Long before the possibility of romantic love ever became real in my life, I loved Valentine’s Day. Some people pressure us to feel lonely on Valentine’s Day, to feel like not having a specific kind of relationship in your life should dictate your mood. Still other people would rather we scorn Valentine’s Day altogether due to its seemingly contrived and commercial origins. I’m inclined to disagree, based on the following logic.
When I was a child, my mother conditioned me not to have a sweet tooth by keeping me away from hyper-sweetened foods like candy. But, even though this served me well for a great deal of my life, it doesn’t mean I can’t occasionally be found standing in front of the freezer eating cookie dough. Additionally, when I asked my parents if they loved me more than each other, my parents would say, “we love you in a different way.” This was to teach me that there are many different kinds of love.
In the same way that being taught not to have a sweet tooth didn’t flawlessly protect me from being lured into the Nestle Tollhouse, knowing that there are many different kinds of love hasn’t protected me from the occasional feeling of unease that comes with not getting the kind of love you want from the person from whom you want it.
When I was in high school, I had a friend. He was a cool, older guy, the only guy I really was friends with who could really be there for me in the way that I needed. He helped me learn how to drive, helped me with school, helped me with getting around. It was a time in my life when I felt incredibly powerless, and he was the only person who helped with that.
The problem was that I had a crush on him. I really, really liked him, and I wanted him to like me. Not just like me as in “think I was a cool person,” I wanted him to be attracted to me and fall totally, recklessly in love with me.
Because I wasn’t getting the kind of love I wanted from him, I wasn’t nearly as appreciative as I should have been of what he was doing. Oh, sure, I addressed him very politely, if a bit flirtatiously, but I never really took time on my own to reflect on the kindness and caring I received from him.
Instead of “what a nice thing to help me with my homework today, he’s such a kind person to take time that he could be having fun to help me,” it was “what can I do to make him like me?” “How do I appear more attractive?” All these selfish thoughts kept me from changing my perspective and seeing all the loving things he was doing for me.
I wanted a boyfriend, but I needed someone who just wanted to help. I didn’t notice that with his help, I felt the way I’d wanted to feel when I believed I’d wanted him as my boyfriend: loved, important, confident. The kind of love I was getting was doing exactly the same thing for me, but I just couldn’t see it.
There are times when I’ve been sad because of one person who didn’t love me the way that I wanted, and I’ve ignored everybody else that I could have been close to because of it. My friends, my sisters, my parents. I’d never deny that they loved me, but I’d scorn their affection and say “it’s not the saaaaaaaame.” But, today, I challenge myself by asking, “who cares?” The different kinds of love come and go from our lives. Friends enter and exit here or there, a romance blossoms and wilts, and so on and so forth. The absence of one kind of love doesn’t render the others useless. They’re still there, and needed as much as ever.
So, I didn’t get that guy in high school. But, all the other people and things that I love fill my life with joy and amaze me with gratitude, and that’s what I’ll be celebrating this Valentine’s Day. It’s a chance to appreciate all the love you do receive, and to give some to other people. It was our late president, Abraham Lincoln, who said:”you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need.”
Just kidding, it was The Rolling Stones. Happy Valentines Day.
With Fond Regards,