Is love in the air?
A missive in which the day of love isn't a universally good day, but there can be healing.
It’s Valentine’s Day, a tough day for many, but I hope not for any of you.
It has been for me most of my adult life. It’s actually an improvement that I spent more recent years forgetting this day existed as opposed to raging a full-on war against it. And I love that there’s been a shift into celebrating all kinds of love today.
But there was a very sad time in my life when I assumed, nay, 100%, wholeheartedly, and fully believed that amorous love wasn’t real. I saw lovers walking down the street, his hand on her neck, and the story I made up in my head was possession and control.
In my mind, couples stayed together out of obligation or co-dependency. All partnered people had to sacrifice pieces of themselves (or worse, their whole selves), to fit into what their lovers needed them to be and vice versa.
Every partnership created more work for the other. No one was capable of asking for what they wanted so no one got what they wanted. Couples embarked on no adventures, they had no fun, they never laughed or danced. Few relationships remained committed in an ethical way and everyone was as stinking, wastefully, horribly as miserable as I felt solo.
I had absolutely no bleeding idea why anyone did it, partner up, one can find sex around any corner if they want to, at least that’s what I’d been told, so there was no reason to live the horror that is a relationship!
Seeing couples on the street made me angry. Being presented with sappy, sentimental ads made me angry. I was generally angry all the time about everything. If some poor bloke bravely and innocently sat down at our table at the bar to chat up my gal friends and me, I was relentless with my jabs. I was straight-up mean.
I wholly assumed their sitting at the table was absolutely nothing to do with me, i.e., I couldn’t have possibly caught their eye and I found it so absurd that anyone could find me attractive that I laughed riotously in drunk boys’ faces when they blurted out ‘you’re hot’ as I passed.
Not that that’s ever going to actually spark conversation for me, but I was so sure at the time that I wasn’t the type of girl who could ever “stop traffic,” as I put it, that I completely missed those few moments when dressed just as I was (which is to say in jeans and a t-shirt), I experienced moments in which someone just stopped mid-sentence and was like DAMN.
The universe went HEY YO HEY HERE YOU GO! And I responded: LOL NO, who is this creep?
I rang my foghorn and wore my sandwich board laser printed with fire straight from the pits of hell that read BEWARE ALL YE WHO DARE APPROACH.
I was wholly unavailable to any earnest, kind, potential partnership (and to most earnest, kind, intimate, and affectionate friendships as well).
However, at the same time, I watched nothing but the first three seasons of Friends, Notting Hill, Pride and Prejudice (2005), and A Knight’s Tale (yes, that Heath Ledger flick in which he disguises himself as a knight and falls for a Lady well above his station. Honestly though my favorite character is Chaucer). Rom-coms!
And I whined at the friends who could bear me: I’m cute, I’m funny, why’s no one into me?
The answer is laughably obvious in retrospect.
Then V-Day’d come around, the love energy around the world increased, and I feminist raged at it. I anti-capitalist raged at it. I just raged. And yet I kept finding myself in a sort of love. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The more I pushed against love the more the universe drew me to people who were equally as unavailable for love with me in every possible form as I was to love itself.
Instead of falling in love, I fell into agonizing, obsessive wells of panic and shame and fear.
A dude who enthusiastically came back to my place TWICE, stripped to his boxers, but like didn’t seem to want anything else but to sleep over and then ghosted? Check.
An alcoholic friend who claimed he just loved everyone (implying he didn’t love me)? Check.
A man who chatted me up one night, and by the time we met up for something that I didn’t register as a date just a few days later, confessed he’d met a woman at a festival in Tennessee and therefore, though he felt we had got on well, he was no longer available? Sure.
A man who was getting out of an engagement he failed to mention when he first kissed me but STILL didn’t want to give things a go when that relationship ended? Yep.
And this is the soft list. The easy one. The one that doesn’t drop me in a shame well so deep the loss of air pressure makes it hard to breathe and my heart palpitate.
The truth is, the universe provides and it was providing me with a shit pile of mostly decent men who just didn’t want to be with me because that is exactly what I asked for (which doesn’t absolve them from their actions or deceptions, some were more ethical than others, just highlights that that’s where my energy was).
I have had one, maybe two memorable Valentine’s Days: The first is amorous: in high school R— deposited a rose in my locker for which they were granted the combination as a sign of commitment and trust.
I arrived at school and they waited all silly-faced and expectant while I opened my locker and put my things away oblivious, looking at them like what on earth is the matter with you?
When I finally saw the long stem resting vertically in the corner from the floor my heart swelled and I sobbed and we kissed, etc.
