When I was in New York a couple of weeks ago, my friends and I were sitting in their living room having one of the rambling, rabbit trail conversations I love to have with them, and somehow we landed on Gary Chapman's book, The 5 Love Languages. I looked up a quiz and texted them the link, and within seconds we were all staring at our phones with furrowed brows and laser focus. We took issue with a few questions, but for the most part, our curiosity won out over our skepticism.
When we were done, I made them share their results first. "Words of affirmation" and "quality time" seemed spot on, and we all nodded our heads at the descriptions. Yep, that's you alright; yeah, I can definitely see that.
Then it was my turn.
Cue awkward silence and raised eyebrows, followed by bursts of laughter all around.
I'm not sure why it felt embarrassing, but it did. I know I blushed five different shades of red, and I'm blushing now just writing about it. When we all headed off to bed, my friend gently shook my foot to say goodnight "in your love language," and I know this will be a standing joke between us probably forever.
I don't dispute the results, though.
Truth be told, though I perform acts of service all the time, it makes me uncomfortable when someone does something for me. So that's definitely not my love language.
I do appreciate kind words and quality time with the people I love. And I do enjoy giving and receiving thoughtful gifts, the kind that have nothing to do with a dollar amount but everything to do with someone knowing what you like and thinking of you when they see it. Those ways of relating to others resonate with me, but I can see they are not primary.
Physical touch, on the other hand . . .
Here are a handful of examples:
Physical touch is my love language. No doubt.
(I'm not even blushing about it anymore.)
Knowing that puts a lot of other things in perspective, too.
I always thought I was a visual learner, and it's true I can absorb information that way. But I took a learning style assessment on a lark when I was trying to develop some new teaching methods, and I discovered I'm actually a kinesthetic or tactile learner. Reading the description (this is one of many you can find in a quick search) felt like a lightbulb turning on in my brain: of course I loved dance and gymnastics! Of course I took pages and pages of notes to keep my hands busy during lectures! Of course I learned to take photos by twisting dials and pushing buttons on my camera instead of reading the manual from cover to cover! My brain processes information taken in through my sense of touch more efficiently and productively than any other method. How could I have missed that?!
And then there's my body's physical manifestation of stress: my heart going 190 beats per minute when I roll over in bed, the bony protrusions in my mouth (called tori) caused by clenching my jaw, the angry-looking eczema that erupts all over my legs, and the iritis that blew up my right eye on two separate occasions--when Jonathan was about to die and the day my divorce became final.
After my heart's most recent misbehavior, I got serious about regular exercise. I set aside my disdain for workouts on the treadmill and started using the one languishing in my laundry room. I got up crazy early and watched episodes of The West Wing on my phone; I had to turn on captions and read through sleepy eyes because I couldn't catch all the dialogue over the hum of the treadmill's motor. I watched every episode from every season, and then I watched Band of Brothers once I finished. When I was done with that series, I watched a few movies over several sessions and now I'm making my way through Friday Night Lights.
A quiet revolution began in those early mornings. It was the discipline of climbing out of bed when all I wanted to do was stay under the covers one more hour; the choice to keep going until I hit the next mile marker instead of stopping as soon as I reached the required time; the satisfaction of turning everything off at the end and walking to the kitchen to make coffee; and the little wobble I felt in my legs as I went down the stairs of the parking garage at work later. I noticed I starting walking with my head held higher, breathing deeper and with a greater sense of calm, and feeling more confident engaging with people. Exercise really is a miracle drug.
As beneficial as running/walking are, though, this past week I wanted to push a little harder. I spent a lot of time in the yoga studio, and the stretching and breathing helped me connect with a lot of physical "stuff" I've been carrying around a long time. There's all the stuff I mentioned above. And then there are my fertility issues.
From March 2002 through September 2003, I had three miscarriages and thought I would never have another baby. I hated my body for failing me yet also felt tremendous gratitude towards it for giving me my oldest daughter, a gift I more fully appreciated once I knew how many different ways something could go wrong. I don't know how I would have survived that time emotionally without her happy little face reminding me of life's inherent goodness every day. My son was born in the summer of 2004, and my body and I were friends again.
Then I tried to get pregnant for years with no success. I did infertility testing as far as I could before getting into science fiction territory, and it uncovered a few issues but nothing major. I hated my body again until I got to hold the surprise of all surprises in my arms in the winter of 2011.
Following her birth, I had two more miscarriages--in May and August of 2012--and then my marriage started falling apart. I went from hating my body (again) to having bigger issues to tackle, and the only time I paid any attention to my physical self was when one of those chronic conditions flared up and made demands. I would pause long enough to get things under control and say, "Wow, look how stressed out I am!" and then go right back to what I was doing.
That won't work anymore. My physical self--which I'm realizing more and more is the most powerful way I process the most important parts of my world: how I love and how I learn--deserves to be a priority. In whatever kind of life I'm building from this point on, it will be.
Mother, photographer, writer. Expert in making things up as she goes and figuring things out along the way.