Archives for posts with tag: words of love

Well, I suppose the aphorism is slightly different, for most. “Home is where the heart is”, is more likely to ring true. For me, it hasn’t been enough… Do I lack ‘heart’? That seems unlikely from the vantage point of being generally well-regarded, mostly valued, and living life embraced by love. But… living in a particular building, or at a specific address, has not been sufficient to define ‘home’ for me – even though I live with loved ones, in a generally comfortable, pretty contented day-to-day sort of way. It has seemed very odd for some time.

I’m not always sure what being an artist means, precisely. I’m not sure how being an artist defines me differently than being someone who paints an occasional painting, or creates something of great beauty once in a while; it’s the beauty created that matters more. I am uncomfortably aware in recent months that my own art speaks to me, myself, with an earnestness and import that has resulted in feeling pretty displaced and homeless not seeing it displayed all around me in my daily life; it hadn’t been hung. There’s a lot of it. One or two paintings made it to the walls over the past couple years… I have… dozens. Hundreds? I paint like a madwoman, I am not shy about admitting that. The bare expanses of wall started working on my mind, over time; the stacks and stacks of paintings at the ready, the cabinets of smaller ones, the carefully boxed (between layers of protective acid-free tissue) unframed watercolors… all waiting…all part of who I am…all disregarded in favor of day-to-day minutiae and drama, and seeming unimportant to anyone but me.

The pain of it diminished considerably when I realized in an honest and aware moment that the bare walls left me feeling quite ‘homeless’ – more ‘deployed’ than ‘moved in’; it wasn’t about anyone else’s choices or actions, and I hadn’t expressed how important seeing my working hanging really is for my day-to-day comfort and contentment. I could communicate the experience once I found words for it, and phrasing that didn’t sound like an attack on life and love. Communication is a pretty big deal, and best done in an explicit and clear way on practical matters, such as the hanging of art… or the care and feeding of artists. 🙂

Use your words. Seriously. (Also, use them gently!)

"Emotion and Reason" 2012 detail

“Emotion and Reason” 2012 detail

I arrived home last night to find that quite a number of paintings had been carefully hung… really, more ‘installed’ than hung; the care in hanging them, the considerate and meaningful placements done so skillfully that ‘hanging paintings’ hardly describes it. I sat, in the evening, feeling very much more ‘at home’ than I previously had for 2+ years. Does it make ‘everything right with the world’? Hardly. Even the delight of the artist herself, surrounded by her work, isn’t ‘everything’, is it? I do feel loved, and greatly cared for to see so many of my very best pieces hanging all around.

There are more to come, more space for art, walls as yet untouched by color or vision…and I certainly have enough work to take care of that! I expect there may be some movement, some changes, swapping this one for that one… My traveling partner has a keen eye for color, contrast, form – and a lovely aesthetic. If I have the choice between hanging my own work, and having him do my installations for me, I definitely prefer to step aside and give him room to work. I frankly just ‘hang paintings’, and not very well – they’re level, sure, and generally at an appropriate height for viewing… but I’m prone to just shoving as many pieces into a given area of blank wall as what I think will fit… resulting in a dizzying mosaic of color and glow that suits only me, and overwhelms anyone else.

I have no idea what today will hold…but I am already looking forward to returning at the end of the work day, to be surrounded by what matters so much…love, and art.

Global superpowers have weapons of such indescribable destructive power they are referred to as weapons of mass destruction, or ‘WMD’. Very few people approve of the use of such weapons. WMDs are indiscriminate killers, laying waste to large populations at the point of impact, and involving sometimes a tremendously large area – and a lot of people. These are weapons so deadly that there are numerous treaties and rules by which people have agreed to play nicely, in order not to use WMDs. Very scary.

