Ah...February...... The month we celebrate love.
All around us we see bow and arrow armed cherubs, red foil hearts, and words of love donning store displays. If we have children we are in a frenzy to help them decorate a vessel with doilies, paper, and just the right amount of stickers to create the perfect valentine receptacle. TV commercials depict star crossed lovers, sitting hand in hand as they profess their love for each other over a plethora of fine chocolates and candle light. Velvet boxes hiding diamond laden treasures, deep red roses by the dozens, and the perfectly crafted romantic greeting card all become a part of what is the ideal picture of love.
I don't know about you, but I have only had one Valentine's Day that fit the ideal - the first one my husband and I celebrated... twenty years ago.
All the things that are put before as the prototype for celebrating love skew what love really is. Sure, it is nice to have those things and experience the commercial "romance" of it all. However, those things are at best, a spark in the flame of love, a manifestation of infatuation, or a socially created expectation of love. In reality those things do not capture the essence of love.
The essence of love the deep and enduring caring, the patience, the protection, the humbleness, the thoughtfulness, the forgiveness, and the willingness to stay by your beloved's side through thick and thin. It is hard work, dedication, sacrifice, and giving to the other, not receiving. Of course when we love, we need love in return, but the essence of love is not self-centered, but other-centered. It is not for those not willing to put in the effort. It is not for the faint of heart.
In my fortyness, I see the celebration of love in everyday actions, not just in this one month of the year. It is not in flowers or candy or gemstones. It is in the moments that I can see and know how much love I experience. It is in the moments when I am unlovable but receive love anyway. It is in the moments that anger thick, but love is the knife that slices it. It is in the unseemingly romantic instances between me and my husband. It is in the deep love I feel for my children.
Sitting at dinner last night with my husband, he made a comment about Valentine's Day and our daughters. He said, "I want my girls to know that as long as I am around, they will always have a date for Valentine's Day." Seeing how big his heart is, and how deep his love runs.... that is romantic. That is a true celebration of love.