'who knows the feelings, but never the words'
is there any combination of words more powerful than "i love you"?
oh, sure, phrases such as "i'm sorry," "please forgive me," "don't be stupid," or "i'm disappointed in you," are strong in their own right and, upon receiving them, can remain tethered in our memories for years after their delivery (maybe for a lifetime. this possibility, honestly, scares me a little bit).
but i believe "i love you" carries so much weight it can be engulfing, or it can set you free.
i remember distinctly the first time i ever said "i love you" to someone outside of my immediate family. the words spilled out of me like i'd been gutted. the man i shared them with paused what he was doing and the silence in those few seconds (fabled hours) was so painful to my enamored heart that i wished for a rewind button on life. i lay there in the dark, this man above me, and i was trapped in mid-cringe, thankful he couldn't see me. thankful, it would seem also, that i couldn't see him.
"you don't really mean that," he finally said. "you don't really love me. you can't."
"there are rules about this kind of thing?" i thought, taking in his words. "i can give you what i have like some badge, but i can't receive that?"
then we returned to what we had been doing together prior to the confession i apparently never meant. because i did love him. and, of course, i believed in my "life is mine to have what i want" mentality, i could and would make him love me. life's other fabled matter, btw.
push life's fast forward button and we find ourselves a few months down the road. still doing what we did. still debating feelings. at an impasse. amidst long, gut wrenching letters of want (which, i learned many years down the road he still possesses), thrown objects, tears and tesla's love song screaming out of the stereo speakers in my college bedroom (the long version, my friends, allows you to say a lot and get nowhere with someone you love in during the one minute and 30 second instrumental intro) we finally took a break, took a breath and lied when we said we didn't love each other (how could we possibly? the scene we were in was so obviously devoid of passion!).
but we did. very much.
two years later, after failed relationships on either side and letter after letter hinting at it, we reconnected, fell into something physical and then, in the middle of a 3 a.m. telephone call, this man who told me i could never love him, who had never before said he loved me, told me he did.
"always have," he said.
we said those very powerful words so freely from that point on, it was as if the two of us had created this new language and the only way to test it was to say it constantly. for months, we literally sighed and i think flowers bloomed when we said it. we planned a marriage to then show everyone we knew how important those words were to us.
then, in the middle of another 3 a.m. telephone call, after many times hearing, "say it for me, please, sweetheart..." we somehow ended up saying our goodbyes. literally.
so for the above reason, for so many more examples, i hold onto the idea that "i love you" has a power we can't even see. and i realized this week, in the midst of a conversation with someone who has become a friend, that i may very well be lacking in power - both in giving and receiving it.
i've been accused of saying "i love you" too much. i've hugged friends at the end of visits and said it. i tell my children it more than once daily. i say it to people i hardly know, yet have made connections with that can't be seen.
telling you all that and reading it myself, it seems a bit shocking in light of my family of origin and what would seem to be an aversion to the words "i love you." honestly, we never say it. ever. when i consider that now, it's almost like we're ashamed or we should just assume we love each other because we share blood and biology. i brought this lesson into my marriage, as well, and while early on, for many years, my husband and i raved about how we loved each other (i even took out an advertisement in the newspaper to tell everyone. never mind i was the editor of the newspaper and we got free ads...) we don't do it so much now. this is a fact that i hate to think comes with the advances of marriage. i assume everyone still confesses their love for their partner in both intimate and routine circumstances. maybe that's silly. maybe that's just me trying to shake off nature versus nurture in light of the really poor example of marriage i grew up a witness to.
because the lack of of power i offer up or take in? kinda hurts. powerfully.
a couple of years ago, in the midst of what remains the worst experience of my life, i remember my parents and my husband engulfing me in their concern and desire to simply take this thing away for me. their actions conveyed their love for me completely, but words to that affect hadn't been said. one afternoon, as my mother was preparing to depart my house, i wiped at tears and found my heart so incredibly full that i burst out with "i love you." she was shocked. not unhappy, mind you, but the look on her face was one of surprise. at some point, she returned the sentiment, and left. i stood watching her, thinking about how easily i can say "i love you" to people outside of my immediate family and vowing to say them more often to my parents, my husband and my sister.
and i did. for a time. but now, after a few weeks where it seemed my parents were looking at me like "we get it. seriously..." every time i ended a visit or call with "i love you," my efforts died out.
sure, i tell my husband i love him, but admittedly not often enough. i wish to hear those words from him before i ever have to say them first. before i have to think (and sometimes say out loud) that "you, too," doesn't count (ok, it does, but...) when it comes in response. most days, we go about our hours on the assumption that we'll always have the opportunity to say "i love you."
like it matters when.
keep in mind that i don't wish to be rewarded or showered with "i love you" remarks every time i offer them or wait for them. i'd just like to store them away. and to figure out why i can say it to people who are important to me, but who are not necessarily dependent upon me. to figure out that it's ok to just take a breath and say it every day to my husband and family.
i suppose it takes power.
i just need more of it.