It needs to be said

Sometimes, there are things that need to be said—things I need to say—but I just can’t quite get the words out. I don’t know if it’s guilt for not speaking up sooner, hesitation because I’ve been hurt in the past, or just fear that my intentions will be misunderstood…but I almost always stop myself. It used to be an easy thing for me, but these days, I find it very difficult to say, “I love you.”

I have people I need to say it to; people who matter to me and I want them to know that. Not romantically—there is no romance in my life right now. But there are people with whom I feel a deep bond, and I want them to know how important they are in my life, but…I just stop myself. I’ve become the same way with physical demonstrations, like hugging. I seem to wait for the other person to initiate it. Thank goodness many of them do, or I’d never get hugs.

For me, a hug used to be a random thing that could happen at any time. Now it seems they are relegated to greetings and partings. A recent trip back to where I grew up brought home how much I had changed; how reserved I have become. How solitary I have become. Being hurt when I’ve taken those risks in the past, and spending too much time alone has caused me to pull back into myself. There are so few people I am really comfortable with anymore. I don’t make friends in bunches anymore…just one or two at a time. Sometimes even two is too many.

I am trying to change. I am trying to open up again. I have a few good friends, but they all live too far from me. One is visiting in my area now, and it’s been wonderful to have him around. We have known each other for decades, we see each other every few years, and we still communicate several times a week. He was my cheerleader and encourager as I went through college. He tells me he is proud of me. I don’t do the same for him, although I should. He says he loves me frequently, and I don’t seem to have a problem responding, “Love you, too,” but I’ve come to realize that I rarely, if ever, say it first.

Another friend I’ve known well for a couple of years and have spent a lot of time with was recently deployed to a foreign country, and before he left I desperately wanted to tell him how much I care about him—that I love him dearly as a friend—but I just couldn’t find the right time or the nerve to get the words out. And I should have, because he’s one of my favorite people in the whole world, and I hope there’s never a time when we aren’t friends. At least he hugs. That’s one of the best things about him!

To my shame, I don’t even tell my son I love him as much as I should. But I so cherish the texts I get from him that say he loves me.

I know that when I hesitate, I risk losing the opportunity to let someone know how much I care, but in that awkward moment between longing to express myself and actually doing it, something stops me cold. I want to make the effort to touch, to speak…because you never know when it will be your last chance.

If you care about someone, please find the courage to tell them. Believe me, it needs to be said.