They say grief changes you. We are who we are because of our losses, as well as our accomplishments. I recently watched a movie where the main character had the opportunity to remain in an alternate universe, one where her deceased mother was alive and well. Having survived one too many losses, including my own brother, I wonder what that would mean for me.
I do unfortunately have the unsettling, impractical thoughts about what I’d do if it meant having Jeffrey back. If given the opportunity to sacrifice thing A to have my brother again, would I? Of course the situation is out of my control and these thoughts bring unnecessary stress. However, these thoughts, with careful depth, have the ability to unleash new forms of self-love. To recognize who I’ve become since this unexpected tragedy. What I’ve gained alongside this tremendous loss. I want to understand and give credit for the way I’ve overcome this particular hardship. Seek out the specific growth, as well as the already present qualities that could shine a glimmer of light onto this darkness. It seems impossible to live in a pitch black world. I’m thankful I have the power to seep what light I can onto situations that could blind me.
I wonder how it would change the person I am today if I could simply erase this loss. Would I still hold the accomplishments I’ve made in the past 21 months? Would other lives be affected if I didn’t have this experience to inspire through? I was already on this path to self-discovery and healing. My blog was already up and running. What strength did I acquire from this particular grief and how have I adapted from it? Am I more realistic about things not working out the way I always hope? I don’t feel strong by “surviving.” I used to survive, now I live. I don’t feel like my life is over because Jeffrey died. Lets be honest, life is shit and living is the hardest thing any of us can do. Finding ways to continue living while I still have so much life left is way more important than merely surviving. Maybe I’m stronger knowing I can live through tragedy.
My experiences not only shape the person I am becoming, but they provide meaning to the purpose in my life. They expand my ability to reach and relate to others. My story may not be simple or enjoyable at all turns. I may leave behind nasty falls, or hard to swallow memories in the rear view. However, with eyes looking forward, I find reward through the front windshield. To live a life where my brother is still alive, is to rewrite my future based on my past. Nothing is worth losing Jeffrey but he’s gone now and I’m not going to lose myself too. No situation has the power to reset my agenda prioritizing my past over my future. It would be a disservice to all I have gone through, as well as a disservice to Jeffrey, if I let this pain take away my ability to live. I have too much life left and it’s important to me not to feel like the best is gone. I haven’t had enough experiences to feel as though it can’t get better than life when Jeffrey was here. I don’t believe that I can’t still have highs that will feel like the best day’s of my life.
I choose to find meaning from my past by understanding its effects on my character. Applying my newfound strengths to provide myself a brighter future. No matter what I go through, my life can always be brightened by discovering new potential. My brother was part of my life for 24 years. For many of us, siblings are the relationships we have for life. Navigating the world from the same upbringing. Similar traditions, relatable lessons instilled. Someone to have your back, to be by your side during the happiest of times, and the worst. I’ve done so much since we lost him. I’ve travelled, built my blog, sold my photography, got my dog. I’ve met so many new people, some I choose to see again, and others who simply taught me lessons. I’ve been busy with what on the surface felt like distraction, but I ask myself what else could be behind these steps towards my future. How am I different from before he was here?
I lost my world the day my brother died. I was forced to enter my alternate universe, with no way out. Maybe my changes have just been accelerated. I was always this person, some things just snapped into perspective earlier. Who I am today is a more empathetic, loyal daughter. A more observant human. I’m a committed, grateful dog mom. I feel obligated to make positive changes in my life as soon as they prove worthy to my well being. I go the extra mile to check on my “strong friends.” I’m more in touch with my emotions. Gentler with myself. Patient in guiding relevant sadness through it’s necessary stages and preventing misguided worry to bring me down. Loss doesn’t change me as much as it proves my abilities. I am incredibly proud of the woman I am today. Just as you don’t truly know the type of mother you’d be until you have a child or the type of wife you’d be until you find a husband, the qualities we carry may be hidden until they are directly drawn from. I feel strength believing these qualities have always been a part of me. I feel hopeful understanding there are even more prideful qualities to be discovered. We may never be fully prepared for what life brings us, but we have it in ourselves to fight, to love more, and to live fuller. I look forward to uncovering more about the person I am becoming as I experience all that’s to come.
Many people are familiar by now with The Five Love Languages as defined by Gary Chapman. I recently took the online quiz to discover mine. I expect it’s very possible this order will adjust as I open myself to new relationships and experiences.
I was sitting next to a friend while she took her "love language" quiz and I remember her saying out loud, “who would choose a text over a hug?” It’s interesting how obvious these questions seem to us while holding completely opposite reasoning. It’s like when I wake up the morning of a big trip and compare it to what Christmas morning must feel like for those who celebrate. My equivalent to feeling feels from a hug is an “I’m thinking of you” text. To me, a hug doesn’t feel as personal.
I assumed physical touch would rank last for me. One of the many benefits to me getting a dog was to cuddle up. I needed to unleash, no pun intended, the softer, more emotionally connected side of me. I have trouble trusting people. Trouble believing my intentions are reciprocated. I struggle to believe people’s feelings for me are what they claim. What promise does a hug hold? How does someone show they care through touch? It seems so surface level to me. Anyone can give a hug. I hug strangers as a way of saying “nice to meet you.” A text is a step out of the way. A message that shows you’re in this person’s thoughts. They choose to reach out to you, not with their arms but with their heart. I understand we all work differently. I suppose connection for me comes from comforting my mind.
