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There Are Many Ways to Say 'I Love You'

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Each February, we are bombarded by commercial proddings to prove our love to our sweetheart with the obligatory greeting card, roses, and candy. For some, the ante is far more expensive and raises year after year. I think the really lucky sweethearts are those who don't buy into this external pressure, but rather find little ways to express the love they feel inside for their sweetheart and other loved ones as a way of life.

I'm the kind of person who loves spontaneous gestures of affection -- a phone call from a friend who is missing me, or a beautiful bouquet of flowers on a random day from my partner just because he knows I will be delighted. Don't give me an obligatory diamond bracelet. I'd much rather you make it a priority to share quality time together on a regular basis. Stoke the flame of our love and friendship -- invest in our relationship by being a caring and thoughtful partner and communicating your love and needs. No amount of money spent can do a better job of warming the cockles of my heart.

It is so easy to be consumed by to do lists, work, and other activities and not have much left for those you claim to love the most. It takes intentional effort in such a complex and busy world to make the expression of your love a priority.

Rather than trying to follow the commercial prescription of how to be a good Valentine, try something new this year. Make a list of the people you love and treasure most in your life and take the time to think about what gift of love would be most meaningful to each of them. Do you have an aging parent or dying friend who might treasure some time with you? Perhaps you have a boss who has been a wonderful mentor and you would like to say "thank you." Who has given you your most treasured gifts of friendship and love? Do they know how much they mean to you? Don't make this a one time project, but rather set the intention to improve the quality of your relationships by injecting more of your love into them on an ongoing basis.

There are many ways to say I love you. The best ones rise out of simply paying attention and allowing creative expressions to emerge from your heart. The very best ones touch the other person's heart -- the gift is authentically received. Here's one of my favorite expressions of "I love you" that I ever experienced.

Hide The Lizard

I don't recall how the game began. But, I do remember finding the lizard. For several of my mother's final years, we indulged in a few weeks of beachfront July living on the Jersey shore where we had both vacationed as children. One late afternoon, walking up the beach to the cottage, my feet kicked up a tiny rainbow colored plastic lizard in the sand. With no visible potential child owner in sight, the inner child in me delighted in my newfound treasure and I accelerated my pace up to the house to show my mother.

After returning to our year round home in a renovated barn in the Hudson Valley of New York, the lizard found its first home with us on a small wooden ledge on the first floor. At the time, my mother's mobility was in a period of marked decline and I took on more and more simple daily activities to compensate as seamlessly as possible. I didn't want her to do without anything that mattered to her that she could no longer do for herself. But, she was a proud woman, and as with many of us facing physical decline, it was important to her not to be any more of a burden than necessary. While, in my snarkiest of moods, I did feel burdened and impatient, mostly, it was a privilege to care for her. Reluctance to let me know her needs and desires actually made things a bit more challenging for me -- not only did I have the new activities to do but, I had to first figure out what they were through careful observation.

There are many ways to show someone your love. Helping my mom with her daily activities was one, but far more important, was tending to her emotions and sense of self-worth and dignity. Little things matter a lot for someone who is facing a loss of autonomy. Hide the Lizard was a spontaneous response to being aware of this with my mom. It was a game that came into existence and survived simply to say, "I love you very, very much."

And so, Hide the Lizard was born. One of us would hide it somewhere in plain sight on the first floor of our home and notify the other that it was her turn to find it. Sometimes it would be uncanny how something inside you would guide you right to the lizard. Other times, it might take days at feeling increasingly inept at this invented game while being ever more determined to find the damn lizard, knowing it was right out in plain sight. Finding it always brought triumphant delight, shortly followed by the challenge of finding a cleaver new home for the lizard. We giggled, we felt smug when we stumped each other, and thus we comingled our hearts.

There are many ways to say I love you.

I wish you the joy of abundantly expressing your love this Valentine's Day and every day.

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