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Saying “I Love You”

Of all the phrases in the English language, “I love you” seems to be one of the more challenging ones to say. “I love you” is very different than “love ya” or even “I love you too.” When I send a card to someone or perhaps an email, sometimes I’ll sign it “love,” or “love you,.” Over the past many months, I’ve occasionally tried to write, “I love you, ” instead. It has such a greater potential for connotation and is thus much more difficult to write.

For the past couple of years, I’ve begun a practice of writing, “I love you” as my signature on my credit card slips when I charge a purchase in a store or restaurant. I say it is a “practice” because it is a way of practicing loving others. Not only do I write the words, but I do my best to feel the loving connection in my heart between myself and the person accepting the charge. No one hardly ever looks at the signature these days so it’s really an anonymous practice, a practice of loving and communicating that love to another. The only place I’ve been caught is at the Crate and Barrel outlet in Berkeley where my electronic signature comes up in large format on their register screen.  The last time I went in there, the lady saw what I had written and said, “you can’t write that, you’ll have to sign it again.”  I replied, “That is my signature.”  I stayed playfully adamant and with a smile she shrugged it off and said, “OK, you can go.

Both of these examples – letters and credit card slips – are still distant ways of saying “I love you” to someone. Either they are not present or they are not aware of the communication. “I love you” becomes more difficult when spoken over the phone. I am always touched when my brother Jeff ends our calls with “I love you brother.” I am always left with a 2nd place finish of “I love you too, Jeffy,” but it is still very sweet.

When face to face with someone (or perhaps belly to belly) the words flow less easily. I am blessed to have several people in my life who naturally and easily can say the words. Funny, but it’s more common for me to hear this from men friends than from women. I think that the more obvious it is in a situation that there is not a romantic or potential romantic relationship involved, the easier it is to say “I love you.” It is thus easier to say it to relatives, children and friends of either the same sex or different sexual orientation, than it is to say to people with whom the “I love you” might construe an invitation to move the relationship in a more romantic direction.

The most difficult place to say “I love you,” peculiarly, is in a developing romantic relationship. Even though strong (or very simple) feelings of love may arise, the words can have an associated fear of implied contract or expectation. It’s such a shame that we can’t just trust in the moment, that what is said at a point in time is true in that moment, and remains true only in that moment. How much more fulfilling life would be if we didn’t restrain our words for fear of them being imbued with portent or carried forward to another time and place. Much as feelings of angst, anxiety, anger, fear, compassion, tenderness naturally come and go, the actual experience of feeling love is ephemeral. It’s such a shame that Love has been so romanticized in so many cultures that we rein in it’s natural expression rather than letting it gallop free from the barn whenever the feeling naturally arises. As I’ve written about truth many times on this site, I firmly believe that what is true is only true in the moment it is experienced.

It is also important not to confuse the feeling of love as it arises with the experience of loving someone over a longer period of time. When we truly love someone, that love may never end, but the actual experience of feeling the love does come and go. When you are having a heated discussion with someone you love, you are very likely not feeling the presence of love. In the midst of that discussion, when that person laughs, or smiles or shows some aspect of themselves which moves you, your heart may be touched and you may for that fleeting moment, actually feel the presence of love. That’s what I’m referring to here, acknowledging the feeling of the presence of love as it arises.. Noting perfunctory, nothing rote, nothing understood, just a free flow of the expression of that love as it arises.

So do I love you? Yes, almost assuredly. All I usually need is a reminder that you are there, and to be fully present with the experience of being with you. I think that is all that it really takes to love. Love naturally flows when boundaries are removed.

I wanted to end this post by writing “I love you,” but then it felt a little contrived and I need to be honest rather than just write what seems like a natural ending. As I sat with it for a few seconds though, I realized that I do love you. It is what my heart naturally does.

I love you.


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