Artists and Influencers: they’re teaching me about love

 One of my classes in college required every student to take the Taylor-Johnson Temperament Analysis. This wasn’t just an abbreviated online questionnaire. This was the full battery designed to measure, according to their website, “eighteen dimensions of personality that are important components of personal adjustment and in interpersonal relationships.”

loveThe results of this test came back in a graph, with words like composed and lighthearted at one end and their opposite traits, nervous and depressive, at the otherWe had to meet with a counselor to discuss our results.

You can imagine why that is, what with nervous and depressive being possible outcomes.

I considered myself to be a fairly well-rounded person. Though I knew this was a measure of personality and there wasn’t a right or wrong, the good girl in me figured there was a more right result and I anticipated a nice, somewhat even line through the middle of the paper – not too nervous (simmer down, Scooby) but certainly not too composed (so exactly what it it you are hiding, hmm?).

When I got my results back, I’m fairly sure my face turned an immediate shade of Valentines red because at the top of the page, right in the middle, was the word subjective with the opposite trait, objective way down at the bottom.

One guess where Emily’s line nearly went straight off the page.

I measured so subjective on that test they may as well not have had objective on there at all. Ninety-nine percent subjective, people. I wanted to cry about it but that one percent objectivity I had rolling around in my bones thought better of it.

I remember my counselor saying something like, It’s the extremes we want to pay attention to.

Well. I suppose that meant we were extremely subjective. I didn’t like it, but I couldn’t deny it either. As I moved through life, if I didn’t feel it, then it simply wasn’t true. My experience of life and my beliefs about God and you and everything else were based, in large part, upon how I felt.

I was in my early twenties when I took that test. You could have told me a hundred times that love isn’t a feeling, but in my mind, if I didn’t feel loved, then I wasn’t. End of story.

Learning what real love is has been a slow awakening. I could write about all I’m learning of love from my husband (who has taught me more than anyone) or from my parents (who have been married for 40 years now). But as I think about it and as I’m challenged to keep this series as present as possible, there are two people who are teaching me about love these past few weeks more than anyone else.

My twin daughters.

Really, all three of my kids are teaching me about love. But the girls, since they came first and their birth marked the beginning of that time where everything-will-now-be-different-in-your-life-forever-more, they seemed to have influenced my idea of love more ferociously than my third baby.

shoes

how my twin daughters are teaching me about love

The question for me was never do they love me? I knew better than to look to feel loved from tiny helpless babies. Instead, I struggled through foggy days and endless nights, wondering as I fed and diapered and comforted, do I love them? 

I knew I loved them in the way a human person has regard and respect for another human person. But I was still learning what it meant to be a mother, to be the only mother they will ever have. Is this what it’s supposed to feel like to be a mother who loves her babies?

This is a question I struggled with a lot during those first few years of motherhood.

My girls are nine years old now. They are in the same class at school and this year we’ve watched as they’ve started to share secrets more than ever. They choose together more than they choose apart. They hold hands and skip. It’s delightful to watch. I recently asked them both: Who is your best friend, you know, besides each other? And do you know they both said the same thing in response?

She’s not my friend, she’s my sister.

love sistersI realized then something I’ve known about love but hadn’t yet been able to define: True love is often so fierce and so thick that the feelings don’t have space to surface. My girls love one another deeply, but I don’t think they have loving feelings for each other. At least, not yet.

They are learning to love one another in action the way I know they love in their hearts. And I learn about love as I watch them.

When they were small, I wondered if I loved them enough. But now looking back, I realized I was asking that question even as I was in the middle of loving them. I fed, clothed, protected, nurtured, and comforted them. I moved into their chaos and I still do.

Love moves. Love acts. Love does.

Love and faith are more closely related than I ever realized before. When the feelings of love aren’t there (and honestly lately, they are rarely there in the relationships that mean the most to me), I have to rely on simple truth and daily action.

My feelings do not determine my capacity for loving. If I re-took that Taylor-Johnson test now, as a mother and a wife and a grown up person, I believe it would show different results. But even if it didn’t, I’m okay with it.

Who is teaching you about love and what have you learned?

This is the fourth post in a series and I’m going to end it here for now. I look forward to considering the artists and influencers who are teaching me about art, community, and marriage in the near future when I have less deadlines to meet. So far we’ve covered the topics of writing, home, church and today, in honor of Valentines week, love.

Comments

  1. says

    Such a beautiful post! “True love is often so fierce and so thick that the feelings don’t have space to surface.” It’s a good reminder to me not to measure the depth of my love by the force of my immediate feelings.
    Alina Sayre´s last blog post ..Popcorn

    • Daniela G says

      This is something I want to explore further. How the depth of my love is not defined by immediate feelings.

