words of affirmation, acts of service

Today it was about 60°F and intermittently sunny. Tomorrow it’s supposed to get into the 20s, yay central Texas weather. But today turned out to be a solid day for tackling some of the yardwork that’s been lurking.

There’s plenty of cold-season work to do, now that it’s more-frequently cold. Several of our plantings need to be trimmed to the ground each winter, my transplants need water since they’re new, and large leaves covered big swaths of the front and back yards.

I’m not used to this, to fall leaves falling. The yard we had when we moved in 24 years ago was a monoculture of live oaks, which, though leafy, are evergreen. Our 25 oaks would drop their 14 lawn-and-leaf bags’-worth every spring, usually in late March. We had to work quickly, because they smothered everything, and because gathering up the later strands of oak pollen at the same time was just too daunting.

But many of our oaks caught the oak wilt, and as we replanted, we chose plants that are not susceptible to oak wilt. Like Mexican sycamores, with their face-sized leaves. Or Texas ash.

I opted for leaf abatement today. One of the benefits of doing my own yardwork now is that I can do this: blow the leaves from the beds out onto the grass. My lawn-care firm did the opposite, and then I either cleaned out all the leaves from atop those poor plants by hand, or fumed about it. Well, no. That’s not accurate. Sometimes I did both, sometimes I stuck with fuming.

But not now! I chased the leaves into our open spaces, reversed the blower, and vacuumed the leaves into bags. I started working at about 9 in the morning, and was trucking right along at 12:30pm when My Sweetie came out back.

“Wow, sweetie, this looks great! You’ve really done a lot! I’m about to go to the grocery store…”

I brightened. I stood up a little taller. And I realized that, after nearly 25 wedded years, we seem to have incorporated the core strategy in Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages into our behavior.

Because there I was, caring for our home’s outdoors. Which is something My Sweetie used to take the lead on, but now I do: an act of service.

Acts of service are not my preferred love language. (The five are gift giving, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service (devotion), and physical touch.) They are one of My Sweetie’s defaults, however, as you might guess for someone whose chief expression of love is to feed people. One of Chapman’s key insights, I think, is that most of the hurt feelings around, “My partner doesn’t love me!!” stem from one person expressing their love via the language they themselves crave most.

Big mismatch, that. Depending on the recipient, the overflowing affection might never even register as such. Then you run the risk of one building resentment and one feeling unloved… boom.

But not at my house. Because there was My Sweetie, Mr. Acts of Service, reaching out to his sweetie with words of affirmation. (Yeah, a poet craves words. Shocking.) He’s repeated his verbal appreciation a few more times today, too.

 

Though he also raked my blown-but-scattered leaves into more substantial piles before he headed out.
“I really think it will be easier, maybe faster. Are you going to eat lunch when you finish?”

I do so love Mr. Acts of Service.

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