On being ... not a bonus for all

  By Ingrid Sapona 

I publish On being… on the 15th and 30th of the month. (In February I publish on the 15th and 28th.) Given this schedule, I have an affinity for months with 31 days because I have an extra day to come up with a topic for the following 15th. By this logic, you’d think I’d hate February because from the 15th to the28th is only 13 days. All I can say is that February’s my birth month so I love it regardless of its brevity. 

Actually, the fact that every four years we get a Leap Day is perhaps another reason I love February. As for Leap Day itself, the whole Sadie Hawkins Day stuff has always charmed me. (If you’re not familiar with what I’m talking about, check out one of the sweetest movies of all time: Leap Year, starring a very young Amy Adams and Matthew Goode.) But even without that blarney, I’ve always thought of the extra day as a quirky celestial bonus. 

So, when I realized this is a Leap Year, the idea of writing about the delights of this bonus day was obvious. But this past week – in part because it marked the start of the third year of war in Ukraine – I began to think about what an extra day in the year might mean to others. On reflection, I realize that the extra day for so many is far from a bonus. Instead, it’s likely an extra day of suffering. 

For the millions of people who live in refugee camps it’s another day of queueing for food, water, and even to use the toilet. For the millions in the world starving, it means another day of empty bellies. For people living in war zones, it means another day of living in fear for their lives and homes. For children in war-torn countries, it means another day without school or trying to have a normal life in a bomb shelter or bunker. For the family members of those fighting on the front line, it means another day of worry and loneliness. For all the war-wounded, it means another day of pain and suffering. For political prisoners it means another day of unjust confinement. For women living under the thumb of theocratic regimes, it means another day of repression. 

These harsh realities gave me great pause about whether to write about Leap Day being a bonus. Trite doesn’t begin to describe my concern… But then I thought about the fact that if these columns are to have any relevance, reference to reflections about what’s going on in the real world is important, even if the thoughts arise in a roundabout way. 

Though the springboard for On being… is my experiences, thoughts, and emotions, I always hope that it will be a catalyst for readers to reflect on how they feel about the particular topic. In this case, regardless of what Leap Day means to you, I hope it provides you with time to reflect on the suffering of others and on what we can do to bring change and help to those suffering. 

© 2024 Ingrid Sapona


On being … expressions of love

 By Ingrid Sapona        

This is the day after Valentine’s Day, which means we have 366 days (it’s a Leap Year!) to plumb the depths of our love language(s) before Valentine’s 2025. Regardless of whether yesterday was a day of delight, disappointment, or an otherwise unremarkable Wednesday, the day has prompted me to think about expressions of love. 

The notion of “love languages” was introduced by Gary Chapman in: The five love languages: how to express heartfelt commitment to your mate (first published in 1992 and reprinted many times since). I first heard about the book in 2018 when a speaker on a panel discussion recommended it. She said understanding what someone’s love language is helped her communicate more effectively. One of the reasons the book recommendation jumped out at me was that it was made at an electricity sector conference – not some self-improvement seminar. I was curious about love languages, so I read the book. 

The idea is that all of us speak and understand emotional love in certain ways, which Chapman calls languages. (For those familiar with Chapman’s work, forgive the oversimplification.) Based on years of speaking with married folks, Chapman believes there are five love languages: 1) words of affirmation; 2) quality time; 3) receiving gifts; 4) acts of service; and 5) physical touch. Chapman also mentions there can be different “dialects” within the various languages and that some folks are “bilingual”, meaning two love languages are equally important to them. Your primary love language is the main way you feel loved and valued. 

At first, I didn’t really feel any of the five languages applied to me. I’m not big on receiving compliments or gifts, and I’ve never been much of a hugger – so that eliminates three right off the bat. And, I’m pretty self-sufficient, so acts of service aren’t that important to me. But I love having in-depth, one-on-one conversations with people. That’s why at parties you’ll often find me off in a corner chatting with just one guest, rather than laughing with the group. My primary love language is quality time, no doubt. 

But knowing your own love language is just half the equation. The real trick is in figuring out what others’ love languages are. The key to happy, loving relationships, according to Chapman, is communicating using the love language of the person you are trying to reach. If your primary love language is words of affirmation but the other person’s is receiving gifts, complimenting them for being beautiful or brilliant won’t mean nearly as much to them as bringing them a flower or trinket. In other words, if you don’t speak to someone in their primary love language, whatever you say (or do) will be about as effective as speaking to them in a foreign language. 

Recently, in an email, a friend was telling me that she was looking forward to her kids’ visit and that she was planning a few nice meals for that time. She then joked that food is her love language. I knew that she wasn’t talking about her emotional love language, as Chapman meant. She was talking about one of the ways she expresses her love to others. Anyway, I was amused by the idea of food as a love language and I said so, adding that I can relate. 

She wrote back right away and said she was sure that I did “get it”. She mentioned the way I try new recipes, making detailed notes on them and then sharing those (comments included) that I think are good, and my cookie of the summer phase. She then wrote, “I see those as acts of love.” I was flattered that she cared enough to pay such close attention to my behaviour and delighted that she appreciated my efforts. I felt both heard and validated by my friend, and closer as a result. 

It seems to me that the first step to becoming closer with others – intimate partners and friends – is paying attention to what matters to them. It’s not rocket science – most people give plenty of hints (like annotations on a recipe). And, once you figure out what they appreciate – assuming you care about them – pleasing them will come naturally. 

© 2024 Ingrid Sapona