Whenever I type 'live' on my phone, it comes out 'love.' Every time. 'I love by Whole Foods' and 'I love in Austin.' It's funny though, because it makes me think. Is living synonymous with loving? Does life = love? Maybe I just really love Whole Foods, but for the past year I've had this nagging feeling that love IS everything. It's part involuntary chemical reaction, part basic human need and usually everyone's priority, right? Finding love is this ultimate quest, and it's become singular. Find that one person who completes you and makes you feel alive. But I argue that love is not singular - it's plural, and it's everywhere. It's small, everyday acts that make people feel acknowledged. Love is smiling at a stranger as you walk down the street, it's the hour you volunteer helping others, it's a call to your mom, and it's truly listening to what someone has to say. Love is validating someone else's existence through acknowledgement.
Psychologist John Gottman has studied couples for decades and found that partners make many small bids for attention, validation, and love every day. Imagine you share with your partner a funny anecdote from your day, but they only half-listen while pecking away at their phone. They've denied your bid for attention. That one instance won't break the relationship, but over time, as these small denials of attention and acknowledgement build up, dissatisfaction in the relationship grows. I argue that we make these small bids for acknowledgement every day - but not just to our partners. We make them to our boss (seeking a nod of approval), our friends and family (a phone call and sympathetic ear), even to the stranger on the street (a returned smile, nod, or even a brief moment of eye contact). At our core we desire to be seen - being seen validates our existence. Remind me that I'm alive, that I am noticeable, that I'm truly here. We live through these small acts of love. Who will you validate today?