February 16, 2011

Maybe It's Me: It's Not Inconsequential, Vain, or Callous After All, or," Love, Love, Love (Love, Love)"

For years I’ve viewed Valentine’s Day as a blatantly commercialized holiday that was created to play on the hearts of the guilty whom spend every other day of the year too busy to express their love, so on this one day they do so in some over-exaggerated romantic gesture they wouldn’t dream of doing on any other random day throughout the year. As if one day of expressing their love makes up for the rest of the year it goes understated or assumed.

Valentine’s Day is the very culmination of every negative thing stereotypical corporate America stands for: mass-manufactured, pressure to perform, greed, jealousy, expectations, demand, and consumerism.

It’s also a relatively exclusive holiday – while conceptually the day is about embracing love, it ends up being executed in a mainstream manner that denies all forms of love unless it’s specifically the relationship-kind. What about the familial kind of love? Or the platonic kind? What about the self-appreciation kind of love?

This dislike and discontent with the holiday wasn’t borne of some romance gone sour. I’ve had multiple lovely past Valentine’s Days. For example, when I lived in England my best friend at the time put me on a V-Day related scavenger hunt which concluded with a massage at a spa.

And it’s not like I grew up in an anti-Valentine’s day home. For that matter, I didn’t grow up in a pro- one either. But my mom instilled in us the idea that everything – all people, places, and things – should mean something to us. That the people in our worlds, the places we travel, the material things we surround ourselves should never be inconsequential. I could never really see the point of Valentine’s Day because of the overwhelming vanity and callousness to it, so to me, February 14th has always been meaningless.

That being said, I guess I never considered that this specific holiday could be manipulated in a way that would be hand-tailored to my non-traditional, indie, free-spirited needs.

And maybe it’s me, but it’s always nice – especially as we get older and more set in our ways - to gain a new perspective on something old or even come to appreciate something which we might have been indifferent to before.

I knew what I wanted from my perfect Valentine’s – a day of rest and relaxation. Something I don’t frequently get to enjoy any more. I just didn’t want to particularly do anything. Sleeping in, bumming around, and letting the day pass organically as opposed to me forcing my schedule out of it was I wanted. And I if I could do so with my boyfriend, well, that wouldn’t be bad either.

And while I got exactly what I wanted on my Valentine’s Day this year, I also got much more than I could have ever anticipated from what proved to be one very charming day. And while none of it is particularly impressive, it has left a lasting impression on me, both in my heart and on my point of view.

Days before, two of my best friends drove up and spent the night at my house. One of them brought with her an enormous box of chocolates for me. Why? “Because a girl’s gotta have chocolates from time to time,” was her genuine answer, accompanied by a goofy grin and her bear hugs I miss altogether too much since she moved. We stayed up late, we talked about ridiculous things that only got crazier the more exhausted we became, we laughed and we reveled in each other’s love.

The following day, my boyfriend and I went to the grocery store to pick up some necessities. We were overwhelmed by the surge of people there purchasing red and white, Valentine’s Day-esque things. He and I naturally meandered over to the flowers (which we would have done regardless of the time of year) and found an exasperated woman watering them, avoiding eye contact with any of the frantic male shoppers hovering near. When she looked up at us she must have seen something she connected with on a personal level, because she perked right up and suggested, “The tulips are lovely! They’ll make you think of Spring!” And they were lovely – purple with white tips, a strange combination I had never seen before and trust me, I’ve been around a few tulips in my life – and they did remind us of Spring which is exactly what we needed during that bitterly cold, snow-covered time of year. So we got some. We love Spring

That night my sister slept over, and whenever I get the chance to spend time with her it’s blessing. She and I share the same history – the same childhood, and I am always consciously aware of what a special connection that is. While we sat quietly together on the couch, I bathed her in love and light from six inches away (love in any form is a touchy subject to broach with her broken soul these days) and when I went to bed I was comforted knowing that my boyfriend, who was staying up with this girl he barely knew, was going to continue to do the same for me.

In the morning we drove to my parents, where my Mom claimed she had a special gift for us this year. And she did! She decided to make the very special candy treat she only ever makes at Christmas for Valentine’s Day for us this year as well. Why? Just out of love, because she’s wonderful like that.

When we awoke the next morning – Valentine’s Day – I rolled over to grab a pillow to prop my head up with, but when my hand slid under the pillow to grab it hit something. I pulled it out slowly and it was a Valentine’s Day gift from my boyfriend. Yes. Things like this apparently do happen in real life and not just on cheesy jewelry commercials. He had hit it there the night before, but I fell asleep so hard and fast I never noticed it. “There’s a gift under my pillow!” I exclaimed. There were actually two: the first was a picture of he and I kissing with the autumn woods glowing with color behind us. The second was also a picture, this one more near and dear to my heart: he had taken a photo of my favorite tree in my favorite city. It was the tree I passed every single night to get to his house when he and I were first dating. It’s a very uniquely shaped tree; the arms of it are very long and face upwards making big giant “U’s”. The city lights the arms of the tree at Christmas and usually forget to take them down until the snow melts. I’m enchanted by that tree, will always be reminded of when my boyfriend and I were first learning each other and falling in love, and so I wasn’t very surprised when the picture drew tears.

“Happy Valentine’s Day,” my thoughtful significant other whispered in my ear.

For hours after we lay in bed talking, with nowhere to go, listening to the world outside which had audibly come to life. Spring birds were singing melodies right from the heart and it in turn uplifted my spirits as well. It had been a very long time since I had heard birds chirping.

Not only that, but there was a very strong smell of moss, sulfur, rain, and fire – the same distinguishable smell that came through my windows every morning I lived in both Ireland and England. The chilly breeze that brought the scent into my bedroom (strangely off the backyards of snow and not fields of rolling green hills) enveloped me, and I as I breathed in the smell for a moment I was a giant pond away. And I was reminded of how important I made myself be to myself when I was abroad both times. And what a reassuring, accepting feeling it was.

The rest of the day was spent lazily. Eating good foods. Drinking French press coffee and mimosas. With nothing in particular to do and nowhere to be.

And it was one of the most delightful days I had had in a very long time.

Perhaps it – and all the wonderful events leading up to it – falling on and near Valentine’s Day was just a coincidence. After all, my life is frequently filled with chocolates, and flowers, and romantic gestures. And I pride myself in my constant recognition and celebration of not only relationship-love, but in the familial kind of love. And the platonic kind of love. And yes, the kind of love we should all have for ourselves.

There was nothing commercial, corporate, mass-manufactured, or pressure-filled about my Valentine’s Day. It was a day that conceptually was supposed to be about embracing love; and, it was a day where love in all forms was executed and expressed freely.

It was the perfect-for-me non-traditional, indie, free-spirited kind of Valentine’s Day that I never knew could exist. And I was thrilled to be able to see the meaning, overwhelming modesty, and thoughtfulness behind it all.