"Oil Fires" oil on stretched silk, 24" x 65" 1992

“Oil Fires” oil on stretched silk, 24″ x 65″ 1992

I find that in relationships there are also WMDs…but they’re different. They’re ‘weapons of mass distraction’ – behaviors, and language that undermine relationships with no positive outcome, not used for any constructive purpose, that hurt the person they are launched at without any other likely outcome being possible – and highly likely to hurt anyone in the immediate vicinity, too, through the sudden escalation of ‘OPD’ (Other People’s Drama), resulting symptoms ranging from discomfort, to emotional trauma. Make no mistake; weapons of mass distraction serve no obvious positive purpose, and in my own experience appear to be chosen for maximum damage (whether people who practice such damaging behaviors are doing so willfully, or with any real understanding of the damage they do, is a very different question, and I have no answers there). Human beings are capable of causing each other real harm – we’re very fancy primates, and we’re by far the most violent of the primate species.

I’ve been in relationships that would be easy to call ‘abusive’, one of which was quite dangerously physically violent, and I’m lucky to have gotten out alive. One was peculiarly emotionally painful, and did me lasting and nuanced damage over years of manipulation, gas-lighting, and financial abuse. I can’t honestly say at this point that one was truly worse than the other, in some respects; they both left scars, and they both affected the way I understand my fellow-man. Being treated badly by someone who says they ‘love’ you is one of the most horrifically sucking unpleasant experiences, ever. Along the way I discovered that I could choose to be changed, becoming what hurt me so badly, lashing out at the world with similar behavior, and hostility – or I could allow myself the greater challenge of learning, growing, and continuing to become the woman I most want to be, taking care to heal my heart over time, and making better choices, myself. It hasn’t always been easy.

I find that it can be tough to be certain that an emotionally abusive relationship is actually what it is – I never want to recognize that I have chosen so poorly for myself. I have learned to accept that some behavior just isn’t part of the set of Behaviors Common to Love, and I now accept them as clear warning signs of potential abuse. You likely have a few of your own, learned over time. I find that there are 3 behaviors that come up frequently in abusive relationships I’ve been in, that rarely show themselves in good relationships at all: contempt, a practice of continuous criticism, and controlling behavior.

Contempt hasn’t got anything whatever to do with love. There’s not a moment of contempt that ever whispered ‘I love you’ to someone being treated that way, and the damage of being treated with contempt lingers. It’s hard to find more to say about this one; relationships with a lot of it definitely aren’t loving. It’s a nasty way to treat someone under the guise of love, and the damage done lingers.

Controlling behaviors are commonplace in dysfunctional relationships of all kinds. Feeling controlled is definitely a hallmark of abuse in my own experience, and the resulting frustration and feeling of helplessness, and diminishment in personal worth can easily result in reactive acting-out, in a spirally see-saw of love-killing behaviors in which ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ becomes very unclear. Vulnerability, genuineness, and intimacy are critical to love – and not possible in a controlling relationship. Controlling relationships often outlast love, long before they are finally over. I wonder what point there really is for very controlling people to be in romantic relationships at all; from my perspective it often appears they’d be happiest without the complications of the free will of others, or the requirement to treat them well, and respect and consider their humanity.

Criticism is another thing I find common to abusive relationships. I don’t mean constructive feedback about best practices, or supportive dialogue about personal growth. I am talking about the constant negativity, constant complaining, and chronic assumptions of errors in action or judgment that only a person well-practiced in the hostile art of criticism truly understands. I am specifically pointing to ‘blame statements’ based on unvalidated assumptions, and commonly any attempt to refute the underlying assumption is met with further criticism – generally that I am being ‘defensive’. Personally, I find that in principle it’s acceptable to defend myself when attacked – and there’s the thing; in a loving conversation why would we attack each other in the first place? “ABBAB” (Always Be Belittling and Berating) has no place in love. It can be a balancing act; taking care of me certainly requires that I speak up when something unpleasant becomes a household practice I don’t care for… right? Well, but here’s the thing – can’t it be communicated without an attack? Without tearing someone down or hurting their feelings? Without resulting in disrespect, hostility, or questioning the worth of the other person as a human being? Yes, it sure can. (I highly recommend it, however it requires considerable practice for some of us, and a lifetime commitment to being kind.)

