I can’t resist the opportunity to talk about love.  During Valentine’s Day, which some refer to as a “Hallmark Holiday” we think about love in the romantic sense.  Flowers and chocolate come to mind, and maybe a date night with our partner for the first time in months or longer.  Some folks celebrate birthdays on this day, and some choose to get married on 2/14 as it is thought of as being very romantic.

The role of romance in love is a fun facet of being alive.  Young love in particular can rule our worlds if we are new to the idea that Two hearts can beat as one (Thank you U2!)  We have butterflies in our stomachs, and start fantasizing about the future.  Even as a young woman I recall in high school how many of us girls would write out our names on our notebooks and include our future ”married” names by adding the last names of our boyfriends at the time.  The energized current of young and romantic love is a playful, unique and special experience of being human.

But when the novelty wears off, and two people are committed to each other and the life they are building together, love can become a little less sexy and a bit more pragmatic.  As we time travel into the future about plans, possibilities and opportunities, our “playful” romantic experience can turn into stress and anxiety about the health and security our families.  No matter what our family structure looks like, our experience of romantic love doesn’t prevail.  That energy is more like a seed that is planted so we can grow into the virtuous commitment where the whole, is greater than the individuals that comprise the family unit.

Love goes from roses, chocolate and awkward nervousness to conversations that start with questions like “What’s for dinner?” And “How will we manage this challenge?”  And “You spent how much money on that?”  We juggle caring for our families and ourselves, with nurturing the unique intentional effort that deep, committed love demands.  Schedules can get over booked, sports and music lessons for the kids can dominate the flow of activity, along with working our professional jobs, keeping the laundry going and making sure there is creamer for that much coveted first cup of morning coffee.

But Love, in its most powerful form, in my experience, transcends all of this.  It provides a foundation for security, respect and mutual support.  It can promise survival after an accident.  It can promise reconciliation after opposing action.  What most impresses me about “L-O-V-E” is that it takes on so many forms, from romantic, to platonic, to friendship to deep reverence to reciprocal care and concern for one another and our Planet.  

Consider some scenarios which capture a few examples of how love has manifested in my own life:

Love Is:

  • Making end of life decisions for my Daughter.  Then looking across the room into my partner’s eyes weeks later at her funeral, while both of us yearn for the other to confirm we made the right decision.
  • Supporting a friend or partner in an endeavor important to them, even when we don’t support the endeavor itself.
  • Weaving the strands of our lives together with compassion and empathy, as we recognize parts of ourselves in others, and parts of them in us.
  • Circling back with someone to clarify some communication that may have unintentionally gone sideways.
  • Giving without attachment.
  • Accepting, without blocking.
  • Kindness.
  • Forgiveness.
  • Setting boundaries.
  • Gratitude.
  • Presence.
  • Hopeful:  Feeling that the future can be better than the past, and that we have the agency to show up and do what is required to make that future happen.
  • Generosity
  • Seeing the first tulip push through the thawed out ground in Spring, or watching that last leaf to slowly fall and drift in Autumn.

What is love to you?  On this Valentine’s Day, if you are so inspired, carve out some time this morning or later today, to ponder what love means to you, your life, people closest to you, and how it manifests.  Are you missing any opportunities to be loved?  Or overlooking an opening to show someone else unconditional love?  Or to acknowledge the care someone has shown you, or you have shown yourself?  

In my experience feeling seen and heard is one of the highest levels of love expression that we can feel, and also provide to others.  Don’t hold back today, or any day, while celebrating loving people and conditions in your life.  Try openly expressing your affection and appreciation where it feels appropriate.  And allow yourself to receive, that which you give away.

When you say “I love you” to someone, let the current of your energy be viscerally felt, and make words the secondary transmission of your expression. But for the use of words, would the people in your life know how you feel about them?  If not, it might be time to focus on closing the gap between how you feel about people and how effectively you have expressed these feelings in real time.

Then let love do its thing.  As Jason Mraz beautifully sings, in his song Life is Wonderful:

“It takes no time to fall in Love but it takes you years to know what the Love is.”

And by all means, bring on the roses, candy and romance if you are fortunate enough to spend today with that one person who makes life all ok for you.  Go out of your way to make sure they know how you feel about them.  That way, when the shit hits the fan, and it always does, you will have built, and become part of a foundation that can carry you through both the best, and the worst of times.

Oh, and don’t forget the chocolate covered strawberries and the champagne!  Cheers!

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