The search for my elusive valentine began when I was 14 years old. I’m not counting the competition that lingered wordlessly between me and the other 9 year old girls in Mrs. Anderson’s 3rd grade class as we breathlessly awaited the distribution of cards from the valentine box, ending the suspense. Who would be the recipient of the special valentine card (you know, that extra big card they used to put in the pack that was just slightly different from the rest of them?) from the most popular boy in our class (Mr.X) Now, I chose not to use the term “hottest boy”, because A) this was the 1970’s and as far as I know, or at least knew at 9 years old, hot was a term used solely to describe temperature, and B) I would like to be clear for those who may not have the gift of long term recall, what qualifications are required at the innocent age of 9 to make a person become popular and okay, let’s toss it in-hot. What were these qualifications that Mr.X possessed that had we girls vying for the coveted valentine card? He was the best Jacks player in the class. I need to point out that he had the unfair advantage of having the largest hands in our group of players (a fact I would never let him forget and would fight him on every time he won) but this unfair game advantage was leveled by the existence of his large feet, which often spelled his ruin during hopscotch (a fact he would never let me forget when I would win). He was the best player; a worthy adversary. I longed to beat him. My young heart proclaimed: “This is love.” But let’s get on with the story. I’ll bet you’re hoping that I received the bigger, shinier, most special valentine and that’s why it pains me to have to reveal to you that it wasn’t me. Gulp. Valentine’s Day disappointment was just beginning…
I don’t believe I could have understood when I began dating at 14, the magnitude of unconscious desires I required of my future beloved. He was going to love me for what I was (but make me feel better about what that was, because I wasn’t quite “all there” for that myself). He was going to be happy to give me what I wanted (but he would have to figure out what that was because fear kept me from naming it and claiming it for myself). He was going to build me up enough to make me believe I could do anything (but I would be tearing myself down all the while). He was going to make me feel loved! Finally! This person was going to make all that was wrong inside me be right. Now, just where was he anyway?
I grew to detest Valentine’s Day. In my younger years, I blamed it on the guys. After all, how many people do you know that get broken up with 3 times, by 3 different people, ON Valentine’s Day? I kid you not! To my surprise, I continued to hate Valentine’s Day even once I was married. This puzzled me. I had a valentine didn’t I? What was my problem? Or his? I was missing something, wasn’t I? Why wasn’t I like the girls in those ads, receiving their flowers and chocolates and smiling smugly at the insurmountable supply of love and desire bestowed upon them? Why couldn’t he make me feel special like that? Why did I still feel unloved sometimes, no matter what he did? Why did I sometimes feel that the gifts he brought were contrived and meaningless-given only out of a sense of Valentisimal duty? Over the years, we approached Valentine’s Day with a multitude of creative methods for weathering it and some went better than others, but one fact remained: try as he might, he couldn’t give me what I was looking for. Imagine that.
So, is that it then? Did I resign myself to the fact that there wasn’t a valentine for me out there to make my Valentine’s Day, and EVERY day, the love-fest that I believed I deserved? It took me many years to figure out, as I hope you’ll begin to as well, that my Valentine was there all along, waiting for my acknowledgment. She waited in the shadows for me to figure out that my valentine was ME. She stood by quietly during the periods where I neglected her insight, refused her encouragement, bemoaned her looks, and basically belittled her to the point of non-existence. And one day when I felt like I’d looked everywhere else for what I needed, I noticed her in there, waiting. She assured me that the reason I could not find all the things I’d been looking for in other people was because she was holding them for me. Like a gift that I’d refused to open, everything I’d been selfishly expecting to come from others was wrapped up within me, waiting for me to have the courage to open it up and not only acknowledge what I found, but to learn to love it as well. This would take time.
Valentine’s Day may very well be one of those needless holidays of insignificance that the world tries to place an inordinate amount of importance on, convincing you that it’s about something that it’s not actually about at all, but it no longer has any power to affect me in a negative way. Once you finally figure out that love is not something you’re seeking to get from somewhere or someone or something, but rather, something you’re seeking to become from what you already have within, you realize that you needn’t ever feel unloved again. You are love. Be your own valentine and you’ll spread that love effortlessly.
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