Once again, it is Valentine’s Day, the Hallmark celebration of Love. I have approached this day in various ways over the years, sometimes with a jaundiced view of the commercialisation of the day and its subject, sometimes with a lighter hand and heart. Here are my 2021 reflections on Valentine’s Day.
The ideal would be to live love everyday, not just once a year. Most of us are aware of who and what we love more often than just February 14th. But let’s take advantage of the spotlight on Love this year and see what comes out of the shadows.
There are more kinds of love than we think of when we think of hearts and chocolates. There is the love we have for our first family, if we are lucky enough to have had a good one: our parents and siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins. This love changes over the years as we need less from them and want, perhaps, more. We can now, as adults, live on our own, but these folks, who have known us from our embryonic stage, are especially precious. They have watched us grow and bloom, stand and fall and get back up again. They have seen us through our early career attempts, successes and learning periods, on roads straight or treacherous. We may have gone from dependent to dependable; from adversarial to supportive. Or maybe we have drifted apart and might take this opportunity, this Valentine’s Day, to try to move a little closer.
If you have children, you know the challenge of remaining a beacon of support as they stumble on colt’s legs to learn to walk and run, literally and figuratively. Sometimes they fall so hard, that they don’t get up and finding a loving heart in those situations is a challenge. Parental love is a special brand of love, one that is touted as being unconditional and everlasting. Not all of us have such a relationship with our children—there is every hue of relationship in each of these contexts—but as long as we draw breath, there is chance for improvement, enrichment and redemption.
And what of our friends? I am grateful to have one friend since the age of eight and many who have come after. A tending of those friendships has borne so much fruit over the years that I know I will never go hungry. Sure, there is effort in this tending, but it is easy to come from the perspective of a joyful endeavour, rather than laborious task. We may even hold friends who do not return our love, who need us in some inchoate way and to whom we give without thought of return. These are probably the folks who need us most!
If you are lucky to have found a lover, or perhaps more than one, in your life, that, too is a special relationship. It is one in which we can enjoy the harmonious presence of someone else, accompanying us through our day-to-day struggles with finances, work, leisure time, family care, and differing outlooks. An interesting and nourishing soup, the succour of which can build us into flexible and loving humans.
Maybe Love is like sourdough starter: it grows on its own, but if you don’t feed it, and keep using it, it will run out. A healthy starter allows us the generosity to share that wealth with those who have need, who have less. I am a great fan of chocolates and hearts and flowers; I am a greater fan of the generous heart. To whom will you give your heart’s riches today and all days?