Posts Tagged ‘Love’

By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty. 

“Where there is love there is life.”― Mahatma Gandhi

A few years ago, a friend of mine introduced me to the concept of “Love Languages,” essentially analogous to learning styles, but pertaining to how individuals express love for one another. This sort of thing is usually relegated to popular ladies’ magazines, but it ought not. Understanding the ways we communicate love to our partners and family and friends helps ensure that those we love recognize that we love them, eliminating the pain of feeling unappreciated and unloved. Identifying our individual loving style helps us give and receive love more freely and openly. Here’s where you can find the quiz to uncover the ways you prefer to express love.

ImageThe Five Love Languages, as defined by Dr. Gary Chapman, a well-known expert on marriage, are: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. Each individual has dominant love languages, which significantly impact relationships. Some relationships forgo one love language altogether, for example a pair of life-long friends may never utter the phrase “I love you,” but love one another deeply. In The Princess Bride Wesley shows his love for Buttercup through acts of service, followed by three other little words: “As You Wish.” Just as there is no “right” way to learn, there is no “right” way to love another person. We all love in our own way, in our own style.

Loving others is my life’s ultimate joy. I’m fortunate in that I also like all the people I love. Therefore, I enjoy spending time with them. “Quality Time” is my dominant love language. If I love you, I want to be with you; I want to spend time with you; I want you around; I want to hang out; I want to come early to the party and stay too late. I communicate my desire to spend quality time with my friends and family when I invite them over for brunch and out for drinks and for a picnic, or just for coffee or to talk. The people in my life are the stars that light my universe.

“Words of Affirmation” are second on my list of love languages, fitting for a student of poetry. My favorite love poem is the Imageevocative and provocative “I like my body when it is with your body” by ee cummings. If I can’t write you a poem, I will send you a long letter. When I go on a trip, I always send postcards. Spend time with me, and you’ll hear the way I love you: I’ll call you ‘kitten’ or ‘sis’ or ‘dear’ or ‘darling’ or ‘doll’ or ‘doll face’ or ‘sugar plum’ or ‘baby shugs’ or ‘pumpkin’ or ‘sweetheart’ or, Maria’s favorite, ‘sweet potato’. Terms of endearment: love gift-wrapped in words. I am quick to say “I love you,” quicker now that I’m older, wiser, too.

The next category is “Acts of Service.” Need a hand? I’m happy to help (just no whole-house moving, I’m too old for that shit). I want to paint your living room. I want to babysit your son and read him a story. I want to pick you up from the airport, mostly because doing these things means I have more time with you. Friends make running errands wonderfully fun. When loading ice and beer into the back seat of Stacy’s car in preparation for her birthday party, I said, as I often do, “many hands make light work,” an aphorism intrinsic to anyone from a large family. I loved doing yard work with my brothers and sisters. In my capacity as a volunteer for 826Chicago,  I experience the pleasure of helping children with their homework. The homework may not be a treat, but the sense of pride and accomplishment visible on a child’s face when he or she has completed a task is pure gleam.

Next on the continuum of my preferred loving styles is “Physical Touch.” I grew up with a family light on physical touch. We hug, but not often. Conversely, my Urban Family and I hug constantly; cheek kissing is frequent, too. Our own Hanna & Ryan are always touching, sweetly holding hands seemingly every moment. The human need for physical touch is well documented. The sick become well more quickly after receiving healing touch. Still, the amount of touch can be adapted to the relationship and circumstance; each relationship is another shining creature in the sea of love.

Last on my list, no surprise, is “Receiving Gifts.” I appreciate and cherish the many thoughtful gifts I have received over the years, but I certainly don’t expect them. By all means, continue to send me flowers, because flowers make me feel like this. Yet having my friends around, spending time with them is the best gift—“your presence is present enough.”

Love is a source of endless inspiration, and with good reason. Love takes all forms and floods all things with meaning.  Love is personal and universal, minuscule and magnificent, infinitesimal and infinite.  It doesn’t matter how we love, just that we do.