Love doesn’t thrive in relationships built on a foundation of contempt, control, and criticism, and it won’t be particularly relevant how long it ‘lasts’ – that shit’s not love.

"You Always Have My Heart" 8" x 10" acrylic on canvas with glow.

“You Always Have My Heart” 8″ x 10″ acrylic on canvas with glow.

It seems unkind to point all this out and then not say something positive… so, here’s something amazing, and simple, and lovely that I recently read, that seems the simplest possible rulebook for building love.  Maybe you think there’s more to it? Well, okay, I recently read this, too, and it is very practical worthy advice. Considering the wealth of information on how to build love, how to make love last, how to invest well in love and loving… what excuse does any person have to continue to treat people poorly, especially those they claim to love? Hell, two strangers can meet, talk, and fall in love in hours – tell me how it is acceptable for a moment to treat someone you love with contempt, or to criticize or control them? None of us need that. It sure isn’t love.

Try love sometime; it’s quite wonderful.

Are you finding yourself in disagreement with what I’m saying about love? Are you defending yourself in the moment? Already setting up the argument in your head, and not really hearing what I’m saying? Could be a nice place to start for some handy self-exploration; a character quality of ‘being disagreeable’ is another way to kill love, and generally unproductive and unpleasant to live or work around…although not really a ‘WMD’.  “Agreeableness” is an extraordinary character quality in a human being – and one of my most favorites to cultivate, myself, and to seek out in others. “The nicest person in the room” is nearly always someone who has a character quality of being very agreeable, and it isn’t at all about whether or not they agree with some one opinion, or whether they do or don’t dispute factual errors. It’s more about being cooperative, sympathetic, kind, considerate – being ‘a good sort’, basically. Agreeable people are marvelous to be around, warm and supportive in times of difficulty, and agreeable people know intimacy on a whole different level. Seriously. Try it out sometime.

Your results may vary. There are verbs involved.

Today is a good day for love, and a good day to be the nicest person in the room. Today is a good day to build someone up, instead of tearing them down. Today is a good day to respect boundaries, and be compassionate about limitations. Today is a good day to recognize that saying ‘I love you’ doesn’t say I love you half as well as loving will. Today is a good day to change the world.

 

Subtleties matter in language. There is a distinction to be made between one thing and another, and we use language to make that distinction clear to others. An example? ‘Point of view’ versus ‘angle of view’ – they mean different things, yes? Or…no? How about the difference between ‘being critical’ and ‘critical thinking’? That seems a pretty important distinction to make; those things are not the same at all, they just take advantage of language by sharing a word. Some differences are about how something feels within us, like ‘irritable’ versus ‘angry’; making that distinction helps us communicate our state of being more accurately to others. Some difference seem more a matter of precision about something outside ourselves, but I’m often unclear on the line between ‘within’ and ‘external’, not due to any particular madness of note, but simply because so few people communicate clearly in language sufficiently precise to account for those nuances – or are unclear themselves on the subtle differences between their internal experience (“this is uncomfortable for me” for example) and their external experience (“this is wrong or impermissible, and being imposed on me” for example).  I am learning to listen carefully, and to apply mindful awareness to opportunities to connect and enjoy people in the moment.

It gets complicated when I consider that the words I don’t say have nearly as much impact on other people as the words I do say.

It gets even more complicated when I consider that the tone with which I deliver those words changes their meaning to the person hearing them.

I’m still sort of feeling my way around in the murky shadow lands of good communication, actually. I tend to be strangely ‘face value’ about what people say, much of time. I don’t tend to see/hear subtext very easily, although I can quickly craft numerous alternate meanings or explanations of something said, it’s a very abstract thing. When I have more data, I can be more accurate, but it isn’t really about that other level of understanding for me; I am guessing. Maybe we all are? Those pesky assumptions can really fuck us up!

A journey, a path, a way, an experience.

A journey, a path, a way, an experience.

