Reflections on Love

It is February 13th. The stores are filled with roses, bouquets, beautiful boxes of candy and chocolates of every description; bakery windows are stuffed with heart-shaped cakes, cookies, and pink-frosted confections. Red streamers, glittering pink and red banners, teddy-bears, plushy bunnies and puppies, and even jewelry are prominently displayed everywhere I look. Valentine's Day is at hand, and here I am, single.

Valentine's Day as we celebrate it today is a holiday for lovers. Sweethearts buy each other flowers, candy, and other gifts. They make plans, have dinner, or go away for the weekend. Couples get engaged on Valentine's Day. There is a coalition of singles, an unspoken cadre of the unattached, who are supposed to be anti-Valentine's Day. They make plans to pig out on pizza and bash the idea of love and relationships. My married, or coupled, friends are careful not to talk about their Valentine's plans when I'm around. They don't talk about the gifts they gave or received. They are trying to be kind, and not to remind me of what I don't have. It really is sweet of them. But I don't hate Valentine's Day.

Of course, the first Valentine's Day after my divorce was especially difficult. I remember being alone in my small apartment. My kids were with their father for the weekend, and I spent the day doing laundry and feeling sorry for myself. My ex-husband and I did not make much of Valentine's Day when we were married, but this was the first Valentine's Day in twenty-one years that I had spent solo. I had been in a relationship post-divorce, but it was unhealthy and ended in violence right before Christmas. I did not regret that ending, but it was still hard, being alone. All I wanted was for the miserable day to end quickly.

In the Valentine's Days since then, I have been in and out of relationships. Some of those holidays were very special, some less so. The last one I spent in relationship was in 2014. It should have been a lovely, meaningful day for us, our second together. But coldness and distance had entered our lives, and I was holding on hard, while all he could think of was letting go. When that attachment ended, I thought the loss would kill me. I understood, after a while, that I could be okay on my own; more than that, that I could be happy, even fulfilled, on my own. I believed that I could not live alone, that I would be miserable without a man in my life, but I learned that I am complete in myself. More, I learned to love myself.

Someday, when the right person comes into my life and I find myself in a relationship again, it will be because that is what I want - because I care enough about that person to share my life. It will not happen because I am afraid I can't be on my own, or afraid to grow old alone. That relationship will be everything beautiful, because I will not be in it out of fear or desperation. That relationship will be all about love.

In the meantime, I will celebrate love. It is all around me - in my friends, in my family, in my pets, and my relationship with God. In learning to love myself, I have been able to look at the world and everyone in it through loving eyes. This morning, I went out for groceries and I bought myself a dozen lovely pink roses. This weekend, my younger daughter and I will cook something special together; she is making raspberry-filled chocolate cupcakes, and I will be making basil pesto chicken alfredo. We may play Scrabble or watch a movie. If she wasn't here, I might go out to enjoy live music or a movie on my own.

I guess that the moral of this story - or the point of it, if there is one - is that we don't have to wait for others to show us love. It is all around us, all the time. We just need to tap into the right frequencies to feel it. In other words, we need to love ourselves and others to feel the love that is with us and around us. God created this world in love, created humankind in love, and created us with the capacity to feel great love for each other. Whenever we love, we are living as God wanted us to. Valentine's Day is as good a time as any to practice loving, and to celebrate love, and that is exactly what I intend to do.


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