{4.4.15} multipurpose love buckets: a how-to guide

¡Dejale regalonearte! Let her love you! says Juan, my host dad, as my host mom hovers about trying to bring me ice or kleenex or an apple, all of which I turn down, even as I sit in a crumpled heap after yet another Knee Incident. I’m more than a bit desolate, but accepting help feels, in my mind, like giving up my independence, an independence that here has been hard won, fought for in a city that chatters to a language I had to learn, hums to a rhythm I spent so long failing to understand. I tilt my head back and close my eyes, fighting tears. The last thing I want is to be crossed, the last thing I need is to have to accept graciously help I didn’t ask for on top of fighting pain and a rising panic about maybe never being able to play frisbee again and a strong desire to stay brave so I don’t freak my poor parents out.

Maybe, though, to be crossed in this way is actually the first thing I need. Let her bring you the apple, I admonish myself firmly. Thank her for being so gosh darn attentive, even though sometimes you feel moderately suffocated. Let her love you, because right now, what’s going to get you through this is love, not pretending like you can walk. Sí, una manzana por favor, and María Alicia gets me the apple, bringing without asking the knife I always use to slice fruits into delectible crunchy wafers.

love in the form of pillow piles and fuzzy socks

For a long time, I thought that in order to show someone love, you had to say “I love you” to them, face-to-face, otherwise it didn’t count. I didn’t really say “I love you” to people without prompting until I went to college, when I started to really realize how awesome my family was. Before that, the only time I remember an I love you coming out feeling natural was when I’d talk to my dad on the phone during his time doing research in other countries when I was a young kid.

Now, though, I know to pour love onto people in whatever color I feel, receive in a higgledy-piggledy bucket with many a specialized receiving contraption for each special individual.

I’ve got a special input valve for my host dad, now, who cares for me in observations about who I am. He’s a sharp observer, and has unearthed sides of me that, while possibly obvious to the mere passerby, were hidden in plain sight from me. Just when I think I’ve figured myself out, because darn it, I wrote 20 pages in my journal last week, he’ll come out with a “you’re really quite a sensitive person” (prompting an monster blog post), or “you stand up straighter now than when you came here.” The gift, in this case, is someone who is willing to think about me, and who has opened up for enough of a relationship that we can share those types of things.

I’ve got a tranquil bromeliad pool for María Alicia, who has taught me to receive love in confidence, the kind where you bare your very soul and dig into those sticky, tricky emotions. Together. ¿Cómo te sientes, mi niña? she asks me every day. How do you feel, sweetie?, and I know to reply with honesty, and not expect to get off the hook if it’s not todo bien. This is love in constant, lightly nudging drip drops of attention and preocupation. She aint gonna let nothin’ slide. And I do the same for her, more and more.

I developed myself a sturdy holding tank for the women of Brazil who love in rich food. The hollow ankle was not sufficient, and I received the love in the 5 extra pounds I now carry around with me. Oops. I guess that’s what gyms are for!

heaps and pots of love (are you all noticing just how many pictures of brazilian food I’ve managed to inundate you with? #sorrynotsorry)

I’ve carved out a easily-accessible hatch door for my poor dad who has recently been loving me in insurance claims, financial aid forms, tax returns and bank transfers. And blog post comments, the dear sweet man. He’s currently winning, if there’s a race, in all of those categories.

I’ve got a cozy corner to receive my mom’s loving in I’m proud of you‘s, and I wish I could be there with you‘s and weekly emails of the family happenings.

Then there’s the hodgepodge of recepticles for all those friends from school and life who’ve kept up a lively internet chatter during my absence, checking in, telling me about their lives, commenting with plenty of ❤ emojis on pictures, letting me dump on them sometimes when surprising things happened and I needed to process, letting me listen to them when they’re going through a tricky spot themselves.