This has been a lovely few days for beautiful words, too. My partner has showered me with lovely ones, meaningful loving profundities of all kinds, hyperbolic assurances of value, appreciation, worthiness, and fondness. He’s also lobbed a few my way in moments of frustration or hurt that were just flat-out human and mean. I definitely hear the mean part first, and have to fight not to react to that before I catch up with the rest and hear his frustration and hurt; speaking to what is has more value than allowing myself to be chased by my own demons.

Right now, Hardwiring Happiness is the most important book in my kindle. I didn’t realize how little time I was spending really enjoying, savoring, and appreciating the good things, the beautiful words, or the best moments, and how very many minutes I would spend on what hurt, what frustrates me, what makes me sad, what weighs down my heart, or makes me angry – whole hours and days in fact, resulting in implicit negatively bias so extraordinary that I developed a hair-trigger response to frustration that resulted in nasty tantrums, irrational fits of rage or despair, and a lot of irritability because life often felt like it just sucked. I don’t generally feel that way much these days.

Whimsical porcelain figurine; Meissen on display at the Portland Art Museum.

Whimsical porcelain figurine; Meissen on display at the Portland Art Museum.

Words are magical – and not always well-received, or understood at intended. Life’s curriculum is often built on the power of words.

Today is a good day to use fewer words, with more clarity. Today is a good day to use gentle words, with more kindness. Today is a good day to use words with great precision, and great honesty. Today is a good day to change the words.

 

Before we get a lot farther, I’ll say first that I am not holding any significant credentials in linguistics, semantics, or language.  All views expressed are those of… me. Just me. My thoughts. My observations. My judgement. My bias. My baggage.  All filtered through my own experiences, my perspective on life, love and the world, my history as a human being, my education – and lack of education, the reading I have done, the consideration I have given all these things, and finally assembled as neatly as possible as a string of words in a row, hoping to capture what I think I mean to say, to share with you.  Ready? 😀

There is more to a sunny day than meets the eye; what we see is rarely all there is.

There is more to a sunny day than meets the eye; what we see is rarely all there is.

I say a lot about words. I do so using the words themselves. I share my thoughts using words. I share most of my emotional experience using words; the portions of that shared wordlessly, through non verbal expression of feelings, is not very precise and easily misunderstood or taken personally by others. I recall things that happened before now using words. Words are the building blocks of my poetry, my captions, my titles, and my jokes. Words are what I use to write love notes, and consumer feedback, to express my delight and my outrage. Words deliver hurts and words nurture my soul. Words define experiences, things, and people and they describe places, events, and experiences. Words tell profound truths, and also terrible lies. Words expose what is real, and are also used to attempt to hide what is real, or alter a shared understanding of reality. Words are used to threaten, to coerce, to convince, to persuade, to celebrate, to mourn, to immortalize, to laud and to punish. Words  are powerful. Powerful like Science. Powerful like magic. We are words as much as we are stardust; even Carl Sagan used words to communicate what he understood about life, the world, and the heavens.

I giggle to myself, at least once or twice, when I read books about words. There’s just something about it that tickles me.

A former partner, years ago, once firmly advised me in a moment of strife, that it ‘didn’t count’ if I had to be told what he wanted to hear; that soothing words, comforting words, romantic words, supportive and nurturing words only count if the speaker comes up with it on their own, from their heart, with no help from the person who needs to hear the words. An interesting thought that relies heavily on the assumption that love allows us to read minds. lol I didn’t find it to be an accurate statement, myself, but I admit it was entirely true of my then-partner, who would reliably refuse any comfort or positive outcome from any words he’d been party to suggesting might be good ones to use in that moment. (It seems unnecessary to point out the choice being made there.)

Another partner once merrily chuckled playfully (in a moment of domestic-not-quite-bliss, having provided a clear specific suggestion of the words he most needed to hear in that  moment, and having heard them repeated back by his loving partner, in  sincere and heartfelt way, honest in intent, although lacking in originality), “Knows answer when told…” and as though taking notes or scoring a test, made a check mark in the air, over an imaginary clipboard. We cracked up together; it’s a moment and phrase that still sticks with me, and not solely because of shared military experience (from whence that quote comes, actually being used in military scoring of certain task testing). He makes different choices, and he felt cared for because he used his words – and so did his partner.

