We are entering the month of love – a month when red and pink abound, heart-shaped goodies show up in bakery windows, flower sales spike, and restaurants dim the lights a little bit more. I’m not into the Hallmark-y, dozen-roses-on-the-table manifestation of love, but I am into the idea of manifesting love in lots of different ways, not just in February, but every day. Outward expressions of love come in countless shapes and sizes…so, kicking February off right, here are a few examples I’d like to share:
Shared Love: Looking Out At the World Through the Same Lens
When I met my husband, one thing was very different from any other relationship I’d had in the past: We saw the world through the same lens. Even if our paths toward an end point differ, we’re generally looking out in the same direction…which is a huge comfort, particularly now, in the thick of the stressful and sleep-deprived years of early parenthood. One way we remind ourselves of what things bring joy and love is a painting we made a few years ago. It’s simply a list of things we both love…things that bind us…hung on the wall so we have a daily visual reminder of the joys that exist within and beyond the everyday.
Public Love: The “I Love You Project”
In December, I was walking around a craft market in an old school building in New York City’s Nolita neighborhood, when I came across a table full of color t-shirts with “i love you” printed on them. I asked the artist about them, and she told me her story (as told on her website): “One Sunday afternoon in 2009 I was sitting on the couch daydreaming about my commute from Newark, NJ to NYC (which is pretty dismal) and getting bummed out about impending Monday. Then I imagined everyone with “I love you” across the chest and things got a lot nicer. And I thought, “What if this was the message we led with? What if it was a fact?” It seemed so possible . . . . maybe even profound.” And so she started buying t-shirts from thrift stores, screenprinting them with a simple “i love you” message, and selling them, and giving the proceeds to charity. She closes the message on her website by saying “This project means so much to me because it’s the first time I’ve taken a seed of an idea to full on actualization. A project I feel so completely on board with in every way. Thank you for helping that happen….I had no idea how good this project would make me feel.” This is a pretty simple way to spread a message of love (and my daughter looks darling in her t-shirt to boot)!
Public Love: Free Hugs
If you haven’t seen this campaign, it’s worth checking out. Free Hugs is a movement started by Juan Mann, a man who set out to hug strangers to brighten up their lives. It was as simple as it gets – Juan grabbed a piece of cardboard and a market and made a sign that said “Free Hugs.” He stood in a busy pedestrian intersection with his sign just to see what would happen. You can check out the video here. Yes, this is a little over the top (getting hugged by a stranger basically defies all social norms we’ve grown up with), but I like the simplicity of the concept. And lots of other people obviously do too – this guys has been featured on Oprah!
The Written Word: John Steinbeck on Falling in Love
One of my favorite websites (and primary time wasters/optimizers, depending on how you look at it) is brainpickings.org. It’s totally amazing, and worthy of another post (coming soon). But in the meantime, here’s a link to a great story posted on brainpickings – a love letter by John Steinbeck. Here’s my favorite excerpt: “First — if you are in love — that’s a good thing — that’s about the best thing that can happen to anyone. Don’t let anyone make it small or light to you. Second — There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you — of kindness and consideration and respect — not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn’t know you had.”
Self Love: Happy Rambles
As the old saying goes, it’s easier to give love to others when you love yourself. This is easier said than done. I know I’ve definitely struggled with self love over the years, battling things like comparison and guilt and perfection and failure. The road to self love is not easy, but it’s been my experience that a simple gratitude practice can help – simply reflecting on what you did, or what you encountered every day that brought joy. One way to build a gratitude practice over time is to keep a gratitude journal (i.e., Happy Rambles). Data shows that people who maintain a gratitude journal are healthier, more optimistic, and more likely to make progress toward achieving personal goals.
I hope these examples provide some good food for thought on how to find and spread love, not just this month, but all year long. If you have examples of campaigns, ideas, art projects, people, places, etc that are cool manifestations of love, please share them. Or even better, create one yourself!