Ah. Valentine’s Day.
< awkward groan >
Look, I could write a heartfelt, academic post about this, considering all the research I did into it all, but I’m not feeling it.
So instead, I’ll just write what is awkward and at my core.
Y’see, Love is one of my Core Desired Feelings.
Yes. I know.
It’s not so much because I’m a romantic at heart (romcoms and chick lit are torture for me!), but rather because it is one of the most transformative feelings that I have.
It literally changes everything in my life – not just how I feel, but also how I act, and how I perceive my life and my world.
It allows me to sit here and be entirely who and what I am. It’s an expanding feeling that lets me ease into my space to begin with. It allows me to approach people and life like a blank sheet – no prejudices, no stories, no attachments, just entirely open to what is.
It’s a kind of Freedom.
But don’t get me wrong.
I can’t and don’t feel like this 24/7, because I am human after all. I react to my surroundings – people, landscape, news, books…- and I have other Core Desired Feelings that I want to feel (like Hope, and Dynamic).
And seriously, I can only imagine how smug and rose-tinted this all sounds.
It’s really difficult for me to write about this. It’s so much easier for me to write about all the research I’ve done, and keep what I’m really feeling and experiencing at the periphery, at a distance.
But here’s the uncomfortable truth about Valentine’s Day:
Valentine’s Day is a day dedicated to probably the most terrifying emotion we can feel. It’s terrifying because it leaves you feeling at your most vulnerable.
And feeling at your most vulnerable feels like you’re at your weakest. You’ve opened up a chink in your armour for once, and you can’t control what comes at you in this time.
But the reason you put up your armour in the first place is because you had put down your defences before and was punished for it – cruel words, cruel actions, or the opposite: you were ostracised, ignored, left alone…when all you wanted was to love and be loved, to connect with someone, and you don’t want to be alone anymore.
You’re understandably cynical about Valentine’s Day – all the commercial bollocks that comes with it is irksome, and also the rise of the Anti-Valentine’s Day? Just more commercial bollocks.
It was never meant to be this way.
Valentine’s Day originally was either a celebration of the anniversary of Valentine’s death or burial, or it was the Church’s attempt to Christianise the Pagan celebration of Lupercalia – a festival dedicated to the Roman god of agriculture, Faunus, which involved slaughtering a goat, stripping off its hide leathers, soaking the leathers in blood and spanking women with it “for increased fertility in the coming year”, not just for fun. (OK, maybe that’s more awkward than what we have now…)
The romance? Coincidence: mid-February happens to be around about the same time of year that the first breath of Spring is in the air, the buds begin to form on trees and in plants, and birds and rabbits begin their first round of mating – which tends to get people thinking about love and softening into Spring with a little romance. There are records of St. Valentine’s Day being a day for romantic overtures dating back to quite soon after the day was established but, as usual, it wasn’t fashionable until the nobility started requisitioning poems in the 14th and 15th century to be written to their lovers that it really became cemented as a day to declare one’s love.
I wonder how much more difficult the social pressures are to navigate now compared to back then?
Is it worse now, because there is so much focus on one day, and we’re bombarded from the middle of January about Valentine’s Day looming on the horizon each year?
Does anyone stop and think about how ironic it is that the feeling that has so much potential to be beautifully generative and enlivening (to me, at least – you’ll probably have a different reaction to it) is forced into pain and disconnect because of the pressures to “get it right”? To have the “perfect day” with the “perfect person” with everything going gut-wrenchingly “perfectly”?
Doesn’t anyone else feel utterly betrayed by the idea that, if everything was perfect, you would finally be happy? That you would finally not be alone?
Doesn’t anyone else feel like they’re caged animals screaming and railing at The Rules Of Dating And Romance – all in the name of Doing It Perfectly And Getting It Right?
Because I knew that it was never meant to be this way.
Strip away all of this complete and utter bullshit, and what do we have?
A primal desire to connect with another person – deeply.
That’s it. Pull back all the drama, all the fakery, all the pressures and ridiculous societal constructs, the mindlessness of it all, and you’re left with just one, tender, desire:
To deeply connect with someone else.
All of these “Rules”, all of these societal constructs, commercial pressures and so on – they are all based on one fundamental philosophy:
Fear of rejection, heartbreak, pain, marginalisation, disconnection, loneliness, and the shame of it all.
“The Rules” are there so that everyone has a plan – instead of being themselves. To me, that’s a cage, not a safety net.
Society (or “other people in your life”) put pressure on you for their own benefits – to make them feel better about you being single; because if you don’t conform to their ideals, it’s a thorn in their side…because you’re being courageous enough to forge your own path, and that makes them question their own lives, which is scaring them…and makes them want you to conform all the more. Hell sometimes really can be other people.
The media and commercial pressures are by far the most selfish though – it’s about their bottom line, and the way they do that? Is prey on that one thing that makes you feel most vulnerable.
And all this stuff? Just exacerbates your own fears and shames, and makes you put up more defences.
The bitter irony is that these are all things that were meant to help you connect to another person, but in reality it’s about as far away from Connection to another person as you can get!
But if you strip it all back to that one, pure, desire – to connect deeply with someone else – it all becomes much simpler.
What makes you feel connected to someone else?
I promise you: when you get clear on the answer to that question, it all gets much simpler.
I feel deeply connected with someone else when I can understand who they are, what they’re thinking and feeling, and what their opinions and values are about the world we’re in.
That sums it up for me. Experiencing stuff together? Buying presents for each other?
More opportunities to understand them and the world we’re experiencing and creating together.
When you know the answer to that question – connect with everyone in your world and everyone you meet in that way (where appropriate, of course). You’ll be much happier for it.
Maybe you’ll get to feel the way you actually want to feel.
My other half and I sometimes gather up all our friends who are alone on Valentine’s Day, and we all go out to a restaurant that hasn’t been fully booked out, and we all go to the cinema afterwards – laughing, joking, talking, eating…
Maybe that’s what Valentine’s Day should really be about.
Laughter and Love,