By Jennifer Muryn, Associate Dean, School of Business.

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Several years ago my (now ex) husband, Steve, and I had talked about getting a dog.  We were childless professionals who had moved to the suburbs and became first time homeowners.  I felt that we were between plant and pet in the evolution of plant-pet-child (the logical progression of family/personal responsibility).  We took many years to master the plant stage and really felt ready for the pet stage.  I didn’t grow up with a dog, my dad actually got one just before I moved out.  Steve had more experience in his childhood with many good, family memories.  So, we considered how we’d move forward in this progression of the family life we were building together.

We read, researched and were drawn to so many different breeds.  At one point I was fascinated with pugs.  He has asthma and I had vision problems (since corrected by surgery).  We thought that having a dog with a microcosm of our own health issues was too close to home. 

 We alphabetically reviewed all breeds described by the American Kennel Club (AKC) and talked constantly about dogs with whoever would listen or have information to share.  After eight months we decided to not get a dog.  We were right where we started but by now were practically experts on dog breeds, their potential health issues, common behaviors, needs, size…. everything. 

 At that time Steve and I, childless, had lots of time to attend events, parties, etc. (Parents: remember those days?!?)  We attended a community/family event that was being held to raise money for his cousin’s treatment; Paul was 25-years old and diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.  As part of the fund-raising, there was a silent auction – and someone in the community arranged to have five puppies available for adoption.  Steve’s extended family was there and we had what felt like the largest family gathering ever – several hundred people had attended to raise money for Paul.  (He endured treatment and brain cancer for two years and passed away at 27 years old; two years and a few months after being married on the Winter Solstice.)

 Through the course of an evening of playing with kids, holding puppies and enjoying food and drinks Steve brought up the now-long closed conversation about getting a dog.  I knew that we weren’t going to get a dog but it was fun to hold and play with a litter of 8-week old puppies.  These were beautiful dogs, almost entirely black (they looked like black labs).  Every time I went into the “puppy area” there was one dog who sought me out.  In fact, looking back there was only one puppy of the litter that I held and played with.  I visited this puppy area with and without my nieces throughout the night, stopping up at the bar to replenish my Guinness.  I recall the seeming interest the one puppy had with my Guinness and I joked that he had good taste, seeking out me and also my Guinness!  I asked what breed the dogs were and was told “German Shepard” to which I had a snarky response of, “Do you even know what a German Shepard looks like?  The reply, “Maybe German Shorthaired Pointer?”  I concluded they are likely black labs.  There was also the “runt” of the litter who was, as you can imagine, super-cute and endearing to many of the kid’s hearts.

 At the end of the evening it was time to finalize silent auction bidding.  By this time we were ready, after eight months of data collection and multiple puppy-to-puppy visits through the evening, to make a move expanding our family through a canine addition.

 Steve is probably the best strategic game-player I’ve ever met.  He has the uncanny ability to see many moves ahead, anticipate other’s moves and change (or stay the course) accordingly.  So, when he suggested a way to bid and how to bid we followed it.  This meant we got the first choice; five bidders for five puppies.  Steve wanted me to hold the runt of the litter to see if that was “the one”. 

 At the moment he placed the runt in my arms three simultaneous events occurred: 1) a young girl had a look of disappointment and exasperation (she wanted the runt!), 2) the runt jumped out of my arms and wanted nothing to do with me, and 3) the puppy who sought out the Guinness and my company through the evening looked betrayed at my holding the runt. 

 We picked the puppy who sought out my Guinness and my company; the only puppy I had interacted with through the evening.  I know he chose me.  We named him Duke in honor of one of Steve’s favored dogs growing up, Duchess.  Duke became and continues to be my first canine love.  He opened up the world of canines and led me to being an avid supporter of humane education and animal welfare.

