It was supposed to be a quick visit. I was dropping off some things at a friend’s house. I adamantly told her that we didn’t need to come inside her home. We were going to have a driveway chat and just go about our lives. While I was incredibly happy to see her, this would have been a blip in an otherwise busy day.
As I was about to leave, my friend said it, “Just in case I haven’t told you, I love you.”
I felt the suffocating awkwardness that you feel the first time you hear this phrase from anyone other than your mother. I was floored. And yet, my heart sang. I adore and admire this friend. To feel those words placed over me, like a blessing, was exactly what I needed. I gave her a hug, told her, “you too!” and hopped in my car. She still doesn’t know how much that small exchange meant to me.
I let the moment pass without returning the sentiment like I should have. I felt uncomfortable. I should have embraced the silence in the air. I should have swallowed the lump in my throat and told her that a dark cloud of depression clung to my shoulders like a shrug. I should have confessed that I was drowning in the weight of my responsibilities.
Her words instantly ripped away my self-doubt and allowed me to exist in the world outside of the shadows. I mattered. Someone would notice if I was gone. She forced me to stop and told me that she saw me.
But I just said, “you too!” and rushed away.
“I Love you” happened months ago and I can’t shake the happiness that it brings me when I think of it. She could have heaped compliments on me or told me that she admired me. That would have felt nice, but it wouldn’t have had the effect of the brief and simple phrase of a genuine “I love you.” Those words come without obligation. It is selfless and trusting like no other phrase. It took bravery, candidness, and trust for her to bear open her heart and utter those sacred words.
I grew up in a home where love wasn’t talked about. We told each other in many different ways, but we typically didn’t say it. As a result of this omission, I say it to my children as often as I can. But I have never extended the sentiment beyond the borders of my immediate family. That needs to change.
The next time you talk to a friend that you consider a soul sister, someone you envision keeping in your life forever, tell them. Take a deep breath. Say, “I love you” and wait. They don’t have to say anything back. Chances are, they are going to feel awkward just like I did. They might even change the subject. But if you say it properly, they will hear you. Life is short. True and genuine connections are what make life worth living. Don’t let those people pass through your life without letting them know how significant they have been to you.
I’ll still say, “text me when you get home,” “I don’t know what I would do without you,“ and “I was thinking about you today.” But I’m making it a point to make that next step and really express myself to those few special friends I’m lucky enough to have in my life. Find the love and amplify it. We can all use more of it in our world.