It's hard to explain my (utter) fascination with Valentine's Day. On the therapist's couch, this near-obsession has been explained away as a move to fill an unfilled heart, a response to a loveless childhood and a push to find my own heart -- all true, but not a fully convincing argument for those accustomed to my ongoing madness.
Each year, I ruminate about the next holiday... well... after the holiday ends. Like my young daughter's obsession with her next birthday, I begin formulating how I'll spend the day, who I'll send cards to and who I'll call/see/meet to say "I love you" and express my thanks.
In the weeks leading up to it, I'll buy V-Day boxer shorts (once cotton, now solid silk) for my now fully-grown stepchildren; the largest Reese's chocolate heart I can find and heart pajamas for my husband; a heart necklace and/or bracelet for my young daughter and the proverbial stuffed animal with heart for my rapidly growing elementary school son (who, at this point, is finding this a bit unsettling).
On the blessed (nearly exalted) day, I'll eat more chocolate, drape myself in red and send/receive many cards that convey love, gratitude and appreciation. I'll also traditionally deliver chocolate-covered strawberries (an 8 a.m. individually-bagged pickup at Whole Foods that morning) to those people who have touched me in some way during the previous year -- many of whom are on the periphery of my life.
This year, I'll do so for my daughter's school curriculum specialist, my postal carrier and one of my doctors. A few years ago, I did it for the very unsuspecting technician who had given me my ultrasound, our neighbor and both our school secretary and a crossing guard. My personal ever-growing collection of hearts of every shape, color and size will now grace our dining room table on our heart-covered placemats, next to the bouquet of Valentine's Day flowers. Our string of flowery red hearts will drape across our dining room window.
On my midlife mother website, I'll take the opportunity to use the entire month of February to focus on love. I'll post blogs about: how to love yourself, how to love others, how to love your children, how to help your children love others; how to be grateful and how to live in peace. I'll offer affirmations and gratitude tips... you get the gist.
Most years, although my efforts make me happy, I wonder whether my small Valentine's Day gestures make a difference in anyone else's life. But, when I think hard about all of this, I realize that it is exactly the baby steps of One that help create the power of the Whole. And, at this point in all our lives, all across the world, we all need peace, love, joy, acceptance, gratitude, forgiveness and loving kindness very, very badly.
So, I'd like to propose a challenge to you: on this day (or leading up to this day), I'd ask that you breathe in and breathe out images of love, and focus on your heart and its needs (be they medical, spiritual, physical or emotional). That you try very hard to smile, say "thank you" and "please" whenever and wherever you can. That you acknowledge: the soldiers overseas; people grappling with terminal and life-threatening illnesses; those experiencing poverty and loss of homes or jobs; and those who have experienced nature's wrath and/or personal tragedy. That you hug your children, husband, sisters, brothers, parents and friends a little bit tighter, as often as possible. And, maybe start your own Valentine's Day tradition, like handing out (freshly-made, no less!) chocolate-covered strawberries.
Here's my Valentine's Day promise -- with an umbrella of love this big we can make at least one day in a very long year, better.