We’re all the lucky ones

Because it was on a weekend this year, Valentine’s Day might have passed without me noticing if it weren’t for a few Facebook friends sharing photos of bouquets and festive table settings. Unlike some previous years, I wasn’t bitter or envious of those in a pair. Sure, it would have been nice to have someone be like, “SURPRISE! Here’s a first edition Lolita with a butterfly doodle on the title page. Now let me buy you a steak!” but I wasn’t aimlessly hurling frustration just because I don’t have a guy to buy me flowers and a card.

When I think of Valentine’s, I recall an album I heard a few years ago: Daughter’s “If You Leave.” It was a dark winter morning & I was getting ready for work and I decided to buy the album on Amazon on a whim. I was groggy, craving soft sheets, snuggles, and the adoration of someone else and the lyrics hit me in the gut.

And if you’re in love, then you are the lucky one,
‘Cause most of us are bitter over someone.
Setting fire to our insides for fun,
To distract our hearts from ever missing them.
But I’m forever missing him.

It was a melancholic day in my cubicle. I spent most of the day thinking of loves lost, envious of those lucky ones who took their companionship for granted. I missed the days of democratic valentines when I didn’t understand the holiday, I just knew I was going to get 28 poorly torn and folded cards from my classmates. In middle school when I actually did get the holiday, the first three weeks of February were a slow roasting hell, seeing the halls covered in advertisements for the carnation sale. I think I received two $1 carnations – both were from female friends whose generosity felt cruel because they weren’t boys. High school was where I started seeing that it wasn’t so much about love and affection as it was about the things guys bought girls. Since boys weren’t buying me anything, it was fortunate that it was cool to hate Valentine’s Day.

I had several vaguely memorable gifts Valentine’s Days that I can fondly recall; The lunch, latte, and bouquet from the produce boy. The blood red roses from Jon. My first Kindle & pearl studs from Bill. The Second City tickets from the professor. Last year’s dozen roses delivered at work after a first date.

What I hate most about Valentine’s Day is how reductive it is. That list isn’t representative of those relationships. They ranged from simple blushing and hormone-heavy infatuation to complex and sustained commitments. But somehow, whenever Valentine’s Day rolls around, the first thing that comes to my mind is all the previous February 14ths – not the relationships I was in at the time. It takes a while to recall how the produce boy made me blush every time he delivered a white chocolate raspberry latte from my favorite coffee shop – longer still to remember how badly I craved any sign of love from Jon and how deeply I celebrated any instance of affection. It’s somewhat easier to recall the easy tenderness Bill and I shared, and the thrill of the professor’s support of my hobbies.

I listened to “Youth” again the other day, and it didn’t hold the same sadness it once did. Instead of focusing on the lingering bitterness over someone, I consider myself lucky to have experienced such a range of love and despair. It means I’ve been able share myself with a person and he’s trusted me enough to share himself with me. A successful relationship isn’t necessarily one that ends in marriage and eternal commitment. A successful relationship can also be one of mutual discovery and growth. Even the relationships that ended badly were ones that lead to further self-awareness. It’s cliche, but it really is better to have love and lost than to have never loved at all.

While the ego bruise from Valentine’s Day might still be fresh for some readers, I still want to tell people to treasure wherever they’re at. Whether you’re in a relationship or not, don’t place any importance on this arbitrary day. Just treasure your moments and savor whatever you’re doing.

Vonnegut sums it up better than I can tonight: “We are here on earth to fart around. Don’t let anybody tell you any different.”

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This is a post about Valentine’s Day.

I know, I know. This is supposed to be Throwback Thursday. Due to excuses I’m fabricating in my head, it’s not happening this week. I’m just not in the mood to look through my sixth grade journal and reminisce.

It’s been a while since I’ve gotten serious here, and I’m not really sure why. My head hasn’t been here for a while, I suppose. Work has been busy. I’ve had an actual social life for the last few weeks (don’t worry, couch: I’m about due for a week-long introverted self-huddle). I’ve been reading great books on my new Kindle (The Best American Non-Required Reading, Margaret Atwood’s Positron, and e.e. cumming’s six nonlectures). I’ve been working out (my 5k on Monday night was almost four minutes shorter than last week’s). I’ve been baking. I’ve been cleaning. I’ve been playing my violin (I sort of want to apologize to all of my neighbors because my Bach sounds terrible). I haven’t been getting enough sleep. I’ve gotten into a weird pattern of waking very deliberately each morning around 1 or 2am, walking to my kitchen, pouring a mug of milk, and eating two cookies. I only have two left, so I guess tonight is my last night, so I wonder if it will stop on Friday. I do this in an attempt to get myself back to sleep, but really it’s just an excuse to eat an extra 400 calories. In the morning, I just pretend not to know why there are crumbs in my sheets or why my milk is gone.

Anyway, Valentine’s Day. Before you all freak out, I’ll let you know that I don’t have plans. I mean, I do. Thursday is cross-training, so I’ll be doing 45 minutes of rowing and weights. But romantically-speaking, there are no plans. This is by choice more than circumstance. I was seeing someone for the last few weeks who said he had made plans for us, but it didn’t feel right committing to them. He’s a nice guy, but spending Valentine’s Day together makes things serious, doesn’t it? If a relationship goes from casual to committed, it should happen naturally, not because the calendar dictates.

I had intended to write some meaningful diatribe about Valentine’s Day and how it’s not as big of a deal and people make it out to be, but by even mentioning it I’m participating it the same hoopla I’d be attempting to condemn. When it comes down to it, the pre-packaged and pleasantly arranged tokens of love we’re presented with from December 26 – February 14 make us fall into one of the following categories:

True Love

ee cummings

Neither is superior. At some point, each of us will experience love. At another, we’ll feel bitter and jaded. The beauty lies in the fact that we’re capable of experiencing both of these states. With the right attitude, bitterness can  be turned around to be the promise of something better. What that “something” is is for you to decide: a more honest relationship, a more contented sense of self, or a stronger connection to your reality. And love? Whether you’ve been in love or you have yet to experience it, you know that e.e. cummings perfectly captures that sense of blissful isolation that only love produces.

So instead of being focused on whether you’re in love, out of love, done with love, or having fun with love, why not just be content that you’re capable of it?