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A letter about love and friendship

Last weekend I spent time in Norfolk with friends and it was truly restorative. The weekend before I spent time with a friend who has been in my life, pretty much for all of it. Certainly, all the life that I have memories of anyway. I have also spent more time with another friend recently as we both work together on our health and fitness. I cherish all of those friendships. As well as all of those I haven’t specifically mentioned above.

It has prompted me to reflect on friendship this week.

I am so incredibly lucky to have so many wonderful people in my life. They are all so diverse, different, and unique. And the common thread running through all of them, what they all have in abundance, are a few key common characteristics. Open-mindedness, open-heartedness and a desire to continue to learn and grow. And to seek happiness and peace in their lives.

Life is busy, and we don’t all see each other all the time, but the time we do share is special, supportive, restorative, joyful, and nourishing.

In any relationship, friendship, romantic, familial or acquaintance, I think we can often make the mistake of expecting too much from others. But the truth is, the phrase ‘it takes a village’ should not only be used for raising children, but also for continuing to keep healthy as we grow. It is about the importance of our communities.

I find myself worrying about how much social media is damaging real connection.

And, also, how if we rely on fewer people for connection, how those connections have the potential to become too strained, too co-dependent.

On the other hand, if we have access to a whole community of people, the pressure cooker feeling would apply less.

No one should be all things to all people.

If we have a community, a tribe, it has the potential to be more joyful.

And it allows people to play to their strengths within a relationship.

That friend that you go out with to a club or a party, might be different to the friend you can have a heart-to-heart with, go the gym with, or ask to look after your dog while you’re away.

We can’t be all things to all people – it really does take a village / a tribe.

During my stay in Norfolk, I had a short but meaningful conversation about love. I am lucky to have a group of friends who express love easily and often. In fact, the weekend before the Norfolk weekend, I had both my daughter and my friend, just say, ‘I love you’ apropos of nothing to me, and it lifted my heart and my soul. Another friend just said to me on a car journey, ‘I am lucky to have you Lisa’. How wonderful. I felt loved.

On the other hand, we can put too much pressure on love in a romantic partnership. What I mean is, we can get stuck on the ‘when’. When in a romantic partnership do you utter the words “I Love You”?

It takes on a whole new level of meaning. It applies more pressure. You put yourself in a vulnerable and risky position if you are the one to say these words first. And you must also check in with yourself before uttering them – do you really mean it? You can’t play with people’s hearts. These words are loaded. In a very different way.

There are so many different types of love, and in English, we use that one word for everyone. I frequently tell my friends and family I love them. While the words ‘I love you’ in a romantic relationship can feel frightening and loaded. Particularly for people who have come out of relationships where they honestly thought they loved someone and come out the other side and start to doubt themselves. Especially if there has been any narcissism there. Was it love? Or infatuation? Or a cultural expectation? Or filling a void left by a lack of self-love?

I can’t help but feel that we need more words for love in the English language.

My daughter studies philosophy so it leads to interesting conversations over the dinner table after school. We spoke about the different words for love in Greek.

There are 7:

Eros – Romantic, Passionate Love (Of the Body) ...

Philia – Affectionate, Friendly Love. ...

Storge – Unconditional, Familial Love. ...

Agape – Selfless, Universal Love. ...

Ludus – Playful, Flirtatious Love. ...

Pragma – Committed, Long-Lasting Love. ...

Philautia – Self Love.

Exploring this further, I consulted my sister-in-law. My brother is married to a beautiful woman from South Korea, and I asked her about the Korean language and words for love.

She said this:

“We have one word for love in Korean but we also have old fashioned way, but I don’t think there are lots of different words. We do have different ends of the word depending on who you are saying it to:

Saranghae is friendly level,

Sarangahae yo is to slightly older people, more polite

Saranghapnida is very polite and formal

Saranghao is old fashioned way, very polite

I know that in Japan, people don’t say I love you as it’s too strong for them, so they say I like you a lot. And Korea or Japan we express more with gift or small gesture more than words to express love and care, not as expressive in words as western culture.”

A quick google search on different words for love gave me this:

"Arabic has at least 11 words for love and each of them conveys a different stage in the process of falling in love. The word 'hawa', for example, describes the initial attraction or inclining of the soul or mind towards another. The term comes from the root word ‘h-w-a’ - a transient wind that can rise and fall.

'Alaaqa', which comes from the root word (‘a-l-q) which means ‘to cling on to’ describes the next stage when the heart begins to attach itself to the beloved, before evolving into a blind desire 'ishq' and all-consuming love 'shaghaf'. The final stage of falling in love, 'huyum', describes the complete loss of reason.

Interestingly, the most common word for love in Arabic, 'hubb', comes from the same root as the word ‘seed’ – that which has the potential to grow into something beautiful."

As I continue my investigation into words for love, I find that many cultures and languages appear to have more words for love that can be used depending on who is being addressed.

I suppose, the actual words mean less than what the feeling is in your heart.

I have an image of a patchwork quilt in my mind.

If all your relationships over the years can keep adding to the blanket of love sewn together in patches that never gets completed, just added to each year, how beautiful would that quilt be? Maybe some parts might look a bit worn out, some parts not quite as beautiful as others, but still, contribute to the whole and form a part of it to make it bigger to wrap around you when it gets a bit cold and lonely. I would like that kind of blanket of love. Made up of all the people you have and have had in your life. Yes, I would love a quilt like that. Maybe when it is completed that is when you leave this life. Who knows.

May everyone reading this love letter from me to you, be always wrapped in love.

Remember, you are love.

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