Duke is turning 8 in May and I love him more than I thought ever possible – he is my first canine love. Oh, and it turns out from a DNA test (saliva sample) that Duke is 50% German Shepard, 25% German Shorthaired Pointer and 25% Wire-Haired Pointing Griffon.  Snarkiness in check.

By Paul Gaszak, English Faculty

(Go here to read Part 1.)

What if memories could be selectively erased?

BrainScientifically speaking, that may be possible. Our brains already work to push away bad memories through substitution and suppression. Also, some studies claim that therapy may make it possible to (sort of) erase memories.

While the literal science/psychology is interesting, I’m more interested in the hypothetical “What if?” scenario.

In film, TV, and literature, there are plenty of stories in which characters are presented the option of erasing bad memories. My favorite example of this, which is also one of my favorite movies, is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. In this film, the main character Joel (Jim Carrey) and Clementine (Kate Winslet) both undergo a fictional procedure to erase their minds of each other after their break-up.

Eternal Sunshine

Joel (Jim Carrey) undergoing the mind-erasing procedure in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

It is a fantastic movie for a number of reasons, one if which is how it spurs on self-reflection: if this procedure were real, would you use it? If so, on what memories? And why?

My personal answer to this question is…I don’t know.

I know, quite the cop out. But let me explain.

If I address that question specifically about relationships, the degree to which I’d be willing to pull the trigger on the procedure varies from relationship to relationship. In my fairytale breakup, I have no need to erase anything. Time already erased the bad and left behind the good memories. In other relationships, there was nothing traumatic done to me that requires erasing. And yet, in other relationships there are memories that bother me quite a bit, even long after the fact.

The question becomes this: if a memory bothers me a lot, what else would I lose by erasing it?

Would erasing that memory skew my entire perspective on the relationship? Would this change fundamentally who I am and have become? Would there be mistakes I am then doomed to repeat because I don’t have this knowledge anymore?

In other words, bad memories may be beneficial and productive in some cases.

However, the level of drama (and trauma) I’ve dealt with in relationships is peanuts compared to issues many people have dealt with. For example, let’s move away from romantic relationships.

Every week, my dad and I do volunteer work at his VFW post. He is a Vietnam vet, and members from the post range from World War 2 to current conflicts. Most of the members I know are my dad’s age and fought in Vietnam. Some of them suffer from PTSD and have gone through therapy to deal with the horrible things they experienced. Some have told me a portion of what they went through and saw, and I can’t even begin to imagine having been in their shoes.

From the outside looking in, having never been  soldier myself, I wonder if they wouldn’t prefer to snap their fingers and have all of those memories wiped away. On the other hand, I’ve listened to so many of their war stories, and I’ve listened to them all banter about the good and bad memories of serving, and it is clear that these aren’t just memories; this is a part of their identity. These shared experiences are also what creates the camaraderie between all of the veterans.  If these memories were taken away, would it be like taking themselves away?

So, the questions may become this: at what point does the “productivity” of traumatic memories get outweighed by their negativity? When does the memory stop being a tool to learn from and start cluttering our mind to the point of being a roadblock? When does the memory stop being a piece of our identity and start consuming us?

 

The only real conclusion I can come to is that these are such personal questions that are impacted by our own variables: our own personalities, how we deal with memories, how we deal with trauma. The question of erasing memories begs for a unique answer from all of us.

So, what’s your unique answer? If you could erase some of your memories, would you do it?

By Paul Gaszak, English Faculty

I sat in my car looking out through the chain-link fence that separated the student parking lot from the university’s airfield. A small plane came in low overhead, cutting through the spring air to land on the runway. The first time I saw this happen LU Planesthree years earlier, it seemed exciting and vaguely dangerous. But after a few years of attending a college with an Aviation major, the planes were like pigeons I could mindlessly stare at from a park bench while thinking.

I just got off the phone with a girl from one of my classes with whom I’d gone on a couple dates. I asked if she wanted to get together again, and I got the “I’d love to but I’m busy between now and…forever” brush-off. Truthfully, I wasn’t all that interested in her. She was my attempt at a rebound, but the rebound just dropped out of bounds.

