goes unnoticed. I am blown away by your obvious and not-so-obvious challenges and how you overcome them, daily. I respect your commitment, your dependability, your humbleness, your openness. I aspire to be more personable like you, more thoughtful like you, more innovative and creative like you. Your small kindness, that you think nothing of, makes me want to point it out, pass it on, and go do big things with even more kindness. YOU ARE INSPIRING.
Just so you know, it’s not just me, loving you this way. There are many showing you love. I see the way those young faces light up as you spend time on the floor with them and trains and cars. Maybe it’s the old friend, still being there when your life is less than glamorous, showing their love and support with hugs and words and shoulders for tears. It comes from those other people in that one forum online, who understand “TTC”, “2WW”, “BFN” and just how hard it is to be living with infertility while others so easily procreate around you, or who commiserate on the challenges of going through menopause at 27 and never getting to have a cancer-free marriage. Do you see it from the woman who sends you a wordless “thank you” with grateful eyes when you step in to tell the screaming man to chill out and back off? You must feel the love when that ball of fur sits in your lap or wags its tail; it’d be hard not to! And that young man there, whose day will go significantly better because you did your job with such proficiency and kindness, was silently loving you in gratitude for treating him as an adult and assisting him in bettering himself. Did you notice the bus driver, pretending she didn’t see when you didn’t have quite enough fare to drop in, wordlessly letting you on the bus still as she slips in the last 2 quarters from her own pocket? What about when you reach out from your darkness with a plea for help, and that totally unexpected someone reaches back to hold your hand? Do you recognize compassion coming your way, that, even in the briefest of moments, shines a light on the darkest corners of your soul? Please know that even when you feel unloved or unloveable, YOU ARE LOVED.
Like any love story, ours is not without its ups and downs. I have to admit that I don’t always feel loving towards you. Sometimes I feel angry at, disappointed by, or unappreciated from you. I can feel downright furious at the choices you make when they negatively affect yourself and others. I want you to be your best self and you don’t always make it. You are not perfect (because you are human!); yet I LOVE YOU, STILL.
I am FAR from perfect in my quest to love you, too. Often the unloving feelings come entirely from my head space, not your actions. Some days I curse at you the next car over in traffic, write (in my head, or for real) angry torrents about your viewpoints that differ from mine, and fail to care about your motivations or challenges, unable to meet you in the middle or consider your perspective. I can be angry at you for what I see as your indifference, without giving you a fair chance. Sometimes I rush right by you, not seeing you at all, oblivious to the details that make you you, and the connections that could make us us. Some days I am too wrapped up in myself to remember that I am only me as I relate to you. At times I snap at you, ignore you, hurt you, rush you, judge you, exclude you, dismiss you, forget you. For these times and these faults of mine, and representing anyone who has done the same, I sincerely say I AM SORRY.
But the good days, oh, the good days! On those, I see all around me as complex, complicated, flawed and beautiful. I am filled with joy at the opportunity to experience all these moments and feelings and relationships. When I let this love guide me, I can look past people’s faults or defenses to see their vulnerable and wonderful humanity, while also hoping we can help each other get to where our faults are lessened and our defenses no longer needed. It feels so much better to see the differences between us all as thrilling possibilities for collaboration and problem solving, instead of something frightening or undesired. It moves me to tears to make a connection with someone, make a difference, make a stand. You allow me to feel this way, see this way, be this way; without the other to connect to, there could be no connection. THANK YOU.
At our best selves, you and me, our love is truly huge, amazing and sincere. Ignoring age, gender, faith, politics, income, ability, race, language, location or education, this love only grows with challenges, opens wider when confronted with differences, and includes absolutely everyone. Holding this love, we really see each other, we connect, we listen, we challenge, we better ourselves, we are kind, we grow.
This love can be shaken, but never stopped, not even when faced with anger, ignorance, hatred, dishonesty or doubt. This love encourages extreme empathy. This love believes in people blossoming into their full potential, and holds sacred treating others with respect and compassion. This love allows strangers to be friends, and friends to connect at a soul level.
It’s wildly liberating to move through life with a love this huge, knowing it has the power to knock down anything else that life throws at you. This love challenges fear and worry and sorrow and unkindness and even death, head-on, puffing up its chest to say “I’m bigger and stronger and truer than you’ll ever be!” with enough conviction that no one would dare doubt it. This love has a realistic core, acknowledging that all people aren’t all good, and luck can be bad, and we’re all working within the fleeting passage of this one life… and still causes us to look at our life, and outward at the world, with hope and compassion and conviction and purpose.
This love makes me hopeful in our world, in our collective and shared humanity, in the wisdom of our ancestors and in the promise of our next generations. This love, when spread across multiple persons and groups and societies and nations, means we can fix things and find things and change things – BIG things. This love gives power. This love gives purpose. This love gives the responsibility to be as GOOD and as BIG as you possibly can be.
Fellow humans, I love you. I mean, I really love you. Like I tell my husband: I love you more. Like I tell my kids: well, I love you to the moon and back. This is not love confined to romance or one particular religion or sexual tension or caregiving or blood ties. This is feeling with every fiber of your being that all are equal persons worthy of respect and dignity, including yourself. This is loving others how you want to be loved. This is win-win love that nourishes you as you nourish someone else. This love feels good and right. This love lasts a lifetime, and beyond.
This love I feel for you, specifically, dear reader, and all ya’ll out there, is wrapped up with a sparkly bow in a constant effort to live sincerely… to LOVE SINCERELY. I find that, for me, this love is a built-in part of the virtues of being a decent and evolved human, is modeled by all kinds of people all around me, and radiates out from my core self that marvels in tearful gratitude at the miracle of being alive, here on this big blue planet, here in this specific moment. If this love was demonstrated to you by a religious figure in your faith, or is detailed out in texts and teachings that you admire and respect, you could use that example to guide you as well. The details of why or how you get to this love are irrelevant.
Today, right now, I humbly ask you to please do two things, and do them as well as you absolutely can:
- Know (and believe) that YOU ARE LOVED.
- Go BE LOVE to someone else.