Life

Why Jane Austen Never Mentioned Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day–The season of surprises and let downs. A season that we think should look like a dozen, anonymous red roses, fiery lipstick hues above delicate lace hems, and a set of handsome, candle-lit blue eyes with a major sensitive side. In reality, it’s a season in which we are annually overwhelmed and stunned by cheap florals suffocating grocery stores, by loud heart prints (that are suddenly an acceptable choice for individuals older than the 4th grade to wear) on every article of clothing, and by sky-high prices of chocolate and cookie dough alike. It’s a season in which we are somehow still astounded by the mundane, un-fairytalistic reality of our lives, as though we expected Nicholas Sparks to intervene, and direct our lives, even if just for the weekend.

It’s a hard season. And no one needs a blog post to reminded of that. Singleness can be hard enough as is, and having it rubbed in your face by every manufacturer of every market does not help. Each year, thousands of women (and men) spend their 14th in one of two ways:

  • By sitting at home, in bed, mindlessly scrolling through “thankful for you” posts on Instagram, and thinking about how much better life could be this time next year. Likely elbow deep in a carton of icecream, they dream about a day when they can celebrate “the holiday of love” with someone by their side.
  • Or they spend the evening on rampage. Burning memory boxes, and throwing away old pictures, they spend the day trying to convince themselves and those around them that they neither believe in love, nor care that they don’t have a ring on their finger on this totally-like-every-other-day-of-the-year “holiday.”

Either way it’s a hard boat to be in, because either way (whether you’re able to acknowledge it or not) both the holiday itself and the dream of a future Mr. Right become bigger than who you are. Suddenly, our identity is as individualists instead of just individuals, ex-fiancées instead of persons on the mend, and anti-love campaigners instead of lovers of best friends, mothers, good coffee, and the Lord. “Next year,” becomes our pledge, as though truly filling that empty space in our hearts is something that we can just “decide” to do.

I am an independent, strong, capable woman. But come Valentine’s day, I am (was) a Woman of Next Year, mourning where God had put me in that moment, and celebrating a “future something and someone,” that I presently didn’t have (and may never get, should that be His plan for me).

In years past, the Next Year-ness infecting my heart in this time defaulted to trying to postpone the celebration of love until I had someone to celebrate with, beating myself up over who I was because I didn’t have red roses appear at my door to remind me that who I am is awesome–even if I’m not who or where I want to be (yet).

But a year ago, as it so often does, this season surprised me. “Finally,” a sigh of relief, I praised in that “I’m not alone for this. Finally, Valentine’s Day won’t be so hard.” And yet again, as I so often am, I was wrong.

E and I had been dating for three weeks when the holiday came, and as we began talking about which fancy restaurant we wanted to book, and as picking out which heels I’d wear grew into  more of a chore than a celebratory thing, I began feeling some of that famous, V-Day let down. Some of the “this whole time, this holiday was painful because of this missing piece. So why does it still feel hard?”

In my own heart, that emotion needed defending. “It was too soon, our relationship too young. I don’t want the first time he gets me flowers to be because he’s supposed to.” But eventually, through some awkward conversation, I discovered that he was experiencing the same thing, and so we chose to not celebrate in that way.

Sitting across from him in the mall food court, in my favorite jeans and sneakers, Chinese food between us with stomachs burning and lungs sore from laughing too hard, we both knew we had made the right choice that year.

One year later, E and I have been together for about a year and three weeks, and the holiday snuck up on us (as it tends to). Again, we began planning, and again we ended up resolving to opt for something much more casual, “less cliché.” But it was only in the dread of “Oh no… We’re actually supposed to celebrate this year” that I realized the truth about this holiday that no romantic comedy, no Jane Austen novel, and no, not even a whispered, midnight coffee-table talk with my mom could have prepared me for.

As scary as being along on this day has been, nothing scared me more than not being alone. In the words of Dakota Johnson’s character, Alice,  in the new comedy How To Be Single: “At some point, we all have to learn how to be alone and not lonely–for that not to be a bad thing. But maybe you can get too good at being alone.”

Let it be known: I am the queen of being alone. I’m ashamed to say, I am an expert at having neither Valentine nor *Galentine (*Derivative of “Galentine’s Day”–Defined as: “Gals celebrating each other for Valentine’s Day, because we are sufficient and beautiful–with or without a guy to send a bouquet!”) to celebrate “love” with; to the point where 364 days a year, I really didn’t mind. Until, that is, The 14th would faithfully and relentlessly remind me of the sinfulness of my nomadic nature which warped “independence” into a shied to hide behind. A year and three weeks into a relationship, with female friendships in bloom all around me for the very first time, I’m realizing that I have gotten too good at being alone.

Turns out, I’m a control freak. And being single and friendless on Valentine’s Day was so worth dodging the risk of opening up my heart to be seen and rejected on the other 364 days of the calendar year. …And one year ago I actually resorted to foodcourt Chinese food to hide behind my fear of emotional intimacy, and of trusting my heart (passions and fears alike) with anyone but myself.

In both singleness and in a relationship, I managed to distort “the holiday of love” into a love of self–and not in the good, healthy way, but in a way that’s willing to forfeit love in exchange for safety. But here’s the thing: You can never have love and be safe at the same time. That’s just not how that works.

Last night, while talking to a dear girl friend at our Galentine’s Day celebration, I realized how long I’ve chosen stable isolation instead of community on a limb

So the question remains: How does a selfish, lonely person with a fear of falling lean into relationship (romantically or platonically)? Straight from the mouth of the selfish, lonely, fearful horse, herself, I report to you after years of blundering disappointment and astonishment of the mundane-ness of life on this holiday, I have found the answer. I have broken Valentine’s Day.

You can’t. Selfish, lonely people who are afraid of falling will never be enough to love people well, and to embrace relationship. We can’t. The comatose don’t sit up and talk, 2+2 doesn’t equal 6, and Beyoncé fans can’t sing as well as she. Such is life.

Yet, by one miracle after another, I am a year and three weeks into a relationship with an incredible man, and am surrounded by woman with hearts of gold who pursue, encourage, and push me. And that’s when it hit..

We are missing the point. Valentine’s Day isn’t about celebrating someone who loves us, it’s about celebrating the One who loved us first.

I am the biggest paradox. I am a walking, breathing, blogging manifestation of a love so much more powerful than any message on a giant teddy bear. I will never have what it takes to love, yet every day people invest in my by pouring so much more than I deserve into me, and into their relationship with me. And that is only possible because the ultimate love letter has already been written for me, and that is the story of how my sinful, lonely, fearful butt was worth pursuit by the Ultimate Romantic Novelist, the one who created you, me, Nic Sparks, Valentine’s Day, fears, passions–and Love, herself.

And so, instead of celebrating a significant other, I choose to celebrate Love today; to celebrate the Love that He created. I am risking, and loving. I’m celebrating the love that my boyfriend, friends, and family give that I did nothing to deserve. But more than anything, I’m celebrating the One who awoke my soul, and made my cold heart capable of love.

Gone are the days of mourning because the One who Loves has or hasn’t ordained a dozen roses at my door.

I hereby take this secular holiday, and I redeem it. I am claiming it as His, and calling it His own. Not only because this day (along with the other 364) is His alone, but because he has redeemed me. He has claimed me, and called me His own.

Here is to a God of immeasurably more, who’s creation of Love is so worth  celebrating.

May you celebrate, and love with gratefulness, boldness, kindness, and without abandon this Valentine’s Day–Because He loved us first.

 

 

// A. Rose H.

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