Updated: Dec 18, 2020
Mama and Pa worked a chicken farm together in New Jersey until the day she died. Their love was a real life fairy-tale romance. He saw her as his beautiful Queen, and she believed him to be the most handsome, ingenious, and kindest man in the world. It was a genuine sweet love that began when they attended medical school in Russia during the Russian Revolution. During this time chaos, turmoil and violence ran through the streets of Odessa. They had to escape and run for their lives; leaving behind their family and friends forever. Eventually they made it to America over a decade later. The only thing that mattered was their love for each other.
As a young girl I witnessed a deep respect between them. Even though they both worked very hard in the chicken coops, at night Mama and Pa listened intently to what the other had to say. They were exhausted, but they found a way to "connect" for this is what mattered most. As she cooked the evening meal, he would talk about philosophical subjects, make her laugh, and look at her as if she was still the young and beautiful girl he fell in love with.
Did they argue? Yes, I am sure they did as most couples do, even though I never witnessed it. I would hear him tell her how much he loved her. I would watch her smile and become shy. I waited to see how she received those tender words; and she didn't disappoint me. She took the praise and sentiment in-to her heart. It seemed that her exhaustion evaporated from the energy of the loving words. I realized that was their secret to marital bliss: Allowing love in-to their hearts....receiving it deeply.
Last week my good friend, Shelly Stockwell-Nicholas, facilitated an easy and not so easy exercise on her Happy Hour weekly Facebook videos on Free Hypnosis-IHF. (Every Thursday is the Feel Good Series). Nearing the end of the video, she surprised her panel guests with highlighting each, one at a time, to receive words from the others about how they feel about him/her. It was easy to tell another person how much you admire or adore him/her. It's a much harder experience to really "hear" and "accept" what is being said about you. It was not easy to "receive" the loving words as much as it was to give them.
This was a huge awakening for me. As a caregiver to my son, and parents when they were alive, it was comfortable to be "the giver". It's who I am; it defines me. I believe most parents of children with special needs feel the same way. It's a natural instinct to care and give our love unconditionally. And if it isn't innate, it is something we learn and grow into. Giving is easy. It is like taking in a deep breath. But as my friend Shelley says, "You need to receive as much as you give - for you need both; to inhale and exhale in order to be alive."
My grandparents taught me that true love begins with self love. And that means in order for one to be blessed with a tender soulful partnership, one needs to be able to receive as well. For how else can our loved ones show how much they care, unless we are able to feel their love and let them express and show it.
This is a time of giving. We give presents. Why not give the gift of love. Tell them how much you love them. Hug them. And let them know they matter. Then watch in wonder how they "receive" your gift of love.
Debra Taubenslag, Author
No Stone Unturned: How My Special Needs Child and I Transformed Against All Odds