I think a lot now about the ways I have (and often still do) feel lonely in the world. Especially during lunch, here, when I stay on campus instead of going home, and see all the groups of friends convening to eat, smoke, play guitar and chat during their hour-long break, and then go microwave my leftovers and find myself a shady patch of grass to plunk down in. What I’ve come to realize, though, is that I’ve only ever been as alone as I thought I was, only ever as independent as I deluded myself into believing. The key is really to treasure and coax along the little baby loves we get handed during the day. Maybe the doorman says hi and smiles as you hustle by on your way to class in the morning. Maybe someone from natural theology recognizes you on the patio and stops to say hello. Maybe the cat you’ve let sniff your sneakers for a semester finally rolls over and lets you tickle its belly in a patch of sunlight. Maybe in your african drum class you spontaneously create a smile with the person across from you as you kind of mess up but nobody really cares and the rhythm pulses on with a terrific energy.

bellies up
Negro and I having a moment

I believe in learning to receive the little loves, the microscopic moments, the tiny gratitudes. Because together they add up. And I believe in giving them, too.

It used to be that if, for example, I wanted to show a friend I cared about her, I’d write her a 6-page letter. Which meant I very very seldom showed people I cared. Because who has time for a 6-page letter every day, now, really? Now, though, when I go to the feria on Saturdays, I’ll often buy María Alicia flowers, because they’re a bit of a luxury, but are important for her to feel like the home is homey. She talks about that all the time when people come over, and I know that that small, $2 gesture means a lot. The other day, I was walking home from dropping someone off at the bus station, and picked up a chocolate bar. There was this homeless guy hunched by the sidewalk, not even with the energy to put his hand out. I asked if he wanted some chocolate, and he did, so I gave him some. Then I got to my building, and both of the really nice door men were there, so I gave them some. And then there were these guys trying to squish a queen-size mattress into a tiny elevator, and they looked pooped, so I gave them some. And then I got home and I had 4 squares left, and split those with my friend. The fact that the doormen have been extra special nice ever since, and the moving men let me take the elevator they’d been waiting for was largely irrelevant. I felt happy for what other people received, not for what they subsequently gave me. 7 people (including me) got to be a little bit happier on account of chocolate! 7 people (including me) opened themselves to some chocolate-colored love squirts into their buckets!

I don’t share these stories to be like “oooh look at me giving chocolate to homeless people and moving men”. No. I shared these stories because they’re how I’ve learned that anybody can make their life better adding attatchments, recepticles, drip openings to their love bucket. Mine has grown tremendously being here, as has my ability to funnel love into other people’s buckets. To this, I owe a debt of gratitude to the loving (in giving and receiving) people in my life (like you, you wonderful humans), gratitude itself and plenty of delicious chocolate.


10 Comments Add yours

  1. Soren Hauge says:

    For a long time I let myself get too loaded with all those logistical and financial things to keep re-filling the love bucket. Here’s a drop. I love you, mi nin~a.


    1. love you, too, papá! (and I promise that I WILL come home eventually)


  2. mos-health says:

    Hey! I tried to post this further reply, but it wasn’t allowed. So, here are my last thoughts…


    One more thing… our buckets are kept full as much by those little “drops” of kindness as by those “floods” that, while wonderful, are also rare. Your blogs have provided many richly rewarding droplets for our hearts and our minds over these past months. Thank you. And keep on sharing those squares of chocolate. For someone on the receiving end of your good will, they may be more than a droplet in a very dry bucket. One square could even be the definitive piece in completing some cosmic puzzle! Who knows?!!!

    Date: Sat, 4 Apr 2015 10:28:34 +0000 To: mottism@hotmail.com

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow. Cosmic chocolate. I could go for that 🙂 Let’s just say I feel like I get much more than I give with this blog, so thanks for being on that end of it, too!


  3. mos-health says:

    One more thing… our buckets are kept full as much by those little “drops” of kindness as by those “floods” that, while wonderful, are also rare. Your blogs have proved many richly rewarding droplets for our hearts and our minds over these past months. Thank you. And keep on sharing those squares of chocolate. For someone on the receiving end of your good will, they may be more than a droplet in a very dry bucket. One square could even be the definitive piece in completing some cosmic puzzle! Who knows?!!!


