it took me roughly 13.5 minutes to drag myself out of my warm van, through the torrential rain, and into the gym this morning. i. did. not. want. to. run. nor lift weights. at all. it wasn’t until i received a text that reminded me just how much better i’d feel when i stepped on the treadmill that i actually got out of the car.
a birthday or so ago i was struggling with feelings of guilt over time my friends had taken to come to my home for a dinner my husband had invited them to. i was “i’m sorrying” and “you shouldn’t have taken time out to come overing” and hemming and hawing when a friend looked me sternly in the eyes and said, “get over it. seriously.” she meant it. and i did. 
another friend and i have an agreement. we can leave rant, sob, or enthusiasm filled messages on eachother’s voice mail any time of the day or night. neither of us needs to drop anything, do anything, or even return the call. we are simply eachother’s go to venting place. no follow up required. it’s become a solace for both of us.
support systems, “cuddle groups,” go-to counselors/advisors/mentors, and friends empower us as we move through life. our humanity, it seems, binds us to such people...if we will let it. which is where i witness struggle of so many kinds.
we are hesitant to “bother” other people. we are quick to assume that everyone else has all that they need in the way of community and are slow to reveal our own needs and wants. we recognize how lonely we feel and yet fear being known for who we truly are. on the flip side, we stop ourselves from offering our selves to others. we don’t know how to say “no” when we’re not available to help or listen so we don’t say “yes” when we can for fear that it’ll open the door to demands we might not want (or be able to) meet in the future. 
our internal dialogues are filled with unchecked assumptions. “if people knew what a slug i was they’d be disgusted.” “if i invited someone to go to a play/movie/concert with me they might think i’m desperate.” “if i admitted that i have no clue how to cope and that i longed for help they might think i’m nuts.” or, my personal hot button, “if i have to ask my friend to listen to me/tell my husband what i’d like for my birthday/remind my girlfriend that my love language is touch (or the myriad of other things we don’t like to say outloud), it’ll mean less when they provide it for me.” let me say that again in another way, “if i have to ask for what i want, it won’t mean as much when i get it.”
further, we think, “if i tell him that he can call me when he feels unmotivated he’ll call all the time and i’ll have to talk for hours.” “if i invite her over for dinner this week i’ll feel like i have to do it every time she has a bad week.” we stop ourselves before we start. over and over and over again.
here’s the deal, however. it’s up to us to align our own expectations and to set and enforce our own boundaries. us and us alone. instead of doing so, we fall into patterns of unconsciously expecting too much from others, leading us to feel disappointed when they don’t live up to our inflated wishes. similarly, we fear (and sometimes resent) their expectations of us rather than working to communicate what we are and are not able to provide in the way of companionship. if we worked to become better attuned to both of these dynamics the resulting heterogeneity in our support systems might help us to feel like we have what we need.
every one of us needs a few friends that are fun. a few friends that push us and a few that love us unconditionally and provide “soft” support. we need a friend to go dancing with and a friend to talk about faith with. we need a friend with 10 tattoos and one who is  morally opposed to them. we need to provide support to some people and light hearted fun to others. it’s o.k. to make limited offerings and to hold yourself to your boundaries. it’s crucial to have realistic expectations.
if you begin to notice that you are resenting someone for not being who you need, check to make sure that they ever offered you what you hope for. do a quick review of your expectations and align them. don’t be a victim and yet don’t hope for that which was never offered or negotiated. similarly, if you find yourself offering things to others that would lead you to resent them, stop. only offer that which you can provide without it costing you too much. sure, stretching yourself is important, but not to the point where you either hold grudges or get yourself in over your head.
the truth is, we really do need eachother. in all sorts of ways comfortable and not. small and large. soothing and not. stretching and not. it doesn’t hurt any of us to practice that which we are inexperienced at, whether that be small talk or deep conversation, casual friendship or intimate connectedness.
this week, today even, i encourage you to push past your independence, your desire to do life alone, your dependence on others, or fear of asking for, or offering, a little support. do this in small ways like inviting someone to share something you enjoy or go big by offering to accompany someone on a task they fear or dread. offer yourself to a friend to be the person they can call (or text or i.m.) when they simply need to blow off steam. set it up with them that you’ll simply listen to the message and offer a two or three word response. no big time commitment, you’re just offering to hold their frustrations with them...not take them over or on. determine who in your life might be such a person for you and go out on a limb and ask them for the favor. or go bigger and commit to a person or two that you meet with on whatever time frame you like in order to talk and connect and grow. learn to set your expectations appropriately about which friends offer which kinds of connection and let those with whom you are less intimate off the hook for not being so. don’t expect what others can’t give and don’t offer what you can’t offer without resentment setting in.
we are only as connected as we allow ourselves to be. we are only as connected as we intend ourselves to be. connection grows in meaning when it is both given and received. allowed and intended. given and received. and all done mindfully.


loud, rebellious loving kindness

tomorrow the world will “celebrate” valentine’s day. well, tomorrow some people in the world will celebrate this day. others will dread it, disparage it, ignore or mock it. some will profit from it, taking advantage of our consumer culture. others will use the day to internalize the lie that they are unloveable, alone, and valentine-less.
when did this happen? when did we stop crafting construction paper and doilies into meaningful sentiments in favor of mass produced boxes of star wars and barbie valentines? when were chocolate and roses named the official gifts of february 14? when did we become so willing to accept cultural pressure to make the day a hallmark one? when?
in my opinion tomorrow is the perfect opportunity to dust off our empathy and practice it well. we are all, you see, human. we are all, therefore, fearful at some level that we are, at root, unloveable, unconnectable, flawed beyond the point of being seen honestly and still cared for and about. we know what it’s like to feel unrecognized when others are being celebrated. if we don’t know what this feels like it’s time to stop and pay attention in a new way.
valentine’s day began as a feast day to honor st. valentine who, according to legend, was willing to break the law requiring soldiers to be celibate and single. he performed marriages when they were illegal. the day honors a person who rebelled against the rule of the day in order to honor the greater law of love. historical writings suggest that he behaved lovingly not only to couples who wanted to marry but also to others he encountered. he was radically loving.
what might it look like for you to be radically loving today? not just of the person you love in that “hallmark valentine way” but in all ways.
what if you carried a pad of small sticky notes and wrote a note of praise to the manager of every person who provided you with good service?
what if you called your close friends, actually called them, and told them that they matter to you?
what if you loved yourself in a meaningful way? took yourself to a movie? took a longer than normal hot shower? walked barefoot on a soft surface? bought yourself a song? or a card? or lunch? and savored it.
what if you tore a piece of copy paper into the shape of a heart and wrote a corny encouragement note on it for a co-worker? or librarian? or the dry cleaner? or your niece or nephew or neighbor?
what if you gave your partner the gift of telling him or her what would be meaningful to you on this day rather than expecting him or her to read your mind?
what if you left a thank you note in your outgoing mail for the mail carrier?
what if you took a risk and cared and did it out loud so those you care about could see?
i’d love to hear about the ways large and small that you find to recognize people tomorrow...