When you have close friends or family with Asperger’s Syndrome, you spend a lot of time building your own personal Rosetta stone, learning how to translate between what you think you heard and what was really meant. It’s like being in a close relationship with someone who speaks a different language, except that since you both speak what appears to be the same language, you trip all the time over mistranslations. Doesn’t “egg” always mean “egg”? Turns out, not so much.
This can be a challenge when it comes to talking about love.
For the record, I believe that everyone needs to be loved. Romantically, platonically, familially, spiritually. It’s a necessary part of our well-being. To know, to be reassured, that we are loved. Some of us are limited by life circumstances in knowing the love of others, and some of us are still learning to love ourselves so we can receive the love we are being given. But no matter what our special circumstances are, I think it’s fair to say that we need love like we need air. It’s that important.
Sometimes, say, in the case of Asperger’s, it’s hard to hear. Remember the translation thing? Yeah, it applies here, too.
Which brings us back to me. I spent years despairing because I didn’t see or hear love coming from one of my close family members. It hurt me. What had I done wrong? Why wasn’t I good enough, deserving enough? When I talked to this person they would assure me that of course they loved me. I did eventually come to believe that was true. Intellectually. And yet, I wanted more. I wanted that love to be palpable to me. To be able to see it, feel it, know it. I have been sad about this for a long time.
Yet again, a couple of weeks ago, I was in tears over it. Talking with a dear friend, agonizing because I felt that it was wrong of me to want this so much. I believed the love was there, and so I should be able to accept that and be grateful. But I couldn’t. I wouldn’t. I saw no solution.
And then, as we were talking, it was like an angel landed on my shoulder and whispered in my ear. “What if,” the angel said, “What if all the things you are longing for are already there, but you just aren’t seeing them?”
Could that be true? Had I just been blind to what was right in front of me? Crying out for a gift that I had already been given?
It was like my whole world clicked into focus, when I hadn’t even realized it was unclear.
What if, I thought. What if?
What if instead of spending every day looking for proof that the love was not there, what if I started looking for proof that it was? What then?
I decided to try it. To write it down every night as I did my journal.
And guess what?
Just like that, it was all there. Right smack in front of me, a million “I love you’s.”
I was so completely and utterly blown away by this discovery that I had to share it. I started to point them out to everyone in the family.
“Baby Girl, did you notice how brother helped you put your toy back together? That’s a way he says ‘I love you.'”
“Rocket Boy, did you notice how I let you stay up to finish the chapter of your book? That’s a way I say, ‘I love you.'”
“Mr. Magpie, did you notice how I took the time to hear your concerns about your work and talk through all of your career plans with you? That’s one of the ways I say, ‘I love you.'”
“Children, did you notice how Daddy scooped up all the dog poo from the yard for us so we could play and then captured the big hairy spider in the bathroom so we could get ready for bed? Those are some of the ways that Daddy says, ‘I love you.'”
Today, something amazing happened. We were outside starting our Spring garden clean up and Baby Girl started asking about the tulips, wanting to know if they were up yet, when they would be up. She said, “When they bloom, I am going to pick some for you mama. Just some, Mama, just some.” (She remembered last year, clearly.)
And then, this four-year-old child said to me, “Mama, picking flowers for people is how I say I love you.”
She thought for a moment, and added, “Oh yes, and hugs.”
Of course I took the opportunity to get myself a good hug, all the while thinking to myself, “YES!!!” I did it. I actually changed the way we all, together, my family, thinks about love, thinks about each other. Victories like this are so very sweet.
So now, today, I’m taking a chance to share this with you. For any of you who are feeling maybe that you aren’t so sure that love is there, love for you. For those of you who are maybe feeling a little bit discouraged about the state of things, both big and small. This is my thought, my message, my hope for all of us:
Maybe it’s time for us all to stop looking for proof that love is not there, and start looking for proof that it is.
Maybe the love you need to feel is right there.
Maybe it’s in the flower someone gave you, or the unpleasant task someone did for you, or the listening ears they offered you or the wisdom they shared.
Maybe it’s the person who let you jump the line, the clerk who smiled, or the stranger who stood up for you.
Maybe it’s in the sun that shone today, or the flowers blooming in your neighborhood or the extra, unexpected dollar in your pocket.
Maybe it’s all of those things.
It’s right there.
Don’t miss it.
All my love,
P.S. The pictures are from my Easter essay last year, “On Being Loved,” the roses and catmint along my sidewalk in my neighborhood, forget me nots from my garden, the yo-yo pillow I made for Baby Girl, the first set of tulips she picked for me last year and the tulips and dandelions she picked for me which prompted an essay last year about beauty and differences.