ReFirement at Any Age: Love, a big little word

By Gail Supplee Tatum, Columnist, The Times

No matter what your age or situation is in life, I think we can all agree that love is, indeed, an undeniably big little word.

The fourteenth of February has been designated as the day we set aside specifically to celebrate love.

We acknowledge love in many traditional ways. We send cards, give candy and go out to dinner, just to name a few.

All of those things are lovely and well received but I like to concentrate on the deeper meaning of love and the endless ways it can be defined and expressed. Think about it. There are infinite amounts of love songs and books written, plus movies made and there will continue to be more because each one of us has our own love song, book or movie just waiting to be created.

Valentine’s Day may seem to be more directed to couples in love but the Ancient Greeks identify four forms of love. They are family, like the love of a parent to a child, a child to a parent, grandparents to their grandchildren, and children to their grandparents. Next is friendship, for example, young children handing out Valentine’s cards at school to their classmates and teachers. Then there is romantic, which I mentioned, and finally, agape love, which is a universal, divine, selfless love. Included in the agape love is the love of animals and nature because we have to give of ourselves to protect them. I would also add another form of love, which is self-love.

When I was growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, I thought, to say you love yourself was being selfish and narcissistic. I didn’t have any examples around me that showed self-love. My parents did for everyone else except themselves, demonstrating selflessness, which can be viewed as admirable. However, l learned through the years, and particularly after I became a mother, that if I don’t take care of myself, I can’t truly be good for anyone else. I wish my parents would have taken care of themselves and lived long enough to meet their great-grandchildren but sadly they both died in their late seventies, largely from lack of self-care. Needless to say, I do take care of myself because I want to be around for a long time!

All of the other forms of love that the Ancient Greeks describe fall into place when you start with loving who you are and, not only that, but liking who you are. Love yourself first, and everything else falls in line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world. Lucille Ball, one of my all-time favorite comedic actors.

So if you find yourself alone on Valentine’s Day, celebrate that person staring back at you in the mirror. Say, “Hi Buddy!”, or, “Hello Gorgeous!”, and then call a friend who might be by themselves and tell them you love them and give a little toast to each other! After that, spend the evening enjoying your own company, doing whatever brings you joy.

What else can bring us joy is helping others by doing something as small as a smile and a kind word or as big as moving a couch and everything in between. We do for others not expecting anything in return but sometimes, months or years later, that person we helped comes up to us and acknowledges how much our help meant to them. We may have forgotten about it so the sentiment often surprises us in a deep and touching way. You see, we don’t know what kind of impact our actions have on another person’s life until it is shared…so share it and you’ll never feel alone.

One of the greatest love songs was created by Burt Bacharach and Hal David in 1965, when I was thirteen, called, What the World Needs Now is Love. In the chorus, two phrases stand out. The first says, what the world needs now is love, sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of. The second part of the chorus says, what the world needs now is love, sweet love. No not just for some but for every every everyone.  WOW! How about that!

Always remember that L O V E is just a word until you give it meaning.

Happy Valentine’s Day

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