I’m just saying; words matter. They matter when we listen, and they matter when we speak.

The words themselves are less about originality than the order in which they are used (there are only so many to choose from, and some are favored above all others; obviously, originality is not the issue), and whether we feel heard when we use them, or how we are spoken to when we hear them (which is a very subjective thing that I suspect we entirely make up in our heads as we go).  There are books about words, about how to use them, what they mean, and when they are most effective for what purposes. There are books that simply list words other people have said, in the order spoken, and saved on record as being peculiarly useful, effective, amusing, or historically noteworthy. There are letters and love notes of such awesome craftsmanship that their emotive power is preserved in them, and they are referenced and shared down through the years as culturally significant.

I’m just saying; words really matter – enough that it is worthwhile to put some thought into the words we choose.

Nearly every moment of wonder, of love, of delight in my own experience has been framed up in words, if not in the moment, sometime soon after when I share it with someone else.  The profound love I share with my partners is expressed to me wordlessly, often, sure – but as often, my recollection of expressions of love is in words. The eager goals of our future are shared in words. The challenges we face together, or with each other, are discussed in words. My own growth and progress with myself as a being is shared with my loved ones – and in my blog – with words. My annual review at work is in words. All the words – each of them – bring a shade of meaning to my experience I might have lacked, or understood differently, without the words, themselves. I can tell someone I love them without using words…but I can’t tell them why, or how much, or explain the nuances of what they mean to me, without the words. I can cry out in pain or anguish without words, but I can’t tell someone what is wrong, or ask for help, without the words to do so.

So…yeah. Words matter…but…they’re also totally made up. Seriously. We created each one, and someone (generally the person who thought up the word, at least initially) also made up what the word will be used to convey. What words mean changes over time, with usage. Some people are very precise with their use of language. Some people are sloppy and careless to the point of being difficult to understand, or communicating something more about their education, or character, through their choices with words. There are so many words, and still there are ideas for which no word yet exists; new ones come into being all the time. We communicate and we miscommunicate using words. Words we made up. Words we defined. Words we choose to use. We create our own experience, and color it, with words we choose ourselves, and call our ‘thoughts’; we behave as though they are real, and follow them with our actions and moods until they are.

Yes. Words matter, and I’m just saying; use your words. Use them wisely. Use them with care. Use them, don’t let them just tumble out of your face hole randomly. Use them with awareness that they are easily ‘weaponized’ and awareness that you have the power to hurt someone with words in ways that are not easily healed. We accept that actions have consequences fairly easily; words, too, have consequences.

Another perspective on a sunny day.

Another perspective on a sunny day.

Today is a good day to use kind words. Today is a good day to express myself with great clarity. Today is a good day to hear what is said, and to take a moment to understand the words. Today is a good day to consider my words, and their merit, and to use them with great care. Today is a good day to build truth, and to use honest words. Today is a good day to love, and to say so with loving words. Today is a good day for praise and encouraging words. Today is a good day to contemplate words that convey beauty and words that communicate a better understanding. Today is a good day to change the words.

“I don’t want to change who I am!”  An interesting quote that recently got my attention.

Why, yes, I think I shall...

Why, yes, I think I shall…

Really? Don’t want to enjoy new experiences? Don’t want to meet some specific person: a celebrity, an artist, a musician, an intellectual notable in your field of interest, and have a potentially life or perspective changing conversation? Don’t want to live a more contented, happier life? You’ve achieved all you can, met all your goals, gone everywhere, seen everything? You have answered all of life’s questions – or at least those that matter to you? You grok all, and have fulfilled your life’s purpose? You are entirely finished with personal growth because you are exactly and precisely in all respects 100% the person you most want to be, fully aware, and ideally empowered in your experience, confident, and self-assured, secure and content?

