There can be more to Valentine’s Day than marching out to the nearest store to buy something. There can be more to Valentine’s Day than longing for your partner to behave like someone else. There can be more to Valentine’s Day than wishing you were in a relationship. Valentine’s Day also offers the opportunity to cherish and honor the fact that any of us feel anything at all. In my work, I often marvel at how much people hurt because they care so deeply. The intensity of disappointment obscures the underlying gift of a capacity for connection, empathy, and appreciation.
This Valentine’s Day, before heading for the florist or the chocolatier, take a walk outside. Note the extended daylight, the spindly tree branches curling in on themselves as they prepare for a spring resurgence, and the more frequent and higher pitched birdsong that heralds the last weeks of winter. Amble about your wilderness of stone and steel, or tree and star, and notice life bustling around you. You are witnessing a great wonder, the ability to experience life even in its most bitter vicissitudes.
Reality is the greatest of all Valentine’s presents and you don’t need Hallmark to share it. Go help someone in need. Volunteer to tend a city park. Sip cappuccino with an old friend. Take flowers to an elderly or otherwise lonely person. Photograph the sunset. Play with your dog. Listen to Rachmaninoff, recite Shakespeare, dance wildly in your room to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, bake bread, hug someone, have a long deep conversation over dinner, look through your save box, and most importantly – wake up and notice everything. For it is there in the fine excitement of the senses that one finds the path toward most authentic love.