Today caught me off guard. Not the fact that it's Valentine's Day. India had already had a class party and a Galentine's party. I knew the date.
What sneakily walloped me was grief.
In the media and in the greeting card aisle, the focus of Valentine's Day is hearts and roses and chocolates and romance.
Once I was out of grade school, where if you gave a Valentine to one person, you had to give one to everyone, Valentine's Day was stressful.
Either I was dating someone, and there was so much pressure, or—more often—I wasn't dating anyone, and Valentine's Day was proof that I was a big lonesome loser.
When honestly, I've always, always been surrounded by a tremendous amount of love.
I just didn't recognize it.
What I realized today was that my mom showered us all with Valentine love.
I was talking to Maude, who was here last week. She was out getting chocolates for her family. I said I never did that. And then I realized I never did it because I didn't have to.
My mom had it covered.
She was with us from my first baby on. And she loved getting fun stuff for the holidays. Valentine's heart chocolates. Easter baskets. Christmas stockings.
She was all about it.
Me, I sent the kids to school with cards or candy or cookies for the class.
But Nana was the one who bought the family sweet cards and boxes of heart-shaped candy.
India and I just had a big cry about this. She said she thought Nana would at least be with us until Jordan graduated from high school, or maybe even when she did.
His 8th grade graduation gutted me.
But back to the matter at hand. Although all of it is about love.
I was, if I'm being honest, pretty terrible at romantic relationships until around the time I met Nick.
Which is not to say that Nick was the magic ticket, or whatever the phrase might be.
I mean, OF COURSE he was the magic ticket. I fell in love with him. And we suit each other in many, many ways.
One of the most important being that we make each other laugh really hard.
But also: I'd had enough therapy to be able to behave like a person who both merited love and kindness and was able to reciprocate for more than a short time. I was finally healthy enough to remain in a long-term commitment.
This ability was and was not about love.
I now understand that my behavior was mainly about insecurity and fear of abandonment.
It truly felt like betrayal when I got to the point in therapy where I was like, my parents' behavior was not necessarily helpful to me, and was sometimes downright unhelpful. They loved me, but I don't think they were always taking my well-being into account.
It felt awful to admit this. They're your parents, after all.
But as we all contain multitudes, these things can be true. And it is also true that they loved me, and I loved them.
And I still love them.
They were human and they were flawed, as are we all. The more I know about where they came from, the more compassion I have.
Anyway, for a long time, and this was before I started blogging, I exploded my romantic relationships. You couldn't leave me, because I was going to leave you first.
I did this over and over, and then I wondered, aloud, in therapy, why nobody loved me. My therapist, to her credit, never rolled her eyes.
Even after marriage, this big commitment I'd ostensibly been seeking, for years, every time Nick and I had a big fight, I was sure it meant divorce. And then, we got past it.
Just like I did in my friendships.
Because non-romantic love? Platonic love?
That kind I was good at.
Nick has said before that it seems like I feel so much more than he does. My highs are higher and my lows are lower.
What he didn't include, but what I know about myself, is that I love immensely. As vastly and as deeply as I can.
When I was a little kid, and the biggest number I knew was 5, I would tell my mom I loved her FIVE.
And this is how I've always been.
When I'm in, I'm all in.
If I love you, I will do pretty much anything for you. I've never had to do this, but I'm pretty sure I could help justify murder. I have a car big enough to transport a body.
Goodbye, Earl? Yes.
I cannot do this for everyone. But I could definitely do this for some.
So on some level, I believed I could get married and sustain a relationship, despite the detritus of myriad failed romantic relationships, because I'd been friends with Maude my entire life.
We'd lived together twice. She'd taught me to drive, a little in DC, and mostly on our way cross-country.
She believed in me and I trusted her.
Which is not to say we didn't fight. Or go through periods where we could barely stand each other.
While still living together.
Together, though not always physically, we lived through: moving to a new place where we had no friends (and we got super sick of each other until we found some); unemployment; depression and its accompanying bad behavior; poor choices in boyfriends; romantic heartbreak; one person in love and the other feeling abandoned; terrible haircuts, sometimes done by each other; unfortunate hair colors; and the like. Pregnancies, miscarriages, infertility, babies. Loss of my dad. Loss of her mom. Loss of my mom.
And still, we were and always, always will be friends.
This, for me, is how love is. Love is patient, love is kind.
Because I wasn't raised attending church, I will admit to you that I used to think I Corinthians was I as in me, Corinthians.
Like I, Claudius.
I often say that I hate people, and my daughter always corrects me. "You have so many people you love. So many."
And this is true. I get overpeopled, and I need to sit at home alone. I get disheartened with how terrible humans can be, and I need to pull back.
But I do love so many people. So many.
And because our hearts expand, I just keep adding people. I don't have to delete one to add a new one.
I carry the ones who are gone.
Though somewhere in the multiverse, we're still together.
This is not to say that I'm not petty or begrudging, because ooh, I am. I don't judge people I like. But I can judge the pants off people I don't.
Is that an expression? For a linguist, I'm shockingly terrible at those kinds of expressions.
But I feel like all that matters in this life is the people you love who love you.
And I guess this is a long, meandering way to say that on this day of such tremendous focus on love, I hope you are well. I hope you're happy. I hope you feel how loved you are.
I'm wishing you generosity and kindness and an immense eternity of love.