Saturday, February 13, 2010

Valentine Blues

Valentine’s Day can be a dismal occasion. Those without love interests or partners are apt to want to crawl under a rock or watch something mindless on TV to avoid exposure to the barrage of sentimental fluff. Just about every unattached person I know abhors Valentine’s Day. The last thing people need when they’re single (and wishing they weren’t) is a blatant reminder of that fact.

Those who are in a relationship should celebrate their love on a regular basis. Do they really need to be prompted by the marketplace to proclaim their feelings for each other? The heart should be moved to action spontaneously, not by a commercially driven love-affirming day.

The most prevalent purchase for Val-Day is not flowers, chocolates or jewelry, but a card. Millions of North Americans will spend a fortune on a paper product with pretty pictures and eloquent words, written by aspiring poets and Hallmark employees.

If we all donated the cash we spent on cards to places like Haiti, Africa, or war-torn nations, we could make a difference in peoples’ lives. But we don’t think that way because retailers and advertisers know how to manipulate us. They inundate us immediately after the Christmas holidays with displays of red and pink Valentine paraphernalia. Chocolates, cute plush toys, heart-shaped candies, and rows upon rows of sentimental cards abound.

In my house, our kids think Valentine’s Day is about them, which is fine with us; they think we should have a special dinner and that they should be the center of attention. It all started when I made heart-shaped pancakes for breakfast when they were toddlers, and put packets of heart-shaped treats by their place settings.

This year we will have twelve people over for dinner on Valentine’s Day, including relatives and friends. I might decorate the table with red napkins and candy hearts, but that’s about it. No mush, no gush and no sentimental drivel.

Does that mean I’m a humbug, with no time to ruminate about love? Not at all. I think about love a lot, but Valentine’s Day is not the inspiration.

For physical survival we need air, water, good nutrition and exercise, but to sustain our souls we need love. Just about everything we do in life is subconsciously or consciously motivated by love, no matter what stage or age we’re at. People are almost always either trying to find love, keep love, nurture love or recover from lost love.

Love is one of those tenuous things that can elude us if we take it for granted. And it mustn’t be a one way street. Finding the right balance of giving and receiving can be tricky; loving too much without reciprocation is painful; being loved without sharing the sentiment can provoke feelings of guilt and emptiness.

We seek and we seek until we find a fulfilling, soulful, loving partnership. Once we find it we must nurture it in order to retain it. Life without love can be hollow and joyless. With love we can overcome and withstand so much. It is a sanctuary for our soul, stimulation for our minds, and power for our bodies.

Why do couples end marriages that were once rooted in love? Why do parents subject their children to the heartache of divorce? Because a loveless marriage is unbearable. “The best thing parents can do for their children is to love each other,” a psychologist friend once told me. But if that’s no longer possible, the next best thing they can do for their children is to treat their exes with respect and civility.

Love is sacred and must be cherished and protected; it is fragile and must be treated with precious care; it is powerful and must be honoured and revered. Love between two people bolsters humanity. It is the thing that fuels our families, our communities, our nations, and our world. People who experience great love do great things. Those who do great things without love are to be especially congratulated, because life is so much harder without it.

A broken heart can breed cynicism and wariness. Yet slowly but surely, love can creep back in and mend one's darkened spirit. A transformed heart is a renewed life. With love, anything is possible.

But it’s not all about romance. It’s about relationships. And that’s why I think Valentine’s Day is for the birds.

If we’re going to have a day to celebrate love then let’s call it something else— Humanity Day or something like that—an inclusive holiday encompassing all loving relationships.

And if you don’t have a partner, don’t let Valentine’s Day bring you down. Rejoice with your family and friends, for love of any kind is worthy of a celebration.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with much of what you say -- and yet, I love going out to dinner with my husband on Valentine's Day. It's not about romance, it's about having a chance to reconnect. Life gets so busy that it's easy to take a relationship for granted. If Valentine's Day is an excuse to make time for each other, I welcome it!