Love is My Word for 2020

In late December 2019, beloved MS specialist Dr. Aaron Boster used social media to ask us all to think about our word for the coming year. I came up with mine within five seconds: love.

Yes, love.

Small case doesn’t seem to do it justice. LOVE. Hm, maybe it needs punctuation? LOVE!!!  No, love is fragile and easily crushed by all caps and multiple exclamation points. It is the shrinking violet of all the emotions. Shout at it and it will wilt and die before your eyes. It is the least spoken feeling, too, and the most honest among us will admit they are starved for it, to hear it, feel it, and receive it. Yet it is all around us in the form of actions.

Love is all around us

When a neighbor shovels your sidewalks and driveway without asking beforehand, that’s love, the kind that binds us together as a community.

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When your man runs out to the store at 11:30 p.m. because you crave a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Double Fudge Brownie, that’s love.

When someone asks you to come with them for comfort while they visit the grave of a loved one and you do it even if it’s meaningless to you, that’s love.

Love comes through in words, too

We could say that in the case of love, actions speak louder than words — but I would not agree with that. Receiving loving words can restore us to ourselves and redeem the rest of humanity in our hearts. Speaking loving words to someone who is feeling fragile can bring us peace at the end of each day, knowing that we handled people kindly and didn’t hurt anybody.

Love is as powerful as it is fragile

Oddly, uttering the word itself seems too direct. It hovers outside the senses and yet it makes us feel things intensely. It is as powerful as it is fragile, and when it is felt mutually, it gains strength and loses its fearsomeness. Many would say God is love. As both are abstract nouns that exist outside the human senses, this synonymous relationship is certainly understandable. As a questioning person who is on a private spiritual journey, the concept doesn’t bother me.

The word "love" bothers some

Still, the word "love" itself bothers some who hear it. It has come to signify only romantic or familial emotional bonds. It makes me uncomfortable hearing it directly in some situations myself, and the few times I’ve blurted it out at people who stood outside those romantic/familial bonds, I watched the hapless recipients gasp and step back, their eyes wide and glistening as they struggle with the fight or flight reflex. They probably wondered whether I’m mentally ill. I don’t do that anymore. I’ve channeled the literal word love into a safer more effective receptacle. I call it my love bubble.

Peering out from my love bubble

I often take up residence inside it. I imagine it looking kind of like one of those cat pods trending on social media right now, soft and round with a small hole for the cat to peer out of while feeling snug, safe and warm inside. Whenever I’m in a tussle with someone that is acting unloving, I picture taking them into my bubble, putting my arms around them and holding on tight, speaking softly as a mother to her infant, hoping they’ll feel the love from me and with me. Some would call that magical thinking and I am among them while I'm outside the bubble, mostly because it hasn’t worked yet. The bubble comes straight out of my obsessive nature and a drive to transform people with my passion and purpose. The cynical descriptor would be “controller,” but that is not all bad. It is possible to be that in positive ways and I always hope that I can inspire someone by being a loving person. Ultimately, though, I am the one that is comforted by the bubble embrace, afloat in its soothing pulses and in perpetual hope that love will find a way.

Feeling humility and gratitude

One of my dear friends thinks of it as my way of going high when others go low. I know what he means, but that makes me sound condescending and superior as if I’m tolerating the rabble. I’m really feeling humility and gratitude especially when I see the circle of love complete itself and I had something to do with it.

So, love—my word for 2020 and for every year thereafter.

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