Thursday, February 14, 2013

Have Yourself a Merry Little Valentine's Day

One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life:
That word is love.
- Sophocles

Valentine's Day has all kinds of cans hanging off the end of it: expectations, frustrations, loneliness, memories, new relationships, old relationships, sex, self-loathing, self-love, giving, gratitude, family, friends, and animals. We go out or stay in. And EVERYONE has something to say on the subject. Some people love the holiday. Some people love the idea of the holiday. Some people are upset they don't have someone special to share it with. Some people gleefully enjoy the "We're Single" romp out and about. Some people eat way too much ice cream while watching "Eulogy." (Look it up, it's fantastic.) Some people spends days and weeks preparing for their kids' Valentine's Day parties at school. Some people cut out paper hearts and set out dishes of heart-shaped chocolates and conversation hearts. Some people decorate the whole house. Some people write new songs commemorating break ups or glorifying love. Some people go all out and spend insane amounts of money on each other. Some people simply exchange notes. Some people start relationships, some commit to relationships, some end relationships. Every year we are inundated with how other people feel about a holiday some describe as a "Hallmark Holiday." So, I'll add to the flood.

Valentine's Day is a set day when all of us can come out of our emotional closets and say "I love you" to whomever we please. Sure, we should say it every day, we should say it, write it, sing it, show it every day. But most of us don't. For whatever reason we just don't. Having a specific day is good. Sure, just like any holiday, we can drown ourselves in expectations. It's easy to do. I do it nearly every year with every holiday, especially now that I have kids. Trying to create memories and traditions for them is a daunting task. Add to that the pressure of enlivening my relationship with my husband and the insanity that is Panic Disorder and you could have the perfect storm. BUT, starting with last Christmas, I'm doing pretty well at keeping my expectations in order, keeping the budget down (or at least just reasonable), and making myself feel that I've done enough. Having a specific day to say "I love you" takes me out of my usual reflexive "I love you"s and gives me a deadline to make sure it is special. It gives me time to reflect on WHY I love who and what I do. It gives me a medium to express it. It gives me an opportunity to teach my children about the importance of love and showing love. My conversations with Keats about Valentine's Day have been my favorite so far. Christmas was fun (he was obsessed) but I feel like Valentine's Day is a holiday that truly anyone can celebrate without thinking twice (and yes, I know it's based on several saints, etc.). It is purely about love, gratitude, and charity. Even historically. It hasn't been so fully switched about as other major holidays.

Admittedly, I get a little confused when people demand they hate Valentine's Day. Really? You hate expressing love? Sure, sometimes the day falls a bit too close to raw feelings, but there is always someone to say "I love you" to. (And yes, I have a sentences ending in prepositions problem.) To me, it's important to remember that Valentine's Day didn't start off celebrating romantic love. That started around Geoffrey Chaucer's time (about eleven centuries after the first Valentinus was imprisoned and executed). Before I was settled and happy within my romantic sphere, Valentine's Day was always a bit rough. I not-so-quickly learned that I needed to move my attentions to others: friends, family, strangers and myself. Love is universal, all-encompassing, sweeping, and well, lovely. It can be as simple as a smile on the street and as extravagant as a world tour. I love Valentine's Day. It's my favorite holiday. Busy lives and horrendous events be damned. At the end of the day, I will remember love. In the night, I'll dream of love. And when it's all over for me (hopefully in very, very many years) I hope I'll be remembered in love.

Happy Valentine's Day!

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