Operation #LoveBomb

Yesterday I mentioned that I was LoveBombed by Wendi of Bon Appetit Hon.  Well, it turns out, I was the first of many.  Last week on facebook and twitter there were messages popping up all over from people who had received a LoveBomb from Wendi.  We invited Wendi to our table today to share the inspiration behind her Operation #LoveBomb.

Operation Love Bomb would never have happened if it weren’t for Kristin and Chris Ann.  The Love Feast ladies introduced me to the concept of LoveBombs with their posts about reaching out and sprinkling bits of love in the community.  To paraphrase the official Love Feast Table definition, a LoveBomb is an act of appreciation, an act of making someone feel special, a gift of a meal or morsel shared unexpectedly.

Sounds easy right?  And yet, it requires you to go past the limits of your comfort zone and take a risk.  Risk being rejected or ridiculed.  How many of us say that we value random acts of kindness?  How many of us put those words into action and how many of us let the fear of falling flat on our face keep us from reaching out to another person in even a small way?

I let the fear stop me.  A lot.  I justify it by saying “if I were a better person I would….”  And not just in doing something unexpected for someone else.  I let fear of being turned away creep into the small cracks and crevices of my life.  I let people in but I also keep them at an arm’s distance…the little voice in my head saying “I’ll let you in just as much as I have to but not enough so you can hurt me”.  Just writing those words I realize that I have chosen to exclude so much of the joy that lies beneath the surface because of fear.

Recently, I’ve been admitting to a lot of truths about the fears that I carry on my back like a shell.  These truths that I have always known quietly but never said out loud.  Because in my mind, if I said their names then I would admit to their existence; while if I never uttered the words then I could pretend that they held no power over me.  Ironically, by denying their existence, I gave them complete and unchecked power and control of my life.

I say that The Universe gets me to the places I need to be at the exact moment that I need to be there.  I may not even realize in the moment that something profound is happening. Or there may be an awareness that washes over me that I need to pay attention.  I may not know why, I just know that I do.  And at a later time, the why makes itself known.

It wasn’t until I was surrounded by fellow members of the food blogging community at Big Summer Potluck last month that all of these pieces came together into a clear picture for me.  I was there to connect with people that I mostly “knew” through blogs and tweets.  But what ultimately happened is that I connected with myself.

My cell phone was put away.  I wasn’t checking email or tweeting.  I made a conscious decision to be in the moment…to give up control.  I was listening to Shauna Ahern speak.  As her words reached me I heard her telling me that it’s ok to be vulnerable, to face my fears, not to let myself get in my own way of finding happiness and success, and to show the “messy” parts of my life to others. That sometimes there are things that you absolutely have to say and trying to ignore them will simply give them more power.  In that moment, I knew why I have struggled with finding the words for BAH.  I have been trying to ignore the words that needed to be said because they scared me.

It was being out of my normal routine, away from the usual barriers that I put up to avoid these “truths”, that I finally acknowledged them.  There was no laundry to do, no dishes to wash, no food to cook.  Once those were stripped away and I was surrounded by these people who valued me for me that I could finally have the courage to admit to my own profound sense of loss for the imperfect relationships in my life.  With my family.  With my friends.  With myself.  It was powerful in a way that I could have never anticipated.

I had made a comment during one of the discussions that for me, that day would be pivotal in my life.  That I would look back years from now and see that something important had happened to me during the Big Summer Potluck experience.  It didn’t take quite so long for me to see this change unfold.

At the end of the day, back at the hotel, I finally pulled out my phone.  And I saw a string of missed calls and messages from family members.  And I knew that whatever had been said in those messages was not good.  Both of my parents were terminally ill.  One was in hospice care and the other had recently undergone another round of treatment to try and prolong the inevitable.  It was merely a question of which parent it was.

It was my mother.

To say that our relationship had been difficult would be an understatement.  I had drawn a boundary over the years.  I could not reconcile my sense of empathy for her as a person with my sense of disappointment for the pain that she had caused me as a parent.  From the outside it looked as though I was cold and uncaring.  But I protected myself…I carried too much hurt at her hands.  I thought that her death would merely be a physical end to the emotional relationship that I had walked away from years ago.  I expected it to be easy.  I expected it to be a relief.

It wasn’t.

In as much as I place my faith, whatever it is I have, in The Universe, I knew that I was where I needed to be to get that news.  And in the first step of facing my fears, I reached out to people and showed the messy side of my life.  I reached out to my community and they gave me unconditional support.

I took another step in facing my fears when I returned home.  I wrote about what had happened and I posted it on my blog.  For all the world to see and judge me by. I talked about feeling conflicted and about the letter I got after her death.  It felt right to finally get it out, to let those words live, to set them free.

And once again, this community of mine embraced me.  Through emails and comments and tweets they let me know that I was not alone.  Their act of reaching out gave me the security to be and feel and sort through all of the changes that were swirling around my world.  Their care and concern told me that I was special and valuable and worthy.

The Pantry Poet was a recipient of Operation LoveBomb

As I began to write thank you notes to as many of these people as I could get addresses for, the notion of sending out LoveBombs took hold.  I wanted to do more than just say the words “thank you”.  I wanted to put them into action.  I wanted to communicate to each individual that I value them and that my world is a better place because of them.  So I did what I knew best.  I used food to connect us.

I did not announce my plan.  I just put it in motion.  I measured and mixed and baked.  I packaged and stamped and sent.  And as these LoveBombs landed, my heart filled with joy.  The simple act of taking a moment made someone else feel special.  Made them feel valuable and worthy.  Reminded them that despite whatever struggle they are facing, they are not alone.

Every day since my mother died, I have asked The Universe to help me face my fears and better understand how to live a life of compassion, humanity, and grace.  And maybe that’s all a LoveBomb is.

We want to thank Wendi for joining us at the table today.  If you are inspired by her Operation LoveBomb and want to drop your own, feel free to grab a badge HERE and make sure you stop back and share with us what you did! We’d love to hear.