05 February 2012

Getting Clear About Love (Feb. 2011)

Love is the opening door
Love is what we came here for
No one could offer you more
Do you know what I mean?
Have your eyes really seen?
-- Elton John



Valentine’s Day.

I conducted an informal survey in the women’s locker room at the gym recently. What, I asked, do you want from your partner on Valentine’s Day? The answer was unanimous: I want to feel special. I want him to think out of the box, to do something unusual, out of the ordinary, something that shows a bit of effort. Never mind the chocolates or flowers or diamonds, they said. Just show me I’m loved.

On the one hand, I completely understand this sentiment – I feel the same way. On the other hand, I feel sorry for the poor guy being faced with these expectations. What a set-up for disappointment and failure! How’s he supposed to know what will make his gal feel special, what is sufficiently out-of-the-box? Unless she tells him, that is. But then it isn’t a surprise, and somehow we want these poor guys to “love us enough to know.”

Centuries ago, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov advised: “You can meditate in thought, but the most important thing is to express your thoughts in speech.” Granted, he was talking about communicating with God and not your sweetheart, but I think he has a point.

We need to speak up, to be clear about our hopes and expectations, about what makes us feel loved and appreciated. Love isn’t something we prove to each other. It’s what we share with each other, nourishing and supporting each other on this journey to become better people and make the world a better place. The more clearly we communicate our needs and expectations, the more effective we can be in our creative and healing work.

Speaking up wasn't always easy for me. I recall too many times when I sat quiet, thoughts running over and over through my head and never making it to – let alone through – my lips. Needless to say, I didn't have the best of relationships back then, either. I don't remember how or when I found my voice, only that I learned to speak my mind and found that doing so usually made life better, not worse. With practice, speaking up got easier, although there are still times when I feel frightened to do so (usually because I'm making assumptions about how the other person will respond), but – remember last month's tip? – I don't let fear stop me.

A side note: This is being emailed a day late, on Groundhog Day (February 2). Many, many years ago, a co-worker (with whom I was hopelessly, unrequitedly in love), answered February 2nd when another co-worker asked when Valentine's Day was. And so I find a certain humor and small pleasure in this Valentine's-Day-themed newsletter going out on Groundhog Day.

Tip of the Month
Principle #6 is to set boundaries, which includes clarifying expectations. This month, notice your assumptions and expectations, then communicate them. Speak up about what you really want; don’t expect anyone to read your mind. After all, when we assume, we make an ASS out of U and ME.

Quotes of the Month
“Love has nothing to do with what you’re expecting to get – only what you are expecting to give – which is everything. What you will receive in return varies. But it really has no connection with what you give. You give because you love and cannot help giving. If you are very lucky, you may be loved back. That is delicious, but it does not necessarily happen.” – Kathryn Hepburn

“Love is never abstract. It does not adhere to the universe of the planet or the nation or the institution or the profession, but to the singular sparrows of the street, the lilies of the field, ‘the least of these my brethren.’ Love is not, by its own desire, heroic. It is heroic only when compelled to be. It exists by its willingness to be anonymous, humble, and unrewarded.” – Wendell Berry

“God, as love, is constantly expanding, flourishing and creating new patterns for the expression and attainment of joy. When our minds, through focus on love, are allowed to be open vessels through which God expresses, our lives become the canvases for the expression of that joy. That’s the meaning of our lives. We are here as physical representations of a divine principle. To say that we’re on the earth to serve God means that we’re on the earth to love.” – Marianne Williamson

Recipe of the Month
Almond/Chocolate Lace Cookies

Preheat oven to 350.
1/2 cup (one cube) butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons 1/2 'n 1/2
1 Tablespoon flour

When melted, stir in
3/4 cup finely ground almond meal

Place 5 or 6 teaspoons of batter on a well-greased and floured baking sheet. Give them lots of space, because they'll spread out wide and thin.

Bake for about 8 minutes. Remove, allow to cool for a minute or so, then place face down on a paper towel to finish cooling. Repeat with the rest of the batter. You should wind up with 24 to 30 cookies in all.

Once all the cookies are baked and cooled, drizzle them with chocolate made by melting about 1 ounce of cocoa butter and 4 to 5 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate chips together.

Place the chocolate-drizzled cookies in the fridge so the chocolate can harden.

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