I wonder what the reasons may be for the lack of connection I feel through physical touch. I come from an extremely loving home. Through those dark years of depressed days and nights, my dad would lie next to me as I cried myself to sleep many, many times. I can remember him rubbing my back and always being there when I needed him. I craved his company more than anything. A promise my parents held, no matter what the circumstance, was if I needed a hug they would give me one. Whether it be after a nasty fight or I disobeyed rules, it didn’t matter, they would always be there for a hug. As much as hugs and warmth through physical touch were present in my home, I think we all felt more effective through words.
Another huge part of why I’m more closed off by physical touch is the fact that I wasn’t always as comfortable in my skin. For most of my life I was overweight. I was self-conscious when people looked at me, let alone touched me. I didn’t want others to discover every roll or lump that I tried tirelessly to keep private. “Will their arms even reach around me” and “does my skin feel like a fat person’s skin” were common thoughts of mine when experiencing these interactions. I didn’t love myself in a way where I even wanted to be in my own skin, why should I expect anyone else to want to touch it? As I shed the weight and gained confidence and a more fit physique, I didn’t all of a sudden become touchy. Self-love doesn’t go hand in hand with weight loss. However, the weight loss journey and practice reworking my thoughts can lead to a better understanding of how to love myself. Refer to my post, I Used To Be The Fat Girl. It makes sense to me why the other 4 categories rank first.
Quality time ranking first was surprising to me. I learned appreciation of alone time doesn’t necessarily affect the importance of undistracted time with the people I love. Feeling heard and special by those I care about is number one when it comes down to it. Being a good friend, daughter, cousin, etc. is a characteristic most important to me and to be seen as so is understandably just as important. I am able to grow more as an individual when I spend quality time with people I respect. A chance to practice listening as well as self-love. Time to feel valued as well as the opportunity to lift someone’s spirits.
It also makes sense actions that prove someone’s care mean a lot more to me than words. I’ve been led down the wrong path one too many times to believe in words as evidence. Although my instinct is to not want someone to go out of their way for me, it feels good knowing someone offers. Feeling wanted, recognized, important. I have to remind myself of the times I go out of my way for the ones I care about. It doesn’t feel like an inconvenience when it’s helping someone who means a lot to me. My mom likes to remind me that one of my best qualities is my ability to be a stand-up friend. With this ability, expecting the same from others may lead to disappointment. Although I try not to create hopes of what the people in my life may do to show me they care, any attempt fills my heart with gratitude. Like they say, it’s the thought that counts.
As I sat at the dog park writing this piece, I got a notification that a package was delivered to my apartment. I took a pause on writing, writing about receiving thoughtful “gifts” or “acts” that really show someone cares. The package turned out to be just that. While “receiving gifts” doesn’t have to mean literal gifts, in this case it was. My friend who visited me in LA a couple weeks ago, all the way from Boston, managed to make ME a thank you basket. A collection of things that TRULY show she listens to me, she appreciates me and she’s thinking of me. A completely personalized book titled “A Whole Book Of Things I Want Lindsay To Know When Everything Feels Terrible.” Each blank filled in specifically about our trip and the things we talked about. A fanny pack, with unicorns, because I had mentioned I was searching for one to walk my dog with. As well as a present for my dog’s first birthday, which is coming up in a couple weeks. Not to forget the thank you note I already received from her last week that may or may not have brought me to tears.
I’m a talker. I talk fast and I talk a lot. I’m easily carried away with my passions and calm and quiet aren’t my most frequent displays. Something extremely special to me is when someone is able to show me they were truly listening to me. Not an easy task and credit is always acknowledged. I respect when someone’s display of thoughtfulness shows attention to detail. For example, this book my friend customized as a token of appreciation. It was what was written inside of this book that meant the world to me.
Friendships like ours don’t come around often. Unfortunately, not everyone even gets to experience one like it in their lifetime. The full ability to be vulnerable, while trusting this person loves you for exactly who you are, is a comfort I try to explain further in my post, Treasure Friends.
Thoughtfulness goes hand and hand with selflessness. The ability to tune into someone else’s needs, show empathy and comfort, is one I make sure never to take for granted. It’s no wonder selfish people make my blood boil.
Sometimes it can feel like a let down when people don’t express love in the ways that mean the most to me. However, I am in charge of opening my heart to the idea that we all express and long for love in different ways. I need to allow for the fact that we don’t all have the same order.
The idea that a quiz can establish guidelines on how I want to be loved is a weird concept to wrap my head around. However, it seems obvious when I think about it. Basic understanding of what I like the most. I’d like to recognize my appreciation for quality time more than I allow my independent mind to accept. Discussions about love language are a great way to share with partners our needs and desires. It is also an important step to loving ourselves the way we deserve. Make sure you’re receiving what you need from those you hold close to your heart. Be open to the idea that your love language can be very different than your loved one’s. Encourage honest conversations and ask for what you need. Remember to also pay attention to what someone might need from you. Love language is a simple way to breakdown how we work. Supporting the results and tending to our priorities is how we can find gratitude through love.