  2. says

    “Love and faith are more closely related than I ever realized before. When the feelings of love aren’t there (and honestly lately, they are rarely there in the relationships that mean the most to me), I have to rely on simple truth and daily action.” —I hear you, girl. They are rarely there for me, too, in treasured relationships recently, albeit from a slightly different angle…I’ve not felt the love coming from ones I hold dear. I’ve had to trust our friendship, our history. They know my heart, and I have to trust that. Oh, and then the Lord also reminded me that love is a verb. So now he’s having me love on the ones that I’m struggling with. Gently, quietly, without lots of exclamation points or smiley faces. Love in action is a powerful weapon against our feelings. xoxo
    Jen in MN´s last blog post ..brave

  3. Marcy says

    Yes to the subjectivity, yes to “wondering as I fed and diapered and comforted, do I love them?” As I grow into the mother I dreamed of being, before there were actually children, love is about the snack when I’d like 5 more minutes on the computer, and the extra snuggles when I’m ready to drop and rearranging my schedule for the 3rd time in order to see a 3 minute wrestling match. I feel like a fraud when someone compliments my mothering, but I’m learning to embrace that idea that I do love well.

  4. says

    You have a beautiful blog. I am so glad I found it. Being a mother has taught me so much about love, not just about love for my children, but how my Heavenly Father loves me.

  5. says

    Love this! Like what you said about action and truth even when the feelings of love aren’t there. I think somewhere in my wedding vows, I said something like “I acknowledge love not just as a feeling, but as a choice and a gift from God.” Probably should revisit those when I’m feeling bad about not having the feelings. What I’m lately learning about love: it causes me to push through the tantrums of 2 1/2 and choose kindness and patience. At least, that’s what I’m praying it does.
    Jenn @ A Simple Haven´s last blog post ..A Simple, Stress-Free First Birthday Party

  6. donna attaway says

    what a gifted writer you are….You are so willing to be honest with us (your lucky readers). Makes me feel ….well ….just plain good !

  7. says

    My eyes teared up as you shared about your girls. I have 2 daughters (and 1 son). My girls are not twins but have 2 years in between them. Like yours they choose to be together more than a part. They love each other even when they don’t get along, they will sulk together rather an on their own. I still have a lot to learn about love. Sometimes I still try to earn it, whether from my Heavenly Father or my husband. That still small voice has not given up on me and still reminds me it’s not necessary. Just like my girls are comfortable in their love for one another I long to be comfortable in His love.
    Kimberly´s last blog post ..Memory Verse – February 18th

  8. Sarah Schulz says

    This makes me think, because I’ve had plenty of practice loving other without feeling it, and knowing that action was still love. I spent 20 years doing that, in personal relationships and in ministry. I hoped, I think, that if I learned to love well enough, others would start showing me that same kind of love in action.

    When they didn’t, when they seemed to not even realize that I needed to be told I was loved, shown I was loved… Well, it became very difficult to believe that it was true. That I could or would ever deserve to be loved in a way that reminded me I had innate worth. My husband has challenged this greatly, and I thank God for him every day, but I still long for love in action. For people to ask for my opinion, to say, “Talk to me, I’ll listen.” To hear what I’m saying but not shower me with well-meant advice. To say to me, “Your story matters, even though it’s not like mine. Tell your story!”

    And then I feel guilty, because I know we all love from our limits, and it’s still love even if it’s not my preferred way of being shown it. I try to accept whatever others can offer. Now, though, I’m also teaching myself to ask for what I need. I’m learning about love, and right now it’s difficult but full of hope.

  9. says

    I “LOVE” this post, Emily. <3 Makes my heart smile and I really love this quote from you…"When the feelings of love aren’t there (and honestly lately, they are rarely there in the relationships that mean the most to me), I have to rely on simple truth and daily action.”
    Yes, Yes, Yes! I had a smilier statement in my “love” post Friday on my blog. Love isn’t always a feeling…sometimes it’s a choice. Usually…it’s a choice. And sometimes it’s a hard one to make. But in the end, it’s the right choice for my husband and family. Thank you for your words. I find myself relating to you on many levels. Best of the rest of your weekend, Sister. ;)
    Meredith Bernard´s last blog post ..A Song for Sunday | 10,000 Reasons

  10. says

    “You could have told me a hundred times that love isn’t a feeling, but in my mind, if I didn’t feel loved, then I wasn’t.”

    THIS. I’m still there; I’m working on getting out of that “love is a feeling” thinking. It’s a work in progress. It’s one of the reasons I chose love as my “one word” resolution- I’m working on letting love into my life, and knowing (not just feeling!) I’m loved is at the top of what I want/need for this year.

    And also, as a personality test junkie, I really wanna look up that Taylor-Johnson Temperament Analysis. Hahaha.

    Happy Sunday, Emily! :)
    Jordan´s last blog post ..10 Things I Learned in January

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