Today is Valentine’s Day, a day which is celebrated almost uniquely in the United States as an all-around Love day. Here, cards and gifts are given to moms, dads, friends, everyone, including romantic interests, but not exclusively to those heart-throbs. I don’t care that it is a major marketing holiday, I am so glad that here in the States it is not a day reserved only for lovers. This has evolved over time. It was much more exclusive when I was a kid growing up in the ’60’s. Other than little kids in school exchanging those tiny cards with each other, it was still more a celebration of romantic love back then. But not to Hazel Martin-Gauthier…my mom! It turns out she was a pioneer in blowing Valentine’s Day wide open.
It was a day when my mom showered me with little gifts. We didn’t have a whole lot of money, but as with other gift-giving occasions, my mom found a way. She saved. She scrimped. She obtained things with Green Stamps. It helped that I was an only child and it was the ’60’s, but she was one of the most creative people I ever knew when it came to saving money and getting by in style, which, to Hazel meant showering her little family with sweet remembrances. I will never forget how, invariably, I would get my feelings hurt cos the little boy I liked at Valentine’s Day instead liked some girl who was cute or popular or rich. I also got a few hurt feelings when I got less Valentines than some kids, it being a huge competition to get the most. Back then, parents didn’t monitor it like many do today, making sure their child includes all the other kids in the class. They just gave kids a package of Valentines and let them have at it.
I was unpopular back in grade school cos I was shy, and I mean shy, ( I know, hard to imagine, huh?) so this meant that I never, ever got as many Valentines as the popular kids. In my circle of 4 or 5 trusted, tried and true little pals, I did just fine, but could never have competed with the golden boys and girls, the ones everybody either was friends with or wanted to be. The Valentines from my little pack of friends was some consolation, but there was always a let down when that special boy ignored me for someone more appealing. That let down was over when I got home from school, though.
Mom always had me a bag of Red Hots, shaped like tiny hearts. There was chocolate. There was a grown-up Valentine card to “my daughter”. Once, there were even a dozen roses from Dad! Best of all, there was Mom, and that made up for any slights from school-mates. And Valentine’s Day was the one day of the year that I could really feel like Mom and Dad loved each other, something a child desperately needs to feel secure and happy. Back then, when I was in grade school, Mom’s Valentines and Mom and Dad acting like they were in love filled the bill, and then some, making February 14th my favorite day of the year, next to Christmas. In this time of my innocence, the love I had in my life was enough…even if Jeff Scalli liked someone else!
As I grew up, though, it was not enough. I wanted a boyfriend! Looking back, I can see that it has taken me many, many years to re-learn the powerful secret I knew as a grade-school kid: the love in your life is enough, even if it is not coming from the one or ones you want it from! As time went on Mom’s continued sweet Valentine’s offerings became of little interest and almost no appreciation; they felt almost like a mockery… “Great, my Mom loves me…so what? I want a boyfriend!” Sure, this was normal for a teenager. But it did not change even as I grew to be a woman. I wanted love…but it had to come from a lover or it meant next to nothing to me. Looking back now, I see how blessed and gifted I was to have this sweet Mom with such a giving, caring nature. It all played out like this: I had to not just grow up, but almost grow old, in order to see that love is love, that to be loved at all is a precious gift. I had to chase down guy after guy, catching several of them, only to abruptly find out there had never been any real love there at all…only lust. It took many years and much disappointment, but finally peace came to my hungry, hungry heart.
This peace has come, not even from finding my beloved Charlie, but from slowly and haltingly, one step forward and 2 steps back, learning to love myself. I am not completely there yet. Sometimes I fall back into the old self-hate routine, the if-only s, you know, if only I was prettier, younger, more accomplished, richer, smarter, etc, sure I do. But when I do climb out of that old familiar yet harsh place, I know what is going on in those misty moors of my unconscious mind; I am simply trying to buy back into the old bullshit “You’re nobody til somebody loves you.” And that is all it is…bullshit. Friends, if you are lonely today on Valentine’s Day, remember the one who has been with you since the day you were born, the one who has triumphed over so many things, the one you have always had to come home to…beloved You! You are God’s Beloved and nothing can change that, (regardless of what load of shame and guilt you may have been terrorized with in Sunday School!) but even that Love won’t mean a thing to you unless you accept it. So today, give yourself the best gift you ever got on Valentine’s Day or any occasion… the gift of self-love. Let it begin with self-acceptance and self-compassion and grow from there. Know, whoever might be reading this, that I love you, that if I don’t know you, and I met you I would love you. Even if I don’t like you, or wouldn’t like you, I would love you because you are my sister or brother, and because this Love that God has poured like a crystal stream of pure water into my once-parched heart is now a stream of loving kindness and compassion that flows from me when I remind myself of that Love, the kind with the capital L, that flows from the endless Source. I wish you a happy Valentine’s Day that is un-dimmed by any need for a special persons love, but is satisfied by whatever love is already there. It could be the love of an animal, the embrace of the Earth Herself, a smile from a stranger, or the love that flows, unobstructed, from your own precious heart.
…God is love. 1 John 4:8