I’m not sure how you feel about Valentine’s Day, but I think we should talk about it.
I mean, sure, it’s a woefully commercialized “holiday” that comes loaded with cheap candy and cheesy greeting cards. And the pressure to get a date or give the perfect gift … ugh! It’s a celebration that provokes such loneliness for some, and feelings of inadequacy and disappointment for others. I get headaches from rolling my eyes at all the jewelry commercials. Seriously, nothing says “I love you” like sparkly stones mined by child slaves in exploited third-world countries.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not jaded and bitter about love. On the contrary, I’m a huge fan of love, and that is what I really want to talk about. And, since I’m fond of bullet points, and not great at segues, I’m just going to jump right into the 11 things I have to say about Valentine’s Day and love.
Number two: When I was six, some missionary friends of my wonderful grandparents visited for a week. I spent a lot of time with them. I can’t remember their faces, but I can distinctly recall the wind up musical teddy bear they gave me as they departed, and the tune it played. Years later I heard the same tune on the radio, this time with full vocals and melodies. The irony wasn’t lost on me that my grandparents’ elderly friends, who devoted their lives to spreading what they deeply believed was love (the Word of God), gave me a toy with this message: “What the world needs now is love, sweet love.” And it’s still true! We need more love in this world. A lot more! Click here to hear Jackie DeShannon’s original recording of this gem!
Number three: I just learned that in Ancient Greek there are 8 different words for love. I love this! (See what I did there? Two “loves,” two different meanings.) Why do we have just one word for love? I mean, our word is so contextually dependent. How many of us have ended a phone call or a brief encounter and casually said, “OK, bye. I love you!”? How many of us have stood in front of a romantic partner and trembled nervously as we looked into their eyes and said “I love you” for the first time? How many of us have sat with a dying loved one and, holding their hand, said “I love you. It’s OK”? How many of us have held a newborn, our hearts nearly bursting, knowing that “I love you” barely scratched the surface of our feelings? There are so many different kinds of and ways to love, but sometimes it gets confusing, awkward and difficult to convey which one we mean. I wish we had more words for love. A lot more!
Number four: I still make homemade Valentines with my kids. None of us are particularly crafty, but to me there’s something so heartfelt about homemade Christmas ornaments and Valentines. Plus, I want them to grow up thinking in terms of what they can make and do for others, not just what they can buy. I have no doubt that to some folks our homemade treasures seem embarrassingly simple and unpolished, but I bet many others can feel that when we sit down together and make these things, it is an act of love which they now hold.
Number five: Who you love is your business, not mine or anyone else’s. We should never feel ashamed of who we love, whatever their gender, race, sexual orientation, age, religion, or social-economic status. Love is a gift, never a curse, and we should all find a way to be happy for anyone lucky enough to share that gift with someone else.
Number six: And if we change our minds about who we love, that’s OK, too. It is possible, and may even be necessary, to disengage from romantic love to form another version of love; maybe the kind of love that’s built on respect and compassion for the other humans we share ourselves with. I’m not saying “let’s just be friends” is going to work (although sometimes it does – I actually am living proof), I’m just saying that love can change forms just as water turns from a vapor, to a liquid, to the solid we see a lot of these days (you know… snow and ice… cause it’s wicked cold out!)
Number seven: Let’s not forget about self love! Have you thought about what that means? What it REALLY means? I’ve heard the term forever, and to be honest, I thought it was B.S. I imagined my job in life was to find a partner to love, have children to love and continue to love my friends and family. They, in return, would love me and I’d feel really great about it all. I wouldn’t need self love, I’d “barter” my love for theirs and everything would be fine. So I thought, until one day in a massage school, a guest teacher/massage therapist mentioned purchasing a new piece of equipment. She said, “This will reduce wear and tear on my body. It was expensive, but I love myself and I want to do this work when I’m 70.” Wait, I thought, making good choices about your career and future counts as self love? My mind was blown, and I suddenly started to see all kinds of choices and behaviors as acts of self love, or its opposite. This has led me on an odyssey: sometimes dark and scary, sometimes bright and beautiful, trying to look at my past and present behavior through the lens of self love. The hardest part, by far, has been realizing that it is not enough to simply give love to others so that you can live off the love they give back to you. You have to love yourself first because then you can give love to others with no expectation of an exchange. No bartering here. This is the freedom that leads to unconditional love, which is pretty much what we all need to give.
Number 8: I’m kind of a sucker for emo music. . . there’s this one song that I like, with these lines: “Slow down. Look up. Stop acting so tough. Say I love you way too much. And if it kills you, so what?” Maybe you’re not zooming through life, trying not to show your weakness, but I sure as heck am, and I like being given permission to chill out a bit . . . and to say “I love you”. Because as we’re dying, will we we regret letting someone know they are loved? Probably not. I think my 7 year old took these lyrics to heart because most days he tells me he loves me several times an hour. It seriously never gets old.
Number nine: Do you like Ted Talks? Me too! This one was so good, I just had to share. He echos a lot of my feelings on the topic of love, and has a great breakdown of the different kinds of loves we have in our lives. The Sun, the Lighthouse and the Disco Ball . . . So great!
Number ten: In my early 20s I was celebrating Valentine’s Day with a new boyfriend. I had told him I liked chocolate covered caramels, so he gave me a box of turtles, pecans covered in caramel, dipped in chocolate. What did I do? I ate the chocolate and caramel off the pecans and threw the nuts out the car window as we drove down the road. What a brat!! And now that you know what a disaster I am at romance, maybe you can lighten up about this holiday too?
Number eleven: You guessed it. I love you! So sue me!
OK, that’s what I have to say about Valentine’s Day. Don’t forget that I’m also a massage therapist and if you want to gift yourself or someone else you love with a massage, I can make that happen.