A few days later Dad, in a singularly unprecedented act of actually cleaning up the kitchen, threw it in the trash when he found it on the counter where it was meant to be drying and took out the trash.
To my father’s bewilderment, I went into a hormone-filled, emotion-dysregulated, fit of tears, rage, and devastation. The betrayal. I sobbed the fifteen-minute drive to R—’s house well after they were allowed visitors.
The second memorable Valentine’s Day is an anamorous one (Gasp! There is no neutral opposite of amorous?! “Anamorous” in this context: a moment of neutral experience regarding a typically amorous day): in undergrad, I attended my first production of The Vagina Monologues, traditionally presented on V-Day to fundraise in support of survivors of sexual assault.
I was transformed as I learned to take back the word cunt.
I have eschewed this holiday in the name of feminism and anti-capitalism in the same way I have distanced myself from marriage in regard to the commodification of the wedding. (I don’t need a wedding and a contract to be committed to someone! Of course, I need a partner for this even to be an issue. ROLLS EYES.)
But I have failed to see the truth: I’m a lonely old bat mired in shame at my past love experiences and I feel unworthy of love, commitment, companionship. A friend once felt it necessary to gently assure me that it is perfectly normal to want companionship and my tissues had to readjust to this news. Somehow of all the billions and billions and billions of people in the world, I alone am undeserving. And yes, I now understand how absurd that sounds.
My tendency when I feel left out is to act the anarchist: Fine: I don’t want your stinking holiday anyway. I don’t need love. I’ve got other things to do.
But, My Sweethearts, Valentine’s day started, in its current iteration, with two things I love dearly: poetry and mail.
Sure, there is a St. Valentine. There is a number of them, but three are officially associated with Feb. 14, and two of the three may be different accounts of the same person. Valentine’s Day is associated with a saint who was martyred in Rome after failing to denounce his faith and trying to convert Roman Emporer Claudius II in 269 CE (probably, maybe, sometime around there).
He is said to have restored the eyesight of a daughter. He was very probably the Bishop of Terni possibly also a priest or bishop in Rome. He was granted a feast day, for most denominations and orthodoxies on Feb. 14. In the 1950s it was demoted from a feast to a day of commemoration by the then Pope, considering capitalism had already stripped us of most of the local feasts and celebrations, this seems like a logical step.
His relics, or those believed to be his relics, are scattered across Europe and have been popular pilgrimage destinations on Valentine’s Day for those wanting to draw in love. Including the Whitefriar Street Church, in Dublin (I’m open to receiving gifts to facilitate such a pilgrimage—see my Venmo info).
But it wasn’t until the middle ages that St. Valentine began to be associated with lovebirds, literally. Geoffrey Chaucer’s Parliament of Fowls, borrowed here from Wiki:
For this was on Saint Valentine's Day
When every bird comes there to choose his match
Of every kind that men may think of
And that so huge a noise they began to make
That earth and air and tree and every lake
Was so full, that not easily was there space
For me to stand—so full was all the place.
Written in 1382 in which Feb. 14 was actually Feb. 23, a time when birds mate in the UK. It likely honors the anniversary of Prince Richard II’s engagement to Anne of Bohemia, both 15.
But it is possible that Chaucer was alluding to St. Valentine of Genoa (there were quite a lot of Valentines for a spell) who was probably celebrated on May 3 which coincides with the May 2, 1381 marriage treaty. (A treaty, eh? That’s a lot of weight to carry in a marriage.)
Medieval poetry is difficult to precisely date as are the dates and identities of martyred saints.
What we do know is that Medieval England experienced a surge of courtly love and romance (and I’m sure a lot of juicy lust and attraction—not altogether the same things) and during those years, myths about St. Valentine spread:
Under the nose of the Roman Emperor, St. Valentine married Roman Christian soldiers and their ladies who weren’t allowed to marry (brave), and to remind them of their devotion both to Jesus and to their partners, he cut them parchment hearts (aawwwwww). And on the day of his execution, it is said that St. Valentine wrote the daughter of his jailor, one of the young women to whom he supposedly reinstated sight, a love note signed “Your Valentine.” (Swoooooon.)
These myths were taken as fact even by scholars for ages! We all love a good love story, especially one intertwined with martyrdom!
By the late 18th century (also the Romantic Period) Britons were sending pre-printed cards and notes to their loves in the thousands. We can thank the advent of the printing press for yet another joy. In 1835 some 60,000 Valentines were posted. Five years later, after laws on the post were enacted which brought the price of sending post down, a whopping 400,000 poems, notes, secret admirer missives, and dirty limericks were sent across/from Britain.
