As I lay in my bed unable to sleep this morning, it occurred to me that affection seems to be a good word for how I felt quite a few times yesterday.
When I consult a dictionary it lists seven different meanings (and again I think, why is my language so complicated?) but I would say two are rather specialised so I will ignore them:
- Fond attachment, emotion or love;
- As an encompassing entity or realm of love;
- As a disease;
- Influencing or acting upon;
- State of being affected by something.
Some of these seem to require more thinking about than others for instance four and five I think differ depending on whether I am influencing someone, or whether they are influencing me. Is the difference between one and two a matter of generalisation?
I think I tend to use affection in the sense of fond attachment. I am affectionate towards my son because of all the history behind what it means to be my son and for me to be his father. I am also affectionate because he is a good person who attracts other good people, and I am affectionate to these others because of their behaviour but also because they support my son. His friends are interesting people in their own right who are at ease speaking with me and joining in with my family and visitors (e.g. holding the dog lead allowing me to catch Pokemon too). That seems to lead onto defining what I think is a “good person”.
I think my definition of a good person is somebody that is thoughtful of others, supportive and tries to do their best; but I am not sure if I am comfortable with that definition, as it seems rather conditional. What is someone’s “best” and how do I know if they are trying? I was told I was a good friend the other day, why was that? According to my friend it was because I was able to point out how hard she was being on herself, that her expectations given the circumstances were unrealistic. I was trying to be understanding and supportive but I took a risk in giving my interpretation of the situation. It is a risk because sometimes people are unable to hear a different viewpoint without feeling criticism but it isn’t saying their view is bad, just that there are other ways at looking at the situation. I guess a good friend is then somebody who is able to give a different viewpoint perhaps whilst being reassuring about the original view.
When I think about it though, it is important to be able just to listen to others but listen in a way that is supportive and encouraging. I think this must come first before any other viewpoints are expressed if they are expressed at all; sometimes just challenging a friend’s assumption is enough for them to look at something differently. When I think back about announcing to my friends on Facebook that I had chronic depression, I had a lot of people telling me about how they had depression too and even that some of them had been suicidal in the past. They were telling me that it will pass, don’t give up hope but I was left reeling from their revelations and I felt more depressed than reassured. I think I just wanted to be heard at that time, I couldn’t handle anybody else’s issues.
I guess a good friend will then generate affection; what else generates affection in me? When I think about things that I have affection for the list is rather long. There are the inanimate objects like my recorders, my bikes, my Le Creuset saucepans; objects to which I have affection because of the experiences we have shared together. Then there are the more dynamic things like the garden, the bees on my flowers, and the birds nesting in the garden; I guess I have affection for them because they enable me to take pleasure and are there because of some effort on my part. Next up comes pets that show affection the most of important of which is my dog. My poodle seems to be completely besotted with me, he waits outside my bedroom in the morning, goes bonkers with happiness every time I appear (even if I have popped out to the car for a few seconds) and will contentedly sit near or on me for unlimited time just because it is me (which causes some annoyance with the youngest member of my household). I have to say I feel unworthy of this loyalty; sometimes I don’t go for walks with him, sometimes I don’t feed or brush him, and sometimes I get annoyed with him when really it is other things in my life that are annoying me. I feel I don’t deserve his affection.
It would seem that I believe affection is conditional when it is given to me. I suppose this is something I learnt during my childhood and I think it really hinders me as an adult. I have real problems letting people be affectionate to me; I will discount their actions, feel unsure about hugs and handshakes, and flatly blank out compliments to me. It takes a real effort on my part just to listen to appreciation, to affection and not pass judgement on it; accepting it is true is even harder. I find I need people to be blunt to me; I need to be told affectionate things but mostly I think I need to tell people how much I appreciate them. It is happening thankfully; but practice make perfect as they say, though I am definitely not looking for perfection!