Saying ‘I love you’ in Minneapolis

i love you heartBY ELAINE KLAASSEN

“Nada menos que todo un hombre” [“Nothing less than a real man”], by Miguel de Unamuno (1864 – 1936), is a novella (long short story) that will rip out your heart. It is so tragic, a needless tragedy, the story of a woman who died of a broken heart because her husband wouldn’t, or couldn’t, say to her, “I love you.” He couldn’t even fake it. It turns out he had his reasons, but in the end it was too late. I won’t give away any more details in case someone would like to read this astonishing piece of literature.
So, my conclusion is that it’s a good idea, if you can possibly swing it, to love somebody from the bottom of your heart, be it a lover, friend, child or parent, and if you reinforce your love by telling them about it, you will probably save their life. Unamuno’s story is definitely about romantic love, but I’m going to expand my ruminations  to include all kinds of love. With our big romantic LOVE holiday coming up, I don’t think those without a romantic love in their life need to feel left out.
I feel like something of an expert on the ins and outs of saying “I love you” since, like many, especially in Minnesota, I never heard it said to me nor did I say it to anyone else until I was well into adulthood. It’s not easy to give and receive “I love yous” if you’re not used to them. My family of origin just didn’t have the custom or the tradition of saying “I love you.”
How do we learn? We want this most loaded expression of love to be meaningful and honest and we also don’t want to freak out our lovers, friends and family members. There’s a lot to figure out.
When I had my children I was in seventh heaven.  I felt so much love for them and was determined to tell them. I wanted them to have that sweetness in their life. But it was hard. I almost had to practice, to get the right inflection. Sometimes it came out like a question, like I was questioning my ability to truly love them selflessly. I was asking them to believe me. Sometimes it came out forced and perfunctory, like: “So there, like it or lump it. This is the particular maternal love that you are stuck with, so accept it.”  Somehow we muddled through. Now, one of my daughters is a mother and she says “I love you” to you her little boys easily, effortlessly. And she says it to me, too.
I learned a lot from Mama Gayle, a woman no longer living, who went to a church where I played piano for the services. Every Sunday I watched her sleep blissfully through the sermon and afterwards, before I left the church, I went to say good-bye just to hear her say, “God bless ya darlin.” She was giving me love, freely, pushing me into the love plane of the universe. I think her “benediction” helped me say “I love you” to my daughters as though simply giving them a gift.
I learned a lot from the old hippies, too. When I went out to an organic farmer’s farm to interview him about permaculture, his son called. At the end of their conversation, Bruce said, “I love you.” The idea of a parent saying to their grown child “I love you” was new to me. I was so touched.
It seems like hearing someone say to you “I love you” should  make you feel blessed, grateful, delightful and delighted, special, affirmed. But you might think, “I don’t deserve this,” “They don’t mean it,” or “What do they want?” I think I was probably pretty uncomfortable the first time someone said “I love you” to me, but I don’t remember the exact occasion. I most likely thought the whole situation was laden with debt. Like in return I should be willing to sacrifice my life for them? Or, I maybe thought,  “This could mean ANYTHING. Yikes. Is there a protocol? Are you supposed to say it back?” I do know that many men are careful about saying “I love you” in romantic situations for fear of incurring unending obligations. On the radio one time the female host asked the male host if he had ever said anything he regretted while under the influence. “Oh yeah, one time I said to a girl,  ‘I love you.’ Oops.”  So you can’t really say it too lightly to just anyone, since it is such a powerful set of words.
The best situation for hearing those words, from a lover, a friend, a parent or a child,  is when you know that person knows you really well. That’s when you trust the words the most. I saw a T-shirt once that said, “I’d rather be hated for who I am than loved for who I am not.—Kurt Cobain.” Of course we don’t all have to drive such a hard bargain.

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