According to Wikipedia, Valentine’s Day evolved in 18th-century England as an occasion for lovers to express their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering chocolates, and sending greeting cards. Nowadays, we spend hours writing out cards for our children’s classmates, if we’re single it can be just an annoying holiday, and for some of us, it’s just a Hallmark event lathered with guilt, cheesiness and pretension.
But is this what it’s really about?
A day that celebrates love. It sounds pretty nice. One day of the year that celebrates the very basis for all human connection and in my opinion, the reason we’re all here on this planet. So why then must any of us begrudge it? Maybe it’s because the basic understanding of what is being celebrated is laboring under a misapprehension.
Sure, love can mean feeling a little sick sometimes
When I was in the eighth grade I was so passionately in love with my art teacher that every time he walked into the classroom it was a little hard for me to breathe. Wearing his M.C Hammer denims every single day, and sporting his disheveled salt and pepper hair I thought he was a certain kind of perfect. His deep voice, his hearty chuckle, and his glistening eyes—it was all I thought about every night in my tween bed. I had been introduced to lust.
On the last day of junior high as all of my friends were rejoicing and singing liberating songs of school being out forever, I found myself slowly walking along next to them with an awful, debilitating feeling. “What is wrong with you?” my friend asked. I just shook my head, silently recounting all the times he’d spoken to me, shown me a technique with a paint brush, and said, “I just can’t believe we’re never going back there again.”
And although I look back now and chuckle at my younger, hormonal, constantly crushing teenage-self, it was that gut-wrenching, heart-gripping, chest-dropping, belly-aching, feeling that only results from one thing: love.
But isn’t love more than that romantic, tricky, promiscuous, mysterious thing that we tend to box it up as?
Beyond the butterflies and ‘happy endings’, it’s intertwined in all of the idiosyncratic, unexplainable, wonderful things we do for one another.
It was that time in my twenties when my roommate dragged herself out of bed on a Saturday morning (something she hated to do) and joined me for breakfast, because that’s all I wanted to do.
It was that time when my brother sent me a book about parenting sensitive children because he saw that I was parenting a sensitive kid.
It was that compliment that came out of nowhere and landed right where it needed to land at the exact perfect time.
It was that time when I hugged my friend as she was upset, even though it was quiet and a bit uncomfortable, she relaxed into my arms and cried.
It was that time when my sister fainted during the delivery of my baby because her empathy for my pain drew her breathless.
It is every time my dad tells me about my mom.
It is every time my stepmom says that it’s fine that we talk about my mom.
It is the first second of every morning when I see my sons as if I haven’t seen them in months.
It is when my husband randomly takes my hand while we’re watching T.V.
It is when my best friend tells me she misses me because we haven’t seen each other in a week. And I know she means it.
Love is everywhere
If Valentine’s Day is the celebration of love, then we shouldn’t be fussing about where to go for dinner with our partner or feeling lonely because we’re not celebrating with someone. It should be the day of reminding us that love is all around, all the time, everywhere. It lives inside the things we do for one another, the way we feel when our crush walks in the room, the support we give and get from our friends, the unexpected kiss from our longtime partner, the boo boo we need to kiss because we are the only ones who can make it go away.
Love is the respect we have for someone; it is the ease with which we give of ourselves in a moment when selfishness feels innate. It’s all around us, but that doesn’t mean we always see it. Its obviousness may be apparent to the openhearted, but really, we all have to look for it.
Once it’s found, we realize we wouldn’t be anywhere without it.