Perspectives on Valentine's Day

Let's put Valentine's in romantic-loving perspective

Posted Feb 01, 2011

It's coming: the best, and worst, and most tumultuous day of the calendar year.

Here's what Wiki has to say: "Saint Valentine's Day (commonly shortened to Valentine's Day) is an annual commemoration held on February 14th celebrating love and affection between intimate companions. The day is named after one or more early Christian martyrs, Valentine. It is traditionally a day on which lovers express their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards ("valentines"). The day first became associated with romantic love in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished."

It sounds so innocent: but you don't have to be a trained psychiatrist to know that this makes for a whole lot of heartache for almost everyone. February 14th is an excellent example of a man-made cultural nexus of exultation and disappointment. This is a date on our paper or electronic calendars that almost always proves portentous on our emotional calendars as well.

Because you are so beautiful. Because you are so kind. Because of how the wind blows soft kisses with your scent to me. NO. Because I am unsure. Because I think I deserve more. Because I don't deserve you. Because I don't know how to do it any differently. MAYBE. Because relationships are not fully within our control. And because relationships involve a lot of work. DEFINITELY.

One of Buddha's first principles is that life is suffering. He did not teach this to bum everyone out. The point is that in accepting this inescapable truth, you free yourself. By accepting that a wonderfully satisfying love relationship takes effort, you can be well on your way to do better with your offerings of kindness and healthy communications. Indeed, treating one and other kindly and communicating well are the pillars on which Valentine's Day should stand. Obviously, how you feel about Valentine's Day coming up and what you should do to prepare for it depend on your romantic "status" this year.

Here are three tips:
1. If you are in a pretty good relationship, cherish it. Love your partner for who he or she is. Do not resent him or her for not being someone else. "Dance with the gal who brung ya. Love the one you're with."

2. If you are in a bad relationship and you've been meaning to end it, consider doing just that, maybe right away. Clear the decks, and ready the sails. Aloneness is not the same as loneliness - it's better not to tie your precious self to someone who is dragging you down. Prepare to free yourself - and sail on.

3. If you are single, be fabulous. Don't fall prey to resentment or envy. First, remember that being single is better than being in an unhappy relationships. (Don't believe me? See tip #2). Second, taking especially good care of yourself is loving and generous. Regardless of your relationship status, you deserve this. 

Valentine's Day is all about romantic love - but what is romance, anyway? Surely it's not merely marriage: in medieval times, marriages and love had little in common. Weddings were often, and still may be, arranged for a variety of reasons. And true love was certainly not required. Courtly love, the medieval alternative to marriage, had little more to offer. A courtly love affair was an extramarital, unrequited affair of the heart. Not very practical or satisfying at all.

Romantic love, our present day standard, is an uncommonly satisfying mutual condition involving the heart and mind and body - and possibly involving the soul.

Back to Wiki again: it can be idealistic, intense, predictable, unpredictable, consuming, out of control, material, physical, demonstrative, realistic, unrealistic, optimistic, pessimistic, abiding, non-abiding, controlling, disobedient, emotional, personal, soulful, intimate, infinite, unconditional, and everlasting. Phew.

Let's not get entirely carried away. Take a breath.

Here we are in the depths of winter, trying to start the New Year right. We have taken a few weeks at the beginning of January to recharge after the quickening pace and related stresses of the late fall and beginning of winter. We've moved on past Thanksgiving, Hanukah, Christmas and New Year, and past the real beginning of 2011.

As you march onwards through the long, dark January weeks, when the days are still short, the streets are still icy, and your new year's resolutions are starting to weigh you down, let St Valentine's Day be a shining light, a beacon representing both an aspiration and a conceit, an ideal and a warning. If at this time in your life you can look inside yourself and, looking deeply inwards, find out how to be a little better at granting yourself acceptance, and humility, and love, then your beauty will shine brightly too.