Three words. Eight letters. Or are they? Perhaps meaningless without the actions that support the statement itself, I love you is seeped in emotion that either is demonstrated or it is not. For some it defines us, for others it remains elusive. Expressing love is simple or complicated, fulfilling or never ending. We can love in so many different ways. We can love platonically, romantically, and empathetically. We can love people, places or things. We can love friends, family and pets. We can love many people at once in different variations with different types of love and commitment. We can and should love ourselves.
Love is something we demonstrate. It is something we celebrate. It is in that celebration that the words fly off the page out of our minds and into our hearts. Love comes to life when we step up to living. In embracing risk, maximizing interaction, manifesting commitment to ourselves and to those we care about we welcome love into our daily existence.
A recent interaction with my aging and fragile father-in-law brought to mind just how powerful love is. It is a universal language that can be expressed in a variety of ways. My father-in-law has dementia and words escape him. He knows who I am after 3 decades, but not always by name. He just knows I belong to him in some way. When I last visited with him he grabbed my hands, became very emotional and just kept saying “Thank you, thank you…I don’t have the words.” I hugged him and he asked me to do so again. We did not need words. Love was there between us in that moment. I knew in that moment that he was proud of me; grateful for the family I have created with his son, and for the experience of being in each other’s lives. Heartfelt. Really no words required. An authentic “how to say I love you” moment. Based on memories and yet, it was said with no memory at all.
Much of the way we love begins with our own ability to demonstrate self-love. Only when we can love ourselves can we completely and freely love another. Loving who we are creates the space for us to express empathy and to know others for who they really are instead of who we want them to be. Saying I love you is fluid…it is an action…it marries thought with feeling. It transcends the known with the unknown. It opens doors to deep friendships, romantic trysts, meaningful moments, understanding, and possibilities.
How you say I love you…is personal. You don’t need to speak. You do need to do. How are you doing? Is there someone you care about, but they may not know how much? Do you say I love you, but not follow through with your actions? Do you act like you love being with special friends, but stop yourself from completely stepping into that friendship? Is there someone that you know a lot about, but want to know more? Where are you showing up in the doing of I love you? Where are you showing up for yourself?
Heartfelt Next Steps: 7 Actionable Gestures of Love To Use in Your Everyday
- Sprinkle in random acts of kindness throughout the day. Start with a smile.
- Pause. When in doubt…say O.K. fine. This diffuses and creates synergy.
- Hug…it is restorative and magical.
- Compliment. Mean it.
- Meet people where they are not where you think they should be.
- Create memories. It takes work, and yes it is worth it. Begin.
- Listen to others. Listen to your life.