Valentine’s Day is upon us. It’s a day when couples proclaim their love for one another, and hearts and chocolates seem to rain down from the sky. Yesterday, I saw a brief article on the origins of Valentine’s Day. It talked about everything from how St. Valentine was arrested for marrying young couples to the Pagan Festival of Lupercalia. A simple Google search will provide you with tons of details, if you are so inclined. For the purpose of this blog post, however, I want to focus on one key element; the celebration of love has been around for centuries.
Although I spent almost twenty years in some sort of relationship, last year was the first time I actually celebrated Valentine’s Day since I was in high school. And this year, I couldn’t care less that it is happening. During my entire marriage, I found the idea of this holiday annoying at best. It represented everything that was missing from my marriage. My husband blew it off as a Hallmark holiday, and I stopped believing in the love of fairy tales long before I was even married. It was hard for me to comprehend finding a man worthy of any of the cards I saw out there.
Let’s fast forward to my single years. When I first entered my singledom, Valentine’s Day would sneak up on me like a cruel joke. I carried a lot of sadness, and this day of love and happiness served as a cruel reminder of how alone I really was. It represented the cold reality that no one wanted me, a belief that I carried long after the divorce.
But, as I traveled down my path to recovery, I started to view this day from a different perspective. What if Valentine’s Day was a celebration of the love of those who are important to us? What if I took the romance part out of it? This view gave me a much brighter outlook. On Valentine’s Day, I would focus on all the love I had to give and all the love that I received in return.
That love, the love of my family and friends, was so much more important than the false love of the wrong man. My life had shown me, in more ways than one, that having a man standing next to you is not the same as having a man standing with you. True love is not being in a relationship or having someone buy you flowers. True love is having people around you that care for you, sometimes even, more than you care for yourself.
So, for the past several years, I focused on making Valentine’s Day a day to remember all those who love me unconditionally. Every time I saw a Valentine’s heart or post, I remembered those who loved and cared for me when I needed it most. I was thankful that some of my friends and relatives had found someone to share their romantic love with, and I was hopeful that those who were struggling would stay positive. I focused on loving those who were important to me and on loving myself.
When the right man did come into my life, I struggled with letting go for fear of getting hurt again. But he showed me what true love looks like. He didn’t try to win me over with fancy dinners or over-the-top compliments. He didn’t try to rush me past my own fears or hang-ups. Instead, he stood by me and built me up. He tore down my walls with support and kindness, and he showed me what true love looks like.
Last year, we celebrated our first Valentine’s Day doing something we both enjoy, going to a park. Every day since, we have celebrated love in our words, gestures, and support for one another. This year, as Valentine’s Day is upon us again, I feel no need to do anything different, because everyday, with him, is a celebration of love.
Instead, this year I will be thankful for him as I am the others who have shown me true love. It doesn’t matter what your status is. It doesn’t matter if you are married, divorced, single, or lost your loved one. What matters is that you find true love in those who are willing to share it with you. Celebrate the love you have in your life and you will find that your self-love will grow. That is the hardest love to come by. When you love yourself, you are a bright and shining light to everyone around you.
The celebration of love is what you make of it. Happy Valentine’s Day, my loves!
Read the Forget Me Not Series here and visit the Forget Me Not Advocacy Group’s website.