Back when I was single I decided to love Valentine’s Day.
As an avid fan of chocolate, stuffed animals, the colors pink and red, and of course love, it seemed like the kind of holiday that I could really get behind. Also, I refused to let my relationship status dictate how I felt about my life, and so I took extra care to work on nurturing my solo self in what is often a couple-centric culture and not denying myself the joy of a holiday just because I was “just me” and not a part of an “us.”
I bought myself flowers. Took Dog for a walk at the duck pond and went through the coffee stand to get hot chocolate for myself and biscuits for him. Drew hearts in the snow. Bought myself a nice lunch, sent love messages to my friends, wore as much red as I could. And mostly, I focused on being an astute practitioner of self-love.
I felt really let down by romantic love in those years. I was newly divorced and disillusioned with marriage. Had multiple false starts in new relationships where all that appeared shiny and beautiful on the surface soon proved otherwise. And my battered heart became slower and slower to bounce back with every disappointment.
After experiencing one too many times that men who I thought would be there for me were really only interested in what I used to call “sex and sunshine”- the shiny, bright, happy, easy parts of me- I quickly found out they were incapable of remaining emotionally available for most of the other shades of me. Let alone my realest, wildest depths. And I began to call bullshit on relationships and the notion that somebody else is responsible for my sense of happiness or my sense of love or my sense of belonging in this place.
Those were the years I learned to belong to myself. Learned to belong to this earth. Learned to truly embody the space of me. Singleness became the gift that allowed me to experience myself undiluted and unfiltered through the lens or presence of another.
By the time I met the man who would eventually become my husband, I was completely uninterested in having anything that looked like the traditional models of many partnerships I see, so many people seem so unhappy deep down and stifled with one another and their lives. I wanted more for myself and I wanted something different, even though I didn’t quite know what.
Then I bumped into this guy in the middle of a trail marathon and over the course of the next few months our friendship grew exponentially, and I found another free spirit who was also happily flying solo. He was already doing the work of self and was taking responsibility for his own happiness, his own sense of worth and love, and his own sense of belonging in this place.
There was so much space in the relationship to just be me, and for him to be himself, we eventually decided to fly together side by side.
Sometimes I struggled as we figured out our flight path. I’d become well insulated and comfortable in my single, self-loving life, and I found it hard at times to make space for somebody else and to make peace within myself on my own relationship status- where did I end and he begin? A lot of the poetry in freebird fridays is about those negotiations and shifts as I ventured into uncharted territory of redefining what relationship and partnership is. I had a lot of ambivalence and layers to sort through to discover my truth on the matter.
But what is came down to in the end is that even though at times our wings brushed and bent and smooshed into one another as we flew, the core of who each of was- our essence and spirit and essential self-hoods- always remained intact. And I quickly realized there were deeper lessons on acceptance, family, making space for somebody else who sometimes does life very differently than I, and love to be had. I remembered that I wasn’t here just to be comfortable, I was here to experience growth and evolution, so I kept saying yes and signing up for him and I, and somewhere along the way I found a balance between “just me” and “us.”
And this past year in life with Brent gone and my parents struggling- sometimes I feel lonelier than ever in my family, it’s been so hard on them and shattering- I am grateful to have somebody in my life to be my family. Grateful for our quirky, non traditional home together, rich in heart and love and fur kids. Grateful for love- just me, others, us- in all its forms.
Today I honor all those forms. The lessons of the past stuck- nobody deserves to feel bad today because of where there relationship may or may not be at. It’s simply a day to celebrate love- starting with ourselves. And if you happen to have other sources in your life- friends, animals, plants, the earth, a space you love, a job you love, a person you love, family you love, something you love- then those deserve to be celebrated too.
Love loves to love. In all forms. Happy Valentine’s Day.