And, of course, colonialism and Christian missionaries spread the day of love right round the world. (As weird and contradictory and uncomfortable as that statement feels.)
But can we talk metaphysics for a minute? What I’ve learned about magick, spellcasting, prayer, The Law of Attraction, etc., etc., in the last few years is that intent and energy are everything.
Whether or not I’m all sentimental, soaked in rom-coms, snuggled up with Copper, wuving-to-wuv OR if I am railing hard against love with every cell in my body, there is a whopping, near-global energy of love on February 14 because despite many of our experiences to the contrary, we WANT to believe in love and some of us are lucky enough to share it with someone or have experienced it in all its awe and wonder amorously and anamorously at some point in our lives. And of course the market is all love all the time.
But what we don’t talk about much unless we’re in spiritual circles practicing meditation and mantras, is that, how do I want to say this?, we ARE love. Our souls or spirits or the kinetic energy vibrating out of every cell of our bodies, however you want to look at it, is, once it’s tapped, largely purported to be love. Ram Dass calls it “loving awareness”.
And if we can suppose this is fact for just a moment, that we are love, that I am love, whether or not that rings true for you just follow me for a second: all that time I spent mired in anger at LOVE, pissed off at all the experiences and observations that confirmed my world view (confirmation bias is a bitch), pushed back against amorous love and romantic partnership, my sandwich board wasn’t just telling others and their love to fuck off, I was telling the deepest parts of my truest self to fuck off as well.
Whether or not it’s literally true, that we are love, it’s not a difficult leap to see, given all other evidence, that the force with which I rejected love I was rejecting love for myself: I was self-absorbed. I emotion vomited on acquaintances and friends. I disconnected myself from my family. I was drunk a lot of the time. I was broke. My sense of humor was spot on, but it was snarly and mean. I was far from connected with myself.
BUT my intuition took my cold, resistant hand, and helped me to find my way to England and a writing MA. From there my energy very quickly—and then very, very, very slowly—shifted.
I had no other option. I was on my bloody own in a country where I knew no one and needed help with basic things like getting a duvet and learning what a duvet was and finding which stores carried watch batteries (that watch is still dead). I had to rely on complete strangers just to function, so I was forced both to open up a bit and to put my attention somewhere other than my anger.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi says, “Whatever we put our attention on will grow stronger in our life.” With my attention pointed at all that anger and hatred and the worldview that love wasn’t real, those experiences grew and grew.
But with my attention turned to mundane, functional tasks, like getting a bus pass and navigating a new city, at minimum I was turned away from the anger and my resistance to love loosened just a bit. Pinpricks of light were let in and my energetic agreement with the universe improved just a bit.
Bit-by-bit (and I do mean bit-by-excruciating-bit in an ongoing 15+ year rollercoaster of a journey in which I still drew in the same kind of unavailable love energy quite recently) more pinpricks of light were let in. And as the buzz around love started to increase this weekend, I began a deep dive into some old experiences that showed me just how changed I am.
And Monday morning as my little eyes just began to think about opening for the day, deep in this weird and wild healing journey, a little voice popped into my head: I love you. I love you. I love you. (I KNOW I cringe just writing that out to you, but it’s how it happened!) A sure sign that I have entered self-love.
So I want to take today to express my gratitude for this journey. The stories I told myself of how awful, soul-sucking, energetically and logistically damaging amorous relationship HAD to be and how little I thought of myself as a human, have slowly slipped into stories of what amorous relationship CAN-POSSIBLY-MAYBE be!
And most importantly, the relationship I overlooked for so long, the most important one, the one with myself, is in a really loving and caring place.
And though there’s still a lot to navigate in regard to other humans, my sandwich board is currently painted in indigo blue and reads: hello hi there thank you for stopping by, i’m healing, please allow a wide berth, thank you, thank you, i’m sorry, thank you, i hope you are well, have a nice day, i’m sorry.
(I encourage journaling. Get it out of your head, onto paper, then burn it or tear and crumple it and toss it into the trash or soak it in water until it’s fibrous or bury it in the earth if you have access to earth this time of year):
How are you today? (Spoiler: It’s okay if you’re not okay. Is there something you can do for yourself that supports your being 5 or 10% more okay? More cosy? More comfortable?)
If it’s too much can you turn your attention elsewhere to something that does feel okay?
What does your sandwich board read? Is it different than it read ten or twenty years ago? (Honor whatever journey you’ve been on.)
Are you able to connect with love in some form on this day of love? Often allowing yourself to be vulnerable and reaching out to just one person you trust is a connecting thing. But barring that, finding a dog to snuggle or a long self-hug helps (scientifically speaking—even if it feels silly).