Love Is a Multimedia Event

Many of us long for deeper connection with our loved ones. Sometimes we fail only because we are not willing to accept other people’s language of love. Love is a multimedia event. Each one of us has our preferred media, for example, books. We need to accept that someone else’s preferred media may be music. In one of my favorite parts of Light in the Mirror, Joyce told the story of her father’s show of his love through building shelves for the many houses of our previously nomadic existence.

Another example is our 15-year-old daughter, Mira. Although one part of her is still childlike, sweet and innocent, another part of her is immersed in a different world. Pearl Jam, Bush or R.E.M. are playing nonstop on her boom-box. (Or personal stereo when we can’t take it anymore.) Her bedroom is no longer just a bedroom. It’s a hibernation cave littered with teenage essentials, a place where she can be found most any time, day or night. On her walls, pictures cut from magazines are starting to compete with the animal posters of her childhood. The telephone seems to be the main link to the outer world — her girlfriends.

How does a father enter this world and attempt meaningful connection? Not an easy task. I can listen to and try to appreciate her music (for a little while, anyway). I can make occasionally successful attempts to talk with her about thing I feel are important. I can trade jokes and funny stories with her. She’s very fond of jokes. Or . . .

I can help her with algebra. Before you groan, let me explain.

First of all, she really needs my help. This is important. This opens her to me, allows her to be more receptive to me, allows me into her world. Often, she needs a lot of help. All the better.

Second, it’s not just algebra. Algebra is the background, the media for a potentially bonding experience. While I’m helping Mira with math, there is an invisible energy that is passing from father to daughter and vice versa, an energy that is connecting our hearts, allowing us deeper connection. If she understands a certain problem (the word problems are often the killers for her), it gives me an opportunity to praise her. And I understand that I am not just praising her mental ability, I’m more praising her soul, her whole being. If she doesn’t understand something, which happens often, I have the opportunity to show her patience, respect and gentleness as well as making the learning process interesting.

Sometimes I get frustrated. Despite my efforts, she just doesn’t get it. And I can see her then shrink and contract, a look of sadness on her face. Then I have the chance to forgive myself, apologize for my actions, maybe even talk about something she likes to change the subject and provide a little space for her mind to rest. When we finally come back to algebra, a new lightness has been created.

Finally, we make it fun as much as possible. We giggle and laugh over the most absurd things. Sometimes we laugh so hard we can barely stay in our chairs. This is play at its best, and everyone needs to play as much as possible.

Sometimes, when she has solved her last problem, I can sense a slight hesitation in Mira. It’s as if she really doesn’t want to leave. This seems to especially happen when we’ve had the most fun. Now I have a real opportunity to connect with her. Now we can talk with each other on a deeper level. She always thanks me in the sweetest voice. Sometimes we hug before she leaves.

If ever I find myself feeling worlds apart from Mira, if ever I feel the need to really connect with her, I give sincere thanks for the discovery of algebra.

Is there someone in your life with whom you would like to feel more connected? One of your children? A spouse? A parent or a sibling? A friend or associate? Remembering that love can involve many different media, is there a vehicle you have not discovered as yet, a way to connect that you have perhaps overlooked? There are many ways to connection. How about gardening, walks in nature, favorite sports, yes, even shopping, cooking, or hobbies? Then there’s helping someone with algebra.

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