This left me time to think about the relationship I was trying to rebound from, which was the two-years I spent with my “first true love” that ended a few months earlier on Christmas Eve, when she came over to give me my Christmas present and say goodbye. I hid that present in my closet for months without opening it, as if preserving it would keep the relationship alive in some small way. When I finally opened it, it was a t-shirt of Grumpy from Snow White. Any friends and students reading this may think, “Grumpy? That doesn’t seem accurate for Paul’s personality.” Meanwhile, any ex-girlfriend reading this is saying, “Ha!”

Sitting in the car, feeling desperate and lost, I called my only brother. I had never turned to him for relationship advice before, even though he is nearly nine years my elder. Our conversations always stayed within certain boundaries: movies, music, games, sports. This was uncharted territory for us.

I spewed to him everything that was stirring around in my whiney, youthful, achey-breaky heart, about how she was “the one” and how I would never recover from all the pain I was feeling. He listened attentively (rare for him) and then said something rather perspicacious (even rarer): “It will get better. The pain will fade over time and you will be able to focus on the good memories.”

Of course, at the time I thought that was crap, as I continued to moan about how life as I knew it was over, how I’d be alone forever, and how I’d have to seek companionship by either buying a dog or cloning myself.

However, it turns out he was right. Sure, it was difficult in the short term, as with all breakups. But by the end of the semester, I was playfully running around Brookfield Zoo during a rainstorm, hand-in-hand with my new girlfriend. The next chapter of my life had begun.

Gradually, all the hurt of the previous breakup slipped away, all the pain we caused each other in our relationship vanished, and all that was left behind was a mental scrapbook of our fondest memories.

If there are fairytale romances, this eventually grew into a fairytale breakup for me: we weren’t together, we didn’t want each other, we moved on with our lives, and I got to keep the good memories.

For a while, the outcome of my fairytale breakup made me overvalue my brother’s words of wisdom. In my youthful inexperience, I believed mine was the normal resolution for a serious breakup: bleed for a bit, then heal with no visible scar.

Years later, I’ve now been through more relationships, and watched as many friends have dealt with their own relationships, and this obvious realization became apparent: sometimes the bad memories refuse to slip away, and they linger like boxers landing solid shots to the brain and heart. Not all bad memories will go down without a fight. And others wobble but they don’t fall down.

But – what if there was a way to selectively eliminate these little ruffians from the mind? That very solution has been presented in literature and film, creatively leading to self-examination on some very interesting questions….

(To be continued in Part 2)

Chasing Natalie

Posted: February 14, 2013 in Uncategorized
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By Paul Gaszak, English Faculty

She opened the cab door and looked back at me. I wanted to stop her, pull her away from the curb. I thought maybe I could jump in the cab – or in front of it. Anything to keep her from leaving. But I was frozen in place.

Her face was reassuring and playful, yet desperate and sad. She had to leave, but wanted to be found. I had to find her. It was clear: she was the one.

Just before she got inside and drove away, she told me her name:

Natalie Endfall.

And then I woke up.

I had this dream over 15 years ago. I was just a high schooler at the time, but in my dream, I was an adult, which made it seem to me like a vision or prophecy. After all of these years, ImageI’ve never forgotten that dream. Or, more importantly, that name.

At my high school, there were no girls with that exact name, but that wasn’t surprising. The odd part was that I couldn’t even think of anyone named Natalie.

In the years since, I’ve never dated a Natalie. I’ve never been friends with a Natalie. I can’t even readily identify anyone named Natalie in my personal world.

The dream hasn’t always been at the forefront of my mind. In fact, it rarely is. But whenever I think of it, I wonder what it meant.

I’ve Googled the name. It doesn’t exist. At least not according to Google. (And, as we all know, if Google doesn’t know something, it ain’t real.)

