Spoons click against bowls that hold hearty homemade soup. Steaming broth surrounds chunks of vegetables in every shape and color. A delightful aroma fills the air. Sun sparkles on fresh snow outside our window. Blue jays, cardinals and sparrows flit from feeder to branch.
Don and I silently eat and watch nature’s show.
I ask Don, “Is this what love looks like?”
His reply, “Sounds like the start of your next blog.”
And so it is.
Why does this particular moment evoke my love question? Homemade soup? Colorful birds in newly fallen snow? A seasoned relationship of comfort?
I want to know.
Maybe it is our age. Aging can be transformative. Cultural images of love have mostly fallen away. Raw and real holds greater value for us than a polished image. Our eyes have weakened with age. Our hearts see each other more clearly.
We adore each other. We’ve learned to live with each other’s flaws and our own. Well mostly. Hard to believe but we still have miscommunications. Conflicts arise. Yet they occur in the context of years of facing difficulties. We’ve learned paths around them and through them. The awareness that each day is precious encourages us to compromise. If my pantry holds a small amount of an ingredient it’s used sparingly. We are careful how we spend our days with each other.
These observations about our relationship are true. They do not answer my question about that particular moment.
Then I read these words from James Cordova Ph.D in his Psychology Today article, Attention Is the Most Basic Form of Love.
I will see you, just as you are, if only for this moment.
I will hear you, just your voice, if only for this heartbeat.
I will pay attention.
Because I love you…
And you’ll be gone so soon.
Change comes to all us. Friends move away. Children grow up. Loved ones die. Too soon they will be gone from us. So in this moment can we give them our whole attention? Can we really see them? Will we listen to just them?
This is why a lunchtime of soup prompted my question. We were in the present moment together. Paying attention to each other as we shared a beautiful moment.
The main ingredient of love is attention.
Valentine’s Day celebrates love. Commercialism has grabbed it and turned it into a multi-billion-dollar holiday. But it has ancient roots. It is an opportunity to focus on a mysterious experience that poets, researchers and psychologists struggle to define. We can resurrect this holiday. We can remove it from the claws of consumerism. It can be a day of paying attention to all of those we love.
After hours of bubbling away carrots, celery, potatoes, beans, onions, and garlic soften and release their flavor. Don and I are like these ingredients. We have simmered in the broth of our relationship for more than six decades. So much goes into making soup. So much goes into creating a loving relationship. It’s not about how long it cooks. Is it nurturing? Does it bring out the best in others and self?
Attention is nurturance. It feeds the soul like warm soup feeds the body. In a culture that suffers from attention deficit paying attention is a challenge. Valentine’s Day is a opportunity to put down our phones, turn off our screens and pay profound attention to those we love.
Can we do it for just a heartbeat?