February 14th, 2019. I woke up and the first thought that entered my mind was that I started dating my now ex-boyfriend around this day last year. I checked my phone to see a myriad of photos displaying couples gazing into one another’s eyes, captions reading, “Happy V-Day to the Best Babe!” and “I Love You So Much, Forever Valentine!” I scrunched my face in disgust, quickly closed that app, and started skimming the news. While scrolling through headlines, one catches my eye- it states in bold, block letters, “it is expected that this year, Valentine’s Day sales will exceed 18.6 billion dollars in this country!” I let out an audible groan and threw my phone away from my person as hard as I possibly could. I hopped out of bed and scanned my closet for the day’s clothing pick- I actually had a lot of reddish options available from which to choose, but I reached for a black sweater and paired it with black jeans and tied a black scrunchie messily into my hair because that is the kind of energy I decided to bring into this day.
As I made my coffee, I already felt aggravated and I hadn’t even been conscious for 20 minutes. I reflected on the date that I had last night with an older, high-up executive at Google who made me feel like a little, confused girl who had none of her life figured out as I spoke about my current job that I hate and how I had to move in with my mother after I worked in San Francisco after college. My wise-mind, rooted in all of the self-work that it has done over the past year or so, gently reminded me that no one can make me feel any kind of way, that I am in complete control of my own emotions and reactions. My current mood, however, shouted back with an aggressive, “hey, let me have a f*cking minute to relish in self-pity on this dumbass hallmark holiday where the fact that I am painfully single is thrown in my face over and over again through the chocolates and flowers and cards that I will not be receiving on this particular February 14th, k?” All the while, I had certain girlfriends, all of whom are in serious relationships, texting me messages like, “Hey Beauty, you’ll always be my #1 Valentine!” as an attempt to make me feel better as they remember that I have gone through a recent breakup and the closest thing resembling a romantic partnership in my life at the moment is with a creature with four furry legs and a wagging tail that occasionally kisses my cheek with his tongue when I command him to do so. As soon as I got in my car, I angrily slammed the door and without even thinking about it, I chose to blast a song with the title “FU4E”, an acronym for “F*ck You Forever.”
As I pulled into the parking lot of my office, I felt compelled to turn down the music and sit in silence before walking into the workday ahead because I knew that I needed to shift my energy. I was gaining nothing by being mad at the world and my circumstances on this day. I put both hands over my chest and took a few deep, cleansing breaths with my eyes closed. I felt the pent-up frustration and irritation slowly subside as a tender cue entered my psyche reminding me of the most important relationship there is, the one that came first and the one that will be my last- the one with myself. A glimpse of sharp awareness swept through me as I remembered that in our society, this day can seem to only celebrate the pink, fluffy, bubbly, rosy kind of love. The gleaming, smiley, hugging-and-laughing-and-kissing-in-the-middle-of-a-sparkly-field-of-flowers type of thing between two people with a romantic connection. It seems to only focus on couples holding glasses of champagne, strategically batting eyelashes in one another’s directions while wearing sexy lingerie and opening boxes of jewelry. It concentrates on the stuff that can be tied up with a bow and sold off to the public, which is why we see a lot of it this time of year. However, a lot of people may be experiencing very different kinds of love boats that are often not highlighted on this holiday, whether it be with children, with parents, with extended relatives, with friends, with places, with former partners, with life, with self. This love can look rough around the edges, battered and bruised, worn down, tear-streaked, jagged, busted and scuffed up, exhausted, overwhelmed, imperfect, or rundown at the end of each day. Often times, I think it’s easy to oversee a quote-on-quote “love story” if we’re not cheerily living life with Mr. Prince Charming by our sides, but the thing is, this whole, entire life is a love story- always, in every realm, no matter what, for every human. It may not be the kind we typically romanticize and fantasize, but that does not mean it is any less of a true and real and brutal and beautiful love story. A father who wants to be there for his family in the worst way but is battling a diagnosis with only one ending, and a mother shouldering the sole burden to create normalcy and stability for her children since the news. A woman in her 20s looking for her voice and trying to fall in love with her insides while trying to dismantle the messages she’s received since she was a little girl about being thin and pretty and quiet and put-together while not taking up a lot of space. A young guy looking at his life thus far, realizing that he’s boozed and drugged and sexed and gambled every emotion away since as long as he can remember, wanting to pave a brighter way for his future that is more in tune with his values while having no idea where to start. A single-parent juggling paying rent with driving kids to school with remembering whose soccer practice is when and trying to figure out what to do about the school bully picking on her/his daughter. A high school girl shaking with fear after a kiss that made her realize that she might not be attracted to the sex she was conditioned to be attracted to, knowing she will eventually have to break the hearts of her family, friends, and church if she wants to be who she really is by loving who she really loves. A teenager who already feels lost in this world and is desperately looking around for reasons to stay in it when one random act of kindness from a stranger changes everything. These are the real love stories, the love stories that last and resonate and represent us as human beings walking our truths as best as we can in this life.
