It is February 4, 2016.
I am laminating loads of conversation heart papers for my preschoolers to use next week to give them an opportunity to work on their colors, letters, counting, and most likely, eating their weight in “Be mine” and “UR Cool”.
It’s a very soothing and satisfying, slightly mindless activity, laminating, which led me to my first love-Pintrest. Checking out my boards, I found a blog post from last year, and started reading. Looking at my home page, it appears that I haven’t blogged since November, which can’t be true, but it is.
I have written a year’s worth of posts in my head, in snippets and lines, most forgotten before I found paper, pencil, I-Product. And when I have had the clock time to write, words have been nowhere I could find them.
So, to get a post up, I am sharing what I wrote a year ago. Even with a small edit, and though I am a year changed, I still find my heart beats in the space of these words.
You might think, if you knew me, that Valentines Day would be my favorite. Hearts, love notes, sonnets, pink, cute puns, a day dedicated to expressions of love?
Well, it is not my favorite. And, in fact, Valentine’s Day is the worst.
There were two Valentine Days I could say were perfect; I was perfectly happy, perfectly settled, perfectly content.
Eighteen years old. 1991. Secure in myself, no pressure romantically or socially, that day was just one of those charmed days when my mind didn’t mess with me and my heart was beating steady.
What I remember from that day? Coming home from school earlier than my sisters (somehow), popping in a VHS of The Little Mermaid, swiveling the newest model wood encased TV on its base toward my seat,and singing along with my girl Ariel. Also, the sun was streaming through the slider doors, just as it should have.
At eighteen I was still the definition of a hopeless romantic, and Disney, much less Hollywood, did NOTHING to disabuse me of this state.
Thirty three years old. 2006. I hold a snapshot in my head from that Valentine’s Day of me holding my two month old sweetheart Liam (he really is a sweetie), an almost three-year old Haden with a mischievous smile and holding a heart balloon (he really is mischievous) and my parents smiling, holding Haden, with the humming of the coffee shop filling the background.
We were all smiling, laughing at some forgotten something one of us said. And I am happy. Blissfully content and happy. At thirty-three, I was still a romantic, perhaps not hopeless, since life and time and love will dull the shiny exterior that lures us to the fantasy for sale.
I’d then been living with a heart filling new kind of love for three years, that of the love of a child, and that love, it’s all-consuming and you don’t come out the other side of that unchanged.
Those other forty Valentines days?
Of course I remember decorating shoe boxes with construction paper and stickers to catch classmates scribbled Valentines. And I remember plenty of hopeless without the romantic part teenage and early twenties Valentine’s Days whiled away watching Say Anything, Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally and consuming cheap chocolate by the pound.
Also, chocolate. Chocolate has always been a part of every Valentines Day. And can I just say, what did I do before sea salt and chocolate exchanged vows?!? Now that’s a perfect union.
There have also been some pretty awful Valentines Days. I can confidently claim that each of those was due to crazy unrealistic and/or dreamy expectations. Expectations fueled by A. Sleep deprivation. B. Love languages lost in translation. C. Comparison, the root of all discontent. D. Depression/Anxiety/PMDD/PPD.
I can see that now, it’s always clear when you have your bearings and are on the other side of the storm. But those are the Valentines Days that I look at with the most love for…me.
Many of the others are love notes that fill my shoe box full, of people and stories gathered along the way.
But those painfully sharp, and foggy hazed Valentines days? Those are the times that pushed this heart to its very borders.
And then, stretched it.
I love cards, typography, design, a clever turn of phrase; thus, I have an extensive (slightly expensive) collection of perfect cards for every occasion. I learned about writing letters and cards from my grandmas, who sent them to me. And from my mom, who sent them to anyone who needed one.
So in my love/hate relationship with the holiday, if there is something that still attracts me to Valentine’s Day, it would be the words.
Words. In the wrong hands, they’d can be weapons wielded, and we all know the stinging wound that an unkind word or turn of phrase can leave. Or often, the even more painful cut of word unspoken.
But in the right hands, well. The perfect words spoken or recieved at the ideal moment can change the course of our heart’s trajectory.
There have been many ways I’ve tried to fill in the blank space that my heart became every February 14. And with all of the usual suspects.
Flowers are beautiful, but they lose their blush, and wilt and die in a couple of days. Not really an effective illustration of true love.
Chocolate is sweet, but it’s heady pleasure melts as quickly as a birthday candle, its absence felt all the stronger.
Love stories are heart warming and meaningful, usually to those invovled. I do so love a love story.
But if not careful, I become hugely disappointed at the ending because while “they” get to have a happy ending, literally, I am left frustrated and feeling less than by comparison. I become entangled in the pages and scenes on the screen and buy into a narrative that is not my own.
And then there is Cupid. Cupid is creepy.
Yes, I know the St. valentine connection. And that is what gives this holiday hijacked by humans with hearts of varying shapes and sizes any chance to survive.
I shared my confused heart with my husband and a few close friends this fall. I decided to give up. It was clear to me, even in my crisis, that I did not know how to love. I love this person too much, and this one not enough. That one so well and then that one so wrong.
The question for me has never been, Am I capable of love?”
The answer to the equation I had been working for all along was, “Am I worthy of love?”
You can get so caught up in playing the game of love, so wrapped up in the X’s and O’s of the game plan for relationship, that you can become completely unaware of who you are playing for, who you are playing with, of your very own heart.
The decision to give up on Valentines Day is one of the best choices I’ve ever made.
Will I decorate with hearts and send cards to all the different people I love in unique ways?
Will I hunt down and consume the best Sea Salted Chocolate I can find?
Will I put on a Throwback Thursday Epic Love Song Spotify Playlist?
Are we seriously even debating any of this? Time After Time. After Time.
The simple and completely confounding truth is that I found Love. I’ve always known about Love, my whole life in fact. I’ve invited Love in to live with me. Have even had times in my life when I loved the way Love does.
But the thing is, that was on my terms, kept just far enough away with cleverly constructed boundaries so that I couldn’t fully feel True Love.
If you can’t, don’t, will not fully let Love in, you will suffer.
You get hurt in life, yes. People will miss the mark, misunderstand, misinform you.
You will hurt, let down and do the opposite of love to others.
Human love is finite and has a limited vocabulary, and many broken hearts lie on the path to Love.
But come closer. and listen to my voice very carefully. Love. Found. Me. Love. True, unbound, wild, all consuming, undeniable, pursuing, translating, relentless Love found me. Knocked down my flimsily built barriers, took away my weak resistance, and made me look in the mirror and open my eyes to see…Love.
When Love captures you, and you surrender, it feels nothing like losing, and everything like winning.
All those lonely years, waiting on someone to rescue me from my castle tower, I thought that winning love, being loved had to do with my effort. My beauty. My perfection.
And when I finally, finally, last autumn, walked myself out of that fortress and bravely stepped out into the open wide light and laid my weapons down, and gave up-I found out that I had had the equation all wrong.
It wasn’t about me being In love. It never was.
It was, is, and always will be about this-whether I love well, love enough,have happy endings or not, Love never fails.
And finding yourself at the end of this search, this Love story only means that you are at the beginning.
So, give up.