This was a big step...

This was a big step…

Everything we do changes ‘who we are’. So… what does someone who says “I don’t want to change who I am!” really mean by that? What do they mean by ‘who I am’? What immutable qualities of self exist that they are so terrified change will cost them their entire identity?

I am a student of life.

I am a student of life.

I’m not being mean, snide, dismissive, flippant, smug, or superior – I am puzzled. I have said those words, although it seems now it was some lifetime ago, in another place, in a very different context, and with a very limited understanding of what ‘self’ may be. I even meant it, at the time, in a wholly sincere way, feeling very threatened that I might somehow sacrifice my existence as a being to make even one more change to ‘my self’, however small.

At this point, that seems a very odd position to take, having finished a year of nearly continuous growth and change, and finding myself – from my own perspective – to be, still, entirely me. lol.

This matters more than I understood when I started.

This matters more than I understood when I started.

What does ‘Who am I?’ mean, as a question, and when I answer that question with a statement of ‘who I am’, what does that ‘mean’ for me, or convey to others? Are the qualities we associate with “I am…” statements actually definitive of who we are as beings? I am learning that when I define myself, I am also placing limits on my choices, and potentially accepting a much more restrictive experience – filled with things and qualities I may reject because I ‘am not’ those. How do I choose which qualities I have or am, and which I lack, or am not? When I set my jaw and insist on being an unchanging self, immutable, inflexible, and unbreakable, without accountability or responsibility for the qualities I accept as defining me – don’t I also stall any chance at growth, progress, and learning in every area of my experience? How would I reconcile such a thing against the obvious existence of change, itself? Or…do we get to dictate how much we are willing to change, on what axis, to what degree of magnitude, and with regard to what characteristics? Is it that easy? We do have a lot of room to ‘customize’ who we are, through our choices. If we can ‘customize’ who we are (and oh, yes, we can)… doesn’t that take away the option of saying “I don’t want to change who I am!” – unless we are indeed exactly and precisely the person we most want to be, in every respect? And if we are that person, (fulfilled, content, satisfied with our sense of self…) and yet our relationships are confrontational, hurtful, contentious, unsatisfying, joyless, or unhappy in a long-term everyday way… are we saying that the responsibility for growth and change rests solely with our partner(s), and that we have no obligation to examine our own nature, choices, and character? That seems a tad lopsided,  and not reciprocal… it also doesn’t sound like something I’d expect to hear from a human being who had achieved all their goals, is precisely the person they most want to be, fulfilled, content, and satisfied with themselves, at all. Are we saying we prefer to exist in problematic, painful, or unsatisfying relationships, because that is preferable to change? Or that if change requires our willful constructive decision-making and action, that we’re just not interested? There is a missing piece here. Like assembling a jigsaw puzzle from which some practical joker removed a handful of unrelated pieces, I find myself frustrated, and unsure that I can ‘complete this picture’ at all easily, but I continue to fuss with it restlessly, needing the satisfaction of solving the puzzle.

There's even science about change, and self...

There’s even science about change, and self…

I write through the lens and filters of my own experience. I’m a student of life, and have my own baggage, my own biases, my own expectations of life, love and the world. Change is. I don’t realistically see a way around that. Fight it or embrace it – we have little control over the existence of change. If my choices and the changes associated with them are so powerful as to be the difference between happy/unhappy, content/discontent, positive/negative, considerate/inconsiderate, or success/failure, and growth/stagnation – why would I ever make willful choices to be unhappy, discontent, negative, stuck, inconsiderate… or any of a very long list of things that suck in life? If I were suffering something that unpleasant, painful, causes me to suffer, feels bad, or takes my experience in an unpleasant direction – and have a choice to do differently, or have a different experience – why would I not make the choices to enjoy my life, more? It’s a question.

...I've come so far...

…I’ve come so far…

I’m still more about questions than answers. This is a lot of words, on a quiet day. Today is a good day to be the change I wish to see, in my self. How else?

It can be as simple as this.

It can be as simple as this.