I’ve even tried to puzzle out the name in a variety of ways. Maybe it’s an anagram for some phrase or thought? Nope. Maybe it’s an anagram of the name of someone I’ve dated? Nuh uh.

Now, before you tell me I’m taking this all too far, let me tell you the following:

I know I am.

It’s all ridiculous and absurd. I’m trying to invent a heart-shaped reality out of nothing.

Or maybe Natalie is out there waiting for me right now.

Or maybe I have already met the person Natalie was meant to represent.

It’s probably all nonsense, but I want to believe in it.

Normally, I don’t want to believe in fate, and even though I believe in God, I don’t want to believe God is a puppeteer controlling our every action. But when it comes to love, I want to believe there is something more. I want to believe in forces and fate and serendipity and soul mates. I want to. I want love to be the most powerful thing we have in this world – so powerful that it’s not even entirely of this world.

Yet, I can hear the brutish, killjoy, logical side of my mind saying, “It was just a dream, dummy.”

Maybe so, but if I can navigate the grey area between logic and fantasy, perhaps I can approach that dream from a different perspective. Maybe Natalie Endfall was a symbol, a metaphor. Maybe the message from my youthful, lovesick heart was that I will know “the one” when I meet her, and there won’t be any doubt about it. (How is that for a hyper-romanticized oversimplification of the maddening complexities of love?)

At its most basic level, I at least believe the dream carries a message for us all:

To everyone who has found their “Natalie”: Be thankful. Hold that person close and cherish them.

To everyone who has lost their “Natalie”: Make it right. Go get them.

To everyone who is still searching for “Natalie”: Keep your eyes, ears, and heart open. And once Natalie arrives, don’t ever let her get in that cab.

Disney’s Paperman

Posted: January 31, 2013 in Uncategorized
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By: Paul Gaszak, English Faculty

Disney’s Paperman, the short film that screened before Disney’s Wreck-it Ralph back in November, was just made available online by Disney. Do yourself a favor and watch this amazing little love story; it’s just over six minutes long. (My commentary is below the video.)

(Youtube Link: http://youtu.be/aTLySbGoMX0)

A few points that I love about this film:

  • It is a gorgeous meshing of traditional hand-drawn and computer animation. The look stays true to traditional Disney characters, while still managing to fit an adult story.
  • There is no dialogue. Our two main characters have not shared a word yet and do not even know the other’s name, so why should verbalization interject? Great decision.
  • The musical score is uplifting and heartfelt. It sets the perfect tone for the film.
  • The world is black and white, except for the lipstick. The lack of colors paint the workaday world as drab and mundane, but the spark for love is in the symbolically appropriate – if not slightly cliched – red of the lipstick.
  • The form with the red lipstick plays a central role throughout, which heightens the significance of it being the only dash of color, and in a way also makes that form our third main character. Like many Disney films, we have a magical character – only this is a very unexpected one.
  • There is a nice touch of commentary about misplaced priorities and conformity. In the office, the boss glares at the male protagonist, directs him to get back to work, and all of his coworkers (all of whom look exactly the same) do jump back to work after the disturbance by the protagonist. A roomful of people all have placed importance in what appears to be meaningless work, while only our protagonist has the nerve to run out of the door in search of something more important.
  • The ending is perfect. Our main characters approach each other, she sweeps her hand through her hair, and they make eye contact – but nothing more. Had this story been handled poorly, both characters would have jumped onto the platform and into each other’s arms, twirling and kissing. But that would take more suspension of disbelief than sentient paper airplanes. These two people have not even met, really. To have them hugging and kissing would be absurd, if not altogether weird. This story isn’t about the two characters falling in love; we aren’t to that stage with them yet. (Though a few stills during the credits show us that.) This story is about the catalyst for love and the spark of fate that can lead us to it.
  • Finally, I am a sucker for a good fairytale romance in which the hands of fate intervene to lead soul mates together. Real love is never so easy and comes with countless complications and confusions that aren’t present in this film. But sometimes art is created to bring to life that which we wish was real.