As we drove home I was telling Jim that when I need to have an uncomfortable procedure, it really helps me if I know how long to expect it to last. When I have this information, I am able to figure out a way to count myself through it. There is something about the counting, that gives me a sense of control; a sense that I can do it.
As I described this to Jim, I realized that I use this counting method to help me in many places in my life. When I am on a long run or a long bike ride, I always fill my mind with counting or with breaking the distance down into manageable pieces. I distinctly recall reaching kilometre 36 in my first marathon. Instead of thinking to myself that I had five kilometres to go, my exhausted mind reminded my exhausted body that I just had to do a 2km, then another 2km and then only a 1km would be left. I knew I could do a 2km anytime, no matter how tired I was, and so this worked for me.
Although I do have a couple of friends (ok, one friend, Chad, and one son, Greg) who I think might also think like this, I suspect that other people have their own unique ways of marking events or of passing time or of acknowledging milestones. But for me, counting is my loyal friend.
Counting has been my constant companion in my life. Counting served me well in my teaching career. Counting calmed me through many life events. I count days when I am waiting for an event and I count chores as I cross them off my list. When the kids were little we used paper chains to count the days down until Christmas, and when the kids got big, I made my own paper chains to count the days until they would return home from university. I count myself to sleep and if I wake in the night I count the number of hours left until the alarm will ring. Counting for me is as reliable as the steady beat of my heart.
As Valentine’s Day approaches this year, I realize that I also spend time counting my blessings. Not in a numeric way, but more in a thinking about or a making-a-list way.
This year, I have a new blessing to count that seems to have really changed my life. I promise you that I will not fill each blog with stories about our latest family member, Ben, but for today…. all bets are off.
Before Ben was born, I tried to imagine how I would feel. People gave me plenty of advice about what being a grandparent would be like. I took in all the suggestions and yet I kept thinking that I couldn’t really imagine that it would be THAT good, or THAT different. I also considered all the times I heard that one of the best things was that I would feel an instant love, and even better, that I could ‘give them back’ when they cried.
Well, I am only three and one-half weeks into this process and I think I am starting to be able to voice what I feel.
I am very blessed in my life. I have many people to love, and who love me. When I met Jim, I did not believe that I could love with any more of my heart than I did at that time. Then we had children, and a new room in my heart opened. It wasn’t better, but it was bigger and it was richer and it forced me to be braver with my love. And now we have little Ben. And I have discovered that I have yet more room in my heart. This new love is what I am calling Big Love.
Big Love means that I see and feel the world differently now. It means that I have a deep knowing that what Ben, and each of us, needs is to have someone in our corner who sees us in the absolute best light; someone who holds for us our greatest dreams, and who gently reminds us of them when we forget or when we lose our way; someone who never quits believing in us.
I believe that I held these beliefs for Jim, and for our children. However, the busyness of life sometimes meant that I didn’t demonstrate my big love in ways I could have. I suppose that in some ways I guarded my love. I did not do this on purpose. I did not even realize that I was doing it. I felt I was giving every bit of love I had.
Perhaps I am simply seeing the world differently because I have enough miles in my shoes that I have a different perspective. I don’t really believe this though. What I do believe is that the gift that Ben is giving me is the wisdom to know that I do not have to guard my love. This new love does not feel like a new room in my heart. It feels more like a stronger heart, a kinder heart, a fearless heart, a courageous heart, a love-filled heart, an unguarded heart.
When I count my loves this Valentines Day, I will include all the things and people I love, just like I always do. The difference will be in noticing this new way I feel about these loves. Thanks, little Benjamin for opening up this new world to me. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
If only I had a number for infinity.
And I don’t want to give you back, even when you cry.
Elizabeth creates and facilitates custom workshops for corporate, public and private groups. She provides leadership coaching for individuals and groups. Contact Elizabeth to book a coaching session for you or your team.