A couple of bad interactions with men within the past week cannot take away the fact that I have been nurturing my joy for life and love for self over the past year and a half. When a guy doesn’t follow up after a dinner date, it doesn’t mean that I am any less worthy or loved or adequate or interesting or likeable. A split with a boyfriend cannot undo the sense of being able to hang my hat up and throw my feet on the sofa after a long day within the home I’ve fought tirelessly to create within myself. Just because I don’t have a partner right now doesn’t mean that I don’t belong or that I don’t have love all around me- most days I feel an electrifying current that runs between and within all of us, bringing us closer to each other and kindness and truth and warmth and passion and even on days when I feel so unbelievably single, I cannot forget this. I have worked too damn hard and come too damn far in my quest for self-acceptance to allow being alone on Valentine’s Day to derail my progress and healing. I am allowed to feel the itch for that kind of fiery, starry-eyed connection, but above that, I will continue explore what it means to unfold and bloom for no one other than myself. I am letting go of past notions that tell me that I need a partner to complete me, a man to be whole. There is so much magical freedom in shedding these kinds of socially-constructed beliefs because it leads us in the direction of becoming the fullest versions of our most authentic selves.
As my day progressed, I felt more and more re-centered as these realizations popped into my brain and replaced my previous thoughts that orbited around self-criticism and intense loneliness. Then, my mom showed up with red roses at my office and my childhood best friend told me that my V-Day present was in the mail and I got a package from a soul sister with a bag of my favorite coffee from San Francisco. I responded to those texts in my inbox from gals with significant others with heart emojis and nice words back emphasizing how much I appreciated their friendships- I even threw in an “ovaries before brovaries” line. I smiled at my colleagues who received boxes of chocolates from their partners, and I helped my little brother plan out his date with his new girlfriend. I thought about bailing on the commitment I had made for the evening because I felt emotionally exhausted, but ultimately I suited up and showed up for the Sober Dance Party I said I would attend. I twirled and sang and sweated and jumped and screamed and hugged and moved and grooved in an unfiltered and unaltered state with random humans for over three hours as I constantly thought about how me getting the opportunity to live this life full of connection and boldness and surprises and authenticity and fun and vulnerability and laughter and spontaneity and growth and rawness and lessons and gratitude is literally the coolest thing in the entire universe. As I climbed into bed at the end of the night, waves of love started to crash over me, and tears started to flow- tears that did not indicate that I was going the wrong way, but tears that confirmed that I was pouring every ounce of my heart and soul and body and mind and energy into choosing and connecting with myself and my people.
It’s easy to dismiss this holiday as a money-making hoax, and it’s harder to see the light in it especially if you are not in the conventional situation to celebrate it. But there’s beauty in everything if we look hard enough, and we can do hard things.
Tess is an avid believer in humanity, a passionate advocate of vulnerability, and a stubborn seeker of joy and goodness. She considers herself a “Recovering Everything” as she has thoroughly worked (and is always working) through a multitude of mental conditions and addictions which is the journey of which she is most proud. Humility, curiosity, and empathy are the main keys that she uses to navigate through this beautiful roller-coaster of a life, one day at a time.
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