It’s Valentine’s Day. Again.
Ah, February! Just when we think we’ve emerged from the cocoon of stress and unreasonable expectations that is the holiday season, we slide right into the second month of the year and its pernicious little mid-month greeting card holiday: Valentine’s Day.
Valentine’s Day is irksome because those who may not have a romantic partner on February 14th are often left feeling sad, lonely, worthless and unloveable as we watch people around us receive flowers, candy, engagement rings and other baubles signifying affection on this vaunted day of love.
Have you ever spent Valentine’s Day alone, with no romantic love in your life and none on the horizon?
My first Valentine’s Day after my divorce was ugly. As I nursed my misery with a Chardonnay IV drip and a pint of rocky road, I wondered if anyone would ever love me again. I questioned whether it was better to be in a marriage that wasn’t working than it was to feel the emptiness that filled me at that time. Isn’t that odd and ironic: that we can be so consumed, so filled, by a lack of something?
If you are reading these words and find yourself dreading Saturday’s annual “look at how much we love each other!” squee-fest, I have an alternative for you to consider:
BE YOUR OWN VALENTINE
Are you rolling your eyes? I know, I know, this isn’t exactly an original thought, but bear with me for a moment.
I have a deep admiration for and yet niggling suspicion of people with a strong sense of self-worth and self-esteem. In fact, I have long ridiculed the age-old truism that one must love oneself before one can truly can love others because I think that’s a myth.
How do I know that? The same way you do: I have often wrestled with the concept of self-love while utterly sure that I held true love for others in my life: my husband, my family, my child, my friends. I didn’t understand what loving myself even meant, much less how it feels and the impact it could have upon my other relationships.
I wanted to love and respect myself. Unfortunately, I was standing in the wrong line when those personality traits were handed out. Instead I was tapping my toe impatiently in the “Derives Identity From What Others Think of Her” line, where I had just come after waiting my turn in the “I’m Ugly and Worthless” queue.
It is very difficult to dive inward and explore who you are and what you need because it feels selfish and self-centered: two things most people (but especially most women) are trained from childhood not to be. If you are lucky enough to have some sort of crisis that precipitates deep introspection (for me it was a job loss) you can turn your bad experiences into self-knowledge by asking yourself some very tough questions, such as:
How did I get here?
Where do I want to be?
How do I get there?
What matters to me most?
If you are single and find that your biggest problem in life is your lack of a partner, something is wrong. Yes, we all want someone to share our lives with - that’s quite natural. However, if your focus is being half of a couple, you haven’t learned yet about who you are: what drives you, what pleases you, what makes you proud, and what you should avoid.
I was an unhappy lawyer for 16 years until I finally chucked it all to do something different. Has it been easy? No. Not even close. But do I love what I’m doing?
The most shocking part of my mid-life transformation from lawyer to writer is not that I am happier from day to day and it isn’t that I am more productive, creative and clever than I was in my former profession. The biggest surprise for me has been the enrichment of my relationships.
My marriage is better.
My mother-son relationship is better.
My friendships are better.
My family relationships are better.
I’ve taken the liberty to rewrite the age-old truism “you must love yourself before you can love others.” Are you ready?
You will love others better when you know yourself best.
So if this Valentine’s Day finds you single and alone, revel in the joy that can spring from solitude and independence and do some deep thinking on how you can make yourself a happier person. Identify a problem in your life and determine with specifics and a road map what alternative scenario would make you happy, and get ‘er done.
I know I’m supposed to do what all the other writers are doing and tell you to get yourself a card or buy yourself flowers or treat yourself to a massage, but I’m not going to let you off that easy. This year, if you want to be your own Valentine, get to know yourself and begin to chart your course for a happier future.
OK, OK, go get a massage and some tulips too.