This might be a strange thing to admit, but it’s not the craziest thing I’ve copped to on this space. There are three words I struggle to say to people outside of my immediate family. I think I experience the emotion behind these words, but I’m not entirely convinced. I might’ve inadvertently began transitioning into a robot-humanoid hybrid-thing.
How does it happen? How do you accidentally turn into an automaton? Years of psychological trauma, a few medical implants, and a lot of unhealthy coping strategies. Or, so I’m told by mental health professionals.
What do they know, eh? She asks as she looks around with awkward desperation.
I’m not a completely lost cause, not yet anyway. When it comes to my family, I have no problem saying the words, I love you. It falls off my tongue, out of my mouth and floats through the air with reckless abandon. It’s the easiest thing to do, or rather say, and it’s something that should be said often.
If this past summer of hellish torment has taught me anything? Never miss the chance to say it because you never know when it’ll be your last. A chance my family nearly lost, and I’m so grateful that I get to say it again. Take it from me, don’t let the opportunity pass you by because it just might be your last.
That’s so morbid, isn’t it? Love em before you lose em forever. It’s like someone tickles you with a feather, and it morphs into a knife that slices right through the heart. Yeah, that’s a lovely sentiment.
Sometimes, the things we say don’t come outright. We intend for them to be inspirational and then realize it’s a sucker punch. Rude! I suppose I could’ve just left with something like love em before…Well, you know what the wink and nudge mean.
Leave it up to the imagination. Maybe they’re moving to a lovely farm with sprawling hills. They can run through fields of wild daisies. Chase their tails and get endless tummy rubs. Wait, that’s not right.
My point is, when it comes to my people, I have no problem saying the words. It’s a compulsion. I want them to know, no matter what farm they end up at, that someone on this earth loved them. They made my life better, and this Tin-man (Tin-person?) grew a heart and felt a complex emotion.
You made me love you, damn it.
When it comes to family, I’m good. I can say it, express it, and I don’t feel awkward or weird. It doesn’t get stuck in my throat like a clump of burnt microwave popcorn. When they say it back, I don’t feel like I’m having that dream where I’m standing naked in a classroom giving a microbiology lecture. I don’t know anything about the subject. I haven’t been inside a classroom in many years. Dreams are weird, and so are the entangled emotions surrounding those three little words.
Recently, a friend said those words to me, and I completely froze. I didn’t know how to respond. My mind went blank, and I had a momentary panic attack. Did I say it back because, yes, I care about them very much, and they’ve been an endless source of support? Did I respond at all? Did my robotic arms flail around while I screamed, “Danger, danger,” in a monotoned voice?
No, I limped brusquely away like the gimped coward that I am. I also overanalyzed the situation because I’m a compulsive over-thinker. What’s wrong with me? Why couldn’t I just accept it for what it was? It was a moment of kindness and an expression of support.
It’s not complicated or messy. It’s one friend telling another that they’re thankful that their paths crossed. They have each other to talk things through and express feelings few people understand or want to hear about. That’s a special thing right there, and I…L…Lo…What’s wrong with me?
If you deal with any kind of mental illness, then you know that it’s rare to find someone who gets it. Someone who will listen and not try to fix the unfixable. All they need to say is, “Yeah, I get it.” It’s such a deep exhale to hear that without explaining or justifying your experience.
They get it, you’re not alone, and we’re fighting the same battle together. Whew, I love you for that, my friend. There, I said it on this page, and it only took me a couple of weeks. Why is it so hard to say those words out loud?
Some people say them so easily. It’s as automatic as hello, good-bye, and pass the breadbasket. They say it to family, friends, and the person checking them out at the grocery store. Last week, I worked the federal election here in Canada, and someone said it to me as they cast their vote.
It’s past their lips like a breath of air, and they don’t think twice about it. I’m the exact opposite. I think it over for days and days. I don’t say it until I mean it because I don’t want to lead anyone on. That’s not fair, it’s unkind, and there’s no reason to play that mind game.
But when I do mean it? When I’m saying it to a friend and not a romantic partner? When I’m simply acknowledging how grateful I am to have their friendship in my life? It shouldn’t be that hard, but the words don’t come easy.
I’m sure there’s some sort of deep-seated psychological reason. My mental health is a charcuterie of mouldy cheese. I’ve amassed quite an impressive collection of mental illnesses over the years. Yay childhood trauma! The gift that keeps on giving.
If I wade through all of that, I’m sure the reason hides underneath a pile of weeds. There’s always a cause and effect to everything in life. That’s science, or is it the law of probabilities? It’s inevitable, that’s what it is, and we could dig through the sludge to find the roots, but that’s way too much work for a curiosity.
And that’s what love is; it’s a curiosity. How can a single word carry so much weight and have so much power? It can break a heart and heal a wounded soul. It can instil fear and give hope. It can leave us cold and lonely. It can warm us up until we’re radiant. It’s a complex emotion that leaves us vulnerable to injury, but when it’s reciprocated? We’re stronger than we’ve ever been.
Despite my hesitancy, I firmly believe that the good outpaces the risk by a thousand miles (or 1609.344 kilometres). We don’t know what it’ll mean to the other person or where their head’s at. Said at the right time, those words could pull someone back from the edge. I’ve experienced that moment when everything felt hopeless, and I didn’t know why I should stick around. Then someone told me how they felt, they said those three words, and there it was, the reason I was looking for.
It’s meant the world to me, but I struggle to say it to someone else. I know what it means. I’ve felt its power. It’s a brilliant thing to say when we really mean it. But there’s the rub for me, I have to mean it, and I don’t know if I can. I mean that in a general sense. It’s not aimed at anyone in particular. I’m not sure what love feels like.
Again, when it comes to my family, there’s a bond that transcends a four-letter word. It’s instinctual. It’s survival. They’re my family, and I love them very much. I don’t question that, and I’ve never had to. And yes, I know how lucky I am to say that. I’ve never had a reason to doubt the love I have for my family or the love they have for me.
It’s always been that way, and it always will. I can’t think of a single thing any of them could do or say that would change how I feel. It’s firm, set, concrete, and it’s not going anywhere.
But love for someone on the outside of my close circle? That takes time to build and cultivate. It’s not natural or instinctual. At least it isn’t for me, and this might make me a weirdo. I’m not open-hearted, not like some of you who give yourself freely to others. You’re braver than I am, and I envy your loving spirit.
Me? I’m sitting here, chewing on my bottom lip, asking stupid questions that a grown woman should not have to ask. At least, I don’t think I should have to ask these questions, but I don’t know the answers. There might be someone else too shy to ask so, let me do it. Why the hell not, right?
How do you know when you love someone or when you simply enjoy their company? How do you know it’s not an affinity for a like-minded individual? Is there a difference? Can you like someone without loving them? More importantly, what does it feel like to love someone who’s entered your life and made it better?
I don’t have the answers to any of these questions, but there’s one thing I do know. If we feel a genuine love for someone, we should let them know without an expectation of return. If they don’t say it back? Let it be and be content with the knowledge that they’ve heard you, felt loved, and they can carry that with them where ever they go next.
As someone who has trouble reciprocating? Believe me, it means more than I can express. Literally, I’m incapable of expressing my emotions, but I still feel love, gratitude, and affection. I just let those feelings out in different, strange ways.