What is Love? …The Cynic’s Guide to Valentine’s Day

Copy of The Fall Edit-38.png

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, just in case you need a reminder.  Just in case you missed the red heart chocolate explosion that took place in the Kroger nearest you the minute dusty old Santa got swept off the shelves around the first of January… here you go.  

You’re welcome.

If you hear a tinge of cynicism in my tone, bravo, it’s there.  

Okay, I’m not hating on this sugar-laced, if not well-meaning, holiday to be clear.  I am very pro-love, don’t get me wrong.  However, for some strange reason, I’ve never been a huge fan of Valentine’s Day.  

Perhaps it was those forced little gooey cards we wrote every single classmate back in kindergarten (even the ones who weren’t very sweet) that put a bad taste in my mouth.  Or perhaps it always seemed too obvious and Hallmark-y for what my snobbish heart deemed necessary?  

After all, as an enneagram four (the romantic), the world will be saved through truth and beauty, right?  Hell if I’m going to let a heart-shaped box of waxy chocolates and a trite card oozing with aspartame-flavored words do the trick.  

Okay, okay…that may be a bit harsh.  However, don’t you think we miss a bigger opportunity to understand the deeper context or nuance of love when we focus so much on the romantic object of relationship?  

I’ll qualify this post by saying I’ve always felt this way.  It is not contingent on times of singleness or being in healthy, committed relationships.  

As someone who is (gratefully) happily married today, I still cringe just a little on V-day.

But I don’t want to.  

I want to carry a bright light into this heart celebration because I’ve made it about something so beautiful and true that doesn’t isolate anyone based on relationship status or an unrealistic expectation of romance.  

That being said, whatever your “status” this Valentine’s day, here are three helpful reminders to help silence that jaded inner cynic and feel the love. 

The Heart is a Muscle

A good friend recently introduced me to the band Gang of Youths, and specifically, a song of theirs called "The Heart is a Muscle”.  They/It’s brilliant.  You should give it a listen.  Ever since hearing this song, I’ve not been able to shake this idea of our heart as this powerful force we must tend to and strengthen.  

Just like our arm, leg, back, and ab muscles atrophy if we don’t intentionally build them through exercise, our heart becomes weak and cold if we don’t engage her.  This doesn’t wait for another person either.  Unfortunately, I can’t enlist someone else to work out for me. Results would be impossible.  

Exercise isn’t always fun, either.  In fact, it is very much a discipline before it becomes a desire. 

How will you tend to, and ultimately strengthen this beautiful heart of yours?  Through openness to change?  Through putting yourself out there more, even if it feels uncomfortable and strained?  Or perhaps, it is simply by spending some time listening to what she has to say through journaling, painting, or writing a song.   

Lean into The Longing

So often, we react to unmet desire by shutting it down, denying its presence, and/or a feeling shame or unworthiness.  This type of all-or-nothing behavior ultimately will backfire on us because the body and mind will always seek relief where there is imbalance and disconnection.   This becomes a problem when we seek relief in places that may seem like a temporary fix, yet ultimately create impairment.  (Think: workaholism-or any type of “holism”, isolation, and depression, among so many others.)

As it relates to our own expectations for love and happiness, we must learn how to exist more in the grey “both-and” as opposed to the “either-or”.  When I can recognize a longing for relationship and community as a beautiful thing and not a curse, whether or not it has been met, I am honoring that heart space.  I’m essentially saying: “I feel the purity and gravity of my longing and realize my situation could turn on a dime at any point.” 

Doesn’t this feel more expansive and hopeful? Yet at the same time, it’s steeped in the reality and possibility of “both-and.” 

Learning how to creatively lean into the inevitable tensions of life restores balance and raises our energetic vibration so as to attract a more positive flow of emotion. 

Let Go of Entitlement

One of the most freeing times in my adult life was when I let go of the romantic comedy (read: emotional porn) that had been reeling in my head for a very long time.  I was 34 and felt further from anything remotely resembling a loving, committed relationship than ever before.  It was bleak and scary as hell, yet I knew I had to divorce myself from this entitlement contract I’d subconsciously signed with life.  

I swallowed the biggest horse pill of my life.  You know the one— it promises we are guaranteed each and every whim we can mentally cook up? Yeah, entitlement…that one…

I embraced this idea that there really were no guarantees in love and relationship because love is a choice we all have the freedom to make.  Honestly, there are very few guarantees in life at all.  When we believe we’re entitled to our stories of happily ever after, we miss out on the reward that is reality.  

A whole world opens up when we let go of expectations that keep us chained and dependent on circumstantial happiness.   All of the sudden, we’ve been handed the keys to personal responsibility and power, and this, in turn, takes us to places we’ve been waiting to go for a long time.  

I want to commit to a greater Love.  One that is never in question.  One that’s always waiting for me to touch.  One that I get to choose, and in doing so, never feel alone.  Let’s reclaim Valentine’s Day because, like New Year’s Day, we’re met with this blank slate of possibility.  

Let tomorrow, and 2018, be a celebration of your heart.  She is wild, and wise, and works very hard to make you feel alive.  Thank her big time.  It’s been quite a long journey for her as well…

Love & Gratitude,