I want to have a conversation about what I call the ‘Love Deficit’. It’s something I think we have all felt at various times in our lives, some more than others, and sometimes when we least expected it. The ‘Love Deficit’ relates to more than just our experiences surrounding long-term relationships – it pertains to every aspect of our lives. It is about how valued, nourished, cared for and worthy we feel at any given time.
Like right now… where ever you are, what ever you are doing, while reading this. On a scale of one to ten, with ‘ten’ being you feel so loved it’s as though the world is embracing you, and ‘one’ being those moments when you want to crawl back under the doona and cry until the ache in your heart eases – that’s how you know where you are on the ‘Love Deficit’ scale. Where are you right now?
Right now I’m about a ‘seven’. I’ve just moved house, I’ve yet to have any visitors (partially because the place is a mess) and getting everything squared away feels like it is taking FOR EVER! Mainly because I am doing it entirely on my own… being single and all. And then on Monday at work I threw up, courtesy of an allergy, and while befriending the porcelain, I slid to a ‘four’ and spent the next few days clawing my way back.
I was only able to get back to a ‘seven’ because of the love I received from family and friends. These weren’t complicated acts of love though – truth be told, love is rarely complicated or flowery. Rather it was through simple things – a phone call, a conversation, a text or FB message… essentially people checking in to see if I was ok. I found my way back to a ‘seven’ through this ‘follow-up’ – when people called back, they let me know (without saying) that they were holding me in their minds and hearts. Just as I do for them when they are not feeling quite fighting form – or truth be told, even when they are. Because that’s love.
In general I consider myself fairly lucky in the love stakes. I may not have a life partner – someone I can reach out to on a daily basis, with who I can openly love and be loved in return, but I have collected a small army of loyal friends and have a strong, extended family behind me every step of the way. And I am grateful for this every day. Why? Because I am conscious that this is not the case for everyone, and that even with my ‘Love Brigade’, if there are still days that I struggle, when I still suffer a ‘Love Deficit’, then there must be others doing it even harder.
Which brings me to my reason for starting this conversation with you all… I am concerned that these days we are often too caught up in the ‘to do’ list of life that we miss the cues around us that someone is experiencing this ‘Love Deficit’. Including the times when that someone is ourselves.
Too often we are running on empty when it comes to love – either from others or from within. And when this happens we forget to look up and look out… for others. I have been guilty of this myself.
So, how can you recognise a ‘Love Deficit’ and what can you do about it?
When your colleague next comes into work complaining of feeling unwell – before you dismiss them as a hypochondriac or a malingerer, stop and consider that maybe they aren’t getting enough love and that by asking after them, showing you care, offering to make them a cup of tea, you might bring them up from a ‘four’ to an ‘eight’. And it might only take you a few minutes. Now think about when that person is you… how do you want others to respond to your ‘Love Deficit’.
When a male in your life tells you he is catching a cold and crawls under the doona looking miserable, before you mockingly call it ‘man flu’ (I know this is a conversation in itself, but men are entitled to be unwell – and express it in whatever way suits them), stop and ask yourself whether love is the medicine he needs. Caring for him just as you would the women in your lives, whether it’s by bringing him a hot water bottle, a cup of hot lemon and honey water or making him his favourite meal, might just heal what a prescription can’t.
When a friend is on a rant, frustrated by everything and everyone, before you talk over them, change the conversation or dismiss them as a whiner, stop and ask yourself if they need love in the form of someone who listens and validates. As someone who is single, I can honestly admit that you might be the only person who I have had a chance to share my day with – good and bad. When you listen, I feel cared for, I feel loved.
When someone seems tied to their grief or sadness, or appears to be constantly revisiting it, rather than trying to pull them along, cheer them up or tell them everything will be ok, stop. Just stop. Acknowledge that they are potentially grieving for the loss of someone from who they received great love. They are now experiencing a ‘love gap’. Perhaps your role is not to hurry them through this moment, but to fill that gap as best you can. With a hug, with an ear, with contact and compassion.
Too often I think our first reaction when we encounter someone’s ‘Love Deficit’ is to dismiss, belittle, put off, compete… but what if tomorrow, instead of our default positions of too busy, too overworked and too ‘important’, we stopped… we listened… and we diagnosed and responded from the heart. What if we let ourselves be guided by kindness and love.
I truly believe that as a society we are facing an epidemic of ‘Love Deficit’. Unless we acknowledge it and tackle it with kindness and LOVE, it will isolate us, break down our communities and potentially even have an impact on our economy, our health care and welfare systems.
So tomorrow… make a deposit, give a little love.