  4. mos-health says:

    These are important lessons for each of us to learn and re-learn. The wisdom that “it is more blessed to give than to receive,” is misleading; for one who cannot and has not received sufficiently will be unable to give what is needed. My former spouse and I worked with a marriage counselor many years ago who suggested that we think about the “bucket of good will” we each carried through life. In order to express good will to each other, we needed to have received good will from each other or from some others in our lives. If we only expressed it, the bucket would eventually run dry. Think of the milk expressed from the udder of a cow that is fed too little or fed poor food. Eventually, both the quantity and quality of her milk will suffer. Her milk may even dry up altogether, and those in need of her milk will likewise suffer, whether her own calf or her human owners.

    When that marriage ended after many years, it was, in large part because our “buckets,” our “udders” of nourishing good will — the milk of a relationship — ran dry. Yet another apt metaphor comes from the less pastoral world of computer science: “garbage in, garbage out.” As important as it is for one to learn to receive good will, it is important to learn to reject ill will. That can be as toxic to us as “bad grass” to a cow and her milk. So, learning to receive and discerning the quality of what is being offered are both essential to ones wellbeing. For many of us, however, the first step is simply to remove the lid from our bucket (emotional, intellectual, and spiritual) and receive the nourishing gifts if life.


    1. Three very well-played metaphors, and I thank you for the reminder that we must be a bit discerning, too, in what we let in. You’re right. I just took the lid off, so I guess it’s time to hone the instrument, if you will.


  5. griffitht@comcast.net says:

    Dear Savannah Butterfly, Warm peaceful Easter greetings from your loving extended family in Vermont. We are so very sorry to hear of your latest knee injury. I personally have had a number of sports and work related injuries over the years and I have to say being shut down from the active life is no vacation at all. All you can do is ride it out and be very thankful that friends and family that love you are able to step in to lighten the burden. From your blog I can see that your awareness of that has become quite acute.

    An additional comment regarding your “love buckets” guide that I can fully concur with is the enormous power of small acts of kindness directed at strangers. Its the facet of my public transit work that I relish the most. Every day I have a hand full, mixed in with the multitudes, of particularly challenged folks (mothers with carts and baby carriers, aged and very crippled elders, blind or otherwise handicaps, etc) that need a little extra kindness and attention than most. I try to offer that and the response is tremendous and very uplifting gratitude both from the recipient and the other passengers. They tell me that most drivers just seem annoyed or even hostile. How sad that is as they are missing out on a wonderful opportunity to give and receive a daily dose of kindness. Your appreciation of Dad is evident in this regard.

    Finally, I would like to say, that of the two times you visited us here in Vermont my favorite memory is of Jack and I picking you up at the bus stop and the joyous three way family hug we enjoyed. I look forward to repeating that experience one day the next time you come-say for Thanksgiving. You are so loved in this household and I think more receptive to our love after all you have been through and seen how much that means. So get well and keep up the bloggin and hurry home ya hear?

    Mucho amor from us all


    1. Hey Tom, thanks for your lovely comment. I can attest to the importance of kindness from strangers, especially bus drivers! Lots of people aren’t lucky enough to have constant kindness sources, which makes those random ones all the more important. And even for me, who can pretty much rely on nice people around me, surprises always put a goofy grin on my face. And don’t worry, already plannin’ that fall break 🙂 Lots of love to Jack and Maureen!


  6. ahauge-bacon1233@charter.net says:

    Hi Savannah,

    Happy Easter tomorrow! I hope you will be able to celebrate with your host family, or friends, or both.

    The blog below was great reading! It shows how life in a new setting, with new companions and a different structure forces you to adapt. Or at least presents an opportunity to learn to know yourself and others better. How to love.

    Many blessings each day and through the year. Love, Grandma

    Liked by 1 person

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