Recently I posed this question to a group of women who may not often think about this, particularly in the context I asked it. Also, I asked it in the middle of a global pandemic at a time when many of us are feeling weary, worried, unsettled, and uncertain. I asked moms of kids who struggle with substance use disorder –what do you love about your son or daughter? What are their best qualities?
Lots of women replied, naming so many beautiful qualities their kids embody, acknowledging that it’s been awhile since they’ve reflected on these aspects of kids who are often associated with pain and struggle. Which was exactly my point in asking the question. Not to pretend that the horrendous experiences aren’t there, but to remember that beneath this disease, there is still a loving, caring, kind, humorous, creative, generous being.
If there is a person in your life with whom you have a challenging or complicated relationship, you might take a moment to consider what qualities you love in this person.
Why am I asking you now at a time when there’s so much we don’t like, so much we are worried, scared, or discombobulated about??
I find it really helpful to remember that the whole messy mix can be true at the same time. It’s not all or nothing, black or white, good or bad. Rarely does life present itself in a neat package despite our mind’s desire to simplify it that way.
We look at what we love, not to erase or to pretend that the painful, uncomfortable, less desirable things aren’t also here. We do this to see that there’s room for it all. That it can ALL be here, at the same time, in the same reality, in the same heart. We don’t have to choose what we hate or what we love, what we’re for or what we’re against, what we want to lean into or what we want to eradicate forever. We can be with it all. You can love the sunshine and warmth, remembering that beach in your happy place, even as you cringe at the snow that is here when it shouldn’t be!
It’s a simple practice to wonder and to notice from time to time. And, so, I ask you, even in your sadness, despair, worry, or fear, to consider, remember or discover the part of you that loves.
Right now… consider, what do you love?
About yourself? What are your best qualities? (let's start here... and, if you go no further, that will be more than enough!)
About the situation you find yourself in?
About the person or people who challenge you deeply?
What do you love to do? Eat? Experience?
Who do you adore, and what is it about them that you love?
What do you love to be? Do? Have?
Feel into it with all of your senses – what images, thoughts, scents, feelings emerge? What brings a smile to your face or lights you up inside?
What brings a sweet “aaahhhh….?”
For me, a few things that come to mind right now that I love are sunsets; lakes and oceans; “The Grinch;” Snoopy; the smell of a bonfire or fresh-baked bread; sunshine and warm, fresh air; laughter; deep honest connections; the smell of a horse farm and feeling my body sway with a horse; and helping other people light up!
Now, let's be honest... it might be way easier to know what we don’t like, what we wish were different, even what we hate… And if that’s where your mind goes, then start there. When we’re deep in the muck, it can be hard to see out. Then, take a moment and look at the flip side. The opposite of what you hate is likely what you love or what you’re longing for.
Let it all be here. There is no need to jump over the uncomfortable, the painful, the sad or scary to get to the happy, peaceful, joyful feelings. We have the capacity to hold it all in these hearts of ours.
When we can touch in with what we love, we soften, if only for a moment. Something inside of us stirs. We awaken maybe a long-forgotten spark. We connect with something deep and true.
From this place, maybe we allow ourselves to dream or desire. Or maybe we allow ourselves to simply accept someone else as they are, even with the parts we don’t like or wish weren’t there. Maybe for a minute we are able to see the essential goodness in another person. Maybe we energize ourselves enough to take that next step.
What do you love?
Feel into it. Awaken your heart. And, then please share in the comments and let’s sprinkle some love around today!