With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, I hear the moans and groans of the season. Moans from those who are single and disgruntled about it and groans from those who are coupled up and feel the pressure of doing something fantastic for the holiday of love.
A Chicago Fav: Lou Malnati's Pizza
I know. It’s easy to complain about the hype or the commercialism of it all. Everywhere you turn, you can’t help but see red heart-shaped boxes stuffed with chocolate, shiny pink heart-shaped balloons floating around the grocery store. You can even order heart-shaped pizza in some places. I know it can seem like over-kill, whether you are coupled up or not.
Personally, I have always loved Valentine’s Day for the simple fact that it’s my birthday. Booyah!
Let’s face it, as a child, it kind of rocks to have most of the western world all jazzed up on your birthday. Everyone seems to be buzzing around, thinking about love, flowers and candy. And instead of doing math you get to make Valentine’s cards in school. It definitely adds to the fun of your birthday if the people around you are also celebrating in some way or another.
Then you grow up. People get jaded. They have all these expectations that weigh them down or they fall into the depths of despair over what they feel is a miserable reminder of the lack of love or romance in their lives. I can’t tell you exactly how many times that I’ve heard someone say, “I HATE Valentine’s Day.” And even though it must be hundreds of times by now, each time I am horrified. Hate Valentine’s Day? What?!
Setting aside the the fact that it is my birthday, I still find Valentine’s Day one of the best ‘holidays’. What better reason to designate a day as a holiday than LOVE? Isn’t that what every day should be about anyway?
Familial love, romantic love, brotherly love & sisterly love, love of mankind, love of the earth and the animals that inhabit it. Love of your self. Are these not worthy of just a day of our thoughts and energy?
I know. What’s all this yoga-teacher, woo-woo got to do with the giant, furry, stuffed pink and red beast that has become Valentine’s Day? Well, perhaps finding reverence for this day requires a reshaping of your head more than another heart-shaped box of treats delivered to your door.
Perhaps, we remember that love isn’t just something you ‘get’ but it’s something you create. In each moment we have the opportunity to love and be loved. With a kind smile to a stranger. Bringing a co-worker their favorite coffee drink. Telling a friend or family member that they are wonderful. By accepting a compliment graciously, by honoring our own talents and beauty, by looking in the mirror with reverence and compassion instead of judgment. These are all seemingly small things, but can be incredibly potent ways to allow love to move through us.
We don’t need to relegate showing love to only grandiose productions of the romantic kind. There is love all around and within, waiting to be set free. It could be a simple word or look or thought that unleashes the love within.
Look, I’m no Pollyanna. I’ve had my fair share of heartbreak. Literally. Less than 10 years ago, I was diagnosed with an aortic coarctation. The aorta is the largest artery in the heart and my aorta started normally but then collapsed down to 4mm in the middle and then opened back up to normal size. My aorta was shaped like a dumbell, a weight. Essentially, my heart was broken. And, in case you hadn’t heard, it’s kind of important to have a fully functioning heart.
I didn’t see this a merely a physical condition, however. I saw just how my life was being reflected in my body. As I thought back to painful times in my life, to moments of despair, I remembered how during those times, I often felt such pain in my chest that I sometimes doubled over. Not just a little flutter or ache, but sharp physical pain. I knew then that the weight of unresolved conflicts of the past as well as fear, doubt and unhealthy relationships were literally breaking my heart.
After my heart surgery, I knew something had to change and it wasn’t by the hands of doctors. Something had to change in the way I thought. How and what I thought of myself, of others, of the world. If I didn’t change in my head, I was surely going to break my heart to the point of no return.
I continue on that path today. Finding the ways I block myself from receiving and giving love freely and moving through those barriers. It’s not always easy. There are times my thoughts lead me to feel heart-achy about the state of the world, or about aspects in my own life. But I persevere. Asana, meditation, pranayama, along with surrounding myself with good people, give me the fortitude to remember a deeper love: Unconditional Love…for myself and others. Sometimes it comes in the form of softening, sometimes it comes in the form of challenging ourselves, whatever form it takes, unconditional love leads us to the knowing that we are all worthy of it and that it is always abundantly available. It only requires us to remember it, for us to start living it.
So as February 14th rolls around and I see bins of heart-shaped boxes of candy, or stores filled with pink & red balloons and flowers, when I hear the moans and groans, I don’t think of commercialism or Hollywood ideals of love, or what love might mean or not mean to anyone else. Instead, I am reminded that on this day, many years ago, I was born. And that inside this body, I have a heart that even though has been broken and banged up along the way, still beats strong. So amidst the scowls of the jaded or the tears of the lonely, I choose to use my heart and share in the love as best I can, in as many ways as I can.
Maybe this Valentine’s Day, in any seemingly small way, you will choose to do the same. This year, I’m not wishing that you have a Happy Valentine’s Day. This year, I’m inviting you to begin creating the love that you long to be living. XO
The day will come when, after harnessing space,
the winds, the tides, gravitation, we shall harness
for God the energies of love. And, on that day,
for the second time in the history of the world,
humankind will have discovered fire.
-Pierre Teilhard de Chardin