I think it’s safe to say that when it comes to Valentine’s Day, most of us, most of the time, refuse to appreciate it. Myself included. I have frequently fallen into the trap of loving the idea of the day one year, and then thinking it’s just a total waste of time the following one. I have both railed against the corporatisation of love and romance and how this holiday is, largely, a marketing holiday designed to exploit consumerism. I have rolled my eyes at the exorbitant prices of restaurant menus who know they can get away with overcharging the couples who insist on going out for the day.
Yet I have also been known to be someone who indulges myself in the cheesy movies, love songs and romantic novels; pouring my hope and energy into a holiday that, at its purest, is merely designed to celebrate love. There is something really authentic and genuine about that, is there not?
This year, however, I am not over crediting the day nor belittling it. Instead I am looking at the true value of Valentine’s Day. I think the true appreciation of Valentine’s Day just comes from the simple beauty of spending it with the right person. There is no need to go overboard on Valentine’s Day. If you want to, then great. But I think it’s important to recognise that the important and memorable thing about Valentine’s Day is simply spending it with the person (or people) you love. As Nicholas Sparks once wrote, “Sometimes the most ordinary things could be made extraordinary, simply by doing them with the right people.”
I could confess that, for far too long, I was in love with the idea of love – this idea that you could find someone who would love you back so fiercely and do so unconditionally; that they would love you perfectly, and once they did, all would be right in your world. I read so many romance novels during my formative years; I have a weakness for love stories that were consuming, passionate, adventurous and even a little dangerous.
Or, even more than that, I could confess that I thought romantic love could fit neatly into a very compact-size box. I did not imagine then that love could be improbable, unexpected and extraordinarily chaotic. What I soon saw was that this overwhelming, encompassing feeling is love. It’s not perfect and it’s messy, but somehow it’s exactly what I need. The things I thought I knew about love turned out to be nothing at all, and the things I could not possibly believe to be true proved to be so.
Like almost all of us (except those few that seem to have it all figured out), I love but I am not entirely sure how to be loved. How to be seen and known for the utterly flawed human being that I am. It demands a certain kind of surrender. Letting someone love you demands acknowledging that you are not perfect but believing, perhaps, that you deserve affection anyway.
Love is as powerful a word as it is a powerful emotion, but oftentimes we use it so carelessly. We make statements like “I love these shoes,” or “I love my phone.” But do we, in the truest sense of the word? I would argue that we don’t. We have become careless in how we actually use the word.
Yet I don’t mind such recklessness, because I know when I really choose to use the word, when I use it with care, my intent is clear. I feel with certainty that I am suddenly on fragile ground. I am saying I see you and you see me and this terrifies yet exhilarates me and I refuse to look away and no matter what happens now, we’ll go from here.