John Steinbeck once told his son who had recently fallen in love, “And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens – The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.”
I enjoyed Steinbeck’s books forever. When I first read his affectionate letter many years ago, I completely disagreed with him. His advice seemed counter-intuitive to me. For me, everything worthwhile was worth having immediately and completely. I need it. I need to hurry. I need to win. There was no nuance or subtlety about this fact it meant if I couldn’t have something, someone else would beat me to it. An unfavorable outcome was not only unacceptable but also shameful because it equated my inability to win with inadequacy.
All of us grow up with varying degrees of this competitive mindset and it irks me that we breeze through life and its wonders for the sake of speed, convenience or satisfaction. Our approach to love and kindness is the same as sport or money: only victory is glorious and absolute. I know this isn’t right. In fact, we all do but it’s hard to call out bullshit like this when the only way you can grow your self-worth today is by being successful. I’ve failed at many things many times in my life already. And every year I add to this list. Does that make me less of a woman or more? Does it limit my capacity or expand it? It is ultimately what I make of it. And the same holds true for our ability to practice and celebrate love in our lives.
Falling in Love.
“Total abandonment. I give myself to you. Take me. Do anything you like with me. See. So, that’s quite mad because you see, it’s letting things get out of control. All sensible people keep things in control. Watch it, watch it, watch it. Security? Vigilance Watch it. Police? Watch it. Guards? Watch it. Who’s going to watch the guards?”
What can we do to love better?
What happens when 3 couples try to answer the “36 Questions that Lead to Love”? Authentic connection.
These couples have spent decades together, tackled thousands of questions and jointly made hundreds of important decisions over the course of their lives. And you know what? It shows.
There is a peace to them having discovered and accepted so much about each other. There is calm too in the absence of everyday fears. I felt so moved by their vulnerability and affection that it made me reflect on the traits that make up my own language of love. The more mindful I have become of these mechanics, the more I strive to use them for those I care about. Perhaps, they will serve you to love others better too. Here they are:
1. Love is learning to love yourself first so you can love them better.
2. Love is being kind to them especially when they don’t deserve it.
3. Love is believing in them more than they can.
4. Love is making sacrifices without hesitation.
5. Love is thinking of them before yourself.
6. Love is growing with them.
7. Love is overcoming self-preservation for their safety.
8. Love is believing in yourself, sometimes for their sake.
9. Love is forgiving first.
10. Love is keeping promises in inconvenient times.
11. Love is remembering they’re good for you.
12. Love is providing comfort when grief enters their life.
13. Love is building them up every single day.
14. Love is being a mirror for them.
15. Love is having the courage to call them out.
16. Love is loving those they care for.
17. Love is making and realizing dreams together.
18. Love is being their rock.
19. Love is living without the fear of being enough.
20. Love is feeling less afraid with them.
21. Love is expecting better from yourself and them.
22. Love is being grateful for them.
23. Love is making them feel beautiful.
24. Love is bringing them a peace they have always deserved.
25. Love is asking them difficult questions so that they can be truthful to themselves.
26. Love is not giving up on them. Ever.
27. Love is winning at life together.
28. Love is dipping a life-long friendship in honey.
29. Love is accepting their history and flaws.
30. Love is making healthy choices because of them.
31. Love is living with fewer regrets.
32. Love is learning to lean on them.
33. Love is listening so they can be heard.
34. Love is saying sorry over and over again.
35. Love is proving love is thicker than blood, sweat, and tears.
36. Love is burying them.