Words have always been my preferred tool. I usually feel confident in my ability to say the right things at the right time to my husband and girls, administering advice, humor, or positive reinforcement as if I'm handing out band-aids. But I've spent some time this week considering the many ways my actions cause my well-intentioned words to fall short. Maybe the things I say to my husband are usually respectful and loving, but when is the last time I made a batch of chocolate chip cookies for him using milk chocolate chips? When is the last time I remembered to put his seat back after driving his car? I am famous for letting him get up with the girls on Saturday morning while I sleep in, or apologizing by saying I'm sorry you got offended instead of actually showing remorse for my actions, and most nights I fall asleep with a book on my chest and my lamp on so unless he wants to sleep with the lights on (which he doesn't) he is forced to get up and turn it off. There are so many ways that my words are generous while my actions are thoughtless and really, that's no way to love the person you love.
On Jeremy's twenty-fifth birthday we had a surprise party for him at my sister's house. As we sat around the dining room table each person took a turn making a birthday toast to Jeremy and when it was my turn, my eyes suddenly filled. I raised my glass and said, To Jeremy. Who has taught me what it means to love. I hadn't prepared that toast ahead of time it just spilled out and nearly eight years later it remains the most pure and true expression of what he has brought to my life. Jeremy is an introvert. He doesn't need to be the center of attention, he doesn't crave the approval of others, and words are not his preferred tool. And yet in my entire life I've never known a person who shows his love so faithfully and completely.
We were practically kids when we fell in love and got married. Sometimes we look at each other and shake our heads at the very craziness of getting married so young, but at the end of the day we believe the same things and our beliefs allowed us to finish growing up in the same direction. It's possible that our differences, my words and his actions, are what make us a good team. But I think in every relationship there is room for improvisation. It's easy to become lodged in the idea that he is this way, I am that way. This is what I can give and this is what he's all about. Only I worry that describing ourselves like this lets us off the hook. We are capable of so much more, all of us.
So, my Valentine challenge today is that you try expressing your love in a way that is different from your usual medium. If you are a talker, try being a doer. And if you're a doer, try saying something true and kind to your sweetheart. And if you are feeling alone and generally unloved, may I suggest that you bake or buy something wickedly decadent and watch Breakfast at Tiffany's because no one knows about being alone and generally unloved like Holly Golightly and she'll probably help you to feel temporarily better and then you'll go to bed and wake up on Wednesday and your normal life will resume, which is to say it will no longer be Valentine's Day and you'll feel glad for it.
But in the meantime, Happy Valentines Day!