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What comes mind when you think about the word “love”? Do you think about your partner, child/children, parents, friends, pets? Do you think about the lack of love in your life or the abundance of it?

Do you love the people you work or study with? Do you love sunshine, your favorite shirt, a good book or a movie, a song? Do you love the trees you walk by, the old man and lady walking together slowly, the person working at the supermarket check out, colorful houses?

Love. It’s a big word, at least for me. And it’s an important word. In my childhood, I didn’t hear the word “love” used. In my surroundings, parents liked their children, people liked their friends and they enjoyed their homes, hobbies and movies. I don’t remember ever hearing my parents ever say that they loved each other. I don’t remember hearing the word at all. Maybe my Barbie loved Ken, in my imagination.

I think I first used the word “love” when I had a boyfriend at age of 18. I told him I loved him and he said he loved me. I learned to use that word with him. I’m now smiling and and feel warmth while thinking about my life back then. No laptops, no emails, no mobile phones. Stress and hurriedness was less fashionable. We listened to music on Walkmans, cassette tapes and LP albums. Television here in Finland had three channels.

What comes to your mind about your childhood right now? How was the word “love” used in your family? How was love shown in your childhood?

Do you remember when you first expressed love to someone else?

I come from Finland and we Finns are many times modest and careful with words. Exaggeration or superlatives are not traditionally part of the Finnish style. Modesty is regarded as a virtue. I’m still learning to use the word “love.” With my husband, Pete, and with my son it’s easy. With my parents: a little bit more tricky. With my grandparents easy though they are long dead. Saying “I love you” to my friends is something I only began doing in recent years. I loved them all along though I just didn’t say it our loud.

To people I haven’t known for very long, saying “I love you” is still new and exciting and even a little scary to me. I love nature. I love my cabin by the lake. I love pink sunshine, beautiful scenery, birds, plants and good coffee. That’s easy for me. But expressing love to people I don’t know so well? They might get scared or uncomfortable. They might misunderstand my expression of emotion for something of a sexual or romantic nature. Or they might not love me back…

At a recent weekend workshop that I led, I realized that I loved everyone in that workshop. These were people whom I’d only just met a couple days earlier. I wanted to express that in a Facebook post and yet hesitated. Is that weird? Will someone judge me for it or make themselves feel odd? Do people think I’m over the top, part of some all-positive-hippydippy-gratefulness-cult? Don’t I know life is shit, too?

Quite a lot to process from one word. Whose voice was that in my head? A bit my dad saying: “Don’t stand out.” Or my mom saying: “Act normal; don’t be demanding/difficult/selfish.” And me: “I’m Finnish; Finns don’t exaggerate and aren’t overly expressive. I should control my emotions and remain neutral.” Now the word “love” is screaming: “I’m here! This is you! Fuck other people’s expectations! Fuck your fear!”


Is there anyone in your life telling you to be less? How do you limit yourself? How do you stop yourself from feeling and expressing love? Or do you?

I love people whom I don’t know very well. I see a person on the street smiling and I feel this warm sensation in my tummy and I want to smile, too. That, to me, is love. That’s feeling a connection, recognizing another human being. Recognizing the joy in everyday situations and things. Surrendering to the feeling of love.

Do you experience love right now? If not, could you experience love right now?


Tuulia Syvänen

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