Over the Christmas period our family drove 4000 km in 13 days through eight countries to visit family members and dear friends. It was both magical and utterly exhausting!! Somehow, visiting so many different places in a matter of days, nothing seems very certain. Every country has its own local customs and every house has unique house rules (different from our own!) But I do feel that we expressed our love for people by driving a long way to see them.

And that got me thinking about a very simple question with, perhaps, surprising answers: how do you express love? And I mean in the specific sense: how do you personally express love for your nearest and dearest?

For me ‘being truly present’, listening with my whole heart and making the effort to tune in to ” even the things someone isn’t saying”  is a favourite way of expressing love. Listening without constantly jumping in to offer my own opinions and experiences. Offering a loving space where something can be ‘voiced’ and maybe resolved or taken to greater clarity.

For one friend we visited in Sweden, cooking is the way he expresses love and open his house and heart to people. He cooks the most amazing meals for large numbers of people, honouring a wide range of dietary needs and preferences as he goes, without looking remotely stressed or ‘under pressure’. Now I admire this greatly, because I can ‘put food on the table’ but I can’t “cook”, not in the true meaning of the word, and tricky dietary preferences simply give me a panic attack. My students are always advised to bring a packed lunch when they train with me!

We visited the Swedish grandmother of our children and she expressed her love for them by giving them all a family heirloom for Christmas, with a photograph and story of the ancestor the piece used to belong to. She said she’d rather do it while she was still alive (she is 82) and available to answer questions and tell them family stories. As a mother and shamanic practitioner I felt that was an incredibly beautiful and meaningful gift – MUCH better than plastic toys or computer games.

One very dear friend recently drove me to an airport at some ‘ungodly hour’ in his pajamas – then raced back and went back to bed. I felt incredible love in his care for me and his willingness to do this.

My father expressed his love for people by giving them homegrown fruit and vegetables from his land. His love often came in the form of an oversized Halloween pumpkin (our middle son has a Halloween birthday),  a punnet full of tomatoes, or a basket of eggs fresh from his hens.

After my father died, in 2009, one friend said to me: you may visit me any time and simply talk about him, if you wish. I know how impatient people are with death and how soon they expect you to ‘move on and put it behind you’. But I promise you I will not get bored listening to the small details that may float up for you. – This reaction came in the same week I told another friend about my father’s sudden death and she responded by saying: “I am sorry to hear it. Did I tell you about the new colour scheme I chose for my bathroom?!” A response that impressed me less, felt less ‘loving’ to me.

Of course I could give many more examples of way in which my favourite people have expressed their love for me. It would become a ‘Litany of Love’ and there is nothing wrong with that. However, what I really wanted to get to is pointing out the ‘mismatch’ (miss match!) that can easily occur:

You really need to talk about something, but instead of listening, someone gets busy cooking for you instead (because listening isn’t one of their core strengths perhaps and they do not feel at ease in the role of confidante).

Or you really need someone to give you a hand with some DIY task and they bring you a vast collection of homegrown courgettes instead – and you have little idea what to do with them!!

So one of my thoughts for the year 2015 is to put some awareness on this issue. Rather than looking at what I did not receive (easily done on a human level!), I wish to fully attune myself to love given or expressed to me in any forms (even forms that resemble ‘foreign languages I do not really speak’!)

And I would like to invite you to do the same – and tell me if this awareness brings you anything.

Wishing everyone a most magical 2015!!

Imelda Almqvist