My mom always said that, for women, the forties are a time of self-discovery. I think I have to agree with that. At the turn of the year, I will be halfway through my fourth decade, and I feel like I'm learning who I am all over again. I suppose there are a lot of opinions about why this is so, but I've not hit on a good one that I can verbalize yet.
Last Shabbat we were having a lovely sit-down with our dear friend Rebecca. Rebecca is a warm, welcoming, caring friend who I value highly; just being around her makes me feel like I've just received the best hug in the world. She also happens to be pretty astute when it comes to assessing others. Anyway, we were discussing love languages; you know, the Gary Chapman Love Languages that define how we all speak and receive love. My friends and I had all read this book - oh about a decade ago - and labeled ourselves appropriately. Or so we thought at the time. So, in our discussion, Rebecca matter-of-factly declares that her wonderful husband is a Words of Affirmation, and that I was, too.
Now, wait a minute. I absolutely agree with her that her hubby, our friend Al, is quite the 'affirmation' guy. He'll come up to you and start filling you up with words that just make you feel like a million bucks. But, I had labeled myself a Quality Time person a long time ago. For years, I have said, "I'm all about time," giving time and spending time with those to whom I want to show love. I have to admit, this declaration of Rebecca's shook me up a bit.
I've been thinking about it ever since our conversation, and trying to step outside myself to watch my actions. It is easy to identify those around me...my own dear hubby is a Physical Touch guy - easy enough, eh? I had him figured out pretty early on in our relationship, to be sure. I have one dear friend who is completely and totally in love with her hubby; he was pretty quick to figure out that Receiving Gifts is her thing. We love to listen to his latest thoughtful gifts to her - he really takes the time to express love to her with little gifts. My dear Padawan is a Acts of Service, hands down. No question. She has always expressed love to her hubby through her hard work to make a nice home, delicious meals and keeping him in clean clothes. She is invaluable to me because she is always there to help and support me with whatever is going to make my life easier, no matter what it is. I couldn't do what I do without her, that's for sure. And, I am blessed to have a long-distance friend who is most assuredly a Quality Time, evidenced by the fact that we can be on the phone for hours and hours - no exaggeration there. Granted, telephone time is the only way we can spend time together, but I have a sneaky suspicion that if we lived closer, we would spend quite a bit of time together.
So, why was I so off in my assessment of myself?
Perhaps I just needed to get into my forties. Maybe I wasn't looking deeply enough at the languages, as they all require time and effort to give. I sort of pride myself at being able to 'read' people and know what they need, what motivates them, but I was sure off about myself. Hey, I like Quality Time...by myself, that is!
As I think back on my own history, I can see it now. When I was in high school, I received an award from the student body. It was called the PMA Award - Positive Mental Attitude. Seeing a need and going outside the box to make it happen earned me that honor. I remember how the recognition took me by surprise at the time. I've always been the rescuer, the one rooting for the underdog, the encourager. I use words carefully, as I know how they can be weapons if not used wisely. Words, either confirming or condemning will stick in people's mental 'recorder' and forever be a part of them. Yeah, I can see it now.
Rebecca is right. I definitely fall into the Words of Affirmation category. I'm probably pretty textbook, too. Cheerleader to the end, half-full and ready to build up those around me with compliments and positive words. Yeah, words. It's not all about time, I guess...it's all about words for me. I'm still shaking my head that it took this long to realize it.
And in realizing this about myself, I'm wondering how the percentages breakdown with these love languages. Is there more Acts of Service? Or Physical Touch? Now, that would be interesting to know. I'm actually thinkin' that Words of Affirmation-types are pretty low on the scale, as I've not come across too many that freely give compliments, etc. Perhaps it's just the circles in which I travel....I'll have to ponder that further, I suppose.