I spent the last few days living from a tent at a crowded campground in Slovakia. Perhaps nothing exposes people, families, and relationships more than living all together, out in the open.
Now back at my quiet apartment after a nap, my mind is still filled with so many images, colors, sounds. I remember all the energy, the drunken comments, the shallow laughter, the music and constant scurrying about, but what I don't remember seeing or hearing is a single expression of love.
Of course there was kindness; parents doing so much for their children, children obeying, families and friends coming together. But there were no spontaneous hugs, genuine and unexpected smiles of acceptance, or kisses.
I know that expressions of love are not all that important; love is something else. But when there are no expressions of love, I wonder whether something might be blocking love in those relationships. Surely these people love each other, right? So why can't it be said or expressed?
It seems to me that the problem is expectations. Spouses expect from their partners, parents from children, and so on. When we carry the weight of expectations, we become exhausted and resentful. Love gets blocked. We get bitter. Also, when we place our expectations on loved ones, we become disappointed when they fail to live up. Now begins the nagging, the name calling, the outbursts...all in an attempt to change the person. Now there is no possibility for love to be expressed.
Do not take on the expectations of others; rather, just do your best, as you feel inspired to. Do not expect anything from others; rather, allow them to experience the reality of their decisions and behaviors. Let go of all that pressure, because now there is no possibility of conflict. Dirty dishes or unwashed laundry? Perhaps at times. Maybe even a few hungry bellies. And whoever is bothered may even get inspired to do something about it.
When we gently let the reality of all situations be the guide, rather than expectations, we leave room in our hearts for love. If the word "love" is regularly spoken in families, if the gestures of love can be fully enjoyed, everything else will come together perfectly. Not from obligation or threat; rather, from the unlimited energy of free-flowing love.