I have mixed feelings about Valentine’s Day. For me, V-Day is on par with Santa Claus at Christmas. I mean, part of me gets the whimsy of it but a bigger part of me is all like: Really?! THIS is what the group consensus came up with?
When holidays have the great potential to plummet a fair amount of our brethren into the pits of despair, based on the hype that gets generated around them and the unrealistic notions hitched to their giddy-up, I’d say something is in serious need of cultural repair.
I recently attended a presentation on the University of Montana (UM) campus for Mental Health Awareness Week and learned that 71% of UM students report feeling “very lonely” and 64% report feeling “very sad.” Loneliness is affecting the masses. I’ve got nothing against those who are super into celebrating V-Day on their own accord and feel called to set aside a day to connect with their romantic partner – I think that’s great, truly. My problem lies in the expectations we’ve orchestrated around V-Day; the pressure to be in love or have some grand lusty time; the hype and the heart-shaped everything; and the fact that in large part V-Day is a female heavy holiday and it’s the guy who’s supposed to dote on the special gal in his life and not the other way around. Females in particular are dangerously caught up in fictitious ideas of what it means to be in love and what our partners should and shouldn’t do to continuously prove to us how much they adore us. V-Day keeps in motion a slew of not-so-great to super-unhealthy views and notions centered around romantic relationships, sex, love, desire, and connection. And V-Day makes a lot of people feel even lonelier.
Like the pic I took above, from a book I came across in Powell’s Books while visiting Portland last weekend, says: What if this were enough? What if whatever we have going on right now we regarded as being enough? Enough to be content, to be happy, to be at ease in the world of heart-shaped everything on V-Day.
What if we were able to invoke the message of the 7th of the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings: Dwelling Happily in the Present Moment?
Let’s talk about LOVE. Yep, I’m even capitalizing it. If we’re going to invest in using the word LOVE as though we mean it, it would behoove us to investigate for our self what the heck we think it means. (If you’ve been following along here lately, you know that one of my current themes is Words Matter.)
I’ll start by consulting my old pal: my paperback Webster’s, for a definition. Love: 1: strong affection 2: warm attachment (~of the sea) 3: attraction based on sexual desire 4: a beloved person 5: unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for others 6: a score of zero in tennis. Oh dear. Well. This certainly…uh…helps clarify things. Or…does it?
This definition really runs the gamut eh? I mean, we have everything from calling it love when we find some dude hot enough to want to have sex with to really digging the ocean to a score in tennis. LOVE can mean a lot of things. (Personal note: I find Webster’s #3 definition of LOVE to be especially distasteful and unsatisfactory.)
Here’s my own part humorous/part serious working definition of LOVE: the swell of elation felt generated by the sight of someone’s face. Akin to all mental and emotional states, a gradient scale exists for this feeling of elation. For instance, I feel the biggest swell of elation when I see my husband’s face than any other face (ya know, most days). I feel a bigger swell of elation when seeing a good friend’s face than that of an acquaintance I don’t know very well. And I feel a bigger swell of elation when I see the face of an acquaintance than that of a stranger. This elation swell can occur in person, in photo form, or in conjured up memory form.
LOVE equates to a sense of belonging and connection to someone or something else. LOVE reminds us that we are alive and human and all in this thing called life together. Above all, LOVE is an action verb. It’s not static or complacent or hinged on expectations. LOVE is the expression of how we treat one another, whether we know each other well, just a little bit, or not at all. LOVE is how we show up in the world for everyone in our wake in the spirit of interbeing.