I’m grateful to have made it through the most recent tunnel of dark—due no doubt to various grief waves I’m experiencing since the death of my dad less than two months ago and my dear friend B.—into a space of knowing love again, although not in the conventional sense. I began Valentine’s Day with no particular plans beyond the ordinary workday, having successfully mounted the energy ahead of time to make a creative card for my daughter and buy her gifts she would like. A small success, as sometimes my energy wanes, I procrastinate, I am not up to my intentions, and am down to the wire. So this feeling like I had well-married my intentions with my actions, was a happiness. Having been doing my homework on how to find contentment while being someone who tends towards suffering, I do try to savor these small successes when they come. No one outside me told me I did anything well (teenagers not being too big on praise), but I felt it. And my daughter did say, “You make good cards!”
Then, during meditation, a surprise. For the first time in many months, I felt a new, larger realm of love beckoning, as if through an opened door. There was no visual element, and no content, just a deep joy, a knowing of this other thing that I could sense. Although it was just a sensing, within it lay an avenue to bliss. More love, available, nearby!
Later that afternoon, after having taken my dog Sammie for a walk off-leash (rare these days as too many people on the trails), I came home to find a double-blossomed orchid stem, cut carefully with just an inch of stem, resting on my back gate. A small miracle I will cherish: Valentine’s flowers, from Anonymous!
If ever there should be a year to be double-blessed like this on national Love Day, this would be the one. It’s the fourth one since my husband of 17 years moved out, but this year, this time, has a quality of particular challenge that is unique. While I don’t recall Valentine’s Day per se any of the past three years, I know that the first year after he left, I was busy rising to the challenge of finding strength and competence as a single mom. Learning to hold steady, working hard, determined not to let things fail financially, slowly getting rid of all my ex’s stuff from the house, wanting to make my home fully my own. It wasn’t always easy, but I had a mission. Valentine’s the following year was just 4 months after my sister committed suicide. So that would have been a hard one, as I definitely faltered during that time. Being divorced in a world populated by couples and families became all the harder, now that my sister was gone, and in such a sad and scary way. But my friend M. and I were in regular touch by then; he helped anchor me.
The next year—last year—I can’t recall what kind of space I was in on Valentine’s Day. I do have the card my daughter gave me, a sweet one, with rare sentiments of affection expressed, but somehow we got in one of our all too typical fiery rows that morning: words misspoken, resentments flared, the card torn in two (by her). I taped it back together and have it still, admiring it for the fact that she even made it at all, as this year she didn’t have time (or inclination?). She claims she’s the only kid who makes her mom a Valentine anyway. But this year for the first time she made 5 cards for friends, with little gift bags of chocolates and cookies. That makes me just as happy, even moreso really, that she took the risk to share her heart with them. Even though none of them gave her a card or gift, I felt she was in the better place, being the one who was moved by love and able to express it.
Amazingly, Valentine’s Day kept getting better. I brought A. to be part of Eve Ensler’s One Billion Rising dance event, to bring awareness to violence against women, and to feel a part of something much larger than ourselves, and so very important. We saw women we knew dancing in the town plaza (I had planned to dance myself but was recovering from being sick), and afterwards, the festively red-clad brass band tooting and fluting to everyone’s great delight, playing songs like All You Need Is Love, and leading us in rocking parade down Main Street. Later that evening I spontaneously attended a Not-Your Ordinary Valentine’s Day Love Salon, an evening of poetry, improv storytelling, and music offered up by many of our town’s own talented and community-minded spirits. The focus was not on romantic love as we’ve been taught it, but about love’s many shades and expressions. The evening included the deeply touching song, “Love Is An Opening Door,” popularized by Elton John, which harkened back to my morning experience in meditation. Ah, Sebastopol! Ah Love!